Page images
PDF
EPUB

appoint some able to supply his and next throughout the whole of room, otherwise the governor to dis- Ireland, amounted to over forty thoupose of half their living. See the Act sand men, unpaid, self-clothed, selfat large, necessary to be put in execu- organised, and instructed in military tion in these days.” After the lapse discipline by their own countrymen of one hundred and sixty years, the who had returned from the American Absentee Act of 28th Henry VIII., war. chapter 3(reciting the mischiefs occa- In 1780, the armies of France, sioned by the absence of persons aided by the American patriots, prehaving lands in Ireland), was passed, vailed over those of England, and and thereby the estates of many ab- the independence of the United sentees were entirely confiscated States was the result.

The amount of money annually The journals of the Upper House drawn by absentee proprietors from in those times, as well as the reports England, and spent elsewhere, from of the speeches of the peers, are the Revolution to the present day, meagre and few, and the Chancellor, has never been more than a mere though voted a thousand a-year exfraction of the annual rental of tra, appears to have done little to the country landlords, while from merit this acknowledgment of his Ireland, during the same time, enor services and labours. Of those times, mous sums' have been annually with the most brilliant in Irish history; drawn.

of the Volunteers of '82; of the In 1777, the Chancellor was in struggles in the House of Commons; his place, in the House of Lords, of Gratton, of Flood, of Hussey when the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl Burgh, of Saurin, of FitzGibbon, and of Buckingham, announced that an of a host of others who took part for alliance had just been formed be- and against in that struggle for Irish tween the rebellious American colo- independence, we shall have occanies and the French government; sion, when writing the Life of the and made an unsuccessful appeal for next Chancellor (Lord Clare), more support to his Majesty's faithful fully to speak. Suffice it here to say, people of Ireland. In the month of that both Houses met on Monday, January, 1778, American independ- the 27th of May, 1782. The people ence was acknowledged by France, were entirely ignorant of the decision and this acknowledgment was imme- which the government of Great diately followed by a relaxation of Britain had arrived at respecting the penal laws, and by the raising of their claims. an army of “volunteers.” These, On the morning of that memorenrolled for the first time in Belfast, able day, writes Sir Jonah Barring

I NOTE,—The absentee rental amounted, in 1691, to £136,018; in 1729, to £627,799 ; in 1782, to £2,223,222; in 1783, to £1,608,932; in 1804. to £3,000,000; in 1830, to £4,000,000; in 1838, to £5,000,000; in 1870, to £6,000,000. One of the great evils of absenteeism is said to be the consolidation of farms and the conversion of tillage-land into pasture, an evil of which Lord Coke thus speaks (Co. Lit. 85, b.):" Agriculture and tillage are greatly respected by the common law. Now the common law prefers arable land before all others, and it appears by 4th Henry VII., chap. 19, that six inconveniences are introduced by subversion or conversion of arable land into pasture, tending to two deplorable consequences. The first inconvenience is the increase of idleness, the root and cause of all mischief. Second-Depopulation and decrease of populous towns, and maintenance of only two or three herdsman, who keep beasts in lieu of great numbers of strong and able men. Third-Churches, for want of inhabitants, run to ruin and are destroyed. Fourth-The service of God is neglected. FifthInjury and wrong done to patrons and curates. Sixth- The defence of the land (for the want of men strong and inured to labour) against foreign enemies weakened and impaired." : Sir Jonah Barrington's Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, chap. ii. p. 21.

S

ton, the volunteers were under arms their speaker, . were conducted at an early hour. Their artillery, the bar with the usual ceremoni under the orders of James Napper when his Grace made a speech Tandy, were stationed along the both Houses of Parliament quays and commanded all the follows :bridges, while the regular troops “My Lords and Gentlemen,in treble file lined the streets for gives me the utmost satisfaction th the passage of the Lord Lieutenant, the first time I have occasion 1 from the Castle to the entrance of address you, I find myself enabled the House of Lords. At length by the magnanimity of the King, an His Excellency, “accompanied in the wisdom of the Parliament ( his state-coach by the Earl of Charle- Great Britain, to assure you tha mont and Westmeath," proceeded immediate attention has been paix to deliver the anxiously expected to your representations, and tha speech. The ceremonial was gor- the British Legislature have con geous. The peers in their robes, the curred in a resolution to remove bishops in their rochets and white sur- the causes of your discontents and plices, and the peeresses sparkling jealousies, and are united in a desire with diamonds, each filled the places to gratify every wish expressed in assigned for them. At length, after your late address to the throne." a long suspense, the sound of mar- Having congratulated the House on shal music and the cheers of the some successes of the British navy on multitude from without, informed in the West Indies, in Ceylon, and those within the House that His on the distant shores of the CoroExcellency had arrived." "The mandel, he thus proceeds :-“ By doors were then flung open, and the papers which, in obedience to his Grace entered, the Earl of Clan- His Majesty's commands, I have ricarde carrying the cap of mainte- directed to be laid before you, you nance, the Earl of Westmeath the will receive the most convincing sword of state, and two noblemen's testimony of the cordial reception sons bearing the train of the royal which your representations have

obe. His Grace, making his congé met with from the legislature of to the throne, ascended the same, Great Britain ; but His Majesty, and seated himself in the chair of whose first and most anxious wish state under the canopy, all the lords, is to exercise his royal prerogative spiritual and temporal, standing in in such a manner as may be most their places uncovered, until their conductive to the welfare of his lordships took their seats.

faithful subjects, has further com“ The Lord Chancellor, kneel- manded me to assure you of his ing, conferred with his Grace the gracious disposition to give his. Lord Lieutenant, and then, stand- royal assent to Acts to prevent the ing on the right hand of the chair suppression of Bills in the Privy of state, commanded the yeoman Council of this kingdom, and the usher of the black rod to repair to alteration of them anywhere." the House of Commons, and ac- “ These benevolent intentions of quaint the Commons that it was his his Majesty and the willingness of Grace's, the Lord Lieutenant's, plea- the Parliament of Great Britain to sure that they attend him immediate- second his gracious purposes are ly in the House of Peers. And the unaccompanied by any stipulation Commons being come, they, with whatever.

Library, Trinity

. General Evening Post Newspaper, of date, 28th May, 1782. College, Dublin.

? Lords' Journals, Irish, vol. v. p. 537.

“ The good faith, the generosity, mentioned year, George III. was and the honour of this nation afford attacked by insanity, and the Rethem the surest pledge of a corre- gency was conferred in England, sponding disposition on your part to clogged with many restrictions, on promote and perpetuate the har- the Prince of Wales. The Irish parmony, the stability, and the glory of liament, however, refused to be dicthe empire.

tated to either by the English Par" On my own part, I entertain not liament or by the Minister. the least doubt but that the same Great were the debates on this spirit which urged you to share the occasion in both Houses. An adfreedom of Great Britain will confirm dress was adopted in the House of you in your determination to share Commons, offering the Vice-Royalty her fate also, standing or falling with absolutely to the Prince of Wales the British empire.”

during the illness of George III. On His Excellency then withdrew and its being brought up to the Lords, the the house adjourned. On their re- Chancellor not only voted but spoke assembling, after the space, as it against its adoption. The address were, of an hour,' “the Lord Chan- runs as follows:4 — cellor reported his Grace's speech, and the same being read, it was or- jects, the Lords spiritual and temporal,

“We, his Majesty's dutiful and loyal sub

a dered to be printed. Of what further and the Commons of Ireland, beg leave to occurred on that day in the House approach your Highness with hearts full of of Lords no record now remains. the most loyal and affectionate attachment

to the person and government of your not even in the “Life of Lord Charle

royal father, and to express the deepest mont" is there to be found a solitary and most grateful sense of the numerous line on the dull debates of the here- blessings we have enjoyed under that illusditary legislators.

trious House, whose accession to the throne

of these realms has established civil and Lord Lifford, as speaker, remained

commercial liberty on a basis which we until the house rose, late on the trust will never be shaken, and to condole evening of that day; he saw that the with your Royal Highness upon the grievEnglish interest could no longer be

ous malady with which it has pleased

Heaven to afflict the best of sovereigns. maintained. His feelings, we are

“We have, however, the consolation of informed, could not be restrained, reflecting that the severe calamity hath not and he is recorded as “ the only in- been visited upon us until the virtues of dividual who, in that moment of na- your Royal Highness have been so matured

as to enable your Royal Highness to distional exultation, dared to raise his

charge the duties of the important trust, voice against the rights of Ireland. for the performance whereof the eyes of He seemed to apprehend that the his Majesty's subjects are directed to your total abandonment of the old rules Royal Highness. of Irish promotion was unavoidable, quest that you will be pleased to take upon

"We therefore beg leave humbly to reand to foresee the invasion even of you the Government of these realms during his own office (for ages the fortress the continuance of his Majesty's present in. of the English interest) by ambitious

disposition, and no longer, and under the

style and title of Prince Regent of Ireland, Irishmen, an event which actually

in the name and on behalf of his Majesty, to took place shortly afterwards, when exercise and administer, according to the Lord Clare succeeded as Lord High laws and constitution of the Kingdom, all Chancellor of Ireland.”

royal powers, jurisdictions, and preroga

tives, to the crown and government thereof From 1782 to 1788, the Lord

a belonging.'

bel Chancellor's name is seldom met with, save as presiding in the House From the adoption of this adof Lords. In the autumn of this last- dress there were several dissentients,

I Lords' Journals,

? Hardy's Life of Lord Charlemont. Memoranda of Irish Matters, ed. 1844, p. 34. 4 Lords' Journals, 1788.

headed by the Lord Chancellor, and determination to deprive Ireland of their ground of dissent was,

her legislature.?

Lord Lifford had now, in 1788, Because the address or requisition to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is an

held the seals for a space of over address requesting that he will be pleased twenty years, and he began to feel to take upon him the government of these that the time was approaching for realms in such manner as therein is men- him to resign them into younger and tioned, and to exercise and administer,

abler hands. “Possessed of small according to the laws and constitution of this kingdom, all royal powers, jurisdic. capacity, and singular simplicity of tions, and prerogatives, to the Crown and character, he was formal, credulous, Government thereof belonging, without any and tedious, in his intercourse with law or authority whatsoever that we know of

the world. His letters to Lord authorising him so to do.

2nd. Because we are apprehensive that Buckingham, written in a good, the said address may be so construed to be round, clerkly hand, are full of solemn a measure tending to disturb and weaken platitudes and ceremonious civilities; that great constitutional union whereby, as fully declared, specified, and enacted, in

and whatever other qualities he possundry Acts of Parliament, this realm of sessed, it cannot be inferred that Ireland is for ever united and knit to the he was a man of much mental vigour. imperial Crown of England, and is a mem. Obsolete in manners and ideas, and ber appendant and rightfully belonging living in the modes of a past age, he thereto.

3rd. Because, though in every gentiment was respected for the sincerity of of affection and respect towards his Royal his disposition and the rectitude of Highness, we hold ourselves equal to, and his character, rather than for the will not be exceeded by, any of those wbo join in the said address, or by any person

strength and activity of his intellect. whatever, and are, and ever shall be, ready

In his seventy-fourth year he came to lay down our lives and fortunes in the over to London to resign the seals support and maintenance of the august to his Majesty, laden with the burden rights of our most gracious Sovereign, of vears and hynocondriacal infirmi. and of every member of his Royal and

ties; yet, up to the last vacillating We cannot pay any compliment to his in his resolution. Lord Mornington, Royal Highness, or to any one, at the ex- who met him at dinner at Pitt's, pense of what we consider as a great con- during this visit, says. I met old stitutional principle; and we cannot there. Tie fore join in the said address, which may,

Lifford at dinner, at Pitt's, and never as we are apprehensive, bring difficulty and saw him look in better health and embarrassment upon his Royal Highness, spirits. He is, as you may well bealready too much pressed by the great lieve, most generally quizzed in Loncalamity which hath befallen our most gracious Sovereigo, his royal father.

don.'" The letter, characteristic of Signed,

the man, in which he announces his LIFFORD, CHANCELLOR, AND FOURTEEN intention of resigning the seals, is as OTHER PEERS.

follows :3— The Lord Lieutenant having re LORD LIFFORD TO THE MARQUIS OF fused to forward the address which

BUCKINGHAM. had been so voted, the Parliament, in

Royal Hotel, Pall-Mall, consequence, appointed a commis-,

Saturday, August 30th, 1788.

MY VERY GOOD LORD,- My complaints sion to present it to the prince, by at times to your Excellency, and my appre. whom it was most graciously re- hensions, expressed to you, that bodily weakceived. Pitt was so exasperated at ness and the infirmities of old age were the conduct of the Irish parliament

coming on me apace, will prevent your Exon this the regency question, that he

cellency from being much surprised when

I tell you that my journey hither, which at never afterwards lost sight of his first I thought would bave relieved me,

to his M.

august family member of qus Sovereion

i Lords' Journals, vi. p. 634.

Haverty's History of Ireland, 724. 3 Court and Cabinet of George III., vol. i. p. 419.

hath served only to confirm me in the experience for a number of years, that apprehensions I had conceived, that the makes few things new to me, may be as hour of infirmity, which is an enemy to good as ever, yet the weakness of my limbs, all exertion, and first slackens the course ny inability to go through any bodily of business, was not far off.

fatigue, and many other monitions that I now grow so clumsy and weak in my tell me the day of great infirmity is at limbs, and so soon grow tired and fatigued hand, ought not to be unattended to by to a degree painful to me, that although any man who hath sound sense or any remy mind seems as well as ever, yet I am ligion about him. sure that I cannot long do my duty; and I stand well, as I flatter myself, with the there is nothing I dread so much as sitting people of Ireland, to whom I have admin. upon a great seat of justice as a kind of istered justice for more than twenty years, ruin, and in a state of decay. Io my with both Houses of Parliament, and with seventy-fourth year I am not sure that the bar of Ireland, with all of whom I avarice may not lay hold of me, and tempt have lived without a quarrel with any man, me to stay where I am, until I feel or am but I hope without forgetting what bemade to feel, by being told that I have longed to me to be mindful of. stayed too long, and that peevishness, too, The country of Ireland is quiet beyond an attendant on old age, may not put an what I have known it at any time: a cirend to that command of temper which I cumstance corresponding and consisting have ever endeavoured to preserve; and with my declarations, at all times, that I that with such enemies to fair fame, I may would not ever be found to act like a man soon impair and sully the character and who leaves a ship in a storm. And to these esteem which I may at present have

I hope I may add, that I havc friends in Under these impressions, my wishes to the administration, that, in particular, I retire become divided, which they were have a friend in your Excellency, and that not until a few days past. I should have although in one of your last conversations been happy in first declaring this to you, you concluded your expressions of great wishing in everything to do that which best kindness with something that threatened expresses my sincere duty and regard for reluctance to my retirement, yet it was your Excellency. But being going into the done with a countenance and in a manner royal presence, I resolved to lay myself at that flattered me with hopes that there was His Majesty's feet, and express to him my a friendship under it, that would afford apprehensions and my wishes to retire, if me your assistance whenever the occasion I could do so in a manner honourable and should direct me to look up to and solicit convenient to myself, when His Majesty's your Excellency for it. service would admit of it. Accordingly, All these circumstances concurring (and yesterday, in the closet, I did as I had re- so many concurring together, I cannot, solved. His Majesty's kindness and good- according to a reasonable calculation of ness to me was beyond wbat I can express. human affairs, much expect) determined Retirement, before decay actually comes me to do as I have done. I have struggled on, meets his ideas perfectly, and I bave to overcome my passion for my office in every reason to think that I am lucky in Ireland, but I submit because I am worn the choice I have made in the present op- out, or, rather, am as near being worn out portunity.

as I think a man who wishes to preserve a I have also communicated my wishes to dignity of character should approach to. Mr. Pitt, who received me with attention I have exceedingly wished to afford your and kindness. He said he would confer Excellency every assistance in my power with His Majesty on the subject, and forth. during your administration; and if I rewith communicate the matter to you, with. tire from the great Seal, I shall most cerout whose participation and concurrence I tainly retain that wish, and display it by cannot be at ease and happy. Upon a such proof as you can desire, and as I measure of such importance as this to me, can with the warmest attachment afford I exceedingly wish that you should be pos- you. Your Excellency will be a gainer by sessed of the motives and principles upon à change, as you will have the exertions wbich I act, and I will state them to you of a younger and more vigorous man, and without reserve. But permit me first to my best help added to it. say that I hope and think that avarice can I did not come out of the King's closet not be imputed to me; for, parting with until between six and seven yesterday £10,000 per annum, for what must be evening, and I was then so fatigued that greatly below it, excludes the imputation. I could not set pen to paper. I have Ambition must be equally out of the ques. not said anything upon this subject to any. tion, for I want no advancement in the body here, save only to the King and Mr. peerage.

Pito. Now as to my motives and principles at Permit me to beg your Excellency's this time. I am in my seventy-fourth friendship in this matter, that so much year; and although my mind, assisted by concerns me and my family. Your kind

« PreviousContinue »