« ForrigeFortsæt »
1800] THE SENSE OF THE COUNTRY
199 the House met on February 5, Lord Castlereagh outlined the advantages derivable from the measure in his most plausible style. He was strenuously met; and on a division had but 158 to 115-a majority of only 43. “When the number of placemen, pensioners, and other influenced members is considered," observes Plowden, "the minister had but slender ground for triumphing."i Twelve of the Castle's unwilling friends had voted for the country; the situation appeared critical.3 Petitions came in great numbers from the counties and corporations against the measure ; Pitt wished for counter-petitions, but could only get a miserable few, the Government not daring to risk public meetings. Nevertheless, the measure was pressed on. In the debates which followed, Foster pointed to the fact that the Irish House included country gentlemen, merchants, lawyers, and men of all professions; removal to London would exclude the commercial and professional elements. Every article was fought against. Proposals were made to address the king, to inform him of the actual
1 “Historical Review," vol. ii. p. 1024. “ Promotions, grants, concessions, arrangements, promises, were lavished with a profusion never before known in that country.”
2 In the Lords, of peers present, Government had a majority of only thirty-four; proxies of absentees made it forty-nine.
3 “Castlereagh to Beresford, April 10. Mr. (Lord) Grey, in the English House, aptly compared their conduct to that of Buckingham getting the crown for Richard III. :
“Some followers of mine own
Two-thirds of the county members, and the representatives of all the chief cities and towns, he said, opposed. Of the Unionists, 116 were placemen; some English generals, without a foot of ground in Ireland, completely depended on Government. To “pack” Parliament, sixty-three seats had been vacated, their holders getting nominal offices. The petition from Down, he adds, was signed by 17,000; the counter-petition by only 415. Against the measure 707,000 signed; for it only 3000, and some merely asked discussion. Twenty-seven counties and almost all corporations petitioned against it ("Parliamentary History of England," vol. xxxv. p. 66).
feeling of the nation, and again to ask him to dissolve Parliament and take the sense of the electors on so important a change. The Government rejected every motion by its hired majority. On May 26 Grattan, having in the meantime been forced into a duel with Corry, opposed the committal of the Union Bill in a memorable speech, and concluded with an eloquent peroration, ending thus: “ Yet I do not give up my 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 cheeks a glow of beauty.
“ • Thou art not conquered; Beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And Death's pale flag is not advanced there."" Lord Castlereagh reprobated this as prophetic treason and rebellion, but his majority of 45 fell to 37 on a second division this night-a strange circumstance, as, indeed, the smallness of the majority at most was remarkable, seeing that fifty-six members held offices "at pleasure." 2
Lord Corry, member for Tyrone, made the final effort of the party, moving a long address to the king against the completion. This was intended as a large protest and appeal to posterity:3 The opposition peers also, about twenty, placed on record their solemn protest. On June 7, the Bill was read in the Commons a third time and passed after a division, many members, "finding all useless," as Grattan said, “retired with safe consciences, but with breaking hearts." At the gate without, Curran, hearing the result, turned to a member of the United Society and in bitter indignation exclaimed, “Where are now your thirty thousand men ?”
Evidence had been given “in committee" of decay of trade, owing to the agitation and prospect of the Union. Alderman Darley had fewer men by three-fourths employed in building than the preceding year. The export 1 Cooke to King, May 27.
Cornwallis Correspondence," official return, vol. iii. p. 343. 3 Plowden, Appendix cxxi. * Dublin Evening Post, “ Parliamentary Intelligence,” March 18, 1800.
BEFORE AND AFTER UNION
of fine cloths, which had risen from 8600 yards in 1780, to over a quarter of a million in 1781, to over a third in 1782, over a half in 1783, to two-thirds in 1784, and to over three-fourths in 1785; which had kept a respectable level during the foreign wars, standing at 174,000 in 1796, and 150,000 in 1797 ;—fell to 33,000 in 1800, and to 3800 yards in the first year of union. Coarse cloths shared the same fate. Starting from 494 yards in 1780, they reached 40,000 in three years; in 1796 they stood at 128,000 yards; in 1800 at 2196; and in the first Union year at 550. On the other hand, imports from British manufacturers of the finer cloths rose from 539,000 yards in 1796, to 1,265,000 in 1800; and of coarse cloths from 1,175,000 to 2,233,000. They overstocked the market, to ruin the Irish manufactures, and succeeded. Education suffered; schools which four or five score young nobles used to frequent decayed and disappeared. It was the avowed policy of the Cabinet to discourage the teaching of the Irish “better orders” in Ireland, and encourage them" to study and take degrees in either of the two English universities," instead of Dublin.2 This policy succeeded. The Irish capital, of course, felt the removal of the Parliament most severely. House-property fell, in some cases, to less than a third its former value. Its social life for brilliance has been likened to that of Paris, whilst it was more convivial, but not intemperate. The viceroy held his levee on Sunday; on Sunday afternoon, the magnates assembled on the north circular road, on which "magnificent drive I have frequently seen,” says Lord Cloncurry, "three and four coaches-and-six, and eight or ten coaches-and-four passing slowly to and fro in a long procession of other carriages,
Cloncurry, " Personal Recollections,” p. 7. 1847. ? Portland to the Lord-Lieutenant, August 31, 1799 (“ Castlereagh Correspondence"). The primate's bequest of £ 5000 for a university in Armagh was therefore let lapse, particularly as “schismatics and separatists” (dissenters) might profit by it.
3 Mornington House, bought from Marquess Wellesley in 1791 for £8000, was sold in the year after the Union for £2500, by Cloncurry (“Recollections,"
p. * Ibid. ; and De Latocnaye, Promenade.
and between a double column of well-mounted horsemen. Of course the populace were there too, and saluted with friendly greetings, always cordially and kindly acknowledged."1 In the evenings they promenaded in the Rotunda, tea being served; while amateur theatres and operas were customary. Letters were cultivated; publications flourished. With the Parliament the splendour passed away, and Dublin seemed darkened and deserted, as if a plague had smitten it. “The Unionists are now few in number," observes Wakefield. Castlereagh had settled in England, his measure accomplished. "Its supporters have withdrawn themselves from public notice, under loads of wealth, that they may enjoy in retirement the rewards of the infamous and the corrupt means by which it was effected.”
" 2 Dublin ceasing to exist as a centre of social and of political life for the nation, its position as such a centre was not taken by London. The higher orders, indeed, rapidly melted away, selling their mansions to Government for offices or barracks, to societies, to merchants, or to a mendicity body. They passed out of the country's ken and became aliens. The majority of the people, repelled
· De Latocnaye and Cloncurry.
2 Wakefield, “Account of Ireland," vol. ii. p. 392. 1812. He was an Englishman and a friend to the Union, but he abhorred the arts that "spread venality” and taught men "to barter the most sacred rights of their country for personal interests." He scorned to deny the offence or to plead for the malefactors, as recent writers have done. Cornwallis himself was fully conscious of the iniquity of his action. Writing to his friend Ross the previous summer, June 8, he says, “When it is impossible to gratify the unreasonable demands of our politicians, I often think of two lines of Swift, speaking of the Lord-Lieutenant and the system of corruption
««• And then at Beelzebub's great hall
Complains his budget is too small.'"
“Thus to effect his monarch's ends,
from Westminster, turned their political affections once more to France, subsequently to America. The worst of all was that the great force of national sentiment, which had for a time united the recent colony and the old nation, which always, when fostered, tended to overcome sectarian animosities, was now broken, and the divided sections strove each for its own object, and were taught to regard the neighbour as a foe. Where formerly there was a struggle of political parties, there now appeared a struggle of religious sects, and next a war of classes.
Strange to say, the bitterness of the change induced by the Union was felt keenly by those who contrived it. Commissioner Beresford resented the intrusion of “English ideas,"1 exposed pretences about increased revenue, and demanded whether it was supposed that Irish noblemen and men of the highest talents, "will tamely and quietly submit to be kicked, overturned, and trampled upon, and that with the highest insult, by the new authorities that have been set up ? ”3 This account of the life of the independent Irish Parliament may well end with the words in which its executioner appraised, after four years' experience, the system set up in its stead: “I do not conceive," he wrote to Lieut.-General Ross, "that the present plan of governing Ireland by a king's lieutenant, acting under a minister's deputy, can long succeed” 4-an expected prophecy and condemnation which time has verified.
1 " I understand that your treasury has determined to take the management on themselves, and have already made certain regulations. Surely it would be prudent first to understand the nature of our revenue, and the difference that exists between it and that of England. If they proceed solely on English ideas, they will overturn everything ” (Beresford to Auckland, November 2, 1802).
2 Increase was due to the peace, and to the removal (by Irish legislation) of the prohibition on distilling with malt; this made a difference of a million (ibid.).
* Beresford to Auckland, November 20, 1804.