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Administration of Lord Townsend. 441

CHAP. XVII.

Administration of Lord Townshend-His engaging qualities-System adopted by him of establishing the English interest-His mode of effecting that system-Objected to as unoncstitutional-The octennial bill passes-Curious anecdote relative to this measure-Diffuses universal joy throughout Ireland-New parlia mentOpposition-Mr. Ponsonby resigns the office of speaker-Management of parliament-Death of Lucas, and his character.

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IN 1767 Lord Townshend was appointed viceroy, and bis administration forms a peculiar epocha in the history of this country. A gallant soldier, the military associate of Wolfe, frank, convivial, abounding in wit and humour, sometimes, it is said, more than was strictly consonant to the viceroyal dignity; capricious, uncertain, he not unfrequently offended the higher orders; but altogether, had his parliamentary measures been more agreeable, few lord-lieutenants would have been more acceptable to the Irish. A very novel system had, previously to his departure, been resolved on by the English cabinet. The lord-lieutenant was, in future, to continue for some years, (instead of remaining only

442

Policy of the viceroy.

two *,) and all the patronage of the lords justices consigned to him:-a wise system for Ireland, had it been carried into exccution as it should have been. Unfortunately, however, the developement of every day's proceeding proved, that there was no plan whatever, unless to get rid of the aristocracy at any rate. In doing this Lord Townshend partly succeeded, but by means ruinous to the country. The subalterns were not to be detached from their chiefs, but by similar, though more powerful means than those by which they had been enlisted under their banners. The streams of favour became not only multiplied but enlarged, and consequently the source of remuneration was the sooner exhausted. The arduous task which Lord Townshend had undertaken was not to be effected by a coup de main; it required management and address, and both these he cmployed with admirable skill and dexterity. One part of his policy was, to countenance the general cry of the country for septennial parliaments; a privilege which Ireland thought she had a right to share with England, and by the possession of which she hoped to provide an effectual check against the gross venality of their representatives.

Irish parliaments, though originally annual, had become of such duration as to terminate only with the monarch's life, unless dissolved by royal prerogative. Dr. Lucas had ineffectually attempted

Their office was biennial; their actual residence seldom more than six months.

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An amusing anecdote.

443 (in 1761) to bring in a bill limiting the duration of parliament; but now, when granting this object was necessary for the furtherance of their own views, it was accomplished with the avowed support of government. The year 1768 will long be memorable for passing the octennial bill into a law*. Its success was partly owing to the intrigues of the different factions, playing against each other, and mortifying all parties by the adoption of a measure which none of them cordially approved. The following amusing and characteristic anecdote relating to this event will be read with pleasure.

Lord Charlemont happened at this time to dine with one of the great parliamentary leaders. large company, and as Bubb Doddington says of some of his dinners with the Pelhams, much drink and much good humour. In the midst of this festivity the papers and letters of the last English packet, which had just come in, were brought into the room and given to the master of the house. Scarcely had he read one or two of them when it appeared that he was extremely agitated. The company was alarmed. "What's the matter? Nothing, we hope, has happened that Happened!" exclaimed their kind host, and

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The house of commons passed heads of a bill for holding septennial parliaments in Ireland; but the English council changed the septennial into octennial, thus giving four sessions to the Irish legislature, which at this time sat only every second year.

444 Passing of the octennial bill.

and swearing most piteously: "happened! the septennial bill is returned!" A burst of joy from Lord Charlemont and the very few real friends of the bill, who happened to be present! The majority of the company, confused, and indeed almost astounded, began, after the first involuntary dejection of their features, to recollect that they had, session after session, openly voted for this bill, with many an internal curse, Heaven knows! But still they had uniformly been its loudest advocates; and therefore it would be somewhat decorous not to appear too much cast down at their own unexpected triumph. In consequence of these politic reflections they endeavoured to adjust their looks to the joyous occasion as well as they could. But they were soon spared the awkwardness of assumed felicity. "The bill is not only returned," continued their chieftain, “butbut the parliament is dissolved!"-" Dissolved! dissolved! Why dissolved?" My good friends, I can't tell you why or wherefore, but dissolved it is, or will be directly."

Hypocrisy far more disciplined than theirs could lend its aid no further. If the first intelligence which they heard was tolerably doleful, this was complete discomfiture. They sunk into taciturnity, and the leaders began to look in fact what they had been so often politically called, a company of undertakers. They had assisted at the 'parliamentary funeral of some opponents, and now, like Charles V. though without his satiety of

Public exultation at it.

445

worldly vanities, they were to assist at their own. In the return of this fatal bill was their political existence completely inurned. Lord Charlemont took advantage of their silent mood, and quietly withdrew from this groupe of statesmen, than whom a more ridiculous rueful set of personages in his life, he said, he never beheld. The city, in consequence of the intelligence of the evening, was in a tumult of gratitude and applause; illuminations were everywhere diffused, and our unintentionally victorious senators were obliged on their return home, to stop at the end of almost every street, and huzza very dismally with a very merry, very patriotic, and very drunken populace.

But public exultation was not confined to Dublin. In a few days all Ireland might have been said to be one continued blaze. The septennial bill was now, according to the mode of passing bills in those days, once more to appear before the house of commons, where, if it was not received with much interior joy and gladness, it met with great civility, and, in general, with the most perfect parliamentary decorum. Many unquestionably acted like true patriots, and assented to it from their hearts, as a great constitutional boon conceded to Ireland. Some connected with boroughs began now to look a dissolution in the face, and calculated on a temporary sale or entire lucrative transfer of this species of parliamentary property. Some members for counties, who had long flattered themselves with possession of their

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