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CHAP. Iv.] MR. BURKE ON THE CATHOLICS. 113 both these countries, on the final success, in the House of Commons, of the last, and the greatest effort of your genius. Your wonderful abilities were never more distinguished, nor in a better cause. You have restored three millions of citizens to their King and their country: in reality they had not the benefit of either the one or the other; indeed, they were lost to themselves. There was even a circumstance in the melioration of their condition, which made it in some respects worse; as it exposed them more to the jealousy, and made them more the objects of the fears, of the ruling party, without any real strength on their part to oppose to those passions.
I speak, you observe, as if, in obtaining thus much for the Catholics, you had obtained every thing. I do so, when the title is fully admitted, when an interlocutory decree, leading to a final judgment, is given, the business in effect is done. You have brought things nearer this year to a complete equality in favour of the Catholics, than last session they were to the most parsimonious grant of the elective franchise. If you can pass this bill through the Lords with any tolerable good humour, I shall not only consider the great object as substantially gained, but more usefully gained in this progressive mode, than if nominally more had been obtained with the grudging and ill-will of the predominant party. Their exclusive liberty, as they possessed it, was not freedom, but dominion, and must naturally produce in them haughtiness by the habit of holding it, and rancour, and indignation, by the total and immediate loss of it. That description must, and perhaps ought, to possess the sole patronage. Their satisfaction, of course, is of moment. It would be no great bargain for the Catholics to obtain a capacity for everything, with the enjoyment of nothing at all.
The great object now remaining is to make this measure of concession on the one hand, and of reservation on the other, subservient to the country, and the strength of the empire. The spirit of jobbing in the principal people must, some way or other, be abated, and kept in some degree of moderation. It will be then more easy to get the better of the mutinous spirit, which is in the very constitution of the lower part of our compatriots of every description, and now begins to ferment, with tenfold force, by the leaven of republicanism which always existed, though without much noise, in the northern parts of the
kingdom, but now becomes more evident, and requires no small degree both of firm and prudent management.
I confess I tremble for the conduct of the Chancellor,* who seems for a long time past desirous of putting himself at the head of whatever discontents may arise from concessions to the Catholics, when things are on the very edge of a precipice, or indeed between two precipices; he appears resolved that they shall be tumbled headlong down one of them. Surely, of all virtues, temper more eminently belongs, than any other, to that balancing office ; whatever other qualities or talents unite in that noble and learned person who holds the great seal, temper does not shine with any remarkable brilliancy.
All this depends upon having a Government. Government seems to be a thing given up in Ireland. During the interregnum, the vacant place is filled by one man, who appears rather as a great and steady minister, than a leader of opposition: without his virtue and constancy all would have gone to ruint —“ Patriam tutore carentem accepit.” It is unpleasant to be obliged to contrast his conduct with that of a great leader of party on this side of the water. I
It gives me great consolation, among a thousand vexatious circumstances, to reflect, that my son, who is so much devoted to you, has been of some use as pioneer to you, who, as a great general, have conducted the operations of the campaign. In his two journeys to Ireland he has done his best, and he has employed himself as a solicitor, or rather as a dunn, with Ministers, both by verbal representation and memorials on this subject; and perhaps has been of some use in removing prejudices and obviating objections.
Present Mrs. Burke's and my most respectful compliments to Mrs. Grattan; and believe me ever, with the highest possible respect and regard, my dear Sir, your most faithful and obedient humble servant,
EDMUND BURKE. * Fitzgibbon, Lord Clare. + Mr. Grattan. | Mr. Fox; but at this period he and Mr. Burke had quarrelled.
Parliamentary Reform State of representation - History of Irish
boroughs—Wm. Ponsonby supports Reform-Mr. Grattan moves for a committee—Mr, Corry's amendment-Mr. Grattan's resolutions -Sir John Parnell's carried— Mr. Toler's motion — Stewart (Lord Castlereagh) speaks in favour of it—Measure lost-Bad effect in Ireland - British Corresponding Societies — Artifices of Mr. Dundas (Lord Melville)-Formation of United Irishmen-Counter association by the Duke of Leinster-Parties in Ireland—Disposition of her governors, and conduct of Lord Clare-French Revolution-Death of Louis XVI.—War with England-Defenders-Report of Lords' Committee-Catholics cleared of the charges against them-Proclamation by Government-Lord Edward Fitzgerald's speech-Volunteers dispersed— Their cannon seized-Arms and Gunpowder BillSir Simon Butler and Oliver Bond imprisoned by the House of Lords -Convention Bill—Place, Pension, and Barren Land Bills—The hereditary revenue yielded by the King—End of Session, 1793—List
of placemen. The other important question that engaged the attention of Parliament this year was the reform in the representation. This subject had greatly agitated both kingdoms of late ; but as regarded Ireland, it had lain dormant in Parliament since 1784, when Mr. Flood had a second time proposed his bill on the subject. The resolutions of the people, their requests and remonstrances, were alike unheeded, and a deaf ear had been turned to their complaints; but the injurious impression made by the armed convention of 1783 had either been effaced or forgotten, and the question was now revived with a greater likelihood of success. It was, however, taken up rather late, and was supported with insincerity by the Government. It is to be observed, that in the Irish represen
tation, the people formed no part of the Constitution; there was no such body as what the French called “ Tiers etat,” and what the British Constitution called the Commons. The Irish had a king, a chamber of nobles, and another chamber, elected by the nobles, and supported by the Government and the Crown; and the result of this combination amounted to the establishment of a court cabinet over Ireland, and the transfer of legislation to England.
The detail of the state of Irish representation at this time is curious, very mortifying, not very interesting. Of 300 members of Parliament, 200 were chosen by 100 individuals; so that of these, each individual had on an average two representatives. Near 50 of the 200 were elected by 10 individuals; so that, of these, each man had five representatives. This oligarchy was as little the representative of property as of population. 200 of these members were returned by persons whose property did not average above 40001. a-year;this, too, in a country whose grants were above 3,000,0001., and whose rental was calculated at 6,000,0001. They received in stipend from the Crown an income bearing a great proportion to their own property; so that they were an oligarchy taxing for their own provision, and representing nothing but their dependency.
In addition, the Minister had found out the art of buying their boroughs, as well as pensioning their persons. He even trafficked, as has been already stated, the seats of one house to purchase those of another; and by this double operation, the people, without perceiving it, bought the Parliament for the Minister, against themselves! In fact, the Irish Minister was nothing more than the agent of the cabinet of England; and the result of the whole machinery appeared to be a complete
CHAP. v.] STATE OF THE REPRESENTATION. 117 transfer to Great Britain of legislative power, founded on the abuse of every principle, political or moral, on the subversion of the parliamentary constitution of the country, and on the suppression of all native influence, popular or proprietary,– and of public liberty, as well as virtue.
Such a state amounted to a constitution which was not a representation either of property or of population; nor of property and population mixed; -nor was it an aristocracy (which is not the best constitution); nor an oligarchy (which is a bad constitution); nor a despotism (which is perhaps the worst constitution); —but it was the despotic power of another country.
In support of such a state of representation, nothing could be advanced. It could not stand upon its antiquity; on the contrary, it was a recent and an audacious innovation. Forty of the boroughs,—that is, near one-third of the representation, and near one-half of the boroughs,-were made by James I. for the avowed purpose of overturning the parliamentary constitution of Ireland. Afterwards, 37 boroughs were created — one by Anne, two by James II., and the remainder by the two Charles's; so that 148 members— nearly half the House of Commons, and more than half of its efficient members were fabricated since the accession of the House of Stuart, and by the House of Stuart, the worst house that ever governed England, and, except James II., the worst princes of that house.
The fabrication of those boroughs was for the purpose of subverting the constitution of Parliament, by modelling the representation to the destruction of Irish influence, and the domination of a Court influence in the Irish Parliament. The causes that moved, and the circumstances that attended the creation of 40 of these boroughs by