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to be inaugurated. The fatal chain, by which liberty and loyalty had long been bound together in men's thoughts as antagonistic and incompatible, was broken, and the shout at the hustings was everywhere, “the Queen, and justice to Ireland.” Many severe contests took place, but generally with results favourable to the popular cause. Mr. Sheil and Mr. Otway Cave were opposed in Tipperary, but both were returned by a great majority ; the numbers being, for Mr. Sheil, 1557; Mr. Cave, 1544; Mr. Barker, 642; and Mr. Moore, 633.
The new parliament met in November, to settle the Civil List for the youthful Sovereign; and having performed that duty, adjourned till February. In the interval, the first proposition connected with office was made to Mr. Sheil.
So long as William the Fourth lived, an insuperable barrier existed to his attainment of office. Like his predecessor, the King deemed himself bound to cherish a fraternal resentment against the man who had ventured to trifle with the sufferings of the Duke of York. The lapse of ten years, and all the changes that in that period had occurred, were not sufficient to obliterate from the royal mind the memory of that miserable affront. This at least, was the only assigned cause. But soon after the
Queen's accession to the throne, it was felt by many of his friends, that as no obstacle of the kind adverted to, any longer existed, some office of distinction ought to be placed at his disposal. Lord John Russell wrote to Lord Melbourne, suggesting that he should ascertain what his views as to office were.
The premier did so, asking him if he still looked for professional advancement. He said, No, that he had very much forgotten his law, and would prefer political or other office. On learning this, Lord John proposed that he should have the clerkship of the Ordnance, saying “that although he might have forgotten his law, he was certainly well up to working
Some delay however intervened, and the commissionership of Greenwich Hospital fell vacant. It certainly was hardly worthy of his acceptance; but he had often expressed an anxiety to have something for life, as his income was chiefly dependent on that of Mrs. Sheil, and under the impression that it was permanent and compatible with parliament, Lord Melbourne offered it to him. In the conversation which took place upon the occasion, Sheil said he preferred it on this account to the clerkship of the Ordnance, although he added, laughing, the salary is not very splendid. Lord Melbourne
replied that “6001. a-year was a very good thing, and 3001. a-year was a very good thing: Sir Henry Parnell used to boast that he lived upon 2001. a-year, and lived like a gentleman.” After some consideration he made up his mind to accept the proffered post; and having thereby vacated his seat, a new writ was moved for the county of Tipperary, as soon as the House re-assembled in February. The overwhelming demonstration made in his favour at the recent election, deterred his former antagonists from repeating their costly and useless experiment; and he was returned for the fourth time for the county, on this occasion, without any opposition.*
His acceptance of this appointment was much disapproved of by many of his warmest friends. When Mr. Woulfe heard of it, he exclaimed, “It is an act that those who love and value Sheil as he deserves, never can forgive him.” To those who depreciated and disliked him, it furnished occasion for many an ill-natured comment and witless sneer. The populace in Ireland were told to regard it as a proof of his want of political independence; while the supercilious of a different class in England, affected to regard the smallness of the place as an admission of the low
* March, 1838.
value at which the man was held by himself and by his ministerial friends. But was this just ? His position, though at the time one of celebrity and ease, was one essentially precarious. For parliament he had virtually abandoned the law, in which, had he adhered to it with the mercenary views so unfairly ascribed to him, he might easily have secured lucrative and eminent station. The discerning multitude never found fault with any of his professional cotemporaries for using the House of Commons as a mere occasional side-path of their own ambition, and for continuing to plod their profitable way to the Bench, without troubling themselves about the fortunes of their party or their country. During the whole period of the Melbourne administration, parties were so balanced that the energy and zeal of an individual supporter might, at any moment, make all the difference between its maintenance and its overthrow. Sheil not only gave his votes whenever votes were of consequence, and the force of his brilliant eloquence whenever it was required, but he devoted continually his time and thoughts in private, to the sustainment of that policy which in public he espoused. His earnestness in conversation, his watchfulness regarding passing events, his promptitude in communicating at
the earliest moment whatever it was most important for his correspondents at a distance to know,—these and an infinite variety of the minor duties of partisanship constantly occupied his mind. It is mere ignorance only of the working of political party, that throws its head in the air, and affects to doubt the worth of services like these. That they were not doubted in the case in question, by those who had opportunities of observing them, is incontestable; and had he who rendered them unostentatiously, sought to turn his position to what, in the language of trading politicians is commonly termed “good account,” he might certainly have exchanged a life of uncertainty and excitement, for one of affluence and ease. In truth, however, that which he desired most, was neither wealth nor tranquillity ; his highest sense of pleasure was in the exercise of that rare faculty by which the breathless attention of the House of Commons is enchained. “That,” he used to say, “that is power. Cheers are nothing; any one who is reckless enough to play for them, if he has common tact and ability, can win them. I don't care for cheers; the thing that is hard to catch, and when caught, to hold, is the silent attention of the House. When you have done that you have succeeded; not till then."