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LORD FITZWILLIAM'S ADMINISTRATION IN IRELAND.
THE line of policy Lord Fitzwilliam intended to adopt was intimated at the opening of the Parliament in January. Mr. Grattan moved the Address in answer to the Speech ; a little later Mr. Conolly withdrew his opposition to the prorogation in deference to the wishes of Government; and the old supporters of the Administration were displaced by the Ponsonbys and their connections. Remembering how all these men had acted in the Regency business, the obstructions they had thrown in the way of the public service, and the vindictive opposition they had given to his measures, Lord Buckingham was deeply wounded by the apparent sanction extended to this complete change of system, which he regarded as a disavowal of the course he had pursued in Ireland, and, in some sort, as a personal indignity. In his communications with Lord Grenville he stated his feelings on this subject without reserve. He considered that in assenting to the appointment of Lord Fitzwilliam, after the damaging disclosures that had taken place, the Cabinet had abandoned him to the obloquy of that party against whose inveterate hostility he had successfully preserved the executive union of the two kingdoms; and this consideration was embittered by the reflection that Lord Grenville, from his position in the Ministry, had contributed influentially to place him in that humiliating light before the public. Lord Buckingham, with his acute sense of what was due to his own honour, looked at the question from that point alone; but Lord Grenville, in the discharge of his responsibilities as a Cabinet Minister, was compelled to take a more comprehensive view of it. Whether he decided rightly or wrongly, there can be no doubt that he decided conscientiously, and that it was impossible he could resolve upon any conclusion likely to be painful to Lord Buckingham which his affection for him would not render equally painful to himself. But he felt at the same time that his duty demanded at his hands the sacrifice of his private feelings, and that this was a case in which any hesitation upon such grounds would be attended by the gravest consequences to the Administration. It may be seen, also, from the following letter, that he did not put the same construction upon these transactions as that which was so sensitively urged by Lord Buckingham. His more practical mind discerned in the irresistible necessity of the position a sufficient answer to all individual scruples; and maintaining, as he had stated in a former letter, that the security and repose of Ireland depended, not upon this or that set of men, which his observation of the character of the people and their politics had led him to regard with comparative indifference, but upon the soundness of the measures applied to her con
dition, he could not admit that the decision which had been come to with respect to Lord Fitzwilliam implied, even remotely, a disavowal of the line of conduct Lord Buckingham had so successfully pursued under totally different circumstances.
LORD GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Dover Street, Jan. 5th, 1795. MY DEAR BROTHER,
As I keep no copies of my letters to you, and have neither time enough, nor a mind sufficiently disengaged, to measure my expressions, nor have ever accustomed myself to do so in writing to you, all I can say on the subject of my last letter is, that if it conveyed to you any impression different from that of the sincere friendship and affection which dictated it, it very ill expressed my feelings.
With respect to the rest, I can only say that, to the best of my understanding, I have neither disavowed nor abandoned you, but given a very strong proof of my determination to do neither ; that I cannot believe that any such impression exists anywhere ; that not knowing the proofs of its existence, to which you refer, I can only guess at them, and I therefore forbear to make upon them the remarks to which, if my conjecture is right, they are so obviously liable. But that I am at a loss even to guess at the meaning of that part of your letter, which speaks of proofs laying before you of some compact made on this subject above twelve months since, not having, in my own mind, the smallest idea of the fact to which this can refer.
Having never mad any intention to disavow you, or to consent to any system or measure to which I thought you could wish to object, it was impossible for me to make to you any previous communication of such intention.
The detail of all that passed respecting Lord Fitzwilliam's appointment would be too long to go into now; and I have reason to believe that you are not unacquainted with many of the circumstances which would prove how very little idea there was of concealment or mystery on my part respecting that subject. From the first moment that you stated to me that you considered the idea of giving to the Ponsonbys a share of office in Ireland as a measure injurious to you, I explained to you my reasons for viewing it in a different light. But I anxiously reconsidered the object in my own mind, and I then acted, as I was bound to do, on my deliberate and fixed opinion respecting a point which, in either view of it, was of much too great public importance to make it possible for me to decide it merely on the desire I must ever feel to consult your wishes in preference to my own. Which of us is right in our view of this question, it is not for me to say. The motives and grounds of my opinion remain the same; and I see with regret that they do not make on your mind the impression they have made on mine.
It would be a painful and invidious task to discuss the question further; but I cannot receive from you a letter in which you tell me that you feel you have lost my affection, without repeating to you the assurance, which I still hope is not indifferent to you, that this is not, in the smallest degree, the case. I have intended to do nothing towards you but what should be the most kind and affectionate. I think I have so acted; but I am sure that I have so meant to act. If any contrary impression produces in your mind any feelings different from those which have made so great a part of my happiness throughout life, I shall deeply regret what seems to be annexed as a curse inseparable from the pursuit of a public life; but I will once more beg you to be assured that neither those feelings on your part, nor anything which they can produce, will vary my sincere and heartfelt affection towards you, and that whether my judgment has been right, as I still think it has, or wrong, as you think it, my heart is, and shall be, uniformly and invariably the same towards you.
It is with these sentiments that I shall ever be, my dearest brother, Most sincerely and affectionately yours,
Lord Fitzwilliam had scarcely arrived in Ireland when he collected about him the party with whom he had been in previous communication, and commenced his new system by a series of dismissals of the former supporters of Mr. Pitt's Government. Announcing his conviction that the immediate concession of the Catholic claims was indispensable to the tranquillity and security of the country, he followed up his objects with a vigour and expedition that created considerable alarm in England. The AttorneyGeneral was to be displaced, to make way for Mr. George Ponsonby; the Solicitor-General was also to be removed, and Mr. Beresford, who was Purse-bearer to the Chancellor, and Mr. Cooke, Secretary at War, were to be dismissed. The dismissal of Mr. Beresford was regarded as a measure of such extreme violence that it brought matters to an issue between Lord Fitzwilliam and the Cabinet. Some letters at this time from Mr. Cooke to Lord Buckingham present a striking coup d’æil of these affairs, as they appeared to one who was deeply interested in their progress. Lord Fitzwilliam, it should be observed, arrived in Ireland on the 5th of January, and the rapidity of his official movements may be inferred from the date of the first of the following letters, which was written only ten days afterwards.