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1782] THE ENGLISH AND IRISH PARLIAMENTS
Parliament did or did not acquire rights of legislation for Ireland by conquest or voluntary submission; and, but for the tension of public opinion at the time, such an abstract essay as Molyneux's would not have produced the commotion it did, or sown the seeds which, though dormant for a long time, finally germinated in the minds of Swift, Lucas, and others.
The English Parliament was in no mood to allow the Irish colonists to indulge in dreams of legislative independence. Even before the appearance of Molyneux's book, the English Parliament had set aside the Irish Parliament altogether. In the Parliament called by King William on learning of the surrender of Limerick and the end of the Irish war, the Commons sent up a Bill to the Lords, providing that no person should sit in the Irish Parliament nor hold any Irish office, civil, military, or ecclesiastical, nor practise law or medicine, till he had taken the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and subscribed the declaration against Transubstantiation. The Act was a gross violation of the Articles of Limerick; it is true the rights of such physicians and lawyers as were within the walls of Galway and Limerick at the capitulation of these towns were reserved, but the section disqualifying Catholics from sitting in Parliament was withdrawn from this reservation.1
For more than thirty years after the surrender of Limerick, the Irish Parliament was merely a convenient instrument for carrying out the details of English policy and raising money; when anything serious was to be done, or anything about which the English were not certain that their Irish tools could be depended upon, they superseded the Irish Parliament altogether. In this way they prohibited the exportation of Irish woollen manufactures; they issued a commission of inquiry to ascertain how far the forfeitures in Ireland had been made available for the public service, and, as a consequence of the report of those commissioners, they passed the Resumption Act: so also did they direct the sale of the resumed forfeited lands,
1 3 Will. & Mary, c. 2.
and disqualify Papists from purchasing them, and avoid leases made to Papists.
The Irish constitution was peculiar. The legislature did not consist of three authorities— King, Lords, and Commons—but of five. The Irish Privy Council, in which the English interest predominated, prepared measures for Parliament in the form of heads of Bills, which were laid before the Irish House of Commons, debated, and, if approved of, sent to the Lords; if the latter approved, the draft Bill was sent to the English Privy Council, which might amend it, or not return it—that is, cushion it. When a Bill was sent back, the Irish Parliament might pass or reject it, but could not amend it. The Irish Privy Council might, however, cushion the heads of a Bill even after they had been approved of by both Houses of Parliament. Private members, too, might originate the heads of a Bill; and the House of Commons claimed the sole right of originating money Bills-a right persistently contested by the English ministry. Upon the assertion of this right on the one side, and its refusal on the other, the battle of legislative independence was mainly fought during many years. Subservient in almost everything else, the colonial Parliament clung to this right. But the popular voice, even of the Ascendency, had no means of expressing itself in such a constitution, for the House of Commons was an aristocratic body owned in great part by a limited number of landed proprietors.
The proposal of a union of Scotland with England naturally suggested a similar union with Ireland. It seemed to many to be the only way of getting rid of the trade restrictions which were impoverishing the kingdom. The question was debated in Parliament, and pressed upon the Government; the party of Brodrick, the speaker, went so far as to threaten to refuse the money vote, which was demanded for two years, and to pass a vote only for one year, unless the remonstrance was attended to. The Government won by a bare majority of four votes. This was the beginning of the struggle over money votes, which lasted up to the declaration of inde1782]
PARLIAMENT AND THE REVENUE
pendence. The pension list also engaged the attention of Parliament.
The public revenue of Ireland was of two kinds; (1) hereditary, and (2) temporary. The former, or hereditary revenue, was in turn of two sorts, namely, such as had been established by ancient custom, and such as had been established and granted by Act of Parliament to the Crown. Before the Revolution it was pretended that the sovereign for the time being had an estate in fee in the hereditary revenue both in England and Ireland, and might alienate or grant it, in whole or in part, in perpetuity. At this period, when Parliament rarely met, the hereditary revenue sufficed to maintain the machinery of government, but after the Revolution it became necessary to keep a standing army. So in the first Parliament, 1692, it was represented that the hereditary revenue would not be sufficient, and Parliament was asked to vote an additional supply. The House of Commons ordered a report to be laid before them on the state of the revenue of the nation, and the proposed scheme of the civil and military establishment. The officers of the Crown complied, and the report and estimate were taken into account by, the House, notwithstanding that the ministers contended that the House had no such right. The House then granted such an additional supply only as they considered would be enough to make good the deficiency of the hereditary revenue. The sum thus voted constituted the temporary revenue. In every subsequent session of Parliament a similar report and estimate were laid before them; a committee was also appointed to examine the public accounts, and it was made a standing order of the House that no supply should be granted until after the committee of accounts had reported. When, as was often the case in the early part of the century, the hereditary and temporary revenue for the preceding two years—Parliament meeting at that time only once in every two years—was more than sufficient to meet the public expenses, there was a surplus in the exchequer. This surplus they considered as available towards meeting the public expenses for the following two years, and there
fore voted so much less in supply, and this they did without the consent or authority of the Crown.
The total amount of the hereditary revenue of Ireland which could be legally considered to be the private property of the Crown, and capable therefore to be alienated or charged with pensions, did not amount to £15,000 a year, probably not to £7000. Nevertheless each successive sovereign used the Irish establishment as a special institution for providing for his royal mistresses and their bastards, and for court favourites. Thus Erengard Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal, and Duchess of Munster in the Irish peerage, had a pension of £3000 a year, and her daughter Lady Walsingham £1500 a year. What a minister dared not do with the English revenue he did without scruple with the Irish revenue, though the act was equally illegal in both cases.1 An English minister paid no attention whatever to the Irish Parliament or to law, when they stood in the way of his purpose; so the pension list grew continuously until it absorbed fully one-fifth of the hereditary revenue. When the list came to be scrutinised and debated, the mistresses and favourites were provided for in some other way, and the saving was devoted to political corruption, of which the most profligate use was made.
The failure of the efforts of the small Unionist party to attain a union between Ireland and England seems to have convinced the majority of thinking colonists that the English Parliament, which had been always so hostile to the growth of industry in Ireland, and had recently deliberately destroyed the chief industry of the kingdom, was not likely to reverse its restrictive policy, still less to lift Ireland into the position of equality with England itself. When once
1 “Not a single pension in the Irish establishment is warranted by law-all are clearly illegal.” Exclusive of French pensions, the military pensions, pensions to widows of military officers, and pensions granted under the disguise of salaries annexed to useless offices-a ministerial stratagem of the most dangerous tendency-amounted at Lady Day 1761 to £64,127; but they largely increased from year to year afterwards (“An Inquiry into the Legality of Pensions on the Irish Establishment,” by Alexander McAulay, Esq. one of his Majesty's counsel-at-law for Ireland. London (printed) and Dublin (reprinted), 1763).
1782] GROWTH OF A NATIONAL SENTIMENT 73 this belief had taken root, a national sentiment began to be engendered among the colonists, and revealed itself in a striking way in the year 1719. In this year the House of Lords of Ireland reversed a decision of the Irish Court of Exchequer in favour of Maurice Annesley, defendant in the suit. The latter appealed from the decision of the Irish House of Lords to the English House of Lords, who confirmed the judgment of the Irish Court of Exchequer, and issued process to put Annesley in possession of the property in dispute. Esther Sherlock, the plaintiff, petitioned the Irish House of Lords, who resolved to support their jurisdiction against the usurped authority of England. So the Sheriff of Kildare put Sherlock into possession ; whereupon the Irish Court of Exchequer issued an injunction pursuant to the decree of the English Lords, directing the sheriff to restore Annesley. The sheriff refused obedience, and was fined, but was protected in his contumacy by the Irish Lords, who addressed the Crown, defending the rights of Ireland to her independent Parliament and appellate jurisdiction, and arrested the judges of the Exchequer. The king having laid the address of the Irish House of Lords before the English one, the latter reaffirmed their decision, and prayed the king to confer some mark of favour on the high Irish judges, one of whom was made chief baron of the English Exchequer. A declaratory Act was also passed, affirming that the English Parliament had the right and authority to make laws for Ireland, and that the Irish House of Lords had no right to act as a court of appeal. This declaratory Act met with great opposition in Parliament, notably from Mr. Pitt; it was, however, ultimately carried by 140 to 88. In the Lords the Duke of Leeds opposed it with great vigour.
In the following year (1720) Dean Swift published his proposal for the universal use of Irish manufactures. In a previous chapter I have already given a brief narrative of the events which followed the publication of this tract. I need only point out here that, although it contained nothing that could be considered seditious, there were many passages calculated to set people thinking, like the