Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sect. VI.—: Continuation of the Volunteer Movement. Convention of 1783. - Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1
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Sect. VI.—: Continuation of the Volunteer Movement. Convention of 1783. - Gustave de Beaumont, Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, vol. 1 
Ireland: Social, Political, and Religious, ed. W.C. Taylor (London: Richard Bentley, 1839). Vol. 1.
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Continuation of the Volunteer Movement. Convention of 1783.
It would not be reasonable to suppose that so powerful a body, representing the nation, having strong feelings of its rights, and a consciousness of its power, after having decreed resolutions, immediately transformed into laws by the parliaments of England and Ireland, should rest satisfied there.
After the independence of the Irish parliament had been proclaimed and recognised, another matter naturally presented itself—reform of the representation. This parliament was a delusive representation even of the Protestant population; under the influence of corruption, it voted anti-national laws, and popular laws when coerced by fear. It was vainly proclaimed free, for it was so only in name. And as its vices were derived from its very source, that is to say, the electoral system, a radical reform was necessary. Consequently, the National Convention of volunteers, assembled in 1783, proclaimed the necessity of parliamentary reform.*
The subject was brought before parliament at the very moment it was debated in this great assembly of the armed nation; so that Ireland might be said to have had two representative assemblies at the same moment; one perfectly legal, but unpopular; the other irregular, but possessing the confidence of the people.
Nevertheless, the Irish parliament rejected the proposition of reform by a majority of one hundred and ninety-nine against seventy-seven. More was asked of this parliament than it could effect. In fact, to change the basis of election, would be to ensure that the great majority of its members would not be re-elected; it was asking bad citizens to commit patriotic suicide. The House of Commons also resolved, “that they would support the rights and privileges of parliament against all encroachments.”
Perhaps the Irish parliament might have yielded from fear what it would not grant to justice and reason, if there had been any peril in rejecting parliamentary reform; but no such danger existed. The armed volunteers, who had so energetically demanded and obtained parliamentary independence, did not manifest similar zeal for parliamentary reform. Divisions began to creep in amongst them; many believed that when this independence was obtained, everything was accomplished; others, and they were very numerous, began to fear that the prolongation of these discussions, and the consequent reforms, might effect a perilous revolution in the condition of the Catholics. Now, most of the volunteers were Protestants.
Observe that the political emancipation of the Catholics was discussed in parliament; it was debated whether they should be admitted to the elective franchise at the same time that the general questions of parliamentary reform were discussed. The two questions were thus linked, and were debated conjointly by the volunteers. These, disposed to alleviate the sufferings of the Catholics, but not to emancipate them, had resolved “that parliamentary reform was necessary, but that Catholics ought not to be admitted to the elective franchise.” Still the two questions were confounded and discussed together in parliament; it may then be easily conceived why the Protestants should fear lest the triumph of the one which they desired might lead to the success of the other: and they had reason to do so, as it was a logical consequence. How could the principles of parliamentary representation, founded on property, be rationally discussed, if the rights of a number of proprietors were resisted on the mere ground of religion, and that too at a moment when the injustice of the penal laws had been fully recognised and proclaimed?
This explains the indifference with which the resolution of the Irish House of Commons rejecting parliamentary reform was received.
[*]Nov. 29th, 1783.