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cumstances, Sir, it is impossible in the fulfilment 1807., of my duty to myself, to iny colleagues, to the House, and to the country, to suffer such a period .. .. to elapse before I make this explanation, as must necessarily intervene, ere the persons, to whom I have alluded, can resuine their seats in Parliament.,
Their absence, however, will have this effect; it will induce me to confiné myself as closely as possible to a dry statement of facts. It is well known, Sir, that when the late administration was formed, it contained in it many members, whose opinions and principles on what is termed the Catholic question had been recently manifested in that inost althentic way, in which the opinions and principles of public men can be manifested, by their speeches and votes in Parlianìent. They came into administration, therefore, with a general knowledge of those principles and opinions; for certainly no expectation could have been entertained, that those persons, whose characters were sufficiently known, would be willing, for the sake of any considera tions of emolumeut, to abandon principles, which they had so lately and warmly espoused. No such requisition, was proposed to them; if it had, it would have been incumbent on them, in support of their honor, and I am sure, that they would have felt it strongly to be their duty then, as now, to decline office. While I assert, that the sentinients of the greater part of the members of the late administration on this subject 'were well known.
" of his Majesty's privy council.” Such breach and abuse of cabinet secrets comınand deep reflection.
1807., on their coming into power, I do not pretend to
deny, that the difficulties, which existed in the way of any farther concession to the Catholics of England and Ireland were also well known. But as they came into office unfettered, and free to offer their advice on this important question, so also, I will answer for every individual of them, they came into office with a sincere desire, while they adhered to their principles, to avoid every subject, that might prove repugnant to those feelings, which they were bound, by every motive of duty, of affection, and of attachment, to respect. This was the state of the case ; their opinions on the Catholic question were well known'; but they hoped, by a conciliatory mode of government to keep the question at rest. For a long time no difficulty occurred; at length, towards the end of last year, some circumstances took place in the West of Ireland, the most valuable, and (I much fear) the most vulnerable part of the einpire, which called upon his Majesty's ministers for attention, and which strongly excited the anxiety, that such circumstances must naturally excite. Unwilling to use that force, which, but two days after the meeting of this Parliament, 'was strongly recommended by a person in that House (Mr. Perceval) who was too impatient to wait for the operation of the more lenient measures, his Majesty's ministers hoped (and that hope was gratified) to reduce the spirit of disturbance, that had been manifested, by a vigorous exertion of the power of the laws alone, without resorting to any intemperate proceedings.
This occurrence, however, naturally led to the con- ; 397. sideration of some measure, which might at once give satisfaction to the people of Ireland, and strengthen the means and policy of the Empire, Various wete the propositions, that were agitated in the cabinet, but that, which was deemed to be the most advantageous, was what I had the honor of recommending to the adoption of this House. It appeared to us calculated to be highly beneficial to the Empire at large, by affording the means of recruiting, to the greatest possible extent, the army
and the navy, from which so many persons are I now excluded by what we conceive to be weak and
ill understood policy. It appearad to us calculated
country; and also by affording a vent to the per1 baps superabundant population of Ireland, and
thus drawing from the sources of discontent, the
unsuccessfully urged in the Imperial Parliament. I · was the known supporter of those claims, but I'.
could not avoid considering the prosecution of
on the go
as my private opinion went, I did strongly recom. mend the discontinuance of any such attempt. The impartial measure then under contemplation appeared admirably suited to induce that discontinuance, and that discontinuance was effected. Such, Sir, were gur inducements of policy and principle.
But we had also another inducement; we did Lord Howick, continuts hope, that the limited measure would not encounernment ter the opposition, to which we well knew the gepledge.
neral question was exposed. In reverting to the act of the Irish Parliament of 1793, we found, that a pledge had been given by the highest servants of the Crown, that a similar measure would be brought forward in this country. This was rea corded in the Secretary of State's office, by a dispatch from Lord Hobart, in which he distinctly siated the fact. This becoming a question, not of policy alone, but also of good faith, we did hope, that the limited measure might receive the assent and approbation of what, on the more general question, we were aware there was no hope ; and which 'general question we therefore studiously avoided. On these grounds, the measure, that I had the honor of introducing into the House, was submitted to his Majesty. A detailed dispatch, which I wish it was in my power to lay upon the table, was written to the Lord Lieute. nant of Ireland, stating explicitly the motives of this measure, and this detailed dispatch was sent to his Majesty, accompanied by a cabinet minister. From that first proposition, his Majesty certainly
expressed a strong dissent. On that dissent hav- 180.no ing been made known to them, the cabinet deliberated, and the result was, a respectable representation to his Majesty of the grounds, on which they thought the measure expedient. To those representations was returned an answer, in which his Majesty, with considerable reluctance, unquestionably signified his assent; certainly with reluctance; but it was a positive assent, Under the sanction of that assent, the dispatch was sent to the Lord Lieutenant. At a conference with some of the Catholics in Ireland, Mr. Elliott, the
Secretary of State, informed them of the separate * measure, which it was intended to propose. Some - discussion ensued; and to a question from a Mr.
O'Connor, whether every rank in the army were to be open to the Catholics, or whether they were still to be precluded froin the staff, Mr. Elliott's
answer was, that as the words of the dispatch iinimplied, that the Catholics would be allowed to hold
any commissions in the army, on taking the oath