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feelings to one who shared his personal and political intimacy.
And had either wisdom or generosity swayed the conduct of the Government, the anticipations thus sanguinely formed would probably have been realized. The great act of renunciation by the Legislature of the policy of sectarian exclusion, legitimately implied its practical abandonment by the administration. So long as Parliament affected to adhere to the principle, those entrusted with the execution of the laws might justify the maintenance of a rigorous monopoly in all the trusts and dignities of the State, by the reiteration of Lord Sidmouth's maxim, that their duty was “to execute the laws, not to change them.” But from the day that Parliament declared it to be expedient that civil disabilities on account of religion should cease, it became the manifest duty of the King's ministers to give possession to those whose right of entry had been decreed. Unfortunately for the peace of Ireland, the King's ministers judged differently. They had shattered their party almost beyond repair by their determination to carry the statutable settlement of the Catholic question; and yet they were content after it was done to leave all the passions and ambitions, the jealousies and aspira
tions, which that question had for forty years tended to excite, unsettled. It is no longer a secret, that to the spirit of pique and grudge which actuated George IV., this miserable course was in the first instance attributable. His Majesty consoled Lord Eldon and others in their disappointment by the assurance that he would make no Catholic peers or judges, and that in short he would do all that in him lay to baffle the intents of the Bill. But whatever allowance may be made for ministerial compliance with such a purpose, while yet the vexation of having been compelled to yield was fresh and recent in the royal mind, it is impossible to exonerate the administration of 1829 from the responsibility of having acquiesced in the systematic suspension of the benefits Parliament had intended to secure by the act of Emancipation. If they hoped thereby to retrieve the loss they had sustained in party adherence during the session, they calculated ill, as the event was soon destined to prove; and if they supposed that the great community whose long banishment from places of honour and emolument had been at length revoked, would be contented under its capricious and arbitrary prolongation, they were still more strangely mistaken.
Mr. Sheil at first appears to have doubted whether his peculiar offences might not be remembered so as to cause his exclusion from the benefit of the amnesty which was generally anticipated. “It would be of very great importance to me,” he observed, in a letter of the 7th April, 1829, “especially after my recent success upon circuit, to get a silk gown; I think it probable, however, that it will not be given. For this I am prepared. It will certainly be of material injury to me, even with my own party, that when the body of the Catholic bar are promoted I should be left behind, and I well know what sort of sympathy I am to expect from such a community as the Catholics of Ireland. I think therefore that it behoves me to take a bold step."
He then proceeded at some length to discuss a project he had already formed for obtaining a seat in Parliament. This would, he conceived, countervail the slight which he apprehended might be invidiously put upon him, and enable him to sustain the position of influence he had acquired. He owned that it involved some risk, but as he was in receipt of a good income from the bar, was a widower, and had but one child, he thought he might venture to take the course pro
* Letter to Peirce Mahony, Esq., 7th April, 1829.
posed. As no immediate opening offered, he was compelled to postpone for a season his plans of Parliamentary ambition. To this he was somewhat more easily reconciled by the course of undiscriminating injustice taken by the Government. Far from being singled out for slight, he found that all of his persuasion were treated similarly.
As month after month rolled by without any evidence that a practical change of system was contemplated, sentiments of disappointment and impatience began to be felt by those, who seemed to have exchanged great popularity and power for the bootless name of equality with the rest of their fellow-citizens. November term approached without any intimation having been given that the legal rank to which he had earned so incontestable a claim, was to be conceded to O'Connell. The sense of injury and slight, though in a less degree, was shared by Mr. O’Loghlin, Mr. Woulffe, Mr. Ball, and Mr. Sheil. Their continued exclusion from the Inner Bar could not be regarded otherwise than as a penalty inflicted on them on account of their creed. In a statement, drawn up at the request of a friend for the purpose of being submitted to persons then in power, of the political condition of Ireland at this period, and of
the policy which the Relief Bill required as its fitting complement, Mr. Sheil strongly urged what he felt to be due to the profession to which he belonged. “In every department of the State," he said, “to which Roman Catholics are now admissible, they conceive it to be their right to be promoted. This observation applies more immediately to the administration of the law. The Roman Catholic bar in a great degree represent the intellect and the feelings of their community. If placed in stations of honourable prominence (for distinction is far more important than lucre), they will hold out in our public tribunals the ocular proofs of the fair and just spirit of the Government."
His views of the policy which it behoved Government to pursue were not limited to questions of professional precedency or profit. He already discerned the consequences that were likely to arise if an illiberal system were continued. The mechanism of agitation had indeed ceased to move, and its curious concatenation had been sundered; but he well knew that its links and wheels were not destroyed, and above all his keen glance discovered that the powerful mainspring which had formerly set all in motion, though seemingly at rest and relaxed, still quivered