Изображения страниц

these in their turn speedily assumed the privilege of offering emphatic advice to the comparative few who were still allowed to retain the right of voting.

Nevertheless it is unquestionably true that, in 1829, no serious effort was made, either in or out of Parliament, to resist an act by which more than two-thirds of the entire constituency of Ireland were disfranchised. As the price, in truth the only price exacted for the concession of religious freedom, it was acquiesced in almost without a murmur. But there was something more than this. A painful conviction pervaded the whole community of the false and unfair position in which the forty-shilling freeholders had been placed. Upon them had fallen the brunt of the final battle for Emancipation. What Burke and Fox, Grattan and Plunket, Wellesley and Canning, had argued for in vain, the votes of these poor men had achieved. Too many proofs had been given that for their revolt from their landlords there could be no forgiveness, unless in so far as it might be expected that the object of their sudden mutiny having been gained, they would prudently relapse into the helotism in which they had formerly lain. Who that sincerely honoured the self-devotion and courage which so many of them had shown, could desire to

see them exposed perpetually to the temptations of intimidation, or the ignominy of renewed serfhood ? Yet who that was to share in the benefits they had contributed so directly to secure, could openly assent to the proposal that they should be stript of the only political privilege they had ever enjoyed ? When the Relief Bill and the Disfranchising Dill had passed, some indignant speeches were made, and pledges offered to seek for the rescinding of the restrictive condition; but, from that day to the present, no effort worthy of the name has been made in Ireland to obtain an extension of the suffrage commensurate with that which in 1829 was taken away, or to induce the legislature to concede the principle of protection to the voter, without which any such extension must to the humbler classes be devoid of half its worth.



Relief from the labours of agitation-Civil equality still unrea

lized—Policy recommended by Mr. Sheil and Dr. DoyleThe bar- Education - Poor laws–Counsel for Lord G. Beresford-Second marriage-Contest for Louth-Classical reading-King's counsel-Returned for Milborne Port-First speech in Parliament-Early impressions of the HouseBrooke's club.

In the year 1829, Mr. Sheil had attained considerable eminence at the bar. During the spring circuit he had been very generally engaged throughout, and his retainers in civil cases were so numerous that he was forced to decline criminal business. Writing from Clonmel, he says, “You will be glad to learn that I was employed in almost every case, either to state or to speak to evidence; and by two speeches in very remarkable actions I have, I think (though I

may be deceived), greatly added to my reputation. King's counsel were left out in some instances in order that I might have precedence. The people and his Majesty have of late begun to differ in the selection of their advocates."* During the summer assizes of the same year, he was engaged as leading counsel in a singular action for libel, brought by a Miss Anthony against another young lady, a Miss E

Instigated by jealousy, the defendant had circulated a marvellous tale of shame and guilt regarding her rival, and undertook to furnish the authorities with proofs of the minutest particulars. The whole story turned out to be a mere fabrication, but its circulation had caused infinite pain and injury to a young and innocent woman, and the suit was brought for the recovery of damages and the public vindication of her character. The trial excited no little interest. It was an occasion eminently suited for the display of advocacy of a high order, and Mr. Sheil's appeal to the jury fully realized the anticipations that had been formed of it. In an article published in The New Monthly, the following November, entitled, “Notes upon Circuit," an account is given of this and several other interesting cases in which he was engaged. But

* Extract of a letter to W. H. Curran, March 23rd, 1829.

it is not unworthy of notice, that he does not mention his own name in the narrative, even incidentally.

Though fond of praise, and capable of enjoying in a high degree the excitement peculiar to the discharge of tribunitial functions, he had for some time become weary of the work of agitation, in which there was necessarily much to disenchant and disgust a mind constituted like his. “You cannot conceive,” he exclaimed, “what a relief it is to me to be liberated from the necessity of attending aggregate meetings.” He had had more than enough of the celebrity their plaudits could confer, and he longed for respite from the labour that, since he had got into good business in his profession, had grown somewhat irksome. With this feeling of personal relief was associated the conviction that the cessation of popular assemblies, whose emotions it was alike his task to inflame and to control, was in itself “a vast public benefit. The passions of the populace were of necessity excited, and a general feeling of insubordination was produced. We were formerly interested in awakening, we are now equally interested and bound to allay, the popular ferment. In a few months, Ireland will be a new country.” These were not expressions made use of for effect, but the unaffected utterance of his

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »