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it was bound to afford him that protection without which those rights might for him become matter of penalty, not of privilege. Without such protection he was, to use his own words (when addressing the then Under-Secretary for Ireland, Mr. Norman McDonald), "vehemently opposed to the admission of tenants at will as voters in Ireland. He felt convinced that they would be the wretched instruments of the landlords, or their miserable victims, and he did not wish for slaves or martyrs.”
Both bills stood over until after Easter, when long and angry discussions took place on various amendments. At length upon the 5th May, the House being in Committee, the question was put that an Eight pounds rating clause stand part of the Government Bill. The smallness of their majority had induced ministers to modify their original proposition respecting the new franchise, and to substitute an eight pounds rating for five pounds. This was done in the hope of conciliating the support of a few individuals, who declared themselves distrustful of so considerable a change. The result however, was only to sow disunion among their supporters, and to render all progress more hopeless than ever. On the 5th of May, on the question being put that the
Eight pounds clause stand part of the bill, a scene of bitter recrimination arose among the prominent members of the Whig and Radical sections, in which Mr. Hume, Mr. Ward, Mr. Sheil, Mr. C. Wood, and Mr. O'Connell took part. The clause was finally rejected by 300 to 289; whereupon the measure was at once abandoned ; and Lord Stanley, contented with the damaging impression created by the discussion, withdrew his bill also.
To supply the deficiency in the revenue which, in 1841, amounted to no less than 2,400,0001., a Free Trade budget was resolved on. Considerable reductions in the differential duties on sugar and timber were proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the 31st April ; and on the 7th May, Lord John Russell announced his memorable proposition of an eight shilling duty on
The debate which ensued, lasted from the 7th to the 18th May, in the course of which above eighty members spoke. The speech of Mr. Sheil was delivered near the close. He had to deal with an exhausted subject in a wearied and impatient House ; yet he contrived to engage general attention, and to keep it.
The public mind, long apathetic, grew quickly alive to the momentous importance of the alterations in
the commercial system thus propounded. It was clear that in the existing parliament none of them were likely to be carried, and it seemed still more certain that if the Conservatives succeeded to power, no essential modification of either corn or sugar duties could be obtained. A new House of Commons, pledged to free trade principles, and the retention in office of the only ministry who had ever ventured to avow even a theoretic conviction of their truth, was on all hands believed to be alike indispensable to their practical triumph. All the wise men of the clubs and coteries saw this with the usual sagacity that belongs to their pretentious class; and yet they all proved to be egregiously and entirely mistaken. On the 27th May, Sir Robert Peel moved, and carried by a majority of one, a vote of want of confidence in ministers. By this they were precluded from even bringing on, as they proposed doing, the question of a fixed duty on corn.
The dissolution was thus precipitated, and took place some weeks earlier than it would otherwise have occurred. Whether its results were in consequence materially varied, it were waste of time to inquire. But by the end of August a Parliament was returned, containing in both Houses overwhelming majorities pledged to support Protection and Sir Robert Peel.
The Liberal party were utterly discomfited; the Whig Cabinet was driven from power; and the strongest of strong governments was formed, to defend the differential tariff on timber, sugar, and corn. What followed hardly needs being told. Within twelve months the theory of protection had been abandoned by the new Cabinet, amid the undiscerning plaudits of their enthusiastic supporters. In the course of the three following years numerous relaxations in the restrictive code were successively introduced ; and at length the great monopoly, for whose sacred preservation this protracted struggle had been waged, was stricken down in a Protectionist Parliament by the hand of a Protectionist Premier.
In the changes that took place in various departments of the Administration, previous to the dissolution of Parliament in 1841, Mr. Sheil exchanged the Vice-Presidency of the Board of Trade for the post of Judge-Advocate, an office more congenial to his professional habits in former years, and which, in point of emolument and rank, was in no degree inferior to that which he had held since 1839. Many of his party indulged in the belief that to the appeal about to be made to the country on the Free Trade budget of Mr. Baring, the declared response would be such as to give them a renewed lease of power. It is
evident from the following extract from a letter to an intimate friend in Ireland, that Mr. Sheil's anticipations were very different.
“I am to be Judge-Advocate. The Tories are furious at my seeing the Queen on Courts Martial. I fear that I shall enjoy my honours for a very brief period—but the Tories are not likely to hold office long-and when we return again, I shall have claims founded on my previous position in the party."*
At the general election, Mr. Sheil resolved to relinquish the representation of the county of Tipperary, which he had held since the year 1833, and to offer himself for the borough of Dungarvon. Much disappointment was expressed by many of his friends in Ireland at the announcement of this determination, and not a few remonstrances were in private urged against the intended change. But his mind was made
up, and the reasons which he assigned with his usual frankness, admitted of no discussion. In reply to some expostulation from a member of the Irish Government, he assigned two distinct but equally sufficient reasons. “I leave Tipperary because there is a great clamour against me for not having gorged my friends with patronage. Some of the most noisy
* Letter to Mr. Justice Ball, 18th June, 1841.