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The disqualification of placemen and pensioners, as laid down in the plan, if combined with a system of reform, is something; if separated, it is nothing. Send a placemen back to his constituents! and who are his constituents? Perhaps his menial servants, or men as much dependant as those. Doubtless their virtuous indignation will be roused; they will discard the unfaithful representative, whose bread they eat and whose livery they wear, and will look abroad for some more honest and able member to do their business in Parliament. But why except pensioners for life, or a term certain. Is it that a man having received a pension by way of bribe from a Minister, will then desert him, and return to his colors, because the wages of his iniquity cannot be withdrawn? No! Hell itself could not subsist without something like principle. The pension which cannot be recalled, becomes a debt of honor on him who receives it, and every man in society would look with more contempt on him, who having sold himself to the Minister, should afterwards oppose him, or talk of his duty to his country, with the purchase of his integrity jingling in his pocket, than on the thorough-paced and never-failing drudge, who plods on through the filth and mire of every dirty job, without looking to the right or to the left, reckless of character and anxious only for his pay.
With such radical defects, it is, perhaps, not much to be regretted that the convention plan fell to the ground. From its fall we may derive a lesson which cannot be too deeply imprinted on our minds, that no system, whose basis is monopoly, ever can succeed. To ensure success, the nation must be unanimous; to procure unanimity, the interest of all must be consulted. If our minds be not expanded sufficiently to embrace an idea so simple, yet so grand, we must bend them to an acquiescence in the present system. There is no medium between complete justice and unqualified submission.
The Convention and their plan having vanished like a mist, the question of reform was now to be tried in another shape, but still on the same vicious principle of exclusion. The House of Commons had with great indignation rejected the measure, as coming from an armed body. Statesmen are never to be believed when their interest is concerned. They are indifferent as to the mode; it was the principle they feared, but the excuse was plausible and weighed with many. In consequence, the Reformers
of that day shifted their ground. A new assembly was formed of delegates from all parts of the Kingdom, in a civil capacity, who, after various adjournments, and ineffectual calls on the people to co-operate with and support them, at length, in April, 1785, published an adı!ress to the nation, and a plan, in substance the same as that of the Convention in 1783, on which, as containing similar excellencies and defects, it is unnecessary here to observe. So little interest did the people take in this measure, that I know not whether any proceedings thereon were had in Parliament.
From this experiment in 1785, the question of reform lay, as in a trance, until the year 1791. In that year the unparalleled events, which were going on in France, roused the people from their lethargy. In the North of Ireland, a spirit of inquiry and exertion broke out, and the town of Belfast, that great fountain of political knowledge and public spirit, took the lead on this, as on every former occasion, when the independence of their country or the liberties of mankind were engaged. Men set themselves seriously to consider the causes of their former defeats, and they had not far to seek ; they found them in their own injustice. They saw the folly and the inconsistency of pretending to claim a restoration of their own rights, while they were themselves parties to the exclusion of their Catholic brethren. They altered their system fundamentally. They extended the base. Their plan was reduced to three simple principles, necessarily dependant on each other, and containing the disease, the remedy, and the mode of its attainment: First, that the weight of English influence in the Government of Ireland, was so great as to require a cordial union among all the people, to maintain that balance which was essential to the preservation of their liberties, and the extension of their commerce. Secondly, That the sole constitutional mode by which that influence could be opposed, was by a complete and radical reform of the representation of the people in Parliament; and, Thirdly, That no reform was practicable, efficacious, or just, which should not equally include Irishmen of every religious persuasion. Fortunately, at the very moment when this great change was working in their minds, the petulance of Administration bad, by multiplied and unnecessary insults, alienated the affections of the Catholic body, who also partook, in a great degree, of the spirit which
the French revolution had kindled over Europe. The enlightened men in the two great sects which divide the nation, cast their eyes instinctively on each other. It required little argument to show them the ruin of their former animosities, or the benefits resulting from union; that their interests, their enemies, their success, their destruction were inseparable. A new light broke forth on their minds. The prejudices of a century were subdued in six months. The Catholics, strong in the justice of their cause, and supported by their new allies, assumed a bolder tone. To the astonishment of Government, of their friends, of almost of themselves, they dared to assert the great principles liberty: “ That no man is free who is taxed when he is not represented, or bound by laws, in the framing of which, he has no power to give, or withhold his assent."
Principles so just, compelled their own acknowledgment. Government here and in England were forced to yield to a spirit, of the extent of which they were able to form no calculation. The conjuncture was favorable, the people were resolute, and the Catholic bill of 1793, which restored so many important privileges, and, above all, the elective franchise to that long oppressed body, will remain a splendid monument, as it was the first fruit of the union of Irishmen.
By this qualified emancipation of the Catholics, one great impediment in the way of reform is, at least, considerably diminished. The accusation of inconsistency and injustice, can no longer be affixed on the advocates for the measure. In what may be called the new theory of Irish politics, the first step in the system is ascertained, the remaining ones will follow in their order, if not instantaneously, yet certainly. A great difficulty has been surmounted, which if not removed, must forever have sunk all further attempts, as it did all antecedent ones, and the success of the people in the measure which they have obtained, has given them an earnest and a security of success, in those which they have yet to seek, if by their own folly and indiscretion and premature exertion, they do not retard, and perhaps destroy, the noblest cause in which ever a nation was embarked. But of this hereafter. I proceed historically to the next plan of reform, which is also the last which has been submitted to inspection, on the authority of any body or individual, in a public capacity : I mean the bill of reform, presented and dismissed in the course of the last session.
I Letter to the Editor of Faulkner's Journal, of Thursday, July
11th, 1793, in reply to certain assertions contained in his paper of that day.—By THEOBALD WOLFE TONE.
EPIGRAPH. “ Chief Justice. To punish you by the heels, would amend the attention of your ears, and I care not if I do become your physician.
Falstaff. I am as poor as Job, my Lord, but not so patient. Your Lord. ship may minister the potion of imprisonment to me, in respect to my poverty, but how I should be your patient to follow your prescriptions, the wise may make some dram of a scruple of, or indeed, a scruple itself * * * * * *
“Falstaff. My Lord, I will not undergo this sneap without reply. You call ho. norable boldness, impudent sauciness. If a man will make courtsey, and say nothing, he is virtuous. No! my Lord. My humble duty remembered, I will not be your suitor.”
SHAKESPEARE, Henry IV, Part 2.
Sir: I have seen a publication in your paper, of the 11th inst. in which, as I am told by my friends, and as I myself believe, I am particularly pointed out, and some extracts are given from a paper supposed to be written by me. This publication imports to be a speech delivered by a nobleman of high station in this country ; but as such I am not at liberty to consider it. I will, therefore, presume it to be the work of some ingenious personage, who has assumed the situation, and mimicked, with some success, the sentiments and language of that illustrious character; and, in this view, I cannot deny the author considerable merit ; there certainly is something in the manner extremely well hit off, and which at first imposed upon me completely ; however, on looking more carefully, I discovered internal evidence which must, I .think, satisfy any reasonable person, that it cannot possibly be the composition of the great personage, whose name you, sir, have ventured to prefix to it. As a man of veracity, he would scorn to advancc, against any individual, a charge of the deepest die, utterly unsupported by any thing like fact; as a statesman, he could not be so foolish as to publish to all Europe, friends and enemies, that a few desperadoes, such as he describes, have been sufficient to substract the military force of Ireland from the scale of the empire, and to require an army of observation of no less than six and thirty thousand men, (for such is our present esta
blishment,) to keep them in check; as a friend to the independence of his country, he would not talk such nonsense as to state that Irishmen could rebel against Great Britain ; and above all, as a man of humanity, as a constitutional lawyer, and as the keeper of his Sovereign's conscience, he never could have uttered the following remarkable sentence, which you have put into his mouth : “It is the only misfortune of a free Government, that nothing but full and legal proof can bring such dark conspirators to condign punishment.”
Whatever may be the opinion entertained by the anonymous writer of this speech as to my principles, I can assure him that I have a very great deference for even the forms of the Constitution. So much do I respect the seals, in whatever hands deposited, that I will treat even this representative of the Lord Chancellor with due decorum ; and I will not carry the war into his territories, nor expose his sophistry, his evasions, or his falsehood, further than is absolutely necessary for my own defence. I wish but to clear myself, which, if I can do, I will leave him to God, his conscience, and the tongues of his countrymen.
The charge against me is, that I am one of a faction, whose object is, in the words of the speech, “to rebel against the crown of Great Britain, by effectuating a separation between the sister countries.” And the overt acts which are brought forward to establish the charge, are a letter, or confidential despatch, said to be written by me; the founding the society of United Irishmen; the establishing the General Committee of the Catholics, on a plan, procured from my friends and associates in France; and, incidentally, by all these different acts of treason against Great Britain, endeavoring to prevent the crown from employing its troops in the restoration of peace, by facilitating the operations of the powers combined against France.
Before I enter into any justification of myself, I beg leave solemnly to protest against the principle laid down by the writer of this speech, whoever he be, that, as an Irishman, I owe any allegiance either to Great Britain or to the crown of Great Britain. My allegiance is due to the king of Ireland; and I would, to the last drop of my blood, resist the claim of any king, and much more of any nation, under any other title, who should presume to exact obedience of me. I confess this is one of the gross blunders, or worse, of the writer, which satisfied me of