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it was not until Mr. Lawless asked how it happened that he did not see “his valued and invaluable friend Richard,” that he was made aware of his blunder. His account of the scene to his fellow-agitators, when he did find them, afforded no little merriment, and during the earlier part of the evening “the cabinet” enjoyed unbroken harmony.
At length Mr. Blake, with appropriate preface, introduced the business of the evening. He extolled Lord Anglesea, dwelt long upon the claim his recent conduct and loss of office gave him to their respect and regard ; and concluded a somewhat florid appeal to the sense of national duty and gratitude by professing to quote the passage in which the Marquis recommended “that they should dissolve the Association.” The quick eye of the giver of the feast perceived at a glance that the effect of this mal-adroit harangue was exactly the opposite that it had been intended to produce. To talk about duty and gratitude under the circumstances of protracted tantalization and reiterated disappointment, in despite of which the popular organization had grown up to a position of menacing strength and power, was worse than idle. Before he could interpose, however, any observation calculated to efface the impression thus caused, Mr.
Ford inquired if the letter adverted to was the same which he had perused before dinner? For if so, he thought the advice given by Lord Anglesea was not that they should dissolve, but that they ought to suspend for the present the meetings of the Association. On reference to the passage, this version proved to be correct. Old feelings of distrust were aroused, and a debate of some hours' duration ended in hot words, and the mutual confirmation of each side in their own opinions. Next day the Association met, and the question was discussed without any definite result. But the urgency of the course recommended daily increased, and similar suggestions continued to be made from other quarters. Soon after the intentions of Ministers had been declared, it happened that, oneevening at the house of Lady Morgan, a letter from Mr. Hyde Villiers to his brother (the present Earl of Clarendon), then Commissioner of Customs in Dublin, was shown to Mr. Woulffe. It presented anew the considerations stated by Lord Anglesea ; and coming from one who was believed to be aware of the feelings and sentiments of the Government at the time, it naturally carried no little weight. At the instance of Mr. Woulffe, the contents of the letter were communicated to Mr. Sheil, who had invited a second party to meet
at dinner the following day. On this occasion Mr. Villiers and other advocates of prudent counsels were present, as well as several of the more determined adherents of a different policy. Whether the company happened to contain a more decided preponderance on the side of moderation, or that the abandonment by Ministers of their former opinions had become so generally understood as virtually to quench all doubts as to the speedy and final issue of the great controversy, considerably less resistance was offered to the course suggested than there had previously been. Mr. Sheil undertook the task of endeavouring to obtain its formal adoption without further delay. On the 12th of February he moved that the Association should, at its rising on that day, stand totally dissolved. The conclusion of his speech was in these words :-“ The object of this body was, and is, Catholic Emancipation ; that object is, in my judgment, already obtained. Nothing except our own imprudence can now defeat it. The end being achieved, wherefore should we continue to exist ? What are we to do? In a few days an Act of Parliament will put us down. How is the interval to be employed? In making of harangues, forsooth-in the delivery of fine fragments of rhetoric, and in
proclamations of our own dignity and importance ? If the Minister acts a false part in our regard, we can readily rally again ; but if a fair and equitable adjustment of the question be made, he is an enemy of his country who would perpetuate its divisions. The course which I recommend is this : Let us determine to dissolve; let us pass a series of resolutions declaratory of our motives for so doing; let us protest against any unnecessary abandonment of the rights of citizens ; let us discontinue the collection of the rent, but preserve the finance committee, in order to pay our debts, and wind up our pecuniary concerns ; let its meetings be private, in order that there
be no pretence for alleging that we maintain a shadow of the Association; and let its measures be subject to the revision of an aggregate meeting:
After considerable debate the motion was carried, and this memorable confederacy, which under various forms had existed for a period of nearly six years, separated to meet no more. The Suppression Bill passed rapidly through both Houses. Meantime the Home Secretary, who had resigned his seat for the University of Oxford, was defeated in the attempt to
Speech of Mr. Sheil on the dissolution of the Catholic Association.
obtain his re-election, and was obliged to resume his place in the Commons as member for the borough of Westbury. Regardless, nevertheless, of the outcry raised against them, ministers resolved to persevere. Yet after all the Duke had nearly failed.
The assent of the Sovereign once obtained, his Grace had, with characteristic coolness, occupied himself with the means by which the intended measures were to be carried. He gave himself but little concern about the discontent of those whose cause he had abandoned as no longer tenable; and hardly thought it possible, that by intrigue at the palace they could thwart his now settled purpose, or warp the mind of his Majesty from the course which, after many months of deliberation, he had authorised his ministers to announce to Parliament in his name.
Lord Anglesea had been recalled, the Catholic Association suppressed, and Mr. Peel had sacrificed the representation of Oxford. Notice had been given of the introduction of the contemplated Relief Bill for Thursday, the 5th March ; yet, even then secret debate continued to be held in the royal closet, as to whether the whole policy of the responsible advisers of the Crown should not be abandoned. Lords Sidmouth and Eldon had used their privilege as privy coun