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CHAPTER IX.

1826.

General election-Marquis of Waterford—Return of Mř. Villiers

Stewart - Contest for Louth—The forty-shilling freeholdersSir Balaam-Dinner to Lord Fitzwilliam-Case of Kieran o. Callan-Chief Justice Bushe-Health of the Duke of YorkM. Duvergier d'Hauranne-Connaught provincial meeting.

At the general election of 1826, the seats occupied by Liberals required, in many instances, to be defended with peculiar care; but it was resolved not to stand merely on the defensive; and in addition, therefore, to the preparations necessary for the retention of these, it was proposed that an attempt should be made to wrest the representation of certain counties from the great landed proprietors, by whom they had long been held in mute and passive subjection. Of these the most notable was Waterford, for which a member of the family of Beresford had always been returned, not only in consequence of their great possessions there, but of the influence carefully fostered from days long anterior to the Union, when the head of the house of Curraghmore was hardly inferior in power to the king's lieutenant. Lord George Beresford had sat for the county for several years, and, save by his votes on the one absorbing question of the day, he had seldom incurred any degree of unpopularity; but had it been otherwise, his seat would have been deemed equally secure.

He was the brother and nominee of the Marquis of Waterford, whose hereditary sway all “shrewd men who knew the county" laughed contemptuously at the notion of subverting ; nevertheless, it had for some time been determined that the attempt should be made, in the person of Mr. Villiers Stewart, a near relative of the Duke of Devonshire, and newly come into the possession of a great landed inherit

To these advantages were added those of youth, attainments, and prepossessing manners. Still the odds were so unequal, that, after a protracted canvas, and notwithstanding the existence of great popular excitement, it was feared by many, including O'Connell himself, that territorial terrorism would, after all, prevail. Whatever might have been hoped and prophesied in the enthusiasm of fervid appeals to the multitude, few, if any, ventured, in their cooler moments, to believe that a miracle would be wrought for their success; yet, without such a prodigy, success seemed impossible. Unless the great mass of the forty-shilling freeholders should, as one man, revolt, and, forgetting the purpose for which they had been created, and the abject serfhood in which they had hitherto lain, should simultaneously rise in insurrection against their lords,—the cause of civil and religious liberty must be once more vanquished, and that of Orange ascendency be established more firmly than before. It is idle to suppose, looking back upon the events that were about to occur, that all men of political insight and sagacity must have foreseen what was going to happen. Your men of prescient infallibility seldom do, on such occasions, know much about the matter. In a certain sense, it may even be averred that their blundering ineptitude is an essential condition of the great event happening at all. If party cunning could, with professional plummet or illicit line, fathom the depths of a people's heart in the hour previous to its convulsive agony,

ance,

it
may

well be doubted whether many of the most memorable things that history records would

ever have more than half occurred or taken place with any eventful or abiding consequences whatso

ever.

The oft-told tale of the revolt of the forty-shilling freeholders needs not any lengthened repetition here. Its first symptoms became unmistakeably evident on the eve of the Waterford election; and before that remarkable contest had proceeded for many hours, its triumph was complete. Mr. Villiers Stewart was returned by a large and decisive majority, and the prestige of provincial power which the house of Beresford had so long exercised passed away for ever. The Marquis of Waterford, who had been for some time in a declining state of health, never recovered from the effects of this political blow.

“He was unacquainted with the moral and political condition of the people. Surrounded with opulence and pomp, he knew nothing of their wants, and could not enter into the feelings of his dependents. The woods of Curraghmore, in which he was shrouded from the public eye, formed a screen through which he must have had a very faint glimmering and imperfect view of all that lay beyond the boundaries of his own demesne. He could not be brought to believe that the lower orders felt

any

interest in the Catholic question,—but at last he was disabused. His own domestics voted for his antagonist. He had a huntsman, whose name was Manton. This ruler of the kennel had been the companion of those rural and innocuous enjoyments to which the Marquis had been addicted in his youth. He was famous for the echo which he used to call up among the hills of Curraghmore; and his Lordship seemed to be almost as much under the influence of Manton's horn as the beagles that were governed by his breath. The Marquis had lost the use of his limbs, and could hunt no longer ; but he still liked to hear the baying of the hounds. The election came on, and the heart and soul of Lord Waterford were involved in the result. His whole household voted for Stewart. The Marquis bore it with some sort of resignation; but when he heard that Manton was going to support his political opponent, he turned in his bed and remained for some time silent. He then ordered him to be called before him. Manton entered the chamber of his dying master. Lord Waterford drew the curtain aside, while his hand already shook with the tremor of death. He looked at the poor huntsman, who stood with the butt of his whip in his mouth. Tears soon gathered upon the eyelids of the old man, as he saw his benefactor stretched in pain and sorrow, and thus reduced to that equality of affliction by which the great and the humble are placed upon a level. "Manton,' said the dying Lord, ‘have you, too, abandoned me?"God bless your Lordship, and long life to you' (Alas!' said the Marquis); 'but, please your Lordship, I would go to the world's end to serve you, but I cannot vote against my country and my re

ligion.»*

A few days after, Lord Waterford left Curraghmore, never to return.

The example of Waterford proved contagious. To the surprise of all but a few energetic politicians of Louth, Mr. Alexander Dawson, a gentleman of small fortune, announced his intention of contesting the

* Speech of Mr. Sheil, at New Catholic Association, 19th August, 1826.

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