Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

1820]

LIFE AND WORK OF GRATTAN

269

it seemed as though it would have been his lot to wield in Ireland the power that Pitt had held in Britain; far different then would have been her destiny. In Westminster men listened to him with reverence; for with some peculiarities of manner, he had every gift of the great orator-close argument, ready words and wit, the vehemence of a fiery nature stirred by a great purpose. In pleading the cause of civil justice for Catholics, his task was hard from its simplicity. The ablest men either agreed with him, like Canning, or, like Peel, evaded arguments which they could not meet. But large masses of the British population were against him, and he was left to wrestle with a dead weight of ignorance and obstruction, which rolled back again and again like the stone of Sisyphus. But “he knew the strength of the cause that he supported : it would walk the earth and flourish when dull declamation should be silent, and the pert sophistry that opposed it should be forgotten in the grave.”

That his life in London had somewhat blunted his insight into Ireland's needs can hardly be denied. He took less part than others in pressing that systematic inquiry into the condition of the country which Parliament for twenty years persistently refused. He limited himself too exclusively to the Catholic question, and was far too willing to accept the compromise of State interference with the clergy, which O'Connell had resisted. Dissension between the two Irish leaders was inevitable. But of the two it was the younger that understood and judged the other best. Grattan, said O'Connell, quoting words that had been used by Grattan himself of Flood, was an oak of the forest, and would not bear transplanting."

i See “O'Connell's Life and Speeches," vol. ii. p. 183. The previous words of O'Connell's speech, made five years before Grattan's death, when Grattan had refused his usual advocacy of the Catholic claims in Parliament, are worth quoting : "I recall to mind his early and his glorious struggles for Ireland. I know he raised her from degradation, and exalted her to her rank as a nation. I recollect, too, that if she be now a pitiful province, Grattan struggled and ught for her whilst life or hope remained. I know this and more, and my gratitude and enthusiasm for these services will never be extinguished."

[ocr errors]

He was buried in England's abbey with splendid honours. The Duke of Sussex, Mackintosh, Tierney, Wilberforce, Brougham, followed in the procession; the Duke of Norfolk and the Duke of Wellington were pallbearers. An illustrious death, constrasting strangely with that of O'Connell, nearly thirty years afterwards, in a foreign land darkened by disaster and apparent failure. But there are some failures which outweigh success; and, in the memories of Ireland, these two names will remain united.

NOTE TO PAGE 250

It was arranged by the Act of Union that each nation should be charged with its own ante-Union debt. This would have been just to Ireland as to England, but for one consideration, viz. that by far the greater portion of the ante-Union debt of Ireland was the result of the fooling of the English Government subsequent to the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam. In 1793, the debt of Ireland (unredeemed funded and unfunded) was only £2,253,000. In 1798, it had risen to £10,130,000 ; in 1801, to £28,541,000. By a strange perversion, this rapid increase of debt has been attributed to the extravagance of Grattan's Parliament. If so, why was no such extravagance exhibited prior to 1795?

THE CATHOLIC ASSOCIATION

THE Catholic cause depended henceforth on the life of no man, however strong. Clear-sighted statesmen saw it to be inseparably bound up with the social life of the Irish people, whose condition grew year by year more disturbed and critical. Grattan, in his last speech, had spoken of the miserable state of Dublin. He specified two parishes containing 8227 houses, of which 2487 were either shut up or unable to pay county cess and window tax. The Bank Act of 1819, wise as it may have been, strained and broke the slender threads of commerce in the southern towns. Eleven of the Munster banks out of fourteen failed. Famine again threatened; disturbances did not cease. It was clear that Ireland could not be let alone. Renewed efforts were made to settle the Catholic claims by a compromise involving State interference with the priesthood.

In February 1821 Plunket brought forward a series of six resolutions for dealing with the Catholic question. They set forth that, whereas certain oaths and declarations were necessary as a condition for the enjoyment of certain rights, these might now be safely repealed or altered. The oaths of disbelief in transubstantiation and saint-worship should be repealed; that of the king's supremacy should be so modified as not to imply that the king exercised spiritual as well as temporal supremacy in religious matters. The Protestant succession was specially guarded; the offices of Lord Chancellor and Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland were reserved for Protestants.

Peel opposed these resolutions; but they were carried by 227 against 221. On March 16 a second Bill was brought in, enacting that no person should be a bishop or dean in the Roman Catholic Church, whose loyalty and peaceable conduct should not have been previously established. Every priest was to swear that he would not recognise any bishop of whose loyalty he was not personally satisfied; that he would not correspond with the pope or any of his agents as to the disestablishment of the Church in England, Scotland, or Ireland ; that he would not hold correspondence with Rome on any matter touching his civil allegiance. Energetic remonstrances against this Bill poured in from Ireland. O'Connell denounced it. The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin expressed the unanimous dissent of his clergy; but it passed the second reading by a small majority. The resolutions previously carried were then made part of the Bill, and it passed the third reading. In the Upper House it was opposed by Lords Eldon, Liverpool, and the Duke of York, and thrown out on the second reading by 159 votes against 120.1

The discussion had produced more acrimony than it had alleviated, and had the Bill passed into law, the bitterness would have been aggravated. Another plan was now tried. Irishmen had been deprived too long, it was said, of the sunshine of royalty. No king had been in Ireland since William III. If the king now were but to show his face to Irishmen, all would be well, George IV. went to Dublin in August, and stayed in Ireland for a month. The plan seemed to prosper marvellously. All Dublin poured forth to meet him. “The king was all affability," says the chronicler, “condescending to shake hands with the lowest of the populace. During the whole period of his stay in Ireland he met with nothing but the most ardent demonstrations of loyalty. My heart,' the king assured them, has always been Irish. From the very day it first beat,

[ocr errors]

1 Mr. Shaw Lefevre, in his work “Peel and O'Connell," p. 50, notes this as “the first of a very long list of cases in which remedial measures for Ireland, passed by the House of Commons, have been rejected by the House of Lords." He remarks that “the House of Lords has been leavened and prejudiced on Irish questions by a number of peers from Ireland, representing only one, and the smallest section of the people, and only one interest, that of landlords; a body without any popular sympathies, and the determined opponent of every measure of justice to their country."

one

1821) KING VISITS IRELAND-DISTURBANCE

273 I have always loved Ireland.'” The Irish question, some

' thought, was solved. No one was more profuse in his demonstrations than O'Connell, and no was more sincere. The Nationalists eagerly hailed the opportunity given them of showing that their hatred of the Union had no tinge in it of disloyalty to the Crown. There lived not a man, O'Connell had said before, and continued to say, less desirous of separation than he, or more desirous of independence.

Those who supposed that Irish loyalty meant satisfaction with English institutions were delighted with this enthusiasm, and imagined for a moment that the Irish had been soothed, like offended children, by so simple a remedy. The disillusion came soon, and is thus recorded by the chronicler : “It is melancholy to be obliged to relate that the events of October, November, and December destroyed all the splendid anticipations to which his Majesty's visit to Ireland had given rise in the minds of those who possessed a superficial acquaintance with the character of that people. The gaudy and hollow bubble of conciliation soon burst, and a system of outrage, robbery, murder, and assassination commenced, hardly to be paralleled in the annals of any civilised country. The counties of Limerick, Mayo, Tipperary, and Cavan were the chief seats of the disturbance.”? In Limerick, Mr. Going, a magistrate, was attacked on the public highway, and his body riddled with shot. His watch and a large sum of money were left untouched. The body was guarded home by a military escort. Within an hour bonfires were lit on every hill to tell the deed far and wide, and shouts of exultation rose from every village. Near Nine-Mile House, in Tipperary, a mob surrounded the house of Shea, an agent, who had recently removed some under-tenants from lands which they held at will. They fired the house; Shea burst through the crowd, but was caught and hurled back into the flames. These deeds of horror can be told. But the pangs of hunger, the sight of children starving, the unroofed cottage, the winter's food carried to the agent's Speech of January 29, 1813.

? Annual Register, 1821.

S

« ForrigeFortsæt »