Изображения страниц

England. He embarked on his destination as had been arranged, but the sea was frozen up, and, unable to effect a landing, he was compelled to return and wait for a more favourable opportunity.

The Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland, which Ministers were now preparing, was recommended to the consideration of Parliament in a message from the King on the 22nd of January. The Rebellion had given a decisive impulse to the project by effectually demonstrating the want of power, energy, and influence of the local Parliament to control the insubordinate spirit of the country, or to provide adequate remedies for existing and acknowledged evils. It was considerably accelerated also by the despair of the Protestants and the landed proprietors generally, who, exhausted by the long and wasting struggles of faction, looked to England, across the ashes of a desolating insurrection, for the last hope of relief from anarchy and spoliation. In the letters that immediately follow, the views of Ministers in reference to the proposed plan are incidentally elucidated ; and it appears, from Lord Grenville's allusions to the subject, that it was originally suggested to make the representation of the Irish Peerage in the Imperial Legislature elective under every new Parliament, like that of the Scotch Peerage; a mode of representation to which Lord Grenville objected, although, in other respects, he approved of the adoption of the Scotch Union as a model for imitation. He foresaw clearly the confusion and jealousies likely to be engendered in such a country as Ireland by repeated elections amongst a body whose title to the right of election rested on hereditary

grounds, and he felt that the frequent recurrence to such contests would re-open old grievances and party feuds, and, instead of satisfying the expectations of the Peers, would only create a new element of discontent. The elective principle was the single feature in the Scotch Union which Lord Grenville seems to have considered injudicious and impolitic. We gather from many passages in his letters that he regarded harmony in the structure of the legislative body to be as essential to its effective action as unity in the executive ; and that the nearer the House of Lords approached to permanency in the foundation of all its parts, the more completely would it realize, as a whole, the constitutional theory of an hereditary estate.


Cleveland Row, Jan. 4th, 1799. MY DEAREST BROTHER,

I have been so occupied this last week as really not to have had a moment to write to you. We have indeed nothing to write; this frost locks up all our communications ; it has sent poor Tom back to us after nine days' sea-sickness, and when I hoped he was already at Berlin; and we are now told that less than a fortnight's thaw will not open the intercourse again. In that time how many things may be done, and what is worse, how many may not be done! Naples and Sardinia, with all that belongs to them, you will have seen in the French papers as fully as we, and we know no more.

In this interval the Union engrosses all my thoughts. I worked hard when Lord Castlereagh was here to assist in expediting his return, for I clearly see that without communication the thing will not do, and that there can be none but

through him. I was better satisfied than I had expected with his manner of doing business, which I found both ready and clear; and he seems to me to have the success of this measure most thoroughly at heart. Your letters teach me still to indulge hopes of success, but the prospect is certainly less favourable than it was, and the difficulties of Government with its supporters will be proportionably increased.

Before you receive this you will have learnt that Parnell has been brought to a positive explanation of his sentiments. What the final issue has been I do not yet know, but I conclude it will be hostile, and in that case I think his removal will operate very favourably, particularly in dissipating the foolish idea you mention.

Lord Castlereagh brought over here a plan for the election of the Commons which was approved, and indeed I am satisfied it is the most reasonable. As it admits only nine or ten single members from cities, &c., and classes all the other boroughs by twos it seems to me free from most of the objections you mention; all we cannot hope to obviate, but must on the whole choose between contending inconveniences on both sides. It is a very great merit of this plan in my eyes that it so closely follows the model of the Scotch Union.

Yet from that model I am tempted to think we ought to depart in the election for the House of Lords, by choosing for life, and letting the electors sit in the House of Commons. When Lord Castlereagh was here I drew a scheme for that purpose, wbich he has taken over with him, in order to see which of the two plans is likely to be most palatable to the Irish peerage—this, or the mode followed in the Scotch Union. I own I think that the re-election of so large a number as near fifty Peers in every Parliament would tend almost to destroy the very principle of a House of Lords in our Constitution; nor do I think a body of Peers excluded from Parliament (like the Scotch) by any means a good elective body from Parliament to Parliament. With one vacancy at a time, arising from death, they may more safely be trusted.

You gave me hopes some time since of receiving from you some ideas about provision for Catholic and Dissenting Clergy. I am very anxious for them. Adieu, I have exhausted my paper and my light.

God bless you.


Cleveland Row, Jan. 10th, 1799. MY DEAREST BROTHER,

* * * It is for you to send news, and not to receive it, for nothing is interesting just now but what relates to Ireland and the Union. Twelve days bring us to the prologue, to this swelling scene, as Shakspeare calls it. How long it will be before the dénouement, and what that dénouement will be, and what the piece, who shall say ?

Your chief Governor, you know, is not given to be very communicative, either to his employers or to any one else; but I collect from the statement in the newspapers that he has resolved to adopt, without further reference here, the suggestions which Lord Castlereagh carried over as to the members of the two Houses in the United Parliament. I am very glad of it as to the House of Lords, not only from parental fondness, but because on solid grounds, as I think, I very much feared the effect of a septennial election of fifty Peers not chosen by the very best possible bodies of electors.

As to the House of Commons, it is almost entirely a question of local expediency as to the best chance of satisfying Messieurs les intéressés ; for you and I, who are not parliamentary reformers (and, thank God, never were), do not hold very high the superior virtue of a man chosen by one mode of election rather than by another. I am, however, entirely satisfied that the plan of a resident committee at Dublin was impracticable; and even if it had not been so, the universal prejudice was so strong against it here, on the part of everybody of every description who was talked to on the subject, that it put the execution of such a plan totally out of the question. The strongest, and with me quite decisive, argument against it was the introduction into our Constitution of a principle so perfectly novel and anomalous; the merit of the Scotch Union having been, and that of the Irish being intended to be, its simplicity, and the precision with which everything new is accommodated to the existing state of our Constitution and Government. In the Scotch Union, the Peerage was the only exception; and in the present case we are, as you see, labouring to bring even that point nearer to the actual practice.

Ever most affectionately yours,

Lord Cornwallis had been avowedly selected for Ireland on account of his military talents. But his Administration did not satisfy the Cabinet. Lord Grenville, who confesses to the feeling of disappointment with which he reflects upon the results of the appointment, makes allowances for the failure on the ground that Lord Cornwallis undertook the office unwillingly, and from a sense of public duty alone, and that he had experienced nothing but disgusts and mortifications. In this case, however, as in all former cases, the difficulty was to find a successor. There was, also, another consideration which Lord Grenville points out —the evils that always attended a change of Government in Ireland, even from worse to better.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »