Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXII.: The Union - Part II. - A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. VIII
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CHAPTER XXXII.: The Union - Part II. - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, A History of England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. VIII 
A History of England in the Eighteenth Century (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878, 1917). 8 Vols. Vol. VIII.
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The kind of negotiation into which Lord Cornwallis was at this time compelled to enter, was in the highest degree distasteful to his frank, honourable, soldier-like character, and his correspondence shows that he was under no illusion about the nature of his task, or about the real motives, opinions, and dispositions of his supporters. ‘The political jobbing of this country,’ he writes, ‘gets the better of me. It has ever been the wish of my life to avoid this dirty business, and I am now involved in it beyond all bearing…. How I long to kick those whom my public duty obliges me to court!’ ‘My occupation is now of the most unpleasant nature, negotiating and jobbing with the most corrupt people under heaven. I despise and hate myself every hour, for engaging in such dirty work, and am supported only by the reflection, that without an Union the British Empire must be dissolved.’ He recalled, as applicable to himself, the bitter lines in which Swift had painted the demon Viceroy, scattering in corruption the contributions of the damned, and then complaining that his budget was too small;1 and he repeated once more, ‘Nothing but the conviction that an Union is absolutely necessary for the safety of the British Empire, could make me endure the shocking task which is imposed on me.’ That the majority which ultimately carried the Union, was not an honest majority expressing honest opinions, he most clearly saw. ‘The nearer the great event approaches,’ he wrote almost at the last stage of the discussion, ‘the more are the needy and interested senators alarmed at the effects it may possibly have on their interests and the provision for their families, and I believe that half of our majority would be at least as much delighted as any of our opponents, if the measure could be defeated.’ 1
In the face of such declarations, it appears to me idle to dispute the essentially corrupt character of the means by which the Union was carried, though it may be truly said that selfish motives, and even positive corruption, were by no means a monopoly of its supporters, and though there may be some difference of opinion about the necessity of the case, and some reasonable doubt about the particular forms of bribery that were employed. The most serious feature in the parliamentary debates of 1799, was the strenuous opposition to the measure by the county members, who represented the great majority of the free constituencies of Ireland, who on all normal occasions supported the Government, and who in many instances, while opposing the Union, disclaimed in the most emphatic terms any intention of going into systematic opposition. Lord Castlereagh, as I have said, attributed their attitude largely to the first intention of the Government to diminish by a half the county representation, and he hoped that the retention of the whole of that representation in his amended scheme, and the greatly enhanced dignity attaching to a seat in the Imperial Parliament, would put an end to their opposition. But in this expectation he was deceived. Though some conspicuous county members supported the Union, the large majority, as we shall see, remained to the end its opponents.
The main power in Parliament, however, rested with the great borough owners, and so many seats were in the hands of a few men, that the task of the Government was not a very formidable one. In truth, when we consider the enormous and overwhelming majorities the Government could on all ordinary occasions command, and the utter insignificance of the Opposition, especially after the secession of Grattan and the outbreak of the rebellion, the difficulty they encountered is more wonderful than their success. A few of the borough seats were attached to bishoprics, and were completely at their disposal. Others were in the hands of great English absentees. Most of them were in the control of men who held lucrative offices in the Government, or who had within the last few years been either ennobled, or promoted in the peerage as a price of their political support. Lord Shannon, who had long been the most powerful of the borough owners, had from the beginning supported them; Lord Waterford, Lord Ormond, Lord Clifden, Lord Longueville, and other peers with great influence in the House of Commons, were on the same side. In the constitution of the Irish Parliament, the purchase of a few men was sufficient to turn the scale and to secure a majority, and this purchase was now speedily and simply effected by promises of peerages.
Immediately after the Union had passed through the Irish House of Commons, but before it had received the royal assent, Lord Cornwallis sent over a list of sixteen new peerages, which had been promised on account of valuable services that had been rendered in carrying it. It appears from the correspondence that ensued, that the King and the English Government, though they had given a general authority to Cornwallis, had not been consulted in the details of the promotions, and they were anxious to strike out a few names and adjourn the creations till after the first election of representative peers for the Imperial Parliament.1 Cornwallis and Castlereagh both declared that this course would involve a breach of faith which would make it impossible for them to continue in the Government of Ireland, and a few sentences from the letters of Castlereagh will throw a clear light on the nature of the transaction. ‘It appears to me,’ he wrote, ‘that Lord Cornwallis, having been directed to undertake and carry the measure of Union, and having been fully authorised by various despatches to make arrangements with individuals to which not only the faith of his own, but of the English Government, was understood to be pledged, will be very harshly treated if the wisdom of his arrangements, now the measure is secured, is to be canvassed…. I am fully aware of the responsibility to which the Irish Government has been subjected, in the exercise of the authority which I conceive to have been delegated to them at the outset of this measure. The importance of the object could have alone induced the King's Ministers to grant such powers, and I hope they will now, in deciding what remains to be done, advert to the nature of the struggle, as well as the authority which the Irish Government conceived itself in the possession of…. It certainly has been exercised successfully as far as the object is concerned, and not for any purposes personal either to Lord Cornwallis or myself…. In so long a struggle, in a certain period of which, after the defection of seven members in one division, the fate of the measure was in suspense, it is not wonderful that the scale of favours should have been somewhat deranged; if in two or three instances, and I do not believe it will appear in more, certain individuals, availing themselves of circumstances, obtained assurances of favours to which in strictness they are not entitled.’ ‘It appears that the Cabinet, after having carried the measure by the force of influence of which they were apprised in every despatch sent from hence for the last eighteen months, wish to forget all this; they turn short round, and say it would be a pity to tarnish all that has been so well done by giving any such shock to the public sentiment. If they imagine they can take up popular grounds by disappointing their supporters, and by disgracing the Irish Government, I think they will find themselves mistaken. It will be no secret what has been promised, and by what means the Union has been secured…. The only effect of such a proceeding on their part, will be to add the weight of their testimony to that of the anti-Unionists in proclaiming the profligacy of the means by which the measure has been accomplished…. The new peerages … are all granted either to persons actually members of, or connected with, the House of Commons.’ 1
The sixteen peerages, however, referred to in these letters, by no means comprise the whole of what in this department was done. In the short viceroyalty of Lord Cornwallis, no less than twenty-eight Irish peerages were created, six Irish peers obtained English peerages on account of Irish services, and twenty Irish peers obtained a higher rank in the peerage.1
There was another form of bribe, which had probably not less influence. If the Union was carried, a new object of ambition of the first magnitude would be at once opened to the Irish peerage. No promotion in that peerage was likely to be so much coveted as the position of representative peer, which was to be enjoyed by twenty-eight members of the Irish peerage, and was to place them for life in the Imperial House of Lords. But the influence the Government exercised in the peerage was so great, that it was easy to foresee that, in the first election at least, it would prove absolutely decisive. The first representative peers, indeed, were virtually nominated by the Lord Lieutenant, and they consisted exclusively of supporters of the Union.2
It was essentially by these means that the Union was carried, though there are some slight qualifications to be made. In the long list of creations and promotions, there are nine which were not connected with the Union, and among the new peers there were doubtless a few who claimed and received rewards for acting in accordance with their genuine convictions. Lord Clare, the great father of the Union, was made an English peer in September 1799.3 Lord Altamount had from the first declared himself in its favour, and the tone of his whole correspondence with the Government indicates a man of real public spirit, yet he bargained for and obtained a marquisate. Lord Kenmare was the leading member of a small group of Catholic gentlemen who had long been in the close confidence of the Government, and who undoubtedly desired the Union, yet the earldom of Lord Kenmare was described by Lord Cornwallis as one of the titles which he was ‘obliged’ to promise in order to carry it.1 Men, it is true, who valued honour more than honours, and who, in a period of extreme corruption, believed it to be their duty to take the invidious course of voting for the extinction of the Legislature of their country, would not have acted in this manner. They would rather have followed the example of Lord Gosford, who warmly supported the Union, but at the same time refused an earldom, in order that no imputation should rest upon the integrity of his motives.2 But the Irish borough owners should be judged by no high standard, and it may be admitted, to their faint credit, that in some few instances their peerages did not determine their votes and their influence. In the majority of cases, however, these peerages were simple, palpable, open bribes, intended for no other purpose than to secure a majority in the House of Commons. The most important of the converts was Lord Ely, whose decision, after many fluctuations, appears to have been finally fixed by a letter from Pitt himself. He obtained a promise of an English peerage, and a well-founded expectation of a marquisate, and he brought to the Government at least eight borough seats, and also a vast amount of county influence which was very useful in procuring addresses in favour of the Union.3
But although the weight of such a mass of creations and promotions must have been enormous in a Parliament constituted like that of Ireland, it would have been insufficient but for some supplementary measures. The first was, a provision that close boroughs should be treated as private property, and that the patrons should receive a liberal pecuniary compensation for their loss. This compensation removed an obstacle which must have been fatal to the Union, but being granted to opponents as well as supporters, it cannot, in my opinion, be justly regarded as strictly bribery, and it may be defended by serious arguments. Nomination boroughs were in fact, though not in law, undoubtedly private property, and the sale or purchase of seats was a perfectly open transaction, fully recognised by public opinion, and practised by honourable politicians. As we have already seen, Pitt, in his English Reform Bill of 1785, proposed to create a fund for the purchase of the English boroughs, and the United Irishmen included the compensation of Irish borough owners in their scheme of radical reform. The English Legislature always refused to recognise this traffic, but it does not appear to have been formally prohibited or made subject to legal penalties until 1809;1 and even in 1832, Lord Eldon maintained that proprietary boroughs were strictly property. ‘Borough property,’ he said, ‘was a species of property which had been known in this country for centuries; it had been over and over again made the subject of purchase and sale in all parts of the kingdom, and they might as well extinguish the right of private individuals to their advowsons, as their right to exercise the privileges which they derived from the possession of burgage tenures;’ and he quoted the course which was taken when abolishing the hereditable jurisdictions in Scotland, and the nomination boroughs in Ireland, as binding precedents.1 This view was not adopted by the Imperial Legislature, and an overwhelming wave of popular enthusiasm, which brought England almost to the verge of revolution, enabled the Whig Ministry to sweep away the small boroughs, and carry the Reform Bill of 1832. But in Ireland at the time of the Union there was certainly no such enthusiasm; the borough interest was stronger than in England, and it was idle to expect that those who possessed it would make this great pecuniary sacrifice without compensation. The opponents of the Union dilated with much force upon the enormity of treating the right of representation as private property; making the extinction of a national Legislature a matter of bargain between the Government and a few individuals, and then throwing the cost of that bargain upon the nation. But in truth the measure was necessary if the Union was to be carried, and its justification must stand or fall with the general policy of the Government.
Eighty boroughs, returning 160 members, were in this manner purchased at the cost of 1,260,000l., which was added to the Irish national debt, and thus made a perpetual charge upon the country. The sum of 15,000l. which was given for each borough does not appear to have been unreasonable. ‘It is well known,’ Grattan wrote to the citizens of Dublin in 1797, ‘that the price of boroughs is from 14,000l. to 16,000l., and has in the course of not many years increased one-third—a proof at once of the extravagance and audacity of this abuse.’ 2 The convulsions of the rebellion had, it is true, lowered the value of borough property, and produced an insecurity which no doubt greatly assisted the measure, but it was only equitable that the compensation should be calculated by the market value before the civil war began. It is remarkable that the largest sum given in compensation went to Lord Downshire, who was a vehement opponent of the Union. He received 52,500l. as the owner of seven borough seats. The next largest sum was 45,000l., which went to Lord Ely. Of the whole sum, about a third part was paid to opponents of the Union. In some cases the compensation for a single borough was distributed among two or more persons, and the compensation paid for the Church boroughs was applied to ecclesiastical purposes.1
These figures, however, only give an imperfect and approximate measure of the amount of borough interest in the Irish Parliament, and of the relative weight of that interest on the two sides of the question. Several of the close boroughs were allowed to send one member to the Imperial Parliament, and one member in the British House of Commons being considered equal to two in the Irish one, no compensation in these cases was given. Several seats were not reckoned strictly close, though a few great families exercised an overwhelming influence over them, and some borough owners were accustomed to purchase single nominations from others, and thus exercised in fact a much larger parliamentary influence than appears from the compensation they received. The same statute which provided for the compensation of the borough owners, provided also that full compensation should be granted to all persons whose offices were abolished or diminished in value by the Union. Rather more than 30,000l. a year was granted in annuities to officers or attendants of the two Houses of Parliament, by a separate statute.2
Another supplementary measure was a great remodelling of the House of Commons, through the operation of the Place Bill.
It was the firm resolution of the Government, that they would not dissolve Parliament, and submit the great question of the maintenance of the national Legislature to the free judgment of the constituencies. From such a step, wrote Cornwallis, ‘we could derive no possible benefit.’ 3 At the same time, they desired to change the composition of the House of Commons, which in 1799 had so decisively rejected the measure, and in this object they were eminently successful. In December, Castlereagh wrote that not less than twenty-two seats were vacant, which would be filled by their friends,4 and in the few months that elapsed between the prorogation of Parliament in 1799, and the Union debates of 1800, no less than sixty-three seats became vacant.1 In this manner, without a dissolution, more than a fifth part of the House was renewed. A few of the vacancies were due to deaths, and a few to changes of office arising from the dismissal of officials who opposed the Union. In other cases men who were not prepared to vote for the Union, were willing to accept the promise of some lucrative office and leave Parliament;2 but the great majority of these changes were due to the conversion of the borough patrons. Members holding seats by their favour, who were unwilling to support the Union, considered themselves bound to accept nominal offices and vacate their seats, and other members were brought in for the express purpose of voting for the Union. Several of them were Englishmen, wholly unconnected with Ireland, and some were generals of the Staff. In the case of borough members who had purchased their seats, a different rule prevailed, and they were entitled to vote irrespective of their patrons.3
At the same time, the whole force of Government patronage in all its branches was steadily employed. The formal and authoritative announcement, that the English Government were resolved to persevere until the Union was carried; that though it might be defeated session, after session, and Parliament after Parliament, it would always be reintroduced, and that support of it would be considered hereafter the main test by which all claims to Government favour would be determined, had an irresistible force. The dismissal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Sergeant, because they refused to support the Union, needs no defence, for no Administration could possibly continue if some of its leading members were opposed to the main objects of its policy. The dismissal of Lord Downshire from his regiment, from the Privy Council, and from the governorship of his county, was defended on the ground that he had been guilty of a grave breach of military discipline in sending down a petition against the Union to his regiment of militia to be signed; and in the opinion of Lord Cornwallis, this dismissal, by evincing the determination of the Government and by terrifying their opponents, did more than any other single step to carry the measure.1 But in addition to these, a number of obscure men in non-political places were dismissed, because either they or their relatives declined to support it. In spite of the Place Bill of 1793, which had somewhat diminished the number of placeholders who might sit in Parliament.2 there appear to have been in the last Irish House of Commons no less than seventy-two persons who either held civil places or pensions from the Crown, or were generals or staff officers.3 All these men knew that their promotion, most of them knew that their retention of their emoluments, was in the power of the Government, and would be determined by the votes they were about to give. It was part of the Union scheme that not more than twenty additional placemen should be introduced by it into the Imperial Parliament. Plunket, in one of his speeches, declared with great force and eloquence, that if there had been only twenty placemen in the Irish House of Commons, or if the placemen who sat in it were allowed to vote by ballot or according to their real wishes, it would have been utterly impossible to have carried the Union.
Hope, however, was a more powerful agent of corruption than fear, and it is, I believe, scarcely an exaggeration to say that everything in the gift of the Crown in Ireland; in the Church, the army, the law, the revenue, was at this period uniformly and steadily devoted to the single object of carrying the Union. From the great noblemen who were bargaining for their marquisates and their ribbands; from the Archbishop of Cashel, who agreed to support the Union, on being promised the reversion of the see of Dublin, and a permanent seat in the Imperial House of Lords;1 the virus of corruption extended and descended through every fibre and artery of the political system, including crowds of obscure men who had it in their power to assist or obstruct addresses on the question. No two facts are at this time more conspicuous, than the immense preponderance of legal ability that was arrayed in opposition to the Union, and the immense profusion of legal honours that were lavished on its supporters. Twenty-three practising barristers voted for the Union, in the House of Commons, in 1800. In 1803 six of them were upon the Bench, while eight others had received high honours under the Crown.1 Thirty-two barristers voted for the Union at the bar debate in 1799. In 1803 not more than five of them were unrewarded.2 Charles Kendal Bushe was then a young lawyer starting in his career, and overwhelmed with embarrassments from his efforts to pay the debts of his father, and he has left a touching account of the struggle he underwent from the dazzling promises that were made him by the Government, if he would only place his eloquence and his vote at the service of the Union.3 Some shameful promises, however, were shamefully broken. In one of his last letters, written just before leaving Ireland, Cornwallis sent to England a list of fifty promises of places, pensions, legal appointments, and promotions in the peerage which he had formally made on the part of his Majesty's Government, acting by the direction and authority of the Ministers in England, but which, nevertheless, were still unfulfilled. With a single exception, they seem all to have been made for the purpose of carrying the Union. In the list of names, there are thirty-five members of the House of Commons who had voted for it, and three of the pensions which had not been promised by name to members of Parliament would actually have been received by them. Some of these acknowledged promises remained unfulfilled up to the change of Government in 1806, and were then repudiated by the new Ministers.4
The details of these negotiations have for the most part been destroyed.1 The Under Secretary Cooke, and Alexander Marsden, who was, at the time of the Union, Assistant Secretary in the Law Department, and who succeeded Cooke as Under Secretary, were chiefly entrusted with them, and Marsden appears to have been afterwards pursued with some rancour by disappointed claimants.2 Enough, however, remains to show beyond all real doubt, the character of the transaction, and to justify the emphatic and often repeated statements of Grattan, Plunket, Bushe, Parsons, and Grey. As late as 1830, Lord Grey, while asserting in the strongest terms the fatal consequences that would arise from any attempt to tamper with the settlement of 1800, did not hesitate to avow his abiding conviction, that ‘there were never worse means resorted to for carrying any measure,’ than those by which the Union was accomplished,1 and Grattan himself expressed his belief, that of those who voted for it, not more than seven were unbribed.2
There is one form of corruption, however, about which there may be some controversy, and has probably been much exaggeration. It has been asserted by O'Connell, that immense sums were spent in direct bribes, and that as much as 8,000l. was given for a vote in favour of the Union, and it was certainly the belief of the Opposition that direct bribery was extensively practised. It is scarcely probable that this can have been done with the knowledge of Lord Cornwallis. Some leaders of the Opposition appear to have attempted to meet corruption by corruption, and are accused of having subscribed a large sum for the purpose of purchasing votes. Lord Cornwallis, when writing about a bribe which he believed had been offered by the Opposition for a vote, added, ‘If we had the means, and were disposed to make such vile use of them, we dare not trust the credit of Government in the hands of such rascals.’ 3 It is certain that there was no Irish fund from which any great sum could have been drawn by the Government for the purpose of bribery. A secret service fund of 5,000l. a year, which had been authorised in 1793, could have gone but a little way in purchasing a majority, even if it were applied to that object, and a small additional sum, which had been subsequently granted for pensions to informers in the rebellion, was altogether devoted to its ostensible purpose.4 The 5,000l. which had been sent over from England in the beginning of 1799, appears to have been chiefly, if not solely, employed in purchasing support outside the House. Wickham, in sending it, added, ‘The Duke of Portland has every reason to hope, that means will soon be found of placing a larger sum at the Lord Lieutenant's disposal.’ 1 Shortly before the meeting of Parliament in 1800, Castlereagh urgently demanded a similar and if possible a larger sum, and 5,000l. more appears to have been transmitted, with a memorandum stating that ‘the fund was good security for a still further sum, though not immediately, if it could be well laid out and furnished on the spot.’ 2 Two months later, Cooke wrote to England for a fresh remittance, which he described as ‘absolutely essential’ for the increasing demands. A ‘considerable sum’ was raised by loan from a private individual, who soon pressed for repayment; and savings were made out of the Irish civil list, and applied as secret service money to meet many engagements that had been entered into. Before the session had closed, Portland and Pitt were again entreated to send over money; and Pitt, while expressing his regret that he could not send as much as was wanted, promised annual instalments of from 8,000l. to 10,000l. for five years, which were probably intended to liquidate Union engagements.3 One supporter of the Government in the House of Commons appears to have been excused a debt of 3,000l.4 On the whole, I should gather from these facts, that direct money bribes were given, though not to the extent that has been alleged; but it is probable that the greater part of this expenditure went in buying seats from members who were willing to vacate them, and in that case the transaction did not differ sensibly from the purchase of boroughs by Administration, which up to a still later period was undoubtedly practised in England.5 Several transactions of this kind were rumoured, although on no good authority, and we have the express statement of Edgeworth, that in 1800 he was offered 3,000 guineas for his seat during the few remaining weeks of the session.1
The various forms of pressure and influence I have described, were steadily exerted through the whole period of the recess and through the decisive session that followed, and it is by no means surprising that they should have converted the minority of 1799 into the majority of 1800. ‘There is an opposition in Parliament to the measure of Union,’ wrote Cornwallis in May 1799, ‘formidable in character and talents. Their numbers, though they have not proved equal to shake the Government, have for the present rendered the prosecution of the measure in Parliament impracticable.’ But if the Governments in both countries pursued their end without flinching, he had great hope of success. ‘We reckon at present,’ he added, ‘on the Union, 148 certain with us, 98 against, and 54 whose line cannot yet be positively ascertained.’ ‘Your Grace will easily believe, that the usual importunity of political friends has risen upon the present occasion with the difficulties of Government and with the nature of the question itself, which appears to them in prudence to enjoin the most speedy accomplishment of their several objects, as the measure is considered by them as fatal to the usual mode of giving effect to their claims.’ 2 A month later, the Government strength in the Commons was believed to have risen to 165. In December it was calculated at 180, but Cornwallis placed little confidence in his supporters. ‘I entertain every day more doubt of our success in the great question of Union,’ he wrote at the very end of 1799; ‘we have a lukewarm, and, in some instances, an unwilling majority; the enemy have a bold and deeply interested minority, which will, I am afraid, even after our friends are reckoned, run us much nearer than most people expect.’ 3
Outside the House, however, the Government believed that the Union project was steadily and rapidly gaining ground, and, after making all due allowance for the natural bias of Lord Cornwallis, and for the partisan character of the sources from which he chiefly obtained his information, it remains tolerably certain that the measure was finding a real and increasing support. The opinions of Cornwallis varied from week to week, but his general belief appears to have been, that the great mass of the Irish people were thoroughly disaffected to the English rule, and would welcome with delight a French invasion, but that they were absolutely without attachment to their Parliament, and perfectly indifferent to the question of Union. In Dublin, he admitted, there was a fierce and passionate hostility to it. In the central counties of Leinster, the strong predominance of feeling was against it, but elsewhere the Lord Lieutenant believed that it was viewed, either with indifference or with favour. In April 1799, after describing the extreme disaffection and the extreme corruption around him, he said, ‘The great mass of the people neither think or care’ about the Union.1 In July he repeated, ‘The mass of the people of Ireland do not care one farthing about the Union, and they equally hate both Government and Opposition.’ ‘It is in Dublin only where any popular clamour can possibly be excited.’ 2 ‘I am preparing,’ he wrote in the same month, ‘to set out to-morrow on a tour for three weeks to the South, for the purpose of obtaining declarations &c. in favour of the Union. On the whole, we certainly gain ground.’ 3
His tour proved exceedingly satisfactory, and in August he went much farther than he had yet done, and assured Portland of ‘the general good disposition’ of the people of Munster ‘towards the Government, and their cordial approbation of the measure of Union.’ ‘This sentiment,’ he continued, ‘is confined to no particular class or description of men, but equally pervades both the Catholic and Protestant bodies, and I was much gratified in observing that those feelings which originated with the higher orders, have in a great degree extended themselves to the body of the people. Were the Commons of Ireland as naturally connected with the people as they are in England, and as liable to receive their impressions, with the prospects we have out of doors, I should feel that the question was in a great degree carried.’ He believed that the real, or at the least the most formidable, opposition to be encountered, was an opposition of self-interest, arising from the fact that the proposed measure ‘goes to newmodel the public consequence of every man in Parliament, and to diminish most materially the authority of the most powerful.’ 1
In October he made a journey through Ulster, for the purpose of eliciting Union demonstrations in the province, and he wrote to Portland that, though it would be ‘unsafe to trust entirely to appearances,’ there was ‘reason to entertain very sanguine hopes of the good disposition of the people in that part of the kingdom towards the very important measure of a legislative Union.’ He had not ventured to enter the county of Down, where the influence of Lord Downshire was supreme, and he considered it too perilous to attempt to obtain addresses from the counties of Monaghan, Cavan, and Fermanagh, though the ‘corporation and principal inhabitants’ of the town of Monaghan had addressed him in favour of the Union; but in a large number of towns through which he passed, addresses were presented to him by the corporation and ‘principal inhabitants,’ and in two or three places he had unexpected encouragement. The priests and some leading Catholics came forward at Dundalk with an address in favour of the Union. At Belfast, though there was much anti-Union feeling, ‘150 of the principal merchants and inhabitants’ had met him at a dinner, which was understood to be exclusively composed of supporters of the Union. At Londonderry he had been received with genuine enthusiasm. The town was illuminated, and ‘Success to the Union resounded from every quarter.’ 2 ‘The Union,’ he wrote in November, ‘is, I trust, making progress. The great body of the people in general, and of the Catholics in particular, are decidedly for it.’ 3
He relied largely on this disposition to justify to his own mind the measures he was taking, and nothing was neglected that could foster it. Every pamphlet or speech of any merit in favour of the scheme was systematically, extensively, and gratuitously circulated. Great pains were taken to influence the press. McKenna, the well-known Catholic pamphleteer, had been often employed by the Government; he appears now to have rendered them material service, and he was recommended as a skilful and willing agent for superintending the Unionist literature.1 Strenuous efforts were made to obtain declarations in favour of the Union, and many came in from bodies of men in different parts of Ireland. Their significance, however, may very easily be exaggerated. Except in Galway, the supporters of the measure had hitherto never ventured to convene county or popular meetings,2 but the great borough owners and landlords, who had been won over, the sheriffs in the counties, and other important adherents of the Union, were busily employed, at the request of the Lord Lieutenant, in procuring signatures in favour of it. With so vast an amount of territorial influence and Government patronage at their disposal, they had little difficulty in doing so, and men who were sincerely in favour of the measure were undoubtedly scattered, though not very thickly scattered, over the whole island. It is remarkable, however, that, in spite of all the efforts of the Government, the signatures to these addresses did not number more than a small fraction—probably not more than a twelfth part—of those which were appended to the petitions to the House of Commons against the measure.
The support of the corporations of many important towns was obtained, and this may at first sight appear more significant, but these corporations were very small bodies, and frequently completely subservient to some one great nobleman. Thus, to give but a few examples: Lord Donegal could control the Corporation of Belfast, Lord Roden the Corporation of Dundalk, and the Primate that of Armagh, while the influence of Lord Waterford at Waterford, and that of Lord Ormond at Kilkenny, was little, if at all, less absolute. The Corporation of Cork appears to have been under the combined influence of Lord Longueville, Lord Donoughmore, and Lord Shannon, who were all supporters of the Union.1 It is true, as Lord Cornwallis remarked, that the words ‘principal inhabitants’ were usually added to the corporation addresses; but, if the opponents of the measure may be believed, they were far from being warranted by the facts.
The task of measuring with accuracy the public opinion of a country on a political question which was never submitted to the test of a general election, is an impossible one, but a few extracts from confidential letters to the Government, and a few cross lights thrown on this obscure subject from various quarters and from different points of view, may assist our judgment. I have mentioned in the last chapter the extremely reluctant support which Lord Carleton had given to the measure, and have quoted the desponding letter he wrote to Pelham immediately after speaking in favour of it. In the March of 1799, he repeated his remonstrance in very earnest terms. He said that he had always looked to two objects, to obtain an Union and to preserve it, and that the Government seemed to him to have neglected the latter. ‘Were the French to obtain any footing in this kingdom,’ he continued, ‘I see the likelihood of their procuring a much more powerful support than that which a few months ago would have been afforded them.’ The Union, he complained, had been brought forward when the minds of the people were quite unprepared for it, and the result of this ‘precipitate obtrusion’ was ‘much hazard, not only to those individuals who have supported the measure of Union, but also to the safety of this kingdom, and to the permanence of its connection with Great Britain,’ ‘Those who are disposed to view the conduct of the British Government in an unfavourable light, are led to suspect that the rebellion has been suffered to continue, in order to forward the measure of an Union. Every exertion should be made to remove the suspicion, and to convince the people of this country that they are indebted for the restoration of tranquillity to … a British army, brought to this country for their preservation.’ ‘I agree with you in opinion, that, circumstanced as this country now is, the measure ought not to be forced or accelerated. The public mind is not yet prepared for it, and whatever irritates, will either impede attainment of the object, or if attained will render its continuance so precarious, as to make the measure noxious rather than beneficial.’ He speaks of the great social division the question had produced, and of the widespread fear that the real aim and object of the Union was equality of taxation, raising the taxation of Ireland to the much higher level of England.1
Pelham's old correspondent, Alexander, was hardly more encouraging. He wrote shortly after listening to the great speech of Foster in April, and he was evidently profoundly under its impression. He describes its powerful effect on men of all classes, and added that the measure ‘will be most strenuously opposed and most hollowly supported.’ ‘Although parliamentary reform was the ground of rebellion, and its plausible pretence, men in disturbed times care so little as to the forms of vesting power, so that it be exercised by their own party, that now the populace willingly admit the Parliament to be the voice of the people and its free organ.’ ‘The very quiet produced by the energy and moderation of Government, and the aid of the military, is now attributed to the wisdom of Parliament.’ ‘Rely upon it,’ the writer continued, ‘the measure cannot be carried by force, nor by gross or open corruption. If carried, it will not hold. A permanent governor, an honest and effective administration, a combination of men of talent and labour, can alone give security to the measure. Such a system will govern our country quietly, and render it a noble ally to England.’ 2
From Connaught, Lord Altamount sent very favourable reports. In Mayo he thought there was ‘a more general concurrence than in most parts of Ireland’ in favour of the Union, though there was some opposition among the Catholics. ‘The county of Galway is brought over very fairly to the measure, the property completely with it, and the Catholics as forward as their neighbours.’ 3 He had succeeded in obtaining the signatures of most of the owners of property in Mayo. ‘If the Roman Catholics stand forward,’ he said, ‘it will be unwillingly; they are keeping back decidedly, but many will be influenced, and some few who connected themselves with the Protestants during the disturbance, will be zealously forward on the present occasion. The priests have all offered to sign; and though I am not proud of many of them as associates, I will take their signatures to prevent a possibility of a counter declaration. I hear the titular Archbishop has expressed himself inclined to the measure. This day I have sent round to all the Catholics of property in the country. I may be mistaken, but in my judgment the wish of most of them would be to stand neuter; or perhaps, if they had any countenance, to oppose it—that is the fact. Several will sign from influence, some from fear, but the majority, I believe, will pretend that they have given opinions already, and cannot decently retract them…. Every man applied to, of all persuasions, wants to make it a personal compliment.’ ‘I have found,’ he adds, ‘to my infinite surprise, that the county and the town of Sligo, without the slightest interference and against all their representatives, are decided friends to the Union. I know of no part of Ireland where the unbiassed mind of the public is so generally with it…. Roscommon is against it; but for that, the bulk, or indeed the entire of the province, might be considered as pledged to the measure, or ready to be so.’ 1
In Kerry, Lord Castlereagh was informed about this time, that ‘the entire property’ of the county was for the Union, and he was convinced that the measure was gaining friends, and was ‘in some parts of the kingdom decidedly popular.’ 2 Lord Waterford said that the opinion of the county and city of Waterford was nearly unanimous in favour of it.3 Lord Landaff declared that almost all the considerable landlords in Tipperary, except Lord Mountcashel and Lord Lismore, took the same side, and Castlereagh had much hope that it would be possible to carry a county meeting in favour of the Union.4 Long afterwards, in the British House of Lords, Lord Donoughmore declared that ‘the first favourable turn’ which the Union question experienced after its rejection in 1799, came from Tipperary, where an address in its favour was carried on his proposal, and he added that his success was largely due to the support of the Catholics, who believed that their emancipation would be a certain consequence of the Union.5 It is probable, however, that the political forces in this county were somewhat miscalculated, for almost at the last stage of the debates the member for Tipperary with his two sons abandoned the Government, though he had engaged to give the Union an unqualified support, and though ‘the objects he solicited were promised,’ alleging that ‘the principal part of the respectable freeholders of the county of Tipperary had signed resolutions against the Union,’ though many of them had before instructed him to support it.1 In Limerick, it was said, the corporation was hostile, but the bulk of the property of the county was decidedly favourable to the measure.2 In Derry and Donegal, the gentry were ‘in general well disposed,’ and the linen merchants, though they took no active part, were supposed to be ‘on the whole rather favourable,’ under the expectation that it would secure their industry.3 Londonderry, more than any other town in Ulster, appears to have desired the Union.4
A few additional letters of a more general description may be noticed. Lord de Clifford appears to have been a retiring, honest, and unpolitical peer, and he had taken no part in the divisions of 1799, but no less than four members of the House of Commons were returned by his influence.5 In reply to a letter strongly urging him to vote for the Union, he expressed his deep attachment to the present Administration, and his extreme reluctance to oppose any measure they brought forward; but the Union, he said, was so supremely important, that it was a question on which he must think for himself. If the great majority of the people were against it, the present seemed to him a peculiarly inopportune time for introducing it, and ‘even were the majority of the well-affected in favour of it,’ he did not believe that it would ultimately be likely to work for good. All who really knew Ireland, knew that the very great majority of the people looked on the present owners of land as a set of usurpers, and had been long waiting for an opportunity to rise and wrest their property from them. If the late terrible rebellion had been circumscribed in its area and successfully suppressed, this was much more due, he believed, to the personal influence exercised by the resident country gentlemen over their neighbours and tenants, than to the English troops. ‘If by forcing an Union upon this country, you disgust one half of these gentlemen, and convert the other half into absentees, you will leave the country a prey to the disaffected, and the consequence, I fear, would be fatal.’ The Scotch parallel was wholly misleading. In Scotland at the time of the Union a large portion of the proprietors of land were attached to another king, while the people did not care who was king, and blindly followed their chiefs. In Ireland ‘the great body of the people are against you,’ while the presence and the constant influence of a loyal gentry form the main support of the connection.1
Luke Fox, a clever lawyer who was raised to the bench for his support of the Union, believed that Ireland was inhabited by three nations, which were utterly different in character, principles, and habits, and not less clearly divided by their opinions about the Union. The Protestants of the Established Church, ‘from every motive of a monopolising interest, are determined opponents of the scheme of Union,’ and it would be impossible to gain them, except by influence.
The Catholics, on the other hand, desired, above all things, to get rid of their present rulers, and to emerge from slavery into the class of British citizens, and they could be easily gained by concessions. Nor is it in the least probable that such concessions would alienate the Protestants. ‘Religion is a mere pretence. The true bone of contention is the monopoly of Irish power and patronage,’ and once the ascendant Protestant descends through the Union from the position of ruler, the question of religious disqualification would assume a wholly different aspect. At the same time, the concessions which Luke Fox deemed most necessary were not concessions of political power. A commutation of tithes, and a decent provision for the Catholic clergy, were measures which were urgently necessary, for which the country was fully ripe, and which ought to be carried without delay. Another scarcely less urgent measure was the foundation of a Catholic College connected with the Protestant University. The Catholic youth should be given ample facilities for obtaining the best education in the country, and in secular matters the Protestants and Catholics should be educated together, as they were in Holland and in many parts of Germany. In this manner durable friendships would be formed, and the next generation of Irishmen would be far more united than the present one. Ultimately, he believed the King should be invested with a patronage of popish bishoprics and other dignities, similar to that which the French king had always possessed, and the two religions should be placed on the same plane of dignity; but for this the time was not ripe.
As for the Presbyterians, they hated all monarchy, but Fox believed that they were perfectly indifferent to the Union, and would not quit their looms and bleach-greens for a single day either to support or to protest against it. ‘They are neutral, and not to be meddled with.’
On the whole, this writer considered that the Union would prove an inestimable benefit both to Ireland and the Empire, but only on condition of the conciliation of the Catholics. ‘Without comprehending the Catholics, in interest and principle, an Union between the two countries can be neither durable nor useful.’ 1
It is a great misfortune to the historian of this period of Irish history, that the almost entire disappearance of the correspondence of the Speaker Foster, makes it impossible for us to follow, in their confidential and unreserved expression, the opinions of the man who then played the most important part in the opposition to the Union. One remarkable letter, however, written in the December of 1799, may be found. The Government, resenting bitterly his attitude, had just deprived his son of an office, and it was reported that Pitt had been expressing loud dissatisfaction at the conduct of Foster. The Speaker heard of this, and he wrote with much dignity to Pelham. He observed that, in a parliamentary life of nearly forty years, he had almost always been a supporter of the Government; that he had never supported it more vigorously or more earnestly than in the late very dangerous times; that he was still fully resolved to do so on every question but one, and that the last time he saw Pitt, he had told him frankly, and with a full statement of his reasons, that it was wholly impossible for him to support the Union. Knowing what his sentiments were, Pitt had no right to complain of the active part he had taken. ‘I told him,’ he says, ‘that I was against the legislative Union, and that if the measure was doubtful, the time was, in my mind, particularly inexpedient, and that I must declare my sentiments when called on. I added also, that nothing could induce me to change this opinion; but that if the sense of the nation, contrary to my belief, was fairly and clearly for the measure, I should yield to it, and endeavour in the detail to make it as little injurious and as beneficial as I could, and I particularly explained that by the sense of the nation I did not mean a small or influenced majority in the House, but the real uninfluenced sense of the country in general. This was in December. The sense of the country soon after appeared against the measure, and it was rejected by the House in January…. The subject is now, I hear, in contemplation to be renewed. My belief was then right, and I am still stronger in belief that the measure is more disliked now even than it was then; and I am persuaded that if he [Pitt] is rightly informed of the means resorted to, of the nature and history of many of the late addresses, and of the general opinion of people uninfluenced by fear or expectation, he will be convinced it is so. Intimidation, and depriving gentlemen of office for giving a free opinion when that opinion was avowed to be desired, and when the nature of the question made it peculiarly necessary that it should be so; the offering office to others who possessed different political creeds, are not means to obtain the real sentiments of the nation, nor can any man consider sentiments expressed under such circumstances to be so…. If ever the real, uninfluenced sentiments of the kingdom shall call for the measure, I will act as I have said, but I honestly own I never can expect them to be so…. I lament the unfortunate circumstances which have arisen to make me differ from Government. No consideration but the clearest conviction could induce me to do so, and that conviction is my own, without any party junction or association whatever…. The withdrawing all confidence, and even the usual official attention; the circulating pamphlets and newspaper paragraphs to run me down, and the depriving my son of office, are not means of persuasion to operate on me either the one way or the other. I will act uniformly, and if future time shall show I am mistaken in my opinion of the Union, I will at least enjoy the satisfaction of having acted with integrity.’ 1
The Government, in endeavouring to influence Irish opinion, had the great advantage of the support of the heads of the two principal Churches in the country. The bishops of the Established Church were actuated partly by obvious motives of self-interest, and partly also by a belief that the Union would place their Church beyond all danger of attack, but their attitude during the struggle was not a very active one. Out of the twenty-two bishops, twelve only were present at the division on the Union in the House of Lords in 1799, and two of these—Dickson, the Bishop of Down and Connor, and Marlay, the Bishop of Waterford—both voted and protested against it.1 The Protestant clergy do not appear to have taken any prominent part in procuring addresses for the Union, though there were some exceptions. Bishop Percy, who had been from the first a strong and very honest supporter of the measure, succeeeded in inducing all the beneficed clergy of his diocese, except four or five, to join with him in an address to the Lord Lieutenant in its favour,2 and similar addresses were signed by the bishops and clergy of Cork and Limerick.3 O'Beirne, the Bishop of Meath—a man of great energy and some ability, who had been converted from Catholicism—was much consulted by the Government during the whole arrangement, and it is curious to find among the supporters of the Union the once familiar name of Lord Bristol, the Bishop of Derry. The great question that was pending could not, it is true, draw him from his retreat upon the Continent, but he authorised Lord Abercorn to place his name on an address in favour of it. This seems to have been his last appearance in Irish politics. The Primate appears to have refused to sign this address, although he had previously voted for the Union.4 Trinity College, the great centre of Protestant learning, though divided, was on the whole not favourable to the Union; and it is remarkable that Magee, who was afterwards a very able and very typical archbishop, was one of its opponents.1 George Knox and Arthur Browne, who were the members for the University, both spoke and voted against the Union in 1799. In the following year Browne changed his side and supported it; but he acknowledged in the House of Commons that he was acting in opposition to the wishes of the majority of his constituents. He afterwards received some legal promotion, and he never again represented the University.
The Catholic bishops appear to have been unanimous in favour of the Union, and in the recess of 1799 they exerted themselves strenuously, persistently, and on the whole successfully, in supporting it. In July the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel wrote to Archbishop Troy, expressing his decided good wishes for the measure, and promising to exert his influence ‘discreetly’ in the counties of Tipperary and Waterford, to procure the signatures of respectable Catholics to an address in its favour. He complained, however, that the bishops had little political influence over this class, and feared that if he took a too prominent action, it might rather injure than serve the cause.2 In the course of the summer, Lord Cornwallis received strong declarations in favour of the Union from bodies of Catholics, in both Waterford and Kilkenny, and he wrote that, ‘as the clergy of that Church, particularly the superiors, countenance the measure, it is likely to extend itself'3
Archbishop Troy was indefatigable in procuring signatures to addresses, and in urging his brother prelates to depart from the neutrality which they appear at first to have desired to maintain. Dr. Moylan, the Bishop of Cork, was in the close confidence of the Government, and he spent some days with the Duke of Portland at Bulstrode.4 ‘Nothing, in my opinion,’ he wrote in September, ‘will more effectually tend to lay those disgraceful and scandalous party feuds and dissensions, and restore peace and harmony amongst us, than the great measure in contemplation, of the legislative Union, and incorporation of this kingdom with Great Britain. I am happy to tell you it is working its way, and daily gaining ground on the public opinion. Several counties which appeared most averse to it have now declared for it, and I have no doubt but, with the blessing of God, it will be effected, notwithstanding the violent opposition of Mr. Foster and his party…. The Roman Catholics in general are avowedly for the measure. In the South, where they are the most numerous, they have declared in its favour, and I am sure they will do the same in the other parts of the kingdom, unless overawed (as I know they are in some counties) by the dread of the powerful faction that opposes it.’ He believed that all ‘seeds of disaffection’ would be removed, if the religious disabilities were repealed at or immediately after the Union, and if, in addition to the provision which was intended for the Catholic clergy, measures were taken to abolish the gross abuses which existed in the collection of tithes.1
The Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, though in favour of the Union, at first shrank from taking an active part in a political movement, but the advice of Archbishop Troy and of the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh decided him. He signed an address, and soon after he wrote, ‘I feel myself each day less shy in declaring my sentiments and wishes relative to the Union. I have had an opportunity in the course of the parochial visitation of this diocese, which is nearly finished, of observing how little averse the public mind is to that measure; and I have also had an opportunity of acquiring the strongest conviction, that this measure alone can restore harmony and happiness to our unhappy country.’ 2 Bishop Caulfield, who had more experience than any other bishop of the horrors which had desolated Ireland during the last few months, presided over a great Catholic meeting in favour of the Union at Wexford, at which an address was prepared which received more than 3,000 signatures.3 Through the instrumentality of the priests, several other purely Catholic addresses in favour of the Union were obtained,4 and Lord Cornwallis firmly believed that, although the numerical majority of the Catholics might be indifferent or seditious, the preponderance of opinion in the guiding, educated, and respectable portion of that body was in favour of his policy. ‘The Union,’ he wrote in November, ‘is, I trust, making progress; the great body of the people in general, and of the Catholics in particular, are decidedly for it;’ and in begging the Government to permit the Catholic peers to vote for the representative peers, he urged that a refusal would be peculiarly ungracious ‘at a time when a respectable part of the Roman Catholic community in this kingdom is almost universally coming forward in favour of the Union.’ 1 Among the supporters of the Union was Arthur O'Leary, the most brilliant writer of the Irish Catholics. He boasted that he had reconciled many to it, and he predicted that it would put an end to all religious disqualifications and national jealousies, and would close for ever ‘the tumultuary scenes’ by which Ireland had been hitherto distracted.2
In the strange irony of Irish history, few things are more curious than the fact that it was the English Government which persuaded the Catholic priests to take an active part in Irish politics, and to take part in them for the purpose of carrying the legislative Union. They were not in all places successful. Many Catholics, refusing to act as a separate body, signed addresses with the Protestants against the Union. Lord Castlereagh sent to the Catholic Bishop of Meath, as he probably did to the other bishops, a sketch of the address which he wished to be signed; but the Bishop answered that, though he himself fully approved of it, and though the whole body of his priesthood agreed with him, the lay Catholics of Meath were ‘too near Dublin, and too much accustomed to listen to the opinions of the Protestants of Meath, to be as yet willing to declare in favour of the Union;’ and that till this had ceased to be the case, a dependent priesthood did not dare to take an open or active part.3
In Dublin, Cornwallis acknowledged that the utmost he could hope from the Catholics was neutrality, and it is tolerably certain that this neutrality was not obtained. It is said that here also the clergy and a proportion of respectable Catholics were in favour of the Union, but the bulk of the Dublin Catholics appear to have still adhered to the convictions so emphatically expressed by the great meeting in Francis Street in 1795. In a very important Catholic meeting which was now held in the Exchange, resolutions were unanimously passed, describing an Union as the extinction of the liberty of Ireland, attributing the unexampled rapidity of the improvement of Ireland during the last twenty years entirely to the Constitution of 1782, and denouncing, as a gross calumny on the Catholic body, the imputation that they could be induced, by either ‘pique or pretension,’ to sacrifice the independence of their country. It was on this occasion that Daniel O'Connell made his first appearance on a public platform. In a remarkable passage, which was probably elicited by Canning's threat that it might be necessary to re-enact the penal code if the Union were defeated, he declared that the Catholics of Ireland would rather accept that code, and throw themselves on the mercy of their Protestant brethren, than assent to the extinction of the Legislature of their country, and seek advantages as a sect, which would destroy them as a nation.1
A few other distinctively Catholic addresses were drawn up in different parts of the country, protesting against the Union, and against the assertion that it was favoured by the Catholics.2 Much indeed may be truly said to qualify the importance of the Catholic demonstrations in its support. Extreme want of moral courage, and extreme susceptibility to external influences, have always prevailed in Ireland, and the combined pressure of a Government which had so much to give in this world, and of a priesthood which was believed to have so much influence over the next, was enormously great. It is indeed surprising that, with such a weight of influence, the signatures in favour of the Union were so few. It appears also to be generally admitted, that the Catholics looked mainly, in their approval of the Union, to Catholic objects, or were actuated by very natural feelings of resentment or panic. If they could have obtained their emancipation in an Irish Parliament, they would have preferred it, but with the revival of a fierce Protestant spirit that had followed the rebellion, and with the formal assurance they had received, that the English Government were resolved, for all time, to exercise their overwhelming influence to prevent the introduction of Catholics into an Irish Legislature, the Union seemed the only path of hope. The hatred and the humiliation which recent events had produced, continued unabated, and large districts were still convulsed by all the violence, tyranny, and panic of military licence. Cornwallis wrote in November, that martial law in Ireland was only too likely to pass into a tyranny ‘more violent and intolerable’ than that of Robespierre: ‘that the vilest informers were hunted out from the prisons, to attack, by the most barefaced perjury, the lives of all who are suspected of being, or of having been disaffected,’ and that ‘every Roman Catholic of influence was in great danger.’ 1 The fact that the Lord Lieutenant, who was attempting to carry the Union, had steadily laboured to restrain this violence, and had incurred great unpopularity in doing so; the fact that the Orange party were in general vehement opponents of the Union, and the strong reason the Catholics already had to believe that their emancipation would be one of the first acts of the United Parliament, all influenced their judgments. Their priests had good grounds for expecting that a Government endowment would speedily be granted to them, and they were assured that the conduct of the Catholics in the crisis that had arisen would be decisive of their future advantages.2
An approval which was so largely provisional, and which rested so much on transient and abnormal conditions, could not be greatly counted on, though if a wise and liberal statesmanship had followed the Union, it might perhaps have been rendered permanent. Still, it appears to me to be impossible to review with candour the facts that I have collected, in this and the preceding chapter, without arriving at the conclusion that the Union in 1800 was not in any of its stages positively distasteful to the great body of the Irish Catholics, and that a very important section of them, including their whole hierarchy, the vast majority of their landed gentry, and many if not most of their lower priests, decidedly and consistently favoured it. Contemporary historians on both sides support this conclusion. The Catholic historian Plowden was in favour of the Union, and he writes, that although the great body of Roman Catholics at first kept themselves back upon the question, and although some highly respectable members of the communion were warm anti-Unionists, yet ‘a very great preponderancy in favour of the Union existed in the Catholic body, particularly in their nobility, gentry, and clergy.’ 1 The Protestant historian Barrington was violently on the other side, and his judgment differs but little as to the fact. ‘Nothing,’ he writes, ‘could be more culpable than the conduct of a considerable portion of the Catholic clergy.’ Speaking of the Catholics as a whole, he says, ‘No body of men ever gave a more helping hand to their own degradation and misery.’ ‘The Bishops Troy, Lanigan, and others, deluded by the Viceroy, sold their country.’ He says, indeed, that ‘the great body of Catholics were true to their country,’ but he immediately adds, ‘the rebellion had terrified them from every overt act of opposition.’ 1
Even among the rebel party, delight at the humiliation of the triumphant loyalists was thought by many to be the strongest feeling. The overtures which some Orangemen made to the Catholics, to join with them in defence of the national Legislature, had little or no result. One of the leading United Irishmen is said to have been the author of a song which was at this time circulated, in which the rebels were represented as scornfully repudiating these overtures, reminding the Orangemen how lately their favourite tune had been ‘Croppies, lie down,’ and predicting, with evident gratification, that Orangeman and Croppy would now be reduced to the same insignificance.2 A great Kilkenny landlord writes from that county in July 1799, ‘The rebels and papists—I am sorry to say the terms are almost synonymous—perceive there is no hope in rebellion, and that death and ruin pursue those who try it. They will continue, therefore, peaceable, I believe, and are now become great friends to Union; partly through malice, partly through fear; no matter, they everywhere come forward in favour of the measure; and I am happy to say several counties, Cork, Kerry, Mayo, Waterford, have declared strongly and almost unanimously in favour of it.3
In the recess of 1799, Ireland lost a true patriot, who had for a short time played a leading and very honourable part in her history. The weak health of Lord Charlemont had of late been rapidly declining, and he died on August 4. He was a man, in his best days, more eminent for his accomplishments than for his abilities; and a politician who had no great strength of will, no power of debate, and a constitutional hatred of violence and extravagance, was not likely long to retain his ascendency in the wild and stormy element in which his lot was cast. A great property and position in the district where the volunteer movement was strongest, and the friendship of Flood and Grattan, placed him in the front rank of Irish politics, and the transparent disinterestedness of his public life, the soundness and moderation of his judgment, and the readiness with which he was always prepared to devote time, labour, and money to the public good, established his position. In one critical moment his services both to Ireland and to the Empire had been transcendently great, but his influence speedily waned, and Irish politics drifted far from the path which he had chosen. On the Catholic question, events appear to have somewhat modified his opinion. That ‘chord of wondrous potency’ which, like Flood, he had feared to wake, had been swept by no skilful hand,1 and in his last years, Charlemont was convinced that the completion of the Act of 1793 by the admission of Catholics to Parliament, had become absolutely necessary. He had long predicted and dreaded the impending Union, and his hostility was not diminished as it approached. ‘It would, more than any other measure,’ he wrote, ‘contribute to the separation of two countries, the perpetual connection of which was one of the warmest wishes of my heart.2
The probable effect of the measure was differently judged by Lewins, who, though bitterly attacked by many of his fellowconspirators, still represented the United Irishmen at Paris. Shortly after the Revolution of the 18th brumaire, he sent to the French Government a remarkable memoir, urging that if France allowed the Union to be accomplished, it would add enormously to the power of her great enemy. It would have a greater effect than the Scotch Union, for Ireland was much more valuable than Scotland. It would strengthen the Executive, for the Irish members would be mere creatures of the Government. It would increase the national credit, by adding Irish wealth to the security of the British national debt. It would place the military resources of Ireland without reserve at the disposal of the British Ministers, and it would induce the Irish to believe that they had been abandoned by France, and that their true interest was to identify themselves with England.1 Lewins was hardly more disappointed at the failure of the rebellion, than at the religious spirit, so hostile to the original intentions of the United Irishmen, which had been aroused. He sent over an agent named O'Mealey to England, and with the intention of going to Ireland to communicate with the rebels; but, with the usual felicity of Irish conspirators, O'Mealey and another United Irishman who was engaged with him in the same mission, seem to have become bosom friends with a spy of the English Government, who reported all their proceedings. From these reports, and from some other sources, the Ministers received assurances that no rebellion was likely to occur uness a French invasion took place, but that such an invasion was eagerly looked forward to.2
The disturbances in the country came and went, like the passing storms that sweep so rapidly over the inconstant Irish sky, but on the whole they appear to have been somewhat less than in the last few years. The measure imposing martial law, which has been noticed, was speedily carried; but in May, Castlereagh still speaks of the horrible houghing of cattle in Clare and Galway; of outrages of banditti due to some agrarian quarrel in Meath; of isolated but much exaggerated outrages in Armagh and Antrim.3 At the end of June he writes, ‘The tranquillity of the country continues perfectly undisturbed, and the minds of the people appear more settled than I have known them for several years. They have suffered for their crimes. Industry never was so profitable, and the departure of the Brest fleet for the Mediterranean is considered by the disaffected such an abdication of their cause as leaves them no other choice but submission, at least for the present.’ The revenue was rising. ‘The quarter ending June 24, 1799, exceeds the corresponding quarter of the preceding year nearly 200,000l., and compared with the same period of 1797, has risen above 350,000l., an increase principally to be attributed to the superior productiveness of the old taxes, particularly the excise.’ 1 Two months later he writes, ‘Although no very serious symptoms appeared, yet in many parts of Ireland the approach of the enemy's fleet towards our coast has produced a movement among the lower orders.’ 2 Cornwallis, in his journey through the South of Ireland, had been much encouraged by the tranquil and prosperous aspect of the country through which he passed. In September he writes, ‘The southern part of this wretched island is again getting into a bad state, no doubt from encouragement received from France. The counties of Waterford and Tipperary are reported to be in a state of preparation for an immediate rising.’ He expressed his own astonishment at the suddenness of the change, but added that the spirit of disaffection was so deeply rooted in the minds of the people of Ireland, that it would require time and a total change in the system and constitution of the Government to eradicate it.3 The Opposition declared that the attempt to force on the Union, had greatly contributed to these disturbances. The Government believed that it had little or nothing to do with them; that the mass of the people were perfectly indifferent to the Union, but that they hated England and their landlords, and waited eagerly for a French invasion.4
The harvest of 1799 proved extremely bad, and this greatly aggravated the situation. The Government acted with much energy. They at once prohibited absolutely the exportation of corn and potatoes, accompanying the measure by a bounty on the importation of flour, and by proclamations forbidding the making of cakes, rolls, muffins, or anything but household bread. An Act of Parliament was soon after passed, forbidding for a certain time the consumption of barley or other corn in making malt, or distilling spirits. These measures prevented absolute famine, but there was much distress with its accompanying disturbances, and there were the usual complaints of frauds by millers and corn factors.1
The period seemed a strangely inauspicious one for pressing on a great constitutional change, which Irish opinion had certainly not demanded. But in the eyes of the English Government, there is little doubt that the very tension and anarchy and panic that prevailed, formed the strongest ground for their policy. An elaborate paper of arguments for the Union, which may be found in the Castlereagh Correspondence, concentrates with great force and frankness reasons which we have already seen scattered or implied in many speeches and pamphlets. The writer recalls, in a melancholy historical retrospect, the past relations of the two countries. The earliest period had been well described by Sir John Davies. ‘Too weak to introduce order and obedience, the English authority was yet sufficient to check the growth of any enterprising genius amongst the natives; and though it could bestow no true form of civil government, it was able to prevent the rise of any such form.’ The conquests of Elizabeth introduced a long period of English supremacy, but also of persistent English jealousy of Irish progress. ‘Should we exert ourselves,’ said her councillors, ‘in reducing this country to order and civility, it must soon acquire power, consequence, and rule. The inhabitants will then be alienated from England. They will cast themselves into the arms of some foreign Power, and perhaps erect themselves into an independent State.’ 2 ‘Such,’ continued the writer, ‘were the counsels that then made their way into the British Cabinet, and we can entertain little doubt of their having operated to the present time.’ This was the policy which inspired the destruction of the Irish woollen manufactures under William, lest they should rival those of England, and it was shown equally in other ways. Without a navy, islands can neither secure their trade nor their liberty. ‘Above a hundred years ago, Ireland made a perpetual grant for the support of an Irish marine. This England never permitted to be applied, because she wished to have the monopoly of the navy herself.’
Nor was this surprising, for a half-separated Ireland always had been, and always would be, a danger to England. The writer recalled how it had aggravated the peril of English internal contests in the days of Perkin Warbeck, in the Great Rebellion and in the Revolution, and how often both France and Spain had seen in Ireland the best vantage ground for attacking England. A long period of peace and quiescence had followed the Revolution, but the experience of the independent Parliament which Ireland had at last won, all pointed to ultimate separation. ‘Both the Parliament and people of Ireland have, for the last seventeen years, been almost entirely engaged in lessening by degrees their dependence on Great Britain… It signifies nothing to say that their views were honourable and patriotic…. This may be readily acknowledged, and yet the effect of all these patriotic exertions be the same, viz. that the connection between the two countries is reduced by them almost to a single thread, the unity of the executive power and a negative on the laws passed in the Irish Parliament. Should this negative be exercised on any important occasion, the two countries are unavoidably committed…. I do not say that the present members of the Irish Legislature are at all inclined to come to these extremities. Their conduct has been in the highest degree loyal, and their attachment to England sincere. But who can answer for their successors?’ ‘A vast majority of the inhabitants of Ireland are either rebels or inclined to become so. A great majority, again, of these rebels are Catholics, inimical for the most part, on that score alone, to the existing Government…. A great many among the lower orders of the northern Dissenters are inclined to join with them in their attempt to overthrow the Constitution, or at least to introduce democratic reform…. The object of the disaffected, that is the great majority of the numbers at least of this island, is confessedly a separation from Great Britain.’ ‘The Catholic claims will soon be renewed with redoubled force.’ With the power and numbers and present disposition of the Catholics, the rejection of those claims ‘would be a measure attended with the greatest national danger.’ Their admission would be at least equally dangerous, and if, as was probable, it was followed by a democratic reform, making Parliament the true representative of a disaffected people, there could be no real doubt of the result. ‘Indeed, it can hardly be conceived how the Roman Catholics in this country could be admitted to a full participation in political power, and the two countries continue connected as they are at present. A Protestant country and a papist country united under a Protestant monarch, who by his coronation oath was bound to maintain the Protestant religion, would be a political monster whose life must indeed be of short duration.’ If the Catholic question is left to an Irish Parliament, however it may be treated, it must lead either to fresh insurrection or to a final separation from England.
It is on these grounds that the writer maintained that a legislative Union was the only means of averting an ultimate, and indeed a speedy, separation of the two islands, and he contended that the present was the only moment in which it could be carried. A little earlier, no possible inducement would have made an Irish Parliament accept it. A little later, it would be equally impossible. ‘The moment is now come, and it will never occur again, when an Union may be practicable. The leading men in Ireland, who were most unfriendly to it, find that neither their property nor the country is safe, and now wish for Union. The measure should be despatched while men's minds are impressed with the present horrid state of Ireland, and while the agitators are kept down by the discovery and failure of their plots.’ 1
These were, I believe, the true reasons that governed the conduct of the English Ministers. In the mind of Lord Cornwallis the advantage the Catholics were likely to obtain from the measure, occupied perhaps even a larger place. He was convinced that without an Union, Ireland would not long be a part of the Empire; but he was convinced also, that it could enjoy no internal peace or permanent content, unless the Government of the country was taken out of the hands of the men who had triumphed in the civil war. As we have already seen, he had been long since convinced that Catholic emancipation was the only solution of Irish troubles. He knew nothing of what Ireland had been during the tranquil period before 1795, and coming over to a country of which he was very ignorant, at the moment when it was convulsed by the agonies and the anarchy of a most ferocious civil war; when appalling dangers, and no less appalling barbarities, had revived and inflamed all the old hatred of creeds and classes and races, he believed that the existing system of government had hopelessly broken down, and that the very first condition of security, prosperity, and civilisation was to place the government of Ireland in the hands of an impartial and unimpassioned Legislature. Very reluctantly he yielded to the representations of the English Ministers, that it was impossible to carry Catholic emancipation concurrently with the Union, but he hoped that this measure would speedily follow, and he anticipated the best results from taking the government of the country out of the hands of a loyalist class, who were now deeply tinged with Orange passions. The Union, in his eyes, was carried against this class, for the benefit of the Catholics, with their approval, and in a large measure by their assistance.
We have seen how he hated the corruption which he was compelled to practise. Lord Castlereagh, on the other hand, pursued his course with a quiet, business-like composure; nor is there the slightest indication that it caused him a momentary uneasiness. He was convinced that it was the necessary means to a necessary measure, and he believed that he was corrupting to purify. He described his task and that of Lord Cornwallis as ‘to buy out, and secure to the Crown for ever, the fee simple of Irish corruption, which has so long enfeebled the powers of Government and endangered the connection.’ 1
He seems to have had no scruples about his proceedings, and if the approbation of men who, by their characters or their positions, might be deemed patterns of religious sanctity, could have encouraged him, this encouragement was not wanting. All the heads of the Catholic Church, and nearly all the heads of the Established Church in Ireland, approved of what he was doing. In England, Wilberforce expressed serious alarm at the effects the Union might have on the English woollen manufactures and on the composition of the British Parliament, but he does not appear to have expressed the smallest disapprobation of the manner in which it was carried. Alexander Knox was the private secretary of Castlereagh, and one of the warmest of his admirers, and it is a remarkable fact that Castlereagh afterwards asked this very distinguished religious writer to undertake a history of the Union.1
In the mean time, most of the country was proclaimed, and English troops were streaming in. In July there were rather more than 45,000 effective soldiers in Ireland, in addition to artillery, but in the autumn the army was largely reinforced, and there was at one time a strange notion of sending over a large body of subsidised Russians. It was rejected because Cornwallis and Castlereagh represented the extremely bad effect it would have on public opinion during the Union crisis;2 but the force that was in Ireland was soon so great, that unless a strong foreign army was landed, it seemed irresistible.
It was under these circumstances that the last session of the Irish Parliament was opened on January 15, 1800. The speech from the Throne was long and elaborate, but it did not contain the faintest allusion to the momentous question which now filled all thoughts, and which the Government had determined by all the means in their power to press on to an immediate solution. It seems a strange reticence, but it may be easily explained. The process of remodelling the borough representation by substituting supporters for opponents of the Union, had been undertaken, and in the first four days of the session, no less than thirty-nine writs were moved.1 As the great majority of the vacant seats had been secured by the Government, Lord Castlereagh had an obvious reason for adjourning all discussion of the Union till they were filled, but the same reason impelled the Opposition to press it on without delay. Sir Lawrence Parsons, having first directed the Clerk to read the speeches in which Lord Cornwallis, in opening and closing the last session, had declared the firm resolution of the Government to carry the Union, moved an amendment to the Address, expressing the deep loyalty of the House of Commons to the Throne, to the connection, and to the free Constitution of 1782, and at the same time pledging it ‘at all times, and particularly at the present moment,’ to maintain an independent resident Parliament. Reminding the House that Pitt had repeatedly postponed the parliamentary reform which he had once advocated, on the plea that a period of war and disturbance was not one for introducing great constitutional changes, he accused the Government of endeavouring to destroy the independence of Ireland at a time when the spirit of the people was depressed by recent troubles, when the country was occupied by an enormous army, when martial law prevailed and a formidable invasion was threatened, and when apprehensions from without and from within made all free exercise of the public mind upon the question impossible. He urged that it was the duty of the members to deal with the question at once, and not to sit supinely there, while the Minister of the Crown was openly engaged in prostituting the prerogative of appointing to places, for the purpose of packing the Parliament. ‘A string of men who are against the Union are to go out, that a string of men who are for it may come in.
The debate which ensued extended through the whole night, and lasted for not less than eighteen hours.2 It appears to have been one of the fiercest ever heard in a legislative assembly. Lord Castlereagh met the rising storm with great courage and composure. He acknowledged that, although there was no mention of the Union in the speech from the Throne, it was intended to be the chief measure of the session. It had been determined, he said, to make a separate communication on the subject, and when that communication was made, the time would have come for discussing it. Last year the measure had been withdrawn because it was not yet fully understood, ‘and it was stated that it would not again be proposed without full and fair notice, and until there was reason to believe that the Parliament and the country had changed their opinions upon the subject.’ That change had, he believed, taken place. He was fully satisfied, that the measure ‘was now approved by a great majority of the people.’ ‘Nineteen of the most considerable counties in Ireland, constituting above five-sevenths of the kingdom,’ had declared themselves in favour of it. The amendment of Parsons was not to reject the Union after mature investigation, but to extinguish the question by anticipation, refusing all information, and doing so at a time when a great number of the members of the House were indispensably absent. Could it be supposed that his Majesty would desist from the measure because the Parliament of Ireland, thus circumstanced, had declined to consider it? Was it, he asked, amid the derisive laughter of the Opposition, decent to press forward this discussion when there were so many gentlemen absent who had accepted places under Government? Was it, he repeated, constitutional or right to proceed to the determination of so important a subject, when so large a proportion of their body was absent—to refuse even to consider a measure of which so large a part of the kingdom had expressed their approbation?
On the other side, the language of Opposition soon passed into the fiercest invective. It was denied emphatically and repeatedly, that there was any truth in the statement that the sense of the nation was in favour of the Union, and it was asserted that what semblance of support the Minister had obtained, had been obtained by the basest means. ‘During the whole interval between the sessions, the most barefaced system of parliamentary corruption had been pursued—dismissals, promotions, threats, promises.’ Bribes had been promised to the Catholic and to the Presbyterian clergy. Irreconcilable and delusive hopes had been alternately held out to the Catholics and the Protestants. Agents of great absentee proprietors had gone among the tenantry, obtaining signatures by refusing leases to those who hesitated to sign; threatening to call in the rent to the hour; holding over them the terrors of an ejectment. Revenue officers had been employed to canvass the obscurest villages. Signatures had been sought in the very dregs of the population, it was said even in the gaols. The whole patronage of the Crown was employed to favour the measure; the powers of martial law were made use of to stifle opposition, and the Viceroy himself had gone from county to county seeking support. And the result of all this was, that out of a population of nearly five millions, the Government had obtained ‘about 5,000 signatures, three-quarters of whom affixed their names in surprise, terror, and total ignorance of the subject;'1 that they had nowhere ventured to call on the sheriffs legally to convene the counties, and collect the unbiassed sense of the intelligent portion of the community; that their measure had so little genuine support, that they did not dare to announce it in the speech from the Throne.
Language of this kind, in the mouths of such orators as Plunket, Bushe, George Ponsonby, Fitzgerald, and Arthur Moore, was well fitted to inflame the country, whatever effect it might have upon the House, and speaker after speaker warned the Government, that if the Union was carried by such means and at such a time, it would not be acquiesced in, and would hereafter lead to generations of disloyalty, agitation, and strife.
This debate, among other things, was very memorable for the reappearance of Grattan on the scene of his ancient triumphs. For some time he had been prostrated by a severe nervous disorder, peculiarly fitted to incapacitate him from mixing in the agitations of public life, and all that had of late been taking place in Ireland had strengthened his wish to retire completely from it. He had returned from the Isle of Wight at the end of 1799, and had refused, on the ground of his shattered health, an invitation to stand for Parliament; but the crisis was now so acute, that his friends and family urged that it was his duty at all hazards to appear, and he at last with extreme reluctance consented. One of the members for the nomination borough of Wicklow had just died; the seat was purchased; the election was hurried through on the night of January 15, and early on the following morning, while the House was still sitting, Grattan entered. He wore the uniform of the volunteers. He was so weak, that he was supported to his seat by George Ponsonby and Arthur Moore, and when, having taken the oath, he rose to speak, he was obliged to ask the permission of the House to speak sitting. For a few moments it seemed as if it would be an idle display, for his voice was so feeble that it was almost inaudible; but the excitement of the occasion and of the scene, and the fire of a great orator, soon asserted their power, and the old eloquence which had so often dazzled the House, kindled into all its pristine splendour. His speech—the first of a series which are among the most memorable monuments of Irish eloquence-lasted for nearly two hours, and although it is not probable that it changed votes, it had a deep and lasting effect on the country. The members of the Administration, who hated and dreaded Grattan, described his entry into the House as theatrical; threw doubt upon his illness; believed that the unpopularity which during the last months had gathered round him had destroyed his influence; and when they found that this was not the case, hoped that Foster might be made jealous, and alienated from the Opposition. But the country judged more wisely and more generously. Men felt the deep pathos of the scene, and the patriotism and genius of the foremost of living Irishmen emerged gradually but steadily from the clouds of calumny that had obscured them.
It was soon, however, apparent that the work of the recess had been accomplished, and that in spite of the vacant seats the Government had an ample majority. At ten o'clock on the morning of the 16th, the amendment was rejected by 138 votes to 96. ‘I trust this first success,’ wrote Lord Cornwallis, ‘will cement our party; it is still composed of loose materials, much more intent on the personal than the public question.’ 1 ‘All depends on the tone of the country,’ wrote Cooke. ‘If we can keep that right, I believe all may do well.’ 2
A step was now taken by the Opposition, which was violently denounced by the partisans of the Government, but which, according to all modern notions, was so plainly right that it needs no defence. Castlereagh had asserted that the majority of the country was with him, and the Lord Lieutenant had gone through both the South and North of Ireland for the express purpose of obtaining addresses in favour of the Union. The Opposition now sent through the country a letter which Cornwallis and Clare somewhat absurdly described as a ‘consular edict,’ stating ‘that petitions to Parliament declaring the real sense of the freeholders of the kingdom on the subject of a legislative Union would, at this time, be highly expedient,’ and requesting those to whom the circular was sent, to use their influence to have petitions prepared in their several counties without delay. This circular was signed by Lord Downshire; by the new Lord Charlemont, and by W. Ponsonby, the leader of the regular Opposition, and they stated that it was drawn up with the consent, and by the authority, of no less than thirtyeight of the county members.3
A hundred thousand pounds was, at the same time, subscribed, or, more probably, promised, by leading members of the party, and some desperate but manifestly hopeless attempts were made to combat the Government by their own weapons. Two seats, which the Government believed they had secured, were obtained by the Opposition, and Peter Burrowes and Thomas Goold—two able opponents of the Union—were introduced into the House. Saurin was soon after brought in for one of Lord Downshire's boroughs, and other measures of a more than dubious kind were taken. One venal member—a brother-in-law of Lord Clare—who had voted for the Union in 1799, was unquestionably bribed by a sum of 4,000l. to vote against it in 1800,1 and it is stated by Grattan's biographer that another vote was only lost because the money was not forthcoming for another bribe.2
In Dublin the feeling was so fierce, that it was impossible to mistake or to misrepresent it. An aggregate meeting, with the Sheriff at its head, presented addresses to both Grattan and Foster. The Guild of Merchants passed resolutions condemning the Union in the strongest terms, calling for a coalition of all sects against it, and offering warm thanks to their Roman Catholic fellow-citizens of Dublin for their manly and patriotic conduct. Cornwallis observed with much concern, that the influence of Grattan over the Dublin Catholics was very great, and that at the same time there were signs of a most alarming kind among the yeomen, who were chiefly Orangemen. Burrowes strongly urged that the Opposition, as a body, should make a formal appeal to them, reminding them that they had sworn to uphold the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland, and calling on them in virtue of that oath to resist the impending Union. He proposed that this appeal, emanating, in the first place, from the lawyers’ corps, should be circulated through every corps in the kingdom. The responsible leaders of the Opposition declined to take a step which might lead to another rebellion, but unauthorised handbills of a most alarming kind appeared. One of them, Cornwallis says, called on the yeomanry, Orangemen, and Catholics, to form a solid and indissoluble bond of opposition to the Union. Another stated that no Government could wrest the Parliament from 60,000 armed and tried men. Should 60,000 Irishmen, it was asked, with arms in their hands, stand tamely by and see the Constitution of their country destroyed?1 It was noticed that great numbers of yeomen accompanied the procession that went to present an address of thanks to Grattan.2
In spite of the resolution in favour of neutrality passed by the Grand Lodge, the Orangemen over a great part of Ireland were straining fiercely, like hounds in the leash. Few things in the history of this period are more curious than the many Orange resolutions protesting against the Union. The Grand Lodge was accused of having betrayed the country, under the influence of a few great placeholders. Representatives of no less than thirty-six lodges assembled at Armagh, declared that it made no material difference whether the Constitution was robbed by open and avowed enemies, or by pretended friends, who were, in reality, the deadliest enemies of the country, and that it was the duty of all Orangemen to stand forward in opposition to the impending measure. The representatives of thirteen Orange lodges in the county of Fermanagh at once echoed this language, and very similar resolutions were passed by many other lodges in different parts of Ireland.3 A large proportion of the lodges, it is true, obeyed the direction of the Grand Lodge, and kept silence on the subject, and some individual Orangemen were conspicuous supporters of the Union, but there is not, I believe, a single instance of an Orange resolution in its favour.
It is difficult to measure the extent and full significance of the provincial feeling against it. That there was, in large classes, and over large districts, a profound apathy on the subject, is, I believe, perfectly true, and it is not probable that the feeling ran anywhere as high as in Dublin and its neighbourhood, but, at the same time, the response to the circular of the Opposition was very considerable. A great meeting in the county of Down, convoked by Lord Downshire, led the way, and the example was speedily followed in Louth, Meath, Cavan, and many other counties. At Limerick and at Dundalk, there were distinctively Catholic meetings. In general, the meetings appear to have had no denominational character. In some cases, where the sheriff refused to convene them, private gentlemen undertook the task, and petitions against the Union soon poured in, signed by freeholders and other electors, from nearly all the counties, and from nearly all the principal towns of Ireland. In a confidential letter, dated March 5, Cooke stated that petitions against the Union had come in from twenty-six counties, and bearing 110,000 signatures.1 There appear to have been, at this time, absolutely no counter demonstrations in favour of the measure.
It is, of course, not to be assumed that all these signatures represented honest, unbiassed, intelligent conviction. Great landlords had, no doubt, often selfish reasons for wishing that the Union should not pass, and they probably sometimes exercised undue pressure upon their tenants.2 It is said, too, that a report was propagated that when the Parliament was abolished, Irish law would be at an end; that leases would accordingly be broken, and that the reason why so many gentlemen were for the Union was because they wished to relet their estates at advanced rents.3 Many exaggerated or untrue reports were no doubt in the air, and neither corrupt motives nor sincere and strenuous convictions were exclusively on one side, though it is not, I think, very difficult to determine on which side there was the balance of each.
The letters of Lord Cornwallis, in the interval that elapsed between the division of January 16 and the formal introduction of the Union in the House of Commons, indicated a great and growing alarm. In letter after letter he urged, in the strongest terms, that more English troops must immediately be sent over, not now to guard against French invasion, or against the United Irishmen, or against a Catholic rising, but to make it possible to carry the Union without tumult and insurrection. The necessity appeared to him the greater, as a large number of Irish militiamen had been induced by high bounties to volunteer into English regiments. On January 18, he warned the Duke of Portland that dangerous tumults might arise before the Union had gone through all its stages. On the 20th and 21st, he described the inflammatory handbills that were circulating among the yeomen, the efforts of the Opposition to raise popular clamour to the highest pitch, and the urgent necessity for sending over regular troops at once. ‘I am not idle,’ he said, ‘on my part; but my Cabinet friends have shown so total a want of confidence in me, and have so eagerly seized every opportunity of reprobating my conduct in severe, if not acrimonious terms, that I am almost afraid to appeal to the general goodwill of the people at large, which I have the vanity to think I possess.’ On the 24th he wrote: ‘There can, I think, now be no doubt of our parliamentary success, although I believe that a great number of our friends are not sincere well-wishers to the measure of the Union…. In Dublin and its vicinity the people are all outrageous against Union; in the other parts of the kingdom the general sense is undoubtedly in its favour. It is, however, easy for men of influence to obtain resolutions and addresses on either side.’ In the last days of January, the situation had become manifestly worse. The county meetings had begun. ‘Every engine is at work to irritate the minds of the people, and to carry the opposition to the measure beyond constitutional bounds. ‘The ferment that exists amongst all descriptions of persons in this city is exceeding great.’ ‘The clamour against the Union is increasing rapidly, and every degree of violence is to be expected. As none of the English regiments have yet arrived, I have been under the necessity of ordering the Lancashire Volunteers from Youghal to Dublin…. The apprehensions of our friends rendered this measure absolutely necessary. The Roman Catholics, for whom I have not been able to obtain the smallest token of favour, are joining the standard of opposition.’ 1
This last sentence was very ominous. It was equally alarming that the pressure of public opinion had begun to tell upon some of the members of Parliament. Lord Oxmantown, who had just returned from the county of Longford, told Lord Cornwallis that he found the sense of the people so adverse to the Union, that the county member who had voted for it in 1799, would now be obliged to oppose it. I have already noticed the defection of one of the members for the county of Tipperary, and of his two sons, which was defended on the same grounds. ‘The indefatigable exertions, aided by the subscriptions of the anti-Unionists,’ wrote Cornwallis, ‘have raised a powerful clamour against the measure in many parts of the kingdom, and have put the capital quite in an uproar, and I am sorry to say some of our unwilling supporters in Parliament have taken advantage of these appearances to decline giving any further support. God only knows how the business will terminate.’ ‘Several members of the House of Commons have represented to me the ferment which now agitates the public mind, and their personal apprehensions.
… In the present temper of affairs, I am not prepared to say that dangerous tumults will not arise, … and it is with real concern that I express my fears that some defections may take place among those from whom we had a right to expect support.’ 2
There appears to have been for a short time serious fear that the great loyalist yeomanry, who had contributed so largely to the suppression of the rebellion, would resist the Union by arms. This fear, however, was probably exaggerated. Neither Lord Downshire, nor Foster, nor Grattan, gave any countenance to such a policy, and eloquent and ambitious lawyers are not the kind of men who are likely to be leaders in rebellion. The indignation of a great portion of the yeomanry was no doubt extreme, but even if they had drawn the sword, they could not have created a national rebellion. It was impossible on the morrow of a savage civil war, which had kindled the fiercest and most enduring religious hatreds, that the divided parties should have at once passed into new combinations, like the patterns of a kaleidoscope; and neither Catholic Ireland nor Presbyterian Ireland was likely to show much enthusiasm for the defence of the Irish Parliament. On the great question of Catholic emancipation, the opponents of the Union were profoundly divided, and they did not in consequence venture to take the only course that might have given the struggle a national character. If, however, at this critical moment, a French army had landed upon the coast, it may be questioned whether any considerable section of the Irish people would have resisted it.
The Government in the mean time were busily engaged in putting the finishing touches to the Union plan; but the only serious change that was now made, appears to have been in the article relating to the Established Church. It was a leading argument of the supporters of the Union, that by uniting the two Churches, it would secure the Irish Protestants for ever from all danger of the subversion of their establishment. The Archbishop of Cashel, however, insisted that a still further step should be taken; that the maintenance of the Established Church should be made an article of distinct treaty obligation, and should be guaranteed for ever in the most solemn terms as a fundamental portion of the compact under which the Irish Protestant Parliament resigned into the hands of an Imperial Parliament the legislative power of Ireland. The precedent for such a course was to be found in the Scotch Union, when the maintenance of the English and Scotch Churches in the existing forms was made a fundamental and essential condition of the treaty of Union, was declared to be permanent and unalterable, and was placed, as the authors of the Scotch Union believed, outside the sphere of the legislative competence of the United Parliament. It was in accordance with these views that the fifth article of the treaty of Union was drawn up. It laid down ‘that the Churches of England and Ireland, as now by law established, be united into one Protestant Episcopal Church, to be called the United Church of England and Ireland; that the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the said United Church shall be, and shall remain in full force for ever, as the same are now by law established for the Church of England; and that the continuance and preservation of the said United Church, as the Established Church of England and Ireland, shall be deemed and taken to be an essential and fundamental part of the Union; and that, in like manner, the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the Church of Scotland shall remain and be preserved as the same are now established by law, and by the Acts for the union of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland.’ 1
It does not fall within the limits of the present work to trace the later history of opinion on this question. It is sufficient to say that, for at least a generation, the binding force of the Union guarantee was recognised by Parliament, that it was constantly appealed to by the most eminent statesmen, and that when the Catholics were admitted into the Imperial Parliament, a special oath was imposed upon them, binding them in the most solemn terms to disavow and abjure all intention of subverting the Established Church. It was intended, in the words of Sir Robert Peel, to assure the Protestants, ‘on the obligation of an oath, that no privilege which the Act confers, would be exercised to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or the Protestant Government within these realms.’ 2 It was impossible, however, that a reservation of this kind could be maintained for ever, and those who watched with sagacity the course and character of party warfare in England, might have easily predicted that if a political leader ever found the destruction of the Irish Church a convenient cry for uniting a party or for displacing a rival, the moral obligation of the Act of Union was not likely to deter him.
On February 5, a message from the Lord Lieutenant was delivered to both Houses of Parliament, recommending on the part of the King in very strong terms a legislative Union, and stating that ‘his Majesty had observed with increasing satisfaction that the sentiments which have continued to be manifested in favour of this important and salutary measure by such numerous and respectable descriptions of his Irish subjects, confirm the hope he had expressed that its accomplishment will prove to be as much the joint wish, as it unquestionably is the common interest, of both his kingdoms.’ Immediately after the message had been read, Lord Castlereagh rose to move that it should be taken into consideration, and in a long and very able speech, unfolded and defended the whole scheme. He declared that the more the prospect of a legislative Union had been understood, the more it had gained in favour with those who were most interested in the welfare of the country; that among the members of the two Houses of Parliament, the preponderance of property in its favour was nearly as three to one; that the owners of a very large proportion of property in nineteen counties, including five-sevenths of Ireland, had come forward in its support, and that most of the great commercial towns were on the same side. He acknowledged that hostile dispositions had been exhibited in some counties, but this, he said, was not strange, as the last weeks had witnessed the ‘new political phenomenon’ of a parliamentary minority who, not content with exercising their deliberative powers within the House, had been employing all their agents ‘to bring the mass of the people to its bar as petitioners against the Union.’ Such a proceeding Castlereagh deemed both deplorable and reprehensible. Parliament should no doubt ‘consult in some measure, for the guidance of its councils, the great majority of those whose stake in the property and the interests of the country give them a fair claim to due consideration.’ It should never suffer ‘any temporary and artificial clamour’ to intimidate or divert it from deciding impartially on the interests of the country. For three months, during the discussions on the Scotch Union, the table of the Scotch Parliament had been daily covered with hostile petitions. But the Scotch Parliament had persevered, and by doing so it had earned the gratitude of both countries.
Passing from this branch of his subject, Castlereagh recapitulated at much length the well-known arguments in favour of the Union, and he then proceeded to explain its financial aspects. In the Scotch Union the principle had been adopted of at once subjecting Scotland to the English debt, and compensating her for this burden by an indemnity. The disproportion between the debts of England and Ireland was so great, that such a course was impossible. The debt charge of Great Britain was now 20,000,000l. a year. The debt charge of Ireland was 1,300,000l. a year. It was therefore determined that the two debts should be kept wholly separate, that the taxation of the two countries should be separate, but that a fixed proportion should be established in which each should contribute to the general expenses of the Empire. The first great task was to find a basis of calculation by which this proportion might be ascertained. A comparison of the average value of the imports and exports of the two countries during the last three years showed, Castlereagh said, that they bore to each other the proportion of nearly 7 to 1. A similar comparison of the value of the malt, beer, spirits, wine, tea, tobacco, and sugar consumed in the two countries, showed a proportion of 7⅛ to 1. The medium of these two calculations was 7½ to 1, and from these figures the Government inferred that Great Britain ought to contribute 15 parts, and Ireland 2, to the general expenses of the Empire.
This proportion was to continue unchanged for twenty years, in order that the Union system might acquire stability. After this period the Imperial Parliament was to have the power of revising it according to the increased or diminished relative ability of the two countries, but it was stipulated that this revision must be made upon the same basis of calculation as that on which the original proportion had been fixed. In this way Ireland would obtain a complete security that she could not be taxed beyond her comparative ability, and that the ratio of her contribution must ever correspond with her relative wealth and prosperity.
It was next proposed to establish that the revenues of Ireland should constitute a consolidated fund, which was to be charged in the first place with the interest and sinking fund of the Irish debt, and afterwards appropriated to its proportionate contribution; that the Imperial Parliament might impose on Ireland such taxes as were necessary for her contingent, but with the limitation that in no case should any article in Ireland be taxed higher than the same article in Great Britain; that if, at the end of any year, a surplus should accrue from the revenues of Ireland, it should be applied to purely Irish purposes; and that all future loans, for the interest and liquidation of which the two countries made provision in proportion to their respective contributions, should be considered as a joint debt. Parliament, however, might, if it thought fit, not make such corresponding provisions in the two countries, and in that case the respective quota of the loans borne by each country should remain as a separate charge, like the debts contracted before the Union.
During the last few years, Castlereagh observed, Great Britain had raised within the year a larger proportion of her supplies than Ireland was able in time of war to do. It was, therefore, certain that the proportion of the two debts would vary, and possible that it might some day so change that the system of a separate debt charge might become unnecessary. There were two cases in which this might occur. If the separate debts of the two countries should be extinguished, or if the increase of one debt and the diminution of the other should ever bring them to the same proportion as the respective contributions of the two countries, a system of indiscriminate taxation would become possible.
In his speech in the preceding year, Castlereagh had seemed to foreshadow clearly a period of increased taxation, and this had furnished Foster with some of his most powerful arguments. Castlereagh now boldly maintained that smaller expenditure and lighter taxation would follow the Union. He endeavoured, by somewhat intricate calculations, to prove, that if Ireland retained her separate Legislature, she would in every year of war pay about a million, and in every year of peace about 500,000l., more than if she were united to Great Britain, and that a great relief of taxation would accordingly be the consequence of the Union.
Passing to the commercial clauses of the Union, he said that he could have wished that the situation of the two countries could have been at once and completely assimilated, so that they might have become like two counties of the same kingdom. This was, however, for the present, for two reasons, impossible. The first reason was ‘the necessity of consulting the situation of particular manufactures, which may require to a certain degree a continuance of that guard and protection which they have received to shelter their infant state.’ The second reason was, the unequal burden of the two debts, which unavoidably created an inequality of internal taxation. As, therefore, it was proposed that the export to each country should be free, it was necessary that duties on importation should be imposed, ‘to balance and countervail the internal duties in either country.’ As freedom of trade was the object to be desired, it was hoped that the articles secured by protecting duties would be few, and that the exceptional duties would cease when they ceased to be necessary.
The commercial clauses of the Union were based on these general principles, and were modelled to a great extent upon the commercial propositions of 1785, which had been so powerfully defended by Foster, and which, in their commercial aspect, had received the approbation of the Irish House of Commons, though they had been rejected on a constitutional ground which was not now at issue. They were comprised in several sections. The first section provided that the subjects and the produce of either country should be placed upon an equal footing for ever as to all privileges, encouragements, and bounties. By this section, Castlereagh said, the perpetual continuance of the British and Irish bounties on the export of Irish linen would be secured, and Ireland would participate with England in the right to provide the British navy with sailcloth, from which she was at present excluded.
The second section repealed all prohibitions on the export of the produce of one country to the other, and provided that all articles should be exported duty free. This section secured to Ireland the raw materials which she received from Great Britain, including the staple commodity of English wool, and in two respects it went beyond the propositions of 1785; for in that year England had reserved a duty on coal exported to Ireland, and retained her complete prohibition of the export of British wool. The same section put an end to all bounties on articles of trade between the kingdoms, with the exception of malt, flour and grain, which were, for the present, continued under the existing regulations.
The third section enumerated the articles which were subject to duty in either country, and fixed the rate of the duty on each. The question what duty was adequate for the purpose of securing the manufactures of Ireland from being crushed and annihilated by those of England, was very important. The Government decided that 10 per cent. duty, in addition to the cost of freight, which was estimated at 5½ per cent., was amply sufficient. A higher duty would sacrifice the interests of the consumer, and encourage indolence in the manufacturer, and no manufacture deserved much encouragement which could not be maintained with an advantage of 15½ per cent. At the same time, Castlereagh anticipated a time when all such duties would be abolished; and a short additional period of the progress which Irish manufactures had exhibited in the latter days of the Irish Parliament would, he believed, place them beyond all fear of competition. ‘When I fix this rate of protection,’ he said, ‘I wish it should continue for such a period of years as will give security to the speculations of the manufacturers. At the same time, I wish to look forward to a period when duties of this kind may be gradually diminished, and ultimately cease. It must be evident to every man, that if our manufactures keep pace in advancement for the next twenty years with the progress they have made in the last twenty years, they may, at the expiration of it, be fully able to cope with the British; and that the two kingdoms may be safely left, like any two counties of the same kingdom, to a free competition.’ It was, therefore, provided that after twenty years the United Parliament might diminish the duties of protection in such ratio as may be expedient, and it was also provided that all articles which were not specially enumerated in the Act, should be duty free upon import. In this way, Castlereagh said, Ireland would be perpetually secured in the English market for her linen.
The remaining sections authorised such countervailing duties as might balance the internal duties growing out of the unequal taxation of the two countries; provided that the charges on the re-export of native, foreign, and colonial goods should be the same in both countries, and that no drawback should be retained upon any article exported from one country to the other; and finally provided that a sum equal to that which was now applied to the encouragement of manufactures and to charitable purposes, should continue to be so applied by the United Parliament.
The relations of the Union to religious questions were touched lightly. ‘One State, one Legislature, one Church—these are the leading features of the system, and without identity with Great Britain in these three great points of connection, we never can hope for any real and permanent security.’ ‘A firm Government and a steady system can never be hoped for, so long as the Constitution and Establishments of Ireland can be made a subject of separate question and experiment.’ The first great object was to place the Established Church on a natural basis by incorporating it with that of England, and identifying it with the population and property of the Empire, but its security would speedily react favourably on the position of the Catholics. Castlereagh did not promise Catholic emancipation, or a payment of priests. He said only that ‘strength and confidence would produce liberality;’ that the claims of the Catholics could be discussed and decided on with temper and impartiality in an Imperial Parliament, ‘divested of those local circumstances which produce irritation and jealousy, and prevent a fair and reasonable decision;’ that the accusation of having bribed the Catholic clergy was unjust, as ‘an arrangement, both for the Catholic and Dissenting clergy, had been long in the contemplation of his Majesty's Government.’
He then proceeded to explain and to defend the proposed system of representation. In the Upper House, Ireland was to be represented by four spiritual peers sitting in rotation, and by twenty-eight temporal peers elected for life. To the Lower House she was to send sixty-four county members, and thirtysix borough members representing the chief cities and towns, and the University of Dublin.1 Patrons of the disfranchised boroughs were to be compensated. ‘If this be a measure of purchase, it will be the purchase of peace, and the expense of it will be redeemed by one year's saving of the Union.’ The Irish representation thus established, would be so popular in its nature and effects, that in a separate Parliament it would be highly dangerous, especially since the Relief Act of 1793 had introduced a new class of electors into the constituencies. But mixed with the representation of Great Britain, and forming part of a large and stable assembly, its danger would disappear, and it might be safely entrusted with the interests of Ireland.
Such, concluded Castlereagh, in a somewhat cumbrous but very instructive peroration, was the proposal made by Great Britain to Ireland. ‘It is one which will entirely remove those anomalies from the Executive which are the perpetual sources of discontent and jealousy. It is one which will relieve the apprehensions of those who fear that Ireland was, in consequence of an Union, to be burdened with the debt of Great Britain. It is one which, by establishing a fair principle of contribution, goes to release Ireland from an expense of 1,000,000l. in time of war, and of 500,000l. in time of peace. It is one which increases the resources of our commerce, protects our manufactures, secures to us the British market, and encourages all the products of our soil. It is one that, by uniting the Church Establishments and consolidating the Legislatures of the Empire, puts an end to religious jealousy, and removes the possibility of separation. It is one which places the great question which has so long agitated the country, upon the broad principles of Imperial policy, and divests it of all its local difficulties. It is one which establishes such a representation for the country as must lay asleep for ever the question of parliamentary reform, which, combined with our religious divisions, has produced all our distractions and calamities.’
It is unnecessary to follow at length the debate which ensued. Most of the arguments have been already given, and the resolutions containing the terms of the intended Bill, which were now laid before the House, were too fresh for much profitable criticism. Several speakers denied with great emphasis the assertion that the country, or the greater part of the property of the country, favoured the Union. They asserted, on the contrary, that the general voice was strongly and clearly adverse to it; that ‘the detestation of it was strikingly apparent in every quarter of the kingdom, and among all classes of people;’ and that this fact was proved by the contrast between the small number of signatures to addresses in favour of the Union, and the petitions against it from so many counties, which covered the table.
The Opposition justified also with great force their appeal to the country. They had only done, in a fairer and larger measure, what the Government itself had done, when it endeavoured, by addresses signed in many quarters, and by the personal influence exercised by the Lord Lieutenant in his journey through Ireland, to procure such a semblance of popular support as might counteract the effect of the hostile vote of the House of Commons in 1799. Was it very strange, they asked, that they should endeavour to procure the real sense of the country, when so many extraordinary means had been used to procure an apparent one? Was the question whether ‘the supreme power of the State should be transferred to a country divided from Ireland by boundaries which could not be removed, and by feelings which could not be extinguished,’ a question which should, in no sense, be submitted to the judgment of the people? Was it not peculiarly desirable at a time when a formidable rebellion was scarcely suppressed, and when martial law was in force, that men of rank, property, and respectability, should come forward to show the people the safety and propriety of expressing, in a constitutional manner, their sense of a measure that would deprive them of their Constitution? And did not this course become imperatively necessary when the means were considered by which this measure was being carried? ‘What a comprehensive system of corruption!’ exclaimed George Ponsonby; ‘the peers are to be purchased with a life privilege, the bishops are to be rotated that the Ministry may have all the influence of the Church, and two-thirds of the Commons are declared to be a mere purchasable commodity!'
The father of Miss Edgeworth made another of those curious, balanced, hesitating speeches, which are so unlike the general character of Irish oratory. Considered on its merits, and in the abstract merely, all the arguments, he thought, were in favour of the Union, but he was still resolved to oppose it. ‘He thought it improper to urge the scheme unless it should appear to be desired by the sober and impartial majority of the nation; and while seventy boroughs were allowed to be saleable commodities, for which the public money was to be given, he not only deemed it impossible to collect the genuine sense of the nation in that House, but could not conscientiously support a scheme attended with this avowed corruption.’
The debate lasted from four o'clock in the afternoon of the 5th, till one on the following afternoon.1 The division is said to have been the largest ever known in the Irish House of Commons, 278 members, including the Speaker and the tellers, being present. The Government had 158 votes, and the Opposition 115. Eight members only were absent and unpaired, and it was understood that these had stayed away intentionally, wishing neither to support nor oppose the Government. It is a curious fact that Colonel Fitzgibbon, the son and successor of Lord Clare, was among the number.2 Although the present majority of forty-three exceeded by one vote that of January 16, it in reality marked a serious retrogression, for on the former occasion a considerable number of seats at the disposal of the Government had been vacant. Twelve of their former supporters passed to the Opposition, one of them, as I have already mentioned, having been purchased by the sum of 4,000l. How far the others were influenced by genuine conviction, by the opinions of their constituents, or by corrupt motives, it is impossible to say. Cornwallis and Castlereagh stated that they had undoubted proofs, though not such as could be disclosed, that the Opposition were able to offer, and did offer, as much as 5,000l. for a single vote. ‘How it will end,’ wrote Cornwallis, ‘God only knows. I think there are not more than four or five of our people that can be either bought off or intimidated, but there is no answering for the courage or integrity of our senators.’ 3
In the House of Lords, the Government were much stronger. Lord Clare, himself, brought forward the first resolution approving of the Union. He had not yet taken any opportunity of stating his own arguments in favour of the measure of which he was, in a great degree, the author, and he now treated the subject in a memorable and most elaborate speech, which occupied four hours in its delivery, and which was immediately after published by authority. The greater portion of it consisted of a very skilful, but very partial, review of the past history of Ireland, with the object of showing that the possessors of the land and political power of the country were a mere English colony, who never had been, and who never could be, blended or reconciled with the native race.1 ‘What was the situation of Ireland,’ he asked, ‘at the Revolution, and what is it at this day? The whole power and property of the country has been conferred by successive monarchs of England upon an English colony, composed of three sets of English adventurers who poured into this country at the termination of three successive rebellions. Confiscation is their common title; and from their first settlement they have been hemmed in on every side by the old inhabitants of the island, brooding over their discontents in sullen indignation. It is painful to me to go into this detail, but we have been for twenty years in a fever of intoxication, and must be stunned into sobriety. What was the security of the English settlers for their physical existence at the Revolution? And what is the security of their descendants at this day? The powerful and commanding protection of Great Britain. If, by any fatality, it fails, you are at the mercy of the old inhabitants of the island; and I should have hoped that the samples of mercy exhibited by them in the progress of the late rebellion, would have taught the gentlemen who call themselves the Irish nation, to reflect with sober attention on the dangers which surround them.’
He described the efforts that had been made by the Irish Parliament to obtain an Union in 1703 and 1707; how the Ministers of Queen Anne refused to grant it, and how, ‘in finding a substitute for it, there had been a race of impolicy between the countries. The Parliament of England seemed to have considered the permanent debility of Ireland as their best security for her connection with the British Crown, and the Irish Parliament to have rested the security of the colony upon maintaining a perpetual and impassable barrier against the ancient inhabitants of the country.’ This was the true meaning of the commercial disabilities and of the penal laws; and this system continued with little variation, till the American War and the volunteers led to the demand and the concession of free trade and a free Constitution. ‘On the old Irish volunteers,’ he said, ‘I desire to be understood not to convey anything like a censure. Their conduct will remain a problem in history; for without the shadow of military control, to their immortal honour it is known that, from their first levy till they disbanded themselves, no act of violence or outrage was charged against them; and they certainly did, on every occasion where their services were required, exert themselves with effect to maintain the internal peace of the country. The gentlemen of Ireland were all in their ranks, and maintained a decided influence upon them. But I shall never cease to think that the appeals made to that army by the angry politicians of that day, were dangerous and ill-judged in the extreme; and that they established a precedent for rebellion, which has since been followed up with full success.’
He dilated with extreme bitterness upon the defects of the Constitution of 1782, which he now represented as the root of all the subsequent evils of the country; upon the history of the commercial propositions, and the history of the Regency; upon the alliance that had grown up between the Oppositions in England and Ireland. He spoke of Grattan in language which was evidently inspired by deep personal hatred. He passed then to the Catholic question: ‘with respect to the old code of the popery laws,’ he said, ‘there cannot be a doubt that it ought to have been repealed. It was impossible that any country could continue to exist under a code by which a majority of its inhabitants were cut off from the rights of property. But in the relaxation of these laws there was a fatal error. It should have been taken up systematically by the Ministers of the Crown, and not left in the hands of every individual who chose to take possession of it, as an engine of power or popularity.’
He next told in his own fashion the history of the rise of the Catholic Committee, of the mission of Burke's son, of the fluctuating policy and the great concessions of 1792 and 1793, of the manner in which the Whigs, who had once been preeminently the anti-popish party in the State, took up, for party purposes, the Catholic cause; of the Government, the mistakes and the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam. For this Viceroy he now professed ‘a warm and unfeigned personal respect,’ which contrasts curiously with the language he had employed during his Vice-royalty and immediately after his recall. Under all these influences, he said, the question of Catholic emancipation had been fully launched. It had been originally started as a pretence for rebellion. It had been then made a powerful ‘engine of faction,’ wielded in both countries; it had already shaken Irish Government to its foundations, and without an Union it must soon level it to the dust. Ireland never can be at peace, ‘until this firebrand is extinguished,’ and it never can be extinguished as long as a separate Parliament remains. It forms an inexhaustible source of popular ferment; the common topic of discontent and irritation to rally the old inhabitants of the island. It is idle to suppose that in this direction any finality could be reached. If every political disqualification were abolished, there would still be the grievance of the Established Church. If that Church were swept away, the popish party would then demand a formal recognition of the laws of their own Church, and ‘when every other point has been yielded, an apostle of sedition will not be wanting, in the fullness of human arrogance and presumption, to propose a repeal of God's holy Commandment, and to proclaim the worship of graven images in your streets.’ If, as appeared evident, the Catholics, not satisfied with the indulgences they had already experienced, were determined to press their demands for the unqualified repeal of the Test Laws and Act of Supremacy; then, in God's name, let the question at least be discussed on its solid merits in a powerful Imperial Parliament, removed from fear and passion and prejudice. Let it there be ‘gravely and dispassionately considered, whether a repeal of these laws may be yielded with safety to the British monarchy; or whether, by adopting the French model in abolishing all religious distinctions as connected with the State, we shall lay the corner stone of Revolution and Democracy.’
For his own part, Clare left no doubt about his opinions or about the course he would take, and once more, as in 1793, he openly severed himself from his colleagues in the Government, who were doing all in their power to conciliate the Catholics, and to win their support by persuading them that emancipation must follow the Union. ‘My unaltered opinion,’ he said, ‘is that so long as human nature and the popish religion continue to be what I know they are, a conscientious popish ecclesiastic never will become a well-attached subject to a Protestant State, and that the popish clergy must always have a commanding influence on every member of that Communion…. In private life I never inquired into the religion of any man, … but when I am to frame laws for the safety of the State, I do not feel myself at liberty to act upon the virtues of individuals. Laws must be framed to meet and counteract the vicious propensities of human nature.’
He then argued that parliamentary reform, whether it was carried on the lines of the Whig opposition, or on those of the United Irishmen, could only throw the country into the hands of a Jacobin democracy, subversive alike of religion and monarchy, of property and the connection. Though two years before he had described the country as advancing in prosperity more rapidly than any other in Europe, he now painted its situation as absolutely desperate. He related the rapid rise of the national debt, and attributed it far less to the French war than to internal rebellion. ‘We have not three years of redemption,’ he said, ‘from bankruptcy or intolerable taxation, not one hour's security against the renewal of exterminating civil war…. Session after session you have been compelled to enact laws of unexampled rigour and novelty to repress the horrible excesses of the mass of your people; and the fury of murder and pillage and desolation have so outrun all legislative exertion, that you have at length been driven to the hard necessity of … putting your country under the ban of military government, and in every little circle of dignity and independence we hear whispers of discontent at the temperate discretion with which it is administered…. Look to your civil and religious dissensions, look to the fury of political faction, and the torrents of human blood that stain the face of your country;’ to the enormous expense necessary ‘to keep down the brutal fury of the mass of the Irish people, who have been goaded to madness by every wicked artifice that disappointed faction can devise.’ ‘Our present difficulties arise’ not from a foreign, but’ from an Irish war—a war of faction—a Whig war and a United Irishman's war…. If England were at peace at this hour with all the Powers of Europe … you would be compelled to maintain a war establishment for defence against your own people.’ The civil war of 1641 had been a war of extermination. The recent civil war would have been no less so, if it had not been for the ‘strong and merciful interposition of Great Britain,’ which saved (the besotted rebels of this day.’ But the scale of expense rendered necessary by the rebellion was ruinous. If it continued for three years 2,430,000l. must be raised for the interest of the debt alone.1
It was asked, Clare said, in what way these evils would be rectified by the Union. His first very confident prediction was one which we have already met in the pamphlet of Cooke, and which has been so glaringly and uniformly falsified by the event, that it now appears almost grotesque. ‘I answer first, ‘he said, ‘we are to be relieved from British and Irish faction, which is the prime source of all our calamities.’
Besides this, the army of the Empire would become one, and as it would be a matter of indifference where it was quartered, Ireland would thus be sufficiently garrisoned without additional expense; the resources of Ireland would be greatly augmented; English capital and manufactures, English industry and civilisation, would gradually cross the Channel, and the higher order of Irishmen would be withdrawn ‘from the narrow and corrupted sphere of Irish politics,’ and would direct their attention to objects of true national importance.
For all aspirations of Irish nationality and all appeals to national dignity, he expressed unbounded scorn. He declared that he would most gladly entrust the government of Ireland to the British Parliament, even though Ireland had not a single representative in it. ‘When I look,’ he said, ‘at the squalid misery, and profound ignorance, and barbarous manners and brutal ferocity of the mass of the Irish people, I am sickened with this rant of Irish dignity and independence. Is the dignity and independence of Ireland to consist in the continued depression and unredeemed barbarism of the great majority of the people, and the factious contentions of a puny and rapacious oligarchy, who consider the Irish nation as their political inheritance, and are ready to sacrifice the public peace and happiness to their insatiate love of patronage and power? … If we are to pursue the beaten course of faction and folly, I have no scruple to say, it were better for Great Britain that this island should sink into the sea, than continue connected with the British Crown on the terms of our present Union…. The British Islands are formed by nature for mutual security or mutual destruction, and if we are to pursue the course we have thought fit to run for the last twenty years, it may become a question of doubtful issue, whether at a crisis of difficulty and danger, Great Britain will be enabled to support us, or we shall sink Great Britain.’
There was much more in the same strain, and it was followed by a furious invective against those who had appealed to the people to express their opinions in hostility to the scheme. He spoke of these men as ‘the modern Revolutionary Government, of the Irish Consulate canvassing the dregs of that rebel democracy, for a renewal of popular ferment and outrage, to overawe the deliberations of Parliament.’ He said that, in the awful and perilous situation of the nation, the offer of England had been treated by gentlemen who called themselves friends of liberty and the Irish Constitution with ‘the fury of wild beasts;’ that the lawyers had set the example; that ‘appeals of the most virulent and inflammatory tendency were made by these same friends of liberty, to the deluded barbarians who had been so recently consigned by them to indiscriminate extirpation;’ that in Parliament the ‘Friends of Liberty and the Constitution’ at first would not suffer the Government measure to be discussed, and then, when it was relinquished, had tried to press it to a premature discussion in order to prevent its revival. But ‘when this first burst of noise and clamour had subsided,’ and the plan was calmly considered, ‘the sober and rational part of the Irish nation saw in the measure of an Union a fair prospect of peace and wealth and happiness for their country, and the bulk of the people, professing not to understand the subject, were perfectly indifferent to it. Such was the state of the public mind upon this question, when the late recess of Parliament took place; and to their eternal reproach and dishonour be it spoken, some persons of high rank and consequence in the kingdom availed themselves of that opportunity to become emissaries of sedition, and to canvass popular support against the measure by the most shameless impositions on the ignorance and credulity of every man who would listen to them…. But the active exertions of itinerant Lords and Commoners were not deemed sufficient for the occasion, and we have seen a consular authority assumed by two noble lords and a right honourable commoner, who have issued their letter missive to every part of the kingdom; commanding the people, in the name of a number of gentlemen of both Houses of Parliament, to come forward with petitions condemning in terms of violence and indignation the measure of Union prior to its discussion in Parliament…. Is there salvation for this country under her present Government and Constitution, when men of their rank and situation can stoop to so shabby and wicked an artifice, to excite popular outcry against the declared sense of both Houses of Parliament? But this is not all. If loud and confident report is to have credit, a consular exchequer has been opened for foul and undisguised bribery. I know that subscriptions are openly solicited in the streets of the metropolis to a fund for defeating the measure of Union…. I trust there is still sense and honour left in the Irish nation, to cut off the corrupted source of these vile abominations.’
These are the most material, or at least the most original passages in this powerful speech, for it is needless to follow it through its discussion of the old familiar topics of absenteeism, the position of Dublin, the benefits a poor country must receive from a partnership with a rich one, the history and effects of the Scotch Union. Clare must have been heard or read with very mingled feelings by many of the supporters of Government; by ‘the puny and rapacious oligarchy,’ on whose purchased borough votes the Ministers mainly relied to carry their measure; by those who held, with Cornwallis, that the special benefit of the Union would be, that it would render possible a complete and speedy abolition of religious disqualifications; by those who relied chiefly for its justification, on its approval by a great body of opinion in Ireland, and especially on the friendly disposition of the Catholics.
The speech was evidently more fitted to defy and to exasperate, than to conciliate public opinion, and it is easy to trace in it that burning hatred of Ireland, that disgust at its social and political conditions, which had of late become the dominant feeling of Clare.1 This feeling was probably much intensified by disappointment, for the horrible scenes of anarchy and bloodshed, which he mainly traced to the concessions of 1782 and 1793, had only taken their acute form after his own triumph in 1795, and had been largely attributed to his own policy. That his picture, both of the social condition of the country and of the difficulties of its Government, during the preceding twenty years, was enormously exaggerated, few persons who have seriously studied that period will dispute, and still fewer will subscribe to his condemnation of the Irish county members for appealing to the opinion of the freeholders against a measure which had never been submitted to the constituencies, and which was being carried in manifest defiance of the wishes of the great majority of the independent members. Denunciations of corruption are in themselves always respectable, and in the conduct of the Opposition there was something to justify them, but they came with a strange audacity from a statesman who had boasted that half a million had been once, and might be again expended to break down an Opposition, and who was at this very time a leading member of a Government which was securing a majority by such means as I have described.
The division in the Lords gave seventy-five votes to the Government, and only twenty-six to the Opposition, and the Bill passed through its remaining stages in that House with little discussion. The debates are very imperfectly reported, and there seems to have been but little in them that need delay us. Lord Downshire, who was there the most important member of the Opposition, spoke, Lord Cornwallis says, apparently under great depression. He appears to have denied the existence of a ‘consular exchequer,’ or at least to have asserted that he had not subscribed to it, and he acknowledged that he had been no admirer of the Constitution of 1782, and that if an Union had been proposed in that year, or at the time of the Regency, he might have supported it. A time of distraction, however, and turbulence like the present, seemed to him peculiarly unsuitable for such a measure, and he feared that it would only inflame public discontent, and obstruct the return of tranquillity. Ireland had incontestably made great strides in wealth and commerce under her separate Parliament; when the late rebellion broke out, that Parliament had saved the country by its energy, and he could not consent to subvert it on mere speculation, or through visionary hopes of greater benefits. The causes of the rebellion he found chiefly in the divided counsels and inconsistent policy of the Ministers. He had himself, as a friend of Government, been requested to sign a strong declaration in support of the Protestant ascendency. A few months later he had been called upon by the same Government to vote for a most extensive measure of Catholic enfranchisement. He complained bitterly that, after a life spent in supporting the Government, after having been admitted into their close confidence, and having made for them great sacrifices in very evil times, he was denounced as if he were a seditious man, because he had signed the ‘letter missive.’ ‘He had acted as an independent gentleman of Ireland, as a man of large possessions, acquainted with the state of the country, and deeply interested in its welfare. As it had been confidently asserted that the Unionists had a greater extent of property than their opponents, it was incumbent on those who had a better knowledge of the opinion of the public, to call for a constitutional declaration of sentiment, not from the dregs of the people, but from the more respectable part of the community…. This was not the conduct of seditious or disloyal men.’ 1
One of the most memorable figures on the side of the Government in these debates was the Chief Baron, Lord Yelverton, who had borne so considerable a part in framing the Constitution of 1782, and who had once been in the closest alliance with Grattan. He was a great lawyer, an admirable speaker, a statesman of sound and moderate judgment, a man of eminent accomplishments, and of a singularly sweet, simple, and even childlike nature, but, like many distinguished Irishmen, his character had been broken down by extravagance and debt, and he gained too much by the Union for his authority to have much weight.2 His opinion in its favour had, however, been expressed at a time when the chance of success was very doubtful, and he spoke more than once powerfully in its support, dwelling especially upon the full competence of Parliament to carry it, and upon the evidence which modern history supplied of the inadequacy of a federal connection, for defence in time of danger, or for securing a lasting and real Union. He recalled with pride his connection with the Constitution of 1782, stating that this Constitution had made it possible for Ireland to secure an Union of equality instead of an Union of subjection, but he declared that even in 1782 he had desired an Union, and would have readily accepted it if it had been proposed. He at the same time showed some courage by delivering, in the face of a great ministerial majority, an eloquent protest against the imputations that had been thrown upon Grattan. He well knew him, he said, ‘to be as incapable of engaging in any plot for separating this country from Great Britain, as the most strenuous advocate of the present measure.1
The majority in the House of Lords greatly disliked the portion of the Union scheme which left the King an unlimited power of creating Irish peers after the Union, and they desired that the precedent of the Scotch Union should be followed, and the roll of the Irish peerage closed. The feeling was so strong, that the King's principal servants believed that the clause relating to the peerage could not pass, but a compromise was at last agreed to, leaving the Crown the power of creating one Irish peerage for every three that should become extinct, until the whole number was reduced to a hundred.2 At the last stage a protest against the resolutions was signed by the Duke of Leinster, and nineteen other peers. They complained of the annihilation in a time of great danger and disturbance, and in opposition to the general voice of the nation, of the Constitution which had for many ages maintained the connection between the two countries, and been the best security for the liberty of Ireland. They argued in much detail, that the proportion of the expenditure of the Empire imposed on Ireland exceeded her capacity, and must lead her to speedy bankruptcy, and they appealed solemnly to posterity to acquit them of having had any part in a measure from which they anticipated the ruin and degradation of their country.3
We must now revert briefly to the straggle in the Commons. The excitement in Dublin while the question was under debate was very great. A furious mob again attacked some of the supporters of the Union, and attempted to throw their carriages into the Liffey, and it was found necessary to guard the streets by patrols of cavalry as in a period of rebellion.1 The Government, however, acted with great decision. It was at this time that Lord Downshire was deprived of all his posts, and the Duke of Portland wrote that the smallness of the last majority had in no degree shaken or discouraged the Cabinet in England. ‘No means,’ he added, ‘should be omitted, no exertion neglected, that can insure this measure, and there is no assistance of any kind which the Government of this country can afford your Excellency, that you may not depend upon, as it is the unanimous opinion of those concerned in the administration of it, that it is essentially necessary to the security, as well as to the prosperity of both kingdoms.’ ‘I must not omit,’ he wrote in another letter, ‘to authorise and instruct you to declare that no disappointment (which, however, the goodness of the cause and your exertions will not suffer me to apprehend), will ever induce his Majesty or his servants to recede from, or to suspend their endeavours; but that it is his Majesty's fixed and unalterable determination to direct, session after session, the proposition of Union to be renewed to Parliament, until it is adopted by the good sense of the nation.’ 2
The Government were extremely anxious that the question should be pressed on without delay, while the first object of the Opposition was to postpone it till the opinion of the country was fully taken. On February 14, there was a preliminary discussion on the necessity of delaying the question till some further papers were produced, and George Knox delivered a short, but very remarkable speech. He argued that, whatever were its defects, the Irish Parliament had at least represented ‘every variety of interest, property, talent, knowledge, wisdom and energy,’ in the community; that it had produced among the people, however imperfectly, some real feeling of identity with the State, and had afforded a natural and constitutional issue for the various sentiments and passions that agitated them. If, as he feared, an Imperial Parliament failed to fulfil this function, the result would prove most disastrous. He warned the House that content and loyalty do not always follow in the train of prosperity, and that nations act less from reason than from sentiment. It was quite possible, he believed, that a period was coming in Ireland, of better government, of augmented prosperity, and at the same time of steadily increasing discontent. He even predicted that a discontented and unguided Ireland might one day become, in the English-speaking world, as formidable a source and centre of aggressive Jacobinism as France had been on the Continent, and that the poison of its baneful influence might extend to the farthest limits of the civilised globe.
It was a bold, and, as many must have thought, a most extravagant prediction. Could there, it might be asked, be any real comparison, either for good or for ill, between a small remote island in the Atlantic, and the great nation which had for centuries exercised a dominant influence over the ideas and fortunes of Europe, and which had acquired in its recent transformation a volcanic fury that had shaken Christendom to its basis? Yet he who has traced the part which Irish Jacobinism has played during the last generations in those great English-speaking nations on which the future of the world most largely depends; who has examined the principles and precedents it has introduced into legislation; the influence it has exercised on public life and morals, and on the type and character of public men, may well doubt whether the prediction of Knox was even an exaggeration.
On the 17th, the Union passed into committee, and another long debate, extending over eighteen or twenty hours, took place. Among its incidents was a violent attack by Corry, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, upon Grattan, on account of his alleged complicity with Neilson and the United Irishmen, to which Grattan replied by one of those crushing and unmeasured invectives in which he sometimes indulged, and which are by no means among the most admirable specimens of his oratory. The excitement in the House was so great, that for several hours, Lord Cornwallis says, the debate went on without attention, and a duel followed, in which Corry was slightly wounded. Sir John Parnell attacked the whole scheme with much elaboration, and was answered by Lord Castlereagh, on whom almost the entire burden of the defence seems to have fallen; and the Speaker, availing himself of the fact that the House was in committee, delivered another long, most able, and most comprehensive speech.
He began by deprecating the train of reasoning recently adopted by Clare and other speakers, who painted the situation of Ireland as so desperate, its people so debased, and its feuds so rooted, that any change of Government mast be an improvement. (Can those who now hear me,’ he said, ‘deny that since the period of 1782 this country has risen in civilisation, wealth, and manufacture, until interrupted by the present war, in a greater proportion and with a more rapid progress than any other country in Europe, and much more than it ever did itself in a like period before? And to what has this improvement been owing, but the spirit, the content, and enterprise which a free Constitution inspired? To depress which spirit, and to take away which Constitution, are the objects of the present measure.’ He denied altogether that the independence of the Parliament was a mere name. It was true that the Great Seal of England, which was used through a British Minister, was essential to the validity of Irish legislation, but the royal assent had never been withheld to our injury since the Constitution of 1782, and it had become little more than a theoretic restraint. ‘As no Legislature but our own can make a law to bind us, we have only theoretic dependence, but practical independence; whereas, if we adopt the proposed Union and give up our Parliament, we shall reverse our situation, and have a theoretic independence with a practical and sure dependence.’ He then grappled at great length, and with a profusion of figures, with the argument that Ireland was on the verge of bankruptcy; that nothing but a legislative Union could prevent it; that the result of the Union would be an annual saving of a million in time of war, and of half a million in time of peace. The last two sessions had, he acknowledged, been the most expensive Ireland had ever seen; the House had measured its grants much less by its means than by its zeal to uphold Great Britain, and it had voted them at the express invitation of the very Minister who now made its liberality an argument for destroying it. But it was not true that Irish finances were desperate, and it was not true that the Union would improve them. In the first six years of the war, Great Britain had increased her debt by 186 millions, and Ireland by 14 millions, the proportionate increase being 12½ to 1. By a careful and intricate argument, to which it is impossible here to do justice, but which made a profound impression, though it was very seriously controverted, Foster maintained that if the proposed Union had existed from the beginning of the war, the debt of Ireland would have exceeded its present figure by nearly ten millions and a half, and that, instead of bringing reduced taxation, the Union would probably add not less than two and a half millions to the annual taxation.
He examined with great knowledge and detail, but with a strong protectionist bias, the commercial clauses, arguing that some parts would urove injurious to Ireland, and that others would confer advantages which might be equally attained with separate Legislatures, and he then discussed the constitutional provisions. He maintained that it was contrary to the now acknowledged principles of the Constitution, that peers who were elected as representatives should hold their seats for life; that it was absurd and mischievous that Irish peers who were not in the House of Lords might sit in the House of Commons for British seats, but not for the country with which they were naturally connected by property and residence; that such a provision would gradually dissociate the Irishmen of largest fortune from their native country; that the bulk of the Irish peerage, being deprived of the chief incentives and opportunities of political life, would sink into an idle, useless, enervated caste. He predicted that the removal of the legislative body to a capital which was several days’ journey from Ireland, would exclude Irish merchants and eminent lawyers from the representation, impede all local inquiries, and fatally retard acquisition of local information; and he complained that, while elaborate provision was made for securing in the future a settled proportion of contribution, there was no corresponding provision for securing a just proportion in representation. ‘A real union,’ he said, ‘is a full and entire union of two nations…. There can be no union of the nations while distinct interests exist, and almost every line of the plan declares the distinctness of interest…. Review the whole measure. It leaves us every appendage of a kingdom except what constitutes the essence of independence, a resident Parliament. Separate State, separate establishment, separate exchequer, separate debt, separate courts, separate laws, the Lord Lieutenant, and the Castle, all remain.’
He denied that any real benefits, either in trade or revenue, could be expected, and added that, were it otherwise, he would spurn them if they were the price of the surrender of the Parliament. ‘Neither revenue nor trade will remain where the spirit of liberty ceases to be their foundation, and nothing can prosper in a State which gives up its freedom. I declare most solemnly that if England could give us all her revenue and all her trade, I would not barter for them the free Constitution of my country. Our wealth, our properties, our personal exertions, are all devoted to her support. Our freedom is our inheritance, and with it we cannot barter.’
He denounced as a ‘monstrous and unconstitutional offer’ the proposal to compensate borough owners, making the public pay them for selling themselves, their constituents, and their country. ‘Do you publicly avow that borough representation is a private property, and do you confirm that avowal by the Government becoming the purchasers?’ This measure, he said, was notoriously taken for the purpose of acquiring in the small boroughs a majority which could not be obtained in the counties and considerable towns, and he believed that the precedent must necessarily be one day extended to England, and that it would prove far more dangerous to the British Constitution than all the East India Bills that were ever framed. By this and other kindred measures, he acknowledged that the Ministry had obtained a majority in favour of the Union, but he still believed, or pretended to believe, in the success of the minority. ‘It is impossible to suppose that Ministers can think of proceeding against the determined sense of the 120 members who compose it, two-thirds of the county members among them, and supported by the voice of the nation. Look on your table at the petitions from twenty-five counties, from eight principal cities and towns, and from Dublin. Twenty-three of the counties convened by legal notice have, from time to time, declared against the Bill, and twenty of them unanimously. The whole mercantile interest deprecate it. Wherever you go, whoever you talk with out of doors, you hear it reprobated universally. Every day brings new conviction of the abhorrence in which it is held throughout the kingdom.’
It is true, he said, that the promoters of the measure had endeavoured to alarm and divide the nation by joining the religious question with the question of Union, and exciting the strong and opposing hopes and fears that were involved in it. Foster emphatically refused to discuss Catholic emancipation in connection with the Union, or to admit that ‘a distant Parliament sitting in a distant land’ was more competent than the Irish Parliament to deal with this great Irish question, or more likely to give content by its decisions. ‘The Catholic is equally [with the Protestant] a native of Ireland; equally bound by duty, by inclination to his country. He sees with us the danger of the attack, and joins with the Protestant to prevent its approach, and save the Constitution. He is wise in doing so. All differences are lost, they are asleep in this common cause. He joins heart to heart with his fellow-subjects to oppose the common enemy.’
‘You talk,’ continued Foster, ‘of this measure restoring tranquillity. It is but talk. Will taking men of property out of the country do it? Will a plan full of the seeds of jealousy and discontent effect it? Will depriving a nation of the liberty which it has acquired, and to which it is devoted, insure content? If religious jealousies disturb its quiet, are they to be allayed by a British Parliament? … British, not Irish, councils roused them. British, not Irish, councils now propose this Union.’
Throughout this remarkable speech there is an evident reference to the arguments of Clare; and in his concluding passage, Foster dwelt with great power on Clare's attack on the county meetings, and on those who had convened them. ‘It is the fashion to say the country is agitated, and certain letters, written by three members of Parliament, have been held forth as unconstitutional and inflammatory. This is the first time I ever heard a wish in gentlemen, to know the real sentiment of the freeholders by legal meetings to be convened by the sheriffs, insulted by such appellations. The noble lord and his friends said, the sense of the nation was with the measure. We doubted the fact, and the legal and undoubted right of our constituents to tell us their sentiments could alone ascertain it. No, sir, that letter did not irritate, it was intended to appease. But I will tell you what has irritated—the reviving this ruinous measure after its rejection last year; the appeal nominal which the noble lord and his friends resorted to against the decision of Parliament; the refusing county meetings, which are the constitutional mode of collecting the sense of the freeholders, and sending papers directed to no man, neither address, nor petition, nor instructions, but a pledge of opinion, through all the chapels, the markets, the public-houses, and even the lowest cabins, for signatures, and setting those up against this House and the general voice of the kingdom…. I scarce need mention the unconstitutional use to which the Place Bill has been perverted, and the … monstrous proposal of applying the public money to purchase public rights from private individuals.’ These, he said, were the true causes of the agitation that was so greatly deplored, and that agitation would never cease till the measure was abandoned.
In this, as in the other speeches of Foster, the reader may find the case against the Union in its strongest form, and may learn to estimate the feelings with which that measure was regarded by a large section of the Protestant gentlemen of Ireland. The Government majority, however, was unbroken, and the resolution declaring that there shall be a legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland, was carried by a majority of forty-six.
From this division, the Opposition perceived that their cause was almost hopeless, and the measure now moved steadily, though slowly, through its remaining stages. Some of the resolutions passed with little discussion, and the difficult and delicate question of the relative contributions of the two countries was debated and agreed to in a single sitting on February 24. Lord Castlereagh took the occasion to reply, in a speech which appears to have been very able, to the calculation by which Foster had endeavoured to show that under the Union scheme the debt must increase much more rapidly than with a separate Parliament, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer predicted that ‘in the next five years, taken in the proportion of two of war to three of peace,’ Ireland under the Union would save nearly ten millions. Foster, Parnell, and others maintained that the proportion imposed on Ireland was beyond her capacities; but a test division on a question of adjournment gave the Government 150 votes to 108, and an amendment of John Claudius Beresford, that the contribution of Ireland should be only two-twentieths instead of two-seventeenths, was speedily negatived. Plunket declared that he and his friends were determined to confine their opposition to the principle of the measure, and that they would decline to give it even that degree of sanction which might be implied in attempts to mend it. The whole resolution ultimately passed without a division.1
‘I see no prospect of converts,’ wrote Castlereagh at this time to the English Under Secretary of State. ‘The Opposition are steady to each other. I hope we shall be able to keep our friends true…. We require your assistance, and you must be prepared to enable us to fulfil the expectations which it was impossible to avoid creating at the moment of difficulty. You may be sure we have rather erred on the side of moderation.’ ‘When can you make the remittance promised?’ wrote Cooke to the same correspondent. ‘It is absolutely essential, for our demands increase.’ 2
The Opposition now made it their chief and almost their only object, to delay the measure until the opinion of the country had been deliberately and constitutionally taken. Lord Corry, one of their most respected and candid members, sent a proposal to Lord Castlereagh, that if the Government would postpone any proceedings on the Union till the following session, the Opposition would give them the fullest support, and that, ‘if the country should at that period appear to be in favour of an Union, they would give it a fair assistance.’ 3 The proposal was at once rejected; and on March 4, George Ponsonby introduced a series of resolutions stating that petitions had already been presented against the Union in the present session from twenty-six counties; from the cities of Dublin and Limerick; from Belfast, Drogheda, Newry, and several other towns, and begging that these resolutions should be transmitted to England and laid before the King. 110,000 persons, he said, had signed petitions against the Union, and it was the duty of the House to lay them before his Majesty, and to represent to him the true wishes of the people. He appealed to the message to Parliament on February 5, in which the Lord Lieutenant, while recommending a legislative Union, had relied on the general sentiment of the Irish people being in its favour, and he deduced from this that the concurrence of the will of the people was necessary to warrant Parliament in making a change which amounted to a transfer of the Constitution. Lord Castlereagh answered, that when the people were left to themselves, there was a general disposition among the loyal and well-informed classes to acquiesce in the Union; that the recent adverse expressions had been brought forward ‘by manœuvre and artifice;’ that seventy-four declarations in favour of the Union had been made by public bodies in the kingdom, nineteen of which had come from freeholders in the counties, and that in these declarations, rather than in the petitions to the House, the seuse of the propertied and loyal part of the community was to be found. He added, that if on former occasions the sense of the people had been taken against the sense of Parliament, neither the Revolution Settlement of the Crown, nor the Union with Scotland, could have been accomplished. The Government carried an adjournment by 155 to 107.1
Another attempt of the same kind was made on the 13th by Sir John Parnell, who moved that an address should be presented to the King requesting him to dissolve Parliament, and take the sense of the constituencies before the legislative Union was concluded. Sir Lawrence Parsons, in supporting the motion, said that, well as he knew the immense influence exercised by the Crown in the choice of members, he was prepared to stake the issue on the result of an election; and Saurin, in a fiery speech, declared that a legislative Union, carried without having been brought constitutionally before the people, and in defiance of their known wishes, would not be morally binding, and that the right of resistance would remain. This doctrine was denounced as manifest Jacobinism, and as a direct incentive to rebellion. Grattan defended the motion in a short and moderate speech. He disclaimed all wish of submitting the question on the French principle to mere multitude; to primary assemblies; to universal suffrage. He desired only that it should be brought before the constituencies legally and constitutionally determined, before ‘the mixture of strength and property which forms the order of the country.’ The Lord Lieutenant had recommended the Union on the supposition of the concurrence of the people. The English Minister had defended it as a measure for identifying two nations. The Irish Minister had justified it by appealing to the addresses in its favour, and Parliament was acting in a perfectly proper manner in advising his Majesty to exercise his constitutional prerogative of dissolving the House of Commons, and ascertaining the true sense of the constituencies. In Scotland the sense of the electors upon the question of an Union had been taken at an election. Why should not the same course be adopted in Ireland? Whatever benefits might result from the Union if it were carried in concurrence with the opinion of the people, it was sure to prove disastrous if it was against it. A dissolution on the question would be ‘a sound and safe measure,’ and no disturbance was likely to follow from it. ‘Every act necessary to secure the public peace, and to arm the Executive Government with power to that effect, had passed the House. The supplies had been granted, the Mutiny Bill had passed, the Martial Law Bill was agreed to. Under these circumstances the measure was not dangerous; under every consideration it was just.’ The Government, however, succeeded in defeating the motion by 150 to 104.1
Large classes of manufacturers were at this time seriously alarmed, and the arguments and great authority of Foster had profoundly affected them. Many petitions from them came in, and representatives of several manufactures were heard at the bar of the House. In England the delay caused by these proceedings seems to have excited some complaint, and Lord Castlereagh wrote that he had received letters intimating that the Irish Government were not pressing on the question with sufficient rapidity. He urged, however, that it was impossible, with any propriety or decency, to prevent persons whose private interests were really affected by the measure, from being heard at the bar; that the conduct of the Opposition could not as yet be fairly imputed to the mere object of delay, and that imprudent precipitation might have the worst effect. It must be considered, he said, ‘that we have a minority consisting of 120 members, well combined and united; that many of them are men of the first weight and talent in the House; that thirty-seven of them are members for counties; that great endeavours have been used to inflame the kingdom; that petitions from twenty-six counties have been procured; that the city of Dublin is almost unanimous against it; and with such an Opposition, so circumstanced and supported, it is evident much management must be used.’ 1
The cotton manufacturers were believed to be the most menaced, and their claims were pressed with much persistence, both from Belfast and Cork. This manufacture ranked in Ireland next to that of linen; the value annually manufactured was estimated at 600,000l. or 700,000l., and from 30,000 to 40,000 persons were employed in it. About 130,000l. worth of cotton, chiefly fustians, was imported from England, but the manufacture of calico and muslins was purely Irish, and was guarded by a prohibitory duty of from thirty to fifty per cent. It was believed that a sudden reduction of the duty to ten per cent. would lead to a complete displacement of the calicoes and muslins of Ireland by those of England. After some hesitation, the Government consented to postpone this reduction for seven years; and by this concession, it did much to mitigate the opposition.2
The commercial clauses were now the only ones that were contested with much seriousness, for the leading members of the Opposition in the later stages of the discussion seldom took part in the debates, and made no efforts to amend a scheme which they found themselves unable to delay or reject. The debate on March 19, on the commercial clauses, however, was very thorough, the Government plans being powerfully defended by John Beresford and Castlereagh, and attacked with great elaboration by Grattan and Foster. Both of these Opposition speakers adopted a frankly protectionist line, maintaining that the diminution or abolition of protecting duties on some seventy articles, and the increased competition with England, that would follow the Union, must arrest the growth of native manufactures, which had been during the last years so remarkable, and must end by making England the almost exclusive manufacturing centre of the Empire. Much, however, of their very able speeches was devoted to pointing out the general demerits of the Union; the turpitude of the means by which it was being carried, and its opposition to the wishes of the people. The language of Foster was extremely virulent. In a skilful and bitterly sarcastic passage, he described the account of the transaction which a future historian, who ‘had not our means of information.’ was likely to give. He would say that when the scheme was first proposed, the nation revolted against it, and the Parliament rejected it, but that the Minister persevered; that without a dissolution, he changed, by the operation of the Place Bill, a great part of the House of Commons; that he set up the Protestant against the Catholic, and the Catholic against the Protestant; the people against the Parliament, and the Parliament against the people; that he used the influence of the absentee, to overpower the resident; that he bought the peerage, and made the liberality with which the House of Commons granted its supplies, an argument for its abolition; that at a time when the rebellion was wholly suppressed, and when only a few local disturbances remained, martial law was extended over the whole island, and the country occupied beyond all previous example with a great army; that dismissals took place to such an extent, that there was not a placeman in the minority, and all honours were concentrated in the majority; and finally that many sheriffs appointed by Government, refused to convene the counties to petition Parliament, lest the voice of the people should be fairly heard. ‘Such,’ said Foster, ‘might be the account of the historian who could judge from appearances only. We who live at the time would, to be sure, state it otherwise were we to write.’ 1
This was the language of a skilful rhetorician, and of a bitter opponent. It is interesting to compare it with that which was employed about the same time by a very honest and intelligent member of the House, who was himself, in principle, in favour of the Union. ‘I am an Unionist,’ wrote Edgeworth to his friend Erasmus Darwin, ‘but I vote and speak against the Union now proposed to us…. It is intended to force this measure down the throats of the Irish, though five-sixths of the nation are against it. Now, though I think such an Union as would identify the nations, so that Ireland should be as Yorkshire to Great Britain, would be an excellent thing; yet I also think that the good people of Ireland ought to be persuaded of this truth, and not be dragooned into submission. The Minister avows that seventy-two boroughs are to be compensated, i.e. bought by the people of Ireland with one million and a half of their own money; and he makes this legal by a small majority, made up chiefly of these very borough members. When thirty-eight county members out of sixty-four are against the measure, and twenty-eight counties out of thirty-two have petitioned against it, this is such abominable corruption, that it makes our parliamentary sanction worse than ridiculous.’ 1
The Government carried two divisions by majorities of 42 and 47. On the critical question of the compensation to borough owners, the Opposition abstained from taking the sense of the House,2 though they dilated with much bitterness on the inconsistency of a Government which represented the country as staggering on the verge of bankruptcy, and then asked a vote of nearly a million and a half, in order to carry a measure which they did not dare to submit to the judgment of the constituencies.
Almost at the last moment, however, a new and considerable excitement was caused by Sir John Macartney, who unexpectedly revived, in connection with the Union, the old question of the tithe of agistment, which had slumbered peacefully since the days of George II. He reminded the House that the exemption of pasturage from tithes did not rest upon any law, but that the claim of the clergy had been abandoned in consequence of a resolution of the House of Commons in 1735, which pronounced it to be new and mischievous, and calculated to encourage popery, and which directed that all legal methods should be taken for resisting it. By the Union, Macartney said, the effect of this resolution would cease, and the clergy would be able, without obstruction, to claim additional tithes to the amount of one million a year. The alarm excited by this prospect among the graziers was so great, that the Government hastily introduced and carried a Bill making tithes of agistment illegal.1
On March 28, the articles of the Union had passed through both Houses, and they were transmitted to England, accompanied by the resolutions in favour of the measure, and by a joint address of both Houses to the King, and the Irish Parliament then adjourned for nearly six weeks, in order to leave full time for them to be carried through the British Parliament, after which they were to be turned into a Bill. The recess passed in Ireland without serious disturbance. Cornwallis, in a passage which I have already quoted, expressed his belief that at least half of the majority who voted for the Union would have been delighted if it could still be defeated; he said that he was afraid of mentioning a proposal for amalgamating the two Ordnance establishments, lest the probable diminution of patronage should alarm his friends, but he had no doubt that if the Union plan came back from England unaltered, it would pass, and he did not believe that there was much strong feeling against it in the country. If there had been any change in public feeling, he thought it was rather favourable than the reverse, and Dublin, though very hostile, remained tranquil. ‘The word Union,’ he wrote, ‘will not cure the evils of this wretched country. It is a necessary preliminary, but a great deal more must be done.’ 2
In the English Parliament there was not much opposition to be feared. The power of the Government in both Houses was supreme, and there was little or nothing of novelty in the argument that were advanced. It has been justly remarked, as a conspicuous instance of the fallibility of political prescience, that the special danger to the Constitution which was feared from the influx of a considerable Irish element into the British Parliament, was an enormous increase of the power of the Crown and of each successive Administration. ‘It appears to me evident,’ said Grey, ‘that ultimately, at least, the Irish members will afford a certain accession of force to the party of every Administration,’ and ‘that their weight will be thrown into the increasing scale of the Crown.’ In order to guard against this danger, Grey proposed that the Irish representation should be reduced to eighty-five, and that the English representation should, at the same time, be rendered more popular by the disfranchisement of forty decayed boroughs. Wilberforce, though in general favourable to the Union, shared the fears of Grey, and acknowledged that the Irish element ‘could not fail to be a very considerable addition to the influence of the Crown;’ and although Pitt believed the danger to be exaggerated, he acknowledged it to be a real one, and attempted to meet it by a clause limiting to twenty the Irish placemen in the House of Commons.1 It need scarcely be added, that the influence of the Irish representation has proved the exact opposite of what was predicted. A majority of Irish members turned the balance in favour of the great democratic Reform Bill of 1832, and from that day there has been scarcely a democratic measure which they have not powerfully assisted. When, indeed, we consider the votes that they have given, the principles they have been the means of introducing into English legislation, and the influence they have exercised on the tone and character of the House of Commons, it is probably not too much to say that their presence in the British Parliament has proved the most powerful of all agents in accelerating the democratic transformation of English politics.
On the side of the supporters of the Union, there was, at least, equal fallibility. Pitt himself, in discussing the amount of the Irish representation, expressed his hope and expectation that the two countries would be so completely identified by the measure, that it would be a matter of little importance in what proportion the representatives were assigned to one or other part of the United Empire. ‘Let this Union take place,’ said Lord Hawkesbury, ‘and all Irish party will be extinguished. There will then be no parties but the parties of the British Empire.’ 1
The most formidable attack was made by Grey, who moved an address to the King that proceedings on the Union should be suspended till the sentiments of the people of Ireland respecting it had been ascertained. He observed that it was a remarkable fact, that the great majority of the constituencies which were considered sufficiently important to send representatives to the Imperial Parliament, had shown a determined hostility to the Union, and he summed up with great power the arguments on this point, which had been abundantly employed in Ireland. The petitions in favour of the Union, he said, had been clandestinely obtained, chiefly by the direct influence of the Lord Lieutenant; they only bore about 3,000 signatures, and some of them merely prayed that the measure should be discussed. The petitions against it were not obtained by solicitation, but at public assemblies, of which legal notice had been given, and 107,0002 persons signed them. Twenty-seven counties had petitioned against the measure. Dublin petitioned against it, under its great seal. Drogheda, and many other important towns, took the same course. In the county of Down, 17,000 respectable, independent men had petitioned against the Union, while there were only 415 signatures to the counter petition. The great majority against it consisted ‘not of fanatics, bigots, and Jacobins, but of the most respectable in every class of the community.’ There were 300 members in the Irish House of Commons. ‘120 of these strenuously opposed the measure, among whom were two-thirds of the county members, the representatives of the city of Dublin, and of almost all the towns which it is proposed shall send members to the Imperial Parliament. 162 voted in favour of the Union. Of these, 116 were placemen—some of them were English generals on the Staff, without a foot of ground in Ireland, and completely dependent upon Government…. All persons holding offices under Government, even the most intimate friends of the Minister, if they hesitated to vote as directed, were stripped of all their employments…. Other arts were had recourse to, which, though I cannot name in this place, all will easily conjecture. A Bill framed for preserving the purity of Parliament had been abused, and no less than sixty-three seats had been vacated by their holders having received nominal offices.’ Could it be doubted, he asked, in the face of such facts, that the legislative Union was being forced through, contrary to the plain wish of the Irish nation, contrary to the real wish even of the Irish Parliament?1
Pitt's reply to these representations appears to have been exceedingly empty, consisting of little more than a denunciation of the Jacobinism, which would appeal from the deliberate judgment of Parliament to ‘primary assemblies,’ swayed by factious demagogues. The resolution of Grey was rejected by 236 votes to 30, but his case remained, in all essential points, unshaken, though something was said in the course of this and subsequent debates, and though something more might have been said to qualify it. His figures are not all perfectly accurate, and Pitt asserted that the number of members who held offices under Government in the Union majority, was enormously exaggerated, and was, in fact, not more than fifty-eight.2 As we have clearly seen, corrupt and selfish motives were very far from being exclusively on the side of the Union, and opinion in Ireland was both more divided and more acquiescent than Grey represented. It was said, probably with truth, that the violence of the opposition in the country had greatly gone down, and in large districts, and among large classes, there was a silence and a torpor which indicated, at least, a complete absence of active and acute hostility. No one who reads the letters of the bishops can doubt that the measure had many Catholic well-wishers, and a much larger section of the Catholic population, as well as a great proportion of the Presbyterians, appear to have viewed it with perfect indifference. It was said, too, that the balance of landed property was in its favour, and if this estimate is based merely on the extent of property, the assertion is probably true. The Irish House of Lords comprised the largest landowners in the country, and Lord Castlereagh sent to England a computation, showing that in the two Irish Houses, the landed property possessed by the supporters of the Union was valued at 955,700l. a year, and that of its opponents at only 329,500l.1 Considering, however, the attitude of the counties, it is not probable that any such proportion existed among the independent and uninfluenced landlords outside the Parliament.
The only serious danger to be encountered in England was from the jealousy of the commercial classes, and their opposition appears to have been almost exclusively directed against the clause which permitted the importation of English wool into Ireland. Cornwallis had, however, warned the Government that so much importance was attached to this provision in Ireland, that if it was rejected the whole Bill would probably fall through,2 and Pitt exerted all his influence in its support. Wilberforce was on this question the leading representative of the English woollen manufacturers, but the clause was carried by 133 to 58; and the woollen manufacturers were equally unsuccessful in an attempt to obtain a prolongation of protection similar to that which had been granted to the calico manufacturers in Ireland. In the House of Lords the whole question was again debated at some length, but the minority never exceeded, and only once attained twelve. Lord Downshire, who sat in the British House of Lords as Earl of Hillsborough, spoke strongly in opposition. He said that before 1782 he had been favourable to a legislative Union, but that his opinion had wholly changed. Since 1782, ‘Ireland had flourished in a degree beyond all former precedent.’ The Irish Parliament had shown by abundant sacrifices its intense and undivided loyalty. He anticipated the worst consequences from the removal from Ireland of many of the most important men of influence and property, who had been resident among their people, and who were firm friends to the British connection. Even apart from these considerations, he said, he could not support the Union when twenty-six out of the thirty-two counties had petitioned against it, twelve of them being unanimous, and when ten great corporations had set their seals of office to similar petitions; nor could he be blind to the fact that ‘the members of the Irish House of Commons, who opposed this measure, were men of the first talents, respectability, and fortune, while those who supported it were men notoriously under the influence of the Crown.’ 1 Lord Moira, on the other hand, who in the preceding year had been one of the most vehement opponents, and who had voted by proxy against the Union in the Irish House of Lords, now withdrew his opposition. He could have wished, he said, that the opinion of the Irish people had been ascertained upon a broader basis, and that something more distinct had been held out to the Catholics, but the measure appeared to him liberal in nearly all its details, and the Irish Catholics had much to hope from the enlightened dispositions of an Imperial Parliament.2
The resolutions agreed to by the English Houses, and their joint address to the King, arrived in Ireland on May 12, and the Irish Parliament speedily occupied itself with the final stages of the measure. Pitt in one of his last speeches had expressed his opinion, that no question had been ever so amply and so exhaustively discussed in any Legislature as the Irish Union; but the discussion now began to flag. There were still several points of complexity and difficulty, but both sides felt that the battle had been fought and won, and it was evident that there was no longer any serious opposition to be feared. The selection of the thirty-four boroughs which were to send representatives into the Imperial Parliament, was settled without dispute, on the principle of choosing those which paid the largest sums in hearth money and window tax; and it is a striking illustration of the state of the Irish representation, that only twelve of these boroughs were really open.3 The countervailing duties were adjusted with equal facility, and a separate Bill was introduced and carried, settling the manner of the election to the Imperial Parliament. The representative peers were to be at once chosen by their brother peers, but with this exception no election was to take place at the Union, and the constituencies had therefore no immediate opportunity of expressing their judgment of their representatives. Where the representation was unchanged, the sitting members were to pass at once into the Imperial Parliament. Where the representation was curtailed, one of the two sitting members was to be selected by lot, and by the same Bill the order of the rotation of the spiritual peers was fixed./sp>.1 The Union resolutions were cast into the form of a Bill, and on May 21, the House, by 160 votes to 100, gave leave for its introduction, and it was at once read a first time. George Ponsonby, who chiefly led the Opposition, acknowledged in a short, discouraged speech, that he had no hope of shaking the majority, but he said that he would fulfil his duty, and oppose the measure to the end.2
On the 26th, the Bill was read a second time, and on the motion for its committal, Grattan made a long, eloquent, but most inflammatory speech. He asserted that ‘at a time of national debility and division,’ the Ministers were forcing a Bill for the destruction of Irish liberty and of the Irish Constitution, through Parliament in the teeth of the declared sense of the country, and ‘by the most avowed corruption, threats, and stratagems, accompanied by martial law.’ He enumerated the several grounds of his charge, and accused the majority of employing the power that had been entrusted to them to preserve the settled order of things, for the purpose of introducing a new order of things, making government a question of strength and not of opinion, and eradicating the great fundamental and ancient principles of public security, as effectually as the most unscrupulous Jacobins. He predicted that anarchy, and not order, would be the result; that Government in Ireland would be fatally discredited, and would lose all its moral force. He traversed with burning eloquence the old arguments against the revenue clauses and the commercial clauses, predicting that the Irish contribution would prove beyond the capacities of the country; that rapidly increasing debt, speedy bankruptcy, and full English taxation, were in store for Ireland; that Irish manufactures and commerce would wither with Irish liberty, and that military government would prevail. He accused the dominant faction in Ireland of having produced by their mis-government all the calamities of the late rebellion, and he denounced, in language of extreme and ungovernable violence, the assertion that, ‘after a mature consideration, the people had pronounced their judgment in favour of the Union.’ Of that assertion, he said, ‘not one single syllable has any existence in fact or in the appearance of fact. I appeal to the petitions of twenty-one counties publicly convened, and to the other petitions of other counties numerously signed, and to those of the great towns and cities. To affirm that the judgment of a nation is erroneous, may mortify, but to assert that she has said aye, when she has pronounced no … to make the falsification of her sentiments the foundation of her ruin, … to affirm that her Parliament, Constitution, liberty, honour, property, are taken away by her own authority,’ exhibits an effrontery that can only excite ‘astonishment and disgust,’ ‘whether the British Minister speaks in gross and total ignorance of the truth, or in shameless and supreme contempt for it.’
The concluding passages of the speech were in a different strain, and pointed clearly to the belief that, although the Union was inevitable, it would not be permanent. ‘The Constitution may, for a time, be so lost—the character of the country cannot be so lost. The Ministers of the Crown may, at length, find that it is not so easy to put down for ever an ancient and a respectable nation by abilities, however great, by power and corruption, however irresistible. Liberty may repair her golden beams, and with redoubled heart animate the country.’ Neither the cry of loyalty, nor the cry of the connection, nor the cry of disaffection will, in the end, avail against the principle of liberty. ‘I do not give up the country. I see her in a swoon, but she is not dead; though in her tomb she lies helpless and motionless, still there is on her lips a spirit of life, and on her cheek a glow of beauty.
Such language was described by Lord Castlereagh as a direct appeal to rebellion, or at least as a kind of ‘prophetical treason,’ and it was a fair, and by no means an extreme specimen of the kind of language which was employed by the leaders of the Opposition. Goold, Plunket, Bushe, Saurin, Lord Corry, Ponsonby, Foster, were all men of high private character; and some of them were men of very eminent abilities and attainments, of great social position, of great parliamentary influence and experience. They all used the same kind of language as Grattan. They all described the Union as a measure which could never have been imposed on Ireland if the country had not been weakened and divided by the great recent rebellion, and occupied by a great English army. They all asserted that it was being carried contrary to the clearly expressed wishes of the constituencies, and by shameful and extensive corruption, and they all predicted the worst consequences from its enactment.
Such prophecies had a great tendency to fulfil themselves, and the language of the Opposition went far towards forming the later opinions of the country. In Parliament, however, it had no effect. The House was languid, and tired of the subject. Many of the members were absent, and in two divisions that were taken on the committal, the Government carried their points by 118 to 73, and by 124 to 87. Even in debate the remarkable ability, and still more remarkable dignity and self-control, displayed by Lord Castlereagh, enabled him to hold his own.1 Beyond the limits of Parliament there were undoubtedly many men, chiefly of the Established Church, who still worshipped with a passionate enthusiasm the ideal of 1782, and who endured all the pangs of despairing patriotism as they watched the progress of its eclipse. But the great mass of the Irish people were animated by no such feelings. There was no movement, indeed, to support the Government. There is no real reason to believe, that if the free constituencies had been consulted by a dissolution, they would have reversed the judgment expressed by their representatives and by their petitions. But the movement of petitioning had wholly flagged. Demonstrations seem to have almost ceased, and there were absolutely none of the signs which are invariably found when a nation struggles passionately against what it deems an impending tyranny, or rallies around some institution which it really loves. The country had begun to look with indifference or with a languid curiosity to the opening of a new chapter of Irish history, and it was this indifference which made it possible to carry the Union. At one moment, it is true, there were grave fears that a movement for petitioning would spread through the militia and yeomanry, but the dismissal of Lord Downshire completely checked it, and in the last and most critical phases of the struggle the Opposition found themselves almost wholly unsupported by any strong feeling in the nation.
The letters of Cornwallis are full of evidence of this apathy. ‘The country,’ he writes, ‘is perfectly quiet, and cannot in general be said to be adverse to the Union.’ ‘The Opposition … admit the thing to be over, and that they have no chance either in or out of Parliament.’ ‘The city is perfectly quiet, and has shown no sensation on the subject of Union since the recommencement of business after the adjournment.’ ‘Notwithstanding all reports, you may be assured that the Union is not generally unpopular, and it is astonishing how little agitation it occasions even in Dublin, which is at present more quiet than it has been for many years.’ 1 ‘I hardly think,’ wrote Cooke to Lord Grenville, ‘we shall have any serious debate hereafter. Many of our opponents are on the wing. There is no sensation on the subject in town or country.’ 2 The Opposition were not unconscious of the fact, and at least one of their conspicuous members seems to have complained bitterly of the indifference of the nation.3
Their leaders desired to place upon the journals of the House a full record of their case, and they accordingly drew up a long, skilful, and very elaborate address to the King, embodying in a clear and forcible form most of the arguments and facts which have been given in the foregoing pages.1 A single paragraph may here be noticed, on account of the light that it throws on the spirit in which the opposition to the Union was conducted. Having pointed to the efficacy and rapidity with which the resident Parliament had exerted itself for the suppression of the recent rebellion, the writers argued that no non-resident Parliament would be likely to combat disaffection with equal promptitude and equal energy, and predicted that the Union would be followed by a removal or abasement of the men of property and respectability, which would ‘leave room for political agitators, and men of talents without principle or property, to disturb and irritate the public mind.’ This indeed appears to have been one of the guiding ideas of Grattan, who had before argued that a measure which took the government of the country out of the hands of the upper orders, and compelled them ‘to proclaim and register their own incapacity in the rolls of their own Parliament,’ would ultimately give a fatal impulse to the worst forms of Irish Jacobinism.
This address was moved in the House of Commons, by Lord Corry, on June 6, and defeated by 135 to 77, and the Bill then passed quickly through its remaining stages. In the last stage, Dobbs, in whom a religious enthusiasm amounting to monomania was strangely blended with a very genuine and reasonable patriotism, made a wild and frantic speech, declaring that ‘the independence of Ireland was written in the immutable records of Heaven;’ that the Messiah was about to appear on the holy hill of Armagh, and that although the Union might pass the House, it could never become operative, as it was impossible that a kingdom which Revelation showed to be under the special favour of Heaven, could be absorbed in one of the ten kingdoms typified in the image of Daniel.2 After a bitter protest from Plunket, a great part of the Opposition seceded, to avoid witnessing the final scene, and the Union passed through the Irish Commons. ‘The greatest satisfaction,’ wrote Cornwallis, ‘is that it occasions no agitation, either in town or country, and indeed one of the violent anti-Union members complained last night in the House, that the people had deserted them.’ 1 The Compensation Bill speedily followed, and was but little resisted. In the Upper House, Lord Farnham and Lord Bellamont strongly urged the excessive amount of the contribution to be paid by Ireland under the Union arrangement,2 and there were two divisions in which the Government had majorities of fifty-nine and fifty-two. The twenty peers who had before protested, placed on the journals of the House a second and somewhat fuller protest. The Bill was then sent to England, where it passed speedily through both Houses, and it received the royal sanction on the first of August, the anniversary of the accession of the Hanoverian dynasty to the British throne. The King, in proroguing the British Parliament, declared that the Union was a measure on which his wishes had long been earnestly bent, and he pronounced it to be the happiest event of his reign.
The other formalities connected with it, need not detain us. The Great Seal of Britain was delivered up and defaced, and a new Seal of the Empire was given to the Chancellor. A change was introduced into the royal titles, and into the royal arms, and the occasion was made use of to drop the idle and offensive title of ‘King of France,’ which the English sovereigns had hitherto maintained. A new standard, combining the three orders of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick, was hoisted in the capitals of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The noble building in which the Irish Parliament had held its sessions, was soon after bought by the Bank of Ireland. It is a curious and significant fact, that the Government in consenting to this sale made a secret stipulation, that the purchasers should subdivide and alter the chambers in which the two Houses had met, so as to destroy as much as possible their old appearance.1 It was feared that disquieting ghosts might still haunt the scenes that were consecrated by so many memories.
I have related with such fullness the history of this memorable conflict that the reader will, I trust, have no difficulty in estimating the full strength of the case on each side; the various arguments, motives, and influences that governed the event. A very few words of comment are all that need be added. If the Irish Parliament had consisted mainly, or to any appreciable extent, of men who were disloyal to the connection, and whose sympathies were on the side of rebellion or with the enemies of England, the English Ministers would, I think, have been amply justified in employing almost any means to abolish it. It is scarcely possible to over-estimate the danger that would arise if the vast moral, legislative, and even administrative powers which every separate Legislature must necessarily possess, were exercised in any near and vital part of the British Empire, by men who were disloyal to its interests. To place the government of a country by a voluntary and deliberate act in the hands of dishonest and disloyal men, is perhaps the greatest crime that a public man can commit; a crime which, in proportion to the strength and soundness of national morality, must consign those who are guilty of it to undying infamy. If, however, a Parliament which was once loyal has assumed a disloyal character, the case is a different one, and the course of a wise statesman will be determined by a comparison of conflicting dangers. But in a time of such national peril as England was passing through in the great Napoleon war, when the whole existence and future of the Empire were trembling most doubtfully in the balance, history would not, I think, condemn with severity any means that were required to withdraw the direction of Irish resources from disloyal hands. In such moments of agony and crisis, self-preservation becomes the supreme end, and the transcendent importance of saving the Empire from destruction suspends and eclipses all other rules. But it cannot be too clearly understood or too emphatically stated, that the legislative Union was not an act of this nature. The Parliament which was abolished was a Parliament of the most unqualified loyalists; it had shown itself ready to make every sacrifice in its power for the maintenance of the Empire, and from the time when Arthur O‘Connor and Lord Edward Fitzgerald passed beyond its walls, it probably did not contain a single man who was really disaffected. The dangers to be feared on this side were not imminent, but distant; and the war and the rebellion created not a necessity, but an opportunity.
It must be added, that it was becoming evident that the relation between the two countries, established by the Constitution of 1782, could not have continued unchanged. It is true, indeed, as I have already contended, that in judging such relations, too much stress is usually placed on the nature of the legislative machinery, and too little on the dispositions of the men who work it. But even with the best dispositions, the Constitution of 1782 involved many and grave probabilities of difference, and the system of a separate and independent Irish Parliament, with an Executive appointed and instructed by the English Cabinet, and depending on English party changes, was hopelessly anomalous, and could not fail some day to produce serious collision. It was impossible that the exact poise could have been permanently maintained, and it was doubtful whether the centripetal tendency in the direction of Union, or the centrifugal tendency in the direction of Separation, would ultimately prevail. Sooner or later the corrupt borough ascendency must have broken down, and it was a grave question what was to succeed it. Grattan indeed believed that in the Irish gentry and yeomanry, who formed and directed the volunteers, there would be found a strong body of loyal and independent political feeling, and that the government might pass out of the hands of a corrupt aristocracy, of whose demerits he was very sensible,1 without falling into those of a democracy from which he expected nothing but confiscation and anarchy.2 He relied upon the decadence of the sectarian spirit in Europe, and upon the tried loyalty of the Catholic gentry and bishops, to prevent a dangerous antagonism of Protestants and Catholics, and he imagined that an Irish Parliament, fired with the spirit of nationality, could accomplish or complete the great work of fusing into one the two nations which inhabited Ireland. But the United Irishmen had poisoned the springs of political life. The French Revolution had given popular feeling a new ply and new ideals; an enormous increase of disloyalty and religious animosity had taken place during the last years of the century, and it added immensely to the danger of the democratic Catholic suffrage, which the Act of 1793 had called into existence.
This was the strongest argument for hurrying on the Union; but when all due weight is assigned to it, it does not appear to me to have justified the policy of Pitt. On the morrow of the complete suppression of the rebellion, the danger of the Parliament being conquered by the party of disloyalty or anarchy cannot have been imminent; and if it had become so, there can be little doubt that the governing, the loyal, and the propertied classes in Ireland would have themselves called for an Union. It is quite certain that in 1799, it was not desired or asked for by the classes who were most vitally interested in the preservation of the existing order of property and law, and who had the best means of knowing the true condition of the country. The measure was an English one, introduced prematurely before it had been demanded by any section of Irish opinion, carried without a dissolution and by gross corruption, in opposition to the majority of the free constituencies and to the great preponderance of the unbribed intellect of Ireland. Under such conditions it was scarcely likely to prove successful.
It may, however, be truly said that there have been many instances of permanent and beneficial national consolidations effected with equal or greater violence to opinion. The history of every leading kingdom in Europe is in a large degree a history of successive forcible amalgamations. England herself is no exception, and there was probably more genuine and widespread repugnance to the new order of things in Wales at the time of her conquest, and in Scotland at the time of her Union, than existed in Ireland in 1800. A similar statement may be made of many of the changes that accompanied or followed the Napoleonic wars, and in a very eminent degree of the reunion of the subjugated Southern States to the great American republic. At a still later period the unification of Germany, which is probably the most important political achievement of our own generation, was certainly not accomplished in accordance with the genuine and spontaneous wishes of every kingdom that was absorbed. If the Union had few active partisans, it was at least received by great sections of the Irish people with an indifference and an acquiescence which prompt, skilful, and energetic legislation might have converted into cordial support. The moment, however, was critical in the extreme, and it was necessary that Irish politics should, for a time at least, take a foremost place in the decisions of the Government.
The evils to be remedied were many and glaring, and some of them had little or no connection with political controversy. There were the innumerable unlicensed whisky shops all over the country, which were everywhere the centres of crime, sedition, and conspiracy, and which many good judges considered the master curse of Ireland; the most powerful of all the influences that were sapping the morals of the nation.1 There was the shameful non-residence of a great proportion of the beneficed clergy and bishops of the Established Church, an evil which, in the opinion of Dean Warburton, contributed, in the North at least, more than almost any other cause, to open the door to the seduction of revolutionary agents. It was due to the disturbed condition of the country; to the scantiness of the Protestant population in many districts; to the low standard of public duty that everywhere prevailed, and, perhaps still more, to the want of proper residences for the clergy. It was said that out of 2,400 parishes in Ireland, not more than 400 had glebe houses, and it was part of the plan of Grenville and Pitt, while granting new privileges to the Catholics, to strengthen the civilising influence of the Established Church by the erection of churches and glebes, by enforcing more strictly ecclesiastical discipline, and by augmenting the incomes of the poorest clergy.1 After the Union this abuse was gradually remedied, partly through the operation of an Act enforcing residence, which was passed in 1808,2 and partly through the higher standard of clerical duty which followed in the train of the Evangelical revival.
Another, and even graver evil, which was more slowly cured, was the gross and sordid ignorance of the largest part of the population—an ignorance which brought with it, as a necessary consequence, barbarous habits and tastes, miserable agriculture, improvident marriages, an inveterate proneness to anarchy and violence. The great work of national education had not yet been taken up on any extended scale by the State, but it was manifest that State education was far more needed in Ireland than in England, as it was impossible that a Protestant Church could discharge the task of educating a Catholic population. Statesmen in Ireland had not been insensible to this want, but nearly all their schemes had been vitiated by being restricted to Protestants, or connected with proselytism, or through the inveterate jobbing that pervaded all parts of Irish life. An Act of Henry VIII. had directed the establishment of an English school in every parish in Ireland. An Act of Elizabeth, which was reinforced or extended by several subsequent laws, instituted in every diocese a free diocesan school under the direction of a Protestant clergyman. Under James I. and his two successors seven important ‘royal schools’ were founded and endowed, as well as the first of the four blue-coat schools in Ireland. Shortly after the Act of Settlement, Erasmus Smith devoted a considerable property to the endowment of Protestant day schools and grammar schools, and they soon spread over a great part of Ireland. In 1733 the Irish Parliament instituted the Charter Schools, which were intended to bring up the poorest and most neglected Catholic children as Protestants, and at the same time to give them a sound industrial education. We have seen what large sums were lavished on these schools; how signally they failed in their object, and what scandalous abuses were connected with them; and we have also seen how Orde's later scheme of national education was abandoned.
Private enterprise had no doubt done much. A writer in 1796 mentions that, in Dublin alone, there were in that year not less than fifty-four charity schools, educating 7,416 children,1 and an immense multiplication of unendowed Catholic schools had followed the repeal of those laws against Catholic education, which were, perhaps, the worst part of the penal code.2 But the supply of education remained very deficient in quantity, and still more in quality. By the Act of 1792, any Catholic who took the prescribed oath might compel the magistrate to license him as a teacher,3 and great numbers of men who were not only incompetent, but notoriously disaffected, availed themselves of the privilege, and they exercised a serious and most evil influence in the rebellion. Sectarian feeling, and especially the peculiar form of Protestant feeling which grew up with the Evangelical revival, added greatly to the difficulties of the case. It was not until thirty-one years after the Union that Parliament took up efficiently, and on a large scale, the task of educating the Irish people, and by that time the country was covered with a dense, improvident, impoverished, and anarchical population, already far exceeding its natural resources, and increasing with a rapidity which foreshadowed only too surely a great impending catastrophe.1
There were other evils of a different kind. One of the worst results of the existence of a separate Irish Parliament, was the enormous jobbing in Government patronage, and in the dispensation of honours, that took place for the purpose of maintaining a parliamentary majority. The Irish Custom and Revenue Departments were full of highly paid offices, which naturally entailed laborious and important duties, corresponding to those which were discharged in England by hard-working secretaries and clerks. In Ireland such posts were commonly given to members of Parliament or their relatives, who treated them as sinecures, and devoted a fraction of their salaries to paying deputies to discharge their duties. I have mentioned how the great office of Master of the Rolls had long been treated as a political sinecure, and at the time of the Union it was jointly held by Lords Glandore and Carysfort, with an income estimated at 2,614l. a year, part of which was derived from an open sale of offices in the Court of Chancery.2 Even the military patronage of the Lord Lieutenant had been long, to the great indignation of the army, made use of to reward political services in Parliament.3 With the abolition of the local Parliament, these great evils gradually came to an end; and although the Union was very far from altogether purifying Government patronage, it did undoubtedly greatly improve it. The existing holders of the Mastership of the Rolls were paid off with an annuity equal to the revenues they had received; the office was turned into an efficient judgeship, and bestowed, with a somewhat increased salary, on a capable lawyer, and various unnecessary offices were, in time, suppressed. The Administration of Lord Hardwicke appears to have been especially active in restraining jobbing, and in this department, perhaps more than in any other, were the anticipations of the more honest supporters of the Union realised.
Very little, however, was done for some years to repress anarchy, and provide for the steady enforcement of law.
An Act of 1822 somewhat enlarged and strengthened the scanty provisions for the establishment of constables in every barony which the Irish Parliament had made, but the first step of capital importance was the organisation by Drummond, in 1836, of that great constabulary force which has proved, perhaps, the most valuable boon conferred by Imperial legislation upon Ireland, and which has displayed in the highest perfection, and in many evil days, the nobler qualities of the Irish character.
It was evident, however, to all sound observers at the time, and it became still more evident in the light of succeeding events, that the success or failure of the Union was likely to depend mainly on the wise and speedy accomplishment of three great kindred measures, the emancipation of the Catholics, the commutation of tithes, and the payment of the priests. It was most necessary that a change which was certain for so many reasons to offend and irritate the national pride, should be accompanied by some great and striking benefit which would appeal powerfully to the nation; and England had no commercial advantages to offer to Ireland, that were at all equivalent to those which the Union of 1707 had conferred upon Scotland. The Catholic question had risen to the foremost place in Irish politics, and it had already been made the subject of two of the most fatal blunders in the whole history of English statesmanship. By the Relief Act of 1793 a vast and utterly ignorant Catholic democracy had been admitted into the constituencies, while the grievance of disqualification was still suffered to continue through the exclusion from Parliament of a loyal and eminently respectable Catholic gentry, whose guiding and restraining political influence had never been more necessary. In 1795 the hopes of the Catholics were raised to the point of certainty, and the Irish Parliament was quite ready to gratify them, when the English Ministry recalled Lord Fitzwilliam, and drove the most energetic section of the Catholics into the arms of the United Irishmen. After the terrible years that followed, no statesmanship could have speedily restored the relation of classes and creeds that existed in 1793 or even in 1795, but a great opportunity had once more arisen, and the Sibylline books were again presented.
We have seen that it had been the first wish of Pitt and Dundas in England, and of Cornwallis in Ireland, to make Catholic emancipation a part of the Union; and when this course was found to be impracticable, there is good reason to believe that Canning recommended Pitt to drop the Union, until a period arrived when it would be possible to carry the two measures concurrently.1 Wiser advice was probably never given, but it was not followed, and a Protestant Union was carried, with an understanding that when it was accomplished, the Ministry would introduce the measure of Catholic emancipation into an Imperial Parliament. It was this persuasion or understanding that secured the neutrality and acquiescence of the greater part of the Irish Catholics, without which, in the opinion of the very best judges, the Union could never have been carried.
These negotiations have been made the subject of much controversy, and some of their details are complicated and doubtful; but there is not, I think, any real obscurity about the main facts, though the stress which has been laid on each set of them by historians, is apt to vary greatly with the political bias of the writer. It is in the first place quite clear that the English Ministers did not give any definite pledge or promise that they would carry Catholic emancipation in the Imperial Parliament, or make its triumph a matter of life and death to the Administration. On two points only did they expressly pledge themselves. The one was, that, as far as lay in their power, they would exert the whole force of Government influence to prevent the introduction of Catholics into a separate Irish Parliament. The other was, that they would not permit any clause in the Union Act which might bar the future entry of Catholics into the Imperial Parliament; and the fourth article of the Union accordingly stated, that the present oaths and declaration were retained only ‘until the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall otherwise provide.’
At the same time, from the beginning of the negotiations about the Union, Cornwallis, who was himself a strong advocate of Catholic emancipation, had been in close and confidential intercourse with the leading members of the Catholic body. He had discussed with them the possibility of connecting Catholic emancipation with the Union, and had reported to England that they were in favour of the Union, and that they fully approved of adjourning their own question till an Imperial Parliament had been created, on the ground that a different course would make the difficulties of carrying the Union in Ireland insuperable. They knew, however, that the disposition of Pitt and the disposition of Cornwallis were in favour of emancipation in an Imperial Parliament, and this knowledge was certainly a leading element in determining their course. In all the official arguments in favour of the Union in the early part of 1799, great stress was laid upon the fact, that the Union would make an extension of Catholic privileges possible without endangering the Irish Church and the stability of Irish property, but at the same time the utmost care was taken to avoid any language that could be construed into a pledge, or could offend the strong Protestant party in the Irish Parliament and Government.
Cooke, in the official pamphlet recommending the scheme, argued that Catholic emancipation in an Irish Parliament must ultimately prove incompatible with the maintenance of the Church Establishment, and with the security of Protestant property, but that ‘if Ireland was once united to Great Britain by a legislative Union, and the maintenance of the Protestant Establishment was made a fundamental article of that Union, then the whole power of the Empire would be pledged to the Church Establishment of Ireland, and the property of the whole Empire would be pledged in support of the property of every part,’ and he inferred that, as ‘the Catholics could not force their claims with hostility against the whole power of Great Britain and Ireland,’ there would be ‘no necessary State partiality towards Protestants,’ and ‘an opening might be left in any plan of Union for the future admission of Catholics to additional privileges.’ 1 Pitt, in his great speech in January 1799, said, ‘No man can say that in the present state of things, and while Ireland remains a separate kingdom, full concessions could be made to the Catholics without endangering the State, and shaking the Constitution of Ireland to its centre. On the other hand, without anticipating the discussion, or the propriety of agitating the question, or saying how soon or how late it may be fit to discuss it, two propositions are indisputable. First, when the conduct of the Catholics shall be such as to make it safe for the Government to admit them to the participation of the privileges granted to those of the established religion, and when the temper of the time shall be favourable to such a measure, … it is obvious that such a question may be agitated in an United Imperial Parliament with much greater safety than it could be in a separate Legislature. In the second place, I think it certain, that, even for whatever period it may be thought necessary, after the Union, to withhold from the Catholics the enjoyment of these advantages, many of the objections, which at present arise out of their situation, would be removed if a Protestant Legislature were no longer separate and local, but general and Imperial.’ 2 Dundas used very similar language. ‘An Union,’ he said, ‘is likely to prove advantageous to the Catholics of both countries…. Should it ever be found prudent wholly to improve the condition of the great majority of the Irish nation, the English Catholics might expect to be no longer under any restraints.’ 2
The extreme and calculated vagueness of this language is very evident, and there is no doubt that Cornwallis, in accordance with his instructions, at this time carefully abstained from giving any pledge to the Catholic leaders, though they can hardly have remained ignorant of his opinion, that their admission into the Imperial Parliament would be not only a safe measure, but one which was absolutely essential to the peace of Ireland.3 When, however, the Union scheme was defeated in the session of 1799, and when it became evident that the great body of the county members and of the Irish Protestants were against it, the Government felt that the time had come for a more decided policy. Cornwallis had warned them, that it was very doubtful whether the Catholics would remain even passive, if they had 1 nothing to rely on but a mere unsupported calculation of the probable disposition of the Imperial Parliament. It was known that some leading members of the Opposition were making overtures to them, offering to support their emancipation, if they would help in defeating the Union,1 and there was every reason to believe, that if the Catholics could be persuaded that Foster and his party had the will and the power to procure their admission into the Irish Parliament, they would declare themselves almost unanimously against the Government.2 In the opinion both of Cornwallis and Castlereagh, it would, in that case, have been impossible to carry the Union.
Under these circumstances, Castlereagh went over to England in the autumn of 1799, by the direction of the Lord Lieutenant, to lay the case before Pitt and his colleagues; and he has himself, in a most important letter, described the result of his mission. ‘I stated,’ he says, ‘that we had a majority in Parliament, composed of very doubtful materials: that the Protestant body was divided on the question [of the Union], with the disadvantage of Dublin and the Orange societies against us; and that the Catholics were holding back, under a doubt whether the Union would facilitate or impede their object. I stated it as the opinion of the Irish Government, that, circumstanced as the parliamentary interests and the Protestant feelings then were, the measure could not be carried if the Catholics were embarked in an active opposition to it, and that their resistance would be unanimous and zealous if they had reason to suppose that the sentiments of Ministers would remain unchanged in respect to their exclusion, while the measure of Union in itself might give them additional means of disappointing their hopes.
‘I stated that several attempts had been made by leading Catholics to bring Government to an explanation, which had, of course, been evaded, and that the body, thus left to their own speculations in respect to the future influence of the Union upon their cause, were, with some exceptions, either neutral, or actual opponents—the former entertaining hopes, but not inclining to support decidedly without some encouragement from Government; the latter entirely hostile, from a persuasion that it would so strengthen the Protestant interest, as to perpetuate their exclusion.
‘I represented that the friends of Government, by flattering the hopes of the Catholics, had produced a favourable impression in Cork, Tipperary, and Galway; but that, in proportion as his Excellency had felt the advantage of this popular support, he was anxious to be ascertained, in availing himself of the assistance which he knew was alone given in contemplation of its being auxiliary to their own views, that he was not involving Government in future difficulties with that body, by exposing them to a charge of duplicity, and he was peculiarly desirous of being secure against such a risk before he personally encouraged the Catholics to come forward and to afford him that assistance which he felt to be so important to the success of the measure.
‘In consequence of this representation, the Cabinet took the measure into their consideration; and having been directed to attend the meeting, I was charged to convey to Lord Cornwallis the result…. Accordingly, I communicated to Lord Cornwallis, that the opinion of the Cabinet was favourable to the principle of the measure; that some doubt was entertained as to the possibility of admitting Catholics into some of the higher offices, and that Ministers apprehended considerable repugnance to the measure in many quarters, and particularly in the highest, but that, as far as the sentiments of the Cabinet were concerned, his Excellency need not hesitate in calling forth the Catholic support, in whatever degree he found it practicable to obtain it…. I certainly did not then hear any direct objection stated against the principle of the measure, by any one of the Ministers then present. You will, I have no doubt, recollect, that so far from any serious hesitation being entertained in respect to the principle, it was even discussed whether an immediate declaration to the Catholics would not be advisable, and whether an assurance should not be distinctly given them, in the event of the Union being accomplished, of their objects being submitted, with the countenance of Government, to the United Parliament, upon a peace. This idea was laid aside, principally upon a consideration that such a declaration might alienate the Protestants in both countries from the Union, in a greater degree than it was calculated to assist the measure through the Catholics, and accordingly the instructions which I was directed to convey to Lord Cornwallis were to the following effect: that his Excellency was fully warranted in soliciting every support the Catholics could afford; that he need not apprehend, as far as the sentiments of the Cabinet were concerned, being involved in the difficulty with that body which he seemed to apprehend; that it was not thought expedient at that time, to give any direct assurance to the Catholics, but that, should circumstances so far alter as to induce his Excellency to consider such an explanation necessary, he was at liberty to state the grounds on which his opinion was formed, for the consideration of the Cabinet.
‘In consequence of this communication, the Irish Government omitted no exertion to call forth the Catholics in favour of the Union. Their efforts were very generally successful, and the advantage derived from them was highly useful, particularly in depriving the Opposition of the means they otherwise would have had in the southern and western counties, of making an impression on the county members. His Excellency was enabled to accomplish his purpose without giving the Catholics any direct assurance of being gratified, and throughout the contest earnestly avoided being driven to such an expedient, as he considered a gratuitous concession after the measure as infinitely more consistent with the character of Government.’ 1
It was mainly by these assurances of the intentions of the English Cabinet, that the Catholics were restrained from throwing themselves heartily and as a body into the anti-Unionist movement in the spring of 1800, and that the overtures of Foster's party for an alliance were defeated. The transcendent importance of the result appears clearly from Lord Castlereagh's words, and it is amply confirmed by all the confidential correspondence of the Government. ‘All depends on the tone of the country,’ wrote Cooke; ‘if we can keep that right, I believe all may do well.’ The Opposition, he said, had failed ‘in exciting popular resistance.’ ‘Our adversaries … know that any attempt to move Government without a general cry of popular discontent is folly.’ ‘If the public out of doors can be kept quiet, I think we may now do well.’ ‘The Opposition still hope to inflame the country, but they have not effected their purpose yet.’ 1 The movement against the Union in this year was far more serious and extensive than any which the Government had been able to obtain in its favour, and many Catholics joined with the Protestants, but the great Catholic body did not throw themselves into it, and the Union was in consequence carried. ‘The Catholics,’ Cornwallis afterwards wrote, ‘in the late political contest on the measure of Union … certainly had it in their power to have frustrated the views of Government, and throw the country into the utmost confusion.’ 2
In spite of the reservations that had been made, their leaders considered that their cause was won when the Lord Lieutenant was authorised to ask their assistance, on the ground that the English Cabinet was in favour of their emancipation in an Imperial Parliament. They naturally inferred that the Ministers had unanimously resolved to carry it, and they made no question of their power. They knew that the existing Government had ruled England most absolutely for seventeen years; that the personal authority of Pitt had hardly been equalled by Walpole, and had been approached by no later Minister; that the Opposition in both Houses had sunk into insignificance. Difficulties on the part of the King, and a possible postponement of their triumph, had no doubt been hinted at, but the Catholic leaders had every reason to believe that Pitt could carry his policy, and they had no reason to believe the royal objections to be insuperable. When the King prorogued the British Parliament immediately after the Union, he described himself as ‘persuaded that nothing could so effectually contribute to extend to his Irish subjects the full participation of the blessings derived from the British Constitution,’ as the great measure which had been carried. What, it was asked, could such language mean, but that the mass of the Irish people were speedily to be admitted to that participation, by the removal of the one disqualification that excluded them from it?
It is well known how their hopes were disappointed, and the story is both a melancholy and a shameful one. Though the Catholic leaders probably knew that they had to encounter an indisposition on the part of the King, they did not know that he had already told his Ministers that he would consider his consent to Catholic emancipation a breach of his coronation oath, and that, on the appointment of Lord Cornwallis, he had expressly written to Pitt, ‘Lord Cornwallis must clearly understand that no indulgence can be granted to the Catholics farther than has been, I am afraid unadvisedly, done, in former sessions.’ 1 They did not know that the overtures that had been made to them were made entirely without the knowledge of the King, without any attempt to sound his disposition or to mitigate his hostility, without any resolution on the part of Pitt to make Catholic emancipation an indispensable condition of his continuing in office, without even any real unanimity in the Cabinet. At the time, indeed, when the Union was not yet carried, and when its success was very doubtful, Castlereagh had mentioned it to the Cabinet, and no one had objected; but when the Union had been safely accomplished, and Pitt, in the September of 1800, brought the Catholic question formally before his colleagues, the Chancellor, Lord Loughborough, for the first time struck a discordant note, objecting to any favour being granted to the Catholics except a commutation of tithes.
He had been staying at Weymouth with the King, and had probably convinced himself that the King's mind was as hostile as ever to the measure. He had long been notoriously aspiring to the position of ‘King's friend,’ which Thurlow had once held, and he had once before taken a very significant course on the question which was now pending. In 1795, when the King had consulted some leading lawyers about the compatibility of Catholic emancipation and the coronation oath, Lord Kenyon and Sir John Scott had assured the King that the alteration of the Test Act was perfectly compatible with the coronation oath; but Lord Loughborough, without definitely committing himself to the opposite opinion, had separated himself from the other lawyers, and answered much more doubtfully.2 He now, without the knowledge of his colleagues, informed the King of the intentions of the Cabinet, drew up a paper of arguments against the proposed measure, and with the anti-Catholic party, of which his relative Lord Auckland was the chief, proceeded to influence the mind of the King still more against Pitt. The Archbishops of Canterbury and of Armagh, and the Bishop of London, were all made use of to confirm the King in his opposition.
A grave embarrassment was thus thrown in the path of the Government. In the judgment of Lord Malmesbury, ‘if Pitt had been provident enough to prepare the King's mind gradually, and to prove to him that the test proposed was as binding as the present oath, no difficulty could have arisen.’ If, on the other hand, as Pitt apparently desired, no communication had been made to the King until Catholic emancipation, accompanied with the necessary oath for the security of the Established Church, and with matured plans for the payment of the priests, and the commutation of tithes, could have been presented to him as the deliberate and unanimous policy of his Cabinet, there is little doubt that he must have yielded. But a cabal had been raised, while the question was still unsettled, and the King at once determined upon his course. At a levee which was held on January 28, he expressed to Dundas, in the hearing of a number of gentlemen who stood by, his vehement indignation at hearing of the proposal which Lord Castlereagh had brought over from Ireland, and declared in a loud tone, that it was ‘the most Jacobinical thing’ he had ever heard of, and that he would reckon any man ‘his personal enemy’ who proposed any such measure.1 He wrote in the same strain and with no less vehemence to the Speaker, Addington, urging him to persuade Pitt not even to mention the subject.2
The knowledge of the royal sentiments at once gave activity to the whole party of Auckland and Westmorland, and made an evident impression on the Cabinet. Lord Loughborough was no longer isolated. The Duke of Portland, Lord Liverpool, and even Lord Chatham, the brother of Pitt, began to veer towards the Opposition; and when Pitt wrote to the King on January 81, urging the admission of the Catholics and Dissenters to offices, and of the Catholics to Parliament (from which Dissenters were not excluded), subject to certain specified tests for the purpose of guarding against any danger to the Established Church, he was only able to describe this policy as ‘what appeared to be the prevailing sentiments of the majority of the Cabinet.’ He expatiated in the same letter on the nature and force of the test which he proposed, and he added that the measure should be accompanied by one for ‘gradually attaching the popish clergy to the Government, and for this purpose making them dependent for a part of their provision (under proper regulations) on the State, and by also subjecting them to superintendence and control.’ He added, too, that he desired a political pledge to be exacted ‘from the preachers of all Catholic or Dissenting congregations, and from the teachers of schools of every denomination.’ Such a policy, Pitt said, afforded ‘the best chance of giving full effect to the great object of the Union, that of tranquillising Ireland and attaching it to this country.’ ‘This opinion’ was ‘unalterably fixed in his mind, and must ultimately guide his political conduct,’ and he intimated that if not permitted to carry it into effect he must sooner or later resign.1
The King at once answered, that his coronation oath prevented him from even discussing ‘any proposition tending to destroy the groundwork of our happy Constitution, and much more so that now mentioned by Mr. Pitt, which is no less than the complete overthrow of the whole fabric.’ He reminded Dundas, that he had expressed similar opinions during the vice-royalty of Lord Westmorland, and during that of Lord Fitzwilliam. He complained bitterly that he had not been treated by his Ministers with proper confidence, and he proceeded to give his own view of the merits and probable effects of the Union, in language which contrasts most curiously with that which during two eventful years his Ministers had been using in Ireland. ‘My inclination to an Union with Ireland,’ he said, ‘was principally founded on a trust that the uniting the Established Churches of the two kingdoms would for ever shut the door to any further measures with respect to the Roman Catholics.’ If Pitt would be content never to mention the subject, the King said he would preserve an equal silence.2
It was becoming evident how gravely the Ministers had erred in failing to ascertain and modify the opinions of the King before they raised the question of the Union, and before they involved themselves in negotiations with the Catholics. As, however, the situation stood, it was, as it seems to me, the plain duty of Pitt at all hazards to persevere. It would be scarcely possible to exaggerate the political importance of his decision, for the success of the Union and the future loyalty of the Catholics of Ireland depended mainly upon his conduct; and beside the question of policy, there was a plain question of honour. After the negotiations that had been entered into with the Catholics, after the services that had been asked and obtained from them, and the hopes which had been authoritatively held out to them in order to obtain those services, Pitt could not without grave dishonour suffer them to be in a worse, because a more powerless position, than before the Union, or abandon their claims to a distant future, or support a Ministry which was formed in hostility to them.
There appears to me but little doubt that he could have carried his policy. It was utterly impossible, in the existing state of England, of the Continent, and of Parliament, that any Ministry could have subsisted, to which he was seriously opposed. The impossibility became the more evident, from the fact that the regular Opposition, under Fox and Grey, were openly in favour of Catholic emancipation. If he had persevered he must have triumphed, and the King must ultimately have submitted, as he did on several other occasions when his feelings were deeply affected, and in spite of his most vehement and unqualified protests. He had done so when he suffered Bute to be driven from his Government; when he acknowledged the independence of America; when he dismissed Thurlow; when he permitted Lord Malmesbury to negotiate with France; when he acquiesced in the recall of the Duke of York from the Netherlands; and he afterwards did so when he found it necessary to admit Fox into his councils. Even on his own principles, the question was not one excluding argument or compromise. He declared that it would be a breach of the coronation oath to assent to the abolition of the sacramental test, because it was the great bulwark of the Established Church, which he had sworn to defend.1 But it was part of the scheme of Pitt to frame a new political test, including an explicit oath of fidelity to the established Constitution both in Church and State, and to impose it not only on all members of Parliament, and holders of State and corporation offices, but also on all ministers of religion and teachers of schools.2 A test so wide and so stringent would surely be an adequate substitute for that which it was proposed to abolish, and it is not likely that, when the necessity arose, the conscience of the King would have been found inflexible. But a firm resolution on the part of Pitt to carry his policy was an indispensable condition.
He did indeed repeat his offer of resignation, declaring it to be based on his ‘unalterable sense of the line which public duty required of him.’ 3 and he afterwards defended his resignation in Parliament, on the ground that he and his colleagues deemed it equally ‘inconsistent with their duty and their honour’ to continue in office when they were not allowed to propose with the authority of Government, a measure which they deemed the proper sequel of the Union.4 Dundas, Grenville, Windham, Cornwallis, and Castlereagh took the same course, and they were accompanied by a few men in minor places, among whom Canning was the most conspicuous. But Pitt only accepted the necessity of resigning with extreme reluctance, after much discussion, and probably in a large degree under the pressure of Grenville and Canning, and it was at once seen that, if he at present refused to lead an anti-Catholic ministry, he was at least perfectly prepared not only to support, but in a large measure to construct one.5 The King applied to the Speaker Addington, as one who shared his opinions on the Catholic question,6 and Addington at once applied to Pitt. On the strenuous recommendation, on the earnest entreaty of Pitt, Addington accepted the task, and Pitt not only promised his full parliamentary support, but also exerted all his influence to induce the great body of his own colleagues to continue at their posts. The resignation even of Canning took place contrary to Pitt's expressed desire. His own brother, Lord Chatham, was one of those who remained in office.1
These proceedings were looked on in different quarters in very different ways. Wilberforce pronounced the conduct of Pitt to be ‘most magnanimous and patriotic'2 Abbot, who succeeded Castlereagh as Irish Secretary, considered it mysterious that Pitt should have resigned at all upon a question on which he was not pledged, and which was not pressing; while many of Pitt's friends pronounced his resignation to be a grievous error, and most damaging to the public weal.3 The Opposition on their side declared the whole transaction to be a mere juggle. It was perfectly evident, they maintained, that Addington would never have accepted office without a secret understanding with Pitt, and it was equally evident that he could only continue in it by Pitt's support. Pitt, they said, having entangled himself in an embarrassing engagement to the Catholics, was endeavouring to extricate himself by going through the form of resigning power into the hands of a dependant, from whom he could take it when he pleased. He did not mean to act fairly to the Catholics, or to press their cause with all his force, but he intended after a mock battle to come back again, and leave them in the lurch. By exerting himself to form an anti-Catholic Ministry, by assisting the adversaries of concession to adjourn the contest and consolidate their strength, he was preparing for himself a pretext for ultimately abandoning the question, while the inevitable recall which must soon follow his resignation would make him absolute in the Cabinet.1 It was also a very general belief, that the Catholic question was not the real, not the main, or at least not the only reason for the resignation. It had become necessary to negotiate once more for peace, and any other minister was likely to do so with more chance of success and with less personal humiliation than Pitt. For his own party interest, it was asked, what could be more advantageous than to quit office during these negotiations, and to resume it when they were terminated? It may at once be said, that there is no evidence whatever in the confidential letters of Pitt and of his colleagues, that this last consideration was ever discussed, or stated by them as a reason for the resignation, though it was too obvious to have escaped the notice of Pitt, and may very probably have contributed to dispel his hesitation. That it was not, however, his main motive, is proved decisively by a single fact. He was perfectly ready to resume office before the peace negotiations had been concluded.2
We must now return to affairs in Ireland. The strange indifference to the question of the Union, which appears to have prevailed there in the last stages of its discussion, still continued. There were, it is true, in many parts of the country, dangerous bodies of banditti, and there was much systematic anarchy. It was greatly feared that a French invasion would be widely welcomed, and one of the first acts of the Imperial Parliament was to continue both martial law and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, but it was not believed that the disturbances had any connection with the Union. ‘The quiet of the country at large on the subject,’ wrote Cornwallis, immediately after the measure had passed,’ and the almost good-humoured indifference with which it is viewed in the metropolis, where every species of outrageous opposition was to be expected, consoles us for the painful audiences we are obliged to give patiently to our discontented and insatiable supporters.1 After spending nearly a month in the autumn, in travelling through the South of Ireland, he wrote, ‘I found no trace of ill humour with respect to the Union, and with the exception only of the county of Limerick, the whole country through which I passed was as perfectly tranquil as any part of Britain.’ 2 He at the same time uniformly contended that the Union would do little or no good unless it were speedily followed by a Catholic Relief Bill. He predicted that if his successor threw himself into the hands of the Orange party, ‘no advantage would be derived from the Union;’ that if Lord Clare and his friends had their way at this critical time, they would ruin British government in Ireland, and drive the country speedily into rebellion.3 He believed that the confidence which the Catholics placed in his own disposition and intentions towards them, had contributed very largely to the present peace of Ireland and to the passing of the Union, and he declared that he could not, in consideration of his own character or of the public safety, leave them as he found them.4
It is remarkable, however, how soon, in spite of the assurances he had been authorised to give to the Catholics, he began to distrust the disposition, or at least the determination of the Cabinet. In October 1800, he wrote to a very intimate friend, ‘I cannot help entertaining considerable apprehensions that our Cabinet will not have the firmness to adopt such measures as will render the Union an efficient advantage to the Empire. Those things which if now liberally granted might make the Irish a loyal people, will be of little avail when they are extorted on a future day. I do not, however, despair.’ He was much provoked at receiving, both from the King and from the Duke of Portland, letters urging him to make immediate arrangements for the consolidation of the Ordnance establishments in the two countries. It was a measure of centralisation, and a measure for the reduction of patronage, which seemed in itself very advisable, but it was certain to be unpopular, and he strongly urged that, ‘instead of standing alone as the first feature of the Union, it might be brought forward some months hence, accompanied by other arrangements of a more pleasing and palatable nature.’ Could it have been intended ‘to have run the hazard of agitating this island to a degree of madness, to have taken a step which everybody for the last century would have thought likely to produce a civil war—for what? To consolidate the two Ordnance establishments, which might have been done eight or nine years ago with the greatest ease, if the Duke of Richmond had been in the smallest degree accommodating?’ ‘Lord Castlereagh,’ he added, ‘will return soon to England, to try to persuade the Ministers to adopt manfully the only measure which can ever make the mass of the people of Ireland good subjects; but I suspect that there is too much apprehension of giving offence in a certain quarter.’ ‘My only apprehensions,’ he wrote in December, ‘are from the K—, from the cabal of the late Lord Lieutenant, and from the inferior Cabinet on Irish affairs, consisting of Lords Hobart, Auckland, &c., and the timidity of Ministers.’ 1
The letters of Lord Castlereagh from England in the last days of the year added much to his anxiety. ‘Believing,’ Cornwallis wrote, ‘as I do, that this great work may now be effected, and apprehending that if the opportunity is lost, it can never be regained, you … will not wonder at the anxiety that I suffer. Lord Loughborough, I find, is our most active and formidable opponent.’ ‘Whatever his opinion may be of the practicability of concession, he will in a short time, or I am much mistaken, find it still more impracticable to resist.’ ‘With almost all Europe leagued against us, we cannot long exist as a divided nation.’ 1
The dispute in England speedily developed, but at first the letters of Cornwallis and his colleagues in Ireland were sanguine about the issue. ‘If Mr. Pitt is firm, he will meet with no difficulty, and the misfortunes of the present times are much in his favour towards carrying this point, on the same grounds that the rebellion assisted the Union.’ ‘Our Chancellor will bully and talk big, but he is too unpopular here to venture to quarrel with Administration.’ 2 ‘Everything depends on the firmness of the Cabinet. There is no Opposition to be appealed to, for they are a hundred times deeper committed upon the point in question than Mr. Pitt…. The difficulties of the times carried the Union; they will carry the present question.’ 3 All the signs seemed to show that Ireland was acquiescing in the Union, and that prompt Catholic concession would insure its success. ‘Notwithstanding the scarcity,’ wrote Cornwallis, ‘I hear nowhere of any symptoms of ill humour, and the Catholic question will operate so forcibly through the whole country, that I do not think if the French come, they will meet with many friends. Nobody would have believed three years ago that Union, Catholic emancipation, and the restoration of perfect tranquillity could have taken place in so short a time.’ ‘The calm, however, cannot be expected to last, if the evil genius of Britain should induce the Cabinet to continue the proscription of the Catholics. They are quiet now, because they feel confident of success. What a reverse must we not apprehend from their unexpected disappointment!'4
In spite of the attitude of Lord Clare, and the violence of the Orangemen, no serious opposition was apprehended from the Irish Protestants. ‘You may be assured,’ wrote Cornwallis in December, ‘that all the most powerful opposers of the measure in favour of the Catholics, would join in giving their approbation as soon as it is effected.’ 5 Cooke, who was probably better acquainted than any other member of the Government with the political forces in Ireland, wrote two months later, ‘I am persuaded, from everything that I can collect, that the Protestant mind is made up to acquiesce in concession to the Catholics.’ ‘I can find no man of common sense and temper who does not think the concession may be safely made. In short, as far as I can learn, the public mind was made up to concession. I except Sir R. Musgrave, Duigenan, Giffard, and a few Orangemen.’ He believed that sixty-four out of the hundred Irish members in the Imperial Parliament, would vote in favour of the Catholics, though he feared that if the banner of Protestantism were displayed, as it had been displayed in 1792, ‘the Orange spirit’ might still ‘show itself in an almost universal blaze.’ 1 William Elliot was even more sanguine than Cooke about the dispositions in Ireland. Ninety-five out of a hundred Irish members, he believed, would have voted for the Catholics.2
Under these circumstances, it may easily be conceived with what alarm, with what absolute consternation, the Irish Government received the news of the ministerial crisis which placed Addington in power. It was not simply that a measure which they believed vitally necessary to the peace of Ireland, and to the success of the Union, was defeated; it was that Pitt, so far from exerting his enormous power to force this measure through Parliament, was actually engaged in assisting Addington in the construction of an anti-Catholic Ministry. Castlereagh was then in England, and by the instruction, and under the direct superintendence of Pitt, he wrote to Cornwallis to soften the blow. The King, he said, was inexorably opposed to Catholic relief, and would not give way. The measure would have no chance of success in the Lords; even if it were carried through both Houses, the King would at all hazards refuse his assent; and even if he were compelled to yield, the measure would be so opposed as to lose all its grace. Under these circumstances, Pitt had determined not to press it, but he desired the Lord Lieutenant to represent to the Catholics that an insurmountable obstacle had arisen to the King's Ministers bringing forward the measure while in office; ‘that their attachment to the question was such that they felt it impossible to continue in administration under the impossibility of proposing it with the necessary concurrence, and that they retired from the King's service, considering this line of conduct as most likely to contribute to the ultimate success of the measure.’ Much was added about ‘the zealous support’ that the Catholics might expect from the outgoing Ministers, and especially from Pitt, but they were warned that any unconstitutional conduct, or any attempt to force the question, would be repressed, and that no specific time could be stated for the attainment of their objects. It was to be the part of the Lord Lieutenant to do all in his power to prevent any demonstration by the Catholics.1
Cornwallis undertook to do what he could, but he at the same time declared that nothing would induce him to ‘linger for any length of time in office under the administration of men who have come into power for the sole purpose of defeating a measure which he considered to be absolutely necessary for the preservation of the Empire,’ and he complained bitterly that, when Catholic emancipation was acquiesced in by all the most important parties and classes in Ireland, and had become generally recognised as indispensably necessary for the safety of the country, a hostile influence arising in England had again defeated it.2 Castlereagh and Cooke concurred with Cornwallis, both in the course which he adopted, and in the sentiments he expressed. ‘If Pitt does not so act as to make it demonstrative that he is really serious on the Catholic question,’ wrote Cooke, ‘his resignation will be attributed to other causes.’ He believed, however, that the eclipse of the question must be very brief. ‘To suppose that men who at such a crisis had given up their situations upon a principle of honour, because they could not bring forward the measures they thought necessary for the preservation of the Empire—I say, to suppose that they could again go back as Ministers without those measures being conceded, is absurd. It is supposing them destitute of sense, principle, integrity, honour, and even self-interest…. I think all still must come right…. The superiority of Mr. Pitt is so strongly felt, that no ministry will like to act without him. You can hardly form an idea how the public mind had come round to allow of concession to the Catholics.’ 1
Cornwallis was at this time on very confidential terms with the Catholic leaders, and acting upon his instructions, he succeeded in so far pacifying them, and convincing them of the good intentions of Pitt, that no addresses or demonstrations took place to disturb the Government. He attained this object chiefly by two papers, which he gave to Archbishop Troy and Lord Fingall to be circulated among the leading Catholics in the different parts of Ireland. The first paper was extracted almost verbally from the letter which Castlereagh had written under the supervision of Pitt.2 It stated that the outgoing Ministers had resigned office because they considered this line of conduct most likely to contribute to the ultimate success of the Catholic cause; it urged the Catholics ‘prudently to consider their prospects as arising from the persons who now espouse their interests, and compare them with those which they could look to from any other quarter;’ and it continued, ‘They may with confidence rely on the zealous support of all those who retire, and of many who remain in office, when it can be given with a prospect of success. They may be assured that Mr. Pitt will do his utmost to establish their cause in the public favour, and prepare the way for their finally attaining their objects; and the Catholics will feel that as Mr. Pitt could not concur in a hopeless attempt to force it now, that he must at all times repress with the same decision, as if he held an adverse opinion, any unconstitutional conduct in the Catholic body.’ On these grounds the Catholics were urgently implored to abstain from doing anything which could give a handle to the opposers of their wishes.
The second paper expressed Cornwallis's own sentiments. It impressed on the Catholics how injurious it would be to their cause, if they took part in any agitation or made any association with men of Jacobinical principles, and thus forfeited the support’ of those who had sacrificed their own situations in their cause.’ ‘The Catholics,’ it continued, ‘should be sensible of the benefit they possess by having so many characters of eminence pledged not to embark in the service of Government, except on the terms of the Catholic privileges being obtained.’ 1
No one who has read the correspondence, and understood the character of Cornwallis, will doubt that these words were written with the most perfect honesty, and they made an impression in Ireland which was hardly equalled by the pamphlet which Lord Fitzwilliam had written upon his resignation, or by the letter in which Lord Downshire and his olleagues called on the country to support them against the Union.2 Yet no words were ever more unfortunate or more deceptive. Cornwallis was obliged to acknowledge that he had never’ received authority, directly or indirectly, from any member of Administration who resigned his office, to give a pledge that he would not embark again in the service of Government, except on the terms of the Catholic privileges being obtained.’ 3 What he wrote was merely an inference the natural inference of a plain and honourable man drawnfrom the situation.’ The papers which were circulated among the Catholics,’ he afterwards wrote,’ have done much good. It would perhaps have been better not to have inserted the word pledge; it was, however, used in a letter which I received from Mr. Dundas at the same time with the communication from Mr. Pitt through Lord Castlereagh, and it could not by any fair construction be supposed to convey any other meaning, than that persons who had gone out of office because the measure could not be brought forward, would not take a part in any administration that was unfriendly to it.’ 4 How little right Cornwallis had to use the language he employed, is sufficiently shown by one simple fact. In February, Pitt’ resigned office because he could not introduce the Catholic relief as a Minister of the Crown. In March he sent a message to the King, promising that whether in or out of office he would absolutely abandon the question during the whole of the reign, and he at the same time clearly intimated that he was ready, if Addington would resign power, to resume the helm, on the condition of not introducing Catholic emancipation, and not suffering it to pass.1
In my opinion, it is impossible by any legitimate argument to justify his conduct, and it leaves a deep stain upon his character both as a statesman and as a man. Explanations, however, are not wanting. The King had just had a slight return of his old malady. On February 14, he seems to have caught a severe cold, and at first no other complication appeared, but about the 21st there were clear signs of mental derangement, and they continued with little abatement till March 6. When the illness took place, Addington had made the arrangements for the formation of his Cabinet, but the necessary formalities had not yet been completed, and Pitt in the mean time was conducting the business of the House. The King, on recovering, at once ascribed his illness to the agitation which Pitt had caused him. He appears to have said this to Dr. Willis, and to have repeated it to Lord Chatham, and it naturally came to the ears of Pitt.2 Pitt, according to his apologists, was so profoundly affected, that he at once, under the impulse of a strong and natural emotion, sent the King an assurance that he would never during his Majesty's reign again move the Catholic question. He made no secret to his immediate friends of the change in his attitude, and many of them then declared that his resignation had no longer an object. The one point of difference was removed; all obligation to the Catholics was discarded; a new state of things had arisen; why then should he not return to power?’ On the grounds of public duty, at a time of public danger,’ Pitt reconciled himself to doing so. He refused, indeed, to take the first step, to make any kind of overture, but he gave it clearly to be understood through the Duke of Portland, that he would not be found inexorable, if Addington voluntarily resigned, and if the King thought fit to apply to him. On finding, however, that neither the King nor Addington desired the change, he declined to take any further step, and for a time he loyally supported the new Government.1
This is the most charitable account of his conduct. It is hardly, I think, the most probable one. It must be remembered, that at the time of the recovery of the King, the crisis had been surmounted; the Ministry of Addington was virtually constituted, and there was therefore absolutely no occasion for any declaration of policy from Pitt. No English statesman had exhibited during his long career a more austere and rigid self-control; no statesman was less swayed by uncalculating emotion, less likely to be betrayed into unguarded speech or hasty action; and though he had served the King for seventeen years, his relations to him had always been cold, distant, and formal. He had resigned office with great reluctance, and, although he had long been disposed to a liberal Catholic policy, he had always shown himself both less earnest and less confident on the question than some of his principal colleagues, and most ready to postpone it at the pressure of difficulty. It was at all times the infirmity of his nature to care more for power than for measures; and when the war broke out, he was very desirous of adjourning difficult internal questions till its close. The moment of his resignation was a very terrible one. Marengo and Hohenlinden had shattered all immediate hopes of restraining the ascendency of Napoleon on the Continent. Turkey, Naples, and Portugal were the only Powers that remained inalliance with England; and Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Prussia had just revived the armed neutrality, directed against her maritime claims, which had proved so formidable in the days of Catherine II. There were not wanting statesmen who urged that, at such a time, a strong hand should be at the helm; that the resignation had been a great mistake; that Pitt had given, and could therefore break, no positive pledge to the Catholics; that the Catholic question was not one requiring an immediate solution. It was intolerable to him to abandon the power he had wielded so skilfully and so long, and he was extremely indisposed to enter, in the midst of the war, into a formidable conflict with the King and with the Church, for the sake of a question in which he felt no deep interest. The illness of the King gave him an unlooked-for pretext for extricating himself with some colour of magnanimity from his difficulty, and by deserting the Catholics he removed the greatest obstacle in his path. It is a memorable fact that he took this momentous step without having given Lord Gren-ville, or, it is said, any other of his colleagues except Dundas, the smallest intimation of his intention.1
If Pitt's policy of adjourning great organic changes till the peace, had been consistently carried out, the embarrassment would never have arisen, for the Union would not have been carried. The evil of carrying it, and then failing to carry the measure which was its natural sequel, was irreparable. With different circumstances the Fitzwilliam episode was reproduced. Once more the hopes of the Catholics had been raised almost to the point of certainty, and then dashed to the ground. Once more assurances, which honourable statesmen should have deemed equivalent to a pledge, had been given, and had not been fulfilled. Once more the policy of Clare prevailed.
It does not appear, however, that in this last episode the Irish Chancellor bore any considerable direct part. His stormy career was now drawing to a close, and his relations with the English Government after the Union were very troubled. The assurance which Cornwallis had been instructed to convey to the Catholic leaders, in order to obtain their acquiescence in the Union, had been concealed from him; and when he discovered that Catholic emancipation was intended to be the immediate consequence of the measure which he had done so much to carry, his indignation was unbounded, and he bitterly accused Castlereagh of deception.2 Cooke, who had hitherto been closely identified with his policy, tried to pacify him by a long and admirable letter. He urged that the concessions already made, rendered the ultimate triumph of Catholic emancipation inevitable, and that it was most important that it should not be postponed till after a long and irritating struggle; that the introduction into an Imperial Parliament of a few Catholic gentlemen could not possibly endanger the Constitution, and might permanently attach to it three millions of subjects; that the Established Church was amply guaranteed by the solemn pledge in the Act of Union, and by the adhesion to its doctrines of the great majority of the now United Empire. The Union, he said, was likely to prove’ the greatest possible measure for the British Empire, because it gave that Empire power to satisfy all the fair demands of all its subjects, without the slightest danger to its own security,’ and it would be madness in the existing state of Europe to pronounce an eternal interdict against concession, based upon an irrevocable principle, and excluding all possibility of hope.1
This letter, however, was far from effecting its object, and Cornwallis, who had for some time completely abandoned his first impression of the right-mindedness and moderation of the Chancellor, now looked upon Clare as one of the most dangerous men in Ireland. The brutal murder of one of his servants in the county of Limerick probably tended to exasperate his feelings; and immediately after the Union, Clare did his utmost in the Imperial House of Lords to defeat every effort of conciliation. In a speech in favour of the continuation of martial law in Ireland, he described Ireland as now wholly in the hands of a wild and fierce democracy, with which civil government was entirely unable to cope, and maintained that nothing but longcontinued martial law could give security, to the property, laws, and religion of the loyal inhabitants, or prevent them from falling under the dominion of’ unprincipled and merciless barbarians,’ ‘spurred on by a pure love of blood.’ Having given a most extravagantly over-coloured picture of the barbarism of Ireland, he warned the House, that it was an absurd and a calamitous thing to think of repressing this spirit by concession and indulgence. The violence of his denunciations of his countrymen, and the boldness with which he apologised for the use of torture in the rebellion, scandalised his audience, and on one occasion he was called to order for introducing into a discussion a wholly irrelevant attack on Catholic emancipation. Ninety-nine out of a hundred Catholics, he said, were perfectly indifferent to it.1
His policy triumphed on the downfall of Pitt, but he never regained his old ascendency. He resented it bitterly, and soon quarrelled with Hardwicke, the new Viceroy, and with Abbot, the Chief Secretary. ‘The death of Lord Clare, in the month of January 1802,’ wrote Abbot in his journal,’ delivered the Irish and also the British Government from great trouble. He had rendered signal service to his country in a crisis of great violence, but his love of power and the restlessness of his temper made him unfit for the station of Chancellor, when no longer coupled with the overruling authority which he had exercised as Minister before the Union.’ 2 His funeral, as is well known, was the occasion of disgraceful rioting, and of insults much like those which afterwards followed the hearse of Lord Castlereagh in England, but the significance of the demonstration has been exaggerated, for it appears to have been the carefully organised outrage of a few men.3
Lord Hardwicke urged the Government to appoint an Irishman to the vacant post, and recommended Lord Kilwarden, as combining in a rare degree the requisite gifts, both of intellect and character; but the Government followed the advice of Lord Eldon, and Sir John Mitford, who had been Speaker of the House of Commons since the resignation of Addington and who was now made Lord Redesdale, became Irish Chancellor.
He was an excellent lawyer, and a very amiable and upright man, but his first and last idea on the great question of Irish policy was, that the main object of English government should be to Protestantise Ireland. ‘The Catholics of Ireland,’ he wrote, ‘must have no more political power. They have already so much as to be formidable.’ ‘Nothing, in my opinion, can be more despicable than the conduct of the Roman Catholics, with a few exceptions, and nothing more abominable than the conduct of their priests. The canting hypocrisy of Dr. Troy … is, to me, disgusting…. I am decidedly of opinion that you cannot safely grant anything; that you must raise the Protestant, not the Roman Catholic Church. To make them [the priests] your friends, is impossible. The college of May-nooth vomits out priests ten times worse than ever came from the Spanish colleges. I would withhold all supply to that establishment, and were I Minister, would abolish it.’ ‘The general profligacy of this country, derived partly from the corruption of their Parliament, and partly from the corruptions of the Catholic Church, which is less reformed here than in any Catholic country in Europe, is astonishing to an Englishman.’ Ireland, he thought, should be governed for some years as despotically as France, but in a more honest spirit, and with a real desire to put down the inveterate jobbing of the country, and this could never be achieved unless all the chief posts of influence and power were filled by Englishmen. The legislative Union was still but a ‘rope of sand,’ and much more was needed to consolidate it. Looking back to all the tangled and inconsistent negotiations which had taken place during the last few years, and especially during the Union struggle, he owned himself utterly unable to explain the conduct of the English Ministers, ‘without supposing that men of great talents, of great experience, of great political knowledge, acted without reflection, or without integrity, or from mere caprice, or that they were deceiving, and endeavouring to overreach each other, some meaning one thing, some the direct contrary.’ 1
The opinions of Lord Redesdale were well known; he himself brought them into full relief, in a very injudicious correspondence with Lord Fingall, and he remained Chancellor during the short Ministry of Pitt that followed. The Lord Lieutenant governed in the same spirit, though with more discretion of language. ‘Lord Hardwicke's,’ it was boasted, ‘is the only Administration that has never given the heads of the Catholic clergy an invitation to the Castle; he in no way recognises them further than the law admits them to be priests.’ 1 This was the end of all the confidential intercourse that had taken place between the Government and the bishops before the Union; of all the hopes that had been held out; of all the services the bishops had rendered in carrying the Union. Pitt, at last tired of opposition, joined with the different sections hostile to the Ministry, and drove Addington from power in the spring of 1804, though he was obliged soon after to admit him to his own Ministry; but the Catholics gained nothing by the change, and the question which, in 1800, seemed almost won, was adjourned to a distant future.
These things did not produce in Ireland any immediate convulsion, and in the strange and paradoxical history of Irish public opinion, the Addington Ministry can hardly be counted even unpopular. Lord Redesdale, indeed, said that the country for some time could only be held as a garrisoned country; that the Jacobin spirit, though seldom openly displayed, was still prevalent, and that it was most manifestly increasing in the Catholic population.2 Lord Hardwicke, in a paper drawn up at the close of the summer of 1801, expressed his fear lest ‘the aversion to the Union which obtained very strongly in many parts of Ireland, and still continues unabated,’ might ‘be unhappily confirmed, to the incalculable injury of the Empire;'3 but when, in the June of 1802, a general election at last took place, no such aversion was displayed. The saying of Lord Clare, that the Irish are ‘a people easily roused and easily appeased,’ was never more clearly verified. Though this was the first occasion since the Union, in which the constituencies had the opportunity of expressing their opinion of the conduct of their representatives on that great question, the Union appears to have borne no part whatever in the election, and it is stated that not a single member who had voted for it was for that reason displaced.1 In Ireland, even more than in most countries, good administration is more important than good politics, and the mild, tolerant, and honest administration of Lord Hardwicke, gave him considerable popularity. Under Cornwallis orders had been given for rebuilding and repairing, at Government expense, the Catholic chapels which had been burnt or wrecked after the rebellion, and this measure was steadily carried on,2 while persistent and successful efforts were made, especially by the Chancellor, to put an end to jobbing and corruption.
The short rebellion of Emmet, in 1803, was merely the last wave of the United Irish movement, and it was wholly unconnected with the Union and with the recent disappointment of the Catholics. It was suppressed without difficulty and without any acts of military outrage, and it at least furnished the Government with a gratifying proof that the Union had not broken the spring of loyalty in Dublin, for the number of yeomen who enlisted there, was even greater than in 1798.3 Grattan had refused to enter the Imperial Parliament at the election of 1802, but he watched the signs of the time with an experienced eye, and the judgment which this great champion of the Catholic claims formed of Lord Hardwicke's Administration, is very remarkable. He wrote to Fox that, without a radical change of system, it would be impossible to plant in Ireland permanent, unfeigned loyalty; that the Union had not been carried, for although a loyal Parliament had been destroyed, ‘equality of conditions, civil or religious, had not even commenced;’ but he added, ‘without any alteration in the legal condition of this country, and merely by a temperate exercise of the existing laws, the present chief governor of Ireland has more advanced the strength of Government and its credit, than could have been well conceived,’ and ‘from the manner in which this last rebellion was put down, I incline to think that if Lord Hardwicke had been Viceroy, and Lord Redesdale Chancellor, in ‘98, the former rebellion would have never existed.’ 1
But from this time the Catholic question passed completely beyond the control of the Government. In Ireland the utter failure of the gentry and the bishops to procure emancipation by negotiations with the Government, speedily threw the energetic elements of the Catholic body and the lower priesthood into a course of agitation which altered the whole complexion of the question, and enormously increased its difficulty and its danger.2 In 1799 the Catholic bishops had, as we have seen, fully accepted the proposal of giving a veto on episcopal appointments to the Government, and not only Pitt, but also Grattan, had strongly maintained that emancipation could only be safely carried, if it were accompanied by such restrictions on ecclesiastical appointments and on intercourse with the Holy See, as existed in all Protestant and in all Catholic countries throughout Europe.3 In opposition to Grattan, to the Catholic gentry, to the English Catholics, and even to a rescript from Rome, O'Connell induced the great body of the Irish Catholics, both lay and clerical, to repudiate all such restrictions, and to commit themselves to an agitation for unqualified emancipation. The panic and division created by this agitation in Ireland, and the strong spirit of ecclesiastical Toryism that overspread England after the death of Pitt, combined to throw back the question. In 1800 the conscientious objections of the King seemed to form the only serious obstacle to Catholic emancipation, The establishment of the Regency in 1812 removed that obstacle, but the Catholic hopes appeared as far as ever from their attainment. The later phases of this melancholy history do not fall within my present task. It is sufficient to say, that when Catholic emancipation was at last granted in 1829, it was granted in the manner which, beyond all others, was likely to produce most evil, and to do least good. It was the result of an agitation which, having fatally impaired the influence of property, loyalty, and respectability in Catholic Ireland, had brought the country to the verge of civil war, and it was carried avowedly through fear of that catastrophe, and by a Ministry which was, on principle, strongly opposed to it.
Pitt, as we have seen, intended that the Union should be followed by three great measures the admission of Catholics into Parliament, the endowment of their priesthood under conditions that gave a guarantee for their loyalty, and the commutation of tithes. Each measure, if wisely and promptly carried, would have had a great pacifying influence, and the beneficial effect of each measure would have been greatly enhanced by combination with the others.
The first measure had been abandoned, but, of the three, it was probably, in reality, the least important, and there was no insuperable reason why the other two should not have been pressed. The King, it is true, had very lately declared himself opposed to the payment of the priests, but he had not placed his opposition on the same high and conscientious grounds as his opposition to emancipation,1 and Lord Grenville, who was far more earnest on the Catholic question than Pitt, strongly maintained that the payment of the priests was a measure which might be, and ought to be, carried.3 The Government had offered endowment on certain conditions to the bishops in 1799, and the offer and the conditions had been accepted, and a report of the position of the different orders of priesthood in Ireland had been drawn up, which clearly showed how sorely it was needed.1 The supreme importance, both moral and political, of raising the status and respectability of this class of men, of attaching them to the Government, and of making them, in some degree, independent of their flocks, was sufficiently obvious, and has been abundantly recognised by a long series of the most eminent statesmen. In an intensely Catholic nation, where there is scarcely any middle class, and where the gentry are thinly scattered, and chiefly Protestant, the position of the priesthood was certain to be peculiarly important, and the dangers to be feared from a bad priesthood were peculiarly great. Individuals often act contrary to their interests, but large classes of men can seldom or never be counted on to do so; and in Ireland, neither interest nor sentiment was likely to attach the Catholic clergy to the side of the law. Drawn from a superstitious and disloyal peasantry, imbued with their prejudices, educated on a separate system, which excluded them from all contact, both with the higher education of their own country and with the conservative spirit of continental Catholicism, they have usually found themselves wholly dependent for all temporal advantages - for popularity, for influence, and for income - upon the favour of ignorant, lawless, and often seditious congregations. Such a clergy, if they remained wholly unconnected with the Government of the country, were not likely to prove an influence for good, and if, as is undoubtedly true, the Catholic Church has, in some most important respects, conspicuously failed as a moral educator of the Irish people, this failure is to be largely ascribed to the position of its priesthood.
The moment was peculiarly favourable for reforming this great evil. The bishops, though they could hardly press the claims of the clergy, after the great disappointment of the laity, were still ready to accept endowment with gratitude;2 the clergy had not yet been transformed by agitation into political leaders, and the poor would have welcomed with delight any measure which freed them from some most burdensome dues. Addington appears to have been fully convinced of the policy of the measure, but Pitt, having once moved the Catholic question out of his way, would take no steps in its favour, and without his powerful assistance, it would have been hopeless to attempt to carry it. The golden opportunity was lost, and the whole later history of Ireland bears witness to the calamity.
Lord Cornwallis, at this time, wrote the following characteristic and pathetic lines to Marsden, who had aided him so powerfully in carrying the Union. ‘Before I left London, I spoke several times to Mr. Addington, on the subject of a provision for the Catholic clergy, and told him that, from an interview which I had with Dr. Moylan, I found that they were new willing to accept of it. He seemed to be fully impressed, with the necessity of the measure, especially as the Regium Donum to the Presbyterian ministers was to be increased, and assured me that he would take an early opportunity of representing it to his Majesty. I have no doubt of Mr. A.’ s sincerity, but I am afraid that the August Personage whom I have mentioned, is too much elated by having obtained his own emancipation, to be in a humour to attend much to any unpleasant suggestions from his purest confidential servants. If this point, at least, is not carried, no hope can be entertained of any permanent tranquillity in Ireland, and we, who so strenuously endeavoured to render that island the great support and bulwark of the British Empire, shall have the mortification to feel that we laboured in vain.’ 1
The proposed commutation of tithes was abandoned in the same manner, and for the same reasons. year after year the English Government had been told, not only by Grattan, but also by the chief members of the Irish Administration, that the existing tithe system was the most fertile of all the sources of Irish anarchy and crime, and that a wise and just system of commutation was a matter of supreme importance. Lord Loughborough, who chiefly defeated Catholic emancipation, had himself drawn up a Tithe Commutation Bill. Lord Redesdale, who represented the most exaggerated form of anti-Catholic Toryism, had declared that such a measure was absolutely necessary, and that without it, the country would never be sufficiently quiet for the general residence of a Protestant clergy.1 But nothing was done, and Ireland was left for a whole generation seething in all the anarchy arising from this most prolific source. The agitation at last culminated in a great organised conspiracy against the payment of tithes, accompanied and supported, like all such conspiracies in Ireland, by a long and ghastly train of murder and outrage. The fatal precedent was set, of a successful and violent revolt against contracts and debts. The Protestant clergy, who were for the most part perfectly innocent in the matter, and who formed perhaps the most healthy, and certainly the most blameless section of Irish life, were over large districts reduced to the deepest poverty, and a vast step was taken towards the permanent demoralisation of Ireland. At last, after some abortive measures, the two great English parties concurred in the outlines of a scheme of commutation, and in 1835 the Government of Sir Robert Peel introduced his Tithe Bill, commuting tithes into a rent charge to be paid by the landlords with a deduction of 25 per cent. The general principle had already been adopted by the Whig Opposition in the preceding year, but they perceived that, by bringing forward an amendment uniting Peel's Bill with the wholly different question of the appropriation of the surplus revenues of the Irish Church to secular purposes, they could defeat the Government, and themselves climb into power. With the support, and in a large degree under the influence of O'Connell, they took this course; but they soon found that, though the House of Lords was ready to carry the tithe composition, it was inexorably hostile to the appropriation clause, and, at last, having cursed Ireland with three more years of tithe agitation, the Whig Ministry carried in 1838 the very Bill which Sir Robert Peel had been driven out of office for proposing.
It was a tardy measure, discreditably carried, but it proved of inestimable benefit to Ireland, and it is one of the very few instances of perfectly successful legislation on Irish affairs. It could not, however, efface the evil traces of the preceding thirty-eight years of anarchy and outrage, and it is impossible not to reflect with bitterness, how different might have been the course of Irish history if even this one boon had accompanied or immediately followed the Union.
The reader who considers all this, may justly conclude that the continued disaffection of Ireland was much less due to the Union, or to the means by which the Union was carried, than to the shipwreck of the great measures of conciliation which ought to have accompanied it, and which were intended to be its immediate consequence. The policy which Pitt proposed to himself was a noble and a comprehensive, though a sufficiently obvious one; but when the time came to carry it into execution, he appears to me to have shown himself lamentably deficient both in the sagacity and in the determination of a great statesman. Nor is it, I think, possible to acquit him of grave moral blame. However culpable was the manner in which he forced through the Union, there can at least be no reasonable doubt that his motives were then purely patriotic; that he sought only what he believed to be the vital interest of the Empire, and not any personal or party object. There was here no question of winning votes, or turning a minority into a majority, or consolidating a party, or maintaining an individual ascendency. It is difficult to believe that the alloy of personal ambition was equally absent, when he cast aside so lightly the three great Catholic measures on which the peace of Ireland and the success of the Union mainly depended. It is indeed probable that he disguised from himself the presence of such motives, and that they were in truth largely blended with public considerations. The difficulties of his position were very great-the strain of a gigantic and disastrous war; an obstinate and half-mad King; a hostile Church; a divided Cabinet. He may easily have persuaded himself, that it was a great public interest that he should continue at the helm while the storm was at its height, and that he. would be able in a near future to accomplish his designs. His genius was far more incontestable in peace than in war, and according to all the precedents of the eighteenth century, a war which had lasted seven years could not be far from its end. When the Union was carried, Pitt was only forty-one - twenty-one years younger than the Sovereign whose resistance was the greatest obstacle in his path. His constitution, it is true, was much broken, but it is probable that he still looked forward to another long pacific Ministry, and if he had obtained it, it is scarcely possible that he would have left the great group of Irish questions unsolved.
But if this was his hope, it was doomed to bitter disappointment. The war had still fourteen years to run. and his own life was drawing fast to its early close. He regained office in 1804, but he never regained power, and his last miserably feeble, struggling and divided Ministry was wholly unfit to undertake the settlement of these great questions. In a speech in March 1805, he spoke in language which was not without its pathos, of his abiding conviction that in an United Parliament concessions, under proper guards and securities, might be granted to the Catholics which would bring with them no danger and immense benefit to the Empire; he said that if his wish could carry them, he saw no rational objection; and Canning afterwards declared from his own knowledge, that Pitt's opinions on that subject were to the very last unchanged.1 But both in England and Ireland the auspicious moment had passed, and moral and political influences were rising, which immensely added to the difficulties of a wise and peaceful solution.
It would have been far wiser to have deferred the Union question till the war had terminated, and till the English Ministers had arrived at a well-grounded certainty that it was in their power to carry the measures that could alone have made it acceptable to the majority of the nation. Another evil which resulted from carrying the Union in time of war, was that its financial arrangements completely broke down. I do not propose to enter into the extremely complicated and difficult questions, that have been raised, relating to those arrangements between the two countries in the years that followed the Union.1 They belong to the historian of a later period of Irish history, and they deserve his most careful attention. Pitt and Castlereagh, as we have seen, had fixed two-seventeenths as the proportion of Ireland's contribution to the general expenditure of the Empire; and if the peace of Amiens had been a permanent one, it is possible that this proportion might not have been excessive. But the best Irish financiers had almost with one voice predicted that it would prove so; and with the vast expenditure that accompanied the last stages of the long French war, their prediction was speedily verified. It was at once seen that Ireland was totally incapable of meeting her obligation, and the prospect which Castlereagh had held out of diminished expenditure, soon vanished like a mirage. It is a somewhat remarkable fact, that it has been pronounced by the best authorities impossible to state with complete accuracy the net liabilities of the two countries, either at the time of the Union, or at the time of amalgamation of the Exchequers in 1817.2 According to the figures, however, which were laid before Parliament in 1815, the separate funded debt of Ireland in 1801 was 26,841,219l., while that of Great Britain was 420,305,944l. But every year after the Union, and in spite of an immense increase of the revenue raised in Ireland by taxation,3 the Irish debt increased with a rapidity vastly greater than in the period before the Union, vastly greater in proportion than that of Great Britain.
In 1817 the separate funded debt of Ireland had increased to 86,838,938l., while that of England had only risen to 682,531,933l., and the proportion between the two, which at the Union was about 1 to 15.5, had become in 1816 about 1 to 7.8. The unfunded debt of Ireland in the same period rcso from 1,699,938l. to 5,304,615l. and that of Great Britain from 26,080,100l to 44,650,300l1 The Act of Union had provided that if the debts of the two countries ever bore to each other the same ratio as their contributions, they might be amalgamated; and in 1817, this time had more than come, the prediction of the anti-Unionists was verified, and the debts of the two countries were consolidated.
It must, however, be added, that this consolidation did not for a long period lead to an equality of taxation. The poverty of Ireland made this impossible. Irish taxation in the years that followed the Union was chiefly indirect, and the small produce of the duties that were imposed, clearly showed the real poverty of the country.2 Long after the consolidation of the Exchequers, Great Britain bore the burden of many important taxes which were were not extended to Ireland, and even now Ireland enjoys some exemptions. It was not until 1842 that Sir R. Peel made some serious efforts to equalise the taxation. He abstained, indeed, from imposing on Ireland the income tax, which he then imposed on Great Britain, but he added one shilling in the gallon to the duty on Irish spirits, and he equalised the stamp duties in the two countries. The policy was not altogether successful. The additional duty on spirits was repealed in 1843; the additional revenue derived from the stamps was lost in the reduction of the stamp duties both in Great Britain and Ireland. But the project of equalising taxation was soon carried out with far greater severity and success by Mr. Gladstone, who in 1853 extended the income tax to Ireland, which was then just rising out of the deep depression of the famine; and another great step was taken in 1858, by the assimilation of the duties on English and Irish spirits. By these successive measures the equalisation of taxation was nearly effected. In ten years the taxation of Ireland was increased 52 per cent., while that of Great Britain was only increased 17 per cent., and the proportion of the Irish to the British revenue, which in the first sixteen years of the century was between one-thirteenth and one-fourteenth, rose in the ten years after 1852 to one-tenth or one-ninth.1
It is no part of my task to discuss the wisdom or propriety of these measures, or to examine what would have been the financial condition of Ireland, if she had retained her separate Parliament, or if the clause in the Act of Union relating to the contribution had been drawn as Beresford desired.2 But the contrast between the hopes held out in the speech of Castlereagh and the actual course of events cannot be denied, and it exercised an unfortunate influence on the history of the Union. Nor was it possible for an Empire which was crippled by the strain of a gigantic war, and during many subsequent years almost crushed by the burden of its colossal debt, to assist Irish development, as it might have done in happier times. In our own day, the Imperial Parliament has conferred an inestimable benefit on Ireland, by largely placing at her service the unrivalled credit of the Empire; by lending immense sums for purposes of public utility at a much lower rate of interest than any purely Irish fund could possibly have borne; but it was only after an Act which was passed in the fifth year of Queen Victoria, that this policy was to any considerable extent adopted.1
These considerations are sufficient to show, under what unfavourable and unhappy circumstances the great experiment of the Irish Union has been tried. They are, however, far from representing the whole chain of causes which have retarded the pacification of Ireland. Very few countries in an equal space of time have been torn by so much political agitation, agrarian crime, and seditious conspiracy; have experienced so many great economical and social revolutions, or have been made the subject of so many violent and often contradictory experiments in legislation. The tremendous fall of prices after the peace of 1815, which was especially felt in a purely agricultural country; the destruction by the factory system of the handloom industry, which once existed in nearly every farmhouse in Ulster; an increase of population in the forty-seven years that followed the Union, from little more than four and a half to little less than eight and a half millions, without any corresponding progress in manufacturing industry or in industrial habits; a famine which exceeded in its horrors any other that Europe has witnessed during the nineteenth century; the transformation, in a period of extreme poverty and distress, of the whole agricultural industry of Ireland, through the repeal of the corn laws; the ruin of an immense portion of the old owners of the soil; the introduction under the Encumbered Estates Act of a new class of owners, often wholly regardless of the traditions and customs of Irish estates; a period of land legislation which was intended to facilitate and accelerate this change, by placing all agrarian relations on the strictest commercial basis, and guaranteeing to the purchaser by parliamentary title the most absolute ownership of his estate; another period of legislation which broke the most formal written contracts, deprived the owner not only of all controlling influence, but even of a large portion of what he had bought, and established a dual and a confused ownership which could not possibly endure; an emigration so vast and so continuous, that, in less than half a century, the population of Ireland sank again almost to the Union level; all these things have contributed in their different times and ways to the instability, the disorganisation, and the misery that swell the ranks of sedition and agitation.
Other influences have powerfully concurred. The British Constitution has passed under the democratic movement of the century, and it has been assumed that a country in which a majority of the population are disaffected, and which is totally unlike England in the most essential social and political conditions, can be safely governed on the same plane of democracy as England, and its representation in the Imperial Parliament has been even left largely in excess of that to which, by any of the tests that regulate English and Scotch representation, it is entitled. The end of every rational system of representation is to reflect, in their due proportion and subordination, the different forms of opinion and energy existing in the community, giving an especial weight and strength to those which can contribute most to the wise guidance and the real well-being of the State. In the representation of the British Empire, the part which is incontestably the most diseased has the greatest proportionate strength, while the soundest elements in Irish life are those which are least represented. About a third part of the Irish people are fervently attached to the Union, and they comprise the great bulk of the property and higher education of the country; the large majority of those who take any leading part in social, industrial, or philanthropic enterprise; the most peaceful, law-abiding, and industrious classes in the community; nearly every man who is sincerely attached to the British Empire. In three provinces, such men are so completely outvoted by great masses of agricultural peasants, that they are virtually disfranchised; while in the whole island, this minority of about a third commands only a sixth part of the representation. A state of representation so manifestly calculated to give an abnormal strength to the most unhealthy and dangerous elements in the kingdom, is scarcely less absurd, and it is certainly more pernicious, than that which Grattan and Flood denounced. To place the conduct of affairs in the hands of loyal, trustworthy, and competent men, is not the sole, but it is by far the most important end of politics. No greater calamity can befall a nation, than to be mainly represented and directed by conspirators, adventurers, or professional agitators, and no more severe condemnation can be passed upon a political system than that it leads naturally to such a result. We have seen how clearly Grattan foresaw that this might one day be the fate of Ireland.
It was under these conditions or circumstances, that the great political movement arose which forms the central fact of the modern history of Ireland. The Fenian conspiracy, which sprang up in America, but which had also roots in every large Irish town, was not directed to a mere repeal of the Union; it aimed openly and avowedly at separation and a republic, and it differed chiefly from the Young Ireland movement in the far less scrupulous characters of its leaders, and in its intimate connection with atrocious forms of outrage, directed against the lives and properties of unoffending Englishmen. Growing up chiefly in the comparatively prosperous population beyond the Atlantic, being skilfully organised, and appealing for contributions to a wide area of often very honest credulity, it obtained command of large financial resources; but its leaders soon found that unassisted Fenianism could find no serious response among the great mass of the Irish people. Like the Young Ireland movement, its supporters were almost exclusively in the towns. In the country districts it was received with almost complete apathy. The outbreaks it attempted proved even more insignificant than that of 1848, and altogether contemptible when compared with the great insurrection of the eighteenth century. In spite of the impulse given to the conspiracy, when the author of the Act for disestablishing the Irish Church publicly ascribed the success of that measure mainly to a murderous Fenian outrage, it is not probable that Fenianism would have had much permanent importance, if it had not taken a new character, and allied itself with a great agrarian movement.
We have had in these volumes abundant evidence of the vast place which agrarian crime and conspiracy have played in Irish history, but it was only very gradually that they became connected with politics. The Whiteboy explosions of the eighteenth century appear to have had no political character, but some connection was established when the United Irish movement coalesced with Defenderism, and it was powerfully strengthened in the tithe war of the present century. Later agrarian crime had an organisation and a purpose which made it peculiarly easy to give it a political hue, and we have seen how many influences had conspired to isolate the landowning class, to deprive them of different forms of power, and to cut the ties of traditional influence and attachment by which they were once bound to their people.
The keynote of the modern alliance is to be found in the writings of Lalor, one of the least known, but certainly not one of the least important of the seditious writers of 1848. He taught that a national movement in Ireland would never succeed, unless it were united with a movement for expelling all loyal owners from the soil. ‘The reconquest of our liberties,’ he wrote, ‘would be incomplete and worthless without the reconquest of our lands, and could not on its own means be possibly achieved: while the reconquest of our land would involve the other, and could possibly, if not easily, be achieved…. I selected as the mode of reconquest, to refuse payment of rent, and resist process of ejectment.’ ‘Our means, whether of moral agitation, military force, or moral insurrection, are impotent against the English Government, which is beyond their reach; but resistless against the English garrison who stand here, scattered and isolated, girdled round by a mighty people.’ ‘The land question contains, and the legislative question does not contain, the materials from which victory is manufactured.’ ‘You can never count again on the support of the country peasantry in any shape or degree on the question of repeal. Their interest in it was never ardent, nor was it native and spontaneous, but forced and factitious.’ ‘In Ireland unluckily there is no direct and general State tax, payment of which might be refused and resisted.’ Rent is the one impost which can be so resisted; a struggle against it is the one means of enlisting the great mass of the farming classes in the army of sedition, and kindling in them a strain of genuine passion. ‘There is but one way alone, and that is to link repeal to some other question, like a railway carriage to the engine, some question possessing the intrinsic strength which repeal wants, and strong enough to carry both itself and repeal together; and such a question there is in the land…. Repeal had always to be dragged.’ ‘There is a wolf dog at this moment, in every cabin throughout the land, nearly fit to be untied, and he will be savager by-and-by. For repeal, indeed, he will never bite, but only bay, but there is another matter to settle between us and England.’ ‘The absolute ownership of the lands of Ireland is vested of right in the people of Ireland…. All titles to land are invalid not conferred or confirmed by them.’ 1
These doctrines were at once adopted by a much abler man. John Mitchel, who wasted in barren and mischievous struggles against the Governments, both of his own country and of the United States, talents that might have placed him almost in the foremost rank of the writers of his time, embraced the creed of Lalor with all the passion of his hard, fierce, narrow, but earnest nature, and he has contributed probably more than any other past politician, to form the type of modern Irish agitation. Speaking of his relations to Smith O'Brien, who aspired to a purely Irish Government, but who steadily opposed every form of robbery and outrage, Mitchel wrote: ‘Our difference is, not as to theories of government, but as to possibilities of action; not as to the political ideal we should fight for, but by what appeals to men's present passions and interests, we could get them to fight at all. I am convinced, and have long been, that the mass of the Irish people cannot be roused in any quarrel, less than social revolution, destruction of landlordism, and denial of all tenure and title derived from English sovereigns.’ 2
It was on these lines, that a great agrarian organisation was created, connected with, and largely paid by the Fenian conspirators, and intended to accomplish the double task of drawing into sedition, by appeals to self-interest, multitudes who were indifferent to its political aspects, and of breaking down the influence and authority of the class who were the most powerful supporters of the Union and the connection. A period of severe agricultural depression, some real abuses, and much modern English legislation assisted it, and the conspiracy soon succeeded in establishing, over a great part of Ireland, what has been truly termed an ‘elaborate and all-pervading tyranny,’ 1 accompanied by perhaps as much mean and savage cruelty, and supported by as much shameless and deliberate lying, as any movement of the nineteenth century. It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which it has demoralised the Irish people, and destroyed their capacity for self-government, by making cupidity the main motive of political action, and by diffusing the belief, that outrage, and violence, and dishonest and tyrannical combinations against property, contracts and individual liberty, are the natural means of attaining political ends. A parliamentary representation, subsidised by the same men who paid agrarian conspiracy and dynamite outrages,2 supported it; and the Fenian leaders, without abandoning any of their ulterior objects, consented, after a short period of hesitation, to make the attainment of an Irish Parliament their proximate end, under the persuasion, that, in the existing state of Ireland, the establishment of such a Parliament would be in effect to confer legislative powers on the National League, and that it would furnish the conspiracy with an immensely improved vantage ground, or leverage, for working out its ultimate designs.1 In this manner, the old social type over a large part of the kingdom, has been broken up, and ninety years after the Union, the great majority of the Irish members are leagued together for its overthrow.
That no Parliament, resembling Grattan's Parliament, could ever again exist in Ireland, had long become evident, and the men who most strongly opposed the Union in 1800, speedily perceived it. As early as 1805, Foster himself warned the Imperial House of Commons that the introduction of the Catholics into Irish political life, might be followed by a struggle for the repeal of the Union; that the Parliament which a Catholic democracy would demand, would not be one in which loyalty or property would prevail, and that in the struggle, the seeds of separation might be sown, and Ireland might one day be torn from her connection with Britain.2 Plunket, who was as friendly to the Catholics, as he had once been hostile to the Union, was equally emphatic. He spoke with indignation of those who, having themselves rebelled against the Irish Parliament in 1798, made the abolition of that Parliament a pretext for a new rebellion, and he implored Parliament to beware of any step that could paralyse the Union settlement, and thereby shake the foundations of public security, and the connection between the two countries.3 Grattan, it is true, took a somewhat different view. In 1810, the grand jury, the common council, and a meeting of the freeholders and freemen of Dublin, passed resolutions deploring the effects of the Union, and they requested Grattan, as one of the representatives of the city, to present a petition for its repeal. Grattan answered, that he would present their petition; that he shared their sentiments, but that no movement should be ever undertaken for the repeal of the Union, without ‘a decided attachment to our connection with Great Britain, and to that harmony between the two countries, without which the connection cannot last,’ and unless it was called for, and supported by the nation1 —a phrase in which he undoubtedly included the Protestants of Ireland, and the great body of her landed gentry. Among English opponents of the Union, Fox was conspicuous. In 1806, on the occasion of a vote for a monument to Lord Cornwallis, he expressed his belief, that the Union, ‘with all the circumstances attending it,’ was one of the most disgraceful acts in English history, but he also disclaimed any wish or intention of repealing it, for, ‘however objectionable the manner, under all the circumstances, under which it was carried, it is impossible to remedy any objections which might have originally existed against it, by its repeal.’ 2 Grey, who, of all Englishmen, took the foremost part in opposing the Union, lived to be Prime Minister, during the early stages of the repeal agitation of O'Connell; he drew up the King's speech of 1833, which pledged the Sovereign and the Whig party to employ all the means in their power to preserve and strengthen the legislative Union, as being ‘indissolubly connected with the peace, security, and welfare’ of the nation, and he expressed his own emphatic opinion, which was echoed by the leaders of both the great parties in the State, that its repeal ‘would be ruin to both countries.’
The attitude of classes on this question has been even more significant than the attitude of individuals. The descendants of the members of Grattan's Parliament; the descendants of the volunteers; the descendants of that section of the Irish people among whom, in 1799 and 1800, the chief opposition to the Union was displayed, are now its staunchest supporters. Grattan was accustomed to look to Protestant Ulster as the special centre of the energy, intelligence, and industry of Ireland,3 and since the Union its industrial supremacy has become still more decisive. The prediction so often made in the Union discussions, that in Ireland, as in Scotland, the declining importance of the political capital would be accompanied or followed by the rise of a great industrial capital, has? come true; but the Glasgow of Ireland has not arisen, as was expected, in Catholic Munster, but in Protestant Ulster. The great city of Belfast and those counties in Ulster, which are now the strongest supporters of the legislative Union, form also the portion of Ireland which, in all the elements of industry, wealth, progress, intelligence and order, have risen to the greatest height, and have attained to the full level of Great Britain; and, unless some political disaster drags them down to the level of the remainder of Ireland, their relative importance must steadily increase. The Presbyterians of the North, who, during the greater part of the eighteenth century, formed the most dangerous element of discontent in Ireland, have been fully conciliated; but the great majority of the Catholic populalation, whose ancestors in 1800 had accepted the Union with indifference or with favour, are now arrayed against it. Yet even in the Catholic body, the landed gentry, a majority of the Catholics in the secular professions, and an important and guiding section of the Catholic middle class, are as much attached to the Union as the Protestants; while the peace of the country has been mainly kept during its many agitations by a great constabulary force largely drawn from the ranks of the Catholic peasantry. The utter feebleness of every attempted insurrection, and the impotence of all political agitation that is not united with an agrarian struggle, and largely subsidised from abroad, show clearly how much hollowness and unreality there is in Irish sedition.
Powerful influences at the same time have been strengthening the Union. Steam has brought Ireland vastly nearer to England; has made her much more dependent on England; and has removed some of the chief administrative objections to the Union. The chances, both of foreign invasion and of successful insurrection, have greatly diminished. The whole course and tendency of European politics is towards the unification, and not the division of states. The relative position of the two islands has essentially changed, the population of Great Britain having trebled since the Union, while that of Ireland has probably not risen more than 200,000 or 300,000. Economically, too, the free-trade system has greatly lessened the dependence of England upon Ireland, while it has left England the only market for Irish cattle. Imperial credit at the same time has acquired an increasing importance in the material development of Ireland. Commercial, financial, and social relations between the two countries have immensely multiplied. Disqualifications and disabilities of all kinds have, with scarcely an exception, been abolished. English professional life in all its branches is crowded with Irishmen, many of them in the foremost ranks, while Irishmen have of late years probably borne a more considerable proportionate part than the inhabitants of any other portion of the Empire, in the vast spheres of ambition and enterprise, which Imperial policy has thrown open in India and the colonies.
These last advantages, it is true, though of priceless value, have not been without their shadow, for they have contributed, with causes that are more purely Irish, to a marked and lamentable decline in the governing faculty of the upper orders in Ireland. No one who has followed with care the history of Ireland in the eighteenth century, and especially the part played by the Irish gentry when they organised the volunteers in 1779, and the yeomanry in 1798, will question the reality of this decline; nor is it difficult to explain it. All the influences of late years have tended, fatally and steadily, to close the paths of public life and of healthy influence, in three provinces of Ireland, to honourable, loyal, and intelligent men, and the best and most energetic have sought—not without success—in other lands a sphere for their talents.
With a diminished population, material prosperity has at last arrived, and the standard of comfort has been greatly raised. Of ordinary crime there is very little, and although agrarian conspiracy has never been more rife, it may at least be said that the savage and unpunished murders which have at all times accompanied it, have in the present generation become less numerous. But the political condition has certainly not improved, and the difficulty of Irish government has not diminished. The elementary conditions of national stability, of all industrial and political prosperity, are in few countries more seriously impaired. The Union has not made Ireland either a loyal or an united country. The two nations that inhabit it still remain distinct. Political leadership has largely passed into hands to which no sane and honourable statesman would entrust the task of maintaining law, or securing property, or enforcing contracts, or protecting loyal men, or supporting in times of difficulty and danger the interests of the Empire. At the same time, through the dissolution or enfeeblement of the chief influences on which the connection of the two countries has hitherto depended, English statesmen are confronted with one of the gravest and most difficult of all political problems. It is that of creating, by a wide diffusion and rearrangement of landed property, a new social type, a new conservative basis, in a disaffected and disorganised nation.
But of all the anticipations held out in 1800, none has been so signally falsified as the prediction that the Union would take Irish affairs out of the domain of English faction. There has scarcely been a period since its enactment, in which Irish questions or Irish votes have not been made the chief weapons in party conflicts; and with the appearance in the Imperial Parliament of a separate Irish party, ostentatiously indifferent to the great interests of the Empire, the evil has been immensely aggravated. Its effects have most assuredly not been confined to Ireland. It has produced coalitions and alliances, to which the worst periods of English party politics in the eighteenth century can afford no adequate parallel; apostasies and transformations so flagrant, so rapid, and so shameless, that they have sunk the level of public morals, and the character and honour of public men, to a point which had scarcely been touched in England since the evil days of the Restoration or the Revolution.
There is no fact in modern history more memorable than the contrast between the complete success with which England has governed her great Eastern Empire, with more than 200,000,000 inhabitants, and her signal failure in governing a neighbouring island, which contains at most about 3,000,000 disaffected subjects. Few good judges will doubt that the chief key to the enigma is to be found in the fact that Irish affairs have been in the very vortex of English party politics, while India has hitherto lain outside their sphere, and has been governed by upright and competent administrators, who looked only to the well-being of the country. The lessons which may be drawn from the Irish failure are many and valuable. Perhaps the most conspicuous is the folly of conferring power where it is certain to be misused, and of weakening, in the interests of any political theory or speculation, those great pillars of social order, on which all true liberty and all real progress ultimately depend.
A Libel on the Rev. Dr. Delany and his Excellency Lord Carteret.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 100-102, 228.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 251-256.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 327, 328, 330, 331. Lord Cornwallis writes, ‘He [the King] will, I am persuaded, see the necessity of my having entered into embarrassing engagements, according to the various circumstances which occurred during the long, and arduous contest, and if any of them should appear so strongly to merit his disapprobation, as to induce him to withhold his consent to their being carried into effect, he will be pleased to allow me to retire from a station which I could no longer hold with honour to myself, or with any prospect of advantage to his service.’ (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 265, 266.)
See the list in Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 318, 319. Very full details about the services of the new peers will be found in earlier letters (iii 251-266).
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 286, 287.
Lord Clare's English peerage was first suggested from England as early as June. Portland writes, ‘The sense we have of Lord Clare's services, and of the manly and decided part he has acted, as well with respect to the Union as upon all other occasions,’ induces the Ministers to recommend him for an English peerage, ‘without waiting, as was originally intended, until the measure of the Union was secured and completed.’ He believed, he said, that such a step might clearly evince H.M.’ s determination, and the rewards likely to be obtained by supporting the Union. (Portland to Cornwallis, June 28, 1799.)
‘Among the many engagements which I have been obliged to contract in the event of the success of the measure of a legislative Union, I have promised to use my utmost influence to obtain an earldom for Lord Kenmare.’ (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 109.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 319. Bishop Percy notices that Lord Gosford's wife was very hostile to the Union, and that their son voted against it in the House of Commons. (Jan. 30, 1800.)
On Dec. 11, 1799, Castlereagh wrote to Portland, ‘Mr Pitt's letter, which your Grace was so obliging as to obtain for me, enabled me perfectly to satisfy Lord Ely, without making any positive promise as to the marquisate. His Lordship is satisfied to leave himself in the hands of the Government’ (Cornwallis Correspondence. iii. 149.) The King was very anxious to restrict the number of marquisates and English peerages, and in 1800 the Duke of Portland wrote to the Lord Lieutenant, that he must do his best to confine the English peerages to the Earls of Ely and Londonderry, and to persuade the peers whom the Lord Lieutenant had recommended for marquisates, with the exception of Lord Clanricarde, to surrender their claims as a special favour to the King. If absolutely necessary, however, an exception might be made for Lord Ely, as his influence had proved so great. Cornwallis answered, ‘Lord Ely, who never willingly relinquished anything, has a promise of being made a marquis, which, I understood from Lord Castlereagh, was authorised from England in a letter written by Mr. Pitt, and transmitted by your Grace to him.’ (Ibid. pp. 258, 262, 264) Many other particulars about Lord Ely will be found in this correspondence. He was compensated for six seats, but he retained what was then the close borough of Wexford in the Imperial Parliament; he had considerable county influence, and he appears to have bought nominations from other borough owners. (Ibid. p. 324.) Cornwallis notices the importance of Lord Ely's influence, in procuring addresses for the Union from the counties where his property lay. (P. 113.)
Ball's Irish Legislative Systems, 2nd ed. p. 285; May's Const. Hist. i. 292, 293.
Twiss's Life of Eldon, ii. 173, 174.
Grattan's Miscellaneous Works, p. 57. Some statistics about the price of borough seats in Ireland at different periods, will be found in Ball's Irish Legislative Systems, p. 286.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 321–324; 40 Geo. III. c. 34. 1,400,000l. was granted for the purposes of this statute, but this extended to some other forms of compensation beside that of the borough patrons.
40 Geo. III. c. 34, 50. See, too, Annual Register, 1800, pp. 145, 146.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 111.
Ibid. p. 150.
See Grattan's Speeches, iv. 37.
A private letter of Lord Castlereagh to his successor, Abbot, about the end of 1801, gives an example of this ‘When Mr. K…. vacated his seat for P… in favour of a supporter of Government, he received an assurance of the first chairman's place that should fall vacant. Very shortly after, and during the struggle, that for Tyrone became so, and, of course, under his engagement it belonged to Mr. K. We found that Government would be involved in extreme difficulty with one of its most important and indeed most disinterested friends, if that situation was not open to Lord Abercorn's recommendation. I was directed by Lord Cornwallis to see Mr. K. and to endeavour to prevail on him to waive his claim, assuring him that Government would not ultimately suffer him to be a loser.’ He did so, and thus had an indisputable claim on the Government. (Colchester MSS.)
In Bishop Percy's letters we have an illustration of the working of this system. The Bishop writes, that two of Lord Downshire's members had lost their places for opposing the Union, but Mr. Magenis ‘has made his peace with Government, and now is strong for an Union, as his son Willy tells me, and that his father is to have a better place (and by the bye is also promised some good Church preferment for his son). I asked him how Lord Downshire would like this. He told me that his father had paid Lord D. for his seat in Parliament this time, so was at liberty to dispose of his vote (a curious traffic), but Mrs. Brush thinks it must have been bought cheap, as the rebellion expected, and the fear of an invasion, made a seat in Parliament so cheap it might be purchased for 600l. or 700l. I hope this shocking trade is drawing to an end, and all the abominable borough sales will cease in this country if the Union should take place.’ ‘Old Richard Magenis and some others who stood aloof, have now joined the Ministry. His price is some good preferment promised to Willy. Of this they make no secret’ ‘I believe I mentioned that Mr. Magenis had given 1,000l. for his seat in the present Parliament, which his Lordship [Lord Downshire] had sent to return him, but he refused to take it, as he hopes to make a better market for his vote.’ (Bishop Percy to his wife, Aug. 1, Dec. 10, 18, 1799. British Museum.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 179, 188, 192, 197.
See vol. vi. pp. 599–602.
In the course of the struggle, Mr. O'Donnell moved that the address to the Lord Lieutenant in favour of the Union should be presented by ‘all the general and staff officers, the placemen and pensioners,’ who were members of the House of Commons, and the names of these members were then drawn up, with the offices they held. The list (which contains seventy-two names) will be found in Grattan's Speeches, iv. 5–7, and in Grattan's Life, v. 173. In the protest drawn up by the leaders of the Opposition, in the form of an address to the King, they say, ‘Of those who voted for the Union, we beg leave to inform your Majesty that seventy-six had places or pensions under the Crown, and others were under the immediate influence of constituents who held great offices under the Crown.’ (Grattan's Speeches, iv. 32.) Lord Cornwallis, on the other hand, sent over to England a return of the members of the Irish House of Commons who held civil offices of any kind whatever. The editor of the Cornwallis Correspondence says, ‘There were fifty-six members holding offices at pleasure, of whom four held also offices for life, six had offices for life only, and mne were King's Counsel, or had patents of precedence. Over these fifteen, Government had, of course, no influence.’ (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 243) In this list the military posts and the pensions are not included; on the other hand, the position of King's Counsel and patents of precedence are not counted in the Opposition list.
I have collected in another book some curious facts about Archbishop Agar's conduct on this occasion. (Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland, pp 157, 158.) The Primacy fell vacant when the Union debates were going on, and Cornwallis tried (though without success) to have an Irishman appointed. ‘It would have a very bad effect, he wrote, ‘at this time, to send a stranger to supersede the whole bench of bishops, and I should likewise be much embarrassed by the stop that would be put to the succession amongst the Irish clergy at this critical period; when I am beyond measure pressed for ecclesiastical preferment.’ (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 210.) ‘Lord Clifden, to whom we stand indebted for seven Union votes; Lord Callan, who has two friends in the House of Commons, and Mr. Preston, member for Navan, all nearly related to the Archbishop of Cashel, came to me this day to request that I would agree to submit his name to his Majesty's consideration for the succession to the Primacy.’ (Ibid. pp. 217, 218)
See the names and the appointments in Barnes's Rights of the Imperial Crown of Ireland (1803), pp. 335–337.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 18.
Grattan's Life, v. 114, 115. The following curious letter gives a vivid picture of the kind of negotiation that was going on. A Government agent writes to Marsden, that he had been visiting the seat of Colonel Almuty at Brianstown, near Longford. The Union was mentioned. ‘I suffered him to spend himself in a philippic against it. I made a few observations, and added that the county of Longford had addressed. This he denied; he said it was only the Catholics, and there was scarcely a Protestant in the county for it. He is a man of much influence, and stands well with the Catholics. His affairs are much embarrassed. He has two sons in the line, one a lieutenant in the 6th…. He is now in great distress, as the lieutenancy is not paid for, and his lands are under custm…. I hinted that this would be a good time for him to take a lead with the Freeholders, as no man of any consequence had stirred, and that the first mover would be likely to attract the notice of Government. I said that he was foolishly letting slip the only opportunity that might offer of showing his zeal for Administration, who certainly were very much alive upon the subject. He seemed to think the measure would be carried…. I have not yet had any opportunity here of feeling the people, but I incline to think that the Catholics are its best friends, and the Protestants seem sullen.’ (E. Purden to Marsden, Oct. 14, 1799, I.S.P.O.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 339, 340. This letter is dated Feb. 19, 1801. It will be observed, that these promises were quite independent of the regular compensations which had been granted by Act of Parliament in the preceding year. See, too, on the ‘heavy mortgage’ upon the patronage of Ireland in 1801, Lord Colchester's Diary and Correspondence, i. 325.
Thus, near the end of 1801, Castlereagh writes to his successor, Abbot: ‘Mr. Grady's case is one of those with respect to which I took the liberty of referring you for more precise information to Mr. Cooke, for reasons which will naturally suggest themselves, through whom the engagement was made with the approbation of the Lord Lieutenant. It was one of those arrangements pressed upon us by the necessity of the case, at a moment when we were not altogether in a situation, consistent with the safety of the measure entrusted to us, to decide merely upon the personal merits of those who had the means to forward or impede it. The number of applications to which you have been exposed as the result of that measure, have enabled you to judge of the embarrassments under which we acted.’ (Castlereagh to Abbot (secret), Oct. 17.) ‘The consequence [of some arrangements that have been described] would be, that the Lord Lieutenant would be able to fulfil the expectations of promotion held out by the last Government to Mr. Grady, which would discharge a claim in many respects of a pressing nature, by his succeeding to the office of Counsel of the Revenue.’ (Abbot to Addington, Jan. 19, 1802. Colchester MSS.)
In November 1803, the Government was severely blamed in Parliament for not having foreseen Emmet's insurrection, and some special attack appears to have been contemplated on Marsden. A copy is preserved of the following very significant letter, which Wickham then wrote (Nov. 18, 1803) to the Lord Lieutenant: ‘In writing to Mr. Yorke on the subject of the personal attack that is intended to be made upon Marsden, your Excellency will perhaps do well to call his attention to these points. 1. Marsden was the person who conducted the secret part of the Union. Ergo, the price of each Unionist, as well as the respective conduct and character of each, is well known to him. Those who figure away and vapour in so great a style in London, are well known to him. They live in hourly dread of being unmasked, and they all consider him as the person who opposes their interested views and jobs by his representation of the whole truth. 2. Marsden, as a lawyer, is supposed to be the person who gives to the Government the opinion that is acted upon as to legal promotions. He is, therefore, supposed to be the man who has stood in the way of our filling the Bench and the confidential law situations under the Crown with improper persons, by giving a fair and right interpretation to the Union engagements. 3. Many of the persons who make a great figure at the levee, and on the benches of either House, in London, really dare not look Marsden in the face. I have often witnessed this, and have been diverted by it. With your Excellency and with me they have an air of uncomfortable greatness, but with him they quite shrink away.’ (I.S.P.O.)
Speech on Nov. 2, 1830. (Parl. Debates.) See, too, in the same debate, the emphatic statement of Lord Farnham, an old opponent of the Union, but at the same time a strong anti-repealer.
Grattan's Life, v. 113.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 184. This letter, however, was written on Feb. 8, 1800, and a great deal appears to have happened after that date.
See on the absence, before 1793, of any secret service fund like that of England, vol. iv. p. 519. The Act of 1793 was 33 Geo. III. c. 34. On the pensions to informers, see Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 319–321.
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 82.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 151, 156.
Ibid pp 202, 226, 308. ‘Mr. Pitt,’ wrote Cooke to Castlereagh in April, ‘approves of your taking advantage of these vacancies in the civil list. Quere: Will the law allow you to increase the number of the Commissioners of Boards?’ (P. 226) In July 1800, Castlereagh wrote, ‘I hope you will settle with King our further ways and means; from the best calculation I can make, we shall absolutely require the remainder of what I asked for, namely, fifteen, to wind up matters, exclusive of the annual arrangement; and an immediate supply is much wanted. If it cannot be sent speedily, I hope we may discount it here.’ (Ibid. p 278.) In Lord Colchester's Diary (May 1801) there is an entry, ‘The money for engagements of the Union, as authorised to be taken out of the privy purse, to be settled between Mr. Pitt and Lord Castlereagh’ (i. 266).
See the letter, countersigned by the Attorney-General, in Barrington's Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, c. xxvii.
May's Constitutional History, i. 291.
Life of Edgeworth, ii. 231.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 101. (R.O.) The last two passages are omitted in the published letter.
Ibid. pp. 105, 131, 153. In November, the Speaker is said to have still asserted that the Opposition had 140 votes. (Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. I.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii.
Ibid. pp. 110, 111.
Ibid. p. 118.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 121, 122.
Ibid. pp. 138–140.
Ibid. p. 143.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 105; Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 26, 27, 353. In a memorial sent to the Chief Secretary, Abbot (Oct. 13, 1801), McKenna said, ‘The four Administrations which successively ruled Ireland, from 1793 to 1800, have each, unsolicited by me, called for that little aid to the cause of civil society and good government which I was able to contribute…. But the affair of the Union constitutes that ground on which my claim, at least to a certain extent, is beyond all question irresistible. You know that, in consequence of application made to me, I gave up my time and trouble to the cultivation of that question. If contributing nearly as much as any other person to render that transaction palatable to the public, and to extend the credit of it. be a service to Government, that service I must say I rendered. A positive engagement was made me’ (Colchester MSS.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 105, 129.
Cernwallis Correspondence, iii. 124, 125, 138, 139.
Lord Carleton to Pelham, March 1, 1799. (Pelham MSS.)
Alexander to Pelham, April 12, 1799. (Ibid.)
Lord Altamount, May 26, 1799. (I.S.P.O.)
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 327–329. (June 5, 1799.)
Ibid. p. 345. (July 6.)
Ibid. p. 394.
Ibid. p. 354; iii. 228.
See Lord Donoughmore's reply in the debate in the House of Lords, June 6, 1810. Cornwallis confirms (Correspondence, iii 125) the great services of Lord Donoughmore on this question. Like his father, Lord Donoughmore was a warm friend of the Catholics, and he appears to have had considerable influence among them.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 180, 182.
Ibid. p. 125. VOL. VIII.
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 352.
Ibid. iii. 280.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 164.
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 355-358.
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 408-414.
John Foster to Pelham, Dec. 8, 1799. (Pelham MSS.)
Mant's History of the Church of Ireland, ii. 762.
Bishop Percy to his wife, Oct. 10, 1799.
This is stated in a letter of Bishop Percy, in the I.S.P.O., Oct. 9, 1799.
Bishop Percy says: ‘Lord Bristol has put his signature, yet the poor Primate, though that county [Tyrone] is chiefly in his diocese, and though he voted in Parliament for the Union, was not allowed—by Madam, I suppose—to add his name [to an address in favour of it].’ (Dec. 10, 1799.) In Cox's Irish Magazine (Nov. 1807, p. 60) there is a letter which is said to have been written, in 1779, by the Bishop of Derry to Boswell, inquiring what effect the Scotch Union had exercised on the prosperity of Edinburgh. If this letter is genuine, it shows that Lord Bristol at that early date looked with some favour on the idea of an Union, and believed that, although Dublin would be against it, the rest of Ireland would probably welcome it.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. pp. 229, 230. In the beginning of 1799, the electors of Trinity College (who consisted of the Fellows and scholars) addressed their members, calling on them to oppose the Union. (Faulkner's Journal, Jan. 19, 1799.)
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 344, 345.
Ibid. p. 352.
Ibid. pp. 370, 371.
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 399-402.
Ibid. pp. 347, 348, 386, 387.
Plowden, ii. Appendix, pp. 320-322.
Ibid. p. 323.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 143, 146.
O'Leary's ‘Address to the Parliament of Great Britain.’ (Collected Works (Boston, 1868), p. 541.)
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 437, 438. Some later letters from General Barnett describe the services of this bishop. ‘The Admiral having expressed, to me on Thursday last, a particular wish that Dr. Plunkett should come forward, I last night received authority from the Doctor to assure your Lordship, that the measure of Union shall receive his decided support…. Your Lordship has full power to make use of Dr. Plunkett's name in any way that you may consider is most conducive to the furtherance of the measure. The Doctor particularly requests that all his clergy should sign, and, with prudence, exert their utmost influence to forward the measure.’ … ‘He will write to the clergy of Westmeath to give support to the measure…. He believes the whole of the clergy in this county to be in favour of the measure.’ (General Barnett to the Earl of Longford, Jan. 6, 1800; to Admiral Pakenham, Dec. 22, 1799. (I.S.P.O)
Plowden. ii. 980-983 Plowden says. ‘Some difficulties arose in the way of the meeting from the military, but were removed the moment his Excellency Marquis Cornwallis became acquainted with the attempt made to prevent an expression of the popular opinion on a question big with the fate of the popular interests.’
They will be found in Barnes On the Union.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 145
Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 85.
Plowden, ii. 979, 980. In quoting Plowden in favour of the Union, I refer to his Historical Review, published in 1803. In his History of Ireland, from the Union to 1810, which was published in 1811, his point of view was wholly changed, and he wrote as the most furious of partisans. A single passage will serve as a specimen: ‘The public can be now no longer duped by the insidious practices of Mr. Pitt's systematic management of Ireland. Every page of her post-Union history teems with evidence of his having forced a rebellion, in order to drown her independence in the blood, and bury her felicity under the ashes, of the country, in the wicked (perhaps fruitless) hope of preventing her resurrection by the immovable tombstone of legislative Union…. With a view to raise an eternal bar to Catholic concession, he introduced an apparent system of justice and conciliation, to furnish an argument that the Catholics might be happy and prosperous, as he foresaw they would be tranquil and loyal, without emancipation. At the same time, he secretly laboured to establish, strengthen, and perpetuate the Orange societies, which he well knew to be incompatible with, and essentially destructive of the peace, concord, and prosperity of the country. In that work of deception, Mr. Pitt's prime and most efficient instrument was Marquis Cornwallis’ (i. 94).
Barrington's Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, chapters xxvi. and xxvii.
Dialogue between Orange and Croppy. by Counsellor Sampson. This poem was found in manuscript among the papers of one of the United Irishmen, and sent to the Government. It is printed in Madden's Literary Remains of the United Irishmen of 1798, pp. 122, 123. A few lines will indicate its character:
Lord Clifden. (Diary and Correspondence of Lord Colchester, 1. 186.
‘I am frightened about the popery business. It ought to be touched only by a master hand. It is a chord of such wondrous potency, that I dread the sound of it, and believe with you that the harmony would be better, if, like that of the spheres, it were, at least for a time, inaudible.’ (Flood to Charlemont, Jan. 7, 1782.)
Hardy's Life of Charlemont, ii. 414, 416, 429, 430.
Memoir of Thompson, 26 primaire, an viii. (F.F.O.)
Reports in the I.S.P.O., July 24, Dec. 5, 1799.
Castlereagh to Wickham, May 6, 1799. (R.O.)
Castlereagh to Portland, June 29, 1799.
Castlereagh to King, Aug. 21, 1799. ‘It is too provoking,’ Lord Clare wrote very characteristically at this time, ‘that the old bitch, Lord Keith, should have let the French and Spanish, fleets slip him as they have done. Most probably he will be advanced to the English peerage for the exploit.’ (Clare to Cooke, Aug. 13, 1799. I.S.P.O.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 130, 132.
Ibid. iii. 93. ‘As to the present tendency to rebellion … I cannot bring myself to believe that it has anything to do with the question of Union, as the anti-Unionists in the country would fain make us believe No one who knows anything of the country, or of the nature and principle of the insurrection, could ever bring himself to believe in November or December last that the whole was at an end. The question of Union may, perhaps, have hastened the new organisation of the counties of Down and Antrim of which you speak, but I am far from thinking myself that this is an evil, being persuaded that the seeds of insurrection are lurking in every county, and that the sooner they bear fruit … the better.’ (Wickham to Cooke, March 4, 1799, I.S.P.O.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 144. There are some good letters, on the distress and frands of the time, by Higgins in the I.S.P.O. The distillery laws were 40 Geo. III. c. 6, 58.
The reader will remember the great influence which this statement, in Leland, had exercised over Arthur O'Connor's politics.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 26-54.
Castleragh Correspondence, iii, 333.
See Castlereagh's remarkable letter in Alexander Knox's Remains, iv. 539-541. In this letter Castlereagh says: ‘I feel confident that the intentions of Government for the public good, at that time, will bear the strictest scrutiny…. I believe their measures, when fairly explained, will stand equally the test of criticism, and that they may be shown to have combined humanity with vigour of administration, when they had to watch over the preservation of the State; whilst in the conduct of the Union, they pursued honestly the interests of Ireland, yielding not more to private interests than was requisite to disarm so mighty a change of any convulsive character.’ Knox said Castlereagh was ‘the honestest and perhaps the ablest statesman that has been in Ireland for a century. I know of him what the world does not and cannot know, and what if it did know, it would probably not believe.’ (Ibid. p. 31.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 118, 137, 138, 145.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 164
The best report of Lord Castlereagh's speech is, I believe, that in Seward's Collectanea Politica. See, too, the reports in Coote's History of the Union. A fuller report of this debate was published separately in Dublin, but it is now extremely rare. Long extracts from some of the Opposition speeches will, however, be found in Grattan's Life.
This is the statement of Plunket, and the figures he gave do not appear to have been disputed in the debate. Grattan's biographer, who reports the speech, says that the signatures to the addresses in favour of the Union did not exceed 7,000, (Grattan's Life, v. 79.) On the other hand, Plowden says the Wexford address was signed by more than 3,000, and the Leitrim address by 1,836 persons, (ii. Appendix, 322, 323.) An address from Roscommon is said to have been signed by ‘1,500 Catholics exclusive of Protestants.’ (Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 222.) The number of signatures in favour of the Union is not, I think, anywhere mentioned in the Government letters, but Castlereagh wrote: ‘The petitions presented to Parliament [against the Union] have been more numerously signed than the addresses and declarations in favour of the measure, which were, in general, studiously confined to a superior description of persons; but the preponderance of property is undoubtedly on the side of the latter.’ (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 224.) Everything that can be said by a skilful advocate to enhance the importance of the addresses in favour of the Union, and to diminish the importance of the petitions against it, will be found in Mr. Ingram's History of the Irish Union—a book which is intended to show that ‘the Irish Union is free from any taint of corruption;’ ‘that it was carried by fair and constitutional means, and that its final accomplishment was accompanied with the hearty assent and concurrence of the vast majority of the two peoples that dwell in Ireland.’ (Preface.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 165.
Cooke to Grenville, Jan. 16, 1800.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 170, 171. The circular was dated Jan. 20.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 174,182.184. Compare Grattan's Life, v. 71, 72. The Opposition paid the 4,000l. he had paid of election expenses at Enniscorthy, on condition of his voting in 1800 against the Union, which he had supported in 1799. Grattan's son says that Cooke tried to win the member back by a large bribe, but that he refused to break his promise with the Opposition.
Grattan's Life, v. 71.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 167,168; compare Grattan's Life, v. 66-68.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 165.
See the text of many of these resolutions in Barnes On the Union, Appendix, pp. 133,136,142; Grattan's Life, v. 54-56.
Cooke to King, March 5, 1800. (R.O.) See, too, Cornwallis Correspondence, iii 203 Barnes has printed a list of the counties and other places that petitioned the House of Commons for or against the Union, extracted from the journals of the House by James Corry, clerk of the journals. According to this list, the petitions against the Union were signed by 112,888 persons. Of these signatures 106,347 were attached to the petitions of the twenty-six counties. and the remainder came from the towns. Six counties sent no petition. Down and Monaghan were the only counties which sent petitions to the House of Commons in favour of the Union, and those petitions were signed by 3,070 persons. The petitions from these two counties against the Union had 28,435 signatures. (Barnes On the Union, pp. 133-141.) This list, of course, does not include the addresses for the Union (mentioned on p. 439), which had been presented to the Lord Lieutenant in 1799. Grey is reported to have said in one of his speeches. ‘Though there were 707,000 who had signed petitions against the measure, the total number of those who declared themselves in favour of it did not exceed 3,000.’ (Parl Hist xxxv.60.) These figures have been repeated by many writers, and, I am sorry to say, by myself in my Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland. It is evident from the above-mentioned authorities that 707,000 is a misprint for 107,000, and Mr. Ingram has kindly sent me the result of his own researches, showing that out of seventeen contemporary newspapers or periodicals, fourteen give the latter figures.
See Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 223.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 176.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 165-175.
Ibid. iii. 176-180.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 172, 176, 198.
See a most powerful passage on the binding force of the Union guarantee, in Sir Robert Peel's great speech on the Church Establishment in Ireland, April 2, 1835. See, too, a very remarkable speech of Plunket in 1829, Plunket's Life. ii. 293-302; and Canning's Speech (corrected and published by himself), Feb. 15, 1825.
In arguing this point Castlereagh said: ‘The population of Ireland is, in general, estimated from 3,500,000 to 4,000,000.’ It is almost certain that this was an understatement. There is, as I have already shown (p.234), strong reason to believe, that the population of Ireland in 1800 somewhat exceeded 4,500,000.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 181. Barrington says the division took place at 11 A.M. For Castlereagh's speech I have followed the separately published report, and for the others the more imperfect reports in Coote's History of the Union.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 181.
Ibid. iii. 182-184. The reader may compare with this the remarks of the contemporary and very impartial historian of the Union. ‘If we consider the number of placemen and other influenced members who voted at the last division, the Cabinet had little cause for real or honourable triumph, as the majority could not be deemed sufficient to give full sanction to the scheme in a moral or conscientious point of view. Though we are friendly to the measure itself, we cannot applaud the perseverance of those who resolved to carry it into effect against the sense of the independent part of the House of Commons; for of the opposition of a real majority of uninfluenced senators, no doubts could be entertained by any man of sense or reflection who knew the predicament and constitution of that assembly.’ (Coote's History of the Union, p. 381.)
I have quoted a few sentences from this speech, in another connection, in a former volume, but the reader will, I trust, excuse a repetition which is essential to bring out the full force of Lord Clare's argument.
The reader who desires to compare this prediction with the actual progress of the Irish debt after the Union, will find full materials in the Parliamentary Reports on the Taxation of Ireland, 1864 and 1865.
‘Our damnable country,’ as he desscribed it in a letter to Auckland. Even in his will he spoke of ‘this giddy and distracted country.’
Compare Coote's History of the Union, pp. 411-414; Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 185, 186.
Many interesting particulars about Yelverton will be found in Barrington, Grattan's Life, and Philips’ Recollections of Curran. He at once pressed for promotion in the peerage (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 258); he was made Viscount Avonmoreimmediately after the Union, and some places taken from the Downshire family were given to his relations. When Lord Clare died, Lord Hard-wicke wished his successor to be an Irishman, and the claims of the chief judges were considered. Abbot than wrote: ‘Lord Avonmore, whose learning and talents are unquestionably great, is nevertheless so totally negligent of propriety of manners, and so extremely embarrassed in his private concerns, that it is hardly creditable for the King's service, for him to remain Chief Baron of the Exchequer. His very salary of office is assigned to pay his creditors, by deed enrolled in his own court.’ (Abbot to Addington, Jan. 19, 1802. Lord Colchester's MSS.)
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 25; iii. 373; Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 41, 220. There is a sketch of Yelverton's speech on March 22, in Coote, and it was printed fully as a pamphlet both in Dublin and London. It is rather too lawyer-like a performance. Cooke wrote of it: ‘Lord Yelverton made a fine speech, but praised Grattan too much for our purpose.’ (Cooke to King, March 24, 1800. R.O.) In a private letter to Lord Grenville, Cooke says: ‘Lord Yelverton made a most able speech on the general question, but he rather interlarded too much exculpation and praise of Grattan. He also denied that any propositions were ever made to him by the Duke of Portland in 1782, of any measures which had the tendency to an Union, or were to be a substitute for it. I understand, however, that the proposal on this subject was at his house, but that both his Lordship and Fitzpatrick were so drunk that they might well have forgotten what passed. This, at least, is the Bishop of Meath's account of what passed’ Cooke to Grenville, March 24, 1800. (Grenville MSS)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 208, 219. The Duke of Portland, in conceding this point, took occasion to express his admiration of the Irish aristocracy, ‘whose exemplary conduct, in the course of this great business, entitles them to every possible mark of consideration, and must secure to them the gratitude of their latest posterity.’ (Ibid. p. 226.) This curious passage appears to have been written with pertect seriousness.
Seward's Collectanea Politiea, iii. 516-520. One of the peers, however, subscribed to only a portion of the protest.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 180, 181.
Compare Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 199, 200; Coote, pp 444, 445. The best report I have seen of Castlereagh's reply to Foster is given in a pamphlet called, A Reply to the Speech of the Speaker, Feb. 17, 1800. Castlereagh's chief objection to the Speaker's calculation appears to have been, that Ireland contributed little to the war before 1797.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 200-202.
Ibid. p. 200.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 202-204; Coote, pp. 445, 446.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 212, 213; Grattan's Speeches, iii. 411-413.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 205, 206.
Ibid. iii. 216, 217; Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 251-253.
This speech is published as a pamphlet.
Life of Edgeworth, ii. 230, 231. Writing on the subject in 1817, Edgeworth said: ‘It is but justice to Lord Cornwallis and Lord Castlereagh to give it as my opinion, that they began this measure with sanguine hopes that they could convince the reasonable part of the community that a cordial Union between the two countries would essentially advance the interests of both. When, however, the Ministry found themselves in a minority, and that a spirit of general opposition was rising in the country, a member of the House, who had been long practised in parliamentary intrigues, had the audacity to tell Lord Castlereagh from his place that,’ if he did not employ the usual means of persuasion on the members of the House, he would fail in his attempt, and that the sooner he set about it the better.’ This advice was followed, and it is well known what benches were filled with the proselytes that had been made by the convincing arguments which obtained a majority.’ (Ibid. p. 232.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 212.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 216, 220, 221; 40 Geo. III. c. 23.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 228-231.
Parl. Hist. xxxv. 47, 48, 98-101, 116.
Parl. Hist. xxxv. 43, 114.
The Parl. Hist. says 707,000, but I have already given my reasons for believing this to be a misprint.
Parl. Hist xxxv. 59-61.
Ibid. 119. For fuller statistics of the number of placemen, see pp. 404, 405. The number 116 appears to have been mentioned by a speaker in the Irish Parliament; but it was either a mere random statement, or was arrived at by counting Queen's Counsel and others, over whom the Government had no real control.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii, 224. This is exclusive of the absentee peers, whose properties were said to be divided on the question in the proportion of 102,500l. to 29,000l. The Bishops’ properties were counted 80,000l. for, and 6,000l. against the Union.
Ibid. iii, 231.
Parl. Hist. xxxv. 193-195.
Ibid. xxxv. 170, 171. Lord Moira joined, however, by proxy in the second and final protest of Irish peers against the measure, though he confined his assent to three out of eleven reasons. (Annual Register, 1800, p. 202.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii 233-235.
40 Geo. III. c. 29.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 238, 239.
Grattan's Speeches, iv. 1-23.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 239-243.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 235, 237, 239, 247. The dates of these letters are May 18, 21, 22, June 4, 1800.
Cooke to Grenville, May 22, 1800. (Grenville MSS.)
Mr. Goold ‘lamented that the public feeling was not sufficiently alive to the question of Union. He lamented that the citizens of Dublin did not exhibit in their countenances the despondency of defeated liberty, and though it was evident that the public sentiment did not keep pace with or sympathise with the opposition within that House, and though that opposition should gradually diminish, he would never acknowledge the triumph of the Minister, and to the last moment of its discussion would glory in his efforts to repel a measure which he conceived fatal to the liberties of his country.’ (Dublin Evening Post, May 17, 1800.)
This very remarkable protest will be found in Grattan's Speeches, iv 24-36, in the Appendix to Grattan's Life, vol. v., and in Plowden.
There is a curious broadside in the British Museum, purporting to be a report of Dobbs’ speech on June 7. See, too, Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 249; Coote, pp. 498, 499. In the debate on February 6. Dobbs had concluded his speech in a similar strain, though the earlier part of it was perfectly sane and even powerful. I have given (vol. iv. p. 508), an outline of Dobbs’ prophetical views.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 250.
A long and able letter from Lord Farnham to Lord Grenville on this point, will be found in the Grenville MSS. (June 20, 1800). Lord Farnham stated, that for the year ending Jan. 5, 1799, the permanent taxes of Great Britain were upwards of twenty-six millions, those of Ireland but two millions.
Among the Colchester Papers there is a draft of a despatch to Lord Pelham, on the proposal of the Bank of Ireland to buy the Parliament House. At the end there is added, ‘Private.’ ‘I am given to understand confidentially that the Bank of Ireland would in such case subdivide what was the former House of Commons into several rooms for the check offices, and would apply what was the House of Lords to some other use which would leave nothing of its former appearance.’ In the same collection there is a letter from Abbot to Lord Hardwicke, sanctioning the purchase. ‘It should, however, be again privately stipulated,’ he says, ‘that the two chambers of Parliament shall be effectually converted to such uses as shall preclude their being again used upon any contingency as public debating rooms. It would be desirable also, to bargain that they should render the outside uniform, and in the change of appropriation reconcile the citizens to it, in some degree, by making the edifice more ornamental.’ (Feb. 1, 1802.)
‘I am no friend to the Irish aristocracy, and though I think what Grattan said of them (that they are only fit to carry claret to a chamberpot), is true, I think better of them than of any Irish democracy that could be formed.’ (R. Griffith to Pelham, Oct. 8, 1798.)
See vol. vi. pp. 384-386, 469, 470. In a letter to an Italian gentleman about the Government of the Cisalpine Republic, Grattan said: ‘She should have a representative chosen by the people who have some property, for I don't like personal representation. It is anarchy, and must become slavery.’ (Grattan's Life, v. 215.)
There is a striking letter on this subject from John Pollock, in the Colchester MSS. Pollock, after describing the general connivance at these unlicensed distilleries, and the enormous evils they produced, adds. ‘The greatest object that could be accomplished for Ireland, and the one that would render the minister who may accomplish it, almost the saviour of his country, would be to adopt a system that should produce good, wholesome, and comparatively cheap malt liquor, and put spirits beyond the reach of the common people.’ (J Pollock to Charles Abbot, Aug. 16. 1801.) See, too, a striking letter of Cooke, Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 14 On the great part the whisky shop always bears in the manufacture of Irish agrarian and seditious crime, see some striking evidence of Drummond, in Smyth's Ireland, Historical and Statistical, iii. 67.
See Buckingham's Courts and Cabinets, iii. 129, and a letter, written apparently on the authority of Lord Grenville, about the intentions of Pitt, quoted by Sir J. Hippisley, Substance of a Speech, May 18, 1810, p. 15.
48 Geo. III. cap. 66.
The Prosperity of Ireland displayed in the State of Charity Schools in Dublin, by John Ferrar (Dublin, 1796).
See Newenham's State of Ireland, p. xix, Appendix, pp 34-37.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iii. 91, 92, 449, 450.
By the census of 1831, the Irish population was 7,707,401.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 302, 303.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 85.
This was stated by Canning himself in the House of Commons (March 6, 1827): ‘I remember, Sir, as well as if it happened yesterday, Mr. Pitt's showing me a letter from Lord Cornwallis, in which that noble lord said he had sounded the ground, and could carry the Union, but not the Catholic question; and I also recollect my saying.’ ’ If I were you, I would reject the one measure if distinct from the other.’ ’ Mr. Pitt rebuked me, as perhaps my rashness deserved.’ (Parl. Deb. Second Series, xvi. 1005, 1006.)
Arguments for and against an Union, pp. 29-34.
Speech of the Right Hon. H. Dundas, Feb. 7, 1799, p. 59.
Speech of the Right Hon. H. Dundas, Feb. 7, 1799, p. 59.
Cornwallis Correspondence, ii. 415. On the negotiations of Cornwallis with the Catholics in the beginning of 1799, see Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 78, 79.
Parl. Hist. xxxiv. 272. There are some slight verbal variations in the different reports of Pitt's speech.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 52; Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 132.
Castlereagh Correspondence, ii. 276.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 8-12. This letter was written to Pitt. to remind him of what had taken place. It is dated Jan. 1, 1801.
Cooke to Grenville, Jan. 16, Feb. 14, 22, March 5, 10, 1800. (Grenville MSS.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 307.
Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. Appendix, p. xvi.
Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, viii. 172, 173 Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. 263, 261.
Wilberforce's Life, iii. 7.
Pellew's Life of Sidmouth, i. 285, 286.
Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. Appendix, xxiii-xxviii.
See his letter to Pitt (Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. Appendix, pp. xxviii, xxx), and his letter to Dundas (Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 333).
In his letter to Pitt, he said he was under ‘a religious obligation’ ‘to maintain the fundamental maxims on which our Constitution is placed, namely, the Church of England being the established one, and that those who hold employments in the State must be members of it, and consequently obliged, not only to take oaths against popery, but to receive the Holy Communion agreeably to the rites of the Church of England.’ (Stanhope's Life of Pitt, in. Appendix, p xxix.) But the King every year assented to a Bill of Indemnity in favour of Protestant Dissenters who took office without the qualification, and no disqualification excluded these Dissenters from Parliament.
See a letter of Lord Grenville in Buckingham's Courts and Cabinets, iii. 129.
Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. Appendix, p. xxx.
Ibid, p 286.
Compare Buckingham's Courts and Cabinets, iii. 131, 134, 143; Malmesbury's Diaries and Correspondence, iv. 4.
Pellew's Life of Sidmouth, i. 286.
See Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 35, 39; Malmesbury Correspondence, iv. 4; and the detailed account in Pellew's Life of Sidmouth. Canning wrote: ‘Mr. Pitt has resigned on finding himself not allowed to carry into effect his own wishes and opinions, and the views of the Irish Government respecting the Catholic question. The King has accepted his resignation, and a new Government is forming, in which Mr. Pitt earnestly presses all those of his own friends who are now in office to take part, and to which he intends personally to give the most decided and active support in Parliament.’ (Life of Sidmouth, i. 299.)
Wilberforce's Life, iii. 2.
Pellew's Life of Sidmouth, i. 334, 335, 339.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 60; Malmesbury Correspondence, iv. 4.
Sir Cornewall Lewis has examined this episode with great care in his Administrations of Great Britain, and he entirely acquits Pitt of being governed in his resignation by any other consideration than the Catholic question (pp. 151-153). The reader, however, should compare on the other side a powerful and interesting letter by Dean Milman in the same work (pp. 268-280). Dundas, according to Lord Malmesbury, said, ‘If these new ministers stay in and make peace, it will only smooth matters the more for us afterwards,’ and Canning ascribed Pitt's refusal to resume power at once, to a desire to see a peace negotiated by Addington. Lord Malmetsbury's own opinion was, ‘that Pitt advises Addington to make peace, will assist him in it, and that. peace once made, he will then no longer object to take office.’ (Malmesbury Correspondence, iv. 39, 47, 50.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 270; see, too, pp. 282, 283, 313.
Ibid. p. 291.
Ibid. pp. 237, 250.
Ibid. pp. 238; see, too, p. 316.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 291-296, 313. In a remarkable paper drawn up about this time by Lord Castlereagh, in favour of admitting the Catholics to Parhament, the following observations occur: ‘Our error perhaps has hitherto been, yielding piecemeal rather than upon system. In leaving an obvious ground of struggle behind, we have always encouraged demand, rather than attained the only end with a view to which the concession had been made… If the same internal struggle continues, Great Britain will derive little beyond an increase of expense from the Union. If she is to govern Ireland upon a garrison principle, perhaps, in abolishing the separate Parliament, the has. parted as well with her most effectual means as with her most perfect justification…. The Union will do little in itself, unless it be followed up. In addition to the steady application of authority in support of the laws, I look to the measure which is the subject of the above observations [Catholic emancipation], to an arrangement of tithes, and to a provision for the Catholic and Dissenting clergy, calculated in its regulations to bring them under the influence of the State, as essentially necessary to mitigate if it cannot extinguish faction.’ (Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 392-400.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 316, 317.
Ibid. pp. 331-333.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 26, 27.
Ibid. pp. 13, 25.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 313.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 45, 46, 51, 60.
Malmesbury Correspondence, iv. 40.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 335, 336.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 49, 50; Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 337, 341.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 60, 70. Alexander Knox, who was secretary to Castlereagh, fully concurred in the necessity of emancipation, and he wrote at this time the following remarkable words. ‘I am well aware how much the distinct Parliament contributed to keep up disaffection; but I am strongly persuaded that if disaffection be still kept up by other sufficient means, the want of a local Parliament may become not an advantage, but a real grievance to the Empire. I take it that one reason among others why an Irish Parliament was first thought of, was because the disturbed state of that country required the presence of prompt and plenary power … When the rebellion actually commenced, the presence of an Irish Parliament was not without its efficacy. If rebellion be kept alive (and alive it will be kept until every degrading circumstance be removed from the Catholics), even the Union, calculated as it is for both local and imperial benefit, may become the source of irreparable mischief both to Ireland and the Empire; because disturbance will, as much as ever, require summary means of suppression, but those means can no longer have the same sanction as was given them by a resident Parliament.’ (Ibid, pp. 32, 33.)
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 347, 348; Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 76.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 348
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 71.
Cornwallis Correspondence, iii. 349.
Ibid. p. 350. The letter of Dundas has never been found.
Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. 303-306; Malmesbury Correspondence, iv, 31.
Lord Colchester's Diary, i. 245; Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. 302-304; Malmesbury Correspondence, iv. 32
Compare Pellew's Life of Sidmouth, i.334-337; Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii.302-313; Lewis's Administrations of Great Britain, pp. 210-214.
See Lewis's Administrations of Great Britain, pp. 213, 214
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 47, 51. ‘Lord Hobart … assured me, that both he and Lord Clare had been deceived by Mr Pitt, and that he would have voted against the Union, had he suspected at the time that it was connected with any project of extending the concessions already made to the Irish Catholics. The present Lord Clare's report of his father's views of the whole matter, tallies with this account of the transaction,’ (Lord Holland's Memoirs of the Whig Party, i. 162.)
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 41-46. This very interesting letter contains another of those false forecasts of the religious future, of which we have had so many: ‘I consider that neither the Presbyterian nor Catholic seet are new and rising. but ancient and decaying sects; that their enthusiasm (at least among all the higher and educated orders) is worn out, and that civil equality would produce in them a greater indifference to their respective creeds, and make them safer subjects. I think the democratic madness has greatly spent itself, and that the two sects are attached to the principles and forms of our Constitution, and merely oppose from the circumstance of being excluded.’ (P.45.)
Parl. Hist. xxxv. 1231-1237; O'Flanagan's Lives of the Irish Chancellors, in 273, 274; Castlereagh Correspondence, iv.61
Lord Colchester's Diary, i.278,279, 321. In a paper drawn up by the Irish Government for Addington in Jan. 1802, Clare is said to be ‘hostile to any government by Lord Lieutenant. Desirous himself to be Lord Deputy, or at the head of Lords Justices, and for Mr. Cooke to be Secretary of State under him.’ (Ibid. p. 287)
‘The riot and disorder at Lord Clare's funeral was occasioned by a gang of about fourteen persons under orders of a leader, so that it does not tell so ill for the character of the Dublin populace (whom I am not, however, going to defend), as I had at first imagined.’ (Lord Hardwicke to Abbot, Feb. 2, 1802. Colchester MSS)
See his very curious letters in Lord Colchester's Diary, i. 407-410, 436, 466, 467, 476, 510, 511.
See a letter of Lady Hardwicke. (Lord Colchester's Diary, i. 441.)
Ibid. pp.407, 408.
Ibid p. 313.
‘The general election was scarcely sufficient to ruffle the calm into which, after the Union, the commotions of Ireland had subsided…. Not a single member of the Irish Parliament who supported the Union, was displaced in consequence of the displeasure of his constituents; in no instance was this support upbraided to any candidate; some of the most extensive and independent counties returned gentlemen who had shown great zeal in accomplishing this momentous arrangement, and only in one instance (the county of Dublin), did any candidate deem his opposition to the Union a sufficient claim for popular favour, to allude to it in addressing the constituent body’ (Annual Register, 1802, p. 194) According to this authority, twentyfive new Irish members were elected. (P. 436.)
Dr. Troy to Marsden, Sept. 27, 1800, I.S.P.O.; Colchester's Diary, i 291; Ireland, Historical and Statistical, by G.L. Smyth, iii. 403.
This is stated by Grattan in a letter to Fox (Grattan's Life, v. 242), and it is corroborated by Alexander Knox. (Remains, iv. 135.)
Grattan's Life, v. 242, 243.
Magan, as early as Feb. 8, 1801, describes the beginning of this movement. ‘Every art is now used to influence the Catholic mind. It is said, nothing is to be done for them. it is said to the inferior clergy, they have been deceived by their bishops, particularly since a late party of that description dined with his Excellency, which has received the utmost publicity. It has reached the most remote village in the country. Be assured, if any arrangement is ever likely to take place, it would be prudent to let it be known through some channel or other.’ (I.S.P.O.) On the dinner referred to, see Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 24.
See Grattan's remarkable speech, on the Catholic question in 1810, and also Fagan's Life of O'Connell, i. 71. Many particulars on this subject will be found in Sir J. Hippisley's Tracts.
See his letter to Pitt, Jan. 24, 1799, (Stanhope's Life of Pitt, iii. Appendix, p. xviii.) Lord Monteagle, in a speech in the House of Lords in 1848, said(I know not on what authority), that George III.,’ opposed as he was to the concession of the Catholic claims, was favourable to the endowment of the Catholic clergy.’ (Parl. Debates, 3rd series, p. 1131.) It does not appear that the King had objected either to the endowment of Maynooth, or to the payment of the Scotch priests.
Castlereagh Correspondence, iv.
According to this report, the average income of Irish parish priests was then about 65l. a year, exclusive of the expense of keeping a curate. The curates in most places lived with the parish priests, who gave them their dietand lodging, support for one horse, and an allowance of 10l. in money. (Castlereagh Correspondence, iv. 99.)
Ibid. iv. 227-229. There is a similar letter of Castlereagh to Marsden (July 5, 1802) in the I.S.P.O.
Cornwallis to Marsden, July 19, 1802. (I.S.P.O.) It appears from Lord Colchester's diary that the Irish Government, or at least the Chief Secretary, Abbot, opposed the plan. One of the reasons given has a melancholy significance.’ It would form a lasting and irrevocable bar to the longestablished policy of gradually Protestantising the country, and wearing out the attachment to the Catholic religion.’ (P.356.) The question, however, was for some time under deliberation. In September. Cornwallis wrote: ‘The Government here will, no doubt, have firmness enough to insist, in a certain quarter, on a provision for the Catholic clergy, Addington seemed determined to go through with the measure when I last saw him, and I hope he will not flinch.’ (Cornwallis to Marsden, Sept. 2, 1802, I.S.P.O.) A little later he wrote: ‘It would have been better if a provision for the Catholic clergy could have been obtained when we were threatened with no immediate danger, but if we are again forced to enter the lists against the great power of France, without any ally to assist us, I trust we shall see the necessity of making ourselves as strong as possible at home.’ (Ibid. Nov. 16,1802.)
See Canning's speech, March 6, 1827, Parl. Deb. 2nd series, xvi. 1006. Lord Fingall had an interview with Pitt about the Catholic petition in 1805. Pitt, he says, ‘though extremely polite, gave us not the most distant hope.’ He could fix no time,’ though he candidly expressed his own opinion as to the good policy of the measure.’ (Lord Fingall to Marsden, March 19, 1805, I.S.P.O.)
The most important facts relating to them will be found in the Parliamentary Reports, On the Taxation of Ireland, in 1864 and 1865.
Report on the Taxation of Ireland, in 1865, p. viii.
Some remarkable facts on this subject were collected by Mr. Chisholm, the Chief Clerk of the Ex-chequer, in a paper on the relative ability of Great Britain and Ireland to contribute to the taxation of the United Kingdom, Report of 1865, Appendix 9. See also the Report of the Commissioners. It appears from these documents, that’ the permanent taxation of Great Britain increased from 1801 to 1811 in the proportion of 18½ to 10, and the whole revenue, including war taxes, as 21¼ to 10; while the revenue of Ireland had, in the same time, increased in the proportion of 23 to 10’ (p. vi); that ‘the net revenue of Ireland derived from taxation, upon an average of the last live years, ending in 1816, was more than doubled as compared with the net revenue in 1800;’ and that in 1815, the net revenue raised in Ireland by taxation exceeded that of 1800 by no less than 128 per cent. (Pp. 140, 141.) See, too, the Report of 1864, p. 272.
Report of the Taxation of Ireland, 1864, pp. xx, xxi. The calculations of Mr. Finlaison give different figures. His summary is that ‘the value of the whole debt of Great Britain (funded and unfunded) at the time of the Union was 329, 868, 585l., and the value of the whole debt of Ireland, 23,198,810l., and the proportion as 28.4 to 2; and that the value of the whole debt of Great Britain at the time of the amalgamation of the Exchequers was 546,299,034l., the value of the whole debt of Ireland 86,992,931l. and the proportion as 12 5 to 2. (Report of the Committee on Irish Taxation, 1865, p. viii)
In a speech on May 2, 1853, during the debate about the income tax, Lord J. Russell stated, on the authority of Lord Sydenham, ‘that in the year 1807 the revenue of Ireland amounted to 4,378,000l. Between that year and the conclusion of the war, taxes were successively imposed which, according to the calculations of Chancellors of the Exchequer, were to produce 3,400,000l. or to augment the revenue to the extent of 7,700,000l. What was the result? In the year 1821, when that amount, less than 400,000l. for taxes afterwards repealed, ought to have been paid into the Exchequer, the whole revenue of Ireland amounted only to 3,844,000l. being 534,000l. less than in 1807. This was not the effect of the income tax, or of a direct tax. It was the effect of the taxes upon the great articles of consumption.’ (Parl. Deb. 3rd series, cxxvi. 1000, 1001.)
Report of 1865, p. viii, Appendix No. 9.
See p. 476.
See the evidence of Mr. Barnes, the Solicitor to the Public Works Loan Commission, in the Report on Irish Taxation (1865), p. 17. Mr. Barnes said: ‘The loans to Ireland previous to the Act of 5 Vict. were very few. The principal loan to Ireland before that, was a special loan to the Ulster Canal of 120,000l. under an Act of Parliament passed for that particular purpose. There were other small loans made to Ireland, but not to any extent before the Act I have mentioned.’
Lalor's writings on the land question are chiefly to be found in a paper called the Irish Felon. A great portion of them has been reprinted by Mr. Bagenal in his very valuable work, the American Irish, pp. 153-197, where the connection between Lalor's teaching and the subsequent land agitation is clearly shown. See, too, the interesting account of Lalor's teaching in Sir Gavan Duffy's Four Years of Irish History, pp. 414-481; and also a lecture, On the Continuity of the Irish Revolutionary Movement, by Mr. Brougham Leech (Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law in the University of Dublin). In the Report of the Special Commission of 1888, the connection between the land movement and the Fenian movement has been clearly recognised and abundantly illustrated.
Dillon's Life of Mitchel, ii. 130. Mitchel adds: ‘This kind of social revolution he [O'Brien] would resist with all his force, and patriotic citizens could do nothing less than hang him, though with much reluctance.’ ‘I for my part believed,’ said Mr. Healy in one of his speeches, ‘with John Mitchel, that the land system of Ireland is the nerve centre, is the ganglion, is the heart of British rule; and I believe that if you want to break the British rule, you must strike it through the land system and landlordism.’ (Report of the Special Commission, 1888, p. 107.)
Report of the Special Commission, p. 53.
‘We are of opinion that the evidence proves that the Irish National League of America has been since the Philadelphia Convention, April 25, 1883, directed by the Clan-na-Gael a body actively engaged in promoting the use of dynamite for the destruction of life and property in England. It has been further proved, that while the Clan-na-Gael controlled and directed the Irish National League of America, the two organisations concurrently collected sums amounting to more than 60,000l. for a fund called the Parliamentary Fund, out of which payments have been made to Irish members of Parliament.’ (Ibid. p. 118.)
The following extract from one of the Clan-na-Gael circulars, Dec. 18, 1885, states very clearly the policy of that body. ‘While our objects lie far beyond what may be obtained by agitation, a national Parliament is an object which we are bound to attain by any means offered. The achievement of a national Parliament gives us a footing upon Irish soil; it gives us the agencies and instrumentalities of a Government de facto at the very commencement of the Irish struggle. It places the government of the land in the hands of our friends and brothers. It removes the Castle's rings, and gives us what we may well express as the plant of an armed revolution. From this standpoint the restoration of Parliament is part of our programme.’ (Report of the Special Commission, pp. 116, 117. See, too, the remarks of the judges, p. 23.)
Parl. Debates, iv. 1003, 1004.
Plunket's Life, i. 212; ii. 256, 257.
Grattan's Miscellaneous Works, pp. 316-318.
Parl. Debates, vi 127, 128, 174
See Grattan's Life, v. 214.