in the end, promoted by military revolt; and it was not Chap. a time to provoke such a catastrophe in Great Britain, _ when military revolution had just proved so fatal to 1821, the cause of liberty not less than of order in southern Europe.*

Notwithstanding the favourable state of general feeling in the country, and the improved condition of the Changes in manufacturing classes, Ministers felt that their position theCabinet' was insecure, and that it was highly desirable to obtain some further accession of strength, both in the Cabinet and the House of Commons. The continued and deep distress of the agricultural interest had not only led to several close divisions in the preceding session in the House of Commons, but occasioned several public meetings, where the voice of that class had made itself loudly heard. They had actually resigned upon his Majesty's demand for a divorce; they had been all but shipwrecked on the Queen's trial; and on occasion of the late riots at her funeral, he had let fall some alarming expressions as to the way in which that delicate affair had been conducted. It was deemed indispensable, therefore, to look out for support; and the Grenville party—a sort of flying squadron between the Ministerialists and Liberals, but who had hitherto always acted with the Whigs—presented the fairest prospect of an alliance. Proposals were made accordingly, and accepted. Lord Grenville, the head of the party, was disabled by infirmities from taking an active part in public life, and could not be lured from his retreat; but the Marquis of Buckingham was made a duke; Mr Wynne, President of the Board of Control; and Mr H. Wynne, envoy to the Swiss Cantons. This coalition gained Ministers a few votes in the House of Commons; but it was of more importance as indicating,

* Sir R. Wilson was afterwards' restored to his rank in the army, and was for some years Governor of Gibraltar ; but his military decorations, bestowed by the English Government, wero never restored.

Chap. as changes in the Cabinet generally do, the commencement

[ocr errors]



of a change in the system of government. The admission of even a single Whig into the Cabinet indicated the increasing weight of that party in the country, and as Ut^'h." they were favourable to the Catholic claims, it was an 8idmoith°f important change. Lord Eldon, ultimus Romanorum, Ann^Ri presaged no good from the alliance. "This coalition," mi,*,!j he said, "will have consequences very different from those expected by the members of the administration who brought it about. I hate coalitions."1

A still more important change took place at the same Retirement time, in the retirement of Lord Sidmouth from the mouth, onerous and responsible post of Home Secretary. A life by'S^Ped of thirty years in harness, oppressed with the cares of Secretary, official life, had nearly exhausted the physical strength, though they had by no means dimmed the mental energy of this conscientious and intrepid statesman; and though no decline in his faculties was perceptible to those around him, he felt that the time had arrived when he should withdraw from the cares and responsibility of office, and dedicate his remaining years to the enjoyment of his family, to which he was strongly attached, and his duties to his Maker. He deemed it a fitting opportunity to take such a step, when the internal situation of the country was so tranquil that the public service could sustain no detriment by his withdrawing from it; for had it been otherwise, he would, at any hazard to his own health or life, have remained at his post.* He was succeeded in his arduous duties by a much younger man, Mr, afterwards Sir Robert Peel, one of greater abilities, and whose mind was more in harmony with the spirit of the age, but not of greater energy and integrity, and by no means of equal moral courage. Lord Sidmouth's abiUties, though not of the highest order, were of the most useful

* "The truth is, it was becaute my official bed had become a bed of roses, that I determined to withdraw from it. When strewn with thorns, I would not have left it."—Sidmouth't Lift, iii. 390.

kind, and his administrative talents stood forth pre- Chap. eminent. His industry was indefatigable, his energy un- x' tiring, his intrepidity, both moral and physical, such as 182a nothing could quell. He steered the vessel of the state, during the anxious years which succeeded the close of the j^jjj f0ld' war, through all the shoals with which it was beset, with exemplary vigour and undaunted courage; and it was not tf[d'i£,\ya little owing to his resolution that the crisis was sur- Sidmouth's mounted in 1820, which proved fatal to the cause of wa,'sao. liberty and order in so many other states.1

This parliamentary coalition was attended with still more important changes in Ireland, for there it com- Lord weimenced an entire alteration in the system of government, po'ntcdP which has continued, with little interruption, to the present day. As the Protestants, ever since the Revolution, fJaBee iD

^ ' 'thegovern

had been the dominant party in that island, and thement there.Catholics were known to be decidedly hostile both to the British government and alliance, the Viceroy, and all the officers of state who composed its government, had hitherto been invariably staunch Protestants; and Lord Talbot, the present Viceroy, and Mr Saurin, the Attorney-general, were of that persuasion. But as the Cabinet itself was now divided on the subject of concession of the Catholic claims, it was thought necessary to make a similar partition in the Irish administration. Accordingly, Marquis Wellesley, a decided supporter of the Catholics, was made Lord-lieutenant in room of Lord Talbot; Mr Saurin, the champion of the Orange party, made way for Mr Plunkett, the eloquent advocate of the Catholic claims in the House of Commons; and Mr Bushe, also a Catholic supporter, was made Solicitor-general; while, on the principle of preserving a balance of parties, Mr Goulburn, a staunch Protestant, was appointed Secretary to the government. Great expectations were formed of the beneficial effects of this conciliatory policy, which, it was hoped, would continue the unanimity of loyal feeling which had animated the country during the visit

Chap. of the Sovereign. But these hopes were miserably dis

. x' appointed: party strife was increased instead of being

, P]^H diminished by the first step towards equality of governweueiie°f men^, and *ue next year added another to the innumeriii.3iG,aTV; able proofs which the annals of Ireland have afforded, 1822, ??g- that its evils are social, not political, and are increased Hughes,vi. raj.l,er ^an diminished by the extension to its inhabitants of the privileges of free citizens.1

Eutirely agricultural in their habits, pursuits, and deCause of the sires—solely dependent for their subsistence on the fruits nessoUre- of the soil, and without manufactures, mines, fisheries, or kim1' means of livelihood of any sort, save in Ulster, except that derived from its cultivation—the possession of land, and the sale of its produce, was a matter of life or death to the Irish people. The natural improvidence of the Celtic race, joined to the entire absence of all those limitations on the principle of increase which arise from habits, of comfort, the desire of rising, or the dread of falling, in the world—and the interested views of the Catholic priesthood, who encouraged marriage, from the profits which bridals and christenings brought to themselves— had overspread the land with an immense and redundant population, which had no other means of livelihood but the possession and cultivation of little bits of land. There were few labourers living on paid wages in any of the provinces of Ireland; in Leiuster, Munster, and Connaught, where the Celtic race and Catholic creed predominated, scarcely any. Of farmers possessed of capital, and employing farm-servants, there were in the south and * Pcarce's west none. Emigration had not as yet opened its boundweUesiey, less resources, or spread out the garden of the Far West Ann^Reg. for the starving multitudes of the Emerald Isle. They Marquis' no resources or means of livelihood, but in the postJMrslcre- session of little pieces of land, for which they bid against tary Peel, each other with the utmost eagerness, and from which i82it.' they excluded the stranger with the most jealous care.2 Six millions of men, without either capital or industry,

shut up within the four corners of a narrow though fruit- Chap.

ful land, were contending with each other for the posses- x'

sion of their patches of the earth, like wolves enclosed 1822within walls for pieces of carrion, whose hostility against each other was only interrupted by a common rush against any hapless stranger who might venture to approach their bounds, and threaten to share their scanty meal.

Experience has abundantly proved, since that time, what reason, not blinded by party, had already discovered wiatwouid —what were the real remedies for such an alarming and Hevtuhe disastrous state of tllings, and what alone could have ^tmium" given any lasting relief. These were, to furnish theslectmeans of emigration, at the public expense, to the most destitute of the peasants of the country, and form roads, canals, and harbours, to facilitate the sale of the produce of such as remained at home. Having in this way got quit of the worst and most dangerous part of the population, and lessened the competition for small farms among such as were still there, an opening would have been afforded for farmers, possessed of capital and skill, from England and Scotland, to occupy the land of those who had been removed to a happier hemisphere; and with them the religion, industrial habits, and education of the inhabitants of Great Britain, might gradually, and in the course of generations, have been introduced. But, unfortunately, party ambition and political delusion blinded men to all these rational views, which went only to bless the country, not to elevate a new party to its direction. Faction fastened upon Ireland as the arena where the Ministry might be assailed with effect; Catholic emancipation was cherished and incessantly brought forward, as the wedge the point of which, already inserted, might be made, by a few hard strokes, to split the Cabinet in pieces; and while motions on this subject, involving the entry of sixty gentlemen into Parliament, enforced by the eloquence of Canning and Plunkett, and resisted by the

« ForrigeFortsett »