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the Duke of Portland, who had brought the message of independence in 1782, and who would not have entered into the coalition had he not been secured “the general management and superintendence of Ireland."1
The arrival in Ireland, on January 4, 1795, of Lord Fitzwilliam was welcomed with delight, not only in the capital, but throughout the country. With the exception, of course, of the baffled junto and its clique, Protestants as well as Catholics hailed the event. The fact that only two obscure members had voted against the Bill of 1793, as well as the testimony of the late and the present viceroy, demonstrated the happy harmony of the nation generally. Addresses poured in, and Lord Fitzwilliam soon discovered that the Catholics were preparing to press for a repeal of the remaining restrictions, a fact which he communicated to the secretary of state. He considered that, as all were convinced of its propriety, an attempt to postpone it would be mischievous. Change of measures usually involves change of men. Pitt had acknowledged the principle by removing a viceroy; the Lord-Lieutenant considered he should remove some subordinates—remnants of the junto—whose misrule had necessitated that change. Attorney-General Wolfe was elevated to the peerage by the king's assent, with a reversion of £2300 a year; his place was given to Mr. George Ponsonby. Toler, solicitorgeneral, was also to be replaced and consoled. Cooke, a former clerk who had crept into power, was pensioned off; nay, even the potent Mr. Beresford was to retire on full pay, none of his family being disturbed. There had been some conversation about this before Lord Fitzwilliam left, and Mr. Pitt had made no objection. Mr. Beresford's power was great enough to be dangerous; he overshadowed the king's representative, and "I clearly saw that if I had 1795]
1 Lord Fitzwilliam to Lord Carlisle, Plowden, vol. ii. p. 467. This statement is fully corroborated by the testimony of Mr. W. B. Ponsonby, a kinsman and friend of the Duke of Portland, who declared, of his own knowledge, that the coalition would not have taken place had not his grace received enough authority to reform all abuses. By this authority he over Lord Fitzwilliam, with explicit and full powers to carry every measure he proposed (“Debates," vol. xiv. p. 184).
connected myself with him," wrote Fitzwilliam, "it would have been connecting myself with a person under universal heavy suspicions, and subjecting my Government to all opprobrium and unpopularity attendant upon his maladministration." 1
No word of disapproval came from London.
The House met on January 22, and the Lord-Lieutenant delivered a vigorous speech. He referred to the war with France, but thought it unnecessary to press them to make adequate provision for it; he pointed out that educational advantages had hitherto been partial; their wisdom would order matters in a mode better suited to the requirements of "the several descriptions of his Majesty's subjects.” Engaged in an arduous contest, they should profit by the united strength and zeal of the whole people. Grattan, in reply, made a vehement speech for war with France, and cordial co-operation with England. He referred to a plan of colleges for the education of the Catholic clergy, then excluded from the Continent, and warned those who disturbed the peace in one of the counties that they should either give up their practices or their lives. Mr. Duquery alone suggested that peace with France might be sought for. None dissented from the other proposals. The programme of the patriots in power did not belie their principles in opposition. Their projected reforms included the reduction of the pension list by £44,000, of the concordatum list by £22,000, a diminution of the cost of revenue collection, and measures to restrain the use of spirituous liquors. The obnoxious Police Act was at once remodelled, and repeal of the Convention Act was under consideration. A great boon was immediately given to the poor by the abolition of the hearth-tax, where, in town or country, families had but one hearth; duties on the wealthy made up for the loss of revenue, Bounties were to be pruned down where possible. On February 9 the chancellor of the exchequer, opening the budget, reported that, whilst in 1793 they were indebted, with credit decaying and trade declining, now all was changed; they had paid off sums advanced, credit and trade flourished, while the revenue had increased. After applying a surplus to national objects, they would be able "to advance money to England for military purposes, as they had done to a considerable amount already, £100,000 of which yet remained to be put to the credit of the nation." The national debt stood at £3,833,000 only.
i Lord Fitzwilliam to Lord Carlisle. ? Grattan, “Memoir," vol. iv. p. 187. 8 “Parliamentary Register,” vol. xv. p. 103.
The question of the complete emancipation of the Catholics now came to the front. In long succession, petition after petition had poured in from the Catholics all over the country, and from the Protestant town of Belfast, praying for the removal of all penal restrictions. Accordingly, on February 12, 1795, Grattan moved for leave to bring in a Bill on "a most important subject-the relief of his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects." It was well known, after Mr. George Knox's proposal in a former session, that this Bill would admit Catholics to Parliament as well as to other positions, yet there were but three dissentients—Duigenan, Ogle, and Blaquiere. Two days later came letters from Pitt and Portland. The former was a rather tardy remonstrance as to the dismissal of Mr. Beresford, and the supersession of the two law-officers. That gentleman, it appears, through his friends in London, and doubtless with the support of the ex-viceroy and his clique, represented that, though willing to withdraw, he had been discourteously treated. The "family cabal” (of Beresford and Clare) got the ear of the king 8 and of the cabinet; they urged, amongst other things, that they had belonged to the 1795] BETRAYAL
1 This Bill would have admitted Catholics to the post of lord chancellor, from which that of 1829 excluded them (Grattan, “Memoir," vol. iv. p. 194); and, again, it would not have disfranchised the unfortunate 4os. freeholders.
9 Lord Loughborough to Mr. Grattan, February 28.
3 “In the previous autumn, on the first rumour, Beresford had flown to the king at Weymouth, obtained a private audience, represented his fidelity to every administration for twenty-five years, and assurances of protection from the king's friends. By royal command, he attended a council, where the restoration of himself and his friends was voted” (Plowden, vol. ii. p. 507).
137 “ king's friends” during the debates on the regency question, and posed as injured victims of their fidelity to Pitt, and even spread the report that their dismissal was intended as a deliberate slight on Pitt by Lord Fitzwilliam.1 The Duke of Portland's letter pressed for a postponement of the Catholic Bill. The Lord-Lieutenant replied to Pitt, justifying the dismissals, and to Portland, expressing surprise at the demur to a policy which had been laid before him now some time ago, without eliciting any sign of dissent. The risk of popular discontent arising from a postponement, involving armed repression, was more than the viceroy could run; and, therefore, he plainly declared that, if not supported, he should be removed. Pitt replied that he felt bound to adhere to his sentiments, not only with respect to Mr. Beresford, but as regards the line of conduct adopted "in so many instances towards the former supporters of Government." 2 Portland concurred in the decision of a Cabinet Council, none dissenting-sacrificed his " second self," his policy, and his party. Fox's faithful opposition exulted in a result they had predicted.
Burke, grievously humiliated at the position in which he had helped to place Grattan, reviewed the situation with bitter indignation. Ireland had become more loyal than England. “Opposition to the Crown with you was not only weakened, but extinguished.” Cries for peace with France, powerfully supported in the English Parliament, were not heard of in the Irish. “ Whilst so many in England were rushing into the arms of France, Ireland resolved to live or die with Great Britain. To crown all, more troops were raised, and greater sums were voted to the king's service than before was ever known.”:
This, indeed, was a point keenly feit in Ireland. The Parliament had been generous to excess after the arrival of this peace message, as after that of 1782, and now it stood wounded through its gratitude by the perfidy of Pitt. Sir Lawrence Parsons, on hearing the reported recall of the viceroy, rose
1 Edmund Burke to Grattan, March 5. 2 Plowden, vol. ii. p. 493, Letter of Lord Fitzwilliam to Lord Carlisle. 3 Edmund Burke to Grattan, March 3, 1795.
to deplore and denounce it, reminding the House of the promises of conciliatory measures on the faith of which they had voted the enormous sum of £1,700,000. On March 2, when the rumour was confirmed, he rose again to propose that, instead of passing the money Bill for a year, it should be limited to three months. “ The state of the kingdom,” he said, “was most alarming. Measures had been promised, and hopes raised, which would soon be resisted.” As to the Catholic Bill, “ If the British Cabinet had held out an assent, and had afterwards retracted” (a loud cry of "Hear, hear !")—"if the demon of darkness should come from the infernal regions upon the earth, and throw a firebrand among the people, he could do no more to promote mischief. The hopes of the public were raised, and in one instant they were blasted. If the House did not resent this insult to the nation and themselves, they would, in his mind, be most contemptible; for, though a majority of the people might consent to have their rights withheld, they would never consent to be mocked in so barefaced a manner. The case was not as formerly, when all the Parliament of Ireland was against the Catholics, with the force of England to back them. Now, although the claim of the Catholics was well known and understood, not one petition controverting it had been presented from the Protestants in any part of Ireland. No remonstrance appeared; no county meetings had been held. What was to be inferred from this but that the sentiments of the Protestants were for the emancipation of the Catholics?" He pointed to the fact, that at a crowded meeting of merchants at the Exchange, with the Governor of the Bank of Ireland in the chair, the strongest possible resolutions were passed in favour of the Catholic claims. They had been duped into voting a quarter of a million taxes additional, and now a short money Bill was the staff of
1 “Parliamentary Register," vol. xv., February 26. Gratian, February 3, moved that £200,000 be granted to raise men for the fleet, and added that the chancellor of the exchequer would move in committee 41,000 men for the home defence. The motion was agreed to without a division (“ Memoir," vol. iv. p. 186).