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opposed the resolution of a former day, because they preceded enquiry; and they oppose the resolution of this day, because it sets an enquiry on foot; and then they exact of the public credit for their sincerity; in the mean time they call out for a plan; they suggest no plan; but they are waiting on hopes that we may differ about plans, and in that difference forget and extinguish the principle of a reform of Parliament.
They call for a plan, to have more excuses to oppose parliamentary reform; and some of them have spoken out, and have told you plainly and unequivocally that this is no time for stirring the question of reform. This is speaking out; and I you do not obtain the reform now, you
obtain it at all; this is the time; and, besides other causes, there are two which make the reform at this time indispensable; one cause is the declaration of the minister's connection: and the other cause, his misconduct. On the fifth day of this session, the friends of government declared decisively in favour of the reform of Parliament; the minister in this House voted for a committee to inquire into the state of your representation; which committee was founded on, and could be founded on nothing else, but a supposed defect in the state of that representation ; and he accompanied his vote with a declaration that he would not oppose what seemed the general wish. You, therefore, and that part of you which are ministerial, in particular, suggested lively hopes to the people, and so played with - their passions on this anxious subject, as to make it impossible for yourselves to retract or retreat.
Shall they make such declarations in parliament, and afterwards charge us with inflaming the people, led by themselves to expect this very measure this
session ? I declaration of the minister's connection have made the reform of Parliament irresistible; it is made irresistible also by his offences. Have we forgotten how the present ministry came into power? They were made the ministers of the present Lordlieutenant, because they had been the panders of his predecessor.. Have we forgotten how they went about administering to every venal person the wages of corruption? Have we forgotten how, in one stroke, they created fifteen new parliamentary provisions, declared in this House by their friends to have been made for no other purpose than that of buying the members ? And do such men talk of the dignity of Parliament. Have we forgotten that other act of theirs; that . misdemeanour for which they are impeachable, and of which they are so notoriously guilty, that charged, arraigned, put down publicly and repeatedly, they have not dared to deny it? I mean the sale of peerages for sums of money, conditioned to be expended for the procuring seats in this House for persons named by the minister; and do these men talk of character ? Your charges against us we answer thus; give us our measures, a fair, honest reform of Parliament being one of them, and we will not oppose you; without place or other emolument whatsoever, patronage or power, we will withdraw our opposition; and this is the best answer to the charge made against our character. And to the defence of your's, I should not have gone at this time into this kind of debate, if the friends of administration had not invited it.
We have heard much of our opposing government. What do those gentlemen mean who talk to us in that idle way? to us who have supported them in the war, in the extraordinary loan, in the new taxes, in the additional military force, in the emigrant bill, and in other measures still more summary and forceable. Do gentlemen mean that we should support government against the people of Ireland, as well as against the French, and with her ministers become a combination against the country.
Persons who are interested in the abuses of government may call every effort to support government nothing, unless it supports also their power and their plunder ; but suppose us base enough to support them, as those gentlemen seem to wish, against the reform of Parliament, for instance, we could be of no service to them; for it is that measure which neither we nor they with our assistance could resist; nor any man, nor any power, nor any combination of public men, suppose public men frantic or corrupt enough to combine at such a time against so inestimable an object; and let me warn those ministers not to trifle with the country on this question. Her passions are too alive, her interest too much at stake, her spirit too high, and expectation encouraged by those ministers too sanguine and decided, to permit on their part retreat, or subterfuge, or duplicity, (the usual arts of ministers); they have, your ministers have, by their crimes, made reform necessary, and by their declarations they have proclaimed it to be so. Let them, therefore, look to the tranquillity of the country, and take care they do not disturb it.
I have been long accustomed to hear constitutional measures proclaimed by the adherents of government to be seditious, and afterwards, by the same adherents and ministers, acknowledged to be necessary, and voted by themselves into law; and I have seen governments take credit for submitting to such measures, after having libelled for years the measures themselves, and the gentlemen who proposed them. Such will be the fate of our present ministry; they will adopt some of our measures, some of those which they opposed for three years with every obloquy on the proposers and the proposition; and their only pretensions to credit in a country which they misgoverned for years, will be the adoption of some of the bills which we proposed, and they reprobated. I look upon them in this instance as our agents; they are to execute our will and our plans; our pension bill, they resisted it for three years; they will grant it now; our place bill, they resisted that for three years; they will grant it now; our repeal of the police bill, they resisted that for years; they must grant that also; our responsibility bill, they think to resist that bill, and in the same idle strain as they did the others, but that too must, and will at last be granted. They may cripple our measures for the
but measures will be the law of the land. I could mention more ; the reform bill, which they now hope either to evade, or to perplex; or to cripple, or to prevent, that too will be adopted; and then having passed our measures, those gentlemen will, as they do now, libel our characters and traduce their masters; us who have at last taught their folly to listen to measures of wisdom, and their profligacy to attend to the plans of virtue.
The House divided on Mr. Forbes's motion : Ayes 48, Noes 137; Majority against the motion 89. Tellers for the Ayes, Mr. Robert Stewart (afterwards Lord Castlereagh) and Col. Hutchinson; tellers for the Noes, the Solicitor-general (Toler) and Mr. J. C. Beresford. It was then proposed and agreed to, that the House should
go into a committee on the subject of reform on that day week.
ROMAN CATHOLIC BILL.
February 22. 1793.
On the 4th of February, Mr. Hobart had obtained leave to bring
in a bill for the further relief of the Roman Catholics ; the bill was presented and read a first time on the 18th, and ordered to be read a second time on this day; and when the order of the day for the second reading was moved for, Mr. George Knox said, that from the moment he felt political independence, he found the necessity of Catholic emancipation; the present bill did not admit the Catholics into the constitution; that the upper as well as the lower orders should be the objects for legislative
liberality; and as the admission of ten or twenty Catholics into Parliament would not, in his opinion, endanger the safety of the state, he would move, “ That the Roman Catholics should be mitted to hold seats in Parliament." Mr. Knox's motion being inconsistent with the order of proceeding, the bill was read a second time; and on the question that it be committed, it was warmly supported by the provost (Mr. Hutchinson), Mr. Forbes, Mr. Day (afterwards judge), Mr. Hobart, Mr. W. B. Ponsonby, Colonel Hutchinson, and Major Doyle; it was opposed by Mr. Richard Sheridan, Mr. George Ogle, Mr. David Latouche, and Dr. Duigenan.
Mr. GRATTAN said: I could wish the bill under your consideration had gone farther. I could wish that it had given the Roman Catholics the privileges of other dissenters. I am sure that is the only sound policy. I think, however, the bill deserves thanks, because it contains much, and also because it leads to much more; but I must say the mover had discovered more sense if he had given to the Catholics the whole now, and had settled with them for ever.
The situation of the Roman Catholics is reducible to four propositions ; they are three-fourths of your people paying iheir proportion of near 2,000,0001. of taxes, without any share in the representation or expenditure; they pay your church establishments without any retributions; they discharge the active and laborious offices of life, manufacture, husbandry and commerce, without those franchises which are annexed to the fruits of industry, and they replenish your armies and navies, without commission, rank or reward. Under these circumstances, and under the further recommendation of total and entire political separation from any foreign prince or pretender, they desire to be admitted to the franchise of the constitution; I have listened to your objections with great respect give me leave to answer them.
The first objection I heard, is the petition of the Catholics to his Majesty; but, who is there that does not see the question to be, whether the Catholics are aggrieved, and not how those grievances have been stated by their committee? But even on the ground of the petition, if, as in a case of bill and answer, you choose to wrangle, you will find their petition is substantially true; it complains that the Catholic, by law, cannot carry arms: the law is so; it complains that the Catholics, on refusing to discover their arms, are liable to be whipped: that law is yet in force; and, finally, it states, the great and radical grievance, that the Catholics are excluded from the franchises of the constitution; and about that complaint, there is no doubt; the petition, therefore, cannot justify a refusal to administer redress, even if their redress depended
on the manner of forming their petition. But the second objection goes on broader and bolder grounds, and insists on the demerits of the Catholics; it states, that the Catholics abhor all Protestants, and never were, nor are, nor ever will be, loyal subjects to a Protestant King; and it asserts in particular, that in every war, and in two rebellions since the Revolution, the Catholics have exerted themselves to the best of their power against their King and country, and have besides been guilty of various domestic insurrections. The last part of the objection scarcely deserves notice; it proposes that the Catholic inhabitants of thirty-two counties should be punished for the disturbances of six ; it proposes that the offences of a local mob should be visited on the community at large, and that the finite offences of that local mob should be punished by the eternal disfranchisement of the community; it makes the crimes of the man the pretext for the prosecution of the sect; it proceeds on a principle that would disfranchise every part of his Majesty's dominions where riots have existed, and almost every great city, the city of London in particular; it proceeds on a principle which argues from the particular to the universal, and which in logic is false reasoning, and in politics is a departure from the prin. ciples, not of reason only, but of justice, of humanity, and of charity.
This last part of the objection, I say scarcely requires an answer; the first does; it states, that after the articles of Limerick, the Catholic troops rejected General Ginkle’s offer, and almost to a man went to the enemy. This is not history; the fact is otherwise; it has been made to appear already by my honourable friend from undoubted aụthority, that nineteen regiments of the Catholic army at that time joined King William. The objection proceeds to another misrepresentation, and states that the Irish brigade is constantly recruited and officered from Ireland. The fact is not so. the objection, in matter of fact, totally and notoriously fails. The Irish brigade is not constantly recruited and officered from Ireland; but, on the contrary, few of its officers, and very few of its men are recruited from Ireland. Gentlemen will distinguish between officers of Irish families and of Irish birth, and they will distinguish also between a regiment bearing an Irish name, and a regiment filled with Irishmen. The first is the case of the Irish brigade, and the latter is not; and for the refutation of this part of the objection, I appeal to the knowledge and the candour of gentlemen who have seen service, and who must know the charge, that the Irish brigade is constantly officered and recruited from Ireland, to be abso