« PreviousContinue »
road of safety to the unprejudiced was obvious, the Chap. renouncing of a paradoxical independence by the v—y—J incorporation of our government with that of Britain. For the attainment of this end an opportunity, wisely seized by the British minister, occurred on the overthrow of the rebellion, when the public mind was too much alarmed and distracted for effective opposition; while some feared to forfeit the favour which they conceived themselves to have acquired with government by their real or ostentive exertions in the cause of loyalty; others were reduced to a state of weakness; others were eager to take refuge under the parental protection of Britain from the tyranny of a faction, which might proceed to the execution of the most dreadful and dangerous measures on removal of the present viceroy; while the terrors of martial law still subsisted; and while all hopes were precluded of armed resistance by the numbers of British troops still remaining in the kingdom.
Previously to its proposal in parliament, the ques-Dlscussion tion was fairly introduced to public discussion by a^jj* ques* pamphlet, published under the auspices of govern- * ment, by Edward Cooke, the under-secretary for the civil department, styled, "Arguments for and against a Union between Great-Britain and Ireland considered." Since by this were regarded as announced the sentiments of administration in favour of the measure, such a flame of controversy was kindled, that before the end of December, in 1798, not less than thirty pamphlets were published on this
:.. -• g
Chap, subject in this country, beside a vehement contest t\ mj in the newspapers incessantly maintained until the final decision. The nation became divided anew into two parties, the unionists and anti-unionists, in each or which were indiscriminately arranged royalists, croppies, orange-inen, and catholics. Counties, corporations, and other aggregate bodies, were summoned to declare their opinions. The lawyers were mostly anti-unionists, as their practice at the Irish bar would exclude them from sitting in parliament in England, by the impossibility of their attendance in both. In an assembly of these held in Dublin, on the ninth of December, a resolution was voted by a majority of a hundred and sixty-six against forty-two, "That the measure of a legislative union was an innovation of highly dangerous and improper proposal at the present juncture." To the citizens of Dublin the subject was not less interesting. That their city would be degraded from the dignity of a metropolis, when Ireland should have ceased to be a kingdom, and impoverished by the removal of the expenditure made every year in it by members of parliament and their followers, was matter of serious alarm. Resolutions of similar import to that of the lawyers were voted, on the seventeenth of December, by a post-assembly of the lord-mayor, sheriffs, commons, and citizens; and on the following day by the bankers and merchants. To gain proselytes throughout the kingdom no exertions were omitted by either party, but the general tenor of public declarations was adverse to a union, and
language language was used on some occasions expressive Chap. nearly of defiance and sedition. v._.^._^
A spirit not less violent pervaded the parliament,ParIiament. which assembled in 1799, on the twenty-second of^ discus" January. The viceroy recommended to their parti- 1799^ cular consideration the most effectual means of consolidating into one lasting fabric the strength, power, and resources, of the two kingdoms. In the house of lords an address was voted, by a large majority, favourable to the thus introduced principle of a union. In the commons it was combated with vigour, acrimony, and even menaces of armed resistance. The debate lasted twenty-two hours; and, at its conclusion, late in the day of the twenty-third, a majority of only one appeared in favour of the recommended measure. In their next meeting, on the twenty-fourth, when the address was read, which was to be presented to the viceroy in answer to his speech, Sir Lawrence Parsons objected to the paragraph which had been before contested, as pledging the house to the principle of a union. This excited a new debate on the same subject, in which the antiunionists were victorious by a majority of five. The discussion of the question was afterwards renewed, and a bill of regency proposed to obviate the necessity of a union for the permanent maintenance of a connection between the two kingdoms. In the rejection of this bill, on the eighteenth of April, the unionists had the superiority; but the final examination and developement of the new system was postponed till the following session; and, at the ter
Chap, inination of the present, the viceroy informed the v —,-Q two houses, that the lords and commons of Britain had concurred in an address to the king recommending the political incorporation proposed, on - the mutual consent of both parliaments. The question had been introduced into the British, as well as Irish houses, on the twenty-second of January, with less opposition in the former; and a series of resolutions had been voted recommending a complete union. Last Irish On the re-assembling of the last Irish parliament, 1800?' in the year 1800, on the fifteenth of January, Sir Lawrence Parsons took notice that the speech of the lord-lieutenant contained no mention of what had been the great subject of debate in the preceding year; and he then made a motion hostile to that measure. But the exertions of administration in the interim had been so successful in the procuring of proselytes, that, after a contest which continued till ten o'clock in the following day, his motion was negatived by a majority of forty-two in a house of only two hundred and thirty-four members. On the fifth of the following month lord Castlereagh, the secretary, read a message to the commons from the lord-lieutenant, informing them of the wishes of their sovereign in favour of incorporation, and solemnly recommending the subject to their discussion. He proceeded to develope, with confidence of success, the plan of a union, and the principles on which the several parts of it were grounded. On a division of the house a majority of a hundred and . fifty
fifty-eight against a hundred and fifteen appeared in cj^*h* favour of his motion for taking into consideration *—y—*, his Majesty's message. The vote of the peers was on the same side of the question. Debates were renewed with vehemence in both houses on the several articles of the plan; and petitions were received from all parts of the kingdom in condemnation or approbation of the measure. At the head of the unionists was the lord chancellor, John Fitzgibbon, earl of Clare; of the anti-unionists the right honourable John Foster, speaker of the commons. Between Mr. Corry, chancellor of the Irish exchequer, and Mr. Grattan, who, to oppose this momentous question, had again taken a seat in parliament, such violent language passed on the seventeenth of February, that the dispute terminated in a duel, in which the former was wounded' slightly in the arm. . . . .
. The arguments against a union were in general Arguments more specious than solid, addressed to the pride and IS,5.'a prejudices, rather than the reason, of the public. 180°" The opponents of the measure insisted, that the representatives of the nation were not vested with a power of abolishing its independence by the transfer of its sovereignty, or right of legislation, to any foreign country; that such a transfer, without the general consent of the people, ought to be resisted, as a dissolution of the existing government, and introductive of anarchy; that a local parliament, best acquainted with the habits, prejudices, and dispositions of their fellow-subjects, ever present on the Vol. II. K K spot