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diligently in the consideration of its difficulties on all sides (for they were very great), he should not despair of seeing a satisfactory remedy.” The Duke's letter and his reply were transmitted by the Archbishop to Lord Anglesea, who frankly told him in return that he had not previously known “the precise sentiments of the Duke of Wellington upon the present state of the Catholic question.” He stated his conviction " that the final and cordial settlement of that great question could alone give peace, harmony, and prosperity to all classes of his Majesty's subjects, and his disappointment on learning that there was no prospect of its being effected during the ensuing session of Parliament.” He expressed his satisfaction at observing that the Duke "was not wholly adverse to the measure ;” and advised the Catholics to abstain from violence, to avoid personalities, and by all means to propitiate his Grace, who, "of all men, would have the greatest facility in carrying it into effect." When this correspondence was read in the Association, the excitement it occasioned can hardly be described.

What was to be done? The Government of Ireland was rapidly passing from the hands of the King's

ministers into those of the chiefs of the Association. Every expedient of repression on the one side, and of agitation on the other, consistent with the maintenance of the constitution, had been exhausted. Resistance to all the claims of right and justice had to the last been vigorously sustained according to law, yet it had failed to crush or even to check the reclamations which millions uttered in a tone of unmistakable menace, but yet in accents which the law allowed. It grew plain to all that this was a state of things which could not last; yet, what was to be done? The Marquis of Anglesea, who had always voted against the Catholic claims, had but twelve months before been deliberately selected as the successor of Lord Wellesley, who had always supported those claims in the vice-royalty of Ireland. The daring and inexorable soldier had been chosen to take the place of the diplomatic and conciliatory statesman. He had been sent to Ireland to extinguish agitation, and “the extinguisher himself had taken fire.” Lord Anglesea had then been recalled, and the Duke of Northumberland nominally placed in his room; nobody imagined that his Grace was likely to exercise any personal influence over the course of affairs. There

still were those indeed amongst the higher classes on both sides of the Channel who, rather than give way, would have supported Government in suspending all legal liberty, and resorting to military force in order to put down the agitation. It can hardly be doubted that in the mind of the King the contemplation of such an alternative did not excite any insuperable repugnance. But in that of his principal ministers the matter wore a different aspect. As far as Parliament was concerned, they might still have successfully resisted all concession. The majority by which the question had been carried in the House of Commons during the past session, was smaller than that by which Mr. Plunkett's Bill had been carried in 1821, Mr. Canning's in 1822, and Sir Francis Burdett's in 1825 : while the majority in the House of Lords was nearly the same as that by which the measure had been rejected on the last of these occasions. But on the other hand, it was impossible to forget, that in four out of the last five Parliaments, the House of Commons had affirmed the principle of Emancipation; while every administration that had held office during the same period had been compelled to incur all the weakness and embarrassment of division, by

making it an open question. In the majority of the existing House of Commons who had recorded their votes in favour of concession, there was a marked preponderance of the members for great towns in England, while of the representatives of counties and large towns in Ireland, the disparity was that of sixty-two votes to thirty-two.t

It was further daily becoming more obvious, that in the division of opinion which prevailed throughout the country, the rising talent and energy of the educated classes were decidedly in favour of a change, while the ranks of resistance consisted in great part of those who had survived a system of policy of which the most essential portions had already crumbled away. The mere list of names marshalled on opposite sides in the great controversy, both in and out of Parliament, offered the most serious grounds for consideration to all who desired that, in the defence of national institutions, should be enlisted the best intellects and abilities of the community. I

* Speech of Mr. Peel on introducing the Relief Bill, 5th March, 1829.

† Idem.

This argument was forcibly relied on afterwards by the Bishop of Oxford and Mr. Peel. Debate on the second reading of Relief Bill in Lords, 2nd April, and debate in Commons, 5th March.


Ministers felt that if once they entered on the path of statuteable repression, they could not stop half way. To put down political societies would be vain unless they were prepared to prevent all political assemblies likewise ; and to execute a law aimed against these it would be obviously indispensable to suspend trial by jury. In a word, they must proceed to outlawry against the bulk of the Irish nation. “ Assuming for a moment that a nonconceding Cabinet should not only attempt, but should succeed in carrying into effect this system of coercion, how long would it last? It might endure during peace; but would a Government be competent to uphold it in time of war? If not, the commencement of war would be the worst period in the history of the empire."* Fourteen years of uninterrupted peace were not sufficient to obliterate the recollections of a time when both France and America were combined in deadly hostility against us; and every year was certain to bring augmented strength to both, and to diminish the obstacles which the elements had formerly interposed in the ocean path of invasion. Should we ever be at war again with these jealous and powerful neighbours, it was

* Speech of Mr. Peel on introducing the Relief Bill, 5th March, 1829.

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