« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Government will get on with Irish business. If the Irish be but true to themselves they will be irresistible. But I dread division and jealousy and small cabal among us, when we set our feet on British soil.”
A trait of his simplicity and of his readiness to be amused and interested with trivial matters is mentioned by a friend who chanced to meet him in Regentstreet, and to whom he showed a handkerchief he had just purchased, on which was stamped a map of Europe. He said he had bought it for a shilling, adding with a laugh, “Is not the schoolmaster abroad? This I have bought for my son to teach him geography. By the
know any good book of geography for children ?” On being told that the best was the excellent little volume by Mr. Croker, he asked if the author was the ex-Secretary of the Admiralty, and being told that he was, he insisted on going straight to Murray's, where he bought a copy of the book, and carried it home with him, highly pleased with his acquisition.
The first Reform Parliament was opened on the 5th of February, in a speech from the Throne, which indicated the intention of Ministers to apply to the Legislature for extraordinary powers for the repression of disturbances in Ireland. This called forth the vehe
ment denunciation of O'Connell, who ascribed to the Government a design of suppressing the discussion of political grievances under the pretence of preserving public tranquillity. The royal speech declared an unalterable determination to maintain intact the Legislative Union; and those who sought for its repeal believed that the new coercive statute was aimed as much against them as against the perpetrators of agrarian crime. The attack of Mr. O'Connell upon the Government was answered by Mr. Macaulay in a speech mainly devoted to the question of the Union. His arguments and illustrations were directed to show the practical incompatibility of two co-ordinate Legislatures under the same crown, and with the same Imperial executive. If the two countries could not, after a fair trial, be governed as one in a spirit of justice and of freedom, then would arise a fair cause for separation; but between separation and incorporate union he saw no middle term.
Mr. Sheil rose to reply. He declined to enter into the controversy as one of theory or speculation. The cry for Repeal had arisen from a sense of practical injustice; and if Parliament were not prepared to remedy the evils complained of, they would fail in their attempt to extinguish the cry. The question was
not whether a perfect and real union might not exist, but whether, under the name of incorporation, inequality the most glaring, and inferiority the most insulting, had not been imposed ? The three countries were said to form one kingdom, yet there was not one Irishman permitted to hold any office of political trust in the Irish executive. All creeds were declared to be equal in the eye of the law; but Emancipation was still a dead letter as far as Government was concerned. There was not a Catholic on the judicial bench ; out of twenty-six stipendiary magistrates recently made, not one was a Catholic; and when offenders were to be tried for infractions of the law regarding tithes, juries were packed as unscrupulously upon sectarian principles as they had ever been in the palmiest days of ascendency. Until the Union could be maintained without resort to such a system of administration as this, it was mere infatuation to expect that it would be regarded with contentment or respect by the people of Ireland; and he believed that until, in addition to these grievances, the Church question was set at rest, no arguments from history or philosophical inductious would avail aught towards appeasing the cry for Repeal. That cry had been foretold three-and-thirty years before by no less a
personage than the then Prime Minister. Lord Grey and
many of the leading Whigs of 1799, had strongly opposed the measure of the Union, predicting that it would only produce distrust, suspicion, and resentment, if carried by corruption and terror ; and that the people of Ireland would only wait for an opportunity of recovering their rights, which they would say had been taken from them by means the most unjustifiable.
Mr. Grant replied to these citations by asking whether a measure might not consistently be defended upon the ground that experience had proved its utility, by one who thirty years before had opposed its adoption from sincere apprehensions regarding its working, or equally sincere disapproval of the means by which it was brought about? There were in fact many distinguished persons in Ireland at the time to whom the interrogatory of Mr. Grant applied ; Lord Plunket, Chief Justice Bushe, Mr. Saurin, Mr. Goold, and Mr. Peter Burrowes, had all been earnest and eloquent opponents of the Act of 1800, but they were all understood to be adverse to the attempt to obtain its revocation. The last-named of these gifted persons, when pressed somewhat reproachfully in private with the recollection of his early zeal for a
separate Legislature in Ireland, exclaimed, “Yes, it is quite true that I was against the marriage, but that is no reason why I should, after thirty years, be in favour of a divorce."
The celebrated bill for suppression of disturbances in Ireland, was on the 15th February introduced in the Upper House by Lord Grey, who described the fearful prevalence of agrarian outrages, and ascribed the disregard of law to the exciting language used by O'Connell and others engaged in the Repeal agitation. The bill authorized the Lord-Lieutenant to proclaim any county or district in a state of insurrection, and the trial of all persons charged with offences therein, to be held and punished by courts-martial
. It likewise contained provisions whereby any society or assemblage might be forbidden to nieet by proclamation of the Viceroy, and rendered all persons who disregarded the same punishable by fine and imprisonment. No meeting to petition Parliament for the redress of any grievance in Church or State, was to be held without ten days' previous notice having been laid before the Lord-Lieutenant, and without the grant of his permission. All persons living in a proclaimed district were prohibited from being out of their houses between sunset and sunrise the following morning.