the higher orders, which might soften sentiments of both parties on the meand refine the manners of the pea- rits of this great controversy. There santry, is wanting in this fine country. were many who attributed the haste Were the nobility and gentry of Ire of the opposition to different motives. land to exert themselves with more At the opening of the present session zeal in the education of their tenantry; - they could net weil attack the conwere they to reside on their estates duct of the war,-they could not, with and dispense justice among the lower much satisfaction, advert to the state orders mildly but firmly; were they, of the peninsula,nor could they inby their example and intercourse, to dulge in speculations which had lost create a taste among the lower Irish much of their credit with the counfor the comforts and conveniences of try ; but as they were anxious that life, the bloodshed and outrage of the session should not open without a every kind, which so much disgrace contest, they had no choice but to the annals of this country, would bring forward the catholic claims. quickly disappear, and Ireland would Many strange allusions were made no longer form an exception to the about this time to certain promises general character of the European which it was said the Prince Regent nations, which, during the last cen had given on this subject ; yet no one tury, have advanced so muchin refine- could state specifically where, when,

and to whom the prince had thus But the grand question in Irish po. pledged himself. Could his royal highlitics is that of catholic emancipa- ness legally or constitutionally have tion-a question which, having unfor- pledged himself on such a question ? tunately divided contending factions, Could he have declared that at a fuhas been raised into artificial import- ture period, and in any

circumstances, ance, and pursued with a heat and he would be disposed to concede the animosity which bid defiance to sober catholic claims ? Assuredly his royal discussion. The leaders of a power- highness neither did give, nor could ful, but disappointed, party in Eng have given, such a pledge; and it was land, have avowed themselves the not less unconstitutional than indecent champions of the catholic cause, to make such allusions. which they have found so convenient The sentiments even of the advo. an instrument of annoyance to the ad. cates of this great cause were far ministration, that it is no wonder if they from being consistent; some of them prosecute it with the utmost zeal and were ready to surrender every thing industry. Early in the session of at once, while others would have made this year, they intimated their desire the surrender conditional. Lord Grento bring forward the catholic claims ville, a powerful and steady advocate for the discussion of parliament; and of the catholic claims, considered the

as a reason for this pre- veto to be indispensable ; he maintaincipitation, a wish that the Prince Re- ed that the crown ought to have an ef. gent might know their opinions as dis- fectual negative on the appointment of tinctly as he knew those of his minis- the catholic bishops_* a condition

This was by many persons (added his lordship) intended to meet thought to be a shallow pretext for the just expectations not of any biembarrassing

the government at a sea- goted interested champions of intoleson of

great difficulty, since the Prince rance, but of men of the purest intenhad long been acquainted with the tions and most

enlightened judgments;

they assigned,


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

men willing to do all justice to the for this point. The experience of loyalty of the Irish bishops, but not other countries proves both its expeunreasonably alarmed at any possibi- diency and its practicability; it form. lity by

which functions of such exten- ed a part of the plans intended to be sive influence might hereafter be con- brought forward at the period of the nected with a foreign interest hostile Union ; and what we then knew of to the tranquillity of our country,-a the sentiments of the catholics respect. danger lately very much increased by ing it, left no doubt upon our minds the captivity and disposal of the head that the matter might be easily and of the catholic church, by the sei- satisfactorily adjusted.” Such were di zure of his dominions, and by the de- at one time the sentiments of Lord clared intention of a hostile govern- Grenville ; but they appear to have wrong ment to assume in future the exclusive subsequently undergone a very

consistenta nomination of his successors.” Such derable change. In the course of one was the language of Lord Grenville of the debates on the catholic ques. on one occasion ; and when he intro- tion which ensued during the present and duced his motion on the catholic pe- session of parliament, Earl Grey de- *to! tition in May, 1808, he pronounced clared that neither he nor Lord Gren

. * * an opinion on the question of the veto ville “ had ever considered the velo to kita not less decided. “ Much has been be indispensable.” It was perhaps to said elsewhere of the influence of their such a change of opinion as this,-a bishops ; and in a former debate even change at once unexpected and unac in this house, great stress was laid on countable,-a change for which nei

. the danger of a catholic hierarchy. If ther the state of the country nor the you tolerate the catholic church, which conduct of the catholics seemed to is episcopal, you must, of course, al- afford any plausible reason, that the low it to have its bishops. But it is whig leaders alluded, when they deunquestionably proper that the crown clared at the opening of the session should exercise an effectual negative their resolution to bring forward withover the appointment of persons call-out delay the catholic question, in ored to execute these functions. To der that the Regent and the country this the catholics of Ireland declared might know their opinions on the subthemselves perfectly willing to accede. ject. The precise mode of giving effect to They accordingly brought forward the principle will best be settled by the question at a very early period of the wisdom of parliament. It is fit

It is fit the session. On the 31st of January, matter for discussion in such a com Earl Fitzwilliam made a motion in the mittee as I propose. The declaration House of Lords that the House of the catholics on this subject is an un- should resolve itself into questionable proof of their solicitude to take into consideration the present to meet the kindness of their fellow- situation of affairs in Ireland. By this subjects, and accede to any practical motion it was intended not only to means of removing even the most bring the catholic question into discusgroundless jealousies. As such, I re sion, but to convey a severe censure on joice that it has been made, and I see the recent conduct of the Irish gowith infinite satisfaction the just im- vernment, which had exerted itself sucpression which it has universally pro- cessfully to put down the catholic conduced. To me it is not new; I al- vention. ways felt the propriety of providing This convention had presumed of



late to discuss not only the catholic best efforts in support of the laws; claims, but the whole policy of the and if any argument could have been empire ; and it were superÁuous to wanting to induce the ministers to act endeavour to prove the right of the with vigour, surely the conduct of Irish government to suppress it. It the catholic delegates themselves was is a principle of common sense, which such as to rouse in them all the enerrequires no support from an act of gy of which they were capable. The the legislature, that a system of de members of the catholic parliament legatioa not regulated by the laws, who presumed to discuss the whole must at all times prove extremely dan- affairs not only of the catholic commugerous ; that if the people can be nity, but of the Irish nation, did not brought together through the medium content themselves with preparing a of representatives not acting under the petition for the redress of the catholic authority of the constitution, their grievances, but wandered into the proceedings must give just cause of most violent discussions on every subalarm; and that no set of men can ject which was calculated to raise the presume to represent the nation ex- passions of the multitude, and to hurry cept those who are chosen to serve in them into acts of insurrection. The parliament according to the constitu- min:sters, therefore, determined to put tion of the country. The very prin- the convention act in force ; but they ciple of delegation, therefore, cannot were anxious also that this measure of be recognized, because if it were once necessary vigour should be preceded admitted, a small number of factious by a most careful enquiry into the and discontented persons might ac character and views of those against quire an influence over the body of the whom it was directed, and by paterpeople quite inconsistent with the sta ral warnings to the people to be on bility of a regular government. It their guard against the delusions which were vain to say that such men had prevailed among them. Notwithstandbeen collected together merely for the ing the accusations, therefore, which purpose of preparing the catholic pe- were brought against the Irish governtition, or of performing any

other law. ment by Earl Fitzwilliam in the House ful for as it must be evident that of Lords, and by Lord Milton in the their efforts may, with the greatest House of Commons, it may be assertease, be devoted to other purposes, ed with confidence that it was acting their meetings can never be constitu. in the strict discharge of an importtional

, even if it could not be proved ant duty; that it was merely exerci, that in point of fact they had deviated sing a power which would have befrom the avowed and legitimate ob- longed to it independently of any spę. jeçt of their assembling. But those cial enactment, but which had at all who on this occasion contended for events been distinctly conferred by au resenting so audacious an insult on the express provision of the legislature. constitution, did not confine then. The history of this statute, of selves to general and abstract topics ; which so much has been said, may an act of the Irish parliament had be explained in a few words. been passed with the express view of a season of great turbulence, when putting down assemblies of this kind, the same artifices by which the dema. which had already on more than one

gogues of Ireland now endeavoured occasion threatened the tranquillity to convulse the country had been put of Ireland The Irish government in practice, the legislature found it. was therefore called upon to exert its self compelled to declare, in a more



formal manner, the common law of projects which the laws of no well-rethe land, by denouncing those socie. gulated country can ever permit.ties which, under false pretences, were I'here was no necessity, therefore, for endeavouring to usurp the powers of proving that the real objects of these the legislature, and to subvert the laws assemblies was not that of petitionand constitution of the country ; by ing, for the statute directly announdeclaring, in short, that any conven. ced that the privilege of petitioning, tion implying the priñciples of delega- a privilege which in other circumstantion, is illegal and unconstitutional. ces may be legally exercised, -was by In that season of anarchy, it was the such representatives employed as a practice of these demagogues to as

mask to conceal their illegal proceedsemble in their representative capacity ings. It was enough to convict the under the pretence of petitioning par. catholic delegates under the law, that liament ; the convention act, however, they adopted a mode of preparing expressly declared, that all those who their petition which was in itself un. should assemble in this manner, and constitutional, and which a special under such pretences, should be held statute had declared to be illegal.guilty of a misdemeanour, and should But there was little need for entering incur certain penalties. Such was the on such arguments in discussing the origin of the statute which the Irish case of the catholic delegates, since, so ministers resolved to enforce.

far from confining themselves to the When the Irish government deter- mere object of petitioning, they had mined to put down the catholic parlia- maliciously entertained, and discussed ment, after its proceedings had exci- with the greatest violence, not only ted great alarm, and the measure of its every question connected with the dotransgressions against the laws had mestic affairs of Ireland, but with the been completed, various futile pre- general policy of the empire. The contexts were set up in defence of the de- duct of the Irish government, there. linquents. The convention act, it was fore, in putting down the convention, said, provided only for the dispersion was not only justifiable, but laudable of such assemblies as were convened in the highest degree; and its advounder the pretence of petitioning ; but cates had no very difficult task in mathe catholic delegates had not assem. king a firm and vigorous defence abled under any pretence, but had met gainst the groundless charges which for the real and serious purpose of were brought forward at the beginpreparing the catholic petition. The ning of the session. answer to this reasoning, however, was It was an unfortunate circumstance twofold. The act had manifestly pro- for the supporters of the motions, that scribed all assemblies brought toge. the general question of catholic emanther under the forms of representa. cipation had been blended with the tion ; and it could be of no import- enquiry into the conduct of the Irish ance that these illegal assemblies at. government. If a motion had been tempted to cover their designs by a temperately brought forward for the mere pretence-by affecting to be en consideration of the catholic claims, gaged in preparing petitions to the if the question had been agitated in legislature. The act declared, that the spirit of fairness, and with a view they fraudulently availed themselves of to deliberate discussion, there was a a privilege, the exercise of which is chance that the motion might have otherwise quite lawful, to embark in been received and referred to a com.

mittee. But such was the conduct of will be necessary to complete the outthose to whom unfortunately the in- line of the parliamentary proceedings terests of Ireland were at this time on the subject of the catholic claims. committed—such was their hostility to On the 21st of April, Lord Dothe administration, and so severe were noughmore moved in the House of the terms in which they arraigned the Lords, “ That a committee should be measures of government, that it would appointed to take into consideration, seem as if they had exerted themselves the laws imposing civil disabilities on to make the ministers their enemies, his majesty's subjects professing the and to kindle a feeling of the most catholic religion, and that the petition lively resentment against their own of the Irish catholics and protestants, cause. They blamed the Irish go as well as of the English catholics and vernment for the efforts which it had dissenters, should be referred to a com. made to secure the peace of the coun- mittee.” On the 23dof the same month, try,--they actively and warmly took Mr Grattan made a similar motion in the part of those who had endeavoured the House of Commons, which was to inflame the minds of the Irish po. followed by a very full and able discus. pulace; and with such topics of dis- sion. A considerable majority, howcussion, they most indiscreetly com ever, appeared in both houses of parbined the great question of catholic liament against the motions. On the emancipation. Those who were really 22d of June, Mr Canning concluded interested on principle in the success an eloquent speech, by moving, that of the catholic petitions,—those who the House of Commons “ should, fairly and honourably desired that this early in the next session of parliament, great question might be put to rest take into its most serious considerafor the sake of the security and hap- tion, the state of the laws affecting piness of the empire ; the catholics his majesty's catholic subjects in Great themselves, and all who were inclined Britain and Ireland, with a view to to support them on fair and honour- such a final and conciliatory adjustable principles, must have disapproved ment as might be conducive to the of such proceedings.

The conse

peace and strength of the united kingquences were such as might have been doms, to the stability of the protesexpected ; both the motions were re. tant establishment, and to the satisjected by a very large majority. faction and concord of all classes of

Such was the fate of this attack his majesty's subjects.” This motion upon the conduct of the Irish govern. was, after an able debate, carried by a ment; but the catholic question was majority of 129; and it was generally not so easily disposed of. As this sub- supposed that the catholic cause had ject, however, has become of such mag. thus obtained a complete and permanitude in the politics of the country- nent triumph. And the question might as it was so often discussed during the indeed have been carried about this course of this session of parliament, period, had it not been for the folly and occasioned so brilliant a display of of some persons whom the catholics talent and eloquence, a more expanded had unhappily permitted to interfere view of it is reserved for a separate with their affairs. But while Mr chapter, which shall be entirely de- Canning's motion was under discusvoted to a question, which, in the sion in the House of Commons, some course of this year, filled the public resolutions passed by a catholic meetmind with the utmost anxiety. But ing in Dublin, made their appearbefore interrupting the narration, it ance, demanding the unqualified con



« ForrigeFortsett »