« ForrigeFortsett »
OPENING OF PARLIAMENT.
MR. GRATTAN MOVES AN AMENDMENT TO THE ADDRESS.
January 10. 1793.
ON this day the session commenced; and the Lord Lieutenant,
seated on the throne, delivered to both Houses of Parliament the following Speech :
“ My Lords and Gentlemen; “ I have his Majesty's commands to meet you in Parliament, and to express his satisfaction in resorting to your counsels in the present situation of affairs.
“ His Majesty feels the utmost concern that various attempts should have been made to excite a spirit of discontent and disturbance, and that appearances should have manifested themselves in any part of this kingdom, of a design to effect by violence an alteration in the constitution.
“ It is an additional ground of uneasiness to His Majesty, that views of conquest and dominion should have incited France to interfere with the government of other countries, and to adopt measures with regard to His Majesty's allies, the States General, neither conformable to the law of nations, nor the positive stipulations of existing treaties; especially when both His Majesty and the States General had observed the strictest neutrality with regard to the affairs of France.
“ Under these circumstances, I have ordered, by His Majesty's commands, an augmentation of the forces upon this establishment.
* By the advice of the Privy Council, measures have been taken to prevent the exportation of corn, provisions, and naval stores, arms and ammunition. The circumstances which rendered these measures necessary, will, I trust, justify any temporary infringement of the laws, and will induce you to give them a parliamentary sanction.
“ It will afford His Majesty the greatest satisfaction, if, by a temperate and firm conduct, the blessings of peace can be continued; but he feels assured of your zealous concurrence in his determination to provide for the security and interests of his dominions, and to fulfil those positive engagements to which he is equally bound by the honour of his Crown, and the general interests of the empire.
“ Gentlemen of the House of Commons; 6. I have ordered the national accounts to be laid before you, and I have no doubt of your readiness to grant such supplies for the public service, as the honour and security of His Majesty's Crown and Government, and the exigencies of the times may require.
“ My Lords and Gentlemen ; “ The agriculture, the manufactures, and particularly the linen manufacture, the Protestant charter-schools, and other public institutions, which have so repeatedly been the objecis of your care, will, I doubt not, engage your accustomed regard and liberality.
“ I am to recommend to you, in His Majesty's name, to adopt such measures as may be most adviseable for the maintenance of internal tranquillity, and for this purpose to render more effectual the law for establishing a militia in this kingdom.
“ His Majesty has the fullest confidence that you will, on all occasions, show your firm determination to enforce due obedience to the laws, and to maintain the authority of Government, in which you may depend upon His Majesty's cordial co-operation and support; and I have it in particular command from His Majesty, to recommend it to you, to apply yourselves to the consideration of such measures as may be most likely to strengthen and cement a general union of sentiment among all classes and descriptions of His Majesty's subjects, in support of the established constitution : with this view, bis Majesty trusts that the situation of His Majesty's Catholic subjects will engage your serious attention, and in the consideration of this subject he relies on the wisdom and liberality of his Parliament.
“ I am truly sensible of the repeated testimonies which I have received of your approbation; and I will endeavour to merit a continuance of your good opinion, by strenuously exerting the power with which I am entrusted for the maintenance of our excellent constitution in church and state, as the best security for the liberty of the subject, and the prosperity of Ireland."
The Earl of Tyrone (son to the Marquis of Waterford) moved an address to His Majesty; it was in accordance with the speech. The motion was • seconded by Mr. Arthur Wellesley (afterwards Duke of Wellington); it was supported by Mr. J. O'Neill.
Mr. Grattan said, Our situation is certainly alarming, but by no means surprising; it is the necessary, natural, and obvious result of the conduct of his Majesty's ministers; the persons who had opposed our liberty in 1782, were made our ministers; afterwards the country forgave them, but they never forgave the country; they attempted to put down the constitution, and now they have put down the government. We told them so, we admonished them; we told them that their driving system would not do; we had no objection to their private characters, or their humble, natural relationships of life, but that they were absolutely, totally, radically disqualified to govern.
Do not they remember, that, in 1790, we warned them? They said we were severe - I am sure we were prophetic. Again, in 1791, we repeated our admonition; told them that a government of clerks would not do; that a government by rank majorities would not do; that the government of the treasury would not do; that Ireland would not be long governed by the trade of parliament. We mentioned this when Lord Buckingham ran away from this kingdom, and Lord Westmorland succeeded to his office. We told them that a nation who had rescued her liberties from the giant Old England, in 1782, would not long bear to be trodden on by the violence of a few pigmies whom the caprice of a court had appointed ministers.
I remember the beginning of the last session, I had the honour of submitting in this House some observations on this head; and my honourable friend also, in the course of the session, assured you that your system of government was infatuation; we have now to lament the effects of that infatuation; and though I allow foreign revolutions have had a certain effect on domestic discontent; yet the causes of that discontent were laid by ministers, who might have seen the state of foreign politics, and have foreseen the forcible influence of that state on domestic disorders. We are now, by a course of mal-administration, brought back to that condition of discontent and jealousy, which in 1782 produced an interposition from the King; we then laboured under the ill effects of a bad constitution we now labour under the ill effects of a bad government.
The periodical sales of the House of Commons, the public declaration of those sales, the increase of twenty parliamentary provisions, and, what was more, the acknowledgment that such increase was a political expedient to buy the members ; the repeated declarations that the best minister for Ireland
was he who bought the House of Commons cheapest; the sale of divers peerages for money, to be laid out by the minister in procuring for his followers seats in the House of Conimons; the sale of the functions of one House, for buying votes in the other (it was the case of the barren land bill); the patronage of all kinds of abuses and peculations, as in the case of the police; the rejection of every constitutional bill; place bill, pension bill, responsibility bill
, tending to assimilate our constitution to that of Great Britain; the arguments advanced for the rejection of the two former by a law officer of the crown, who said that the government in Ireland should be stronger than that of Great Britain, and who, in the application of that argument, could only mean that the Parliament of Ireland should be more abandoned. These things, and many more, taken separately or altogether, have totally and universally deprived of all weight, authority, or credit, the Parliament of Ireland.
I am sure our ministers meant to go no further, they only meant an attack on the constitution, but they have undermined the throne; it is impossible in a constitution with parts connected as ours to put down the authority of Parliament, without involving the monarchy; and while our ministers only intended to free the throne from the checks and limits of a Parliament, they have deprived it of its best support, the poise and authority of a parliamentary constitution.
I have heard of seditious publications of Mr. Paine, and other writers ; these writings may be criminal, but it is the declarations of the ministers of the crown that have made them dangerous. Mr. Paine has said monarchy is a useless incumbrance; a minister of the crown comes forth and says he is right; monarchy cost this country, to buy the parliament, half a million at one period, and half a million at another. Mr. Paine has said an hereditary legislative nobility is an absurdity; our minister observes he has understated the evil; it
a body of legislators whose seats are sold by the ministers to purchase another body of legislators to vote against the people; but here is the difference between Mr. Paine and our authors; the latter are ministers, and their declaration evidence against their royal master. They say we love monarchy; we love the king's government, which, however, we must acknowledge, governs by selling one house and buying the other. So much niore powerful agents of republicanism are the Irish ministers than such authors as Mr. Paine, that if the former wished to go into rebellion in 1793, as, in 1783, when some of them went into sedition, they could not excite the people to high treason by stronger provocation than their own public declarations; and the strongest arguments against monarchical government, are those delivered by themselves in favour of their own administration.
There are two species of levellers — levellers of principles and levellers of institutions, and the former always make way for the latter; the latter is the death, and the former the disease, and both together form in political life the progress of sin and dissolution. That minister who sold the peerage .was a leveller; that minister who publicly bought the House by the increase of about twenty, which is a difference of forty votes, was a leveller. He was a leveller of character, and authority, and principle, without which political institutions vanish. The French levellers destroyed the nobility and the throne, to erect the despotism of the people. The Irish levellers have endeavoured to destroy the power and credit of the nobility and the commons, to erect the despotism of the King; in that endeavour they have undermined the throne; they have stripped the King's government, together with the two Houses of Parliament, of all kind of credit, or authority, or weight, in the minds of the people of Ireland.
Permit me to consider the conduct of our ministers, in its particular reference to that oppressed part of His Majesty's subjects, the Catholics. I do not mean now to go into their claims. I retain my former conviction in their favour; but if I were their enemy, I could not approve of their treatment; our ministry begins by offering them a personal incivility, so they state in their published debate. I am not a judge of the fact, but they are of the impression. They were so critically and equivocally situated with respect to political and civil rank, that even courtesy from a lord lieutenant's secretary would have been a compliment, and slight is an insult; they are the only part of His Majesty's subjects so situated. The Catholics will soon be in that situation no longer ; after offending the Catholics by manner, the next unadvised step of the ministry, was to attack them by artifice, and, accordingly, they endeavoured to detach and divide the landed interest of the Catholics from the body at large, which was an attempt to destroy the subordination of the common people, and to set population adrift from the influence of property; and lest there should remain still some influence over their minds, the ministry make some blind and imperfect. overtures to the Catholic clergy, to detach them also from the claims of their flock, which was to detach their flocks from them, and to leave that flock entirely destitute of all principle whatsoever of subordination, either to landlord or ecclesiastic. I am not a