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No sooner was the Catholic Relief Bill passed, than O'Connell presented himself at the bar of the House of Commons, and claimed to be allowed to take his seat for the county of Clare. His claim was, of course, disallowed, the Act having been purposely drawn so as to exclude him. He went back to Ireland to seek re-election, and at once raised the cry of Repeal. He was again returned for Clare, this time without a contest, though the constituency was totally changed in character by the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders.
George IV. died in June 1830. Before the close of that year the long reign of the Tory party came to an end, and the Government of Lord Grey was formed. Ireland might now have looked to see Catholic Emancipation made a reality. But the poison of 1829 had begun to work. O'Connell had already raised the cry of Repeal, and had brought himself into collision with the Irish Government. His violent language had provoked a challenge from Sir
1 The writers desire to express their grateful acknowledgments to Earl Spencer for the permission accorded to them of examining the unpublished correspondence of Lord Althorp.
Henry Hardinge, the chief secretary, and his attempts to revive the Catholic Association under a new title were easily defeated by an Executive armed with the powers of the Suppression Act. But in 1830 he was not irreconcilable, and there were many reasons why an attempt should have been made to conciliate him. Ireland was miserable as usual, and its misery was, also as usual, the source of crime. The cry of Repeal, raised by O'Connell, found its support not only in the national misery, but in the French revolution of 1830, and in the successful attempt of Catholic Belgium to separate itself from Protestant Holland. Herein lay the seeds of a powerful agitation. O'Connell's reconciliation with the Whig Government would have been invaluable as showing that Catholic Emancipation was at last to become a reality. But the Ascendency was still powerful, and public opinion in England had been alienated by O'Connell's conduct. Anglesey, the viceroy, recalled by Wellington in 1828, was again appointed by Grey. He was induced to retain the Protestant law officers who had served under his predecessors, and when one of these, Doherty—“Dirty Doherty," as the followers of O'Connell called him—was shortly afterwards promoted to the bench, Blackburne, another Protestant, was appointed. O'Connell had received a pledge that Doherty should not be raised to the bench, and this pledge was violated by Stanley, the chief secretary, without remonstrance from his colleagues. O'Connell himself, the unquestioned leader of the Irish Bar, was not even offered the dignity of a king's counsel. No single Catholic of note was offered promotion or employment;'and Anglesey had not been many weeks in Ireland before he was involved
1 Some years later than this, Lord Wellesley, the Viceroy who succeeded Lord Anglesey, called the attention of the Cabinet, in a confidential letter, to the fact “that the Roman Catholics of Ireland had never yet been admitted to the full benefit of the laws passed for their relief. Entitled by law to admission into almost any office in the State, they had been, and were still, practically excluded from almost every branch of the executive administration of the Government. . . . It was impossible to suppose that a whole nation could repose confidence in or act cordially with a Government when so large a portion of the people were practically excluded from all share in the higher offices of the State, while their right to admission was established by law (Wellesley's “ Memoirs,” vol. iii. p. 406).
THE POLICY OF STANLEY
in a protracted struggle with O'Connell. The details of this struggle are more entertaining than edifying; its results were fatal to the prospects of good government in Ireland.
The policy pursued by the Grey ministry towards Ireland was dominated by Stanley, between whom and O'Connell political antagonism had taken the form of personal antipathy and vituperation. Lord Anglesey, who undestood Ireland better than his associates in the Government, often complained that his views were set aside and his policy counteracted by the chief secretary, who occupied a seat in the Cabinet.1 In 1832 ministers were too much occupied with the Reform struggle in England to give the needful attention to the question of social order in Ireland. A starving population was not to be fed, a discontented population was not to be pacified, by a Reform Billa measure denounced as inadequate and illusory by O'Connell and his supporters, and described by so impartial an authority as Erskine May as “the least successful of the three great Reform Acts of
Even the educational reforms of 1831-2, good in themselves, and accepted by O'Connell and Sheil, though resisted by the Ascendency party, were of no avail to touch the real sources of Irish misery and crime. Tithes were the source of disturbance throughout three provinces of Ireland, and this grievance, acting on the chronic misery of the poorer agricultural population, produced a condition of social disorder for which, in 1833, the usual remedy of a Coercion Bill was proposed. The Bill was, of course, carried, though not without prolonged debate and energetic resistance.
It was the failure of a clumsy intrigue concerning the renewal of this measure in 1834, that brought about the resignation of Lord Grey. He was succeeded by Lord Melbourne, but before the end of the year William IV. had dismissed Melbourne and sent for Peel. Four years of Stanley's policy in Ireland thus sufficed to destroy one of the most powerful ministries that ever held office in England.
1 Lord Anglesey to Lord Cloncurry, February 1, 1832: “I cannot quite go your length with respect to S-, but I do not think he is very anxious to uphold me, and I do believe he would prefer a more submissive master, You must see that I work at a great disadvantage. He knows all my schemes, and I know few of his, until he finds himself in a difficulty. Thus all my projects, when laid before the Cabinet, if he does not go the whole length with me (and half-measures are worse than useless), are probably thwarted by him. He tells his own story, and I have no one to support and back my views” (“ Personal Recollections of Lord Cloncurry," p. 367).
2 May, “Constitutional History," vol. i. p. 430.
It will be convenient at this point to pass in brief survey the legislation affecting Ireland which was undertaken by the Whig Governmeat of 1830. The Educational measures of Stanley and the Irish Reform Act have already been mentioned. The great difficulty of the time was the tithe question, associated as it was on the one side with the standing grievance of the Established Church, and on the other with the perennial scourge of Irish agrarian misery. It is unnecessary to waste time in showing that tithe, as levied in Ireland in 1830, was indefensible. That question was settled once for all in 1838, when the Tithe Commutation Act was finally passed. The history of the question goes back as far as 1735, when a Parliament of Protestant landlords had declared agistment land, or land on which cattle were pastured, to be tithe-free. Thus were the richer farmers of Ireland unjustly relieved of a burden which was still imposed on their poorer neighbours. In 1822 and 1823 the composition of the tithe had been made voluntary, and grass-lands had again been made subject to the impost. But this latter provision rendered the measure to a large extent nugatory. In 1832 an Act passed by Stanley made the composition compulsory, and in the same year an Act? was passed which authorised the Government to advance a sum of £60,000 to incumbents, who were reduced to the utmost distress by the impossibility of collecting the tithes due to them, and to take the necessary steps for collecting the arrears of tithes. Next year it was found that a sum of £12,000 had been collected at great cost and some loss of life, while the amount of arrears due throughout Ireland amounted to little short of £1,000,000 sterling An Amending Act 3 was therefore passed, which empowered the Govern
1 Stanley was succeeded by Littleton, in 1833, but the policy underwent no material change. : 2 & 3 Will. IV. cap. cxix.
3 & 4 Will. IV. cap. c.