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Cabinet Edition, first printed July 1892. 
Reprinted July 1897 ; Hens Edition, October 1902. 
Reprinted May 1908 ; February and Septembi r 







The WTiiteboys 

Growth of pasture land 1 

Partial prosperity 3 

Origin of the Whiteboy movement . . . . . 4 

State of Munster 4 

Agrarian system 5 

The cottiers 8 

The right of commonage. First proceedings of the White- 
boys 11 

Tithe grievances 18 

Some Protestants encourage resistance to tithes . . 18 

Character of the Whiteboy outrages 21 

Reports attributing them to religious or political motives 29 

Falseness of these reports 30 

Part taken by Catholics in suppressing the outrages . . 36 

Their true causes 37 

Laws against Whiteboys , . 89 

Case of Nicholas Sheeny 41 

The Oakboys ... 45 

The Steelboys 60 

The Irish Constitution ' . . . 61 

Growth of political discontent 53 

The Undertakers ', ... 64 

Expenditure on public works 68 

Money Bill of 1760. Poyning's Law 60 



General election 82 

Character of Irish political life . . 63 

The lawyers in Parliament 64 

Loyalty of Ireland during the war 68 

Lord Trimleston and the Catholic gentry . .69 

Proposed Catholic regiments for Portugal . . . . 69 
Objects of the National party. Reduction jf the Pension 

List 70 

Limitation of the duration of Parliament . . . . 73 

The first Viceroyalties under George III. ... 77 

Townshend made Lord Lieutenant, Oct. 1767 . . . 79 

Viceroyalty of Townshend 

His character 79 

Great offers he was instructed to make . . . . 80 

Dispute about the tenure of judges 81 

Dispute about the appointment of Chancellor . . . 82 

Threats of a short Supply BUI 84 

Scheme for the augmentation of the army . . . . 85 
Inducements offered to Parliament to carry it . . .89 

The Octennial Bill carried 90 

Quarrel of Townshend with the Undertakers ... 92 

Defeat of the Augmentation Scheme 94 

New Parliament. Plans of the Government . . 95 

Nature and composition of the Irish Parliament . . 97 

Want of fixed party divisions 98 

Negotiation for an augmentation of the army . . . 100 

Resolution of the House against English Money Bills . 102 

Supplies and augmentation carried 103 

Parliament prorogued for fourteen months . . . 104 

. Purchase of a majority 108 

Address to Townshend carried. Resignation of Ponsonby 109 

Division of the Revenue Boards 110 

Last days of Townshend's Viceroyalty 112 

Recalled, Sept. 1772, and replaced by Harcourt . 115 

Great unpopularity of Townshend 115 

Viceroyalty of Harcourt 

Reunion of the Revenue Boards 117 

Financial difficulties. Pension to Queen of Denmark . . US 

Proposed absentee tax 119 

Conduct of the English Whigs ... . . 121 

Defeat of the tax in Ireland . . . 132 

New taxes . 138 

Bounty on corn 134 

Hely Hntchinson made Provost of Trinity College . . 135 



Henry Flood. Hia eloquence. Irish style in the eighteenth 

century 136 

Life and character of Flood 139 

He accepts the office of Vice-Treasurer .... 149 

Commercial relaxations 152 

Belation of the American question to Irish politics . . 153 

Franklin visits Ireland 159 

Loyalty of the Parliament 160 

It expresses its abhorrence of the rebellion in America . 162 

The American party in Ireland 162 

Parliament authorises the despatch of 4,000 men to 

America 164 

Discontent in Parliament. Dissolution, March 1776 . . 165 

Measures for securing a majority 166 

Recall of Harcourt, Nov. 1776. Review of his adminis- 
tration 168 

Viceroyalty of Buckinghamshire 

Extreme financial distress 169 

Necessity for free trade .... . . 171 

Its advocates 172 

Lord Nugent proposes a relaxation of the Commercial Code 177 

Outcry among the English manufacturers . . . . 178 

Intimidates North 180 

Slight commercial relaxations of 1778 ISO 

The Catholic Question 

Position of the Irish Catholics 181 

Efforts of the Catholic Association .... 183 

Discussion on the rebellion of 1641 .... 
Gradual admission of Catholics into the army 
Bills to enable Catholics to lend money on land 
Act enabling them to hold land for reclamation . 
Attitude of the Government towards them . 
The oath and declaration of 1774 
Catholic statement of grievances 
Effects of French education ..... 
Long period of Catholic loyalty .... 
Character of Continental Catholicism . . . 
Special difficulties of the religious problem in Ireland 

Opinion of leading Irishmen 

Nature of the influences favouring the Catholics . 
Policy of the Government . . . . . . 

Gardiner's Relief Bill of 1778 

Clause abolishing the Sacramental Test annexed to it 
But rejected in England . . ... 

Relief Bill carried 

General acquiescence of the Irish Protestants 






Unprotected condition of the country .... 218 

Military habits of the Irish Protestants . ... 221 

Rise of the Volunteers 222 

Demand for free trade . 226 

And for legislative independence 228 

Loyalty of the Volunteers 229 

Vergennes' views of Irish affairs 231 

Buckingham's estimate of the situation . . . . 232 

Militia arms distributed among the Volunteers . . 235 

Catholics subscribe to the movement 235 

Its increasing popularity 236 

Embarrassments of Buckingham 237 

Conduct of Burgh and Flood . . . ... . 238 

Parliament demands free trade 239 

Great speech of Burgh ., 24] 

Bill for abolishing the Sacramental test . . . . 241 

England grants free trade 242 

Sanctions the abolition of the test 243 

Buckingham's defence of his policy ..... 244 

Great development of the Volunteers 245 

The parliamentary majority ...... '248 

The demand for independence 249 

Francis Dobbs 251 

Grattan moves a declaration of independence . . . 252 

Question indefinitely adjourned 253 

Yelverton's Bill. Bushe's Mutiny Bill 255 

Great liberality of the Parliament ... . 256 

Irish Mutiny Act 257 

Made perpetual 259 

Becall of Buckingham . .260 

Sale of peerages 261 

Yiceroyalty of Carlisle. 

First impressions of Carlisle and Eden . . . . 264 

Demand for Secret Service money 266 

Dispute with Portugal about Irish wool . . . . 267 

Volunteer proceedings in 1781. Fears of invasion . . 268 

Proceedings in Parliament 272 

Flood dismissed from office 273 

Yelverton proposes an Irish fleet 274 

Habeas Corpus Bill carried. Judges' salaries raised . 274 

How the disaster of Yorktown was received in Ireland . . 275 


Flood and Yelverton on Poyning's Law .... 276 

Eevival of the Catholic question . . . . . 278 

Catholic education ........ 280 

Volunteer meeting at Dungannon ...... 282 

Grattan again introduces a declaration of independence . 285 

Decision again postponed ....... 286 

Correspondence of Carlisle and Hillsborough . . . 287 

Character of Carlisle's administration .... 294 

Character of the popular movement ..... 295 

Recall of Carlisle. Whigs rise to power .... 297 

Debate in England on Irish affairs, Aprils, 1782 . . . 297 

Viceroy ally of Portland. 

Grattan moves declaration of independence (April 1C) . 299 

Carried unanimously ........ 301 

The secret correspondence of Portland .... 302 

Grattan refuses a treaty ....... 305 

England fully grants the Irish demands .... 307 

Gratitude of the Irish Parliament ..... 309 

New laws for the relief of Catholics ..... 311 

Validity of Dissenters' marriages established . . . 314 

Constitutional legislation . ...... 315 

Gift of 50,0002. to Grattan ....... 316 

Happy prospects of Ireland ...... 317 

Opinion of Burke ......... 317 



Dangers of reaction in 1782. Discontent of Flood . . 319 

Mistakes of subordinate officials ...... 320 

The ' Simple Eepeal ' question ...... 321 

Circumstances that strengthened the popular distrust . . 324 

English statesmen disliked the Constitution of 1782 . 325 

Statement of Fox ......... 327 

Portland's unsuccessful attempt to secure a superintending 

power for Great Britain ....... 328 

Viceroyalty of Temple. Sept. 1782. 

Temple's dark picture of the state of Ireland . . . 330 
Convinces himself of the necessity for an Act of Renuncia- 

tion .......... 332 

Act of Renunciation carried ....... 333 

Character, merits, and dangers of the Constitution of 1782 334 

Necessity for a supplemental commercial treaty . . 340 

Position of Ireland in time of war. Dangers to be feared . 341 



The Duke of Richmond in 1783 argued that they could only 

be averted by an Union 344 

Evil effects of the Simple Repeal controversy . . . 344 

Growth of the agitation for parliamentary reform . . 345 

The Volunteer resolutions. State of Irish representation 346 
Financial reforms of Temple. The Knights of St. Patrick. 

The Geneva refugees 349 

Resignation of Temple. Several weeks of interregnum . 349 

Viceroyalty of Northington. 

Parliament dissolved. Great distress 350 

Vote of thanks to the Volunteers. Grattan and Charle- 
mont separated 351 

Establishment of a Court of Admiralty and separate post 

office. Annual Sessions 352 

Grattan's policy. Dangerous symptoms in the country 352 
Flood moves a reduction of the army. Opposed by 

Grattan 354 

Altercation between Flood and Grattan. Political attitude 

of the Volunteers 355 

Charlemont 356 

The Bishop of Derry places himself at the head of the 

democratic movement 359 

His life and character 359 

Volunteer reform meetings at Lisburn and Dungannon . 362 
A Volunteer convention summoned at Dublin. The 

Bishop and the Presbyterians 363 

He proposes the extension of the franchise to Catholics . 364 

Fox's alarm at the proposed convention .... 365 

Charlemont secures the return of moderate delegates . . 366 

Attitude of the Bishop. George Robert Fitzgerald . . 367 

The Bishop's entry into Dublin 369 

The Convention elects Charlemont its chairman. Its Re- 
form Bill 370 

Introduced into the House of Commons . . . . 372 

Rejected at its first stage 374 

Dissolution of the Convention. Its address to the King . 375 
Failure of later attempts to carry reform . . . . 377 
Different opinions on the policy of the Convention . . 377 
Opposition of Charlemont and Flood to the Catholic fran- 
chise 379 

Short interval of quiet before the French Revolution . 380 

Lord Northington retires with the Coalition Government . 382 

Viceroyalty of the Duke of Rutland 

Distress in 1784. Agitation for protecting duties . . 382 

House of Commons asks for a commercial arrangement . 386 



Foster's corn law of 1784. Its history and effects '. . 386 

Dublin riots. Houghing soldiers 392 

Foster's press law 394 

1 The Liberty Corps ' of Volunteers enlist Catholics . . 394 
Degeneration of the Volunteers. Speech of Grattan, Ac. . 395 
Proposed Catholic suffrage. Eise of the democratic re- 
formers . . . . 399 

Their congress, Oct. 1784 . . . ' ' . . .402 

Attitude of the Catholics. Lord Eenmare . . . . 403 

Seditions writing attributed to priests . . . . . 404 

Government informers. O'Leary ...... 405 

Eolations of the French to Irish sedition .... 406 

Political agitation subsides. Spirit of the Parliament . 408 

Increase of national expenditure 409 

Offices held by absentees. The Chancellorship of the 

Exchequer 411 

Pitt desires free trade, and parliamentary reform on a Pro- 
testant basis * 413 

The Irish Administration opposes reform. Fitzgibbon . 415 
Necessity of a Crown influence in the Commons main- 
tained by Hume and Paley , 420 

Butland opposes Irish parliamentary reform . . . 422 

Grattan's policy and reform proposals . . . . 424 

Commercial position of Ireland 430 

Pitt desires a commercial treaty, free trade, and a partition 

of the expense of the navy 432 

Discussion of the terms of the treaty, between the English 

and Irish Governments 434 

Plans laid before the Irish Parliament, Feb. 7, 1785 . . 440 
Clause providing against deficits introduced at the request 

of Grattan 441 

Rutland approves of Grattan's amendment. Commercial 

propositions carried in Ireland 442 

Additional taxes voted. General acquiescence in the 

country 443 

Opposition in England. The propositions transformed . 444 
Attitude of the English Opposition. Besolutions carried 

in England 447 

Grattan opposes the altered resolutions. They are defeated 

in Ireland 449 

Embarrassing position of the Government . . . . 450 

Frequent suggestions of a legislative Union . . . 451 
Character of the later commercial legislation of the Irish 

Parliament. 452 

The Dublin police, 1786 453 

WhiteboyAct . . , 456 

Grattan's motions relating to tithes ..... 458 



Great prosperity and general peace at the close of But- 

land's viceroyalty 461 

Death of Eutland, October 24, 1787 . ... 463 

Viceroyalty of the Marquis of Buckingham 

Character of Buckingham 463 

Financial reforms. Orde's pension. Grenville's reversion 464 

' Ireland never so quiet ' 466 

The Regency Bival theories 466 

Causes that made the Irish adopt the Whig theory . . 469 

G rattan moves an address to the Prince of Wales . . 472 

The debate in the Commons 472 

General estimate of the controversy . ... . . 479 

Alleged danger to the connection 480 

Buckingham refuses to transmit the address to England. 

Censured by both Houses 482 

Commissioners appointed to transmit the address. King's 

recovery 483 

Great increase of corruption. Fitzgibbon made Chancellor 484 

Resignation of Buckingham, April 1790 . . . . 486 

Letter of Luzerne. Secret French mission to Ireland . 486 

Condition of the Country 

Steady improvement of Irish finance ... . . 489 

Beductions of the interest on the debt 491 

Beduction of the legal rate of interest. Proofs of the pros- 
perity of the country . 492 

Its alleged causes. Free trade abolition of the penal 

laws corn bounties bounties and parliamentary grants 496 

Irish industries 498 

The Irish Parliament essentially government by the upper 

classes 500 

Its vices not of a nature to affect seriously material well- 
being 503 

Comparison of the legal position of the poor in Ireland 

and in other countries 504 

Remaining obstacles to prosperity chiefly moral . . . 504 

Increase of intellectual activity 505 

Diminution of sectarian bigotry. O'Leary and Kirwan . 506 
Other signs that politics dominated over theology in the 

upper and middle classes 610 

But not among the peasants Peep of Day Boys and De- 
fenders 511 

State of education. Orde's educational scheme . . . 512 
Dangers sprang, not from Parliament, but from the move- 
ments beyond its walls 14 

Problems to be solved by the Irish Parliament . . . 515 






THE first years of the reign of George IH. are memor- 
able in the economical and moral history of Ireland, as 
having witnessed the rise of that Whiteboy movement 
which may be justly regarded as at once the precursor 
and the parent of all subsequent outbursts of Irish 
agrarian crime. Its chief causes are to be found in the 
rapid conversion of arable into pasture land which has 
been already described. 1 In addition to the more per- 
manent causes which were then enumerated, the move- 
ment had been greatly accelerated by a murrain which 
had broken out in 1739 among the horned cattle of 
Holstein, had spread rapidly to other parts of Germany, 
and had at length extended to Holland and England.* 
The price of cattle was enormously raised. In 1758 
their free importation into Great Britain for the space 

1 See vol. i. pp. 219-226. 
* Crawford's Hist, of Ireland, ii. 316, 317. 


of five years was permitted. 1 Whole baronies were 
turned into pasture land. Common lands, which alone 
enabled the overburdened cottier to subsist, and which 
had long been tacitly, if not expressly, open to him, 
were everywhere invaded, and the country was full of 
a starving peasantry turned out of their wretched 
cottages to make room for a more lucrative industry. 
Their misery can scarcely be exaggerated, and it was 
mixed with a strong sense of injustice. In the almost 
complete absence of manufacturing industry the great 
majority of the people were wholly dependent on the 
soil. In a country where poverty was perhaps as extreme 
as in any part of Europe there was no poor-law. The 
greater landlords were commonly absentees. The keen 
competition for the soil, and the constant practice of 
subletting, had reduced the immediate cultivators to 
such abject poverty that the most transient calamity 
brought them face to face with starvation. As Catholics 
and as tenants they were completely unrepresented in 
the great council of the nation. The law of 1 727, which 
provided that, out of every 100 acres, not less than five 
should be under cultivation, 8 was, in the words of a very 
competent witness, ' as dead as the letters of it, for all 
the rich were delinquents, and none but the impotent 
poor were left to enforce the performance of it.' 3 The 
local magistracy planted in the midst of a Catholic 
tenantry were in quiet times almost omnipotent, and 
they consisted exclusively of Protestant landlords. 

It is not surprising that such a condition should 

1 Macpherson's Hist, of Com- April 16, 1774, enumerating the 

merce, iii. 311. different Acts that had been 

1 Geo. II. c. 10. passed relating to Irish tillage. 

3 Campbell's Philosophical To 1 Geo. II. c. 10, the following 

Survey of the South of Ireland, note is appended : ' This law, 

p. 155. Among the Irish papers though a perpetual one, has never 

at the English Record Office been observed nor attended to in 

then IB one sent from Ireland, a single instance.' 

m. in. 


have at length produced an insurrection of despair. 
The country, it is true, was, on the whole, improving. 
It was stated by Arthur Young that in the twenty-five 
years preceding 1778 the rent of land had at least 
doubled. 1 The growth of the chief towns, the mulipli- 
cation of roads, plantations, country seats, and public 
buildings attested the accumulation of considerable 
wealth ; the influence of a middle class may for the first 
time be detected in Irish politics, and the larger tenants 
and shopkeepers, and especially those who were connected 
with the victualling trade, were rising rapidly in pro- 
sperity. But there was a large section of the population 
by whom that prosperity was never felt, 2 whose condi- 

1 Arthur Young's^Towr in Ire- 
land, ii. 350. According to an- 
other writer : ' There were in re- 
membrance of many of us but 
two sorts of people in this king- 
dom. There is now a middling 
people grown out of trade and 
manufactures .... the price of 
land is to a tenant risen within 
the time I write about, every- 
where double, in many places 
more. The taste for building, 
planting, andlaying down ground, 
diffuses itself surprisingly.' 
Previous Promises inconsistent 
with a free Parliament (Dublin, 
1760), p. 32. 

2 'We have in this country 
three classes of peasantry, which, 
taken together, make at least 
half of its inhabitants, a great 
part of them are at present both 
miserable and useless in the 
highest degree. (1) Cotters, per- 
sons who hold at will a small 
take of land, seldom more than 
an acre, and grass for a couple of 
cows, at an exorbitant rent, which 
they work out at the stuall wages 

of 5d. or 4td. a day without diet. 
(2) Persons who have short 
leases, or leases of uncertain 
tenure at high rents, particularly 
the tenants of Church lands and 
glebes. (3) The inhabitants in 
the neighbourhood of towns or 
villages who hold no land and are 
supported by daily labour. Each 
of these classes is poor beyond all 
example in other countries. 
Proposal for Employing Chil- 
dren, &c., addressed to the Dublin 
Society by Sir James Caldwell 
(1771). There is much conflict 
of testimony about the rate of 
wages. Crawford, who published 
his history of Ireland in 1782, 
speaks of ' the small price given 
for labour which, notwithstand- 
ing the increased price of neces- 
saries, did not exceed the wages 
in the days of Elizabeth.' Hist. 
of Ireland, ii. 317. Arthur Young 
calculated that the average agri- 
cultural wages for all the year 
round from 1776 to 1779 were 
\d. a day, and that they had 
risen Ifd. or nearly one-fourth in 
B 2 


tion was little, if at all, better than in the time of Swift, 
whose means of subsistence were with the growth of 
pasture steadily contracting, and to whose almost hope- 
less wretchedness the most competent witnesses are 
agreed in ascribing the Whiteboy organisation. Chester- 
field, who knew Ireland well, said that they ' were used 
worse than negroes by their lords and masters, and their 
deputies of deputies of deputies/ and he ascribed 
WTiiteboyism to ' the sentiment in every human breast 
that asserts man's natural right to liberty and good 
usage, and that will and ought to rebel when oppressed 
and provoked to a certain degree. 1 An English traveller 
named Bush, who visited Ireland in 1764, gives a graphic 
description of the extreme misery which accompanied 
the Whiteboy disturbances. He says : ' What dread of 
justice or punishment can be expected from an Irish 
peasant in a state of wretchedness and extreme penury, 
in which if the first man that should meet him were to 
knock him on the head and give him an everlasting 
relief from his distressed and penurious life, he might 
have reason to think it a friendly and meritorious 
action ; and that so many of them bear their distressed, 
abject state with patience is to me a sufficient proof of 
the natural civility of their disposition.' 2 More than 
twenty years later the Irish Attorney-General, Fitz- 
gibbon, who was very little addicted to taking an in- 
dulgent view of his countrymen, used language which 
was at least as emphatic. ' I am very well acquainted 
with the province of Munster/ he said, ' and I know 

twenty years. In his tour through land, the artisans were paid 

the eastern counties of England nearly, if not quite as much as in 

he found the rise of labour had that kingdom. Tour in Ireland, 

been one-fourth in eighteen ii. 125, 126. 

years. He noticed the curious ' Letters, v. 463. 

fact that, while common labour * Bush's Hibernia Curiosa, p. 

in Ireland was little more than 33. 
one -third oi what it was in Eng- 

OH. HI. 


that it is impossible for human wretchedness to exceed 
that of the miserable peasantry in that province. I 
know that the unhappy tenantry are ground to powder 
by relentless landlords.' ' It is impossible for them 
any longer to exist in the extreme wretchedness under 
which they labour. A poor man is obliged to pay 61. 
for an acre of potatoes, which 61. he is obliged to work 
out with his landlord at 5d. a day.' In a subsequent 
speech he declared that ' the lower order of the people 
of Munster are in a state of oppression, abject poverty, 
sloth, dirt, and misery not to be equalled in any other 
part of the world.' He ascribed it ' in the first place to 
their own indolence, and in the next to a class of men 
called middlemen, a set of gentry who, having no in- 
heritance, no e'ducation, no profession, or other means 
of life than by getting between the inheritor and the 
cultivator of the soil, grind the poor people to powder.' ' 
It is essential, indeed, in considering the economical 
condition of Ireland in the last century to bear steadily 

1 Irish Parl. Debates, vii. 58, 
63, 343 (1787). Sir Hercules 
Langrishe, a very distinguished 
member of the Irish Parliament, 
wrote : ' The common people of 
England generally feed on 
wheaten bread, butter, cheese, 
bacon and beer ; whereas in Ire- 
land the northern people live on 
oaten bread and milk ; those of 
the south and west universally 
on potatoes, to which scarcely 
any of them aspire to add milk 
the whole year round ; but really 
and truly (however improbable it 
may be to an Englishman) do 
frequently support themselves by 
nothing but potatoes and water. 
... The labourer's wages 
throughout Ireland are as uni- 
versally (JcZ. a day as in England 

Is. The medium price of corn 
is most certainly not above one- 
twentieth higher in England 
than Ireland.' Considerations 
on the Dependencies of Great 
Britain (Anon., Loncl. 1769), p. 
16. ' The general rise of lands 
in this kingdom,' said another 
writer, ' within the last twenty 
years has rendered the greatest 
part of the tenantry absolutely 
dependent upon their landlords. 
The rack-rents they are bound to 
pay, and their inability to punc- 
tual payments, reduce them al- 
most to a state of slavery and 
subjection to their landlords.' 
Astrcea, or a Letter on the Abuses 
in the Administration of Justice 
in Ireland, by an Attorney-at-law 
(Dublin, 1786), pp. 17, 18. 


in mind the distinction between the landowner and the 
middleman, and to remember that the latter, with whom 
alone the cottier came in much contact, was constantly 
spoken of as the landlord. The ' little country gentle- 
men,' whom Arthur Young described as the pest of the 
country, and the great graziers, who were the immediate 
causes of the depopulation of large districts, were not 
landowners but tenants. I have endeavoured in the pre- 
ceding chapter to trace the history of their rise, and it 
is only necessary to say a few more words on the subject. 
In spite of a great deal of conflicting evidence and of 
many emphatic denunciations, I do not think that the 
charge of exacting exorbitant or oppressive rents can be 
sustained against the Irish landowners of the eighteenth 
century considered as a class. The middleman, as 
Grattan once said, is in this respect their best defence, 
and the fact that the greater part of the country was 
sublet two, three, and sometimes four deep, appears to 
me to establish to demonstration that the real landlord 
did not exact an excessive or a competitive price. The 
faults of Irish landowners have, indeed, at most periods 
of Irish history been much more faults of negligence 
than of oppression. In the beginning of the century, 
when absenteeism was especially common, and when the 
conditions of residence were often not only disagreeable 
but dangerous, it was their main object to obtain from 
their land a secure revenue without trouble and without 
expense, and, in order to attain this end, they were 
prepared to grant fixity of tenure at extremely low 
rents. Leases, sometimes for ever, more often for lives 
extending over forty, fifty, sixty, or even seventy years, 
were general. Arthur Young, who describes this system, 
significantly observes that ' if long leases, at low rents, 
and profit incomes given, would have improved it, 
Ireland had long ago been a garden.' ! When the long 

1 Tour in Ireland, ii. 93 99. 


leases fell in, rents were, no doubt, greatly raised ; but 
probably not more than in proportion to the general 
rise of prices and increase of prosperity ; and it is very 
doubtful whether, when every due allowance has been 
made for the immense difference between the two 
countries, the Irish landlords compare in this respect at 
all unfavourably with the English ones. 1 

The occupancy of land was still regulated strictly by 
contract, and leases were almost always given by the land- 
owners to their immediate tenants, though towards the 
close of the century it became common to restrict them 
to twenty-one years. The first tenants also usually sub- 
let their tenancies on leases, though for shorter periods 
and on much more severe terms, and they were accus- 
tomed to turn out their sub-tenants and to resume the 
occupation before their own leases expired in order to 
treat with the landowner as occupying tenants for a re- 
newal of them. 2 A detestable custom was very common 

1 According to the estimate of that the want of capital among 

our best authority, Arthur Young, Irish tenants made it impossible 

the average proportion between for them (even if they had the 

the rent of land in Ireland and skill) to farm as profitably as 

in England in 1778 was nearly as English ones. Tour in Ireland, 

5 to 11, 'in otherwords, that space ii. 88, 89. Young gives some 

of land which in Ireland lets for statistics of the recent rise of 

5s. would in England produce rents. ' Lord Longford more 

11s.' Nominal rents in Ireland than doubled in 30 years, Earl 

were therefore on an average less of Inniskilling quadrupled in 

than half of what they were in ditto. Mr. Cooper almost trebled 

England, and over a great part of since 1748. Mayo trebled in 40 

England, Young considered them years, King's County since 1750. 

abnormally and unduly low. On Tipperary doubled in 20 years.' 

the other hand, Young calculated Ibid. p. 332. Crumpe, in his 

that if 51. per English acre were Essay on the Means of Providing 

expended over all Ireland, which Employment for the People (17 '93), 

amounts to 88,341,1362., it would tries to establish that Young's 

not more than build, fence, plant, estimate of the Irish rental is too 

drain, and improve that country low. 

to be on a par in those respects 2 See a valuable note on the 

with England, and he also urged agrarian system, in Horre's Tour 


when leases fell in, of publishing the fact in the chapels 
or market towns, inviting private proposals and accept- 
ing the highest bidder without any regard to the previous 
occupant. 1 In the arable counties, where husbandry was 
best, and where some degree of prosperity had been 
attained, Arthur Young found that the head tenants 
usually had leases for three lives if they were Protestants, 
for thirty-one years if they were Catholics. 2 The latter 
period was the longest for which a Catholic was yet 
allowed to hold a lease, and it was burdened . by a most 
mischievous provision that two-thirds of the profits must 
go in rent. Young describes in detail a great number 
of resident landlords who were devoting themselves with 
much earnestness and intelligence to the improvement 
of agriculture, and many of these were steadily labour- 
ing, as far as local customs and old contracts would 
permit, to root out the system of middlemen, which was 
the master curse of Irish agrarian life. Clauses against 
subletting were not popular or easy to enforce in a 
country where the opposite system had long prevailed, 
but some progress in this direction was gradually 
effected, and a very able Irish writer in 1793 noticed 
that the middlemen were then ' wearing out in the more 
rich and best cultivated counties,' though they were still 
' almost universal ' in the poorer districts. 3 

In nearly every part of Ireland agriculture was still 
extremely rude. Absenteeism, great ignorance, want 

in Ireland (180^), pp. 307, 308. Means of Providing Employment 

See, too, Cooper's Letters on the for tlie People, p. 238. Arthur 

Irish Nation (written in 1799), Young, ii. 100, 101. Young truly 

2nd ed. p. 182-185. says: ' The middleman oppresses 

1 See Crumpe, pp. 232-234. the cottar incomparably more 
This was called ' canting ' lands, than the principal landlord ; to 
Cooper, pp. 185-187. Campbell's the one he is usually a tenant 
Philosophical Survey, p. 315. at will or at least under short 

2 Arthur Young's Tour in Ire- terms ; but under the other has 
land, ii. 103. the most advantageous tenure,' 

1 Crumpe's Essay on the p. 100. 


of capital and want of enterprise, all contributed to de- 
press it, and in the more backward parts it was as bar- 
barous as can well be conceived. The head tenant 
invariably became a middleman and land-jobber, and 
beneath him lay a multitude of wretched cultivators or 
labourers who were ground to the very dust by extor- 
tionate and oppressive exactions. In some parts of the 
kingdom it was a rare thing to find an occupying tenant 
who was the possessor of a plough. There were, perhaps, 
half a dozen ploughs and these of the most primitive 
description in a parish, which were let out by their 
owners at a high rate, but often the whole cultivation 
was by spade. 1 Frequently large tenancies were held 
by co-operation, * knots ' of poor men combining to bid 
for them, and" managing them in common, 2 and fre- 
quently, too, labour was exacted in addition to a money 
rent. The purely labouring class were generally cottiers 
paid for their labour not by money, but by small 
potato plots, and by the grazing of one or two cows, 
and they worked out these things for their employers 
usually at the rate of 6d. a day. 3 Their homes and 
clothing were to the last degree degraded ; they had no 
security of tenure and no possibility of saving, and they 
depended for their very subsistence on the annual pro- 
duce of their potato plots ; but in the better parts of 
Ireland, and under favourable circumstances, Arthur 
Young did not consider that their condition compared 

1 Crumpe, p. 227. eighteenth century, when the 

2 See on these ' knots ' Siger- townships were divided so that 
son's Hist, of Irish Land Ten- every tenant had his farm sepa- 
ures, pp.160, 161. Crumpe, p. rate from the rest. See Ramsay's 
227. Arthur Young, ii. 103. Scotland and Scotsmen in the 
This appears to have been very Eighteenth Century, ii. 192, 207- 
similar to the system called 209. 

letting ' in runrig ' which was * Arthur Young, ii. 110. As 

onco common in Scotland. It we have seen, however, other 

was generally abolished there writers calculate the rate at onlj 

towards the middle of the f> J. or &d. 


altogether unfavourably with that of English labourers. 
Their food was much more abundant. Their children, 
unlike those of the Englishmen, were seldom without 
milk, and the absence of money in their dealings with 
their employers made it impossible for them to drink, 
as was common in England, a week's wages in a single 
night. 1 But the cottier population, who multiplied 
recklessly by early marriages over the barren lands of 
Kerry or the West, were perhaps as miserable as any 
class of men in Europe. To escape starvation was 
almost their highest aim, and even for this it was often 
necessary for them to spend a part of every summer in 
vagrant mendicancy. The months of July and August, 
when the old potatoes were exhausted, were generally 
months of absolute famine. Cabbages, boiled in water 
and mixed with some milk, were then the sole suste- 
nance of the poor, who died in multitudes from diarrhoea; 
and a still remembered saying, that ' Kerry cows know 
Sunday,' recalls the time when the cattle being fattened 
by the summer grass underwent a weekly bleeding to 
make a holiday-meal for their half-starving owners. 8 

A very similar agrarian condition had long existed 
over a great part of Scotland, and, indeed, in many 
countries in an early stage of civilisation. The system 
of middlemen, the system of cottier labour, a population 
multiplying recklessly on a barren soil, barbarous 
methods of agriculture, enormous vagrancy and periodi- 
cal famines were all well known in Scotland, and were 
cured at last by economical changes which swept away 
a great portion of the population. In Scotland, how- 
ever, the painful transition was mitigated by the great 

1 See the very remarkable sources, relating to the state 
chapter on the Labouring Poor, of Munster in the last century, 
Tour in Ireland, ii. 108-116. will be found in Fitzgibbon's Ire- 

2 Some interesting particu- land in 1868. 
lars collected from traditionar" 


industrial movement which followed the Union and 
absorbed a large part of the redundant population, by 
the excellent school system which spread some measure 
of knowledge and capacity among the poorest classes, 
and by the warm relations of amity that subsisted be- 
tween the chiefs and their clansmen. In Ireland the 
evil extended over a wider area, and these mitigations 
were wanting. As we have already seen, the commer- 
cial code had artificially limited industrial life, and the 
penal code, long after it had ceased to be operative as 
a system of religious persecution, exercised a most per- 
nicious influence in deepening class divisions, rendering 
the ascendant class practically absolute, driving enter- 
prise and capital out of the country, and distorting in 
many ways its 'economical development. A great popu- 
lation existed in Ireland who were habitually on the 
verge of famine, and when any economical change took 
place which converted a part of the country from arable 
land into pasture, and restricted the amount of labour, 
they found themselves absolutely without resource. 

The Whiteboy movement was first directed against 
the system of inclosing commons, which had lately been 
carried to a great extent. According to the contem- 
porary and concurrent statements of Crawford, the 
Protestant, and of Curry, the Catholic historian of the 
time, landlords had often been guilty not only of harsh- 
ness, but of positive breach of contract, by withdrawing 
from the tenants a right of commonage which had been 
given them as part of their bargain, when they received 
their small tenancies, and without which it was impossi- 
ble that they couid pay the rents which were demanded. 1 

1 Crawford's Hist, of Ireland, certain riotous assemblies which 

li. 317. Curry's Civil Wars of have been held in the province of 

Ireland, ii. 271, 272. ' I make Munster. These rioters began by 

use of this opportunity to ?ay levelling inclosutea by pretence 

something to your Lordship of of right, and have since proceeded 


It was at the close of 1761 that the first signs of resist- 
ance appeared. Wesley, who six months later was 
travelling through Ireland, took great pains to obtain 
an accurate account of their origin, and he has given 
the following description of it. ' About the beginning 
of December last,' he says, ' a few men met by night 
near Nenagh, in the county of Limerick, and threw 
down the fences of some commons which had been lately 
inclosed. Near the same time, others met in the coun- 
ties of Tipperary, Waterford, and Cork. As no one 
offered to suppress or hinder them, they increased in 
numbers continually, calling themselves Whiteboys, 
wearing white cockades and white linen frocks. In 
February there were five or six parties of them, 200 to 
300 men in each, who moved up and down chiefly in 
the night, ... levelled a few fences, dug up some 
grounds, and hamstrung some cattle, perhaps fifty or 
3ixty in all. One body of them came into Clogheen, of 
about 500 foot, and 200 horse. They moved as exactly 
as regular troops, and appeared to be thoroughly discip- 
lined.' They sent threatening letters, compelled every 
one they met to swear allegiance to their leader, ' Queen 
Sive,' and to obey her commands, and threatened savage 
penalties against those who refused to do so. 1 In an 
unfinished fragment, ' On the Disturbances in Ireland 
at the beginning of the reign of George III.,' which was 
written by Edmund Burke, the first disturbance is said 
to have taken place in the county of Cork. A very re- 

to other outrages under colour of age were taken away from tenants 

redressing the grievances of the in Ireland without compensation, 

poor.' Halifax to Egremont, and that grand juries rejected all 

April 8, 1762, Kecord Office. The presentments on the subject. 

Under-Secretary Knox, who was Knox's Extra Official Papers, 

by birth an Irishman, and was Appendix, No. 1. 
well acquainted with Irish affairs, * Wesley's Journal, June 1762. 
states that the rights of common- 


spectable Protestant attorney named Fant was living, 
in 1760, on the borders of that county, and he had for 
a long time enjoyed a good reputation. His mind, 
however, gradually became disordered. He entered 
into a long succession of disputes with his neighbours, 
and at last finding some charges he had made against 
them disregarded by the Government, he, shortly after 
the arrival of Lord Halifax, 1 assembled many of the 
' meaner people of Kilmallock, and having warmed them 
with liquor, he harangued on the grievances which the 
poor in general suffered from the oppression of the rich, 
and telling them their town common had been illegally 
inclosed, and that they had a right by law to level the 
walls by which they were shut out from it, they very 
readily engaged under the authority of a lawyer, and 
that night completely demolished all the fences which 
inclosed their reputed common.' ' This,' adds Burke, 
' and no other beginning had these disturbances which 
afterwards spread over a great part of the adjacent 
county, and which have been industriously represented 
of so treasonable a nature.' a 

The outburst spread rapidly through many counties 
of Munster, and while in some districts it was specially 
directed against inclosures, in others it was more 
peculiarly turned against certain kinds of tithes. The 
great tithes or tithes of corn were, indeed, readily paid ; 
but several other tithes were much disputed, and had 
long attained a foremost place among the popular 

The Irish tithe system was, indeed, one of the most 
absurd that can be conceived. Tithes in their original 
theory are not absolute property, but property assigned 
in trust for the discharge of certain public duties. In 

1 Lord Halifax came to Ireland 2 Burke's Correspondence, 
in October 1761. 45. 


Ireland, when they were not appropriated by laymen, 
they were paid by an impoverished Catholic peasantry 
to a clergy who were opposed to their religion, and 
usually not even resident among them, 1 and they were 
paid in such a manner that the heaviest burden lay on 
the very class who were least able to bear it. It was a 
common thing for a parish to consist of some 4,000 or 
5,000 acres of rich pasture-land held by a prosperous 
grazier who had been rapidly amassing a large fortune 
through the increased price of cattle, and of 300 or 
400 acres of inferior land occupied by a crowd of 
miserable cottiers. In accordance with the vote of the 
House of Commons in 1735, the former was exempted 
from the burden which was thrown on the latter. 2 In 
Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Meath, and Waterford, 
there were to be found, in the words of Arthur Young, 
' the greatest graziers and cowkeepers perhaps in the 
world, some who rent and occupy from 3,000?. to 
10,0002. a year, . . . the only occupiers in the king- 
dom who have any considerable substance.' 3 These men 
were free from the tithes which were extorted from the 
wretched potato plot which was the sole subsistence of 
the cottier. The poor man was probably too ignorant 
to know that the exemption of pasture-land, being due 

1 As a very able, and at the send the money away to the 

same time violently anti-Catholic rectors, who, instead of applying 

writer says : ' While the Popish any part of it to acts of charity 

priests .... are indefatigable and hospitality, do not so much 

in performing the duties of their as lay it out among those from 

functions .... the Established whom it is collected.' Sir J. 

Church are shamefully neglected Caldwell, On the Proposal to 

by their clergy, who consider enable Papists to take real Secu- 

nothing but how to make the rities (Dublin, 1764), pp. 29, 30. 

most money out of their bene- 2 Mullalla's View of Irish 

fices, leaving their incomes to be Affairs, i. 248-253, ii. 9, 10. 

collected by tithe-mongers, who Grattan's Speeches, ii. 9. 

grind the faces of the poor by * Arthur Young's Tout, ii. 101. 
every species of oppression, and 

Cfl. IK. THE TITHES. 15 

to the vote of one House of Parliament, had no legal 
validity, and was sustained only by the terrorism which 
the landlords and larger tenants exercised over the 
clergy, but he could hardly fail to feel the gross in- 
justice of his lot, or to perceive that those who had 
acquired a monopoly of political power had used it to 
throw their share of the common burdens on the un- 
represented poor. 

If the clergy had been a resident clergy, discharging 
duties that were useful to the whole or the great majority 
of the people, the amount received by them in tithes 
would probably not have been thought excessive. Their 
advocates maintained with truth that the full legal tenth 
was rarely or never exacted. In many, perhaps most, 
cases a fixed sum called a modus was paid by the 
parishioners instead of the legal tithe of kind, and these 
customary rates had by long prescription obtained the 
force of law. There were instances, no doubt, of ex- 
tortionate and tyrannical clergymen, but they were not 
common, and in general it was the tithe-farmer and not 
the clergyman, as it was the middleman and not the 
landlord, who oppressed the people. The tithe-proctor 
who collected tithes for the clergyman, and the tithe- 
farmer who bought them from him at a fixed rate, were 
among the worst figures in Irish life, and they were at 
the same time an inevitable product of the Irish eccle- 
siastical system. A man of purely scholastic education, 
untrained in country business, often without an acre of 
land in his own hands, and without the means of carry- 
ing away his portion from a single farm, was manifestly 
incapable of treating at the same time with several 
hundreds of Catholic cottiers for his legal rights, esti- 
mating the produce of every field, ascertaining and 
securing the proportion which was due to him. In the 
few cases in which the circumstances of the clergyman 
enabled him to do this, his tithes were usually paid with 


little reluctance. 1 In the great majority of cases, how- 
ever, the clergyman resorted to an agent, who often 
intercepted much the larger portion of what was paid. 
Sometimes the agent charged a percentage in addition 
to the tithe, and extorted it from the people. More 
commonly he paid a fixed sum to the clergyman, and 
recuperated himself by a grinding tyranny of the 
tenants. Sometimes he sublet his agency for a fixed 
sum to a subordinate oppressor. Sometimes the cottiers 
who were unable to pay in full were obliged to give a 
bond bearing interest, and were in this manner soon 
reduced to absolute slavery. ' In some of the southern 
parts of Ireland/ said Grattan, in one of the tithe de- 
bates, ' the peasantry are made tributary to the tithe- 
farmer, draw home his corn, his hay, and his turf for 
nothing ; give him their labour, their cars, and their 
horses at certain times of the year for nothing. These 
oppressions not only exist, but have acquired a formal 
and distinct appellation tributes.' 2 

One of the peculiarities of this system was its com- 
plete absence of uniformity, and in Munster, which was 
much poorer than Leinster and Ulster, and much more 
densely populated than Connaught, the exaction was 
especially severe. Grattan stated, what does not appear 

1 'In parishes where the rec- found in Grattan's Speeches on 

tors take the tithes into their the subject in 1787, 1788, and 

own hands, it is acknowledged 1789 (vol. ii. of his Collected 

that the clergyman receives much Speeches). See, too, O'Leary's 

more than ever he did through Tracts, and Arthur Young's 

the mediation of such agents, Tour, ii. 186, 187. The chief 

besides the additional comfort of works in defence of the system 

seeing peace, harmony, and con- were, A Defence of the Protestant 

fidence restored to his district.' Clergy in the South of Ireland, 

Father O'Leary's defence, in Answer to Mr. Grattan, by 

O'Leary's Works, p. 285. ' Authenticus ' (1788), and Bishop 

* Grattan'a Speeclus, ii. 45. Woodward's Present State of the 

A full account of the different Church of Ireland (1787). 
abuses relating to tithes will be 

CH. nt. THE TITHES. 17 

to have been seriously disputed, 1 that ' the rate of tithing 
through the whole nation is on an average one-third 
less than that charged in Munster.' A contagion of 
rapacity appears to have passed through the Protestant 
clergy of this province. In the course of a few years, 
livings often doubled and sometimes trebled in value * 
owing to the increased severity with which tithes were 
exacted. The bonds which I have just described were 
called ' Kerry bonds,' being especially common in that 
county. The tithe of potatoes, which was that which 
was most oppressive to the poor, was almost peculiar 
to Munster, being only exacted in very few districts of 
the other provinces. 3 A tithe of turf and a tithe of 
furze had been lately introduced, and certain moduses, 
or compositions, which had elsewhere been substituted 
for other tithes were in this province unknown. The 
cottier, it was said in a debate in 1787, often paid 71. 
an acre for land, received 6d. a day for his labour, and 
paid 8s. to 12s. for his tithes. 4 

Some of the demands that were made appear to 
have been of very doubtful legality, and the tithe of 
turf which was sometimes exacted was pronounced by 
the Attorney-General to be clearly illegal. 5 It was, 
however, almost impossible for a poor man to obtain 
legal redress. By a scandalous injustice all questions 
of disputed tithes were brought before an ecclesiastical 
court, so that the same men were both parties and 
judges in the suit. There was, it is true, a right of 
appeal, and the Attorney-General in one of the debates 
on the subject said that ' if any ecclesiastical court 
should presume to entertain a suit for the subtraction 
of tithe of turf, the courts of law would grant imme- 

1 See ' Authenticus,' p. 37. 5 In 1783, Irish Parl. Debate*, 

2 Grattan's Speeches, ii. 31. vii. 344, 352. His position wan 
1 Ibid. ii. 29. disputed by ' Authenticus,' pp. 
* Ibid. p. 9. 49-61. 



diate redress.' The answer of Grattan, however, wag 
veiy conclusive. 'It has been admitted that some 
tithes are illegal, such as those on turf, and the poor 
man is advised to institute a lawsuit for relief. Are 
gentlemen serious when they give this advice ? or will 
they point out how the man who earns 5d. a day is to 
cope with the wealthy tithe-farmer who oppresses him ? ' * 
This condition of affairs sufficiently explains the 
violence of the tithe war in Munster, and the sympathy 
which in their attacks upon tithes the Whiteboys un- 
doubtedly found outside their own body. 2 The clergy 
had few friends, and the tithe-farmer was universally 
detested. The abolition of the tithe of agistment 
showed sufficiently the sentiments of the House of 
Commons, and in Ulster, where the Presbyterians pre- 
dominated, and where tillage was more common than in 
the other provinces, the customary tithes were extremely 
moderate. Potatoes were almost everywhere exempt. 
Flax, the chief material of the industry of the North, 
paid only 6d. a farm irrespective of quantity. 3 Hemp 
appears to have been generally tithed at the same rate, 
and the new charges in Munster excited a very wide- 
spread indignation even among Protestants. Wood- 
ward, Bishop of Cloyne, was the chief writer who main- 

1 Irish Parl. Debates, vii. 344, lished Church to join with the 

360. Papists and Presbyterians in 

- ' If they [the curates] were clamourous, violent, and tumul- 

the best parish ministers that tuous oppositions against those 

ever lived, a relation or a depen- who exact what are called Church 

dent to a bishop or a great man dues, for the use of those by 

would be preferred to them ; whom no Church duties are per- 

they are, therefore, often obliged formed.' Examination whether 

to have recourse to farming for it is Expedient to enable Papists 

a subsistence, so that both their to take Real Securities, dc. By 

persons and their offices are Sir James Caldwell (Dublin, 

brought into the lowest con- 1764), p. 31. 
tempt; and it is extremely com- * Grattan's Speeches, ii. 40, 86. 
mon for persons of the Estab- 


tained that the Whiteboy movement was a Popish con- 
spiracy, but he acknowledged that it was partly organ- 
ised by men who were ' nominal Protestants,' and greatly 
supported by the connivance of Protestant landlords. 1 
There were many of these who never entered a church, 
who looked upon tithes simply as a deduction from their 
own rents, and who were only too glad that popular 
indignation should be diverted from themselves to the 
clergy ; and the better members of the class were very 
justly indignant at the scandalous neglect of clerical 
duty which was common. In a remarkable speech which 
was delivered in 1763, Mr. (afterwards Sir Lucius) 
O'Brien, the member for Ennis, described the condition 
to which Protestants in the county of Clare were re- 
duced ' from the 'total neglect of those who have nomi- 
nally the care of their souls, and actually a tithe of 
their property/ He stated that in sixty-two out of the 
seventy-six parishes of the county no Protestant church 
existed, that ' the rectors of most of them were non- 
resident, nor was there so much as a curate of 40 1. a 
year to supply their place,' and that, therefore, the inr 
habitants of many parishes were reduced either to a 
total neglect of all religious duties or to have recourse 
to a Popish priest. ' One of the bad consequences,' he 
added, ' of the shameful neglect of our clergy is those 
Risings which have been mentioned to the violation of 
all law and the disgrace of all government, for who can 
suppose that men will patiently suffer the extortion of 
a tithe-monger where no duty for which the tithe is 
claimed has been performed in the memory of man? 
. . . The insurrections against which we are so eager 
to call out the terrors of the law are no more than 
branches of which the shameful negligence of our clergy 

1 Woodward's Present State of the Church of Ireland, pp. 29 



and the defects in our religious Institution constitute 
the root.' ' 

Under such circumstances, and encouraged by the 
supineness which was at first generally shown by the 
local magistrates, the Whiteboy organisation struck deep 
root and spread silently but rapidly through many 
counties ; and although before 1770 it had nearly ceased, 
it burst into a new vigour in Kildare, Kilkenny, and the 
Queen's County in 1775, and continued there with par- 
tial interruptions till 1 785, when it again spread widely 
through Munster. 2 Every season of distress intensified 
it, and although it has undergone many transforma- 
tions, assumed many names, and aimed at many dif- 
ferent objects, it cannot be said to be extinct at Mie 
present hour. The names of those who constructed it 
will never be known, but they were evidently men of 

1 Debates on the Affairs of Ire- 
land in 1763 and 1764, taken by 
a Military Officer [Sir J. Cald- 
well], pp. 656-659. In a pam- 
phlet which appeared in 1760 it 
is said, ' Our poor Protestants 
are daily falling off from the re- 
ligion of their forefathers. . . . 
There are 1,600 parish churches 
in the kingdom in ruins, and of 
the 600 that are standing, one- 
third are ready to tumble, and 
the clergy do not reside as they 
ought to. The true cause of the 
scandalous neglect and almost 
disuse of divine service in the 
remote country parishes, where 
the churches are all in ruins, is 
chiefly owing to two canons of 
our own Church, which have 
certainly done more hurt to the 
Protestant religion in Ireland 
than all the rest have done good.' 
They are the 21st, which forbids 
the clergy, under pain of excom- 

munication, to preach and ad- 
minister the sacrament in private 
houses, except in cases of sick- 
ness, and the 45th, which for- 
bids the people to detain theil 
tithes from their parish minister 
1 by colour of duty omitted.' 
The Pedlar's Letter to the Bishops 
and Clergy of Ireland (Dublin, 
1760). Sir James Caldwell cal- 
culated that there were ' not more 
than 550 officiating clergy of 
the Church of England in the 
whole kingdom, and the greater 
part of these are poor, miser- 
able curates whose whole income 
at the most is but 40Z. a year.' 
Caldwell on The Act to enable 
Papists to take Real Security. 
On the neglect of public worship 
by the upper classes, see Wood- 
ward, p. 62. 

s Lewis on Irish Disturbance*, 
p. 19. 

en. HI. 



some education and of no small organising ability, and 
they created a system of intimidation which in many 
districts became the true representation of the Catholic 
peasantry, and which often made it much safer to violate 
than to obey the law. 

In some cases the Whiteboys acted with all the au- 
dacity of open insurgents. Great bodies of men traversed 
the country, often in the open daylight, wearing white 
cockades and blowing horns. In several cases they 
awaited an encounter with soldiers. They broke open 
the gaol at Tralee and released the prisoners. They 
threatened to burn the town of Newmarket, in the 
diocese of Cloyne, unless a Whiteboy confined there 
was released. They burnt several houses which soldiers 
had occupied, and alarms were spread, though apparently 
without real foundation, that they were seeking by in- 
tercepting provisions to threaten Limerick, Cork, and 
Ennis with famine. 1 On one occasion in the beginning 
of the outbreak they assembled at Lismore, and affixed 
a placard at the post-office door requiring the inhabitants 
on the following night to illuminate their houses and 
provide a certain number of horses bridled and saddled, 
and the injunction was punctually obeyed. 8 On another, 

1 This was asserted by Bishop 
Woodward in his very alarmist 
pamphlet, p. 96. The reader 
should, however, compare the 
account, given by Father O'Leary 
in his curious and eloquent ' de- 
fence of his conduct and writings,' 
of the exaggerations which gained 
currency under the influence of 
panic. Among otheis, in Monks- 
town (near Cork), at the height 
of the bathing season, ' two wags 
for the sake of diversion sounded 
an old horn in the dead of the 
night and threw all the ladies 
and gentlemen into a panic. In 

the space of three weeks this 
nocturnal sport was represented 
in the distant prints as a serious 
blockade by Capt. Bight at the 
head of 500 men.' O'Leary's 
Works (Boston, 1868), p. 308. 
Lord Halifax wrote in strong 
terms about the great exaggera- 
tions concerning the Whiteboy 
organisation that were dissemi- 
nated. Halifax to Egremont 
(Secret), April 17, 1762 (Record 

* Lewis's Irish Disturbances, 
p. 6. 


they marched into the large village of Cappoquin, drew 
up in front of a horse barrack, fired several shots, and 
marched by the sentry who was on guard while their 
piper played ' The Lad with the White Cockade.' * On 
a third, a large party well mounted and clad in white 
rode into the little town of Kilworth, in the county of 
Cork, at three in the morning, firing many shots, and 
compelled the inhabitants at once ' to illuminate their, 
windows, which was done speedily and in great order, 
more from fear than respect.' The terrified inhabitant 
who wrote to inform the Government, had heard that 
7,000 men were assembled in the mountains near Dun- 
garvan, and that 20,000 would 'assemble next week 
near this town to go on some grand project.' a More 
commonly, however, the tactics of the Whiteboys were 
less ostentatious, but much more formidable, and their 
small parties moving silently in the dead of night com- 
mitted depredations which threatened to reduce a great 
part of Ireland to absolute anarchy. 

They announced from the beginning, that their 
object was ' to do justice to the poor by restoring the 
ancient commons and redressing other grievances,' 3 and 
they soon undertook to regulate the whole relation 
between landlord and tenant, and to enforce a new 
system of law wholly different from the law of the land. 
They waged especially a desperate war against- tithe- 
proctors and tithe-farmers, against the system of Kerry 
bonds, against a class of men called canters, who were 
accustomed to bid for the tithe of their neighbours' land, 
and who by Whiteboy terrorism were almost extirpated 
from Munster. 4 They issued proclamations forbidding 
any man under terrible penalties to pay higher rates of 

1 Lewis's Irish Disturbances, p. 6. 

* Irish Departmental Correspondence. Irish State Paper Oflico. 

Lewis, p. 5. 4 Woodward, p. 46. 


tithe than they specified. They seized arms wherever 
they could obtain them, compelled all \\ horn they sus- 
pected of connivance with the Government to abandon 
their farms under pain of having their houses burnt over 
their heads, and avenged by fearful crimes every in- 
fringement of their code. 

As early as January 1762 an informant writes from 
the county of Tipperary that c above 500 men frequently 
assemble with shirts over their clothes doing whatever 
mischief they please by night, under the sanction of 
being fairies, as they call themselves.' ' The fairies are 
composed of all the able young fellows from Clonmel to 
Mitchelstown.' They had levelled great numbers of 
enclosures, sent many threatening letters, rescued pro- 
perty which had been seized by landlords for non-pay- 
ment of rent, compelled cloth weavers to lower the price 
of their goods, seized all the horses they could discover 
around Cahir, and established such a terrorism in the 
county that if any farmer dismissed a servant or a shep- 
herd no one dared to take his place unless ' he had more 
interest with the fairies.' No one was allowed to bid for 
a farm which had been put up to auction until it had 
been waste for five years on pain of death or of the 
burning of his house. 1 Grass land was sometimes turned 
up to oblige the landlord to let it for tillage, and great 
numbers of cattle were killed or hamstrung. A letter 
in 1778 tells how a single person passing from Ballin- 
asloe fair to Clara had 760 sheep killed in one night, 
and next morning no one dared to send him a horse to 
carry away the carcases, or to bid more for them than 
3s. Qd. a sheep, that being the rate which the Whiteboy 
proclamations had prescribed. In the same year the 
chief inhabitants of a portion of the King's County 
speak, in a memorial to the Government, of ' v ist num- 

1 Qivil Petitions, Irish Jtegort 


bers of people assembling in, and going on foot and 
hoiseback through, the county by night, burning hay 
and corn, houghing, killing, and maiming cattle of 
every kind in great numbers, writing and posting up 
anonymous letters and notices threatening death and 
destruction to several individuals if they pay their 
tithes, taxes, hearth money, or exceed certain prices for 
land, and refuse to comply with their unlawful demands 
and combinations.' The exportation of corn and flour 
was sometimes obstructed by force, masters were com- 
pelled to release their apprentices, daughters of rich 
farmers were carried away and forced into marriage, 
sums of money were levied from farmers to defend the 
Whiteboys on their trial. In some districts large bodies 
of men appeared on market day on the roads round 
some country town, or on Sundays near the chapel 
doors, compelling all who passed to swear that they 
would obey the laws and future commands of Captain 
Right. Many fictitious names were attached to the 
Whiteboy proclamations, but that of Captain Right 
soon predominated, and it became more powerful in 
Munster, and in many counties of Leinster, than King 
or Viceroy or Parliament. 1 

A few murders were committed ; but they were 
much more rare in the early Whiteboy movement than 
in the later periods of Irish agrarian crime, and the 
writers who showed the strongest disposition to aggra- 
vate the character of the disturbances are almost silent 
about them. 2 Sometimes those who had violated some 

1 Papers on ' The State of the the disturbances continued, until 
Country.' Irish State Paper the present Earl of Carhampton 
Office. See, too, many particu- (then Lord Luttrell) came to 
Jars collected by Woodward and Munster, I never heard of any 
by Arthur Young. murder committed by the White- 

2 O'Leary says : ' In the long boys.' Wcrks, p. 307. 'The 
space of fifteen months, whilst Bishop [WoodwardJ cannot pro- 


article of the Whiteboy code were merely seized and 
compelled to swear that they would never repeat the 
offence ; but more commonly they were punished with 
great atrocity. One of the mildest punishments was 
to drag a man at midnight from his bed, often in mid- 
winter, beat him, and leave him bound and naked in a 
ditch by the roadside. In one case, which is related in 
detail, the captors bound their prisoner to the post of a 
turnpike gate and compelled the keeper to swear that 
he would not relieve him till a certain number of hours 
had passed. In another, they carried a man who had 
threatened to inform against some illicit distillers about 
a mile on a bier, and left him bound in the very streets 
of Cahir, where he remained unrescued the whole night. 
Not unfrequen^ly they carried their victim to a newly 
dug grave and left him, sometimes with his ears cut off, 
buried up to the chin in earth, or in thorns or furze. 
Men were placed naked on horseback on saddles covered 
with thorns, or with a hedgehog's skin. Many cottages 
were burnt and their inmates forced to abandon the 
country. A man once appropriated two pounds of 
powder which had been concealed for the Whiteboys. 
They discovered him, and having obliged him to pour 
the powder into his hat, they placed it beneath him, 
ignited it, and blew him to pieces. Their threatening 
notices were filled with the most savage menaces, and 
their outrages in some districts were so frequent and so 
severe that scarcely anyone dared to resist them. The 
description given, by a conspicuous magistrate, of the 
agrarian crime in 1831 may be applied without qualifi- 
cation to the period of the first Whiteboy rising : ' The 
combination is directly opposed to the law, and it is 
stronger than it, because it punishes the violation of its 

duce one single instance of any Whiteboys in the counties of 
man's being murdered by the Cork or Kerry.' Ibid. p. 311. 


mandates with more severity and infinitely more cer- 
tainty. If a peasant resists the combination it is scarcely 
possible he can escape punishment ; if he violates the 
law his chance of escape is at least fifty to one.' l 

The insurrection sprang in the first instance from 
intolerable misery not a little aggravated by injustice ; 
but it speedily drew into its vortex all the restless, 
criminal, and turbulent elements of the community, and 
its demoralising influence can hardly be exaggerated. 
For a time it almost paralysed the law. Over large 
districts no tithes were paid, and scarcely anyone 
dared to distrain for rent, or even to impound tres- 
passing cattle. 2 Unlike ordinary crime, the White^ 
boy outrages were systematically, skilfully, and often 
very successfully directed to the enforcement of certain 
rules of conduct. Strangers were wholly unmolested, 
and in this, as in later periods of agrarian crime, ex- 
treme social disturbance led to no highway robbery. 3 It 

1 Lord Oxmantown, quoted by though a large body of troops 
Lewis, p. 237. Hely Hutchirison were present to protect the exe- 
r elated in the Irish House of cutioner. He accordingly exe- 
Commons that, having heard that cuted it himself. Woodward, p. 
many of the tenants-at-will on 97. I have taken most of the 
his own estate in the county of accounts of Whiteboy outrages 
Waterford were joining in the from the papers on the subject 
combination against the clergy, in the Irish State Paper Office, 
he threatened any who did so - Woodward, p. 97. 
with immediate ejection. They * Twiss's Tour in Ireland, p. 
answered that they could not help 197. Mrs. Delany had before 
it, for it was better to be ejected noticed that 'a comfortable cir- 
than to have their throats cut, cumstance belonging to this 
which would be the infallible con- country is that the roads are so 
sequence of refusal. CaldwelTs good and free from robbers that 
Debates, p. 85. Sir E. Musgrave, we may drive safely any hour of 
who was High Sheriff of the the night.' Correspondence, ii. 
county of Waterford, once sen- 626. Bianconi, after the peace 
tenced a Whiteboy to public whip- of 1815, established the well- 
ping, but he could find no one to known public cars, which soon 
execute the sentence, though he extended over almost the whole 
offered twenty guineas, and of Ireland, and were running 


must be added, however, that although the crimes of the 
Whiteboys were undoubtedly many and grievous, they 
were greatly and often systematically exaggerated. The 
panic they inspired, the mystery hanging over obscure, 
nocturnal, ill-reported outrages in remote districts, the 
natural desire of the classes who were chiefly menaced 
to magnify the disturbances in order to compel Govern- 
ment to send troops for their protection, the animosities 
of class and creed which coloured most Irish narratives, 
all contributed to the exaggeration. Every crime that 
took place in a country which had at all times been ex- 
ceedingly lawless was attributed to the Whiteboy or- 
ganisation, and later writers have a very natural ten- 
dency to relate acts of extreme and exceptional atrocity 
as if they were fair samples of the ordinary crimes. 
Among the many curious Whiteboy proclamations which 
fell into the hands of the Government there are some 
disclaiming all connection with some particular outrages, 
and complaining that unauthorised men were going 
about the country pretending for their own purposes to 
be Whiteboys. 1 There was no general attack either oo 

during one of the worst periods ' Fourteen sheep belonging to 

ot agrarian crime and distress a Mr. Tennison having been 

ever known in the country. In stolen, he received a notice signed 

a paper read in 1857 he made Sieve Oultagh (a favourite White- 

this remarkable statement : boy signature), declaring that 

1 My conveyances, many of them this was not done by her or her 

carrying very important mails, children, but by ' some rogues,' 

have been travelling during all ' unknown to me,' and promising 

hours of the day and night, often to protect his property to the 

inlonely and unfrequented places; best of her power, and 'clear the 

and during the long period of country' of those who had in- 

forty-two years that my estab- jured it. In another letter with 

lishment is now in existence, the the same signature it is said : 

slightest injury has never been ' She [Oultagh] and her company 

done by the people to my pro- does not intend or mean follow- 

perty or that entrusted to. my ing any bad practice, but to the 

care.' Mrs. O'Connell's Life of contrary, to relieve the poor who 

Bianooni, p. 83. ?j-e oppressed by most people, 



landlords or on the clergy of the Established Church, 
and particular proprietors are sometimes spoken of with 
marked respect. 1 In a very remarkable and touching 
proclamation, which was issued in the county of Cork in 
the beginning of 1787, Captain Right disclaims any 
wish to break the law or to rob the landlord, but de- 
nounces the unjust, and, as he believed, illegal confis- 
cation of the improvements of tenants as the chief 
grievance to be redressed.* 

and especially by tithe-mongers 
whom she intends obstructing in 
their exorbitant prices, and also 
to open commonages and level 
them ; and as to your walls being 
thrown down, it was not out of 
malice or hatred to yon, bat be- 
cause you encroached on the road.' 
Book of Entries, Civil Petitions, 
Irish Eecord Office. 

1 Thus one curious proclama- 
tion of 1788, signed by Captain 
Bight, orders a suspected infor- 
mer to leave the country and 
' give up her lands to Lady Fitz- 
gerald without law or clamher 
[sic] for her Ladyship's honour 
never intended to hurt any of 
my men and is ever a friend to 
them, and for that reason I shall 
see her justified.' Irish State 
Paper Office (Miscellaneous 

2 This proclamation is so 
curious as illustrating the agra- 
rian notions of the Whiteboys, 
and also the long persistence of 
some of the causes of Irish dis- 
turbances, that I shall give the 
chief parts in spite of their length : 
Land-setters in whom the fee- 
simple lies have encouraged their 
tenants to manure and improve 
their lands on presumption of 

renewing their leases when they 
expire.' ' The poor tenant being 
encouraged by the land-setters' 
deluding speeches will go on with 
building, ditching, draining, and 
planting fruit and forest trees 
until he drains himself from 
every penny he can collect or 
make, having implicit reliance 
on the landlord's former pro- 
mises, and enjoying the thoughts 
of him, his son or daughter, 
having the pleasure and satisfac- 
tion of keeping the benefit of his 
money and labour. Now, dear 
brethren, ye will give me leave 
to inform ye that I declare my- 
self as true and faithful a sub- 
ject as any in Ireland, both to 
King and government, and as 
the laws of England are our 
chief directory and always go- 
verned by them [sic], in England, 
when the tenant's lease is ex- 
pired no man will dare cant him 
or his children off their farm, 
nor will the landlord dream of 
setting to any other person but 
the occupier. This is the fair, 
honest mode of proceeding prac- 
tised in England, which mode 
shall be established in this king- 
dom. . . . Let no man in like 
manner think that I want to en- 


In some districts and periods the outbreaks were 
chiefly agrarian; in others they were more especially 
directed against tithes. At first the Protestant clergy- 
men appear to have been rarely or never molested, and 
the tithe-farmer was the special object of the popular 
antipathy. There were,' however, some instances of 
clergymen who received savage threatening letters, and 
were obliged to fly from their parishes through fear of 
Whiteboys, and in a few cases their houses were attacked, 
their property was injured, and they themselves under- 
went atrocious personal outrages. 1 Lord Luttrell re- 
lated to the Irish House of Commons how one of his 
friends riding one morning near the town of Urlingford, 
in the county of Kilkenny, found a pair of ears and a 
cheek nailed 'to a post, and soon after he overtook a 
muffled figure riding on in great and evident pain, 
which proved to be the clergyman to whom they be- 
longed. 2 

It is not surprising that in the extreme panic pro- 
duced by the outbreak it should have been attributed to 
political or religious causes. It was reported that French 
money was frequently found in the pockets of arrested 
Whiteboys ; that men with the appearance of officers and 
speaking French had been seen in remote districts of the 
south ; that Whiteboys had been known to march in large 
bodies and with the discipline of regular soldiers ; that 

courage any tenants to rob or of the country, who will be judges 

deprive the landlord of being of the soil and constitution of 

offered the full value of his the country; any tenant refus- 

ground. No, I do not ; and in ing this order to be banished, 

case of a misunderstanding be- punished, and deemed a dis- 

tween the land-setter and occu- honest man. (Signed) Captain 

pier, in such case or difference I Eight.' Papers on the State of the 

order that such tenant will take Country, Irish State Paper Office, 

from the land-setter at the valua- ' See these cases in Wood- 

tion of two or three honest, dis- ward, pp. 99-103. 

interested gentlemen of that part * Irish Parl. Debates, ti. 432. 


the beginning of the disturbances synchronised with the 
expedition of Thurot, that the whole movement was a 
Popish insurrection directed against Protestants, as such, 
and fostered by the French, with whom we were at war. 
The culprits, it was said, were chiefly if not exclusively 
Papists. One of the main objects of their hostility was 
the tithe which was paid to the Protestant clergymen. 
"Whiteboy meetings were said to have been some- 
times held in remote chapels. Whiteboys were 
accused of systematically disarming the Protestants, 
breaking into their houses and seizing their guns. 
Lord Dunboyne, Mr. Butler, and several other Catholic 
gentlemen of the county Tipperary were obliged to go 
to Dublin to enter bail on the charge of supporting the 
Whiteboys. 1 A priest who had been degraded for some 
ecclesiastical offence accused the Catholic Archbishop of 
Cashel of having, in conjunction with other Catholic 
bishops and with foreign agents, originated the White- 
boy disturbances in order to assist a French invasion, 
to restore the Pretender, and to extirpate heresy from 
Ireland; and although his deposition bore on its face 
clear marks of falsehood, and was considered absolutely 
worthless by the Government, some were found to believe 
it. a Fear and religious hatred combined to make men 
believe any story which gave a colour to the theory that 
a massacre of Protestants was intended. The House of 
Commons in one of its resolutions spoke of ' the Popish 
insurrection in Munster,' and several later writers have 
supposed that a religious or political element mingled 
with, if it did not produce, the Whiteboy movement. 
The evidence, however, against this theory is, I 

1 Crawford, ii. 319. the political and religious char- 

1 See Musgrave's Rebellions acter of the disturbances, see 

in Ireland, appendix i. On the Arthur Young, i. 82. Killen's 

completely worthless character Ecclesiastical History of Ireland, 

of the evidence adduced to prove ii. 285-287. 


think, conclusive, and the appearances which gave it 
some plausibility may be easily explained. It can be 
established by the clearest proof that the first Whiteboy 
disturbance did not take place till near the close of 
1761 -more than a year after the expedition of Thurot. 1 
If French money was sometimes found, if Frenchmen 
were sometimes seen among the peasants of Kerry, this 
was only the natural consequence of the smuggling 
trade with France which was incessantly carried on 
along the whole line of coast. In a province where 
nearly all the poor were Catholics an extensive disturb- 
ance must necessarily have been chiefly Catholic, and it 
not surprising that those who sought to plunder arms 
should have turned chiefly to Protestant houses, as 
Protestants alone were by law allowed to possess them. 2 
Tithes were hated as an unequal and oppressive impost 
falling upon a people who were already sunk in the 
lowest depths of poverty, and religious feeling had little 
or nothing to say' to the antipathy. The tithe-farmer, 
who was quite as often a Papist as a Protestant, 3 was 
much more hated than the clergyman, and the Whiteboy 
made it his object to reduce the dues paid to his own 
priest as well as the tithes that were paid to the rector. 4 

1 In addition to the passages my orders been made in the 

I have already given, the reader houses of Papists in that city 

will find much evidence of this [Cork] and county, and the result 

in Lewis on Irish Disturbances. was that in a city so populous 

Sir C. Lewis has justly adverted and a county so extensive, and 

to the apparent dishonesty of Sir both so full of Roman Catholics, 

R. Musgrave in antedating the no more than thirty unservice- 

beginning of the movement con- able firelocks and a few hangers 

trary to the clearest evidence, to have been found.' Halifax to 

make it coincide with Conflans' Egremont, April 17, 1762, Record 

intended expedition. (P. 18.) Office. In the King's instruo- . 

- That the law preventing tions to Lord Hertford (August 

Catholica from possessing arms 1765) there is a special clause 

without licence was by no means about enforcing this law. 

inoperative may be inferred from s See vol. i. 313. 

a statement of Lord Halifax : ' A 4 O'Leary's Works, p. 283 
vigorous search for arms has by 


As I have already shown, the conversion of arable land 
into pasture, which was the chief agrarian grievance, 
was much more universal among Catholics than among 
Protestants, for the penal laws about land discouraged 
in the highest degree the cultivation of the soil, and the 
Catholic landlord or large tenant almost invariably 
turned his land into pasture in order to evade the 
cupidity of the discoverers. 1 

We are not, however, obliged to base our judgment 
of the Whiteboy movement on doubtful inference. Posi- 
tive evidence of the most decisive character attests its 
unsectarian and unpolitical character. The Government 
sent down a commission of experienced lawyers to in- 
quire into its origin, and published in the ' Gazette ' their 
official report, that ' the authors of these disturbances 
have consisted indiscriminately of persons of different 
persuasions, and that no marks of disaffection to his 
Majesty's person or government have been discovered 
upon this occasion in any class of people.' 2 Lord Egre- 
mont, the Secretary of State, wrote from London to the 
Lord Lieutenant in much alarm that it was reported in 

1 See vol. i. 219-221. 'The and depopulating sort of Indus- 
oppression of the poor in the try, is alone adapted to their 
south proceeds very much from condition.' The Dangers of Po- 
the Papists themselves, as the pery to the Present Government, 
graziers who engross the farms examined by M. O'Connor (Dub- 
are mostly Romanists. . . . Till lin, 1761), p. 24. ' The law about 
some step is taken in favour of informers,' says another writer, 
tillage and the poor, Whiteboyism 'has put a stop to agriculture, 
will probably remain.' Camp- and converted the Popish land- 
bell's Philosophical Survey, p. owners into a huge tribe of 
315. ' Papists,' said another con- graziers like our Scythian an- 
temporary writer, ' instead of im- cestors. Pasturage is one defence 
proving on a short tenure, keep with them against informers, and 
their lands waste to prevent as is their sole occupation.' Ob 
much as possible any temptation serrations on the Popery Laws 
to leases of reversion, which Pro- (1771), p. 30. 
testants alone are qualified to * Lewis, pp. 13, 14. 
take. Pasturage, a lazy, wasting, 


England that a great disciplined Popish insurrection 
had arisen under French instigation in Munster. In 
his reply, Halifax enumerated the stringent means he 
had taken to discover the truth. Letters in the post- 
office had been searched. All suspicious persons had 
been arrested and their papers examined, and every 
kind of encouragement had been held out to those who 
could give intelligence. And yet, says Lord Halifax, 
'not one particular of the matters suggested to your 
lordship has hitherto come with the smallest degree of 
authenticity to my knowledge. No French officers in 
disguise have been taken; no trace of traitorous or 
suspicious foreign correspondence has been discovered ; 
none of those staged and measured rendezvous to learn 
military discipline by moonlight have been found out. 
It does not even appear that these rioters were furnished 
with many arms. . . . Protestants, as well as Papists, 
have been concerned in these tumults one or two of the 
most considerable of those we have hitherto detected are 
Protestants ; these outrages have fallen indiscriminately 
on persons of both persuasions, and I cannot yet find that 
any matter of state or religion has been mentioned at 
their meetings.' ! Sir Richard Aston, the Chief Justice 
of Common Pleas, and Serjeant Malone were sent on a 
commission to try the prisoners, and the former drew up 
a report, in which the latter concurred, exactly to the 
same effect. ' Upon the strictest inquiry, 5 he says, ' into 
the causes of the many outrages committed in different 
parts of the province of Munster there did not appear to 
me the least reason to impute those disturbances to dis- 
affection to his Majesty, his Government, or the laws 
in general ; but, on the contrary, that these disorders 
really and not colourably took their rise from declared 
complaints and grievances of a private nature. ... It 

Halifax to Egremont (Secret), April 17, 1762. Record Office. 
VQfc. U. p 


ever turned out to be the result of some local dissatis- 
faction. . . . The subject-matter of their grievances 
was chiefly such as price of labour too cheap, of victuals 
too dear, of land excessive and oppressive. In some in- 
stances their resentment proceeded against particular 
persons for their having taken mills or bargains over the 
head of another, . . . and turning out, by a consent to 
an advanced price, the old tenant. ... In the perpe- 
tration of these disorders (however industriously the 
contrary has been promoted) Papists and Protestants 
were promiscuously concerned, and, in my opinion, the 
majority of the former is with more justice to be attri- 
buted to the odds of number in the country than the 
influence arising from the difference of principles.' ! 

This evidence applies to the first outburst of the 
Whiteboy movement. That its subsequent outburst 
was equally unconnected with religious or political 
motives is, I believe, no less certain ; although it is, of 
course, possible that in particular districts religious 
animosities may have mixed with and intensified the 
class war, and although it is, I believe, true that White- 
boy meetings were sometimes held in Catholic chapels. 
The mass of the poorest and most lawless class were 
Catholic, and occasions when they came together were 
often made use of for purposes of organisation. The 
Government in Ireland, however, with a steady and 
praiseworthy honesty, discouraged the rumours which 
represented the outrages as distinctively Popish. In 
1786 Hely HutcLinson, who was then Secretary of State, 
declared with great emphasis in the Irish House of 
Commons that 'the Roman Catholic clergy had been 
treated with the utmost cruelty by the same insurgents 
and rioters that had insulted and injured many of the 
Protestant clergy ; ' and ' that the disturbances did not 

Burke'a Qorrespondence t i. 37-41. 


proceed from religious prejudices.' 1 One priest in the 
county of Kildare was buried up to his neck in brambles 
and thorns for having denounced the Whiteboys, 2 and 
a very considerable number of Protestants of the lower 
orders were implicated in the later outrages. 3 Arthur 
Young, in 1779, after a careful examination, gave it as 
his decisive opinion that no religious or political motives 
mingled with the disturbances ; and that the only evi- 
dence that had been adduced to the contrary was that 
of informers ' of the most infamous and perjured cha- 
racters.' 4 Lord Charlemont was strongly anti-Catholic 
in his sentiments, and he erroneously believed that the 
Whiteboys were exclusively Catholic, but his opinion 
about the causes^of the disturbance was equally decided. 
' The real causes,' he said, ' were . . . exorbitant rents, 
low wages, want of employment, farms of enormous 
extent let by their rapacious and indolent proprietors to 
monopolising land-jobbers, by whom small portions of 
them were again let and re-let to intermediate oppressors 
and by them subdivided for five times their value among 
the wretched starvers upon potatoes and water ; taxes 
yearly increasing, and still more tithes, which the 
Catholic, without any possible benefit, unwillingly pays 
in addition to his priest's money ; . . . misery, oppres- 
sion, and famine.' 5 

1 Irish Parliamentary Debates, county of Kerry, about the pro- 
vi. 409, 445. ceedings in that county: 'Many 

2 Lewis, p. 31. Several other Protestants, though I thank my 
instances of the ill-usage of God mostly of the lower order, 
priests by the Whiteboys will be were engaged in tendering oaths, 
found in O'Leary's defence. in procession by day and in out- 
Works, p. 298. rages by night. . . . Nay, some 

3 O'Leary's Works, pp. 296, 297. of them were captains of these 
In the County of Cork some of lawless corps, and have been 
these Protestants were brought obliged to fly from the prosecu- 
to trial, and O'Leary quotes the tion that awaited them.' 
statement of a Protestant clergy. * Tour in Ireland, i. 81-85. 
man, who was a magistrate in the * MS. Autobiography. I must 

D 2 


I have dwelt upon this point at some length, because 
the assertion that the Whiteboy disturbances were a kind 
of religious war has been repeated even to our own day. 
It owes its origin partly to the natural panic which 
spread through the few scattered Protestants of Munster, 
and partly also to political motives. Yet it is certain 
that a large part of the Catholics exerted themselves 
quite as much as the Protestants in suppressing the 
disturbances. In Kerry the most active person in 
arresting the Whiteboys was Lord Kenmare, the great 
Catholic nobleman of the county; and the Protestant 
clergy assembled at Tralee voted an address to him, 
thanking him for his admirable exertions for their pro- 
tection. 1 In the county of Kilkenny the first effectual 
stand against the Whiteboys was made by the Catholic 
inhabitants of the little town of Ballyragget, who, at the 
cost of several lives, repelled a party who had attacked 
one of their houses. 2 The Catholics of Cork, at the veiy 
beginning of the disturbances, met to concert measures 
for their repression, and offered a large reward for the 
apprehension and conviction of the rioters. 3 Consider- 
ing that the priests had usually sprung from the lower 
order of the people, and that they were wholly dependent 
upon them, they appear on the whole to have acted with 
great uprightness and courage. The Catholic bishop of 
Cloyne, in March 1762, issued a pastoral urging those 
of his diocese to use all the spiritual censures at their 
disposal for the purpose of repressing Whiteboyism; 
and some years later, Dr. Troy, who was then titular 

take this opportunity of express- ness which he has shown me in 

ing my acknowledgments to the connection with them, 

present Lord Charlemont for per- ' O'Leary, pp. 297, 298. 

mission to examine his very valu- * Arthur Young's Tour, i. 83, 

able collection of the papers of 84. 

his great ancestor, and to Mr. J. 3 Halifax to Egremont, April 

P, Prendergast for much kind- 17, 17C2. Record Office. 

C. lit. WHITEBOYS IN CfltJRCflfiS. 7 

bishop of Ossory, received the thanks of the Lord Lieu- 
tenant for his strenuous exertions in the same cause. 1 
The Whiteboys were constantly excommunicated from 
the Catholic altars, 2 and one of the effects of the move- 
ment was for a time very seriously to diminish the in- 
fluence of the priests. In some cases the chapel doors 
were actually nailed up against them by their congrega- 
tions. Their dues were greatly diminished, and several 
were obliged to save themselves by a hasty flight. 3 A 
notion was spread abroad through Munster that if the 
Whiteboys for a time abandoned their own worship and 
attended the Protestant churches they would acquire, 
like the Protestants, the right of keeping arms in their 
possession, and this notion led to scenes which had never 
before been witnessed in Ireland. Catholic chapels for 
many months were almost deserted, while the quiet Pro- 
testant churches were thronged by wild and tattered 
congregations come to qualify themselves for midnight 
outrages, and hands were thrust into the baptismal font 
for holy water, and beads were counted, and Ave Marias 
repeated around the communion rails. 4 

The truth is, that the real causes of the Whiteboy 
outbreak are to be found on the surface. Extreme 
poverty, extreme ignorance, and extreme lawlessness 
made the people of a great part of the South of Ireland 
wholly indifferent to politics ; but their condition was 

1 Lewis, pp. 30, 31. of these disturbances, by pointing 

2 Ibid. Twiss's Tour in Ire- out to the misguided mob the 
land, p. 231. secular Eoman Catholic priests 

8 O'Leary's Works, pp. 302, as extortioners in common with 
402. ' The populace,' wrote the established clergy, have en- 
Bishop Woodward, ' have not tirely done away with that in- 
only lost all fear of the magis- fluence which on other occasions 
trates, but have likewise shaken has been found useful in the pre- 
off that restraint which might be vention of outrages.' (P. 97.) 
expected to take place from the See, too, Lewis, p. 30. 
remonstrances of the clergy of * O'Leary's Works, pp. 290, 
both persuasions. The authors 291. 


such that the slightest aggravation made it intolerable, 
and it had become so miserable that they were ready to 
resort to any violence to improve it. Perhaps the best 
picture of the condition of affairs is to be found in one 
of the reports of Robert Fitzgerald, the Knight of Kerry, 
a very active, and apparently a very able and upright 
magistrate of that county. ' The better sort of the 
Roman Catholics,' he says, ' seem extremely well affected 
to Government: the Popish bishop and clergy have 
exerted themselves in promoting this ; the lower orders 
are in a state of distress beyond anything known in the 
memory of man. The great rents of this county belong 
to persons resident out of Ireland, whose agents are 
severe in collecting them ; the lower class, upon whom 
the burthen falls, cannot dispose of their goods, for there 
are literally no buyers, the little money the country 
affords is carried off for absentees, and there is scarcely 
a guinea left. The miserable tenantry, when pressed by 
their landlords, bring them all their cattle, and having 
no grass for them, offer them at half-price, and the 
common people are actually in a state of despair, ready 
for any enterprise that might relieve their present suffer- 
ing. In the three baronies, which are maritime, remote, 
and exceedingly mountainous, there are a great number 
who are indicted for various offences, and secure them- 
selves from justice in their inaccessible mountains.' He 
suggests that if the skeleton of a regiment under com- 
mand of officers of the county were formed, the people 
would gladly flock in multitudes to the standard of the 
King, and there would not be the smallest difficulty in 
filling the ranks. ' It seems,' he adds, ' to me equally 
certain that if the enemy should effect a landing any- 
where within one hundred miles of these people they 
will most assuredly join them.' ! 

1 Bobert Fitzgerald (of Wood- state of Kerry, July 27, 1779 
ford, Eathkeale), Reports on the State Papers : State of flit 

C1I. III. 


The supineness with which the movement was at first 
regarded by the magistrates soon terminated, and the 
Irish Parliament passed a series of very severe enact- 
ments against the Whiteboys. By an Act of 1765, all 
persons who went by night in parties of five or more 
men wounding, beating, tying up, or otherwise assault- 
ing human beings, destroying property, or digging up 
ground all who were engaged in breaking open gaols 
or rescuing felons, and also all who imposed unlawful 
oaths by violence, were made liable to death, and stern 
measures were adopted to meet the connivance of the 
district. Unless the offenders were given up, or at least 
unless some evidence was given against them, the grand 
juries were empowered to levy on the barony in which a 
crime was committed a sum to compensate the injured 
person ; and another clause, copying one of the enact- 
ments of the penal code against Papists, enabled any 
magistrate to summon before him any persons whom he 
suspected of having taken an illegal oath, examine them 
upon the subject, and imprison them for six months if 
they refused to answer. The Act was only for two years, 
but it was afterwards prolonged on the ground that it 
had ' greatly contributed to the peace and quiet of the 
kingdom.' But ten years later it was found necessary 
to make an additional law which, besides creating some 
new misdemeanours, immensely added to the list of 

Country. Irish State Paper 
Office. Sir E. Aston writes : ' I 
believe, indeed, that if the Dey of 
Algiers had landed with any force 
and a stand of arms at such a 
time, people in such a temper of 
mind would have readily been in- 
duced to join him or a prince of 
any religion, either for the sake 
of revenge or exchange of state, 
rather than continue in their con- 
ceived wretchedness.' Burke'a 

Correspondence, i. 39. In 1770 
(Nov. 23), Townshend wrote to 
Weymouth: 'I hoped to be ex- 
cused for representing to his 
Majesty the miserable situation 
of the lower ranks of his subjects 
in this kingdom. What from the 
rapaciousness of their unfeeling 
landlords and the restrictions on 
their trade, they are amongst the 
most wretched people on earth.' 
Becord Office. 


capital offences. Among these were now reckoned 
maiming or disfiguring human beings, sending threaten- 
ing letters, compelling men to quit their farms, habita- 
tions, or employments, or to join in Whiteboy offences, 
entering houses by force or menace between sunset and 
6 A.M., in order to take horses, weapons, or money, and, 
finally, assisting or concealing Whiteboys who had com- 
mitted any capital offence. The magistrates were given 
full powers of searching for arms, of obliging those who 
could give evidence to enter into recognisances to pro- 
secute, and of compelling all suspected persons to answer 
their questions on oath. Nothing said on examination 
was to be used as evidence against these persons unless 
they were indicted for perjury ; but, on the other hand, 
if they refused to answer or to prosecute when required, 
they were liable to an unlimited imprisonment. 1 

By the stringent enforcement of these Acts, and by 
the enrolment of large parties of volunteers under the 
command of the local magistrates, the Whiteboy organ- 
isation was, for a time at least, successfully stamped out 
over large districts. As might have been expected 
from the provocation, the repression was often very 
violent, and it is to be feared that acts of cruel, arbitrary, 
or unjust violence were not unfrequently committed.* 

1 6 George III. c. 8 ; 7 George one of the magistrates for the 

III. o. 20 ; 15 and 16 George III. county Kilkenny, accused his 

c. 21. brother magistrates of having in 

1 See Burke's Correspondence, 1779 shamefully broken faith 

i. 43. Charlemont says that the with some Whiteboys who sur- 

hunting of Whiteboys became a rendered on promise of amnesty, 

fashionable chase, and that he Several of these Whiteboys, he 

had himself heard Lord Carrick says, were tried for offences com- 

exclaim with delight, ' I have mitted prior to their arrest, and 

blooded my young dog, I have one was sentenced to death. 

fleshed my bloodhound,' after a Book of Entries. Civil Petitions, 

successful hunt in which his son October, 1780, Irish Becord 

had participated. M S. Auto- Office. 
biography. Sir Edward Loftus, 

Cft. in. fATflEft SHEEHY. 4l 

In some districts, it is said, so many of the inhabitants 
fled in terror from their homes that the land remained 
untilled, and there were grave fears of a famine. 1 One of 
the strangest episodes of the Whiteboy period was the 
exuberant gratitude which was shown in Tipperary to 
Sir Richard Aston, the Chief Justice of Common Pleas, 
who appears to have shown in the trial of Whiteboy 
cases a moderation and humanity rarely found among 
the local magistrates. ' For about ten miles from 
Clomnel/ writes a contemporary Protestant historian, 
' both sides of the road were lined with men, women, 
and children, who, as he passed along, kneeled down and 
supplicated Heaven to bless him as their protector and 
guardian angel.'* 

One case of oppression has acquired a great pro- 
minence in Irish popular traditions, and it appears 
indeed to have been exceedingly flagrant. Nicholas 
Sheehy, the parish priest of Clogheen, in the county of 
Tipperary, was a man of very respectable parentage, and 
related to several of the Catholic gentry of the district. 
He was described by an historian of his own faith 3 as 
' a giddy and officious, but not ill-meaning man, with 
somewhat of a quixotic cast of mind towards relieving 
all those within his district whom he fancied to be in- 
jured or oppressed,' and it is admitted that many 
hundreds of his parishioners were Whiteboys. Whether, 
as is very probable, Sheehy had been criminally mixed 
up with the movement, or whether he had simply set 
himself up as an opponent of acts of local oppression, it 
is now impossible to say, but it is certain that he had 
made himself in the highest degree obnoxious to the 
Protestant gentry of his neighbourhood, that he was 
more than once arrested, but released through want of 

1 A Candid, Enquiry into the * Crawford's History, ii. 318. 
late Riots in Munster (1767), p. ' Curry. 

42 IRELAND IN THE ElGHtEENtfi CENTtJ&Y. eft. 111. 

evidence, that after his release he thought it necessary 
to leave his parish and retire for a time from observa- 
tion, and that the Government considered the primd facie 
case against him sufficiently strong to offer a reward of 
300Z. for his apprehension. The proclamation promising 
this reward came under his notice, and Sheehy at once 
wrote from his concealment offering to surrender to be 
tried ' for any crime he was accused of,' on condition 
that he was not tried at Clonmel, ' where he feared the 
power and malice of his enemies were too prevalent for 
justice/ but at the King's Bench, at Dublin. The offer 
was believed to have been accepted, 1 and arter a delay of 
nearly eleven months, Sheehy was brought to trial in 
February 1766, on the charge of 'inciting to riot and 
rebellion.' The only three witnesses against him were 
persons of infamous character, and the Dublin jury dis- 
believed their very explicit testimony, and after a trial 
which lasted fourteen hours, acquitted the prisoner. 

He was not, however, allowed to leave the court, but 
was at once detained on the accusation of having insti- 
gated "W hiteboys to murder John Bridge. This man was a 
Whiteboy, who under the influence of flogging had con- 

1 The contemporary narrative depend upon his receiving and 
of Curry, which has been gener- treating you with all civility, 
ally followed, states that the offer and that you will by him be 
was positively accepted. There transmitted in the most private 
is, however, a letter in the Irish manner to Dublin with the 
Eecord Office from Mr. Waite, utmost security and safety to 
the Secretary at the Castle, to your person. I write to him for 
Sheehy (March 5, 1765), in the that purpose this night by order 
following terms : ' Sir, Tester- of the Lords Justices, and you 
day I received your letter from may be assured that upon your 
Ballyporeen with the two papers arrival here, you will meet, not 
inclosed therein, and having laid only with the justice you desire, 
the same before the Lords but with such further regard as 
Justices, their Excellencies have your candid behaviour may de- 
commanded me to acquaint you, serve.' Book of Entries, Civil 
that if you will surrender your- Petitions. 
elf to Mr. O'Callaghan you may 

CH. Itt. 


eented to turn King's evidence, had accused Sheehy and 
several others of being mixed up in the conspiracy, and 
had afterwards disappeared suddenly. His body was 
never found. It was sworn on the trial that he had ex- 
pressed his intention of flying from the country, and 
though it is probable he was murdered, the fact cannot 
be said to have been ever positively established. 1 In 
spite of the implied promise Sheehy was tried by his 
enemies at Clonmel, and the trial appears to have been 
one of the most scandalous ever known in Ireland. The 
most important witnesses were the three whose testi- 
mony had already been discredited by a Dublin jury. 
A party of horse surrounded the court and admitted or 
excluded those whom they pleased, and the intimidation 
exercised was such that the attorney of Sheehy found it 
necessary to leave Clonmel by night. The chief witness 
for Sheehy was a person named Keating, of known pro- 
perty and credit in the county, who swore in the clearest 
and most emphatic manner that Sheehy had been lodg- 
ing in his house on the night when the crime was 
supposed to have been committed, and could not possibly 
have been present. Immediately after he had given 
this evidence a clergyman who was the chief manager of 

1 O'Leary afterwards said that 
there was a report that Bridge 
had been seen in Newfoundland, 
but he is careful to add that he 
cannot vouch for this being the 
case (O'Leary's Works, p. 282) ; 
and a letter written by Sheehy to 
Major Sirr the night before the 
execution (which Madden be- 
lieves to be certainly genuine) 
confesses that Bridge had been 
murdered, and that Sheehy knew 
the fact, though probably only by 
the confessional. He protests 
very earnestly his innocence, but 

says, 'the accusers and the ac- 
cused are equally ignorant of the 
fact, as I have been informed, 
but after such a manner I re- 
ceived the information that I 
cannot make use of it for my own 
preservation ; the fact is that 
John Bridge was destroyed by 
two alone, who strangled him on 
Wednesday night, October 24, 
1764. I was then from home, 
and only returned home the 28th, 
and heard that he had disap- 
peared.' Madden's United Irish- 
man. (1st seriea, pp. 57, 58.) 


the trial rose and informed the court that Keating had 
been engaged in a Whiteboy affray in which two soldiers 
had been killed. The effect of such a proceeding at 
such a moment may be easily imagined. Keating was 
at once carried away to Kilkenny gaol. His evidence 
was utterly discredited, and several witnesses who had 
come to give evidence for the prisoner were so intimi- 
dated that they left the court. Keating was afterwards 
tried at Kilkenny, chiefly on the evidence of the same 
witnesses who gave testimony against Sheehy, and he 
was honourably acquitted, but before that time. Sheehy 
was in his grave. The unhappy priest was found guilty, 
hanged, and quartered. With his last breath on the 
scaffold he protested his absolute innocence of the charge 
for which he suffered. 

He may not have been altogether the innocent 
martyr that he has been represented, but there can be 
little doubt that his trial was infamously partial, and it 
is probable that he was wholly guiltless of the murder 
of Bridge. The circumstances of the trial, and the fact 
that Sheehy alone of the Whiteboy victims was in holy 
orders, left a deep and lasting resentment in the popular 
mind. The grave of Sheehy was honoured like that of 
a saint. A Sheehy jury became a proverbial expression 
in Ireland for scandalous partiality. Stories were col- 
lected and believed of how all the chief persons con- 
nected with the tragedy came to some unhappy end, 
and the executioner of Sheehy was, some years later, 
murdered in a fierce popular outbreak. 1 

1 The fullest contemporary Madden (United Irishman, 1st 
accounts of this case are to be series) has taken great pains to 
found in Exshaw's Magazine, collect all the extant evidence re- 
June 1776 ; in Curry's State of lating to the case. A year after 
the Catholics', and in Anlnq itiry the execution of Sheehy some 
into the Causes of the late Riots informers at Kilkenny asserted 
in Munster, published anony- that the Whiteboy movement waa 
mously by Curry in 1766. Mr. a plot for the Pretender, origi- 


While the Whiteboy disturbances were spreading 
widely among the Catholic peasantry of Munster and 
part of Leinster, other disorders, which seemed at first 
scarcely less serious, broke out among the Protestants 
of the North. The Oakboys appear to have first risen 
against the Road Act, which ordered that all highways 
should be repaired by the personal labour of the house- 
keepers. It was stated that the landed proprietors, 
who constituted the grand juries, had many roads made 
which were of little or no use to the community at 
large, and were intended for the exclusive benefit of 
their own estates, and that they threw the chief burden 
of making and repairing these roads on the poorer 
ratepayers. In addition to this grievance, the question 
of tithes had recently acquired in the North, as well as 
in the South, a new prominence. It was acknowledged 
that tithes were much lighter in the North of Ireland 
than in the South, and that the customary rate was 
considerably below the strict legal rate, but some clergy- 
men had recently endeavoured to break down the custom 
of the country. Dr. Clarke, the Eector of Armagh, 
appears to have been the first to try the experiment, 
and he discovered that it was possible by a stricter 
exaction of tithes to raise his ecclesiastical revenue from 
900Z. to 1,300Z. a year. The example was followed by 
others, and it was justified on the ground that the price 
of living had so largely increased that a curate with 407. 
a year in the beginning of the reign of George II. was 
at least as well off as a curate with 80Z. a year in the 
beginning of the reign of George III. 1 Tithes had long 

nated chiefly by the Archbishop attached the smallest credence to 

of Cashel, paid for by the French these depositions (which will be 

King and sanctioned by a Papal found in Musgrave), and none of 

Bull, and they described Sheehy the persons accused were brought 

as one of the chief accomplices. to trial. 

As I have already mentioned, ' Caldwell'a Debates (17G3- 

foowever, the Government never 1764), pp. 68, 69. 


been paid with much reluctance in Ulster, and the 
clergy had often, without any actual violence, been 
grossly defrauded of their rights. Thus it frequently 
happened that the farmers of a large and scattered 
parish, though they cut their corn at different times, 
agreed to give notice to the clergyman that they would 
all draw it on the same day ; and as they refused to 
furnish him with any horses to secure his share he was 
obliged either to leave it on the field, where it was sure 
to be wasted, spoiled, or stolen, or to compound for his 
tithes at perhaps a fourth part of the value. 1 

It was in the summer of 1763 that bodies of men, 
sometimes 400 or 500 strong, assembled to the sound of 
a horn, wearing oak boughs in their hats. They erected 
gallows, attacked houses, compelled clergymen to swear 
that they would not levy more than a specified propor- 
tion of tithe, and laymen that they would not assess the 
county at more than a stipulated rate, entered into an 
engagement to make no more high roads, and assaulted 
all whom they found working on the roads. Dr. Clarke 
was seized and carried in derision through various parts 
of the country, and many of the clergy were compelled 
to take refuge within the walls of l)erry. 2 The flame 
spread rapidly through Armagh, Tyrone, Deny, and 
Fermanagh; but no very serious crimes were com- 
mitted, and the Protestant rising of the North was 
wholly free from the atrocious cruelty which disgraced 
the Catholic insurgents of the South. It arose among 
a people who were much less wretched and much less 
ignorant. Their tithes, even at the worst, were more 

1 See the curious speech of parish near Enniskillen, was 

Andrews, M.P. for Londonderry. one of the many clergymen who 

Caldwell, pp. 78, 79. were compelled by the Oakboys 

* Caldwell, p. 82. That very to fly from their parishes. He 

excellent and able man, Philip took refuge in Dublin. Burdy'g 

Bkelton, who was rector of a Life of Skelton, pp. lx*xix, ic, 


moderate than in Minister, and the Protestants were 
not, like the Catholics, deprived of all legitimate means of 
expressing their will. The Government appear to have 
acted with great wisdom and moderation, and a letter 
of Primate Stone is preserved which is exceedingly 
honourable to that much-abused prelate, and shows his 
great desire to limit as much as possible the severities 
that were necessary. 1 Charlemont, as Governor of 
Armagh, took an active and successful part in restoring 
tranquillity in his county. The whole movement was 
suppressed with very little bloodshed, and a new and 
more equitable Road Act restored in a few months 
peace to the North. 2 

Another and more formidable, though less extensive, 
outbreak, occurred about eight years later in the 
counties of Antrim and Down, and was mainly attri- 
buted to the oppression of a single man. The Marquis 
of Donegal was one of the largest proprietors in the 
North of Ireland. He was an absentee, and when his 
leases fell in, instead of adopting the usual plan of 
renewing them at a moderate increase of rent, he deter- 
mined to raise a sum which was stated at no less than 
100,OOOZ. in fines upon his tenants, and as they were 
utterly unable to pay them, two or three rich merchants 
of Belfast were preferred to them. The improvements 
were confiscated, the land was turned into pasture, and 
the whole population of a vast district were driven from 
their homes. 3 This case, though the most flagrant, was 

1 Hardy's Charlemont, i. 190, in the Counties of Monaghan and 

191. Fermanagh (Dublin, 1763). 

- Hardy's Charlemont, i. 185- 4 Keport of Captain Erskine 

192; Crawford's Hist, of Ireland, (of Lord Drogheda's Light Dra- 

ii. 319-321 ; Arthur Young's goons, quartered at Dungannon), 

Tour ; Account of the Progress April 10, 1772. Captain Erskine 

of Charles Coote, Esq., in Pur- says : ' Should the causes of the 

tuin$ and Defeating the Oakboys present riots be looked into, it 


by no means the only one, and on several estates in the 
North, during the last ten or fifteen years, rents had 
been increased to such a point that the tenants were 
unable to pay them. They alleged that it was a frequent 
custom for landlords, when leases fell in, to ' publish in 
newspapers or otherwise that such a parcel of land is to 
be set, and that proposals in writing will be received 
for it. By this means they invite every covetous, 
envious, and malicious person to offer for his neighbour's 
possessions and improvements. The trembling tenant, 
well knowing that he must be the highest bidder or 
turn out (he knows not whither), is under an unavoid- 
able necessity of offering more than the value, because 
the doing so is become a general practice.' They com- 
plained that they were reduced to extreme poverty and 
distress by the over-setting of their lands, that some 
who refused to pay extravagant rents were ejected and 
replaced by ' Papists who will promise any rent,' that 
the county taxes had been lately increased to an intoler- 
able degree, and had been notoriously ' applied to 
private purposes,' and that ' many of the greatest land- 
lords who do these things are absentees, as are also 
many of the clergy who levy the tithes.' l 

will be found that few have had agent, that the sum Erskine 

juster foundation.' Lord Towns- stated to have been paid in fines 

hend sent this report to the (lOO.OOOZ.), was a gross exaggera- 

Government in England as the tipn, and that the fines exacted 

work of ' a very cool, dispassion- did not really amount to 20.000Z., 

ate, sensible man, without pre- but he admits that the rent of 

judices or partialities.' It is cor- arable land near Belfast was 

roborated by Wesley's Journal, raised from 2s. 6d. to 8s. an 

June 1773. See, too, Walpole's acre. Arthur Young thought that 

Last Journals, i. 75. An at- the case against Lord Donegal 

tempt to defend or palliate the was exaggerated or untrue, and 

conduct of Lord Donegal has that the main cause of the dis- 

been made in Mr. Benn's valu- tress was the depression of the 

able History of Belfast, pp. 611- linen trade. Tour in Ireland, ii. 

620. Mr. Benn states on the au- 131. 
thority of Lord Donegal's present ' Petition of the Hearts 9! 


These statements were perfectly true. 1 It is certain 
that the competition for land, aggravated by the invete- 
rate habit of subletting, had reduced a great part of 
Ulster to intolerable misery. Improvements to which 
tenants had a strong equitable claim were remorselessly 
confiscated ; and grand juries, which are now among the 
purest and most efficient branches of Irish administra- 
tion, were at that time, and in Ulster at least, exceed- 
ingly corrupt. Townshend, who was then Lord Lieu- 
tenant, described ' the very high price which gentlemen 
put upon their lands, and, of course, the great oppres- 
sion which the lower order of people labour under in 
those parts, as the probable cause of the present discon- 
tent.' ' The truth,' he says, ' is, neither the laws nor 
provincial justice are administered here as in England. 
Neither the quarter sessions nor grand juries give the 
county the same speedy relief or maintain the like 
respect as with us. The chief object of the grand juries 
is to dispose of the county cesses as best suits their 
party views and private convenience. The sums raised 
by these gentlemen throughout the kingdom do not 
amount to less than 130,OOOZ. per annum, which is levied 
upon the tenantry, the lower classes of whom are in a 
state of poverty not to be described.' 8 

Steel. Humble Remonstrance of tice of many who contribute to 

the Protestants of the Northern that oppression by proposing for 

Parts of the Kingdom of Ireland, their neighbour's possessions, by 

signed by ' A Protestant Draper.' which means they are too often 

Record Office. deprived of the improvements 

1 The Presbytery of Temple made by their forefathers and 

Patrick published at Belfast in themselves.' Lord Townshend 

January 1774 an address to their said these lines gave a true ac- 

people, urging them to desist count of the origin of the dis- 

f rom outrages ; but they at the turbances. Record Office, 

same tue 'lament the heavy 2 Townshend to Rochford, 

oppression that too many are March 18, 1772, Record Office, 

under, from the excessive price Captain Erskine says: 'It is 

of lands, and the unfriendly prac- well known that over most parts 

VOL. H. E 


The conduct of Lord Donegal brought the misery of 
the Ulster peasantry to a climax, and in a short time 
many thousands of ejected tenants, banded together 
under the name of Steelboys, were in arms. They 
were mainly, at first almost exclusively, Presbyterians. 1 
Their distress was much greater than that of the Oak- 
boys, who preceded them, and, as is usually the case, 
their violence was proportioned to their distress. They 
destroyed or maimed great numbers of cattle. They 
attacked many houses, and were guilty of many kinds 
of violence, and they soon administered illegal oaths, 
and undertook the part of general reformers. One of 
their number being confined at Belfast, a large body of 
Steelboys, accompanied by many thousands of peasants, 
who neither before nor after took any part in the 
insurrection, marched upon that town and succeeded in 
obtaining his surrender. Large bodies of soldiers were 
soon sent to the disturbed districts, and several Steel- 
boys were tried at Carrickfergus, but by the supposed 
partiality of the juries they were acquitted. The Par- 
liament then passed an Act authorising the removal of 
the trials from the disturbed counties to the city or 
county of Dublin, and some rioters were accordingly 
tried at Dublin, but the feeling against the new law was 
so strong that they were acquitted. In December 
1773, Parliament retraced its steps and repealed the 

of the county the lands are subset the country.' Ibid, 
eii deep, so that those who actu- ' In the very remarkable pe- 
ally labour it are squeezed to the tition which the Steelboys drew 
very utmost. It is equally no- up recounting their grievances, 
torious what use is made by they describe themselves as ' all 
grand juries of the powers given Protestants and Protestant dis- 
them to levy cess for making senters.' Lord Townshend, how- 
roads and bridges. Jobs upon ever, says that Papists and men 
jobs, the one more infamous than of all professions except Quakers 
another, serve to support the in- soon joined them. Townshend 
terest of some leading men in to Bochford, March 18, 1772. 


obnoxious Act. From this time the insurrection 
speedily subsided, and after some fierce conflicts with 
the soldiers many insurgents were taken, tried, and 

The complete subsidence of this formidable insur- 
rection in the North forms a remarkable contrast to the 
persistence with which the Whiteboy disturbances in 
the South continued to smoulder during many genera- 
tions. It is to be largely attributed to the great 
Protestant emigration which had long been taking 
place in Ulster. The way had been opened, and the 
ejected tenantry who formed the Steelboy bands and 
who escaped the sword and the gallows, fled by thou- 
sands to America. They were soon heard of again. In 
a few years the cloud of civil war which was already 
gathering over the colonies burst, and the ejected 
tenants of Lord Donegal formed a large part of the 
revolutionary armies which severed the New World 
from the British Crown. 1 

While these events were occurring in some of the 
counties most remote from the capital, a strong political 
life was arising in the chief centres of population, and 
beginning to show itself clearly in the debates of Par- 
liament. The growth of a middle class, the evanescence 
of the old passions of civil war, the great decline of 
religious intolerance, and the sudden rise of a free 
press, conspired to stimulate it. The political passions 
roused by the struggle of 1753 had not wholly sub- 
sided, and the dissolution which followed the accession 
of George III. introduced a new element into Irish 

It was scarcely possible, indeed, that the contagion 
of English liberty should not have spread to Ireland, 

1 Gordon, Plowden, Crawford, Belfast, Gentleman's Magazine, 
MuUaUa. Bean's History of 1772, pp. 454-461. 1773, p. 467. 

B 2 


and that its political condition should not have appeared 
intolerable to those Irishmen who derived their notions 
of freedom from the English Constitution. The Parlia- 
ment, as we have seen, lasted an entire reign, and that 
of George II. had sat for thirty-three years. About 
two-thirds of the revenue of the country, including the 
quit-rents, the hearth-money, and the greater part of 
the customs and excise, was included in the Hereditary 
Revenue which had been settled in perpetuity and was 
therefore beyond the control of Parliament. 1 Parlia- 
ment only sat every second year, and could only legis- 
late in combination with two other bodies, deliberating 
in secret, and appointed by the Crown. Heads of 
Bills arising in either House first passed to the Irish 
Privy Council, which might either suppress them alto- 
gether, or alter them as it pleased. If this body thought 
fit to throw them into the form of a Bill, it at once 
transmitted that Bill to England, where it was sub- 
mitted to the examination of a committee of the English 
Privy Council, assisted by the English Attorney- 
General, and this body, like the Irish Privy Council, 
had an unlimited power of suppressing or altering it. 
If the Bill passed through this second ordeal it was 
returned with such changes, additions and diminutions 
as the two Privy Councils had made, to the House of 
Parliament in which it took its rise, and it then passed for 
the first time to the other House. Neither House, how- 
ever, had now the power of altering it, and each House 
was therefore reduced to the alternative of rejecting it 
altogether, or accepting it in the exact form in which it 
had been returned from England. 2 The British Legis- 
lature claimed the right of binding Ireland by its acts. 
The judges only held their seats during pleasure. The 

' See vol. i. 192, 193. 

1 Bee Howard, On the Revenue of Ireland, ii. 233-235. 


right of supreme and final judicature in Irish cases had 
been taken from the Irish House of Lords and trans- 
ferred to that of England. There was no Habeas 
Corpus Act, no national militia, no Irish Mutiny Act, 
no Act obliging members of Parliament who accepted 
places or pensions under the Crown to vacate their 

Such a state of things could hardly fail in settled 
times to rouse a spirit of resistance among the Irish 
Protestants. It appeared tolerable only while the 
country was still heaving in the convulsions of civil 
war, while property was utterly insecure, and while the 
religious conflict was at its height. The grievance was 
by- no means a merely speculative one. The suppression 
by law of the most important manufactures of Ireland, 
the ruinous restrictions imposed on Irish commerce, the 
systematic appointment of Englishmen to nearly all 
the highest and most lucrative posts in the ecclesiastical, 
legal, and political establishments, the employment of 
the Irish Pension List to reward persons who had done 
no kind of service to Ireland, were all largely, if not 
entirely, due to the small power which the Irish gentry 
had in the government of their country. An active 
Press had lately arisen, and there were already several 
able men, both in Parliament and beyond its pale, who, 
following in the steps of Molyneux, aspired to make the 
Irish Parliament in Irish affairs what the English Par- 
liament was in English ones, and to secure for the Irish 
Protestants all those constitutional rights which the 
Revolution of 1688 had established in England, and of 
which the English people were so justly proud. Rigby, 
who took a leading part in Irish affairs during the 
administration of the Duke of Bedford, noticed in the 
beginning of 1760 the general unwillingness to acknow- 
ledge the dependence of the Irish on the British Legis- 
lature, and the growing, though as yet vague, discontent 


which was abroad. There was not, he thought, any 
settled plan for asserting legislative independence, ' but 
to be uneasy in their present state, and to express 
among themselves this uneasiness is the turn and 
fashion of the upper sort of the people, and is caught 
from them downwards ; ' and he found it as common 
among Protestants as among Catholics. 1 ' People of all 
ranks,' wrote the Lords Justices from Dublin, imme- 
diately after the accession of George III., ' here, as well 
as in other places, are more curious and inquisitive into 
business than they were formerly, and more prepared 
to take advantage of inaccuracies either of substance 
or form,' and they complained on the eve of the election 
that the practice of exacting new tests from the repre- 
sentatives ' has been early set on foot, and is daily 
spreading itself in all parts.' 2 ' Formerly,' wrote the 
Irish Chancellor Bowes to a prominent English poli- 
tician, ' Protestant or Papist were the key words ; they 
are now court or country, referring still to constitutional 
grievances.' ' They have considered your House as the 
model, and in general think themselves injured in the 
instances in which theii'S, upon the legal constitution, 
must differ.' 3 

The system of government by Undertakers, or, in 
other words, by a few great personages who possessed 
an extraordinary parliamentary influence, and who 
' undertook ' to carry the Bang's business through Par- 
liament on condition of obtaining a large share of the 
disposal of patronage, still continued. Lord Shannon 
and Primate Stone were now cordially united, and being 
steadily supported by Ponsonby, the Speaker of the 

Bedford Correspondence, ii. Hamilton's Works, pp. 114, 130. 

x. * Bowes to Dodington. Adol- 

Representation of the Lords phus' History of England, L 

Justices (Stone, Shannon, and 692. 
Ponsonby), reprinted in Gerald 


House of Commons, and usually by Lord Kildare, they 
had acquired a complete ascendency in the Irish Parlia- 
ment and Privy Council. The influence of Lord Shannon 
had been greatly increased by the conflict of 1753, for, 
though he had been driven from power by the Duke of 
Dorset, he regained in the succeeding Viceroyalty all 
that he had lost, and the Government purchased his 
assistance by an earldom and a large pension. There 
was a general conviction that, though he might be for a 
time disgraced, every Administration would be eventu- 
ally obliged to resort to his assistance, and the fidelity 
to his friends, 1 which was the best point in his character, 
secured him a large and steady following. In conjunc- 
tion with Stone and Ponsonby, he was Lord Justice at 
the accession of George III. 

The power of the Undertakers was largely, though 
not exclusively, due to the fact that the Lord Lieutenant 
only resided in the country for six months in two years, 
while Parliament was sitting, and that the chief efficient 
power had passed in consequence to the Lords Justices, 
who governed in his absence. In England the royal 
influence was supposed to be most strong at the time 
when Parliament was in vacation. In Ireland it was 
noticed that it was precisely at this period that aristo- 
cratic influence attained its height, for in the absence 
of the Lord Lieutenant the administration of affairs was 
wholly in the hands of a few great men who were 
virtually the leaders of the House of Commons. 2 At 
the same time the power of the Undertakers was less 
absolute than has been imagined, and it is, I think, a 
complete misconception to regard them as a peculiar 
product of Irish politics. The great Irish families only 
reproduced on a smaller scale the political ascendency 

1 Barrow's Life and Writings * Knox's Semi-Official Papers, 
of Lord Macartney, ii. 129. Appendix No. 1. 


which the Pelhams and a few other families had obtained 
in England during the comparative eclipse of the royal 
authority which followed the accession of the House of 
Hanover. Even the term 'Undertakers' was sometimes 
employed in England to designate the great Whig 
families, 1 and the position of Lord Shannon in the one 
country was not very unlike that of Newcastle in the 
other. In each country family relationships and connec- 
tions, the acquisition of much borough influence, and a 
considerable dexterity in party management, had enabled 
a few men to make themselves the necessary channel of the 
favours of the Crown. In each case this oligarchical con- 
nection was unpopular with the people on account of its 
narrowness and corruption, while it became a great object 
of the Crown to dissolve it as one of the chief limitations 
of royal power. In each case the oligarchical leaders 
were thrown into temporary alliance with the people, 
and in each case more corruption was employed to over- 
turn their ascendency than had ever been required to 
maintain it. 

It is of course true that the distinctive evils of the 
Undertakers were greater in Ireland than they had ever 
been in England. In a Parliament in which at least 
two-thirds of the seats consisted of small boroughs at 
the disposal of a very few individuals ; in a country in 
which the great majority of the population were abso- 
lutely excluded from political privileges, there was 
necessarily a concentration of political power, and an 
absence of political control that had never, in the wor?fe 
times, been equalled in England. Yet at the same 
time the government by Undertakers was by no means 
without its advantages, and the period in which it 
flourished is very far from being the worst in Irish 
history. In a country situated like Ireland, it was no 

1 See Hist, of England, iii. 179, 181, 


small matter that two out of the three Lord Justices 
who usually governed should be Irishmen, and should 
be able to fill a large proportion of the subordinate 
places of power and profit with followers who were at 
least natives of the soil. The formation of a connected 
influence in the Irish Parliament binding many isolated 
and individual interests into a coherent and powerful 
organisation, was a real step towards parliamentary 
government, and it was probably very conducive to the 
good relations between the two countries that there 
should be something between the purely Irish party who 
wished to overthrow all English parliamentary ascen- 
dency, and the English ministers who only cared for 
English party interests and for English public opinion. 
The government by Undertakers was government by an 
extremely small oligarchy, but it was at least a govern- 
ment by resident Irish gentlemen who possessed that first 
requisite of successful administration a thorough know- 
ledge of the very peculiar condition of their country and of 
the very peculiar character of its people. A purely aristo- 
cratic government has many faults, but it at least saves 
a nation from the two greatest calamities that can befall 
it from government by fanatics and experimentalists, 
and from government by gamblers and adventurers. 
Ireland under the Undertakers enjoyed many years of 
almost uninterrupted peace. The whole military estab- 
lishment was only 12,000 men, and there was then no 
semi-military constabulary force to assist it. Yet in 
every period of war or threatened war it was found pos- 
sible to withdraw a great portion of the army from 
Ireland for the general defence of the Empire. However 
the fact may be explained, it is evident that there was 
no serious or general disaffection. There was no doubt 
much corruption, but it is not clear that there was more 
than in England ; and when it is remembered that 
members of Parliament held their seats for a whole reign, 


and were therefore practically uncontrolled by their 
constituents, it appears to me somewhat surprising that 
it was not even greater. It is, at all events, certain that 
the great period of political corruption in Ireland was 
not the period of the Undertakers but that which imme- 
diately followed their overthrow. 

The chief reproach that was directed against the 
Irish Parliament of this time was its excessive expendi- 
ture in public works, such as inland navigation, collieries, 
bounties to manufactures, and the frequency with which 
these grants were due to private and often corrupt 
motives. This profusion was partly owing to the failure 
of the Parliament of 1 753, to assert its authority over 
the surplus which had accumulated, which made suc- 
ceeding Parliaments determine that no such surplus 
should again accrue. 1 It was stated in the Irish Parlia- 
ment that in the two Sessions before 1753, 400Z. in each 
session was thought a sufficient bounty for public works, 
but that in the succeeding ten years not less than 
400,00(H. had been voted for such purposes. 2 During 
the four succeeding years the grants continued to in- 
crease. There was also, it is said, a strong desire so to 
burden the hereditary revenue, that it should never 
again be sufficient to enable the Sovereign to govern 
without the assistance of Parliament. This end was 
effectually attained by the practice of voting bounties or 
other charges without imposing any specific taxes for 
paying them, thus throwing them upon the revenue at 
large. The most flagrant instance of this procedure was 
the very strange tillage law which was carried under the 
Duke of Bedford, granting in perpetuity a bounty for 
the carriage of corn to Dublin. Its principle was to 
bring the Dublin market to the farmer's door by paying 

1 See Lord Clare's Speech on 7 Caldwell's Debates, p. 377. 
the Union, p. 28. 


the carriage at tlie public expense, and in a few years 
the bounty amounted to no less than 50,OOOL a year. 
The conduct of Bedford in advising the Government of 
George II. to assent to the imposition of this heavy and 
perpetual burden upon the hereditary revenue, was re- 
garded in the succeeding reign as the worst instance in 
Irish history of the surrender of the power and influence 
of the Crown. 1 The numerous minor and casual Acts, 
giving assistance from public funds to canals, bridges, 
mills, piers, or other public works, appear, according to 
much concurrent testimony, to have caused a great deal 
of political corruption. Political partisans were greatly 
favoured ; sometimes the grants were not even applied 
to the purposes for which they were designated, and it 
was partly by such subsidies that the Undertakers kept 
their party together. 2 At the same time, it is an un- 
questionable fact that the expenditure of the Irish 
Government was much more moderate, and the state of 
the finances much more satisfactory under the Under- 
takers than in the period that immediately followed. 
At the beginning of the last war Ireland had no foreign 
debt, and no new duties had been imposed upon the 

1 Barrow's Life and Writings part seems to have been expended 
of Lord Macartney, ii. 138, 139. on inland navigation, and the 
Gordon's History of Ireland, ii. grants do not appear on the face 
235. of them either excessive or mis- 

2 See Lord Clare's Speech on applied. At one time special 
the Union, p. 28. Knox's Extra grants were given to particular 
Official Papers, Bedford's Cor- manufacturers, and this, as might 
respondence, iii. 322, and the ab- be expected, gave rise to great 
stracts of the letters of Sir J. jobbing ; but the House of Com- 
Caldwell in the Lansdowne mons, in 1763, resolved that no 
Papers, British Museum, Add. more such grants should be given, 
MSS. 24, 137. A detailed re- though a sum of 8,OOOZ. or 10,0002. 
port of the sums voted for public was usually voted to the Dublin 
works from 1751 to 1767 will be Society to be expended in pro- 
found in the Commons' Journals, miums. See Caldwell's Debates, 
v. 640-552. Much the greater pp. 303-307, 437-442, 521. 


kingdom in the whole period between 1727 and 
1763. 1 

Immediately after the accession of George III. an 
angry controversy broke out between the Irish Lords 
Justices and Privy Council on the one side, and the 
English Privy Council on the other, about the propriety 
of sending a Money Bill to England as a reason for call- 
ing the new Parliament. In order to explain the nature 
of this question it will be necessary to recapitulate very 
shortly a few facts in the earlier constitutional history of 

The dependence of the Irish Parliament rested chiefly 
on the well-known Act of Henry VII., called Poynings' 
Law, which was enacted by a Parliament summoned at 
Drogheda in 1495 by the English deputy, Sir Edward 
Poynings, for the purpose of restraining the Yorkist 
tendencies of the Anglo-Irish colonists. One portion of 
this famous Act made those laws, which previous to this 
date had been enacted in England, binding in Ireland. 
The other, with which we are now especially concerned, 
provided that all the ' causes and considerations' for calling 
a Parliament in Ireland, and all the Bills which were to be 
brought forward during its Session, must be previously 
certified to the Xing by the chief Governor and Council 
of Ireland, and affirmed by the King and his Council 
under the Great Seal of England, and that any proceed- 
ings of an Irish Parliament which had not been so certi- 
fied and affirmed before that Parliament was assembled, 
should be null and void. By an Act of Philip and Mary 
this arrangement was slightly modified, for the Irish 
Privy Council was empowered to send over proposed 
Bills for the approbation of the English Privy Council at a 
time when the Irish Parliament was actually in session. 

1 CaldwelTa Debates, p. 537. 330. Barrow's Life and Writingi 
Crawford's History of Ireland, ii. of Lord Macartney, ii. 127. 


In this manner the Irish Parliament was absolutely 
precluded from originating any legislative measures, 
and its sole power was that of accepting or rejecting 
such measures as were laid before it under the sanction 
of the Great Seal of England. Gradually, however, and 
rather by custom than by express enactment, the power 
of legislative initiative was restored to it. Under 
Charles 1. the Irish Houses of Parliament took upon 
them to be ' humble remembrancers ' to the Irish Privy 
Council of what Bills it was proper to certify to Eng- 
land. This proceeding appears to have at first taken 
the form of an address to the Lord Lieutenant and 
Council containing a general proposition for a Bill, but 
soon the custom began of either House framing, not, 
indeed, Bills, wKich would be contrary to Poynings' Act, 
but ' heads of Bills,' which passed from it to the Irish 
Privy Council, and thence, if approved of, to England. 
These heads of Bills precisely resembled Acts of Parlia- 
ment except that they began with the formulary ' We 
pray that it may be enacted,' instead of the formulary 
' Be it enacted.' The origination of Bills in the Privy 
Council became rarer and rarer, and it at last wholly 
ceased, except in the single case of the summoning of a 
new Parliament. In accordance with Poynings' Act, 
two or more Bills were then sent over to England as a 
cause for summoning a new Parliament, and it was custo- 
mary that one of these Bills should be a Bill of Supply. 1 

The right of the Privy Council to originate on this 
occasion ordinary Bills was generally acquiesced in, but 
the Bill of Supply was looked upon with extreme 
jealousy, and was sometimes angrily rejected by Parlia- 
ment. The distinction made in Ireland between Supply 
Bills and other Bills was the same as that which was subse- 

1 See Plain Reasons for Be- History of the Irish Parliament, 
modelling Poynings' Law, Dub- i. 48-59, ii. 142. Howard on the 
lin, 1780. Lord Mountmorres' Irish Revenue, ii. 233-236. 


quently made in America and in the speeches of Chatham. 
A Money Bill, it was said, is by the theory of the Con- 
stitution a free grant made by the Commons to the 
Sovereign, and it is therefore plainly unconstitutional 
that it should take its rise in a body which is neither 
virtually nor professedly representative. On the acces- 
sion of George III. the Lords Justices, speaking in their 
own name and in that of the Irish Privy Council, con- 
tended, in an able and elaborate representation, that this 
custom of sending over a Money Bill as a cause for sum- 
moning a Parliament was inexpedient and ought to be 
abandoned. They stated that such a Bill would be 
surely rejected in Parliament, and that in the existing 
condition of men's minds it would create a ferment at 
the beginning of the new reign which would speedily be 
diffused through the whole kingdom. Anthony Malone, 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, strenuously supported 
this view ; but the great influence of Lord Kildare was 
thrown into the opposite scale. The English Privy 
Council refused to depart from the former precedents, 
and the Irish Lords Justices at once asked to be relieved 
of their functions. It is remarkable that Pitt in this 
contest separated from his colleagues, and defended the 
Irish Commons. 1 

After considerable discussion, the Lords Justices 
consented to certify and to support the Bill, and it was 
carried without difficulty through Parliament. The 
Government marked their victory by dismissing Malone 
from the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, and by be- 
stowing a marquisate on the Earl of Kildare, who five 
years later attained the still higher rank of Duke of 
Leinster. 2 

The election which took place on the accession of 

1 Walpole's George III. i. 31. row's Life and Writings of Lord 
* Hamilton's Works, pp. 105- Macartney, ii. 141. 
160; Adolphus.i. 161,162; Bar- 

en. lit. IRlSfl PUBLIC OPINION 1760-1764. 63 

George III. excited an interest that had been for many 
generations unequalled in Ireland. The long period 
which had elapsed since a new Parliament had assembled, 
and the great changes that during that period had taken 
place in the social and political condition of the country, 
gave it an extraordinary significance. There were public 
meetings, resolutions of corporate bodies, and, above all, 
stringent tests imposed upon candidates. The Irish 
people were, as a whole, undoubtedly greatly inferior to 
the English in political knowledge and capacity ; but 
this inferiority hardly extended to the open constitu- 
encies, for the electors were drawn from a small as- 
cendant caste who formed a kind of aristocracy in the 
nation. Ireland^ which was already represented in the 
English Parliament by Barre, and a very few years later 
by Burke, had reserved for her own Parliament no small 
amount of political ability. Sir J. Caldwell, who was 
one of the most intelligent members of the first Irish 
Parliament of George III., was so struck with the high 
character of the debates, that he published reports of 
those which took place in 1763 and 1764, which appear 
to me in debating power and solid good sense to com- 
pare not at all unfavourably with the English parlia- 
mentary debates of the same period. 1 A study of the 
ephemeral political literature will, I think, confirm this 
impression of the large amount of political ability exist- 
ing in the country. The ' Querist ' of Berkeley, inde- 
pendently of its great intrinsic merits, had been ex- 
tremely useful in Ireland as a model of political discus- 
sion. It made it the fashion to condense the essential 
arguments in politics into the simplest, shortest, and 

1 Debates relating to the Af- Caldwell also reported some de- 

fairs of Ireland in 1763 to 1764, bates in the English Parliament 

by a Military Officer. See on in 1762, which are printed in the 

Caldwell, Almon's Biographical Cavendish Debates, i. 561-575. 
Anecdotes, i. 120-181. Sir James 


most unrhetorical form. It was imitated by many 
writers, and several of the political pamphlets of the first 
twenty years of George III. are models of weighty and 
luminous discussion. Unfortunately, the letters of 
Junius introduced a new fashion, and the terse and 
simple style of Berkeley and Swift was too commonly 
exchanged for the sonorous generalities, the laboured 
declamations, the unmeasured invective of ' Baritariana.' 
The Parliament was, of course, mainly a Parliament 
of landlords, and the immense multiplication of nomina- 
tion boroughs had placed the controlling power in a 
few hands. Property was largely, perhaps extrava- 
gantly, represented ; l but the debating power of the 
Irish House of Commons was chiefly due to the very 
unusual number of lawyers who sat in it. 8 Anthony 
Malone, who had long been the foremost man in the 
profession, was now in the decline of life, and although 
his quarrel with the Government was soon terminated, 
he does not appear to have taken a very conspicuous 
part under George III. The foremost place in the 

1 I cannot, however, believe and learned body of the long robe 

the statement made by the Chan- than any man now living can 

cellor Bowes in a letter to Dod- remember ; nay, more than ap- 

ington. ' Probably their repre- pears in any journals or any his- 

Bentatives [those of Ireland] in tory extant in this or any other 

Parliament have been possessed kingdom upon earth ; and several 

of more property than yours in of them of superior abilities, great 

Great Britain, in proportion to eminence in their profession, and 

numbers, without taking in the of noted honour and integrity.' 

disproportion of wealth in the Queries relative to the Defects and 

two kingdoms.' This is of a Grievances in the Laws of Ireland 

piece with his other extraordinary (Dublin, 1761), p. 30. In a pam- 

assertion, that since the Hanover phlet published during the next 

succession ' Ireland has been the Parliament, it was said that there 

most flourishing state in Europe 1 ' were then more than eighty law- 

Adolphus, i. 592. yers in the Irish House of Com- 

* ' We have in the House of mons. Present State of Ireland 

Commons of this our new Parlia- (London, 1780), p. 121. 
ment more of that considerable 




Government ranks was conceded to Hely Hutchinson, 
the Prime Sergeant, an inveterate place-hunter, but a 
man of brilliant and versatile ability, and at the same 
time of great political tact and moderation. In spite of 
his general support of the Government he voted for 
many of the popular measures, such as free trade, the 
claim of right, the abrogation of a large part of the penal 
laws, and the reform of Parliament, and his influence on 
other questions appears to have been usually employed 
to moderate and assuage. 1 He is one of the very earliest 
politicians in the three kingdoms who show clear traces 
of the influence of Adam Smith, and he wrote a work 
on the commercial disabilities of Ireland, which is one 
of the best specimens of political literature produced in 
Ireland in the latter half of the eighteenth century. 2 He 

1 Gerard Hamilton, who long 
co-operated with Hutchinson, 
said of him that ' Ireland never 
bred a more able, nor any country 
a more honest man ' (Grenville 
Papers, iv. 110). Townshend con- 
sidered him ' by far the most 
powerful man in Parliament, of 
great abilities to conduct a de- 
bate,' and added that he ' holds 
but little that is dependent upon 
Government, has great profits 
from his profession, and is most 
essential to Government.' 
Townshend to Shelburne, De- 
cember 12, 1767. (Kecord Office.) 
Harcourt described him as ' a 
man of an excellent private cha- 
racter ... of first-rate abilities, 
great knowledge, learning, and 
experience ' (Harcourt to Koch- 
ford, June 19, 1774). He is, how- 
ever .better remembered by the wit- 
ticism of North, that ' if you were 
to give him the whole of Great 
Britain and Ireland for an estate, 

he would ask the Isle of Man for 
a potato garden,' and Fox de- 
scribed him, with some exaggera- 
tion, as one of Ireland's 'most 
eminent jobbers, who after having 
obtained the Prime Serjeantcy, 
the Secretaryship of State, and 
twenty other great places, insisted 
upon the Lord Lieutenant's add- 
ing a major's half -pay to the rest 
of his emoluments.' Grattan's 
Life, iii. p. 112. Barr< also 
formed a very unfavourable esti 
mate of him. Fitzmaurice's Life 
of Shelburne, ii. 113, 114. 

* The Wealth of Nations ia 
quoted, and some of its principles 
are adopted both in the Commer- 
cial Restraints of Ireland, pub- 
lished in 1779, and in a very re- 
markable memorandum on the 
state of Ireland sent to the Go- 
vernment by Hely Hutchinson in 
the June of the same year, which 
is in MS. in the Becord Office. 
The Wealth of Nations was only 


is said to have greatly raised the standard of debate, and 
to have been a master of polished sarcasm ; but he was 
not a consistent and certainly not a disinterested politi- 
cian. In general, however, the lawyers were exceed- 
ingly independent of the Government. The profession 
was at this time unusually nourishing in Ireland. The 
incomes made at the bar were, perhaps absolutely, cer- 
tainly relatively to the cost of living, much greater than 
at present. 1 The most conspicuous barristers nearly 
always found their way into Parliament, and their 
presence was particularly valuable on account of the 
great prominence which questions of constitutional law 
speedily attained. With the exception of the Chief 
Justiceship of the King's Bench, which was so inade- 
quately remunerated that it was scarcely an object to a 
great lawyer, the highest posts in the law were mono- 
polised by Englishmen, and this fact was not without 
its influence upon the politics of the Irish Bar. 2 Henry 

published in 1776. It is said first countries,' Shelburne said, ' the 

to have been mentioned in the people are litigious, but in Ireland 

British Parliament in 1783. See the several laws of settlement and 

a curious note on the growing in- the Popery laws have left the 

fluence of Adam Smith in Buckle's country scarcely a habit of any- 

History of Civilisation, i. 195. thing else, and law is in all re- 

1 Malone, at a very early period spects more expensive, more 

of his career at the Bar, attained confused, and more prolific in 

a professional income of 3,000 Ireland than in England.' Fitz- 

guineas a year (Grattan's Life, i. maurice's Life of Shelburne, ii. 

62), and a generation later Fitz- 375. 

gibbon, in five and a half years, 2 The salary of Chief Justice 
made36,939Z. (O'Flanagan'sZ/ircs of the King's Bench in Ireland, 
of the Irish Chancellors, ii. 162). Townshend said, was at least 
Harcourt in a letter written to 5001. or 6002, a year lower than 
Rochf ord in 1774 states that Hely that of the Chief Justice of Corn- 
Hut chin son had been making at mon Pleas, ' for which reason, 
the Bar between 4.000Z. and 5,0002. though it [the former] is usually 
a year (Harcourt Papers, ix. 199). given to a gentleman of this 
I have been told that in the last country, it seldom becomes an 
thirty years very few men at the object for any person high in 
Irish Bar have made more than business to look up to, which, 
3,0001. per annum. ' In all poor considering that the lawyers of 


Flood, the son of a Chief Justice of the King's Bench, 
and a gentleman of large fortune and considerable political 
connection, was the most popular and powerful speaker 
of the small party known as patriots, and he was very 
ably seconded by Sir William Osborne, a country gentle- 
man, whose excellent conduct towards his tenants has 
been commemorated by Arthur Young. Lucas had re- 
turned to Ireland after his long exile on a noli prosequi, 
and sat for Dublin ; but he had no parliamentary ability 
or success. Gerard Hamilton, so well known in Eng- 
land as Single-Speech Hamilton, was Secretary to Lord 
Halifax and to Lord Northumberland, the first two 
Viceroys of George III., and his eloquence, which on 
one memorable occasion had electrified the English 
House of Commons, was more than once heard with 
extraordinary effect in the Irish Parliament. 

The first seven years, however, of the reign of 
* George III. were singularly uneventful in Ireland. The 
Undertakers still co-operated cordially with the Castle, 
and public affairs under Halifax, Northumberland, Hert- 
ford, and Bristol moved on very smoothly. During the 
Viceroyalty of Halifax the Spanish declaration of war 
placed England in enmity with the two branches of the 
House of Bourbon, and her resources seemed strained to 
the utmost limits of endurance. She had already one 
army in Germany and another in America. At least 
20,000 English troops were protecting her dominions in 
the East and West Indies, in Africa, and in Gibraltar, 
and 5,000 men were stationed at Belleisle. Her fleet, 
besides the protection of her own coast and of her in- 

eminence here are always in than 1,4001. per annum.' De- 
Parliament, may often become cember 20, 1767. Townshend to 
troublesome, if not prejudicial, Shelburne, Eecord Office. The 
to his Majesty's affairs. ... I salaries of the judges were, as we 
have great reason to believe this shall see, afterwards raised, 
office is not at present worth more 

T 2 


numerable merchant vessels, was scattered over the East 
and West Indies and in the Mediterranean, and she was 
at war with two great Roman Catholic powers, in whose 
armies thousands of Irishmen had served during the last 
eighty years. Had there been any serious disloyalty in 
the country such circumstances could hardly have failed 
to elicit it ; but absolutely no sign of disloyalty was 
shown, and Ireland to the utmost of her small abilities 
supported England in the struggle. The Irish Parliament 
at once voted a war credit of 500,000?., and augmented 
the establishment by five battalions. Gerard Hamilton 
described it as c the most willing House of Commons 
that ever sat.' * Halifax, in a private letter, said that he 
had found 'the happiest and most perfect unanimity which 
has ever been known in this Parliament,' 2 and not the 
smallest disposition to embarrass the Government in 
this moment of difficulty and danger was shown in any 
quarter in Ireland. The Whiteboy movement disturbed 
Munster and part of Leinster, but it was entirely un- 
connected with political disaffection. The Irish Protes- 
tants had long contributed much more than their natural 
share to the British army, and the great Irish proprietors 
appear to have shown much activity in embodying their 
tenantry. The Earl of Drogheda, at an early stage of 
the war, had raised a regiment of light dragoons solely 
by his own exertions, chiefly at his own expense ; and 
several other gentlemen were afterwards commissioned 
to raise regiments. 3 

1 Hamilton's Works, p. 167. answering for the humours of in- 

2 Halifax to Pgremont, April dividuals, especially as the de- 
17, 1762. On February 12, 1762, mand came in addition to large 
he wrote to Egremont : ' The supplies granted before, was more 
vote of confidence for 200,0002. than I could expect.' Record 
passed the House of Commons Office. 

yesterday, without a negative or 3 Chatham Correspondence, ii. 
a single word of objection or ob- 60, 61. 
serration, which, as there was no 


The Catholics showed every disposition to co-operate 
with the Protestants. They had already come forward to 
attest their loyalty in 1759 ; and in February 1762 Lord 
Trimleston presented to Lord Halifax an address signed 
by all the leading Eoman Catholics, asking permission to 
enrol their people for the service of the Crown. He urged, 
said Lord Halifax, that ' all impressions in favour of the 
Stuart family were worn out with the gentlemen of con- 
sequence and fortune in this country.' He appealed to 
the conduct of the Catholics in Ireland during the last 
war; challenged the Lord Lieutenant to produce a 
single instance from secret intelligence or from the cap- 
tured correspondence of Murray, the young Pretender's 
Secretary, impeaching their fidelity ; t expressed his ear- 
nest wish that if they were not allowed to serve George 
IH. as King of England, they might at least serve him 
as Elector of Hanover, or in any other way he should 
direct ; and predicted that the formation of Catholic 
regiments would win back many Irishmen who, through 
the impossibility of finding any other career, had reluc- 
tantly enrolled themselves under the French flag. 1 The 
Government feared to change the law which prevented 
Roman Catholics from serving as officers in the British 
army; but they introduced and cordially supported a 
proposition for enrolling seven Irish Catholic regiments 
to serve in the allied army of Portugal. 

Political difficulties and the approach of peace defeated 
this scheme, but no sign or evidence of Catholic disloyalty 
interfered with it. The Catholic bishops, immediately 
after the declaration of war by Spain, issued an address 
calling upon their co-religionists to join everywhere in the 
public day of prayer for the success of the King's arms. 2 
The popularity of Pitt was hardly less in Ireland than 

1 Halifax to Egremont, February 1762. Eecord Office, 


in England. On his retirement from office the mer- 
chants and traders of Dublin presented to him an 
address expressing their enthusiastic admiration for his 
career. The citizens of Cork erected a marble statue of 
him in 1764 in their Exchange, and it was a complaint 
of the Government that in the first Address of the 
Commons on the Peace nothing was said in eulogy of 
its terms. 1 

There were, however, certain questions brought for- 
ward at this time in the Parliament which had a more 
purely Irish interest. The objects of the National party 
were simply to obtain for the Irish Protestants the laws 
which were regarded by Englishmen as the most essen- 
tial guarantees of their liberty. The immovability of the 
judges and a Habeas Corpus Bill were frequently brought 
in ; but the two measures on which their efforts were 
now mainly concentrated, were the restriction of pen- 
sions and the limitation of the duration of Parliament. 

The grievance of the Pension List had been rapidly 
becoming insupportable ; for, though none of the pen- 
sions granted under George III. were as scandalous as 
several which had been granted in former reigns, the 
aggregate amount was steadily and rapidly increasing. 
During the greater part of the reign of George II. it 
had been nearly stationary, and on the succession of the 
Duke of Devonshire to the Viceroyalty in April 1755, 
the pension list, exclusive of the French pensions and 
the military pensions, amounted to 38,003Z., but from 
this time it rapidly rose. On the accession of Bedford, 
in January 1757, it was 51,583Z. ; on the accession of 
Halifax, in April 1761, it was 64,127Z. In the two 
years of this administration it rose to 70,752Z., and 
when Lord Townshend assumed the reins of power in 

1 London Chronicle, May 8-10, Government Correspondence in 
1764. Plowden's Historical Re- the Becord Office. 
view, i. 848-352. gee, too, the 

Cfl. in. THE PENSION LIST. 71 

August 1767, it had increased to 86,74<1L 1 In 1753 
the law imposing a tax of 4s. in the pound upon places 
and pensions held by absentees had been suffered to 
drop, for it was found that the clause enabling the Sove- 
reign to grant exemptions rendered it wholly nugatory. 
The tax produced scarcely anything, and the exemption 
was always granted in the worst cases. The war had 
left Ireland with a debt of more than half a million, 
and her resources were so scanty that she staggered 
under the weight. With no foreign trade, with a people 
sunk in extreme poverty, with a permanent military 
establishment far larger in proportion to her population 
than that of Engjand, at a time when her finances were 
greatly disordered, and when it might be supposed that 
her exertions might have entitled her to some considera- 
tion, Ireland found herself burdened with this vast in- 
crease of pensions, the greater part of them intended 
either to reward services which were not Irish or 
to increase the influence of the Crown. In 1757, 
when the pension list was comparatively moderate, 
the House of Commons passed resolutions denouncing 
the increase of pensions as alarming; and it compelled 
the Duke of Bedford, by a threat of withholding sup- 
plies, to transmit its resolutions to the King. In 1763, 
shortly after Lord Northumberland had come over, 
and at a time when the pension list had risen to 
72,OOOZ., which was 42,OOOZ. more than the whole 
Civil List, the subject was taken up with great ability 
by John Fitzgibbon, the father of the well-known Lord 
Clare. The House agreed that the pensions charged on 
the Civil List were an intolerable grievance, and it 
resolved itself into a committee to investigate the sub- 
ject, but the Government succeeded in defeating the 

1 Miscellaneous State Papers, on Pensions). See, too, Grenville 
Irish State Paper Office (Eeport Papers, iv. 218. 


project of an address to the King. In the course of the 
debates of this year Mr. Pery revealed to the House the 
remarkable fact that under a false name an Irish pension 
of 1,OOOZ. a year had been granted to Count de Viri, 
the Sardinian ambassador, who took a prominent part 
in negotiating the Peace of Paris. 1 In 1765, as the 
pension list was still increasing, a new but abortive at- 
tempt was made to procure an address to the King. 2 

The grievance was particularly grave, because the 
greater part of these pensions appear to have been posi- 
tively illegal. They were granted by the King upon the 
revenue at large; but it was admitted that the tem- 
porary portion of that revenue being voted for specific 
purposes could not be legally diverted to pensions. 
There remained then the hereditary revenue, and the 
King claimed, and, by long prescription, was allowed to 
treat it as private, alienable property. How little 
foundation there was for this claim was easily shown by 
an examination of the constituent parts of the hereditary 
revenue. The Excise had been granted in perpetuity 
' for pay of the army and defraying other public charges 
in defence and preservation of this kingdom.' The Act 
granting tonnage and additional poundage, granted it 
for ' protecting the trade of this kingdom at sea, and 
augmenting the public revenue.' The hearth-money 
v>as described as ' public revenue for public charges and 
expenses.' The Act granting the revenue of all licences 
contained a clause restraining the Crown from charging 
it with pensions. The quit rents, and the Crown rents 
granted by the English Act, 11 & 12 William III., were 
subject to the same restriction, and the sole revenue in 
Ireland which was left by law at the absolute disposal 

1 Caldwell's Debates, pp. 474, * Plowden's Historical Review, 
475. Plowden's Historical R- L 373. 
view, i. 856-360. 


of the Crown, did not amount to 15,OOOL, probably not 
to 7,OOOZ. per annum. 1 

The National party was at this time unable to put 
any effectual stop to this great evil; but, in 1763, the 
Government of Lord Northumberland gave a distinct 
assurance that the King would not grant any more 
pensions for lives or years upon the establishment 
'except on extraordinary occasions.' 2 The King ap- 
pears to have had a real wish to restrict the pension 
list, 3 but under the system of government which was 
established it was not easy to do so, and in spite of all 
pledges it continued to increase. 

The other, subject which occupied a foremost place 
in popular politics was the limitation of the duration 
of Parliament. This question, with which Lucas had 
especially identified himself, and which was powerfully 
supported by the eloquence of Flood, was one of the 
very few that profoundly agitated the whole Protestant 
community of Ireland, and a large proportion of the 
members of the first Parliament of George III. were 
bound by the most stringent pledges to do their utmost 
to carry it. It was brought forward on the very first 
day on which the new Parliament sat, and heads of a 
Bill for septennial Parliaments were repeatedly carried 
through the Commons. There were, however, many 
different motives and influences at work, and a very 
large amount of insincerity was displayed. It was 
noticed with indignation in the country that, though the 
House of Commons in 1761 voted the heads of the Bill, 
it refused to present it in a body to the Lord Lieutenant 

1 Alexander McAulay's En- by the Government in England 
quiry into the Legality of Pen- to be too strong and explicit. 
sions on the Irish Establishment Halifax to Northumberland, Oc- 
(London, 1763). Caldwell's De- tober 27, 1763. Eecord Office. 
bates, pp. 206-220. 3 See Grenville Papers, ii. 

2 Caldwell's Debates, pp. 494- 146, 147, 513. 
496. The declaration was thought 


and to request him to recommend it to his Majesty. 
The majority of the members in their hearts detested a 
measure which would increase their dependence on their 
constituents and expose them to the risk and expense 
of frequent elections. Some, who were less purely sel- 
fish, dreaded the effects of such elections in promoting 
idleness and disorder. The Undertakers feared that an 
increase of the popular element in Parliament would be 
fatal to their power; and the Government, both in 
England and Ireland, were afraid that it would even- 
tually lead to a complete revision of the Constitution. 
On the other hand, it was impossible to mistake the 
earnestness of the constituencies, and the pressure they 
placed upon their representatives was such as had never 
before been known in Ireland, and had not often been 
known in England. In all parts of thecountry resolutions, 
addresses, and petitions in favour of septennial Parlia- 
ments were adopted at county meetings. Instructions of 
the most peremptory kind were sent up to the members. 
They were continually reminded of their election pledges, 
and every sign of languor was jealously watched. 

The Undertakers, in spite of their boasted strength, 
could neither oppose nor divert the stream. Members 
of Parliament were not prepared to meet the storm 
of obloquy which assailed those who voted against 
the Bill, and they were extremely glad to transfer the 
unpopularity of rejecting it to the Irish Privy Council 
or to England. 1 The Irish Privy Council detested the 
Bill, but it passed it, trusting that the English Council 
would take upon itself the odium of the rejection. The 

1 Halifax to Egremont, De- law would be to the full as un- 

cember 8, December 11, Decem- acceptable to those who have 

ber 23, 1761, February 12, 1762. promoted it in the House of 

Eecord Office. ' From the best Commons as to those who have 

judgment I can form,' he wrote, opposed it.' 
'the passing of this Bill into a 

til. tit. f HE LlMiTATTOtf Of PARLlAMENt. 75 

confidential letters of Halifax give a curious picture of 
the dread with which the measure was regarded by 
many of its ostensible supporters. At one time they 
united it with a property qualification for Members of 
Parliament copied from that which was in force in 
England, hoping that by this addition ' the Bill might 
be rendered less acceptable to the other branches of the 
Legislature.' At another, they artfully diffused a sus- 
picion that a Septennial Act would be the precursor of 
a legislative union. Halifax himself, in his confidential 
despatches, was strongly opposed to short Parliaments, 
but in public he professed his neutrality. Members who 
were avowedly connected with the Castle supported the 
Bill; and the English Secretary of State, Lord Egremont, 
fully approved of the conduct of the Lord Lieutenant in 
not discrediting his Government by ineffectual opposition. 1 
Under Lord Northumberland the same double 
policy continued. He was in reality completely hostile 
to the Bill, but he said that even some of the ser- 
vants of the Crown would vote for it. 2 The House 
of Commons, no longer content with passing the 
heads of the Bill, now addressed the King through the 
Lord Lieutenant, asking him to assent to it. Northum- 
berland answered that ' he had received information of 
the most authentic nature that the Bill for limiting the 
duration of Parliament would not be returned this 
Session. 5 ' I shall, however,' he added, ' lay before his 
Majesty the sentiments of the House of Commons con- 

1 Egremont to Halifax, Dec. themselves bound by the same 
16, 1761. Kecord Office. engagements which influenced 

2 ' I have hitherto declined their former conduct, and which 
taking any part [about the Sep- they had entered into at the time 
tennial Bill], as it was suffered of their election. I entertain, 
to pass quickly in Parliament however, no doubt that it will be 
last session, and as I find many rejected in Council.' Northum- 
of the members, and even some berland to Halifax, Feb. 8, 17G4. 
of the King's servants, still think Record Office. 


tained in this address, and shall renew the representa- 
tions which I have already made in the strongest and 
warmest manner in favour of such a law.' For the 
present, therefore, the English ministry took upon 
themselves the unpopularity of rejecting it. 1 

There were, however, no signs of diminution of the 
popular interest in the subject. Under Lord Northum- 
berland the High Sheriff, and more than eight hundred 
of the Protestant merchants and traders of Dublin, 
signed a paper of instructions to their members, enjoin- 
ing them to vote for no money Bill of longer duration 
than three months until a Septennial Bill had become 
law. 2 It was a serious thing to resist the strongest and 
most persistent wish of the electoral body in Ireland, 
and the attitude of Parliament on the question already 
showed that in spite of all defects in the Constitution, 
the popular voice had a real, if not a controlling, in- 
fluence within its walls. It was not easy for any con- 
stitutional statesman to defend a system under which a 
single Parliament had sat for thirty-three years. Even 
the selfish interests were not all on the same side. 
Members of the House of Commons could not fail to 
see that a Septennial Act would add greatly to the 
importance of the assembly to which they belonged. 
Members of the House of Lords, who were the chief 
borough-owners in the country, knew that it would fully 
double the value of this form of property. Irish 
administrators knew that, whatever might be its ulti- 
mate effects, it would at least give an extraordinary 
popularity and strength to any government that carried 

1 "Plowden'sHistoricalBeview, him to do so, and taken the un- 

i. 376. Lord Macartney says : popularity of refusal upon them- 

' A Lord Lieutenant may some- selves.' Barrow's Life and 

times think it necessary seemingly Writings of Lord Macartney, ii. 

to approve and acquiesce in what 138. 

is desired, and the administration * Plowden, i. 375, 376. 
of England have often authorised 


it. The English ministers did not desire to see an 
active Parliament in Ireland ; but they had also no wish 
to alienate a thoroughly loyal people, and to take upon 
themselves for ever the exclusive odium of rejecting a 
popular Bill. Besides this, in the first years of the 
reign one of the leading objects of the Court party was 
to break down and dissolve all aristocratic connections 
which had acquired a controlling parliamentary in- 
fluence, and it was a common opinion that the institu- 
tion of septennial Parliaments would give a death-blow 
to the system of Undertakers in Ireland. Many of the 
Irish who voted for the Bill were haunted with a lurking 
dread that England would accept it, and the rejection 
in the first years of the reign appears only to have been 
decided upon after much uncertainty. 

In spite of the difficulties arising from this question 
the administrations of the first Viceroys of George III. 
were very popular, though their tenure of office was 
exceedingly short. Lord Halifax appears to have been 
especially successful, and Parliament marked its sense of 
his merits by raising the annual salary of the Lord 
Lieutenant from 12,OOOZ. to 16,OOOZ. In October 1762, 
he was recalled to England to succeed Grenville as 
Secretary of State, and a year later the Earl of Northum- 
berland, who replaced him, came over to Ireland to open 

In addition to the proceedings about pensions and 
septennial Parliaments, heads of a Habeas Corpus Bill 
and of a Bill for making the tenure of the judges secure 
during good behaviour, were carried at this time ; but, 
as usual, they were suppressed in England. Heads of 
a Bill copied from the English Act of Anne for obliging 
those who accepted places or pensions to vacate their 
seats were also introduced; but, though the measure 
was described as ' a Bill of some expectation ' and on 
' a very popular question,' the Government succeeded in 


defeating it in the House of Commons. At the end of 

1764, Lord Shannon and Primate Stone, whose rivalry 
had so long distracted Irish politics, died within a few 
days of each other. Stone left no political successor ; 
but the Shannon influence was continued by the young 
Earl, who found for a time a very powerful and able 
supporter in his connection, Ponsonby, 1 who was Speaker 
of the House of Commons and First Commissioner of 
the Revenue, and who, with the Chancellor Bowes, and 
afterwards with the Earl of Drogheda, was appointed 
Lord Justice. Northumberland was recalled in March 

1765, and at this time the determination seems to have 
been taken in England to make the Lord Lieutenant 
for the future constantly resident in Ireland, in order 
by this means to break down the Government by Under- 
takers. 2 It was not, however, then easy to find politi- 
cians who would accept the post. Lord Weymouth, 
who was in very embarrassed circumstances, was first 
nominated ; but though he received the usual grant of 
3,OOOZ. given to a new Lord Lieutenant for his equipage 
and voyage, he resigned before going over. 3 Lord 
Hertford, who followed, was succeeded in October 1766 
by Lord Bristol, and on the appointment of the latter 
the King wrote with his own hand to Chatham that he 
expected ' his constant residence while he held his office.' * 
Bristol, however, threw up his office without coming to 
Ireland, though he also received from the Irish exchequer 
3,OOOZ. for his voyage and equipage ; 8 and in October 

1 Ponsonby had married the mons' Journals, xiv. 321. 

daughter of the old Lord Shan- 4 Chatham Correspondence, iii. 

non. 51, 55-57. See, too, Barrow's 

* Grenville Papers, iii. 124. Life and Writings of Lord 

* Ibid. iii. 163, 191. He was Macartney, ii. 144. 

bitterly attacked for this by s Commons' Journals, ziv. 

Juntas. The payment will be 324. 
found duly recorded in the Com- 


1767, Lord Townshend came over as Viceroy to establish 
the new system of government. 

He was brother of Charles Townshend, and his ap- 
pointment was nearly the last act of that brilliant but 
erratic statesman. His antecedents were wholly mili- 
tary. He had served at Dettingen, Fontenoy, Culloden, 
and Laffeldt, and at the siege of Quebec had become 
commander-in-chief upon the death of Wolfe and the 
disablement of Monckton ; but his conduct on this last 
occasion had not raised his fame, for he was accused of 
having persistently thwarted Wolfe during his lifetime, 
and of having endeavoured after his death to rob him, 
by a very invidious silence, of the honour of the capture 
of Quebec. 1 Townshend, however, was by no means an 
unamiable man. He was brave, honest, and frank; 
popular in his manners, witty, convivial, and with a 
great turn for caricature, but violent and capricious in 
his temper, and exceedingly destitute of tact, dignity, 
and decorum. He certainly drank hard, and he was 
accused of low vices, and a great love of low companions. 2 
His military knowledge was of much use in some parts 
of his Irish government, but he was totally inexperienced 
in civil administration. In some letters of Sir J. 
Caldwell, written about three months after the arrival 
of Townshend, we have a graphic and not unpleasing 
picture of the Viceregal habits. Townshend, he said, 
was living very hospitably, drinking somewhat less than 
at the beginning, and laying himself out to be agreeable 
and entertaining. He was on terms of familiarity with 
everybody, showed great powers of conversation over 
the bottle, and was generally thought ' a good-humoured, 

1 Grenville Papers, i. 311. to Junius. 

He was severely censured on this 2 Walpole's George III. iii. 

ground in a Letter to an Honour~ 109-111 ; iv. 348, 349. Grenville 

able Brigadier-General, which Papers, iv. 232, 233. Barata- 

has been sometimes attributed riana, passim. 


cheerful man, meaning no harm,' disinterested, benevo- 
lent, and sincere. He walked all over the town in the 
mornings plainly dressed, with a stick in his hand, saying 
that he did not choose to be kept like a tame lion, and 
only allowed to take the air under the protection of 
guards. On one occasion he took up in his arms a blind 
beggar who had fallen on the ice, and had him carried 
into a neighbouring house and his wounds carefully 
dressed. He refused to sit in the customary arm-chair, 
saying that a chair of state was by no means an ' easy 
chair' to him. He constantly talked of his want of 
power to those who asked favours, and he showed him- 
self seriously offended when Bishop Hervey thanked 
him for his promotion to the see of Derry as though it 
were rather due to the Lord Lieutenant than to the 
King. 1 

It seemed at first as if Townshend could not fail to 
be popular in Ireland. His constant residence, however 
displeasing it might be to a few great families, was 
likely to be generally acceptable, and he was authorised, 
not only to reiterate the declaration of Northumberland 
that, except on very important occasions, no new pen- 
sions should be granted, but also to inform the chief 
persons in Ireland that the English Government had 
resolved to grant the capital points of the limitation of 
the duration of Parliament, and of the security of the 
judges' tenure of office, and to consider with a favourable 
disposition the demand for a Habeas Corpus Act, and 
for the creation of a national militia. His secretary, 
Sir George Macartney, was an Irishman, and the Irish 
Chancellor Bowes having died in July 1767, it was 
thought not impossible that an Irishman might be 
appointed to succeed him. 

Lansdowne Papers, British Museum. Add. MS. 24,1.?? 


No Irish administration had opened under more 
favourable circumstances. Although the residence of 
the Lord Lieutenant was ultimately intended to subvert 
the power of the Undertakers, Townshend at first 
showed no hostility to them, and was quite prepared to 
co-operate with them. He was instructed to employ all 
his power and all his popularity in carrying a measure 
on which the personal wishes of the King were intensely 
set. This measure was the augmentation of the Irish 
army to a little more than 15,000 men. 

In his very first speech from the throne, however, 
he committed the grave indiscretion of announcing 
formally and publicly that he had it in charge from the 
King that provision should be made for securing the 
judges in their seats during good behaviour, though, in 
fact, the ministers at home had only authorised him 
privately and in general terms to offer this, as well as 
other concessions, to the chief people whose support he 
desired. 1 The measure was a favourite one of the 
National party in Ireland, and on the first day of the 
Session heads of a Bill to carry it into effect were 
unexpectedly brought forward by an independent mem- 

1 Shelburne wrote (Oct. 29, such persons as your Excellency 

1767), severely rebuking him for should judge it for H.M.'s service 

this. He says the public an- to talk confidentially with, of the 

nouncement ' was expressly con- determination of the King's ser- 

trary to the opinion of the Lords vants to support in Council the 

who met at the Lord President's Septennial Bill, and the judges' 

the evening before your depar- for life, and to hear with a favour- 

ture ; when at the same time that able disposition whatever should 

they approved the measure, upon be offered towards the forming 

full consideration of your Excel- of a Militia, and Habeas Corpus 

lency's proposal to mention it in Act.' He cord Office. It is re- 

your speech, they did for very markable how accurately Walpole 

material reasons recommend it relates this episode, which could 

to your Excellency rather to only have been known to a very 

make use of general words, leav- few confidential servants of the 

ing it to you to take occasion in Crown. Memoirs of George III. 

private conversation to acquaint iii. 109. 



her and carried without difficulty. It soon, however, 
appeared that the views of the English ministers and 
those of the popular party in Ireland were irreconcilable. 
The Irish wished a law exactly like that which had 
been enacted in England after the Revolution, and, as 
in England a judge could be removed by an address of 
both Houses of Parliament, they proposed to give a 
similar power in Ireland to their own Parliament. The 
English ministers were determined that the Irish Privy 
Council should be recognised as an essential part of the 
Irish Constitution, and that the dependence of Ireland 
on the English Parliament should be emphatically 
asserted. Shelburne wrote to Townshend that the 
Irish judges must be removable only upon a representa- 
tion of the two Irish Houses of Parliament and the 
Irish Privy Council conjointly, or upon an address of 
the two Houses of the British Parliament. Townshend 
at once summoned the confidential servants of the 
Crown, and directed them to have clauses to this effect 
inserted in committee, but they all answered that such 
clauses would be rejected with indignation, and they 
entreated him to keep it a secret that they had ever been 
thought of. The Bill was therefore suffered to proceed 
to England in a form corresponding with the English 
Act, but it was returned with clauses making it neces- 
sary for addresses of the two Irish Houses for the re- 
moval of a judge to be certified by the Privy Council, 
and making the Irish judges removable by the British 
Parliament. The Irish House of Commons at once 
rejected the Bill, and the promise in the speech from 
the throne was branded with some reason as not much 
better than a deception. 1 

The appointment of a new Chancellor was another 

1 Grenville Papers, iv. 296, Nov. 29, Dec. 28, 1767. Record 
297. Townshend to Shelburne, Office. 


subject of discontent. As political life increased, the 
old system of placing Englishmen in all the foremost 
legal, as well as ecclesiastical and political positions, 1 
was borne with great impatience, and in addition to the 
Chief Justiceship of King's Bench, the post of Chief 
Baron had very lately been opened to Irishmen. Flood 
had recently animadverted in severe terms upon the 
character of the English judges in Ireland, and the sub- 
ject had a special importance, as the chiefs of the law 
courts were official members of the Privy Council. 
Townshend was extremely anxious, when establishing 
the new system of government, to acquire the popularity 
and the strength jihat were sure to follow the appoint- 
ment of an Irishman as Chancellor, and before going 
over to Ireland he had urged the expediency of this 
course strenuously and even passionately in a Cabinet 
Council. Several of the ministers agreed with him, but 
Lord Camden and the other legal members of the English 
Government resisted, and Lord Northington, who was 
consulted on the subject, threw his influence into the 
same scale. 2 It was found, however, that none of the 
leading English lawyers would accept the post without 
an additional pension, which was withheld in consequence 
of the opposition of Conway, 3 and accordingly during 
several months, and at a time when the Irish Parliament 
was sitting, the Court of Chancery was shut because the 

1 ' The heads of the Church, the principal employments are 

the State, the Army, and the Law granted in reversion out of the 

in Ireland have for a course of kingdom.' Considerations on 

years been of another country. the Dependencies of Great 

Of the twenty-two right reverend Britain [1769, by Sir Hercules 

prelates the natives only furnish Langrishe], p. 46. 
seven, ... of the seven chief 2 Grenville Papers, iv.170-175. 

judicial offices, two only are oc- Campbell's Lives of the Chan- 

cupied by Irishmen. Of the cellars, vi. 386-389. 
"teen great officers of the Walpole's George III. iii. 

, five only are of that country, 109. 
id besides all this, several of 

o 2 


ministers would not choose an Irishman and could not 
find an Englishman for the post. At length, on 
November 17, 1767, Sir Lucius O'Brien moved an 
address to the King on the subject, and although, by the 
assistance of Lord Shannon, the ministers succeeded in 
defeating the motion, it had, at least, the effect of oblig- 
ing them to send over in the following month a second- 
rate lawyer named Hewitt, as Chancellor. Townshend 
made no secret of the manner in which his judgment 
was overruled, and he is said to have drawn his own 
picture with his hands tied behind him and his mouth 
open. 1 

The irritation excited by these things was increased 
by the delay in transmitting the popular Bills. A belief 
spread widely that Townshend was only playing with 
the Septennial Bill as his predecessors had done, and 
that the assurances he had given were only intended to 
induce Parliament to sanction the augmentation of the 
army. He had soon to report to the Government at 
home the alarming accounts which his Attorney-General 
had given him of ' the very general discontent which had 
been long gaining ground amongst all ranks of people,' 
how it increased day by day as members flocked in from 
the country, till it became almost impossible to resist it; 
how a Bill of Supply limited to three months was openly 
spoken of by the country gentlemen as ' the only certain 
method they had of obtaining those popular Bills which 
had been so often demanded and so constantly refused.' a 
The House of Commons, not content with passing the 
heads of the Septennial Bill, presented it in a body to 
the Lord Lieutenant, and it appeared evident that until 
some more definite concession was made, there was little 

1 Grenville Papers, iv. 232, Nov. 24, 1767. Record Office. 
233. Townshend to Shelbnrne, * Townshend to Shelburne, 

Oct. 27, Nov. 13, Nov. 15, Nov. Nov. 15, 1767 (secret and con- 

17. Shelburne to Townshend, fidential). 


chance of carrying the favourite augmentation scheme ol 
the Government. 

This latter proposal was part of a policy with which 
we have already been much concerned in the English 
portion of this history. We have seen that it was one of 
the strongest convictions of the King and of a few of the 
leading English statesmen, that the British army, after 
the Peace of Paris, was wholly inadequate to the defence 
of the extended Empire, and that it was therefore im- 
peratively necessary to augment it. In England the 
antipathy to a standing army was so great ; parties were 
so divided, and the King was so anxious to win the 
popularity necessary to break down aristocratic connec- 
tions, that no attempt was made to increase the peace 
establishment. In America the ministers had persist- 
ently endeavoured to induce or compel the colonists to 
support an army for their own defence, but they had 
signally failed, and instead of creating a new army they 
had created a new and very formidable mass of discon- 
tent. It was hoped that they might be more successful 
in Ireland, where the influence of the Crown upon the 
Legislature was much greater, where the feeling against 
a standing army was much less strong, and where cir- 
cumstances had given the Protestant population much 
of the character of a military caste. 

I have already contended that they were right in 
considering that an augmentation of the forces was 
necessary for the security of the Empire ; but it is not 
surprising that Irish politicians should have disputed the 
propriety of throwing it on Ireland. The peace estab- 
lishment of Great Britain was usually about 17,000 men. 
The peace establishment of Ireland, since the reign of 
William, had been 12,000 men, recruited solely from 
the Protestants. Considering the enormous difference 
between the two countries, both in population and in 


resources, it was maintained that Ireland already bore 
more than her proportionate share, even allowing for the 
fact that she contributed nothing to the support of the 
British navy. It was, no doubt, perfectly true that in 
Ireland a considerable army was required for the pro- 
tection of the country, that the revenue could often not 
be collected without a military escort, that Whiteboys in 
the South and Oakboys in the North could only be sup- 
pressed by a disciplined force ; but it was not alleged 
that the 12,000 men who were already supported by 
Irish taxation were insufficient for these purposes, and, 
as we have already seen, there had scarcely been an oc- 
casion of national danger since the Revolution, in which 
a great part of the Irish army had not been sent out of 
the country. 1 If anything more was needed, the National 
party were not only ready but eager to establish a 
militia, and Flood had already unsuccessfully brought 
forward a Bill for creating one. 2 The existing army 
was not unpopular, and no one desired to diminish it ; 
but there was much in its constitution that was ano- 
malous and a grievance. Created by an English Act of 
Parliament, paid from the hereditary revenue, governed 
without an Irish Mutiny Act, it was constructed on a 
scale of lavish and increasing extravagance. The 
number of regiments, and consequently of officers, and 
especially of higher officers, was much greater in pro- 
portion to the number of men than in England. It was 
stated in Parliament, in 1763, that the staff of general 
officers in Ireland cost 22,OOOZ. a year, while that in 
England cost only 11,OOOZ. ; that the whole expense of 
general officers paid by Ireland had risen in two years 
from 32,OOOZ. to 45,OOOZ. ; that most of the generals 
lived habitually in England, and that several branches 

1 See vol. i. 142, 143. 

* Chatham Correspondence, ill. 3. 


of the Irish military expenditure had trebled or quad- 
rupled in two years. 1 

It was added that the obvious reason for increasing 
the army was the extension of the Empire in America, 
and that there was a peculiar refinement of injustice in 
throwing upon Ireland the defence of the colonies when 
she was excluded by express enactment from all com- 
mercial intercourse with them. Besides this, the 
National party already recognised the cause of the 
colonists in their struggle with England as substantially 
identical with their own, and they urgently deprecated 
the possibility of an Irish army being employed in coerc- 
ing America. 

Nor were the finances of the country in a condition 
to justify a permanent addition to the expenditure. It 
appeared by the accounts laid before Parliament that in 
the year ending at Lady Day 1767, the hereditary 
revenue had been about 623,OOOZ., and the additional 
duties about 225,OOOZ., and in both departments there 
had been a considerable falling off since the preceding 
year. 2 The Peace had been followed by a period of ex- 
traordinary prosperity in the victualling trade, but yet 
the debt, according to the calculation of Lord Towns- 
hend, instead of diminishing had increased during the 
four years of peace between Lady Day 1763 and Lady 
Day 1767, from 521,1612. to 581,9642., and the revenue 
was still largely below the expenditure. If this was the 
case with the existing establishment, and at a time of 

1 Caldwell's Debates, pp. 209, have a sufficient number for her 

210, 302, 583, 584. It is worthy of own defence.' He was led to the 

notice that George Grenville, the scheme by finding that the troops 

proposer of the American army, in the country had been at one 

had contemplated an augmenta- time reduced to 5,000 men, but 

tion of the Irish army, so that he ultimately abandoned it. 

Ireland might bear a part of the Cavendish Debates, i. 555. 
public burden of the country, and 2 Commons' Journals f xiv.325, 


unusual prosperity, was it wise to add more than 3,000 
men to the permanent military establishment, and to 
bring it within 2,000 men of the peace establishment of 
Great Britain ? ' Those,' wrote Lord Townshend, ' who 
are best acquainted with the state of the revenue are of 
opinion that the country is not able to bear such an 
additional expense. Upon calling for the public 
accounts, and examining more minutely into this 
matter, I am sorry to find these opinions too well 
grounded.' 1 Considering the increase of the National 
Debt the Council were unanimously of opinion that 
2,000 men was the largest augmentation the country 
could bear. 2 

The English ministers treated these fears with much 
contempt, pointing to the profusion of private and often 
corrupt grants that were voted ; but it was natural that 
this argument should have more weight in London than 
in Dublin. Admitting, it was said, that private or 
political motives often determined the particular enter- 
prise which Parliament assisted, those private grants 
were at least a portion of the Irish revenue, which was 
expended in Ireland and for Irish purposes. Consider- 
ing that nearly all the most lucrative posts in Ireland 
were held by Englishmen, that a great part of the over- 
grown and rapidly increasing pension list was in favour 
of men who never visited the country, that a great por- 
tion of the military expenditure went in paying generals 
and even troops who were not in Ireland, that the com- 
merce of Ireland was cramped and confined with the 
view of making all advantages centre upon England, 
and that an enormous proportion of Irish rents were 
habitually sent to England, there was surely a certain 
effrontery in the ministerial complaint that the Irish 
revenue was ' loaded with private grants ' for the benefit 

Jfov. 5, 1767- Townshend to Shelburnju * Jbi<J, 


of Irishmen and Irish enterprises. Most of these grants 
were for purposes of incontestable utility. Many thou- 
sands of pounds had been devoted to making the build- 
ings of Trinity College worthy of a great university. 
Many thousands had been employed in giving Ireland 
the early benefit of the new system of internal naviga- 
tion. Was it indejed so intolerable that considerable 
sums should be employed in opening new roads, in 
giving bounties to fisheries or agriculture, in subsidising 
the Dublin Society or the Charter Schools, in erecting 
county infirmaries, or chapels of ease ? If, in the grants 
to public works, favours were most readily granted to 
those who possessed parliamentary influence, some public 
benefit was at least combined with this political corrup- 
tion. It was by no means clear that the public assist- 
ance granted to private enterprises was excessive in a 
country where industry and industrial enterprise were 
very low, and it was quite certain that the condition of 
the nation would not be improved by diverting this, 
like so many other parts of the national revenue, from 
Irish purposes. 

It will probably be admitted that these arguments 
were not without great force, and the task of Lord 
Townshend in carrying the augmentation was a very 
difficult one. If the measure had stood alone, it would 
have incontestably failed, but the Lord Lieutenant was 
authorised to purchase it by several concessions of the 
highest value. 

He was, in the first place, to assure the principal 
persons in Parliament of the intention of the Bang's 
servants to grant the capital wish of the Irish constitu- 
encies, the limitation of the Irish Parliament to seven 
or, at least, to eight years, and he was directed to use 
to the utmost the popularity acquired by this communi- 
cation in order to obtain the augmentation, remembering 
that these two measures must always be considered to- 


gether. 1 He was, in the next place, to have a clause 
inserted in the Augmentation Bill securing that if the 
Irish establishment was raised to a little more than 
15,000 men, 12,000 should always remain in Ireland, 
unless the Irish Parliament chose to authorise their ex- 
patriation, except in case of sudden and extraordinary 
emergency. The Irish gentry, who had more thanoncebeen 
left almost wholly unprotected in time of danger, attached 
so great an importance to this new guarantee that with 
many of them it was quite sufficient to outweigh all the 
disadvantages of the augmentation. Something was 
also done to lighten the financial burden. The King 
again authorised his representative to declare that, except 
on very urgent occasions, he would grant no additional 
pensions for life or for years or in reversion. The 
Government consented, after much hesitation and delay, 
to accept a re-enactment of the old law imposing a tax 
of 4s. in the pound on absentee place-holders and pen- 
sioners, with the omission of the important clause 
authorising the Sovereign to exempt those whom he 
pleased from its operation. It was also provided in the 
augmentation scheme that the Irish battalions should be 
assimilated to those of England, by which means the 
proportionate expenditure would be considerably re- 

These offers were very considerable, and the return, 
in February 1768, of the Bill for shortening the dura- 
tion of Parliament, excited the warmest gratitude in 
Ireland. The Bill was, it is true, changed from a sep- 
tennial to an octennial one, and it has been repeatedly 
stated, both by English and Irish writers, 2 that this 
alteration was a manoeuvre intended to induce Parlia- 
ment to reject it. This charge is, however, completely 

1 Shelburne to Townshend, sure in Almon's Biographical 
Nov. 5, 1767. Anecdotes, i. 101-109. Plowden'g 

- See the history of this mea- Historical Review, i. 388. 


unfounded, and the conduct of the English Government 
in the whole matter was perfectly honest. As early as 
November 5, 1767, Shelburne had announced to Towns- 
hend that if the duration of Parliament was shortened 
the Act should be octennial rather than septennial, in 
order to suit the special circumstances of Ireland, where 
Parliament only sat every second year, and also to pre- 
vent the inconvenience which would arise if general 
elections in England and Ireland were simultaneous, 1 
and before making the alteration, he had obtained an 
assurance from Townshend that it would be accepted. 2 
The alteration was indeed manifestly expedient as long 
as Parliament only held biennial sessions, and it did 
nothing to diminish the popularity of the concession. 
The Parliament house was surrounded by many thousands 
of men who compelled the members as they entered to 
promise that they would vote for the Bill, and all over 
the country the excitement was such that it would have 
been madness to have resisted. The Bill was thus 
passed which laid the foundation of parliamentary influ- 
ence and independence in Ireland, and the Lord Lieu- 
tenant, who had recommended it, was for a time the 
object of unbounded enthusiasm. His carriage was 
drawn by the crowd from the Castle to Parliament, when 
he went to pronounce the royal assent. Parliament 
passed a warm vote of thanks to the King for giving his 

1 Shelburne to Townshend, term. ... At the same time 1 
Nov. 5, 1767. have great reason to believe that 

2 ' The Committee upon this should the Privy Council in Eng- 
Bill [for limiting the duration of land think it expedient to make 
Parliament] would by no means this Bill octennial, though it 
come into what, by your Lord- would in some degree take away 
ship's directions, I suggested to from the popularity of the mea- 
several of the principal persons sure, it would by no means en- 
here, which was to fill up the danger its being rejected here.' 
blank with the word eight, though Townshend to Shelburne, Nov. 
I believe many members do in 29, 1767. 

truth wish even for a longer 


assent to the Bill, and hostile motions which were pend- 
ing for inquiring into the excessive expenditure in 
pensions and in the army were speedily dropped. 1 

The Augmentation Bill, however, was not yet carried, 
and it was this question which brought the Government 
into direct collision with the Undertakers, who had 
hitherto supported them. Lord Shannon, Ponsonby, 
and Hely Hutchinson were now in close union, and in 
December 1767 they were in communication with Lord 
Townshend on the subject. They consented readily, on 
condition of receiving certain personal favours, which 
they stated with cynical frankness, 2 to carry the ordinary 
business of the Government through Parliament ; but 
they pronounced the Augmentation scheme to be so 
expensive and unpopular, that it could not be safely 
proposed without the co-operation of the Duke of 
Leinster and Lord Tyrone, and the assent of some of the 
popular speakers such as Flood and Sir W. Osborne. 
None of these persons would give their consent, and, on 
the other hand, Shelburne refused with much dignity to 
purchase the limited support which was offered, or to 
consent to the request of Lord Townshend that ' His 
Majesty would recede from that strict rule which he had 
laid down with regard to pensions for life or years, and 

1 Plowden, Gordon. Towns- given to his two sons for their 

hend to Shelburne, Feb. 16, May joint lives ; the Prime Serjeant 

3, 1768. asked that life offices of not less 

* They demanded a share in than 5001. a year, should be given 

the disposal of his Majesty's jointly to his two sons, that his 

favours in Ireland ' proportioned wife should be created a vis- 

to the number of their friends countess, and that 4.000Z., which 

and then* weight in the country.' he said was a debt due to him by 

Lord Shannon wished to be one the Government and acknow- 

of the three Lords Justices ; Mr. ledged by Lord Hertford, should 

Ponsonby expected the office of be speedily paid. Townshend to 

Examinator of Customs, now in Shelbnrne (secret), Dec. 12, 1767. 
possession of his eldest son, to be 


reversions,' in order to win parliamentary support. 1 
The result was that the old party of the Undertakers 
went into violent opposition, and the Government had 
to look elsewhere for support. The letters of Lord 
Townshend show that many independent members 
favoured the scheme, 2 and that he did not believe it to 
be unpopular in the country, though it was the general 
wish that it should be postponed till after the dissolution 
which followed the Octennial Act. 'I am every day 
more and more convinced,' he wrote in February 1768, 3 
' that the independent gentlemen who have some con- 
siderable following are resolved to go on with great 
moderation.' He speaks in grateful terms of the assist- 
ance they gave him ; he proposed to apply formally ' foi 
help to those who are generally in opposition, and are 
called the independent gentlemen,' and he noticed that 
the county of Dublin alone had instructed its members 
against the Bill, and that the Octennial Bill, and the 
security that was given for the constant presence of 
12,000 men in the country, had given great satisfaction. 
On the other hand, the most popular orators in the 
assembly denounced the proposal as intended to coerce 
America, and as certain to ruin the finances of Ireland. 
The largest borough proprietors were in opposition, and 

1 Townshend to Shelburne, land, except when the immediate 
Dec. 12, 1767. Fitzmaurice's defence of Great Britain, either 
Life of Shelburne, ii. 103. Lord from an invasion or a rebellion, 
E. Fitzmaurice has printed shall require their being re- 
several of the more important moved.' Townshend to Shel- 
letters relating to this episode. burne, Dec. 12, 1767. 

2 ' As to individuals, indepen- 3 Feb. 4, 1768. On the 16th 
dent of those whom Government he speaks again of the ' great 
have a hold upon, I have met moderation of the country gentle- 
with a very general approbation men,' and adds ' I have now the 
of this measure, one thing being satisfaction to acquaint your 
always taken for granted, that Lordship that I have met with 
security is to be given that 12,000 their most hearty assistance.' 
men shall always remain in Ire- 


many of the supporters of the Bill feared to vote so 
large an increase of expense on the eve of an election. 
' It is the general wish of every person here,' he wrote, 
'from the highest to the lowest, that the Parliament 
should be instantly dissolved, and the augmentation be 
proposed in the next . . . when men would be at 
liberty to act freely.' 1 

Shelburne, however, would grant no delay. An 
English Act of William had authorised the Crown to 
keep 12,000 soldiers, but not more, on the Irish estab- 
lishment. Another English Act was now carried re- 
moving the restriction, and at the same time giving a 
security that 1 2,000 men should be permanently kept in 
Ireland, and a King's message was laid before the Irish 
Parliament stating that an augmentation raising the 
Irish army to 15,255 men had, in the opinion of his 
Majesty, become necessary. The public service, the 
message said, required 'that some part of the troops 
kept on the establishment of Ireland should be employed 
towards the necessary defence of his Majesty's garrisons 
and plantations abroad,' and in addition to these it was 
expedient that 12,000 men should be kept in Ireland, 
' as far as is consistent with such a defence as the safety 
of both kingdoms in case of any sudden or extraordinary 
emergency may require.' 2 The House at once resolved 
itself into a committee ; an address was moved acceding 
to the request, but ' notwithstanding every effort that 
was made and every support given by the country 
gentlemen, who, to secure the success of this measure, 
had advised to have it postponed to another session, the 
address was rejected by 108 to 104.' Lord Shannon, 

1 April 6, 1768. Townshend gives the necessity of employing 
to Shelburne. some Irish troops in ' garrisons 

2 Commons' Journals, xiv. and plantations abroad' as a 
526, 527. The English Statute, main reason for the augmenta- 
18 George III. ch. 13, likewise tion. 

te. ill DISSOLUTION OF 1 PARLIAMENT, 1768. i)5 

the Speaker, the Prime Serjeant, and the Attorney- 
General, both in public and private, did their utmost to 
obstruct the Bill, but the result, though a defeat, was 
not regarded as discouraging. ' Amongst those who, 
during this remarkable session, have supported the 
Bang's Government with constancy and firmness, with- 
out so much as hinting at any consideration,' wrote the 
Lord Lieutenant, ' there are many men of the first abili- 
ties, of the greatest property and integrity, who, should 
changes be thought necessary, I could recommend to 
his Majesty as servants that could carry on public busi- 
ness with safety and credit.' 1 

Shortly after this defeat of the Government, the 
news arrived t;hat the English Privy Council declined to 
return the Habeas Corpus Bill, alleging the danger 
arising from the immense preponderance of Catholics in 
Ireland, and from the disturbed condition of a great 
part of Munster. 2 

Parliament was dissolved on May 28, 1768, and 
Townshend at once threw himself with characteristic 
vehemence into the task of breaking down the power of 
the Undertakers. ' The constant plan of these men of 
power,' he wrote, speaking of Shannon and Ponsonby, 
'is to possess the government of this country, and to 
lower the authority of English government, which must 
in the end destroy that dependence which this kingdom 
has upon Great Britain.' He complained that they had 
almost reduced the Lord Lieutenant to ' a mere pageant 
of State,' and he warned the Government that the crisis 
had arrived, and that upon the determination now shown 
in resisting the Undertakers depended the future 
strength of English government in Ireland. A com- 
plete change of persons, though for a time delayed, 

1 Townshend to Shelburne, 2 Shelburne to Townshend, 

May 3, 1768. April 23, 1768. 


must eventually be effected ; the aristocratic party must 
be thoroughly broken ; in order to restore vigour to the 
government of the Crown, Ireland must remain under 
the constant attention of a resident Viceroy; every 
place, office, and honour must depend exclusively upon 
his favour, and in this manner an overwhelming political 
influence must be gradually concentrated in the Crown. 
Immediately after the Session of 1768, as an earnest of 
the favours to be expected by those who supported the 
Viceroy, four peers were raised a step in the peerage, 
four new peers, three baronets, and four Privy Coun- 
cillors were made, and Townshend urged the propriety 
of creating an Irish Order like that of the Thistle or the 
Bath in order to reward those members of the nobility 
who were foremost in supporting the Government. 1 

The system was not yet fully matured, but it was at 
least fully conceived. The overwhelming preponderance 
of nomination boroughs in the Irish Parliament had 
given three or four men an extraordinary power, which 
the Viceroy was resolved to destroy, and for this pur- 
pose he designed to attach as many as possible of the 
minor borough-owners to himself by a lavish creation of 
peerages. Apart from the pension list, direct pecuniary 
bribes to members of Parliament did not exist. There 
was no fund from which they could be drawn, but places 
were extravagantly multiplied, and pensions, in spite of 
royal promises, were soon granted anew for the purpose 
of securing parliamentary support. At the same time, 
Townshend had no wish to rely solely on corrupt means, 
and he hoped to secure the assistance of the independent 
country gentlemen, and even of the leaders of the most 
advanced party. ' The Octennial Bill,' he wrote, ' gave 
the first blow to the dominion of aristocracy in this 

1 Townshend to Shelburne, Shelburne to Townshend, May 19, 
May 31, 1768 ; to Weymouth, 1768 ; Weymouth to Townshend, 
Aug. 17, Oct. 22, Nov. 21, 1769 ; June 9, 1769. 


kingdom, and it rests with Government to second the 
good effects of it,' and he strongly urged the ministers 
to call Flood and Sir W. Osborne to office. 1 

It is not easy to realise the conditions of Irish 
parliamentary politics at this time, for all analogies 
drawn from the Irish contingent in the Imperial Parlia- 
ment are wholly misleading. In the Parliament of the 
early years of George III. all 'the members were Protes- 
tants and elected by Protestants, and the most liberal 
regarded the propriety of Protestant ascendency as an 
axiom. 2 The party which now calls itself distinctively 
national was absolutely unrepresented. The Catholic 
priesthood, who are now perhaps the strongest element 
in Irish political life, had not a vestige of power ; and 
although corrupt and factious motives may be often 
detected, the great tribe of knaves and fanatics who now 
win political power by stimulating disloyalty, or class 
hatred, or agrarian crime, had as yet no existence. 
There was a great and justifiable discontent at the con- 
stitutional and commercial restrictions ; but there was 

1 Townshend to Weymouth, both, I hope, too enlightened to 
Aug. 17, Sept. 13, 1769. renew religious animosity. I do 

2 As late as 1792 Henry not hesitate to say I love the 
Grattan, who of all men in the Eoinan Catholic. I am a friend 
Irish Parliament was the warmest to his liberty, but it is only in as 
and most unflinching advocate of much as his liberty is entirely 
the Catholics, received an address consistent with your ascendency, 
from some citizens of Dublin, and an addition to the strength 
expressing alarm at changes fa- and freedom of the Protestant 
vourable to the Catholics which community. These being my 
were spoken of, and urging him principles and the Protestant in- 
to oppose 'any alteration that may terest my first object, you may 
tend to shake the security of pro- judge that I shall never assent to 
perty in this kingdom, or subvert any measure tending to shake the 
the Protestant ascendency in our security of property in this king- 
happy constitution.' Grattan in dom or to subvert the Protestant 
his answer said : ' The Eoman ascendency.' Grattan's Miscel- 
Catholics whom I love and the laneoua Works, p. 289. 
Protestants whom I prefer are 



ftt bottom no real disloyalty, and in times of danger 
Parliament was ever ready to bear its full share, and 
something more than its full share, in the defence of 
the Empire. In the counties the ascendency of the 
landlords was undisputed. In the large towns there 
was an active political life and a strong democratic 
spirit aspiring towards constitutional privileges, but 
Irish democracy had as yet no leaning towards the 
Catholics. Some of the numerous small boroughs were 
held by men who had purchased their seats. Some were 
attached to the properties of country gentlemen of 
moderate fortune. Some were under the direct in- 
fluence of the Government, or were connected with 
ecclesiastical preferments and filled by the nominees of 
bishops. Very many belonged to a few rich members 
of the House of Lords, who had made it an object to 
accumulate political power. It appears to have been 
considered a point of honour that a borough member 
should not on an important question vote against the 
policy of his patron. 

The body which was thus formed was not divided 
like a modern Parliament into clearly marked party 
divisions. Lord Shannon, the Duke of Leinster, Lord 
Ely, Lord Tyrone, Lord Drogheda, and Mr. Ponsonby 
had each of them a considerable group of personal 
adherents, but the lines of Whig and Tory, Government 
and Opposition, were not drawn with any clearness or 
constancy. Usually the Government in ordinary busi- 
ness carried with it an enormous majority, but there 
were questions on which the strongest Government 
nearly always became suddenly powerless. Money Bills 
that took their rise or were materially modified in 
England were almost always rejected, and on several 
constitutional questions Parliament had a very decided 
will of its own. It was a common thing for paid 
servants of the Crown, while in general supporting the 


Government, to go on particular questions into violent 
opposition, and for men, who had on particular questions 
been the most active opponents of Government, to pass 
suddenly into its ranks ; and there was a rapid fluctua- 
tion of politicians between Government and Opposition 
which is very perplexing to a modern reader. Many 
corrupt motives no doubt mingled with these changes, 
but the root of the matter lay in the fact that settled 
parties had not yet been formed, that all questions were 
considered mainly in isolation, and that there was little 
or nothing of that systematic and disciplined concur- 
rence of opinion based upon party lines which prevails 
in a modern Parliament. 

The absence of parties was partly due to the rudi- 
mentary character of Irish parliamentary life and to the 
nature of the constituencies, which gave a predominating 
influence to a few personal interests, and traces of a 
somewhat similar state of things may be detected in 
English parliamentary life between the Revolution and 
the close of the reign of George II. There was, how- 
ever, another cause which was peculiar to Ireland, and 
the importance of which has not, I think, been suffi- 
ciently noticed. The position which the Privy Council 
held in the Irish constitution enabled the Government 
to withdraw from serious parliamentary conflict the 
capital questions around which party divisions would 
have been naturally formed. Short Parliaments, a 
secure tenure for judges' seats, and a Habeas Corpus 
Act were during many years among the chief objects of 
the popular party ; but year after year they were 
carried without opposition and without division through 
Parliament, and Government ostensibly acquiesced in 
them, reserving it for the Privy Council in Ireland or 
England to reject them. One of the effects of this 
system was to check the normal growth of Parliament 
confuse the lines of party division, The Privy 


Council, on the other hand, became a kind of additional 
Parliament 1 in which, though the Lord Lieutenant had 
a preponderating power, there were several conflicting 
and independent influences, and which on many impor- 
tant questions became the chief centre of authority and 
even of discussion. 

The unorganised condition of Parliament was very 
favourable to the designs of the Government, and the 
elections showed a general sentiment of gratitude for 
the Octennial Act, and no strong or general antipathy 
in the country to the proposed Augmentation scheme. 
During the months which preceded the meeting of 
Parliament Townshend was busy in negotiating with 
leading politicians on the subject, and he reported that, 
with a few modifications, the measure might be easily 
carried. The country gentlemen did not think the 
guarantee for the continual presence of 12,000 men in 
Ireland sufficiently explicit, and it was accordingly 
agreed that those troops should remain in Ireland 
' except in case of invasion or rebellion in Great Britain.' 
The diminution of the extravagance of the Irish military 
establishments, by reducing the proportion of officers to 
men and assimilating the Irish battalions to those of 
England, was of great use, and it was provided that the 
scandalous number of the absentee general officers com- 
posing the military staff of Ireland, who drew their pay 
from Irish resources though living in England, should 
be gradually diminished, Townshend also asked that 
Ireland, in spite of the commercial restrictions, should 
be allowed the small boon of clothing her own troops 
when they were out of the kingdom, and he added 
significantly, ' Whenever Great Britain can allow Ireland 
eorne branch of the British manufactures which are 

1 AB that very experienced the second hranch of the Legis- 
official, William Knox, truly said, lature, in Ireland. Extra Official 
tbe Privy Council was in reality Papers, Appendix, No. I. 

ctt. in. MEETING OF PARLIAMENT, 1769. 10 1 

declining or given over to our enemies, particularly if 
Ireland might be allowed a free exportation of woollen 
goods under a certain price .... it would certainly 
be a great blessing to his Majesty's wretched subjects in 
this kingdom.' He was extremely anxious to obtain 
the support of Hely Hutchinson for the measure, and he 
succeeded in doing so on condition that the Irish army 
should be established by the authority of an Irish Act 
of Parliament, and not, as hitherto, by an English one. 
Something was said about the desire of some members 
to obtain an annual Irish Mutiny Act ; but this was not 
seriously pressed, and as Lord Weymouth, who had 
succeeded Shelburne as Secretary of State, was prepared 
to make the chief concessions that were demanded, 
Townshend met the new Parliament on October 17, 
1769, with little alarm. 1 

Lord Shannon, Ponsonby, and their followers 
were not yet removed from their different offices ; and 
Ponsonby, in addition to his great and lucrative posi- 
tion of Speaker, 2 was still Chief Commissioner of 
the Revenue, which gave him an amount of patronage 
that, in the opinion of Townshend, should be granted 
to no one but the Viceroy. The removal of these 
men was, however, already determined, and their rela- 
tions to the Castle were very hostile. There was much 
bargaining with borough-owners, and we learn inciden- 
tally that Lord Drogheda and Lord Tyrone were anxious 
to become Marquises. 3 An instruction to the Committee 
of Supply to take into consideration what forces were 
necessary to be maintained in the country for its 

1 Townshend to Weymouth, 2.000Z., and in 1765 to 4.000Z. 
Aug. 17, Oct. 22, 1769. See Lord Macartney's sketch, 

2 In 1759 500Z. was for the Barrow's Life of Macartney, u. 
first time granted to the Speaker 139, 140. 

to maintain his dignity, and his s Townshend to Weymouth, 

salary was augmented in 1761 to Oct. 22, 1769. 


defence, was moved in the first days of the Session by 
Mr. Pery, and carried against the Government by the 
assistance of Shannon and Ponsonby, but the real storm 
broke unexpectedly from another quarter. 

The Government had insisted upon maintaining the 
old unpopular custom of sending over to England a 
Money Bill, which took its origin in the Privy Council, 
as a cause for summoning the new Parliament; and 
this Bill, as was doubtless expected, was peremptorily 
rejected. So far the House of Commons was acting 
within its acknowledged right ; for, though the English 
Government claimed the right of originating Money 
Bills, it never disputed the right of the Irish Parliament 
to reject them. A resolution, however, copied from one 
of those which had caused the great constitutional con- 
flict under Lord Sydney in 1692, was now brought 
forward by the Opposition stating that the Money Bill 
was rejected 'because it did not take its rise in the 
House of Commons ; ' and by the influence of Shannon, 
Ponsonby, and Leinster, and in spite of the opposition 
of Hely Hutchinson, this resolution was carried. 

The Government were much perplexed. No single 
prerogative claimed by the Privy Council excited such 
general and such vehement jealousy as the asserted 
right of originating Money Bills, and it was certain that 
the party which resisted it would carry with it the whole 
independent opinion of Ireland. On the other hand, 
the English Government had twice, in opposition to the 
wishes of their servants in Ireland, refused to waive the 
privilege. They regarded it as an essential part of 
the statute of Henry VII. wtjch established the subor- 
dination of the Irish Parliament ; they were perfectly 
resolved not to suffer it to be impugned ; and they con- 
strued the resolution of the House of Commons as a 
distinct denial of the right. It is true that this con- 
struction might be very reasonably disputed. The 

or. in. THE SESSION OF 1769. 108 

House of Commons of 1692, not content with rejecting 
a Money Bill because it did not take its rise with itself, 
had passed a resolution explicitly asserting ' that it was 
the sole and undoubted right of the Commons to propose 
heads of Bills for raising money.' The Parliament of 
1769 had taken no such step. It exercised an uncon- 
tested right in rejecting the Money Bill ; and, in the 
resolution assigning its reason for the exercise of that 
right, it carefully abstained from determining whether 
it objected to Money Bills which did not originate with 
itself as unconstitutional or merely as inexpedient. The 
Government chose to assume the former ; and as Sydney 
had entered a protest against the proceedings of the 
House of Commons in the ' Journals ' of the House of 
Lords, prorogued the Parliament and not suffered it to 
sit again, Townshend was directed to follow the same 
course, if it were possible out of the hereditary revenue 
alone, to support the necessary civil and military estab- 
lishments. Townshend, however, reported that this was 
absolutely impossible, and it was resolved to proceed in 
a more prudent, but less ingenuous, manner. The 
supplies were the first things to be moved in Parlia- 
ment, and Townshend resolved to show no resentment 
whatever till they had been granted. The parliamen- 
tary party, having struck their blow, acted with studied 
moderation. The supplies were readily voted, and they 
were voted for the usual period of two years. A vote of 
credit to the extent of 100,OOOZ. was granted to the 
Government. The Augmentation scheme raising the 
army from 12,000 to 15,235 men, which was the favour- 
ite object of the Government and the King, was again 
brought forward, and the modifications that had been 
introduced were so acceptable that Shannon and Pon- 
sonby, as well as Hely Hutchinson, supported it. The 
Duke of Leinster was the only very powerful opponent, 
and it was carried by a majority of more than three to 


one. With a very slight reduction the whole sum 
demanded by the Government was granted. No pre- 
vious Parliament in time of peace had shown such 
liberality in its grants to the Crown. Townshend, 
having obtained these things, thought he might safely 
strike his meditated blow. On December 26, 1769, he 
went down to the House of Lords, and, having sum- 
moned the House of Commons, he thanked them for 
their liberal supplies, and then delivered a solemn 
protest against their resolution as an infringement of 
Poynings' law, directed that his protest should be 
inserted in the ' Journals ' of each House, and at once 
prorogued Parliament, which was not allowed again to 
sit for fourteen months. 

In the House of Lords a resolution had shortly 
before been brought forward, in anticipation of such a 
proceeding, to the effect that no protest should be 
entered in its ' Journals ' which did not emanate from a 
member and relate to the business of that House. 
This resolution, though very powerfully supported, was 
rejected by a large majority, and the protest of Lord 
Townshend was duly entered, but the Commons before 
separating forbade their clerk to enter it in their 
' Journals.' ! 

The prorogation was denounced not only in Ireland 
but in the English Parliament as a grave attack upon 
parliamentary government. The Parliament had been 
suffered to sit for little more than two months, and it 
had scarcely done any business except augmenting the 
army and voting supplies to Government. The manner 
in which the resolution of the Viceroy was concealed, in 
order that Parliament might vote the. Augmentation 

4 Adolphus, i. 377-380. An- Nov. 30, 1769. Townshend to 

mtal Register, 1770. 85-90. Plow- Weymouth, Nov. 24, Dec. 4, 26, 

den's Historical Register, i. 394- 1769. 
402. Weymouth to Townshend, 


Bill and the Supply Bill, was described as a fraudulent 
and an ungrateful trick, and the policy of the Govern- 
ment threw the whole country into confusion. All 
legislation for national objects was postponed. Tem- 
porary laws were continually lapsing and could not be 
renewed. Trade, public security, the supply of the 
capital, the public credit, all suffered from the cessation 
of legislation. A Parliament which had shown itself 
more than commonly zealous in promoting the public 
service was mortally affronted ; in two short months all 
the gratitude which had been elicited by the Octennial 
Act was dispelled, and the Undertakers, whose unpopu- 
larity had proved so useful to the Government, were now 
identified with the popular party. 

Fourteen agitated months followed. Public opinion 
had acquired an intensity and importance which it had 
certainly not possessed under Lord Sydney. An active 
Press, to which many of the leading politicians contri- 
buted, had grown up ; and, though Lucas was now 
dying, his place was filled by abler writers. A history 
of the recent politics of Ireland described under the 
name of ' Barataria,' and some powerful but exaggerated 
and too rhetorical letters, very evidently modelled after 
Junius, attracted especial attention, and they were after- 
wards collected in a little volume called ' Baratariaua.' 
The author of the history was Mr. (afterwards Sir Her- 
cules) Langrishe, and the letters were chiefly written by 
Flood and by Henry Grattan, who was then a young 
lawyer not yet in the House of Commons. Parliament 
was prorogued from three months to three months, 
Townshend continually representing that a further delay 
was necessary to secure a majority ; and it is a signifi- 
cant fact that he did not venture to follow the example 
of Lord Sydney, and dissolve. Petitions for the meeting 
of Parliament were drawn up in many quarters. The 
merchants of Dublin were prominent in complaining of 


the course which had been pursued. The Lord Lieu- 
tenant reported that it would be wholly impossible to 
induce the House of Commons to rescind the obnoxious 
resolution ; that many members of the Opposition spoke 
of never again voting a Supply Bill for more than six 
months, or of at least insisting upon annual sessions ; 
that it was widely believed that ministers would gladly 
see all parliamentary discussion abolished in Ireland if 
they could only otherwise obtain their supplies. As 
long as the revenue of the country continued, as at pre- 
sent, insufficient for the public expenses, Townshend 
found that it would be impossible for Government ' to 
emancipate itself from the shackles of faction.' l There 
was great poverty and distress in Dublin, and generally 
throughout the country. Corn had risen to famine 
price. In the North the disturbances of the Hearts of 
Steel had just broken out. The revenue in all its 
branches had fallen so low that in October 1770 Towns- 
hend had already been obliged to take up the whole 
credit of 100,OOOZ. in order to provide for the troops. 
All kinds of exports had diminished. The price of land 
fell ; Government securities which used to bear a con- 
siderable premium could no longer circulate at par, and 
there were many commercial failures followed by a 
severe strain upon the banks. Distress always stimu- 
lates political discontent ; and in this case with much 
reason, for it was plain that the prorogation had given 
a great shock to public credit, and that the Augmenta- 
tion scheme had imposed a heavier burden on the country 
than it could bear. 2 

New embarrassments also came from England. 
The English ministers looked upon Irish questions 

1 Townshend to Weymouth, Dec. 12, 1770, Townshend to 
April 5, Sept. 25, 1770. Rochford. Plowden's Historical 

2 Oct. 16, Nov. 23, Dec. 5, Register, p. 407. 
1770, Townshend to Weymouth; 


almost exclusively in the light of their influence on 
English politics, and they were surrounded by grave 
difficulties of their own. The Wilkes riots were at their 
height, and the complications about the Falkland Islands 
had brought the country to the verge of war with Spain. 
Townshend, who naturally took a sanguine view of the 
effects of his own policy, declared that Ireland, notwith- 
standing the crisis, was far less torn by factious agita- 
tion than England ; l but he urged strongly that both 
on political and economical grounds it was necessary to 
relax the commercial restrictions. He suggested that a 
kind of coarse woollen cloth, which was made in Ireland 
but not in Great Britain, might be sent without danger 
to the Spanish" and Portuguese markets ; that the im- 
portation of soap and candles from Ireland into England 
might be permitted on payment of the same excise 
which those articles paid in Great Britain; that the 
heavy duty imposed on checked linen sent from Ireland 
to England should be abolished ; and that the same en- 
couragements should be given to the manufacture of 
printed linens in Ireland as in England. 2 These sug- 
gestions, however, proved completely futile, and Towns- 
hend could not persuade the Government to add to 
their many difficulties by introducing any measure 

1 'In justice to them [the crisis, unagitated by the disap- 
people of this kingdom], as well pointment of the leading in- 
as in duty to his Majesty, I must terests, unprejudiced by the in- 
Bay there can be found, perhaps, sinuations or example of other 
no part of his dominions where parts of his Majesty's dominions, 
the people at large are more who solicit them to make a 
untainted with the pernicious common cause to distress his 
breath of faction, or better de- Government, they apparently re- 
serving of his royal protection main at this hour a distinguished 
and benevolence.' March 2, example of loyalty and confi- 
1770, Townshend to Weymouth. dence.' Sept. 25, 1770, Town* 
' The general disposition of his hend to Weymouth. 
Majesty's subjects has been tried * Ibid, 
and found so faithful at this 


displeasing to the English commercial classes. In 
December 1770, the English Council, under fear of a 
war, imposed an embargo on the export of provisions 
from Ireland, which greatly aggravated the distress. 
Not content with the recent augmentation, the ministers 
desired to raise still more troops in Ireland, 1 and, if 
possible, again to withdraw the Irish army from parlia- 
mentary control, though they had in a great degree pur- 
chased the Augmentation by partially submitting to it. 8 
Amid all these difficulties, Townshend steadily pur- 
sued his own end the purchase or the creation of a 
majority in the House of Commons. Shannon was 
deprived of his place of Master of the Ordnance ; Pon- 
sonby was removed from the head of the Revenue Board, 
where he had been for twenty years ; the Privy Council 
was almost wholly changed; the Duke of Leinster's 
name was struck out of it at his own request; and a 
crowd of subordinate placemen, who had refused to follow 
the Government, were driven from office. At the same time 
all the resources of Government patronage were strained 
to the utmost to secure votes. As there was no dissolu- 
tion, as those who accepted places were not obliged in 
Ireland to go to their constituents for re-election, as 
the small borough system accumulated many votes in a 
few hands, and as Parliament was entirely unaccus- 
tomed to systematic opposition, the task was less diffi- 
cult than might appear. Lord Ely, Lord Tyrone, and 
Lord Drogheda, who had all great parliamentary influ- 

1 Jan. 9, 1771, Townshend to practice before the late augmen- 
Rochford. tation, by King's letter, without 

2 ' I must inform your Excel- an estimate laid before the 
lency in the utmost confidence, House of Commons, and a vote 
that this is thought a very de- on the particular numbers to be 
sirable opportunity of recover- kept up, or the manner of rais- 
ing the exercise of his Majesty's ing or forming the corps.' 
prerogative in fixing the estab- Bochford to Townshend (private 
lishnient, as was the constant and confidential), Feb. 18, 1771. 


ence, were with the Government. Seven important 
personages were at once bought over with peerages. 
The Prime Serjeant, Hely Hutchinson, who had distin- 
guished himself greatly in support of the Government, 
obtained an addition of 1,OOOZ. a year to the salary of 
the sinecure of Alnager which he held. Additional 
pensions, amounting, it is said, to not less than 25,0007., 
were promised, and with one exception were ultimately 
granted, 1 and all patronage legal, ecclesiastical, mili- 
tary, and political was employed with the same end. 
' The gentlemen of the House of Commons,' said an 
acute observer, ' were taught to look up to the Viceroy, 
not only as the source, but as the dispenser, of every 
gratification. Not even a Commission in the Revenue 
worth above 40L a year could be disposed of without 
his approbation.' 2 The Chief Justiceship of the Common 
Pleas happened at this time to fall vacant. Hitherto 
it had always been given to a lawyer from England ; 
but the necessity was so great that the rule was now 
given up, and it was bestowed on a member of the Irish 
Parliament, named Paterson, who had been conspicuous 
in supporting the recent measures of the Government. 
Where places and dignities could not be at once con- 
ferred, promises were held out; and the efforts of the 
Lord Lieutenant were so successful that when Parlia- 
ment reassembled on February 26, 1771, he had secured 
a majority, and the customary address thanking the 
King for continuing him in office was carried by 132 
to 107. It devolved upon Ponsonby as Speaker to pre- 
sent it ; but he refused in a very dignified letter to do 
so, and resigned his office. Pery, who had been at least 
partly gained by the Court, was elected in his place. 
The majority was, on the whole, maintained, though 

i Walpole'a George III. iv 2 Campbell's Philosophical 
848, 849. Survey, p. 58. 


,by no means invariably, till the resignation of Lord 
Townshend in September 1772, but it was maintained 
only by the most constant and lavish corruption. Thus, 
in March 1771, Townshend writes to Rochford that he 
hears a regiment for the East India service is to be 
recruited in Ireland, and he wishes to recommend for 
the commissions. ' In the arduous work in which I am 
at present engaged for his Majesty's service, I stand in 
need of every aid.' ' The gentlemen of the country are 
so desirous of getting their relations and dependents 
into the army that I can very much oblige several very 
powerful friends of Government by gratifying them with 
commissions.' In May he asks for eight more promo- 
tions in the peerage, and for permission to recommend 
three or four more members of Parliament as peers. 
The Home Government, startled at the profusion of 
honours, refused at this time to make any new peers or 
more than five promotions ; but Townshend insisted 
that, with the exception of the peerage to Lady Egmont, 
which was a personal favour to himself, every promotion 
or creation he had recommended was dictated by political 
motives. 1 He next determined to add to the number of 
Commissions of Account, and to divide the Customs 
and Excise departments. The measure, he thought, 
was advisable in itself, on account of the great increase 
of business, and it had ' been long expected by members 
of Parliament, who complained very much that there 
was so little to bestow.' The expense to the public in 
the article of Commissioners of Account had already 
increased sevenfold since 1757 ;* and when rumours of 

1 Oct. 12, 1771, Townshend to Adolphus, ii. 14. The details of 
Suffolk. all these transactions will be 

2 See the protest of nineteen found in numerous letters in the 
peers against the increase. It Record Office. Horace Walpole 
IB reprinted in the appendix to says that Townshend had assured 
Baratariana. See, too, p. 215. North that the Irish would like 




the intended change got abroad, Flood succeeded in 
inducing Parliament to pass a resolution stating that 
the existing seven Commissioners were sufficient ; but, 
in defiance of the expressed opinion of the House, Towns- 
hend carried out his purpose. The Boards of Customs 
and of Excise were separated ; five new places of 500Z. 
a year each were created, and they were all bestowed 
upon members of Parliament. Ecclesiastical patronage 
was administered with a cynical disregard to any other 
motive except that of obliging parliamentary sup- 
porters ; l and nearly the last letter of the Viceroy, before 

the new board, ' as it would fur- 
nish more employments.' Last 
Journals, i. 17. As early as 
1769, Townshend had suggested 
that the establishment of a new 
1 board of accounts,' besides its 
other advantages, would ' open a 
very favourable opportunity of 
attaching gentlemen of a very 
useful turn in Parliament.' 
Townshend to Weymouth, Dec. 
23, 1769. 

1 Thus, the Bishopric of 
Ferns being vacant, he recom- 
mends the son of Mr. Bourke, a 
steady supporter of the Govern- 
ment in Parliament, and adds : 
' The borough of Old Leighlin, 
which sends two members to 
Parliament, is absolutely in the 
disposal of the Bishop of Ferns ; 
and your Lordship will find, by 
the enclosed copy of a letter re- 
ceived from the Rev. Mr. Bourke, 
that I have taken care to secure 
it for the use of the Government 
during his incumbency. . . . 
The gentleman whom I have re- 
commended to be Dean of Dro- 
more, in the room of Mr. Bourke, 
is brother to Major-General Hunt, 
whose merit and services in the 

field and in Parliament have 
been so fully set forth by me to 
your Lordship. ..." I have long 
intended to confer some con- 
siderable ecclesiastical prefer- 
ment upon him, but, from a 
variety of other engagements to 
gentlemen in Parliament, I never 
had it in my power till now.' 
Dean Bourke's letter asking for 
the bishopric is enclosed. It 
does not contain a word relating 
to religion, but he writes: 'I 
beg to answer your Excellency 
that, if his Majesty shall be 
pleased to confer this mark of 
favour upon me, I shall always 
think it my duty to be ready to 
give my interest in the borough 
to such gentlemen as shall be 
from time to time recommended 
by the chief governors.' Pri- 
vate, Aug. 30, 1772. Townshend 
to Bochford. In December 1770, 
Townshend for the first time re- 
commended one of his own chap- 
lains for promotion. ' My great 
object,' he said, ' has been the pro- 
motion of the King's service, and 
to that I have given up, I think I 
may say, almost everything, civil, 
military, or ecclesiastical, that 


he left Ireland, asked for a peerage for the wife of Hely 
Hutchinson, and for peerages or baronetages for seven 
members of Parliament who had supported him. 1 

His temper had grown savage with opposition, and 
he cast every vestige of decorum to the winds. He lived 
openly with a mistress and with her friends, often disap- 
peared from public life to low haunts of dissipation, ridi- 
culed all parties at his own table, scattered abroad satiric 
ballads on friends and foes, and boasted openly of his 
success in purchasing a majority. 2 He had a contempt, 
which no doubt was fully justified, for the venality of 
many of his supporters, and his letters to the Govern- 
ment show it without disguise. He spoke with great 
bitterness of ' the annual bargain which Government is 
at present under the sad necessity of making with un- 
grateful servants and prostitute opponents.' He com- 
plained that the debate which resulted in his defeat 
about the new Commissioners had ' opened such a scene 
of ingratitude in the conduct of many persons,' that 
there were few indeed in whom he could place much 
confidence ; that those who owed their positions to Vn'rn 
gave him only an occasional and uncertain support; 
that the Attorney-General and Prime Serjeant had 
grown languid ; that the faction of Lord Tyrone were 
insatiable in their demands. ' His connections are to 
be gratified upon every opportunity. Mr. Fitzgibbon, 
who is an eminent lawyer, and in Parliament, asks a 
bishopric for Lord Tyrone's brother, who married his 
daughter ; and although this gentleman is not qualified 
by the canon law to take a bishopric on account of his 
youth, Mr. Fitzgibbon, who moved the address to me at 

has fallen within my gift.' Dec. 2 Walpole's George III. iv. 

26, 1770, Townshend to Roch- 348. Last Journals, i. 17, 148, 

ford. 149. See, too, Baratariana, p. 

1 Sept. 9, 1772, Townshend to 317. 


the conclusion of the last session, now makes that a 
reason for opposing Government with great rancour and 
vehemence.' ' The main cause, he maintained, of the 
unpopularity of the new Board of Revenue was a fear 
that by a better administration the hereditary revenue 
would be so increased, that the Government might be 
made independent of parliamentary grants. 

On most questions he was supported by a large 
majority, but his success was chequered by some 
damaging defeats. The increase in the number of Com- 
missioners of Account, by King's letter in defiance of 
the Resolution of the House of Commons, was brought 
forward and censured in different forms on several occa- 
sions, and once'by a majority of no less than forty-six. 
A pension of 1,OOOZ. a year, granted for a term of lives 
to Dyson, an obscure and by no means reputable Eng- 
lish follower of North, in direct violation of the royal 
pledge that no such pension should be given except on 
very urgent occasions, was likewise censured, and the 
ministers had the mortification of seeing some of their 
most devoted friends leave the House rather than sup- 
port it. They only succeeded by a majority of twelve 
in repelling a vote of censure directed against the King's 
letters, reimbursing, by a fresh grant, in the case of a 
few eminent persons, the tax of 4s. in the pound, which 
the Irish Parliament had imposed on all places and pen- 
sions held by absentees. The omission of the clause 
enabling the King to remit the tax had been one of the 
chief recommendations of the Act ; and Flood contended 
with reason that this omission was a complete mockery, 
if a new grant of 4s. in the pdund were made to the 
pensioners out of Irish revenues in order to compensate 
them for the tax. Townshend, who had once been so 

1 Dec. 11, 1771 (secret), Towns- gibbon was the father of the 
bend to Rochford. This Fitz- future Lord Clare. 

VOL. TJ. i 


greedy for popularity, now urged the Government 
against ' any concession to popular opinion,' and advised 
that the right of altering Money Bills should be exerted. 
A Money Bill was accordingly altered, and was at once 
rejected without a division, though, in order to prevent 
any inconvenience from the delay of supplies, its chief 
provisions, and even some of the amendments of the 
Privy Council, were at once embodied in a new Bill. 

The revenue was still falling, and the financial con- 
dition was aggravated by the political crisis, for Govern- 
ment feared to ask for new taxes. The distress in 
Dublin was so acute that it was agreed to give up the 
public dinners commonly given by the Lord Mayor and 
the Sheriffs, and to employ the money in charities. 1 
One effect of the diminishing revenue was the diminution 
of the private grants which had been so much complained 
of. Townshend remonstrated against their magnitude 
in one of his speeches from the throne, and took to him- 
self the greater part of the credit of the diminution, but 
it was probably more largely due to the want of funds. 
In November 1771 he wrote that the money grants had 
been ' restrained to 50,OOOZ., which is 10,OOOZ. less than in 
the preceding session,' and 70,OOOZ. less than in the pre- 
ceding Viceroyalty, and he added that by far the greater 
part was now given ' to objects of real national utility.' 2 

The animosity against the Lord Lieutenant had 
risen to fever heat. In March 1771 sixteen peers drew 
up a protest in which they described Him as a governor 
' who in contempt of all forms of business and rules of 
decency, heretofore respected by his predecessors, is 
actuated only by the most arbitrary caprice, to the 
detriment of his Majesty's interests, the injury of this 
oppressed country, and the unspeakable vexation of 

1 Gentleman's Magazine, 1771, * Nov. 28, 1771, Townshend 
p. 42. to Kochford. 


persons of every condition.' The Press continually 
painted him in prose and verse as a profligate and a 
buffoon ; and a powerful party in the House of Commons, 
led with great skill and eloquence by Henry Flood, 
made it their main object to procure his recall. Every 
question was contested, and the debates often extended 
many hours after midnight. 1 In the last months of his 
Viceroyalty, Townshend obtained a new strength from a 
quarter from which, beyond all others, it was least to be 
expected. He stooped to make an overture to Lord 
Shannon ; and that peer, who had signed the protest I 
have just quoted, consented, for place and power, to 
break away from Ponsonby and once more to support 
the Government. 2 The Home ministers, however, wisely 
thought that it was time to close the disgraceful scene. 
In September 1772 Townshend was recalled and made 
Master of the Ordnance in England ; and the Earl of 
Harcourt, who had been for some time the representative 
of Great Britain at the Court of Versailles, was ap- 
pointed to succeed him. 

No previous administration had done so much to 
corrupt and lower the tone of political life in Ireland, 
and Lord Townshend is one of the very small number of 
Irish Viceroys who have been personally disliked. ' The 
people of this kingdom,' said Sir John Davies, ' both 
English and Irish, did ever love and desire to be 
governed by great persons ; ' and one of the best argu- 
ments in favour of the Viceroyalty is the historical fact 
that under this system of government, in spite of party 
fluctuations and of intestine discord and disaffection, 
the supreme representative of English law and authority 
has usually been the most popular man in Ireland. 
The Irish character, indeed, naturally attaches itself 

1 Barrow's Life and Writings * Townshend to Eochford, Feb. 
of Lord Macartney, ii. 156, 157. 29, April 13, 1772. 

I 2 


much more strongly to individuals than to systems, and 
is peculiarly susceptible to personal influences. Chester- 
field, like Townshend, detested the system of Under- 
takers, 1 and took a large share of the government into 
his own hands, but he was as much beloved and respected 
as his successor was despised. 2 Townshend certainly 
desired sincerely the welfare of the country, and his 
abilities were superior to those of many of his prede- 
cessors and successors ; 3 but he was entirely destitute 
of tact and judgment, and he committed a fault which 
is peculiarly fatal in an Irish ruler. He sought for 
popularity by sacrificing the dignity and the decorum of 
his position, and he brought both his person and his 
office into contempt. 

Under Lord Harcourt, Irish politics suddenly calmed. 
The new Viceroy was an elderly nobleman of immense 
fortune, undistinguished in public life, and with no 
conspicuous ability, but painstaking, dignified, decorous, 
and conciliatory ; and his secretary, Sir John Blaquiere, 
had some debating power and great skill and adroitness 
in managing men. As Parliament did not meet till 
October 1773, the Lord Lieutenant had ample time to 
frame his measures and obtain a personal acquaintance 
with the leading politicians. He found all parties pre- 
pared to welcome him; and Shannon, Leinster, Pon- 
sonby, and Flood were all present at his early levees. 
He received secret instructions from Lord Kochford to 
aim specially at two ends. He was to discourage to the 
utmost of his power all applications for new peerages 

1 See the carious description him bitterly, had the candour to 

of the Undertakers' system, in acknowledge that he had ' starts 

his Letters, iv. 278 (ed. 1779). of good feeling,' and even ' parts 

- See the beautiful lines ad- and genius a momentary ray, 

dressed to the memory of Chester- which, like a faint wintry beam, 

field in Baratariana, p. 292. shot and vanished.' Baratari~ 

1 Grattan, who under the sig- ana, p. 311. 
nature ol ' Postkumus ' assailed 


and promotions, additional pensions and salaries, new 
offices, employments for life, and all grants of revenue, 
as well as the sale of offices, places, arid employments. 
He was also to do his utmost to regain for the King the 
full control of the hereditary revenue by inducing the 
Parliament to make good by new taxation the many 
charges which had been thrown upon it in the form of 
premiums and bounties, and especially the large bounty 
voted in perpetuity on the inland carriage of corn. 1 
Lord Shannon was warmly in favour of the Government, 
though, as usual, he stipulated for the distribution of a 
certain number of appointments and promotions among 
his followers as the price of his services. 2 In Parliament 
there was little opposition, and in his first session Har- 
court obtained great popularity by a measure reuniting 
the Boards of Excise and of Customs which had been 
divided under his predecessor. It is not, I think, now 
possible to pronounce any decisive opinion on the merits 
of this change. Townshend always maintained that, 
apart from its advantage in giving additional patronage 
to the Government, the division would greatly improve 
the hereditary revenue by a more efficient management ; 
and his secretary, Macartney, states that in the year 
that followed it, the revenue was more by 48,OOOZ. than 
in the year that preceded it ; 3 but the revenue had been 
already increasing before the shock that was given to 
public credit by the prorogation, and it is idle to specu- 
late how much was due to an improved method of 

1 Rochford to Harcourt (secret lection formed by Sir J.Blaqaiere, 
and confidential), Oct. 26, 1772. and now at the Record Office. 
See on this bounty, supra, p. 58. Most of the more important 

2 He asked for one peerage, one letters have been privatelyprinted 
pension, and four appointments, in the Harcourt Papers a large 
Harcourt to North, Dec. 20, and interesting collection oi 
1772. A large number of the historical documents, 
despatches relating to this ad- * Barrow's Life and Writing* 
ministration are in a special col- of Macartney, ii. 158, 159. 


collection. It is, however, certain that the expense of 
the collection had long been rapidly increasing, that the 
measure of Lord Townshend added no less than 16,OOOZ. 
to that expense, and that its repeal was extremely 
grateful to the public. 'I am convinced,' wrote the 
Ix>rd Lieutenant, ' there is not a dispassionate, candid 
man in this kingdom who does not receive it as a very 
high mark of his Majesty's favour, and as the most 
essential proof that can be given of his gracious atten- 
tion to the Parliament of Ireland.' Five Commissioners 
and four Surveyors-General were compensated by pen- 
sions for the extinction of their posts. 1 

The state of the finances was, however, very serious. 
' Our distresses,' wrote the Lord Lieutenant to North in 
April 1773, 'have increased to such a degree that 
almost an entire stop is put to all payments whatsoever, 
except for the sustenance of the army, and at times it 
has been found difficult to find money even for this 
purpose. I have reason to think that the arrears upon 
the Establishment by Christmas next will not fall short 
of 300,OOOZ.' It was with some natural irritation under 
these circumstances that Harcourt learnt that it was the 
determination of the King to impose another heavy 
pension on the Irish exchequer for the benefit of the 
Queen of Denmark, who had just been banished on 
account of he? alleged adultery with Count Struensee. 
His remonstrances, however, were vain, and Ireland had 
to submit to a pension of 3,OOOZ. a year for this lady. 8 

1 Barrow's Life and Writings Majesty shall be pleased to issue 
>>/ Macartney, ii. 156, 157. Har- his letter for placing the Queen 
court to Bochford, Nov. 9, 1773. of Denmark on the Civil Esta- 

2 North to Harcourt, March blishment of Ireland for a pen- 
29, 1773. Harcourt remonstrated Bion of 3,0002. per annum, the 
against this pension, April 24, necessary steps shall be taken for 
1773 (to North). On July 20, carrying his Majesty's pleasure 
1774, he writes : ' Whenever his into immediate execution.' 


It was admitted on all sides that some further taxa- 
tion was necessary for the support of the establishment, 
and Lord Harcourt was required not only to re-establish 
an equilibrium, but also to induce the Irish Parliament 
to impose taxation for the purpose of freeing from 
charges that portion of the revenue which Parliament 
regarded with most jealousy, and over which it had 
least control. The task was a difficult one ; but alter 
consultation with the chief politicians in Ireland, Har- 
court concluded that there was one tax which would 
restore both strength and popularity to the Government, 
and would at the same time place the finances of the 
country on a sound basis. This was a tax of 2s. in the 
pound on the rents of absentee proprietors. This tax 
Harcourt, after mature deliberation, determined to re- 
commend, and North agreed to accept it if it was carried 
in Ireland. 

In the earlier periods of Irish history, when the right 
of Government to regulate all matters affecting the social 
condition of nations was much more fully recognised, 
several laws had been enacted in Ireland against absen- 
teeism, and some of them had been enforced by pecuniary 
penalties. 1 Since the days of Swift and Prior a tax on 
the estates of absentees had been a favourite remedy, 
and it was much talked of at the time when their pen- 
sions were taxed. It was maintained that it was but a 
small compensation for the perpetual drain of money 
from the poorer to the richer country, and that the 
peculiar circumstances of Ireland made it perfectly 
equitable. Ireland had no land tax and no considerable 
duty on the transference of movable or immovable pro- 
perty, and the absentee landlord, therefore, contributed 
little or nothing to the Government which protected the 
sources of his revenue. On this ground Adam Smith, 

1 See, e.g., 28 Henry VIII. c. 3, and 10 Charles I. seas. 3, c. 21. 


shortly after the discussions in the Irish Parliament, 
maintained in his great work, that an Irish Absentee 
Tax would be perfectly just as well as expedient. 1 In 
Ireland such a measure was naturally so popular that 
there was not much doubt that it would be carried ; * 
but it was as naturally unpopular in England, and it 
remained to be seen whether English politicians would 
accept it. 

The position of the Tory Government was clearly de- 
fined. In reply to a remonstrance from his opponents, 
Lord North answered in the name of the ministers that 
' if the Irish Parliament should send over to England 
such a plan as should appear to be well calculated to 
give effectual relief to Ireland in its present distress, 
their opinion would be that it ought to be carried into 
execution, although a tax upon absentees should be a 
part of it.' 3 In confidential letters to Harcourt, North 
and Rochford urged that the Absentee Tax must not be 
suffered to stand alone, but must be part of a plan for 
relieving the hereditary revenue from the many burdens 
which had been thrown upon it, and especially from the 
existing premium on the carriage of corn, and for once 
more bringing Irish finances into a state of equilibrium. 
The proposed tax, North said, was extremely unpopular 
in England, but the Government would not flinch from 
its promise, provided the whole plan of the Lord Lieu- 
tenant was carried into effect. We must be able, he 
said, to tell the House of Commons that we found Ire- 
land 400,0002. in debt, and running annually 126,0002. 

' Wealth of Nations, bk. v. out difficulty, but with the great- 

ch. 2. est satisfaction and applause.' 

2 'If Government here persists Burke to Eockingham. Burke's 
in countenancing such a plan, I Correspondence, i. 440. 
have no sort of doubt that it will * North to Devonshire, Plow- 
pass the Parliament and Privy den'g Historical Register, i. 424. 
Council of Ireland, not only with- 


into arrear, and that a plan had been devised of which 
the Absentee Tax is an essential part, which would 
make her income equal to her establishments. 1 Lord 
Hertford is said to have been the only member of the 
English Privy Council who opposed the tax. 2 

The Whig Opposition consisted of two sections, which 
on this question diverged widely, one of them being led 
by Chatham, and the other by Kockingham. Shortly 
after the question had been mooted in Ireland, Shel- 
burne, who was himself a large Irish proprietor, wrote 
to Chatham that he had received information that the 
' administration had determined, in case a Bill came 
from Ireland taxing the estates of non-residents, to pass 
it here.' Such.a proceeding appeared to him ' incredibly 
unjust and impolitic ; ' he at first refused to believe it, 
but he had now ascertained that it was perfectly true, 
and he urgently called upon Chatham to guide his 
judgment. Chatham, as he himself says, considered the 
question long and carefully, and he answered in two ex- 
tremely remarkable letters which altogether changed the 
views of his correspondent. They are entirely consistent 
with the doctrine which Chatham always maintained 
about American taxation, and also with the position the 
Irish House of Commons had so often claimed in the 
discussions about Money Bills. 

' My opinion,' he wrote, ' alter weighing again and 
again the whole matter, is that it is most advisable not 
to meddle in urging the royal prerogative to reject the 
Bill for taxing absentees, should such a Bill be sent 
over. The operation of the Bill is excessively severe 
no doubt against absentees ; but the principle of that 
severity seems founded in strong Irish policy, which is 
to compel more of the product of the improved estates 

1 North to Harcourt, Oct. 29. 2 Burke's Correspondence, i. 
Rochford to Harcourt, Nov. 26, 436. 


of that kingdom to be spent by the possessors there 
amongst their tenants and in their own consumptions 
rather than here in England, and in foreign parts. 
England, it is evident, profits by draining Ireland of the 
vast incomes spent here from that country. But I could 
not, as a peer of England, advise the King, on princi- 
ples of indirect, accidental English policy, to reject a 
tax on absentees sent over here as the genuine desire of 
the Commons of Ireland acting in their proper and 
peculiar sphere, and exercising their inherent, exclusive 
right by raising supplies in the manner they judge 
best. . . . The fitness or justness of the tax in question 
I shall not consider if the Commons of Ireland send it 
here. I can only ask myself this single question in that 
case, What ought I to advise the Crown to do with it ? 
The line of the Constitution a line written in the 
broadest letter through every page of the history of Par- 
liament and people tells me that the Commons are to 
judge of the propriety and expediency of supplies. All 
opposition to be made to them is in its place during the 
pendency of any such Bill, by petition or by members in 
the House ; or for repeal if inconvenience be found to 
result from a tax ; but to advise the Crown to substitute 
in the first instance the opinion of the taxed, in the 
place of the judgment of the representative body, re- 
pugns to every principle I have been able to form to 
myself concerning the wise distribution of powers lodged 
by the Constitution in various parts respectively of the 
legislature. This power of the purse in the Commons is 
fundamental and inherent ; to translate it from them to 
the King in Council is to annihilate Parliament.' l 

Had Chatham at the time he wrote these weighty 
words been in the full vigour of health and influence the 
Absentee Tax might have passed without difficulty, but 

1 Chatham Correspondence, iv. 296-308. 


lie wrote from a bed of sickness, and some of the leading 
members of the Rockingham section of the Opposition 
belonged to the very class on whom the tax would fall. 
They resolved to resist it to the utmost, and to resist it 
not only by their influence in the Irish Parliament, but 
also, if it passed that body, by employing English par- 
liamentary pressure to compel the ministers to reject it. 
To attain this object a remonstrance against the tax 
signed by five great Wing peers, Devonshire, Rocking- 
ham, Bessborough, Milton, and Upper Ossory, and ad- 
dressed to Lord North, was presented and widely circu- 
lated. The remonstrants stated that they possessed 
large landed properties in both kingdoms; that their 
ordinary residence was in England, to which country 
some of them were attached not only by the ties of birth 
and early habit, but also by those of indispensable public 
duties ; that they had not hitherto considered such resi- 
dence a delinquency to be punished or a political evil to 
be corrected by the penal operation of a partial tax ; 
that they claimed the right of free subjects to choose 
their residence in any part of his Majesty's dominions, 
and that they could not refrain from expressing their 
astonishment at hearing that it was proposed to stigma- 
tise them by a fine for living in the country which was 
the chief member of the British Empire and the resi- 
dence of the common Sovereign. Such a scheme would 
be injurious to England, but it would not be less in- 
jurious to Ireland. It would lower the value of all 
landed property there. It would impose upon it re- 
strictions unknown in any other part of the British 
dominions, and, indeed, of the civilised world. It would 
lead directly to the separation of the two kingdoms both 
in interest and in affection. 1 

1 This remonstrance has often marle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 
been printed. See, e.g., Albe- 227,228. 


This letter became the manifesto of the Rockingham 
party on the question, though it was not accepted with- 
out some private hesitation, and two curious letters are 
preserved, written by the Duke of Richmond and Sir G. 
Savile, questioning its arguments. It was not sur- 
prising, they said, that the Irish, who in every instance 
were so unjustly treated by England, should endeavour 
to recover by direct taxation some part of the money 
which regularly goes out of their country, and which 
England will not allow them a fair chance of recovering 
by commerce and manufactures. The remonstrants ask 
why they should be debarred by an Absentee Tax from 
the full enjoyment and profits of their estates because 
they lived in England, as if such residence were a crime. 
The Irish trader or even landlord might ask in his turn 
why economical restraints should deprive him of the free 
enjoyment and full profits of his trade and of the produce 
of his land simply because he lived in Ireland. It is 
useless to argue the question on the supposition that the 
two countries are one. In money matters they are em- 
phatically two, for they have separate purses, different 
taxes, distinct and, in some respects, hostile commercial 
systems. If a State finds that some of its subjects, by 
enjoying their property in one particular way, become 
less useful to their country, a tax may surely be imposed 
to compensate the public for the difference. At the 
same time, they add, though the Irish were very excus- 
able in wishing for this tax, the English would be in- 
excusable in granting it. The interests of the two 
countries were in conflict, and the power lay with 
England. 1 

The remonstrance of the five peers of which I have 
given a short abstract is, as a composition, one of the 
most perfect State papers of the time, and few persona 

Albemarle'a Life of RocTcingJiam, ii. 230-234 


who read it can fail to trace it in the master pen of 
the greatest Irishman then living. The truth is that 
Edmund Burke had on this question thrown himself 
with extreme vehemence in opposition to the predomi- 
nating sentiments of his fellow-countrymen. It is idle 
to speculate how far he was influenced by the party 
feeling or the private friendship which so often swayed 
his judgment, but no one who reads his letters to Kock- 
ingnam and to Sir Charles Bingham, 1 can doubt the 
energy of his conviction or fail to be struck with the 
variety, subtlety, and ingenuity of the arguments with 
which he enforced it. By the very nature of things, he 
maintained, the central Parliament of a great, hetero- 
geneous empire must exercise a supreme, superintending 
power, and regulate the polity and economy of the 
several parts as they relate to one another; and it is 
therefore of the utmost importance to Ireland that per- 
sons connected with her by property or early preposses- 
sions should find their way into the British Legislature. 
Under the system of divided properties this had always 
been the case, but the direct tendency of an Absentee 
Tax was to prevent it. It would do more. It was a 
virtual declaration that England was a foreign country. 
It was a renunciation of the principle of common 
naturalisation which runs through the whole empire. 
It was the beginning of a war of retaliation carried on 
by a weak and dependent nation upon one which was 
incomparably more powerful. At present, an Irishman, 
when he sets his foot in England, becomes to all intents 
and purposes an Englishman ; but if Irishmen treat 
residence in Great Britain as a political evil to be dis- 
couraged by penal taxes, they will at last find it neces- 

1 The letter to Eockingham is Charles Bingham (a member of 
in Burke's Correspondence, i. thelrishParliamentJisinBurke's 
434-445. The letter to Sir Works (ed. 1812), ix. 134-147. 


sary to renounce the privileges and benefits connected 
with such residence. They will be excluded from Eng- 
lish official life, from the English Commons, from the 
English peerage. The necessary effect of the measure 
will be to separate the countries as much as possible by 
preventing any one from living in the one who is con- 
nected by property with the other. Intermarriages and 
mutual inheritance, which bind countries more closely 
than any laws, will become rarer. Obstacles will be 
thrown in the way of foreign travel. Suitors will be 
fined for their necessary residence in England while 
prosecuting their appeals to the ultimate Court of Judi- 
cature. Guardians will no longer give Irish minors 
the benefit of an English education. Invalids will no 
longer seek health, or men of damaged fortune a period 
of retrenchment in a foreign land. Englishmen will 
never again invest their capital or their skill in Irish 
property. The British Legislature may possibly re- 
taliate by a tax on the English property of residents in 
Ireland; the colonies will probably follow the Irish 
example, and thus a principle of disunion and separa- 
tion will pervade the whole empire ; l the bonds of 
common interests, knowledge, and sympathy which now 
knit it together will be everywhere loosened, and a 
narrow, insulated and local feeling and policy will be 
proportionately increased. Nor was the tax merely im- 
politic, it was also flagrantly unjust. Ireland, which is 
a subordinate part of the empire, gives laws to the whole, 
and ' makes a tax of regulation to prevent the residence 

1 'Lord Mansfield has told some ago by one of the colonies was 

of the Cabinet in confidence . . . rejected with indignation ; and 

that the proposed tax upon the that if way is given to this mea- 

land of absentees is grounded sure we may expect proposals of 

upon a policy which has always the same nature from all our 

been condemned in the Privy Colonies.' North to Harcourt, 

Council ; that a similar Act Oct. 29, 1773. Harcourt Papers, 

which was sent over some time ix. 80-82. 


of its proprietors of land, in the metropolis of the 
Empire.' ' Is there a shadow of reason that because a 
Lord Buckingham, a Duke of Devonshire, a Sir George 
Savile, possess property in Ireland which has descended 
to them without any act of theirs,' they must during 
half the year abandon their seats, their political and 
family duties in England, for a residence in Ireland ? 

At the same time it is worthy of notice that Burke 
feared greatly that the proposed measure would not 
merely pass in Ireland but would be accepted with 
perfect readiness by the English people. The estimate 
formed by a great Irish writer of the state of English 
public opinion on this question is very remarkable. 
' There is a superficial appearance of equity in this tax 
which cannot fail to captivate almost all those who are 
not led by some immediate interest to an attentive 
examination of its intrinsic merits. The mischiefs 
which such a measure may produce are remote and 
speculative. So they will appear to the people in 
general. They will not believe that this tax will drive 
a great many to a residence in Ireland. They think 
that this country may still enjoy the expenditure of the 
greater part of the Irish estates. While the part which 
is cut off by this tax is in appearance applied to the 
support of military and other establishments, which 
without the tax might otherwise fall more directly upon 
England, they will think themselves indemnified for the 
loss of that ten per cent, which is taken from the great 
system of English circulation. As to the great maxims 
of policy which are subverted by the principle of this 
tax, I am much mistaken if the people of this country, 
who have a perfect contempt for all such things, will 
not consider them on this, as upon so many other things 
a mere visionary theory.' l 

1 Burke's Correspondence, i. 441, 442. 


The agitation which Burke and the other members 
of the Rockingham party began, soon brought forth its 
fruits. The great English companies, which were large 
owners of Irish property, had their centre in the city. 
The flame of opposition spread rapidly, and Rocking- 
ham made a list of upwards of one hundred persons of 
large property who were directly interested in the 
measure. Though Chatham and Shelburne stood apart, 
it appeared that the question was likely speedily to create 
a formidable and popular opposition, and to spread a 
wave of excitement over the whole kingdom. 1 The 
King, who was steadily hostile to every measure which 
appeared like a concession, whether it was constitutional, 
commercial, or religious, disliked the Absentee Tax, and 
had only consented to it reluctantly in order to free the 
hereditary revenue from the corn bounty.* Rochford 
was much alarmed, and he at once wrote to Harcourt 
stating that serious difficulties were arising in England, 
but at the same time repeating his pledge that he would 
support the Bill in Council if it were passed by the 
Irish Parliament. 

The reply of Lord Harcourt was long and very 
curious. 3 Considering, he said, that the measure 
affected the property of some of the most important 
men in England, and considering the clamour they 
had raised, he was deeply grateful for the support 
which he had received ' upon a point wherein ' he ' cer- 
tainly stood committed to this kingdom.' ' The decided 
opinions of some of the wisest and most experienced 
men in this kingdom, and the general wishes of the 

1 Chatham Correspondence, iv. glad to hear that it [the Absentee 
304. Tax] has failed in Ireland.' 

2 Correspondence of George III. North to Harcourt, Nov. 2, 1773. 
with Lord North, i. 155-159. Harcourt Papers, ix. 97, 98. 
Every person here from the 3 Harcourt to Rochford, Nov. 
lowest to the very first person in 9, 1773. 

the kingdom, will be extremely 

cu. in. POLICY OF BARCOURT. 129 

people for half a century past, added to the exigencies 
of government/ had led him to press earnestly for this 
tax as the best fitted to relieve the public credit and 
conciliate the body of the nation; but as soon as he 
found that it was likely in the most remote degree to 
imperil the safety of the administration in England, he 
resolved to waive it. ' In consequence of that deter- 
mination,' he adds, * we have used our industry to divert 
the progress of this tax for the present, and we mean to 
allow it to be moved in the House by a certain wild, 
inconsistent gentleman, who has signified such to be his 
intention, which will be sufficient to damn the measure 
were no other means to be employed against it. Oppo- 
sition are first, made to startle and by degrees grow 
alarmed at it, as an approach to a general land tax. As 
to our own people, by speaking indecisively and equivo- 
cally to those who seem to wish [sic] against it, and by 
setting those at defiance who wish to extort favours by 
a compliance with any requisition of Government, men 
in general have been brought to hold themselves in sus- 
pense with regard to it.' The letters of the five peers, 
in which it was so strongly maintained that the effect of 
the measure would be to lower the value of Irish land, 
were widely circulated. ' Having,' writes the Lord 
Lieutenant, * or at least wishing, to give up the object, 
I will endeavour to make these letters a means of con- 
demning the tax in the House of Commons. It will in 
course grow a topic of general disquisition and discus- 
sion, and from a capricious instability observable in the 
opinions of the people of this country, I imagine that 
by leaving men now totally to their own inclinations, 
this, now so much sought for boon, may die in a few 
days, and if it should not of itself, every little addition 
to what has already been done on our part shall be 
made to destroy it.* 'There is not a man in this 
kingdom/ he added, * who either from station or abili- 
VOL. n. K 


ties was entitled, or from whom any probable advantage 
could be gained, with whom, either diiectly in conver- 
sation with myself or through my chief Secretary, 
every proper confidence has not been reposed.' 

The measure is said to have been introduced by 
Flood. 1 It is probable, however, that he was merely 
the chief speaker in its favour, for, although Bar- 
court personally disliked him, and although in the 
course of his recent opposition Flood had offended the 
most important personages in Parliament, it is ex- 
tremely unlikely that Harcourt would have referred to 
him in the terms I have quoted. His parliamentary 
influence during the last few years had been great and 
acknowledged. Harcourt fully recognised it by the very 
high offer he made to attach him to his Government, 
and Burke regarded his determination to favour the 
Absentee Tax as one of the most serious elements in 
its favour. 2 For the rest, the designs of the ministers 
were very skilfully accomplished. Some no doubt 
opposed the tax because they imagined that they would 
thus embarrass the Government, and others because 
they knew that the Government secretly desired it ; the 

1 Hardy's Charlemont, i. 331. did not leside six months in the 

Chatham Correspondence, iv. 296. year in Ireland. Harcourt to 

In the Life of Flood by Warden North, Nov. 26, 1773. There are 

Flood (p. 91), the tax is said to no Irish Parliamentary debates 

have been first proposed by ' Mr. published for this period. 

Fortescue and Mr. Flood.' Har- 2 ' It is not impossible that 

court says that ' the wild and in- Flood will be the mover of the 

consistent gentleman ' moved a tax. It will bring him over to 

resolution in favour of an Ab- administration with a good grace. 

Bentee Tax without specifying He will have one of the best 

the amount, or the length of horses of popularity in Lord 

residence that was required ; that Chatham's stables. He will have 

this resolution was withdrawn as the merit of coming over to a 

too vague, and that Oliver, the Government entire^ in an Irish 

member for the county of Limer- interest.' Burke's Correspon- 

ick, then moved a tax of 2s. in dence, i. 438. 
the pound on all landowners who 


great absentee proprietors had their own connections 
and their own boroughs, and considerations about a 
possible depreciation in the value of land weighed 
heavily on a Parliament of landlords. Flood and 
Brownlow strongly argued that if the tax threw much 
Irish land into the market, the absentee proprietors 
would at least find it their interest to sell it in small 
portions and to persons of moderate properties, and 
that this would produce that division of property and 
that residence of proprietors which it ought to be the 
special object of the Irish Legislature to encourage. 
' The justice and equity of the tax,' Lord Harcourt 
wrote, ' were admitted on all hands ; ' but the suspicion 
spread far and fast that it was the first step in a plan of 
the English ministry to introduce a general land tax. 

The speech of Sir John Blaquiere appears to have 
been a model of adroitness. He rose ostensibly to support 
the measure. He had heard it, he said, very lately 
described as the salvation of the country, and he had 
not yet ' quite given up the idea,' though his faith may 
have been ' something staggered by the variety of 
opinions which now obtain.' He felt that it was not for 
him, who had not a foot of ground in Ireland, to dictate 
to those who had so much, and he would therefore not 
attempt on a question which so vitally affected the 
value of the property, of landowners to control votes or 
strain allegiance. ' I will lay my heart upon your 
table,' he concluded. ' Under the strange revolution 
of sentiment which this subject has already undergone, 
let it surprise no man if upon this occasion it is seen 
that my best friend and I divide on different sides of 
the House.' * Some of the leading interests in the 

1 Enclosed by Harcourt to linquish the tax, was quite igno- 

Bochford. Walpole, though he rant of the secret policy of the 

was aware that North had deter- Castle. He says that the tax 

mined at the last moment to re- was rejected in Ireland, ' though 


House turned against the measure, and it was thrown 
out by 120 to 106. An attempt was made irregularly 
and by surprise to revive the subject, and the Attorney- 
General, to the great indignation of Harcourt, supported 
it. Flood appeal's to have spoken with more than 
common energy and power, and the Lord Lieutenant 
complained to North of ' the frenzy which at this moment 
seems to possess almost universally in favour of the 
measure, the mind of every member of the House of 
Commons,' but ' by most dexterous management,' and 
after a debate that lasted nine hours, the House was 
persuaded to acquiesce in its own previous decision, and 
the Absentee Tax was thus defeated in the Irish House 
of Commons without any open hostility on the part of 
the Government. 1 

This very curious episode was the most remarkable 
Irish event in the first year of the administration of 
Harcourt. Parliament soon passed into its usual habit 
of giving the Government on most questions an almost 
unanimous support, though on a few particular points it 
jealously maintained its independence of action. The 
Absentee Tax having failed, it was imperatively neces- 
sary to seek new resources, for between the Lady Day 
of 1 763 and the Lady Day of 1 773 the National Debt had 

the Castle, all triumphant, and and Nov. 30, 1773. Harcourt 
which had just had a majority of writes : ' Mr. Flood was violent 
fifty, and had gained over Mr. and able in behalf of the measure 
Flood, the best orator and warm- in a degree almost surpassing 
est patriot in the Opposition, had everything he had ever uttered 
exerted all its strength to carry it.' before. It would appear as if he 
Last Journals, i. 273. North's meant to take this occasion of 
real sentiments were very clearly utterly crushing to destruction 
expressed : ' Certainly no event the Duke of Leinster's party and 
could have given me greater com- Mr. Ponsonby, against the latter 
fort than the rejection of the of whom he made such a per- 
Absentee Tax.' North to Har- sonal attack as that poor gentle- 
court, Dec. 9, 1773. man, I fear, will never recover.' 
1 Harcourt to North, Nov. 27 


increased from 521,1612. to 999,686?.' In order to 
meet immediate wants 265,0002. was raised by the 
method of Tontine Annuities and Stamp Duties, and 
several other new duties were imposed, which it was 
computed would probably add nearly 100,OOOZ. a year 
to the revenue. 2 The House of Commons showed no 
indisposition to grant these supplies, but it showed 
great and general indignation when it found that its 
Supply Bills were largely altered in England. Friends 
of the Government and independent members were on 
this point perfectly agreed, and the two great Supply 
Bills were almost unanimously rejected. ' The conduct 
of the members,' wrote Harcourt, ' was moderate and 
respectful to Government,' but after ' their strenuous 
and liberal efforts to support the King's establishment 
in a time of difficulty and distress,' the alterations 
appeared, even to the friends of the Government, 
' wanton, unnecessary, and unkind,' and it is evident 
that Harcourt himself leaned towards this opinion. 
The Commons having asserted their rights by rejecting 
the altered Bills, proceeded to re-enact them with new 
titles and in a form which embodied many of the 
amendments that had been made. 3 

As the difficulties of supporting the augmented 
establishment became more apparent, and especially 
after the rejection of the Absentee Tax, the commercial 
restrictions were more impatiently borne, and Pery, as 
Speaker of the House of Commons, at the close of the 
Session of 1773, in presenting the Supplies to the 
Lord Lieutenant, made a formal remonstrance on the 
subject. 4 A Habeas Corpus Bill was again carried in 

1 Commons' JbwnwZs.xvi. 249. Rochford to Harcourt. 
* Ibid. xvi. 332. 4 Commons' Journals, xvi. p. 

3 Dec. 25, 27, 30, 1773, Har- 332. 
oourt to Rochford. Jan. 14, 1774, 


Ireland and again rejected in England, 1 and the ques- 
tion of the Perpetual Duties which had been granted 
under the Duke of Bedford on the Inland Carriage of 
Corn was again brought forward. The Home Govern- 
ment were extremely anxious that these duties should 
be wholly repealed, but Harcourt assured them that 
there were not ten members in the House of Commons 
who would vote for such a measure. Harcourt appears 
to have taken infinite pains in the matter, and for 
several weeks he was engaged in constant private in- 
terviews with members of the House of Commons. 
At last, to his great delight, the House of Commons 
was induced partially to relieve the hereditary revenue 
of the burden, by passing a resolution to the effect that 
whenever the bounty on the inland carriage of corn 
exceeded 35,00(K in the year, Parliament should im- 
pose fresh taxes to make good the excess. 5 

This concession, however, which the Lord Lieu- 
tenant deemed a matter of vital importance, was largely 
due to the support the Government gave to a measure 
granting bounties upon the export of Irish corn to 
foreign countries when its home price fell below a 
certain level. 3 These bounties were below those which 
were given to English corn, so that the English corn 
merchant would still have an advantage in foreign 
markets, and the Act was limited to five years, but the 
Irish gentry believed the measure to be of extreme 
benefit to tillage. Flood appears to have taken a lead- 
ing part in bringing it forward, 4 but it was solely due 
to the strenuous persistence of Lord Harcourt that the 
English Government were persuaded to accept it. ' I 
must take occasion to say,' he wrote in a confidential 

1 March 6, 1774, Harcourt to xvi. p. 502. 

Rochford. 13 & 14 George III., c. ri. 

March 15, 1774. Harcourt 4 Commons' Journals, xvL 

to Rochiord. Commons' Journals, 487. 


despatch to Rochford, ' that nothing can be so grateful 
to me, after having been the instrument of obtaining 
so much from this people, as to put it in my power 
to make them some return. For, notwithstanding the 
mode in which business has been conducted, gentlemen 
very well know how much they have strained the means 
of this country to satisfy his Majesty of their loyalty 
and attachment, and I am fearful they would not think 
themselves kindly treated if some return was not to be 
made.' * 

The relations of Lord Harcourt with the Irish 
Parliament at the close of 1774 were as friendly as 
possible, and the two most conspicuous debaters in the 
House of Commons soon after received favours from his 
hand. Hely Hutchinson had for a long time disliked 
the profession of the law, and had desired to turn to a 
wholly different sphere. The great position of Provost 
of Trinity College having fallen vacant, he asked for 
and obtained it, the statute which required that the 
Provost should be in holy orders being dispensed with 
in his favour. Hutchinson, on accepting this post, 
resigned the office of Prime Serjeant, and the sinecure 
of Alnager, as well as his professional practice ; but in 
spite of these sacrifices, the new appointment did not 
escape severe and merited blame. There was a mani- 
fest impropriety in making the headship of a great 
University a prize to be given for mere parliamentary 
services, and in passing over the claims of the resident 
fellows in favour of a man who had no experience in 
academic pursuits, and only a faint tincture of academic 
learning. Hutchinson continued to retain his seat in 
Parliament, and his name for some years longer occurs 
frequently in Irish politics. 

1 Private. March 15, 1774. Harcourt to Eochford. April 20, 
Bocbford to Harcourt. 


A more important and a more contested appoint- 
ment was that of Henry Flood, who, after a long period 
of negotiation, accepted in October 1775 the position of 
Vice-Treasurer. This very remarkable man had for 
some years been rising rapidly as a debater to the 
foremost place in the House of Commons. His elo- 
quence does not, indeed, appear to have been of the 
very highest kind. It was slow, formal, austere, and 
somewhat heavy. When he passed, late in life, into 
the English Parliament, he failed, and Wraxall gave 
a reason for his failure which is so curious as indicating 
a great change that has taken place in national tastes 
that the reader must pardon me if I make it the text of 
a short digression. ' The slow, measured, and senten- 
tious style of enunciation which characterised his elo- 
quence,' says Wraxall, ' however calculated to excite 
admiration it might be in the senate of the sister 
kingdom, appeared to English ears cold, stiff, and 
deficient in some of the best recommendations of atten- 
tion.' l In truth, the standard of taste prevailing in 
Ireland, or at least in Dublin, during the first three- 
quarters of the eighteenth century, appears to have 
been as far as possible removed from the exaggerated, 
over-heated, and over-ornamented rhetoric which is so 
commonly associated with the term Irish eloquence. 
The style of Swift, the style of Berkeley, and the style 
of Goldsmith are in their different ways among the 
most perfect in English literature, but they are simple 
sometimes to the verge of baldness, and they manifest 
a much greater distaste for ornamentation and rhetorical 
effect than the best contemporary writings in England. 
Burke had by nature one of the most exuberant of 
human imaginations, and his literary taste was by no 

1 Memoirs, vol. iii. 587. This 279-280. Bee, too, Parl. Hist. 
account is fully corroborated by xxiv. 58. 
Hardy. Life of Charlemont, i. 


means pure.; but it is very remarkable that it was not 
until a long residence in England had made him in- 
different to the canons of Irish taste that the true 
character of his intellect was fully disclosed. His 
treatise on ' The Sublime and Beautiful,' though written 
on a subject which lends itself eminently to ornamenta- 
tion, is severe and simple to frigidity, and his historical 
articles in the ' Annual Register,' though full of weighty 
and impressive passages, do not show a trace of the 
gorgeous rhetoric which adorns the ' Reflections on the 
French Revolution,' and the 'Letters on a Regicide 
Peace.' With very different degrees of literary merit, 
the same quality of eminent simplicity and sobriety 
marks the writings of Hely Hutchinson, of Hutcheson 
the philosopher, of Henry Brooke, of Leland, Curry, 
Gordon, and Warner, and, as I have already noticed, of 
the more important pamphlets of the time. 1 It repre- 
sented, no doubt, in a great measure, the reaction of 
the cultivated taste of the nation against popular and 
prevalent faults, just as it is common to find among the 
illustrious writers and critics who have in the present 
century arisen in America a severity of taste and of 
literary judgment, and a fastidious purity of expression 
rarely equalled among good English writers. 

The influence of this taste was naturally felt in Par- 
liament. Anthony Malone, who was long the most 
conspicuous man in the Irish House of Commons, was 
described as possessing 'the clearest head that ever 
conceived, and the sweetest tongue that ever uttered 

1 I am happy to be able to he also surpassed Cicero in the 

support my judgment on this charm of simplicity, a quality 

point by the high authority of eminently found in Irish writers 

Sir James Mackintosh, who de- before the end of the eighteenth 

scribes the writings of Berkeley century.' Mackintosh's Disser- 

as ' beyond dispute the finest tation on Ethical Philosophy, p. 

models of philosophical style 214. 
since Cicero,' and adds, ' Perhaps 


the suggestions of wisdom ; ' ! but his speeches appear 
to have been more like the charges of a great judge 
than the harangues of a popular tribune. His con- 
temporaries dwell upon the exquisite perspicuity and 
plausibility of his narrative, upon his rare power of 
clear, terse, and cogent reasoning, upon the entire ab- 
sence in his speeches of passion, imagination, and 
rhetorical ornament. 2 Hely Hutchinson is said to have 
been the first person who introduced a polished and 
ornamental style of speaking into the Irish Parliament, 
and the highly imaginative, though eminently terse, 
eloquence of Grattan, the popular character which Irish 
politics assumed in 1782, the influence which Kirwan, 
and perhaps the early Methodist preachers, exercised 
upon the pulpit, all conspired to change gradually the 
popular type. It is probable, however, that of all the 
great orators who, in the present century, have adorned 
the British Parliament, the most severely simple, the 
most sternly argumentative was Plunket, who was born 
and educated in Ireland, and who first displayed his 
genius in the Irish Parliament. 

Plunket was probably a greater orator than Flood, 
but the speeches of the latter, though marred by an 
Irish accent which had survived an Oxford education, 
by a cumbrous and pedantic taste, and by a deficiency 
in those lighter gifts which enable an orator to deal 
gracefully with small subjects, exercised an influence of 
the highest kind. 3 His power of conducting long trains 

1 Baratariana, p. 171. 61-62. Baratariana, 171-174. 

2 The expressions of Cicero Grattan's Miscellaneous Works, 
about Scaurus were quoted as p. 117. 

peculiarly applicable to Malone. * Grattan said of him : ' He 

' Gra vitas summa et naturalis had great powers, great public 

qusedam inerat anctoritas, non effect, he persuaded the old, he 

ut causam, sed ut testimonium inspired the young. . . . On a 

dicere putares cum pro reo small subject he was miserable ; 

ilicreet.' See Grattan's Life, i. put into his hand a distaff, and 

CH. m. HENRY FLOOD. 139 

of sustained, accurate, and intricate reasoning, his 
quickness and dexterity in reply, the measured severity 
of his sarcasm and invective, and his consummate 
mastery of the constitutional and financial questions 
which he especially treated, placed him at once in the 
foremost rank. One of the ablest of his contemporary 
admirers said of him that, on whatever subject he 
spoke, ' he spoke with such knowledge, accuracy, and 
perspicuity that one would imagine that subject had 
been the chief object of his inquiry ; ' l and in the 
most brilliant period of the career of Grattan there were 
always some good judges who maintained that in the 
more solid intellectual qualities Flood was his superior. 
He had entered Parliament in 1759, during the ad- 
ministration of the Duke of Bedford, and had early 
identified himself with three great questions, the limi- 
tation of the duration of Parliament, the creation of a 
militia, and the assertion of the independence of Par- 
liament, which was violated by Poynings' law, or rather, 
as was contended by Flood, by the interpretation which 

like Hercules, he made sad work of the Irish Nation, ch. xvii.), 

of it, but give him the thunder- but Hely Hutchinson, who was 

bolt and he had the arm of a nearly always opposed to him, 

Jupiter.' Miscellaneous Works, ridiculed his ' sevenfold phraseo- 

p. 118. Hardy says he was ' a logy,' and Eden who, however, 

consummate member of Parlia- came in contact with him in the 

ment. Active, ardent, and per- most unfortunate part of his 

severing, his industry was with- career was greatly disappointed 

out limits. In advancing, and, with his speaking. Auckland 

according to the Parliamentary Correspondence, i. 319. His 

phrase, driving a question, he speech defendinghiswhole career 

was unrivalled. . . . When at- from the attack of Grattan in 

tacked he was always most sue- 1783 seems well reported, and is 

cessful. . . . His introductory or certainly extremely able. There 

formal speeches were of ten heavy is a striking sketch of the life 

and laboured, yet still replete and character of Flood in the 

with just argument.' Life of Dublin University Magazine tor 

Charlcmont, i. 279. Barrington 1836. 

thought him a greater reasoner l Langrishe in Baratariana, 

than Grattan (Rise and Fall p. 50. 


the judges in 1692 had placed upon that law. Like all 
Irish politicians, however, his opposition was confined 
to a few special questions. He was an admirer and 
acquaintance of Chatham, and when Bristol became 
Lord Lieutenant, Flood declared his full intention of 
supporting him, and seems to have been on the point 
of taking office. 1 His attitude towards Townshend was, 
at first, very friendly, and Townshend, as we have seen, 
was especially anxious to secure his services. Flood 
maintained, however, that the augmentation of the es- 
tablishment was too heavy a burden for the finances ; 
he tried to press his rival scheme of a militia, and after 
the sudden and final prorogation of Parliament, he, for 
the first time, went into violent, constant, and sys- 
tematic opposition. His speeches against the Govern- 
ment were then incessant and very bitter, and he drew 
up most of the protests that were entered in the Journal 
of the House of Lords. The main object of the oppo- 
sition at this time was to compel the recall of Towns- 
hend, and when Harcourt came over, the party naturally 
dissolved. After some hesitation and long negotiation, 
Flood abandoned all attempts at opposition, and ac- 
cepted the great office of Vice-Treasurer. 

Inquiries into the secret motives that governed 
politicians are usually among the most worthless and 
untrustworthy portions of history. Except in the case 
of a very few of the most conspicuous figures, our 
materials for deciding are utterly inadequate, and the 
best contemporary judgments are largely based upon 
indications of chai'acter which are much too subtle and 
evanescent to pass into the page of history. Looking, 
however, at the facts as they have been stated, it is not 
easy to see why the conduct of Flood, in accepting 
office, should have been stigmatised as dishonourable. 

1 Chatham Correspondence, iii. 166, 167. 


At no period of his life had he entered into an engage- 
ment not to do so. The violent and systematic oppo- 
sition in which he was engaged during the latter part 
of the administration of Townshend grew out of the 
distinctive policy of that Viceroy, and naturally termi- 
nated with his recall. It was, no doubt, true that 
Poynings' law could not be discussed by a statesman in 
office, but in the state of parties in 1774 there did not 
seem the smallest probability of discussing it with effect. 
The limitation of Parliament had been secured. A 
militia was hardly needed, since the establishment had 
been augmented, and although Charlemont strongly 
maintained that a permanent and well-organised oppo- 
sition was essential to the healthy growth of the Irish 
Constitution, 1 the fact remained that after the recall of 
Townshend such an opposition did not exist. It was 
surely open to an honest politician to contend that, 
under these circumstances, he could gain more for the 
country by co-operating with the Government than by 
opposing it. The Government of Harcourt was cer- 
tainly not deserving of unqualified reprobation. The 
reunion of the divided revenue board, the Absentee Tax, 
and the bounty on the exportation of corn were three 
measures in which Flood took a keen interest. They 
were all of them ostensibly supported, and two of them 
were actually carried by the Government. By accept- 
ing the office of Vice-Treasurer, Flood broke the custom 
which reserved that post for Englishmen. He obtained 
a seat in the Privy Council where questions of vital 
interest to Ireland were decided, and he might very 
reasonably expect a great extension of his influence. 
To his own friends he justified his conduct by the utter 
impossibility of inducing any considerable body of men 
to remaui in steady opposition after the recall of Towns- 

1 Original Letters to the Right Hon. Henry Jf'lood, p. 82. 


hend. 'The only way,' he said, 'anything could be 
effected for the country, was by going along with 
Government, and making their measures diverge to- 
wards public utility.' ' He spoke also of the advan- 
tage of restoring to the kingdom a great office which 
had been alienated from it, and his public language, 
when he was called upon, some years later, to defend 
his conduct, is perfectly consistent with these views. 
Charlemont, whose own character was of the highest 
kind, and who had hitherto been one of the most inti- 
mate friends and one of the warmest admirers of Flood, 
never forgave him for having accepted office ; but he 
acknowledged that his c chief reason was the incessant 
falling off of his party after the recall of Townshend, 
and ' the belief that by accepting a great and apparently 
ministerial office he would be more able to serve his 
country.' 2 It is difficult to see why reasons so plau- 
sible, and indeed so cogent, should not have been 
deemed sufficient. 

The truth is, that there was much in the public 
character and in the subsequent career of Flood which 
led men to judge him with severity. By the lowest 
form of political temptation he does not seem to have 
been seriously influenced. It was, no doubt, some- 
times said that his object was to repair the waste which 
a recent election had made in his estate ; but those 
who knew him best appear to have agreed that money 
was no consideration to him, and in this respect, in- 
deed, a childless man, with a fortune of about 5,OOOZ. a 

1 Grattan's Life, i. 206. So on serve the country was to serve 

another occasion he said 'that her when in office.' Ibid. iii. 

no good could be done for Ire- 342. 

land without taking office; for 2 MS. Autobiography. The 

the influence of the Crown was independent judgment of Hardy 

so great it was not possible to is much the same. See his Lift 

oppose it, and the only way to of Ciuirlemont, i. 356-358. 


year, in Ireland, and in the eighteenth century, was 
not much tempted. Nor was he ever accused of seeking 
or desiring a peerage, which was the usual bribe held 
out to rich country gentlemen. His prevailing fault 
was an excessive love of power and reputation, which 
led him extravagantly to overrate his own political im- 
portance, to exaggerate his services, to look with great 
jealousy on any competitor for fame, and to aspire on 
all occasions to exercise an absolute influence on those 
about him. In private life, his hospitable and convivial 
manners, his love of field sports, his excellent classical 
scholarship, his great patience under contradiction and 
his very considerable conversational powers made him 
generally popular ; and Burke, Charlemont, and Grattan 
were at one time among his friends. But in public life 
a strong personal element seems to have always mixed 
with his politics. He was jealous, domineering, irrit- 
able, easily imagining slights, prone to take sudden 
turns of conduct through motives of personal ambition 
or personal resentment, more feared than trusted by 
those with whom he acted. The story of his negotia- 
tion for office, as it is related in the confidential letters 
of Harcourt and Blaquiere, leaves a very unfavourable 
impression on the mind, though allowance should be 
made for the fact that we have not got his own account 
of the transaction, and that some of the letters from the 
Castle were written under the influence of great irrita- 
tion. Immediately after the death of Provost Andrews, 
Harcourt wrote to Rochford recommending Hely Hut- 
chinson for that post, and proposing that the sinecure 
office of Alnager, hitherto held by Hutchinson, should 
be bestowed on Flood during his Majesty's pleasure, 
with a salary of 1,000/. a year. ' By these arrange- 
ments,' he said, ' the great and ancient office of Alnager, 
which is now granted for years, will be brought back to 
the Crown, and Government will obtain the assistance of 


a gentleman of powerful abilities by the acquisition of 
Mr. Flood. . . . The attainment of all these great 
points at the charge of 1,OOOZ. a year, an expense so 
inconsiderable, . . . will, I flatter myself, be thought 
very good economy.' 

Flood, however, not unnaturally considered an offer 
which placed him in a position so completely subordi- 
nate to that of Hutchinson, as little less than an insult, 
and an insult aggravated by a direct breach of promise. 
' Mr. Flood,' writes Harcourt, ' is greatly offended that 
the Provostship was not offered to him. I saw him yes- 
terday, and he complained most bitterly of the treatment 
he had received from Government, laying the greatest 
stress on the promise Mr. Blaquiere had made him that 
he should have the first great office that became vacant. 
. . . Mr. Flood took occasion to set forth his important 
services, which he thought very justly entitled him to 
the preferment, which had been given to Mr. Hutchin- 
son without even making him a tender of it, though he 
did not declare whether he would have taken it if 
it had been offered to him. He laid great stress on 
the difficulties and obstructions which he could have 
thrown in the way had he been disposed to be adverse. 
... In answer to what I had said of Mr. Hutchinson re- 
signing two good employments in order to be Provost, 
he observed he had made as great, if not a greater, 
sacrifice, meaning his popularity and reputation, which 
he had risked in support of Government, which now 
treated him with a degree of contempt that determined 
him never more to have any concerns with the Castle 
. . . that paid so little regard to engagements. ... It 
would be a lesson for everybody to be very cautious for 
the future in their dealings with ministers. He said 
he could make it appear that he had saved the Crown 
more than five times the value of the favour he asked.' 
It appears, however that Flood had already mentioned 


the office of Vice-Treasurer; and Harcourt, without 
venturing to hold out any strong hopes, freely acknow- 
ledged the obligations of the Government. c I told 
him,' he says, in relating the interview to North, * I 
thought the faith of Government was pledged to make 
an ample provision for him ; and if it was not done, I 
should be ready to acknowledge he had been deceived 
and ill used.' He had been from the beginning fully 
determined, he tells Lord North, not to offer Flood the 
Provostship, for this was an immovable office of great 
influence, and it might have made him extremely for- 
midable to the Administration, but he clearly foresaw 
when he recommended Hutchinson for the Provostship 
that he would be ' reduced to the necessity of urging 
Mr. Flood's request to be one of the Vice-Treasurers.' l 
The three Vice-Treasurers for Ireland only held 
their offices during pleasure ; but their position was 
one of great emolument and dignity, and it carried with 
it the rank of Privy Councillor in both countries. The 
system, however, still prevailed in full force of making 
lucrative offices paid out of Irish revenues rewards for 
English politicians living in England. This had, in- 
deed, of late been done with unusual audacity, for 
Gerard Hamilton and Rigby, neither of whom had any 
permanent connection with Ireland, had been made, the 
first, Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the second, 
Irish Master of the Kolls for life. North admitted that 
these appointments were abuses, but few things could 
be more disagreeable to him than to relinquish any of 
the great pi'izes which were employed, according to old 
and well-established custom, to win or maintain English 
parliamentary support. ' I am very sensible,' he wrote, 
' that Mr. Flood has good pretensions to as considerable 
an office as the Vice-Treasurership of Ireland, or, in- 

1 Harcourt to Rochford, June 19. To North, July 8, 1774. 


deed, to a better. My sole objection to his having it, 
I will freely confess, is that I fear much blame here, 
and no small difficulty in carrying on the King's busi- 
ness, if I consent to part with the disposal of these 
offices which have been so long and so uniformly be- 
stowed upon members of the British Parliament.' He 
considered it scarcely possible to grant the request of 
Harcourt, and he suggested that the ancient office of 
President of Munster might be revived as a sinecure, 
and with a large revenue attached to it. 1 

Harcourt, however, persisted in his request. He 
asked whether it would not be ' advisable to secure Mr. 
Flood almost at any expense, rather than to risk an 
opposition which, conducted by a man of his abilities, 
may render the success of Administration more pre- 
carious.' Even judging the question ' merely upon the 
point of public economy, putting the considerations of 
confidence in Government, justice for past services, and 
good faith totally out of the case,' it was far better to 
give a great office to Flood than to risk the new duties 
which had just been carried, and ' put an able and most 
active man at the head of a numerous opposition, the 
last session of an Octennial Parliament.' ' There can be 
no danger of lessening the patronage of England by 
lending an office for a short time, and for a very par- 
ticular purpose, to support his Majesty's Government in 
Ireland. Successive governors must necessarily bring 
back to England all or most of the considerable offices 
of this country by the very nature of its government.' 
The idea of reviving the Presidency of Munster he con- 
sidered wholly impracticable. The President of Munster 
was a kind of provincial Lord Lieutenant, with his 
judges, generals, army, and Privy Council, and his 
position was totally incompatible with the system of 

1 North to Harcourt, June 23, 1774. 


government since the Revolution. Nor could a revival 
of obsolete and useless offices be safely attempted. ' I 
am persuaded,' he wrote, ' it would be easier and safer 
to expend 10,OOOZ. in additional salaries to insignificant 
places now subsisting than to revive one great office 
grown obsolete and annex but 2,OOOZ.' ' I may presume 
to say that the acquisition of Mr. Flood, circumstanced 
as things are, cannot be purchased at too dear a rate.' 
Considering ' the great abilities of this gentleman, and 
all the powers he is possessed of, how formidable he has 
been to former administrations, and how much more so 
he may be hereafter ; ... his terms, however great and 
exorbitant they may appear, are little in comparison to 
the trouble he may give, or even of the expense that 
may be incurred on his account, if no method can be 
devised to engage his service.' l 

North yielded to the request of Harcourt, and at 
length authorised him to offer the Vice-Treasurership to 
Flood. To his extreme astonishment and indignation, 
however, Harcourt was met with a direct refusal. Flood 
declared that he had been promised the first great office 
that fell vacant, and should therefore have succeeded to the 
Provostship, and that he would not accept an office from 
which he might be dismissed at any moment. After 
considerable discussion he at last said that, owing to his 
regard for Lord Harcourt, he was willing to waive his 
just claim to a more desirable situation, and to accept 
the Vice-Treasurership in case it placed no additional 
burthen on Ireland. 2 

The indignation and perplexity of the Irish Govern- 
ment were very great, for arrangements had already 
been made to make room for Flood. Jenkinson, who 
had been Vice-Treasurer, had just been induced to resign 

Harcourt to North, July 8, Sept. 3, 1774. June 7, 1776. 
Ibid. August 13, 1775. 

L 1 



his office ; he had received as compensation the office of 
Clerk of the Pells, 1 which Charles Fox had inherited 
from his brother in 1774, 2 and Fox, in his turn, had 
been compensated by a sum of 30,OOOZ. and also by an 
Irish pension of 1,700Z. a year, tenable for thirty-one 
years. 3 There is a considerable obscurity hanging over 
this transaction, which appears to have escaped the 
notice of the biographers of Fox, but it is certain that 
the pension was very soon surrendered, 4 probably because 
it was found that it was not compatible with a seat in 
the English Parliament. 8 In the meantime, however, 

1 Irish 
xvii. 233. 

Commons' Journals, 

* Fox's Correspondence, i. 136. 

* This was mentioned by Rock- 
ingham in the English House of 
Lords in 1779. Parl. Hist. xx. 
1174. I have not been able to 
trace the source from which the 
30.000Z. was derived. The written 
agreement between Fox and Bla- 
quiere only stated that in con- 
sideration of a pension of 1.700Z. 
a year for thirty-one years Fox 
would resign his office of Clerk of 
the Pells. Harcourt Papers, ix. 
326. For the pension, see Irish 
Commons' Journals, xvii. 116. 

4 It was surrendered on June 
20, 1776. Ibid, xviii. 292. 

* Sept. 19, 1775, North wrote 
to Blaquiere, ' I suppose you have 
heard of Mr. Fox's difficulty about 
his pension. It seems that no 
man holding a pension during 
pleasure or for a term of years, 
can sit and vote in Parliament 
without being liable to pay 20Z. a 
day. I do not know what method 
he will take to secure himself. As 
to myself I shall certainly not 
molest him, but he will be in con- 
tinual danger of being disturbed, 

and indeed of being expelled, as 
by another Act no person in his 
circumstances is capable of being 
elected. In truth I believe he is 
utterly disqualified from sitting 
in Parliament by his acceptance 
of the pension. This you will 
keep secret, for, though I fear it 
will be known, it ought not to be 
known by you or me.' Blaquiere, 
in his reply (Sept. 27, 1775), saya 
that Fox had asked his opinion 
on the question of the compati- 
bility of a pension with a seat in 
Parliament, and Blaquiere had 
professed his ignorance. ' Had 
this matter passed overin silence,' 
he adds, ' I confess to your Lord- 
ship it would have given me some 
uneasiness, and to your Lordship, 
I am sure, no satisfaction. I 
would not wish to have the credit 
of having overreached Mr. Fox, or 
of having surprised any man, nor 
should I have expected I am 
sure I should not have received 
your Lordship's thanks for 
dealing in this manner even with 
your enemy, but the transaction 
was all fair and above-board. 
What Mr. Fox has done was with 
his eyes open. ... I shall be 


the main object for which these changes were made 
appeared to have failed, for it was quite certain that the 
English Government would not compensate Jenkinson 
or Pox out of English revenues. At Harcourt's earnest 
request, the office was kept open, and North wrote ex- 
pressing his strong hope that Flood would accept it; 
but he added, ' he certainly could not expect us to turn 
out a Vice-Treasurer to make room for him. He must 
have foreseen that no equivalent could be granted to 
any of the existing Vice-Treasurers without the creation 
of a new pension, and he probably knew that his Majesty, 
even if he were inclined to burthen the British revenue 
for the sake of this Irish arrangement, could not have 
done it to any good purpose, as he has no fund except 
in Ireland which he can charge for lives or years with a 
pension sufficient for accomplishing the point in view.' 
The proposed arrangement appeared to North very reason- 
able, ' especially as there have been lately extinct upon 
the Irish establishment more annuities than enough to 
reimburse Mr. Fox's pension.' ! 

After a delay of about three months, Flood con- 
sented to accept the office of Vice-Treasurer on the terms 
of the Government. The letter to Harcourt in which 
he announced his intention has been fortunately pre- 
served. He urgently exculpates himself from the charge 
of having caused the Vice-Treasurership to be vacated, 
and Fox's pension to be granted. These steps, he said, 
had been taken after he had written to Harcourt that 
he must not be considered pledged to take office, and 
after he had expressly informed Jenkinson that he would 

careful, however, to keep the thing 333-340. Considering that Fox 

secret as you so properly direct. was at this time in violent poli- 

It certainly should not stir from tical opposition to North, this 

these corners, though it will be whole episode is very curious, 
very curious to see the event.' ' North to Blaquiere, Sept. 19, 

See also Harcourt Papers, ix. 1775 


not accept the Vice-Treasurership. The Lord Lieutenant, 
however, was in a very embarrassing position in conse- 
quence of the vacancy that had been created, and he 
himself was anxious to lighten the burden to the country. 
Under these circumstances, Flood had declared himself 
willing to take the office, but only on the condition that 
the additional burden of Fox's pension should not be 
imposed on the Irish revenue. In a subsequent conver- 
sation,' he continues, ' Mr. Jenkinson stated that by a 
retrenchment of 1,000. a year, viz. the additional salary 
of the Alnager, Mr. Fox's pension would be counter- 
balanced all but 700Z. a year ; and that by your raising 
of the Absentee Tax the net burden of the whole pension 
would be but about 350Z. To this state of the matter, 
the restoration to the kingdom of a great office with a 
considerable salary was to be added, which in one light 
was a point of decorum and dignity to the country, and 
in another was a point of pecuniary advantage and 
national saving.' On these grounds Flood thought it 
right to accept the office. At the same time, he begged 
Harcourt not to break off any negotiation North might 
have entered into for a different disposal of it. 1 

Harcourt concluded the negotiation with much 
alacrity, but also with considerable irritation. ' Since I 
was born,' he wrote to North, ' I never had to deal with 
so difficult a man, owing principally to his high-strained 
ideas of his own great importance and popularity. But the 
acquisition of such a man, however desirable at other times, 
may prove more than ordinarily valuable in the difficult 
times we may live to see, and which may afford him a 
very ample field for the display of his great abilities.' ! 

I have related this episode at considerable length, 
for it vitally affects the reputation of a man who, though 

1 This letter will be found in * Harcourt to North, Oct. 9, 
Warden Flood's Life of Henry 1775. 
Flood, pp. 106-108. 


now sinking rapidly into forgetfulness, played in his day 
a great part in Irish constitutional history, and com- 
manded the warm admiration and respect of some of the 
best of his contemporaries. It is evident that the Vice- 
roy considered him pretentious and impracticable, and 
attributed to him that common fault of politicians, a 
desire to increase his importance by rendering himself 
troublesome and formidable to those in office. It is, I 
think, equally evident that there was nothing in the 
antecedents or professions of Flood that made it im- 
proper or dishonourable for him to desire office, and 
that by bringing back to Ireland the dignity and emolu- 
ment of Vice-Treasurer, which had hitherto been reserved 
for English politicians, he was rendering a real service 
to his country. Nor does it appear to me that there 
was anything either unusual or very reprehensible in the 
determination of a first-class politician to accept only an 
important office. If Irish politics had gone on in their 
accustomed grooves, or if Flood had resigned his office 
when they assumed a new aspect, the appointment would 
probably have excited no blame. But the American 
war, with its long train of Irish consequences, speedily 
broke out. Flood had wished, as early as 1776, to 
transfer his talents from Ireland to the English Parlia- 
ment, where he was prepared to support the policy of 
North, but his overtures for a seat were unsuccessful. 1 
He remained in Ireland ; for seven years he was silent 
in office, while the questions which he had first brought 
forward were rising rapidly to the front, and when at 
last he broke loose from the Government, he found that 
his place was filled and that he was no longer trusted 
and followed as of old. In the very session in which he 
accepted office, his great rival Grattan took his seat in 
the Irish Parliament. 

< North to Harcourt, March 23, 1770. 


A few slight commercial concessions were in the 
same session granted by England. The Newfoundland 
and some other fisheries, from which Irish fishermen 
had hitherto been excluded, were thrown open to them. 
The prohibition of the exportation of woollen manufac- 
tures was so far relaxed that the Irish were permitted to 
furnish the clothing of their own troops when they were 
stationed out of Ireland. The importation of rape-seed 
into Great Britain was, under certain regulations, per- 
mitted, and a small bounty was granted by Great Britain 
upon tlie importation of flax into Ireland. 1 

The last measure was due to a rapid decline in the 
linen trade which had begun to threaten very serious 
consequences to the nation. As we have already seen, 
it had been at the time of the Revolution the policy of 
England to extirpate the woollen manufacture which 
was the staple industry of Ireland, and to encourage as 
a compensation the linen and hempen manufactures, 
which were then exceedingly insignificant, but which, it 
was supposed, could not interfere with English industries. 
As we have also seen, the promise which was held out 
of a steady encouragement of these manufactures was 
not fulfilled. 2 The manufacture in Ireland of the finer 
kinds of linen was not only not encouraged, but was 
crushed by severe disabling laws. The manufacture of 
Irish sailcloth was abandoned in consequence of the 
hostile legislation of the English Parliament, and the 
promised encouragement was confined to the simplest 
and coarsest kinds of Irish linen, which were admitted 
to the colonial market, and which, for the twenty-nine 
years preceding 1774, had even received English boun- 
ties upon export, averaging somewhat less than 10,0001. 
a year. 

1 Commons' Journals, xvii. 10 ; Macpherson's Annals of Com- 
merce, iii. 576, 577. 2 Vol. i. p. 178. 


By these bounties, by a steady application to this 
single manufacture for the space of seventy years, 
and by premiums granted by the Irish Parliament, 
which amounted during that period to not less than 
500,OOOZ., the Irish linen manufacture, within the narrow 
limits that were assigned to it, had attained a consider- 
able prosperity, and it continued to increase till 1771, 
when an alarming decadence began which continued 
with accelerated rapidity during the next two years. 
Many causes were 'assigned for it, one of the principal 
being the interruption of commerce due to the rising 
troubles in America. Robert Stephenson, who was in- 
spector of the linen manufacture in Ireland, being ex- 
amined before a Committee of the House of Commons 
in 1774, stated that more than one-third of the weavers 
through the whole kingdom were unemployed, that in 
the county Longford where twenty years before 2,000 
looms were at work, there were at present less than 20, 
that not less than 10,000 Irish weavers had within the 
last two or three years emigrated to America, and that 
great numbers of others had turned day labourers or 
were sunk in the deepest distress. 1 

Events which were destined to exercise an extra- 
ordinary influence over Irish politics were now rapidly 
hastening on. The American dissensions had all but 
reached their climax, and there were great numbers in 
Ireland who regarded the American cause as their own. 
Already the many disastrous circumstances of Irish 
history had driven great bodies of Irishmen to seek a 
home in the more distant dominions of the Crown. The 
island of Monserrat is said to have been entirely occupied 
by planters of Irish origin ; at least a third of the planters 
of Jamaica were either Irish or of Irish origin ; 2 and 

1 See the report of the Com- 418. Macpherson's Annals of 
mittee of the House of Commons. Caminerce, iii. 546. 
Commons' Journals, xvi. 387- * Ibid. iii. 647. 


great districts of the American colonies were almost 
wholly planted by settlers from Ulster. But this was 
by no means the only interest which Ireland had in the 
colonial struggle. Never before had the question of the 
relations of the mother-country to its dependencies been 
brought before the world with such a distinctness of 
emphasis and of definition. The Irish party which fol- 
lowed the traditions of Swift and Molyneux had always 
contended that, by the ancient constitution of their 
country, Ireland was inseparably connected with the 
English Crown, but was not dependent upon, or subject 
to, the English Parliament. By Poynings' Law a great 
part of the independence of the Irish Parliament had 
indeed been surrendered ; but even the servile Parlia- 
ment which passed it, though extending by its own 
authority to Ireland laws previously enacted in England, 
never admitted the right of the English Parliament to 
make laws for Ireland. English lawyers had sometimes 
asserted and sometimes denied the existence of such a 
right, but the first explicit text in its favour was the 
Declaratory Act of George I. by which the English Par- 
liament asserted its own right of legislating for Ireland. 1 

1 Bacon and Sir Richard Bolton the conquest tinder Henry II. 
both affirmed that no English (Carte's Ormond, i. 409). On the 
Acts were in force in Ireland un- other hand, there were long pe- 
less they had been confirmed by riods daring which no parlia- 
the Irish Parliament. An English merits were sitting in Ireland, 
judgment under Richard III. ex- and many instances in which the 
pressly asserts, ' Hibernia habet English Parliaments did actually 
parliamenta et faciunt leges et legislate for Ireland, and an 
nostra statuta non ligant eos, quia English judgment as early as 
non mittunt milites ad parlia- Henry VII. asserts the right, 
mentum,' and Charles L, in his Usually, however, if not always, 
answer to the Catholic delegates the Irish Parliament re-enacted 
in 1643, admitted that the sole or confirmed those laws. Camden 
right of the Irish Parliament to and Sir John Davies both main- 
legislate for Ireland had been tained that in the earliest period 
uniformly recognised ever since of the English occupation of 


It was precisely parallel to the Declaratory Act relating 
to America which was passed when the Stamp Act was 
repealed. In both cases the right was denied, but in 
both cases the great majority of politicians were prac- 
tically ready to acquiesce, provided certain restrictions 
and limitations were secured to them. The Americans 
did not dispute the power of the English Legislature to 
bind their commerce and regulate their affairs as mem- 
bers of an extended empire, as long as they were un*- 
trammelled in their local concerns and were not taxed 
except by their own representatives. The position of 
most Irish politicians was very similar. The Irish Par- 
liament legislated for the local concerns of Ireland, and 
it still retained with great jealousy a certain control over 
the purse, which it justly looked upon as incomparably 
the most important of its prerogatives. 

This control was, it is true, much less complete than 
that which was possessed in England by the English Par- 
liament. The great changes affecting the revenue which 
had been made in England at the Revolution of 1688 had 
not extended to Ireland. The hereditary revenue was 
beyond the control of Parliament, but the other portions 
of the Irish revenue could not be levied without a par- 
liamentary vote, and the hereditary revenue was not 
sufficient for the government of the country. Nearly 
every important concession which had been won had 
been granted in order to induce the Irish Parliament to 
raise additional supplies, and the extraordinary efforts 

Ireland the English Parliament of the early Irish records, and 

legislated for Ireland, and Coke greatly added to the perplexity 

strenuously maintained that it of the subject. See the very 

could lawfully bind Ireland by its learned essay of Monck Mason 

Acts. After the Restoration this On the Antiquity and Constitu- 

appears to have been the general t ion of Parliaments in Ireland 

doctrine among English lawyers. (Dublin, 1820). Ball's Irish 

Two great fires (in A.D. 1300 and Legislative Systems. 
in 1711) destroyed a large part 


aiid sacrifices the executive was prepared to make to 
secure this end sufficiently showed that in the eyes of 
English statesmen the power rested with the Irish Par- 
liament alone. The importance which both sides at- 
tached to the question of supply was manifested on the one 
hand by the tenacity with which the Privy Council clung 
to its very useless prerogative of originating or altering 
Money Bills, and on the other hand by the determination 
with which the most submissive Parliaments rejected 
the Money Bills which had been thus originated or 
amended. Sometimes the majority were perfectly pre- 
pared to acquiesce in the substance of the amendments 
of the Privy Council ; but in that case the principle was 
formally asserted by rejecting the altered Bill, and it 
was then introduced afresh as a new Bill and with a 
new title. 

There was, as we have seen, one important difference 
relating to taxation between Ireland and the colonies, 
which was all to the advantage of the former. Ireland 
possessed a Parliament which was capable of taxing the 
whole country, and which had very recently levied taxes 
for imperial purposes much beyond the power of the 
nation to support. In America no taxes for imperial 
purposes were raised, and it was only possible to raise 
them by the concurrence of a great number of provincial 

This, however, affected only the question of expedi- 
ency, but not the question of right. It was plain to 
demonstration that if the English Parliament could esta- 
blish its right to tax the colonies without their consent, 
it must possess a similar power in Ireland. If it be 
true, as was asserted by the Government, that a power 
to legislate for a country necessarily implies a power to 
tax it ; if it be true that there is no distinction in prin- 
ciple between a law of commercial regulation and a law 
levying a direct tax ; if it be true that in the constitu- 


tion of the British Empire there is no natural and neces- 
sary connection between representation and taxation, 
Ireland could not possibly resist the conclusion. The 
English Parliament had asserted in the most unqualified 
terms its right to legislate for Ireland, and it had exer- 
cised that right by regulating every portion of Irish 
commerce. The defeat of America would at once esta- 
blish the principle that Ireland might be taxed by an 
assembly sitting in London, and, if this were done, every 
power of constitutional resistance, every vestige of con- 
stitutional liberty, would be destroyed. The spirit of 
prerogative in England was rising higher and higher, 
and if it were flushed by a great triumph in the colonies, 
it was difficult to assign limits to its progress. It was 
the deliberate opinion of some of the wisest English 
statesmen, that the defeat of America would be followed 
by the destruction of English freedom. It was much 
more certain that it would establish a principle and a 
precedent that would be fatal to the liberties of the 

The impossibility of leaving the question in its 
former undecided condition was widely felt. The ' Com- 
mentaries on the Laws of England ' were published in 
1765, and had already attained an extraordinary repu- 
tation, and in this great work Blackstone had asserted, 
without any qualification or restriction, the right of the 
British Parliament to bind Ireland by its laws. 1 Rigby, 
and some other members of the English House of 
Commons, had maintained in express terms the right of 
the British Parliament to tax Ireland without her con- 
sent, 2 and a large section of the English Opposition 
countenanced the doctrine by their silence. The Rock- 
ingham party refused to join Chatham in denying the 

Introduction, sec. 4. 109 ; Walpole's Last Journals, i. 

Annual Register, 1775, p. 355, 359-361 


right of England to tax America, though they were 
ready to concur in its inexpediency. They had themselves 
carried the declaratory law relating to America. They 
accepted the doctrine that a power of legislating includes 
a power of taxing, and Rockingham, at least, was of 
opinion that England, by virtue of the Declaratory 
Act of George L, had a full right to tax Ireland, 
though it would not be expedient for her to exercise 
it. 1 On the other hand, the conviction was rapidly 
growing among the colonists that they could only 
secure themselves from being taxed by the British 
Parliament by denying altogether its authority in 
America ; the treatise of Molyneux in defence of Irish 
liberty was becoming the text-book of American 
freedom, and Franklin was exerting all his powers to 
prove that, though America was undoubtedly subject to 
the English king, it owed no allegiance to the British 

These considerations are sufficient to show how 
directly and vitally the Irish were interested in the con- 
test that was waging in America. The independent 
and patriotic party was still small, but it was daily 
strengthening throughout the country in numbers and 
in courage. 

As early as 1765, Charlemont and some other peers 
had protested against the Act restraining the export of 
corn, 'because, although the crowns of England and 
Ireland be united, yet Ireland ia a distinct kingdom, 
and, as such, has a distinct and separate executive, as 
well as a distinct and separate legislature. But the 
proper and distinct executive of this kingdom is his 
Majesty, as king of Ireland, or his substitute, or sub- 
stitutes, with the Privy Council of Ireland.' 8 From the 

1 Albemarle's Life of Rockingham, ii. 254, 255. 
Hardy, i. 222. 


beginning of the discussion on the Stamp Act, Charle- 
mont and several other Irish politicians had been watch- 
ing it eagerly in the interests of Ireland. 1 In 1771 
Benjamin Franklin visited Dublin, and he has thrown a 
casual but vivid ray of light upon Irish affairs. Having 
visited the leading patriots in the Irish Parliament, 1 1 
found them/ he says, ' disposed to be friends of America, 
in which I endeavoured to confirm them with the expec- 
tation that our growing weight might in time be thrown 
into their scale, and by joining our interests with theirs, 
a more equitable treatment from this nation [England] 
might be obtained for themselves as well as for us.' 
' There are many brave spirits among them,' he con- 
tinued. ' The, gentry are a very sensible, polite, and 
friendly people. Their Parliament makes a most re- 
spectable figure, with a number of very good speakers 
in both parties and able men of business. And I must 
not omit acquainting you that, it being a standing rule 
to admit members of the English Parliament to sit 
(though they do not \ote) in the House among the 
members, while others are only admitted into the 
gallery, my fellow traveller, being an English member, 
was accordingly admitted as such. But I supposed I 
must go to the gallery, when the Speaker stood up and 
acquainted the House that he understood there was in 
town an American gentleman of (as he was pleased to 
say) distinguished character and merit,' and he asked 
that Franklin should be admitted to sit among them, 
which was unanimously granted. Franklin ever after 
retained a feeling of friendship for Ireland, and he desired 
that she should be, if possible, excluded from the non- 
importation agreement.* 

1 Part. Hist. xvi. 96. Ireland is included in your agree- 

* Franklin's Works, vii. 557, ment, because that country it 

658. June 30, 1774, he wrote to much our friend, and the want 

his son: 'I should be sorry if of flax-seed may distress them 


In 1775 the Americans issued a special address to 
the Irish, urging the identity of their interests ; and in 
the same year Chatham asserted that Ireland on the 
colonial question was with America ' to a man.' l The 
Presbyterians of the North were fiercely American, and 
few classes were so largely represented in the American 
army as Irish emigrants. 

In Parliament, however, this feeling was only very 
feebly represented. The opposition which had grown 
up under Lord Townshend had almost wholly melted 
away. Harcourt had succeeded in attaching to his 
Government nearly every man who possessed consider- 
able parliamentary influence, and the old traditional 
feeling, which had always led the Irish Parliament and 
the Irish gentry in times of danger to subordinate every 
other consideration to the support of the mother country, 
was still alive. Blaquiere, indeed, warned the Home 
Government that no more money could be raised in 
Ireland by taxation, though, by improving the regula- 
tion of the revenue, it might be made more productive, 
but at the same time he declared in the most emphatic 
terms that the Irish Parliament was ready to make any 
sacrifice for England. 2 In the summer of 1775 recruit- 
ing was very active in Ireland. Circular letters were 
sent to the principal noblemen; Lord Shannon and 

exceedingly. ... It can only be can ask and which you will not 

meant against England, to ensure find them disposed to give you, 

a change of measures, and not to but it would be all in vain, the 

hurt Ireland, with whom we have country is unable to pay them, 

no quarrel.' Albemarle's Life of Much may be done by regulation 

Rockingham, ii. 300. little, I fear, by taxation.' 

1 Thackeray's Life of Chat- Blaquiere to North, Sept. 27, 

ham, ii. 286. 1775. ' The Irish give you them- 

s ' You may ask the people for selves their all and they would 

taxes, and they will give them, give your their money if God had 

Impressed with a just sense of granted them any to give.' Ibid, 

your attention to this kingdom, Dec. 13, 1775. 
I think there are few things you 


Lord Bellamont subscribed additional bounties for re- 
cruits ; Lord Kenmare and the other principal Catholic 
gentry took the same course, and the Catholics of Lime- 
rick came in such numbers to take the oath of allegiance 
before the Mayor and Sheriff that the ceremony of 
swearing them in could not be completed in one day. 1 
Rochford wrote to Harcourt urging him to leave no 
effort untried. ' 2,000 or 3,000 men,' he said, ' are 
essentially requisite to be sent with the utmost expedi- 
tion to America. Every means must be used, every 
effort made to add a very considerable and effectual 
body of troops early next spring to the army in America. 
... It is not judged practicable at the present moment 
to spare any troops out of this kingdom, there being 
only nine battalions of foot besides the Guards now in 
it ; nor is there time to draw any this year from Minorca 
and Gibraltar, so that Ireland alone can supply what is 
now so necessary towards resisting the unnatural and 
open rebellion which exists in so important a part of his 
Majesty's dominions.' ' The English ministers,' he adds, 
* trust the Irish will exert their well-known and affec- 
tionate zeal and spirit in supporting his Majesty's 
Government in an exigency of such particular import- 
ance, in which all other considerations, of how much 
weight soever they are in themselves, and which 
have been at other times strictly attended to, must 
and ought to yield to the actual unavoidable neces- 
sity,' and he maintained that five regiments must be 

1 Harcourt to Bochford, Sept. had shown a zeal and readiness 

1, 30, 1775. Harcourt says Lord to forward the service at thia 

Shannon's bounty 'will have a juncture.' See, too, the Corre- 

very good effect, not only in ac- spondence of George III. with 

celerating the recruiting service, Lord North, p. 268, and Lord 

but in preventing the effects of Bellamont to Blaquiere, Aug. 15, 

any clamours that might prevail 1775. 
if none but the Roman Catholics 



taken from Ireland before the deficiency can he sup- 
plied. 1 

Under these circumstances the Irish Parliament met 
in October 1775, and Harcourt, in his speech from the 
throne, noticed the rebellion existing in America, and 
called upon the Irish Parliament to assist in its suppres- 
sion. An address was at once drawn up in reply ex- 
pressing the ' abhorrence ' and ' indignation ' with 
which the Parliament heard of the disturbances in 
America, and pledging themselves to show their ' most 
devoted and inviolable attachment to his Majesty's 
sacred person and Government in the assertion of his 
just rights, and in the support of his legal authority.' 
Usually such addresses passed unopposed, but on this 
occasion a most earnest and persistent opposition was 
made. ' The debate/ Harcourt wrote, ' was conducted 
with great violence on the part of the Opposition.' An 
amendment strongly urging the necessity of ' concilia- 
tory and healing measures for the removal of the dis- 
content which prevails in the colonies,' was defeated by 
92 to 52, and an amendment expunging the words 
which stigmatised the conduct of the Americans by 90 
to 54, and the original address was carried. 3 

The Opposition included Ponsonby, the connections 
of the Duke of Leinster, and some county members ; 
and Langrishe, who had already written ably for the 
Americans, and Yelverton, who was afterwards one of 
the most faithful colleagues of Grattan, were prominent 
on the same side. Grattan himself did not enter the 
House till three months later. The abstention of more 
than half the members of the House of Commons on a 
question so vitally important is remarkable, and it was 

1 Eochford to Harcourt, Aug. 15. Harcourt to Rochford, Oct. 
1, 1775. 11, 1775. 

1 Commons' Journals, xvii. 14, 



probably in some degree due to the American sympa- 
thies of many members who owed their seats to great 
borough-owners now in alliance with the Government, 
and who were, therefore, according to the received code 
of parliamentary honour, precluded from voting against 
the Ministers. Harcourt was under no illusion about 
the strength of the American feeling in Ireland, and he 
had forced on the question at the earliest possible 
moment. ' I saw the moment approaching,' he wrote, 
1 when this important question would have been pressed 
upon me by the Opposition to the King's Government 
in this country, who were daily gaining strength upon 
this ground, with such advantages that I should have 
had great difficulty in resisting it. ... The Presby- 
terians in the North (who in their hearts are Americans) 
were gaining strength every day.' Letters had been 
written from England urging Ireland ' to take an ad- 
verse part in the contest.' ' I have never,' he concluded, 
' passed moments so happy as those have been since the 
question was determined.' l 

The triumph was indeed a great one, and the ma- 
jority of the Government was overwhelming. A new 
resolution directed against the Dyson pension was de- 
feated by 94 to 70. A resolution asserting, what 
appears to have been perfectly true, that so many men 
had been drafted from Ireland that the promised 12,000 
soldiers were even now not to be found in the kingdom, 
was, after much discussion, withdrawn. ' Mr. Flood, I 
am told,' wrote the Viceroy, ' spoke most eloquently, 
and his performance was allowed to be very great and 
able. He seems to be very cordial, and will, I make 
no doubt, prove a very important acquisition to his 
Majesty's service.' Without a single dissentient vote, 
generals who had regiments in Ireland were exempted, 

1 Harcourt to Rochford, Oct. 11, 1775. 


when on duty out of Ireland, from the tax of 4s. in the 
1?. imposed on absentee placeholders, and finally, in 
accordance with an urgent message from Harcourt, the 
House agreed, in consideration of the great dangers 
that menaced the Empire, to permit 4,000 of the troops 
who were appointed by statute to remain in Ireland for 
its defence to be withdrawn from the kingdom. In 
order to induce the House to take this step, the Govern- 
ment promised that during their absence from Ireland 
they should be paid from the Imperial treasury, and it 
was hoped that the measure would, in consequence, 
relieve the grave financial embarrassments at home. 
The Government offered to replace the troops that were 
withdrawn, as soon as possible, by foreign Protestants, 
without any expense to Ireland, but the offer was thank- 
fully declined. 1 

In this manner, to the bitter indignation of a small 
group of independent members and in defiance of a 
strong Protestant opinion in the country, Ireland was 
committed to the American struggle. 103 members 
supported, and 58 opposed the Government. 'The 
sparing these troops/ Harcourt truly wrote, would be 
' a convincing proof to America and to the whole world 
of the decisive part Ireland takes in the quarrel.' * 
Yelverton appears to have been the most conspicuous 
opponent of the measure. Flood, on the other hand, 
defended it in a speech in which he described the troops 
as ' armed negotiators,' a phrase which was not forgotten 
or forgiven. In the North the discontent was general, 
and Harcourt sent a report to the Government com- 
plaining bitterly of 'the violent opposition made by 
the Presbyterians to the measures of Government,' and 

1 Harcourt to Bochford, Nov. * Harcourt to North, Nov. 26, 
15, 18, 26. Commons' Journals, 1775. 
203, 207, 210. 


describing them as ' talking in all companies in such a 
way that if they are not rebels, it is hard to find a name 
for them.' l 

The attitude of the Catholics, however, was very 
encouraging. In September a number of the leading 
members of that body presented an address expressing 
their ' abhorrence of the unnatural rebellion which has 
lately broken out among some of his Majesty's American 
subjects.' ' We humbly presume to lay at his feet/ 
they continued, 'two millions of loyal, faithful, and 
affectionate hearts and hands, unarmed indeed, but 
zealous, ready, and desirous to exert themselves strenu- 
ously in defence of his Majesty's most sacred person 
and Government.' They described the loyalty of the 
Irish Catholics as ' unanimous, constant, and unalter- 
able,' ' a loyalty which we may justly say is and always 
was as the dial to the sun, true, though not shone upon.' 
These sentiments, they said, they well knew ' to be 
those of all their fellow Roman Catholic Irish subjects.' 2 

In Parliament several circumstances conspired to 
increase the discontent. New duties were voted in 
order to provide funds for transporting the 4,000 troops 
to America, and the English Privy Council thought fit 
to alter two Money Bills, which were accordingly very 
angrily, and almost unanimously rejected, though they 
appear to have been reintroduced and passed in their 
altered form. The English Government maintained 
that after the resolution of the House of Commons they 
might remove the 4,000 troops by royal prerogative. 
The Viceroy maintained that an enabling Act of Parlia- 
ment was necessary, and the question was at last com- 
promised by a declaratory Act recognising the authority 

1 Harcourt to Kochford, Aug. testants, History of England in 
16, 1775. See, too, on the Ameri- the Eighteenth Century, iv. 339. 
can sympathies of the Irish Pro- - Harcourt Papers, ix. 357, 358. 


of the addresses of the Houses of Parliament. A Bill 
making the tenure of judges secure was again carried 
through the House of Commons, and was strongly sup- 
ported by the Irish Privy Council, but the English Privy 
Council, acting upon the advice of Harcourt, whose settled 
policy was to maintain every form of Government influ- 
ence, again refused to return it. A new Militia Bill was 
sent over, but, though recommended by Harcourt, it was 
not returned. The financial condition of the country, in 
spite of the new taxes, continued scandalously bad. The 
National Debt onLadyDay 1775 was more than976,OOOZ. 
The pensions for the two previous years were 164,137?. 
175,OOOZ. more was raised by annuities. A powerful re- 
presentation to the Lord Lieutenant was moved in the 
House of Commons, 1 and, although it was not carried, the 
signs of irritation were so strong that in March 1776 the 
Ministers determined to dissolve Parliament. Harcourt 
urged that in the present state of affairs it would be 
exceedingly advisable to dispense with the custom of 
sending over a Money Bill as a reason for summoning 
the new Parliament, but the answer was curt and deci- 
sive. The King himself had declared that 'he could not 
depart from the constitutional usage.' * 

Blaquiere looked forward with considerable appre- 
hension to the coming dissolution. The majority of 
the seats were, it is true, in the uncontrolled possession 
of a few individuals who were in alliance with the 
Government, but there were always some constituencies 
which were truly representative, and in a very confi- 
dential letter to Robinson, the English Secretary of the 
Treasury, Blaquiere predicted that, unless the greatest 

1 Plowden'sIfisfoncaZ Review, to Weymouth Feb. 6,28; March 
i. 437-441. 20, 1776. Weymouth to Har- 

2 Harcourt to Weymouth, Dec. court, March 26, 1776. Plowden, 
22, 28, 1776. Weymouth to Har- i. 434-439. Commons' Journals, 
court, Jan. 22, 1776. Harcourt xvii. 15 & 16 Geo. III. c. 10. 


care was taken, the Government would lose seriously at 
the election. ' The means to remedy the evil,' he con- 
tinued, 'are but few, and after the conversation we 
have had upon this score, in which there appeared 
almost an impossibility of affording us any assistance 
from England, I shall suppose but one. You must by 
pension or place sink a sum of not less than about 9,OOOZ. 
per annum, exclusive of the provision that may be found 
requisite for rewarding and indemnifying those who are 
connected by office with his Excellency's administration. 
. . . There are not less than thirty or forty members 
who, if not assisted, certainly cannot secure their re- 
elections. Many of these gentlemen hold small employ- 
ments and pensions from 200Z. to 300Z., some under 
200Z. a year. Their seats in the new Parliament cannot 
be purchased at less than 2,000 guineas to 2,500Z. 
Their past services certainly entitle them to the posses- 
sion of what they now hold, and an addition by salary 
from 200Z. to 250Z. or more, as circumstances require, 
must surely be considered as scarcely an adequate com- 
pensation for the advance and loss of so large a sum as, 
2,000 guineas. There are, besides, several gentlemen 
who, holding not a shilling under the Crown, have 
assisted, and are now engaged to support, the measures 
of Government upon expectation given them of a suit- 
able provision at the end of this session.' 1 Shortly 
after, Blaquiere sent Eobinson a detailed list of the 
pensions required to secure the election. They amounted 
to 11,250Z., but of this sum 1,400Z. was still due from 
Lord Townshend's pledges. 'These things done,' he 
said, ' you will have most unquestionably in the new 
Parliament a most respectable majority.' ' 138 plump- 
ing votes, of unequivocal men, is, in my opinion, as 
great a power as Government can now command or ever 

Blaquieve to Eobinson, Nov. 2, 1775. 


need to command in this Parliament.' 1 But in addition 
to the grant of these pensions a step was taken which 
in England would probably have been followed by an 
impeachment. The simultaneous creation of twelve 
peers in order to secure a majority was justly regarded 
as one of the worst acts of the Tory Ministry of Anne, 
but it was now far surpassed. Eighteen Irish peers 
were created in a single day, and seven barons and five 
viscounts were at the same time raised a step in the 
peerage. The terms of the bargain were well known to 
be an engagement to support the Government by their 
votes in the House of Lords, by their substitutes and 
their influence in the House of Commons. 2 

This was one of the last events in the administration 
of Lord Harcourt. His relations with the English 
ministers had for some time been growing tense, and he 
now resigned office and was replaced in November 1776 
by the Earl of Buckinghamshire. The administration 
of Harcourt in its opening had enjoyed great popularity, 
but it carried the system of corruption which Townshend 
had established to a still greater excess. Though large 
economies in the establishments had been promised, 
though the deficiency in most branches of the revenue 
was already threatening bankruptcy, yet no less than 
80,OOOZ. had been added in this administration to the 
public expenditure of Ireland. 3 Several thousands of 
pounds were spent in creating new offices or annexing 
new salaries to old ones, and in the words of Grattan, 
' there was scarcely a sinecure whose salary Government 
had not increased.' In the space of twenty years the 
Civil List had nearly doubled, the Pension List had 
nearly doubled, and a national debt of a million had 

1 Blaquiere to Robinson, Deo. nets were also made about the 

15, 1775 (private and confiden- eame time. See, too, Walpole'i 

tial). Last Journals, ii. 58, 59. 

* Plowden, i. 445. Four baro- * Grattan'a Speeclies, i. 4. 


been accumulated. 1 Between March 1773 and Septem- 
ber 1777 the Pension List had risen from 79,099Z. to 
89,095J. 2 Loans were raised in 1769, in 1771, in 1773, 
in 1775, and in 1777. In 1773 and 1775 new taxes 
were imposed which were estimated to produce 140,OOOZ. 
a year, yet these measures and the withdrawal of a large 
body of troops from the establishment had failed to re- 
store the equilibrium. 3 It was no longer possible to 
urge that the public revenue was largely wasted in 
private grants for stimulating private enterprises. Most 
of the new expenses emanated from the Government 
itself. Nearly half the debt had been accumulated in 
time of perfect peace, and candid men were obliged to 
confess that the old system of Undertakers was much 
more economical, and was certainly not more corrupt, 
than that which had succeeded it. 

It seemed, indeed, scarcely possible that the country 
could escape bankruptcy, for, while the establishments 
were steadily mounting, the few sources of wealth which 
the commercial restrictions had left were now cut off. 
The rupture with the colonies closed one of the chief 
markets of Irish linens, while the provision trade, on 
which the landed interest mainly depended, was anni- 
hilated by an embargo which was laid by proclamation, 
and without consultation with the Irish Parliament, on 
the export of provisions from Ireland, and which was 
continued during three years. It was ostensibly to pre- 
vent Irish provisions passing to the colonists or to the 

1 At Lady Day, 1777, the ment, Commons' Journals, xviii. 

National Debt was 834,086*. 337-340. 

19s. 3d. But in this session * Ibid, xviii. 368. 

166,0002. more was added. Be- * See the report of the minority 

sides this, the nation was bur- in the House of Commons in 

dened with life annuities at 6 per Plowden's Historical Register, 

cent, for the sum of 444,0002. i. 450-454. Grattan's Speeches, 

See the remarkable representa- i. 2-19. 
tion of the minority in Parlia- 


French, but it was very positively stated that it waa 
imposed by an unconstitutional stretch of the preroga- 
tive at the instigation of private individuals, in order to 
favour a few private contractors in England. The rup- 
ture with France was in no part of the Empire felt so 
severely as in Ireland ; for one of the effects of the laws 
restraining Irish commerce with England and her 
colonies had been to establish a close commercial con- 
nection between Ireland and France. It was said by a 
very able writer on the economical condition of Ireland, 
that ' two of her provinces may at this very day be called 
provinces of France as much as of Great Britain.' l All 
this commercial intercourse was now cut off. French 
and American privateers swarmed around the coast, and 
universal distress set in. The price of black cattle, and 
of wool; rents, credit, private business and public 
revenue in all their branches rapidly sank, and thousands 
of manufacturers lived on charity or abandoned the 
country. In Dublin, half-starving crowds, carrying a 
black fleece in token of their distress, paraded the streets. 
The pressure was so severe that in 1778 Ireland was 
obliged to borrow from England 50,900Z. for the pay- 
ment of her troops, and the value of the imports from 
England was 634,444Z. below the average of the four 
preceding years. 2 The want of employment, complained 
one of the best economical writers in Ireland, was at 
this time such that two-thirds of the country was un- 
inhabited. At least 15,000 Irishmen were seeking their 
living in foreign armies ; and, perhaps, a still greater 
number in other capacities on the Continent. At every 
opportunity great numbers were flying across the sea, 
and as the same extension of pasture which diminished 

1 Comparative View of the * Walter H. Burgh on The 

Public Burdens of Great Britain State of Ireland (June 1779). 

and Ireland (London and Dublin, Record Office. Crawford's Hist. 

1779), p. 63. of Ireland, ii. 331, 332. 


the demand for labour raised the price of bread, over a 
great part of Ireland, ' the wretches that remained had 
scarcely the appearance of human creatures.' c In Eng- 
land,' he concluded, ' there is no such thing as poverty in 
comparison of what is to be found in every part of Ireland 
except the cities and principal towns.' l 

The necessity under these circumstances of abandon- 
ing the system of commercial restrictions began to force 
itself upon many minds. It was plain that without 
some alteration in her economical condition Ireland 
could not much longer contribute her share to the mili- 
tary expenditure of the Empire. It was plain that a 
large part of the discontent which was rapidly severing 
the American colonies from the Empire had been due 
to the commercial policy of the mother country, and 
it was only too probable that in Ireland similar causes 
would ultimately produce similar effects. The disaster 
of Saratoga, in 1777, had revealed the full gravity of 
the situation, and, now that the sword of France was 
thrown into the hostile scale, the issue of the contest 
was at least very doubtful. Besides this, the wisdom of 
the code was becoming widely questioned. From a very 
early time a few weighty voices had broken the unanim- 
ity in its favour. Even Davenant, who so strongly 
supported its most oppressive provisions, had contended 
that the free admission of Irish cattle would be advan- 
tageous to England. Decker, in his remarkable essay 
' On the Causes of the Decline of Foreign Trade,' had 
advocated a legislative union and a complete abolition of 
trade restrictions between England and Ireland, and had 
pointed out how the English, by prohibiting the impor- 
tation of cattle from Ireland and of corn from any 
country, except when its price was immoderate, had 

1 CaldwelTa Inquiry into the Restrictions on the Trade of Ire- 
land (Dublin, 1779), pp. 26, 27. 


hampered their own manufactures, while the Dutch, by 
allowing their workmen to obtain provisions in the 
cheapest markets, were able to produce their goods at 
prices with which it was impossible for Englishmen to 
compete. Sir Francis Brewster was somewhat less 
liberal in his commercial views ; but he too advocated a 
legislative union, and argued that England, in making 
laws for the purpose of crippling Irish industry, acted 
like a man who cut off a limb from his own body. 
Berkeley questioned the whole mercantile theory on 
which the restrictive code was based. Hume not only 
demonstrated the falseness of that theory, but argued 
strongly in favour of the reciprocal advantages of free 
trade of the widest kind. Shelburne was an early and 
consistent advocate of free trade. ' Monopolies/ he once 
said, ' some way or other, are ever justly punished. They 
forbid rivalry, and rivalry is of the very essence of the 
well-being of trade. This seems to be the era of Protes- 
tantism in trade.' He at the same time reminded Eng- 
lish politicians that their present policy of commercial 
restriction was a very modern one, dating only from the 
Restoration, and in its worst features from the Revolu- 
tion. It would be, perhaps, rash to suppose that the 
' Wealth of Nations ' had yet attained any considerable 
influence even among the highest minds, but like all 
books which mark an epoch in the human intellect, the 
treatise of Adam Smith was in a great measure repre- 
sentative, systematising, defending, elaborating, and 
harmonising modes of political thinking which had long 
been gathering 'strength in the community. 

Two or three Irish writers of conspicuous ability 
about this time advocated the cause of their country 
with great force of reasoning, and with a singular con- 
formity to the principles of sound political economy. 1 

1 In 1779 two productions of merit were published : The In- 
almost the highest economical quiry concerning the Restrictions 


They urged that Ireland could only be reasonably re- 
garded as a remote part of the British Empire, and that 
there could be no greater absurdity than to suppose 
that laws which enfeeble, depopulate, and depress one- 
third of the Empire can render the aggregate strong, 
populous, and flourishing. They maintained that in 
exact proportion to the growing wealth of Ireland would 
be not only her capacity of serving England, but also 
the inevitable outflow of her wealth to England ; that 
the present cheapness of labour in Ireland which was so 
terrible to English manufacturers was merely a conse- 
quence of the want of employment, and would cease 
with growing wealth and manufactures; that every 
argument which was urged in favour of crippling Irish 
trade might be equally urged in favour of crippling the 
trade in one part of England for the advantage of an- 
other. London might petition that the port of Bristol 
should be closed because it was better situated for the 
Irish trade. The rest of England might combine to ex- 
clude Yorkshire from the wool trade, because Yorkshire 
carried it on with exceptional success. Could it be 
reasonably doubted that if England were divided into 
two kingdoms, north and south of the Thames, and if 

on the Trade of Ireland, by Sir a series of papers on the condi- 

James Caldwell (the greater part tion of Ireland by Lord Lifford, 

of which was afterwards reprinted Hely Hutchinson, Henry Burgh, 

in Almon'a Biographical Anec- Pery, Foster, and a few others, 

dotes), and Hely Hutchinson's which are preserved at the Becord 

Commercial Restraints. See, Office and which are well worthy 

too, a valuable anonymous pam- of publication. It is impossible 

phlet called A Comparative View to read them without being struck 

of the Public Burdens of Great with their great ability and also 

Britain and Ireland. In 1779 with the curiously significant fact 

the Government solicited from that no one of the writers (as far 

most of the leading politicians in as I have observed) mentions the 

Ireland a detailed account of their penal laws against the Catholics 

view of the economical evils of Ire- as one of the causes of economj- 

land and of the best methods of cal depression, 
remedying them. The result was 


each carried on a war of commercial prohibitions and 
high duties against the other, the whole community 
would be weakened ; and was not the case parallel with 
respect to the two parts of the British dominions that 
lie on opposite sides of the Irish Channel ? Could it be 
doubted that if the area of England were doubled, if the 
whole were fully peopled, and if the people were fully 
employed, the strength of the Empire would be propor- 
tionately increased ; and was it not plain that England 
would obtain many of the advantages of increase of 
territory by raising Ireland through equal commercial 
laws to a level with herself? The essential fallacy of 
the notion that commerce between two nations is only 
advantageous to the one which obtains a balance of 
money was never more clearly displayed, and it was 
shown by conclusive evidence that the commercial policy 
was condemned by experience. At the time of the 
Union with Scotland, English manufacturers predicted 
that free trade granted to a country where labour was 
so cheap would prove fatal to English commerce. Scot- 
land had, indeed, gained much by the Union, but the 
external commerce of England had at least doubled 
since it was passed. The destruction of the Irish 
woollen manufacture had, no doubt, ruined Ireland; 
but it had at the same time given a new vigour to the 
rival manufactures in France, and even in Spain. 
Spanish wool was too fine, and French wool too coarse, 
to be worked up without a mixture of another quality, 
into cloths fit for general consumption. Irish wool was 
exactly the mixture that was required. * Every pack of 
Irish wool will work up at least two packs of French 
-wool, none of which could be wrought up without it into 
any stuff that would rival us in the market.' A great 
clandestine exportation of Irish wool to France had thus 
inevitably arisen, and it was totally impossible to stop 
it. Nineteen out of the thirty-two counties of Ireland 


touched the sea, and many of the others were traversed 
by navigable rivers. England had denied Ireland all 
profitable employment of the wool which was her most 
valuable product, and it was for the advantage of all 
classes to encourage this illicit trade. Hely Hutchinson, 
indeed, in a very able paper addressed to the Govern- 
ment, maintained with great force that, considering the 
constant drain of money to England, the very existence 
of Ireland depended upon it. The result was that a 
woollen manufacture which might have flourished in a 
subordinate part of the British Empire, was transferred 
to a foreign and hostile power, which had already driven 
the English wool trade from the Levant, and was rapidly 
outstripping ikin other fields. The elaborate provisions 
relating to the sugar trade had been equally unsuccessful. 
In the interest of the English sugar colonies Ireland had 
been forbidden to import sugar or molasses from the 
colonies of other Powers. In the interests of English 
agents she had been forbidden to import them directly 
from the English colonies, in order that a commission 
might be charged on them when they were unshipped 
and reladen in England. The result was that they were 
obtained clandestinely from the French plantations, and 
a close commercial connection was formed with the 
Power from which England had most to fear. 

It was added that there was at least one excuse for 
the Government which crushed the Irish woollen trade 
which did not any longer exist, for the woollen trade 
then occupied a wholly unique position among English 
industries. There was at that time scarcely any trade 
with the colonies. The manufactures of silk, of cotton, 
of hardware, of hats, of paper, as well as numerous other 
branches of English industry, had not yet arisen. 1 The 

1 Comparative Burdens of 45. The writer of this pamphlet 
Great Britain and Ireland, p. says : ' England was then almost 


Woolsack on which the Chancellor sits when presiding 
over the Upper House is said to have been originally 
intended to typify the supreme importance which in the 
earlier phases of English history the woollen manufac- 
ture occupied in English policy. It was almost the sole 
considerable form of English industry, and the people saw 
nothing but ruin before them if it was impaired. The 
fear, however, that Ireland could eclipse England in 
trade was then, as now, utterly chimerical. 'That a 
country in the infancy of improvement, without skill in 
manufactures, without capital in trade, without coal or 
inland navigation, without habits of docility or industry, 
should in a moment run away with trade and manufac- 
tures from one in which they have been long and firmly 
established, with all these advantages to boot, is an 
assertion that is refuted in the stating it.' l 

Nor could English statesmen afford to look with in- 
difference on the ruin of Ireland. It was computed that 
at least 600,0002. was annually remitted from Ireland 
to England for absentees, pensioners, mortgagees, and 
holders of Government annuities. The value of theexports 
of Great Britain to Ireland in good years was about two 
millions, and exceeded the value of her exports to any 
other country except America, and in every war regiments 
recruited in Ireland and paid from the Irish treasury 
formed a considerable part of the English army. Unless 
some change was speedily made in the commercial sys- 
tem all this must cease. Taxation had reached its 
limits. ' When a nation has spared out of its annual 
wealth the utmost it can afford for the public purse, new 

confined to one single species stuffs; now even our very servant- 

of manufacture namely, the maids are clothed in silks and 

woollen, the market for which, cottons.' 

both foreign and domestic, was ' W. H. Burgh (June 1779)- 

twice as extensive as at present. Record Office. 

In those times our ladies wore 


laws may change the objects of taxation, but will nob 
increase the amount of revenue.' ' England,' said a dis- 
tinguished Irish statesman, ' must now either support 
this kingdom or allow her the means of supporting 
herself. Her option is to give in trade or in money. 
Without one or the other I know not how the expense 
of government here can be supplied. In the one way, 
she suffers a country of great extent and fertility to be- 
come a burden instead of a benefit. In the other, what- 
ever wealth we may acquire will flow back upon herself.' 
If nothing is done bankruptcy cannot be averted, and it 
is probable that as soon as the American war is termi- 
nated, thousands will leave a country which is manifestly 
sinking into ruin. 1 

Such were the views which were put forward by the 
ablest representatives of Irish opinion. Lord Nugent, 
who was himself an Irishman, brought the question of 
the relaxation of the Irish commercial code before the 
English Parliament in April 1778, and in the debates 
that ensued he was supported with great knowledge and 
genius by Edmund Burke. In March, Buckingham 2 de- 
clared that an enlargement of trade was absolutely 
necessary to enable Ireland to bear ' the many drains to 
which it was annually subject, particularly to Great 
Britain, and to make provision for the expenses of his 
Majesty's Government, which of late years have in every 
branch been increased to a considerable amount.' 3 
Lord North cordially adopted this view. It was agreed, 
indeed, that nothing could be done to remove the re- 

1 W. H. Burgh (June 1779), himself Buckingham, and this 

Record Office. See also the re- form was generally adopted by 

ports of John Foster and of Hely his contemporaries. See Wraxall, 

Hutchinson. Post. Hems. i. 228. 

* Until Temple was created * March 20, 1778. Bucking- 
Marquis of Buckingham in 1784, ham to North. Irish State Paper 
Buckinghamshire always signed Office. 

VOL. H. tf 


Btrictions on wool and the woollen manufacture, which 
were the most important articles of the Commercial 
Code ; but it was proposed that, with this exception, 
Ireland might send all her products to the English 
settlements and plantations, and might receive those of 
the colonies, with the exception of tobacco, in return, 
without their being first unladen in England. A small 
attempt to create a manufacture of glass in Ireland had 
been speedily crushed by an English law prohibiting 
the Irish from exporting their glass to any country what- 
ever. 1 It was now proposed to allow them to send it to 
any country except Great Britain, and it was also pro- 
posed to repeal a prohibitory duty which excluded from 
England cotton yarn made in Ireland, and to admit 
Irish sail-cloth and cordage free of duty.* 

These resolutions were thrown into the form of Bills, 
but at once, and from almost every manufacturing town 
in England, a fierce storm of opposition arose. Peti- 
tions, public meetings, instructions to members were all 
resorted to, and almost the whole commercial class in 
England protested against any measure allowing the 
Irish to participate in the most limited degree in British 
trade, or even to dispose of their own commodities in 
foreign markets. 'A foreign invasion,' it was said, 
* could scarcely have excited a greater alarm.' A mere 
abstract of the petitions which were sent up, occupied 
fourteen pages of very small print. It was said that 
English agents would be impoverished if they were no 
longer allowed to charge a 2^ per cent, commission on 
sugar sent from the plantations to Ireland when it wa3 
unladen and reshipped in England. Lancashire feared 
that checked and printed linens from Ireland would 
supersede her products in the colonies, and every trade 

1 19 George II. o. 12. 

Parl. Hist. xix. 1100-1126. Annual Register, 1778, 173, 186. 


which was in the remotest degree connected with the 
proposed Bills flung itself ardently into opposition. It 
was not a party question, but a spontaneous ebullition 
of intense commercial selfishness. It was the same 
spirit which defeated the commercial clauses of the 
Treaty of Utrecht, and which afterwards mutilated 
the Irish propositions of Pitt. It was the same spirit 
which, in the days of William and Anne, had driven 
Irish manufacturers by thousands into exile, and which 
dictated the restrictive laws that prepared the way for 
the loss of America. Nothing indeed in the history of 
political imposture is more curious than the success 
with which, during the Anti-Corn Law agitation, the 
notion was disseminated that on questions of protec- 
tion and free trade the manufacturing classes have 
been peculiarly liberal and enlightened, and the landed 
classes peculiarly selfish and ignorant. It is indeed 
true, that when in the present century the pressure of 
population on subsistence had made a change in the 
Corn Laws inevitable, the manufacturing classes placed 
themselves at the head of a free-trade movement from 
which they must necessarily have derived the chief 
benefit, while the entire risk and sacrifice were thrown 
upon others. But it is no less true that there is scarcely 
a manufacture in England which has not been defended 
in the spirit of the narrowest and most jealous monopoly, 
and the growing ascendency of the commercial classes 
after the Revolution is nowhere more apparent than in 
the multiplied restrictions of the English Commercial 

London on this occasion exhibited an honourable 
neutrality, but from all the other great manufacturing 
towns instructions and petitions poured in. Liverpool, 
Manchester, Glasgow, and Bristol were conspicuous in 
the opposition, and threats were even uttered in Parlia- 
ment that the loyalty of the great towns was contingent 



upon the maintenance of the restrictions. 1 Burke lost 
his seat for Bristol chiefly on account of the courageous 
and very brilliant part he had taken on this question, 
and Lord North was so intimidated that he consented to 
reduce the measure to the smallest proportions. The 
theory of the amended Navigation Act was indeed 
abandoned. Vessels built in Ireland were to be hence- 
forth considered British-built, and were to be entitled to 
receive the bounties in fisheries of every kind, but the 
Irish were forbidden absolutely to export to the colonies 
wool, woollen and cotton manufactures, hats, glass, hops, 
gunpowder and coals. They were forbidden to export 
iron or ironwares till the Irish Parliament had imposed 
a prescribed duty upon them. They were obliged in 
like manner to charge duties and taxes on all their ex- 
ported manufactures, equivalent to those paid on similar 
articles of British fabric, and they were still forbidden to 
import goods direct from the colonies. Cotton yarn 
home-spun in Ireland might, however, now be imported 
into England free of duty. 8 

The concession was plainly insufficient for the 
necessities of Ireland, and at a time when commerce 
with America was wholly suspended it was almost 
nugatory. It marked, however, the gradual subversion 
of the old policy of restriction. Nor was this the only 
sign of concession. The year 1778 is also very memor- 
able in Irish history as witnessing the first considerable 
step towards the abolition of the penal code. 

The almost absolute silence about the Catholic po- 
pulation of Ireland in the present chapter will perhaps 
have already struck the reader. The truth is that the 
period of tension and acute conflict between the two 

1 Annual .Register, 1778. Parl. nals of Commerce, Hi. 622, 
Hist. six. 1100-1126. Adolphus, 623. 
ii. 552-558. Macpherson's An- * 18 George III. o. 55, 56. 


religions had passed, and the very name of Papist rarely 
occurs in Irish politics. Of purely religious intolerance 
there was now very little, though we may still find a few 
signs that Catholicism as a religion was looked upon as 
an evil. The Charter Schools, which were distinctly 
proselytising, were steadily encouraged by the Irish 
Parliament. Under Lord Townshend, 10Z. was added 
to the annual sum granted to any priest who became a 
convert. The merchants and traders of Dublin, in 
petitioning for a limitation of the duration of Parlia- 
ment, urged among other reasons that it ' would render 
the generality of landlords assiduous in procuring Pro- 
testant tenants, and by such visible advantages to Pro- 
testants induce-Catholics to conform.' 1 The Irish Privy 
Council, in 1772, recommending a Bill for enabling 
Catholics to borrow on landed security, gave as one 
argument, that it may ' induce them to become Pro- 
testants in order to acquire landed property.' 2 

But in general there was little spirit of proselytism 
and still less religious enthusiasm among the Irish Pro- 
testants, and questions relating to Catholics were nearly 
always argued rather on economical and political than on 
religious grounds. There were politicians of no mean 
order who sincerely believed that the admission of Catho- 
lics to any degree of political power would be fatal to 
the stability of the country, and there was still an ignoble 
spirit of ascendency which looked down upon Catholics 
as upon a servile and subjugated caste, and resented, 
both on grounds of sentiment and on grounds of interest, 
any attempt to raise them. The penal laws made the 
Protestant landlord in a Catholic district little less than 
a despot. The lawyer found that they diminished the 
competition while they increased the business of his pro- 

1 O'Conor'B History of Irish * April 9, 1772. Irish State 
Catholics, p. 825. Paper Office. 


fession. Corporations had become under their influence 
small monopolising bodies which were able to levy 
oppressive quarterage on Catholic traders. In almost 
every walk of life when a Protestant and a Catholic 
were in competition, the former found the ascendency 
of his religion an advantage. Many who would never 
have sought ascendency if it had not been established, 
wished to preserve the privileges they had inherited, and 
the most worthless Protestant, if he had nothing else to 
boast of, at least found it pleasing to think that he was 
n member of a dominant race. 

Traditional antipathies and distinctions, though they 
had lost their old vitality, passed languidly and pas- 
sively into the mind, but they were only slightly and 
remotely connected with religion, and, as Arthur Young 
truly said, the penal laws were now directed much 
more against the property than against the creed of 
the Catholic. Though the whole Catholic system in 
Ireland existed only by connivance, it appears to have 
been practically unmolested. Even in Ulster, where 
the spirit of intolerance was much stronger than in 
other provinces, sumptuous mass-houses were every- 
where arising, 1 and bishops and monks, as well as or- 
dinary priests and schoolmasters, lived in the country 
without concealment or difficulty. Of the Catholic laity 
at least nineteen-twentieths were too poor and too 
ignorant to be affected by any disabling laws or to 
take any interest in political questions The land- 

1 ' Till within these few years tion till a few years ago mass- 
there was scarce a mass-house to houses were little huts in remote 
be seen in the northern counties and obscure places. Now they 
of Ulster. Now mass-houses are are sumptuous buildings in the 
spreading over most parts of that most public and conspicuous 
country. Convents till of late places." Some Arguments for 
were hid in corners. Now they Limiting the Duration of Parlia- 
are openly avowed in the very ments (Dublin, 1764), p. 5. 
metropolis. From the Revolu- 


lords of the persuasion had dwindled, under many dis- 
abilities and many temptations to apostasy, into a small 
and insignificant body, who seldom appeared before the 
world except in times of great national danger, when, 
under the guidance of a few conspicuous Catholic peers, 
they came forward to express in hyperbolical terms their 
loyalty to the Crown. A great part of the more ener- 
getic Catholics passed steadily to the Continent. Shut 
out from the University, from the magistracy, from the 
legal profession in all its grades, from all forms of 
administration and political ambition, scarcely anything 
remained for them at home except industrial life, and a 
considerable body of wealthy Catholic merchants had 
grown up, especially at Cork, Limerick, and Waterford. 
Time, however, had gradually done its work. The habits 
and pursuits of all classes had been accommodated to their 
conditions, and a state of society which was in truth 
very anomalous had grown into a kind of second nature, 
and was acquiesced in without much conflict or irritation. 1 
The Catholic Association, which was founded in 1759 
by a physician named Curry, by the antiquary Charlea 
O'Conor, and by a Waterford gentleman named Wyse, 
was the first important effort to create an independent 
Catholic opinion. The object was to establish a com- 
mittee in Dublin comprising representatives of every 
Catholic diocese, to watch over the interests of the whole 
body. Curry himself exercised a very considerable 
influence upon opinion by his historical works, which 

1 Henry Brooke, writing in de- like a sword by a thread over the 

fence of the Catholics in 1762, heads of those people, and Papists 

says there are penal laws ' which walk under it in security and 

if put in execution would not peace; for whoever should ad- 

auffer a single Papist to breathe venture to cut this thread would 

beyond the bars of a jail in Ire- become ignominious and detest- 

land. But though those laws are able in the land.' Trial of tht 

still in force, it is long since they Roman Catholics, p. 22Q. 
have been in action. They hang 


show both research and literary powers, and were especi- 
ally valuable as bringing together some part of the over- 
whelming evidence which exists disproving the enormous 
falsehoods that had been circulated about the rebellion 
of 1641. The notion that this rebellion began with an 
unprovoked, deliberate, and general massacre of the un- 
armed and unsuspecting Protestant population, not less 
extensive than the massacre of St. Bartholomew, had 
passed, on the authority of Clarendon and Milton, into 
the popular belief, had been lately adopted by Hume 
with his usual carelessness and in its most exaggerated 
form, had been spread over the Continent by Voltaire, 
and has been frequently repeated to our own day. To 
the few persons who have examined with any care the 
original evidence on the subject its falsehood will appear 
sufficiently glaring, and it may be mentioned that Burke, 
who was well versed in Irish history, could scarcely 
speak with patience on the subject. 1 The collection of 
purely Protestant evidence which was brought together 
by Curry at least shook the popular tradition. A fund 
appears also to have been subscribed by some leading 
Catholics in order to pay Protestants to write in support 
of their cause. Henry Brooke, the well-known author 
of the ' Fool of Quality,' who wrote with great force and 
beauty in favour of the relaxation of the penal code, and 

1 'Indeed, I have my opinion provoked; and that in almost all 
on that part of history, which I parts of it, it has been extremely 
have often delivered to you to and most absurdly misrepre- 
everyone I have conversed with sented.' Burke's Correspond- 
on the subject, and which I mean ence, i. 337. See, too, Prior's 
Btill to deliver whenever the Life of Burke (second ed.), i. 97. 
occasion calls for it, which is On the utter falseness of the 
that the Irish rebellion of 1641 common story about the rebellion 
was not only (as our silly things in Ulster having broken out with 
called "histories" call it), not a general massacre, see the recent 
utterly unprovoked, but that no and very decisive testimony of 
history I have ever read furnishes Mr. Gardiner. Fall of the Moit- 
an instance of any that was so arcliy of Charles J. ii. 309. 




whose ' Trial of Roman Catholics ' is one of the best ex- 
posures of the popular delusions about the rebellion of 
1641, is said to have received money as well as in- 
formation from the Catholic leaders. 1 A proposal was 
adopted, but apparently not carried into execution, of 
sending Dr. Johnson 50 guineas to induce him to write 
in favour of the Catholics, and in 1779 we find Burke 
refusing a gift of 300 guineas, which was offered him as 
a token of gratitude for his services in the cause. 3 

The system of exclusion first broke down in the 
recruiting service. As the demand for additional sol- 
diers became continually more pressing, it must have 
occurred to many that the Catholic districts of Ireland 
had supplied the armies of France, Spain, Austria, 
Naples, and Piedmont with many thousands of young 
men who had proved themselves eminently brave and 
susceptible of discipline, and who had fought with dis- 

1 This is positively stated by 
Matthew O'Conor in his History 
of the Irish Catholics, pp. 262- 
264, and as this writer was the 
grandson and the possessor of 
the papers of Charles O'Conor, 
who is said to have been the per- 
son who negotiated with Brooke, 
and as he had no interest in de- 
preciating the authority of a 
supporter of the Catholics, the 
statement seems to me true. 
Plowden.who also saw the papers 
of Charles O'Conor, though he 
does not mention Brooke, says 
that the Catholics ' adopted the 
measures proposed to them by 
Dr. Curry and Mr. O'Conor, of 
employing the most leading lite- 
rary men of the day to write in 
favour of Catholic claims.' (His- 
torical Register, i. 321.) Brooke's 
original Farmer's Letters, written 
In the panic of 1746, were very 

anti-Catholic, but he contends in 
a very beautiful private letter, 
that fourteen years of peace and 
unbroken Catholic loyalty had 
changed his views. (BrooTciana, 
i. 185-204.) This is probably 
true, for the spirit of toleration 
had in these fourteen years been 
steadily increasing in Ireland. 
The very high character which 
Brooke bore among his con- 
temporaries entitles him to a 
favourable construction, and his 
writings in favour of the Catholics 
bear strong internal marks of 
sincerity. At the same time, if 
he accepted money for writing, 
even in a cause in which he 
sincerely believed, this fact 
weakens his authority. 

2 Burke's Correspondence, ii. 
281, 291. Plowden'a Hist. Re- 
gister, i. 321. 



tinction on almost every battlefield on the Continent. The 
Irish Protestants were, from their circumstances, a very 
military body ; but towards the close of the wars of Pitt 
the supply of recruits began to run short, and in 1758 or 
1 759, at the suggestion of the Duke of Bedford, while 
strict orders were still given for the exclusion of Catho- 
lics from the army, about 1,200 marines were raised in 
the Popish districts of Ireland. 1 The letters of Lord 
Halifax are extremely friendly towards the Catholics. 
The project which I have already noticed of raising 
seven Irish Catholic regiments for the allied service of 
Portugal, was introduced by Hamilton, the Chief Secre- 
tary, and supported by Hely Hutchinson. In the House 
of Lords the Catholics were warmly defended by Primate 
Stone, by the Chancellor, and by Lord Hillsborough ; 
but a violent opposition was raised by some of the Pro- 
testant gentry under the leadership of the Earl of 

1 Bedford to Pitt, Jan. 20, 1760. 
Becord Office. It was, I suppose, 
to these marines that Primate 
Stone alluded when in 1762 he 
eulogised ' the gallant conduct of 
the Irish Catholic sailors at Belle- 
isle and at the recent conquest of 
Martinique.' O'Conor's History 
of the Irish Catholics, p. 284. 
On the express exclusion of Catho- 
lics by the recruiting agents in 
the Viceroyalty of Bedford, see 
vol. i. p. 418. 1 must acknowledge 
myself, however, unable to re- 
concile the facts there stated with 
an assertion which appears to 
have been made in the English 
Parliament in 1771. It was then 
stated that ' a great part of the 
foot regiments at present in Ire- 
land consisted of Catholics; that 
they were good soldiers, had 
always in the late war behaved 
well, particularly at Quebec, where 

one of the regiments (LordTowns- 
hend's) was almost entirely Catho- 
lics. They were such good men 
in service that General Wolfe 
charged at the head of them.' 
Parl. Hist. xvii. 172. Towns- 
hend's regiment was the 15th 
Foot, which was quartered in Ire- 
land from 1749 to 1755 (Cannon's 
History of the 15th Regiment). 
Henry Brooke wrote : ' Many 
thousands of Popish converts 
have entered our pale since the 
first enacting of the said laws, 
but of those many thousands, not 
one in a hundred hath entered 
by the strait door of public re- 
cantation. They have entered 
by the way of our fleets, of our 
armies, and in much greater 
numbers by the way of domestic 
service in Protestant families.' 
Trial of Roman Catholic*, p, 


Carrick, and supported, apparently through factious 
motives, by Lord Shannon. ' The corps of Roman 
Catholics,' Lord Halifax wrote, ' which it has been pro- 
posed to his Majesty to send into the service of Por- 
tugal, gave occasion to a few members who are not 
satisfied with a very ample share of the King's autho- 
rity and his bounty, publicly to appear in opposition to 
the measure, upon a ground, which, however untenable, 
is not wholly unpopular. In addition to the discontent 
which every appearance of favour or confidence to 
Roman Catholics gives to some here, others found that 
the withdrawing so many hands would raise the price 
of labour and consequently lower the value of their 
estates. Out- of these materials of dissatisfaction, in 
the midst of the happiest and most perfect unanimity 
which has ever been known in this Parliament, an 
opposition to this measure was raised.' Halifax ascribes 
to this opposition the reports which were industriously 
circulated that the Whiteboy outrages were of the nature 
of a Popish insurrection. ' I can venture to assure your 
Lordship,' he adds, ' that if his Majesty should accident- 
ally lay aside the plan of the Roman Catholic corps, 
he will hear nothing further of the rioters except their 
just punishment.' l 

Charlemont, who was probably the most indepen- 
dent and patriotic of the Irish peers, on this occasion 
supported the Government, and the account he gives of 
the nature of the opposition to the scheme agrees per- 
fectly with that of Lord Halifax. He tells us that it 
was very unpopular among the Protestant gentry, who 
argued that it was dangerous to encourage the arming 
of so many men who might one day turn against 
England, and that the South and West of Ireland were 
too thinly populated to spare their population. Yet 

1 Halifax to Egremont, Feb. 8, April 17, 1762 


' three thousand men/ he says, ' could scarcely be sup- 
posed capable of annihilating the cultivation of two 
great provinces ; neither did they seem well entitled to 
the benefit of this argument by whose oppression double 
this number were annually compelled to emigration ; 
and it was but too evident that a principle of the most 
detestable nature lay hidden under this specious mode 
of reasoning. The Protestant Bashaws of the South 
and West were loth to resign so many of those wretches 
whom they looked upon and treated as their slaves.' 
The opposition was so strong and so threatening that 
the Government thought it wise to lay aside the scheme. 1 
From this time, however, the instructions to recruit- 
ing agents to enlist no one but Protestants were silently 
dropped, though it is worthy of notice that Lord Hert- 
ford, when going over to Ireland, was especially ordered 
to take care that the laws not allowing Papists to bear 
arms without license should be observed. 2 The army 
became gradually a resource for impoverished and ad- 
venturous Catholics, and although the question of re- 
cruiting naturally fell into the background during the 
peace, it revived in the administration of Lord Towns- 
hend at the time of the augmentation of the forces and 
of the complication about the Falkland Isles. Towns- 
hend advocated a policy directly opposite to that of his 
predecessors. He argued that ' as the trade and manu- 
factures of Ireland are almost totally carried on by 
Protestants, the number of whom is very small in pro- 
portion to the number of Papists/ it was of the utmost 
importance that Protestants should not be taken away 
for foreign service, and he proposed that Papists, and 
Papists alone, should be enlisted. ' A considerable 
number of able men might be raised from amongst 
them in a short space of time in the provinces of 

1 Charlemont MS. Autobio- * Instructions to Lord Hert- 
graphy. ford, Aug. 9, 1765. Record Office. 


Leinster, Minister, and Conuaught.' Rochford answered 
that the arguments of Townshend had convinced the 
King of the impropriety of drawing off a number of 
Protestants from those parts of the country where the 
chief manufactures were carried on ; that he could not 
without a special Act of Parliament order the recruiting 
agents to restrict themselves to Roman Catholics, but 
that in the present very pressing exigency he authorised 
them to make Leinster, Munster, and Connaught their 
recruiting grounds. 1 

In this manner the Catholics were silently admitted 
into the British army, of which they have ever since 
formed a large and a distinguished part. At the begin- 
ning of the American war their leading gentry came 
forward, as usual, to testify their unbounded loyalty to 
the Sovereign, and the Irish Catholics do not appear to 
have shown any of that sympathy with the Americans 
which was evident among the Presbyterians. Consti- 
tutional questions, indeed, about the respective limits 
of Imperial and provincial legislatures, and about the 
relations which should subsist between taxation and 
representation, can liave had very little interest or 
meaning to men who were excluded from every form 
of political liberty and power. The Irish emigrants, 
who were so conspicuous in the American ranks, were 
chiefly, though not exclusively, Protestants, 2 and the 
Catholics of Canada remained firm in their allegiance 

1 Deo. 27, 1770, Townshend to pally determined Maryland to 
Rochford. Jan. 11, 1771, Eoch- take part in the Eevolution, and 
ford to Townshend. A Bill was who was the last survivor of the 
introduced into the English Par- signers of the Declaration of 
liament about this time author- Independence, was a Catholic of 
iging (among other provisions) Irish descent; and John Barry, 
the East India Company to raise who gained much distinction as 
recruits in Ireland among the a sailor in the war of the Eevo- 
Catholics, but it was not passed, lution, was a Catholic, born at 
Parl. Hist. zvii. 171-173. Wexford. 

2 Charles Caroll, who princi- 


OH. If*. 

to the Crown. In Ireland the demand for recruits was 
very great, and Catholics were readily accepted, and 
appear to have enlisted in large numbers. 1 Their 
worship, if it was not actively encouraged, seems to 
have been at least unimpeded, but the officers were still 
exclusively Protestant. 2 

While the system of penal restrictions was thus 
giving way on one side through the pressure of military 
motives, it was assailed on another side on economical 
grounds. A large proportion of the Irish landlords 
were poor and extravagant men in constant need of 
money, and a great part of Irish land could only be 
kept in tolerable condition by a large and frequent 
expenditure in drainage. Under these circumstances, 
the evil of the law which forbade Catholics from lending 
money on landed security was keenly felt. It added 
another to the many drains of wealth which exhausted 
the nation, for Catholics who had made fortunes in 
industrial life were naturally led to invest them in 

1 Harcourt sent to Bochford a 2 Campbell' 'sPhilosophicalSur- 

report from a revenue officer at vey, pp. 301, 302. There is a 

Cork, who, after describing the correspondence in the Eecord 

seditious language of the Presby- Office about a recruiting officer 

terians, continues : ' Their in- at Sligo, who at the beginning of 

vectives against the Papists, and 1776 published an advertisement 

their ridiculing every support promising that the Catholics who 

they can give, and, above all, the enlisted in his regiment should 

stories they have spread that have their own chaplain, and 

the common people are averse to telling the recruits to bring re- 

enlisting, have done the recruit- commendations from their parish 

ing good service. . . . The rich priests. Both Harcourt and the 

Papists declare they will spend colonel of the regiment repudi- 

their last shilling or get men. ated this advertisement as wholly 

. . . and that the more people unauthorised, and the offending 

talk against them the more con- officer was put in arrest and 

spicuous their loyalty will be. threatened with dismissal. Har- 

. . . The money begins to fly, court to Weymouth, Feb. 28. 

and as Papists have it in plenty, Captain SuJy to Cunningham, 

they are forcing trade.' Har- March 13. Blaquiere to North, 

court to Bochford, Aug. 16, 1775. Feb. 28, 177 6. CATHOLIC MORTGAGEES. 191 

foreign securities. The law was part of a policy which 
the English Government and the Irish Parliament had, 
with perfect harmony and with undeviating persever- 
ance, pursued ever since the Revolution, and which 
deserves to be regarded as one of the most signal 
instances of short-sightedness recorded in the history 
of legislation. It was their steady object to deprive 
the Catholics of all the consequence and power which 
landed property affords, to exclude them not only from 
ownership, but from all that bordered upon ownership of 
the soil ; to make the whole class of landowners and 
long leaseholders Protestants, while the smaller tenants 
were almost exclusively Catholic, and thus to maintain, 
and intensify, that profound division and alienation of 
classes which is the master difficulty of all modern 
legislation for Ireland, the chief source both of the 
turbulence and disloyalty of the nation. 

A Bill to enable Catholics to invest money in mort- 
gages upon land was first introduced into the Irish 
House of Commons by Mr. Monck Mason, an indepen- 
dent member, in 1761, carried by a majority of twelve, 
but rejected in England by the Privy Council. Its 
success in Ireland was probably due to surprise, for it 
was discussed on the last day of the session, when only 
sixty-two members were present ; and in the next ses- 
sion a similar Bill, being strongly opposed by the Go- 
vernment, was thrown out by 138 to 53. The chief 
argument against it appears to have been, that it would 
enable Catholics to interfere with the management of 
Protestants' estates, for immediately after the defeat a 
motion was made for the introduction of heads of a new 
Bill with a special clause guarding against such inter- 
ference ; but this motion, though warmly supported by 
the legal members of the House, was opposed by the 
Government, and defeated by 97 to 53. 1 In 1771, 

1 Caldwell's Debates, p. 511. Northumberland to Halifax, Feb. 8, 1764. 


however, a small concession was made. Catholics who 
desired to expend money and labour in reclaiming what 
were now unprofitable marshes, were enabled to take 
leases of sixty-one years for fifty acres of bog, with half 
an acre of adjoining arable land for the site of a house, 
and, for seven years after the bog was reclaimed, it was 
exempted from tithes and cesses. The extreme jealousy 
with which all concessions to Catholics relating to land 
were regarded, is curiously illustrated by clauses making 
it necessary to the validity of the lease that the bog 
should be at least four feet deep, that half of it should 
be reclaimed within twenty-one years, and that it should 
not lie within a mile of any city or market town. This 
was the first step that was taken towards the repeal of 
the penal code. 1 

In 1 772 Monck Mason again brought forward his Bill 
for enabling Catholics to lend money on the security of 
landed property, and it became evident that the question 
had made much progress. At least three times, during 
the administrations of Lord Townshend and Lord Har- 
court, Bills to this effect appear to have been carried, to 
have been recommended by the Irish Privy Council, 
and to have been lost through opposition in England. 2 
Townshend, in a private letter to Eochford, strongly 
opposed the concession. It would lead, he said, to at- 
tempts to obtain further relaxations of the Popery laws, 
which were intended to be perpetual, and which had 
already so far operated ' that at this day there is no 
Popish family remaining of any great weight for landed 
property.' It ' tended to revive an influence which it 
had been the study of the Legislature to destroy,' and 
although hopes were entertained that it would draw 

1 11 & 12 George ILL c. 21. took its rise in the House of 

1 1771, 1772, 1774. Letter Lords. (See the letter of Towns- 

BooJcs into England (Irish Re- hend and Privy Council, April 9, 

oord Office). The Bill of 1771 1772, Irish Record Office.) 


sums from the Continent, and greatly stimulate 
the circulation of money, its political dangers would 
more than counterbalance its economical advantages. 
' There is great personal weight,' he said, ' amongst the 
professors of that religion, and the majority of the people 
of Ireland consists of Papists.' The measure would 
' give the Popish creditors such a control over those who 
are in debt as may in particular times operate very 
strongly.' l A Bill for enabling Catholics under certain 
conditions to take leases for lives was introduced into 
the House of Commons in 1774, but it does not appear 
to have been carried beyond its earliest stages. 2 

In spite of the language employed by Townshend, 
it would not be correct to ascribe to the English Govern- 
ment of this time any systematic hostility to Catholics. 
The general Irish policy of the successive English mi- 
nisters in the early years of George III. varied but little, 
and it may be easily described. They were inflexibly 
opposed to the independence of the Irish Parliament, in 
the interests of English authority, and in order to avoid 
the embarrassment of a fresh parliamentary opposition. 
They were anxious to maintain the hereditary revenue 
as a kind of privy purse for the King, to distribute a 
large number of Irish places and pensions among their 
English supporters, to make use of the remainder to 
maintain a complete ascendency in the Irish Parliament, 
and to induce that Parliament to raise a very large pro- 
portion of the military establishments of the Empire. 
But, apart from these ends, they had every wish to go- 
vern wisely, mildly, and justly, and they were actuated 
by no spirit of malevolence or intolerance. Viceroys 
usually threw themselves into the interests of the country 
they governed. The instructions given them by the 

1 April 10, 1772, Townshend to Bochford (Becord Offico). 
1 Commons' Journals, xvi. 419. 
VOL. U, <y 


Home Government show a sincere desire for the well- 
"being of Ireland, and it is probable that, both on coni- 
.mercial and religious questions, the English ministers 
would have done much if they had not feared embarrass- 
ments at home. Ireland had no direct influence in the 
English Parliament, yet an Irish question might easily 
overthrow an English ministry, and no English ministry 
was prepared to encounter defeat on such grounds. It 
was thus that Lord North consented to abandon the chief 
parts of the commercial bill of 1778 on account of the 
opposition of the English manufacturers ; and Govern- 
ments, while emphatically acknowledging the loyalty of 
the Catholics, feared to bring in any measure for their 
relief, though they continued on cordial terms with their 
leaders, and exercised a constant though silent influence 
in their favour. The anxiety of Lord Halifax to discul- 
pate the Catholics as such from all complicity with the 
Whiteboy movement is very significant. Perhaps the 
only provision of the Popery code which can be com- 
pletely justified was that depriving the Catholic owner 
of an advowson, of the power of appointing a rector of 
the Established Church. It appears, however, from 
lettera of Lord Kenmare that the Government, when 
appointing the clergyman of an advowson in his gift, 
systematically acted upon his recommendation. 1 As 

' May 15, 1777, Lord Kenmare May I presume to recommend to 

wrote to the Lord Lieutenant: your Excellency Mr. John Lewis, 

' The living of Hospital, co. Lime- of the College of Dublin ? * This 

rick, is in my patent. By the law letter is endorsed : ' This usage 

of Ireland the patronage of recu- must be particularly inquired 

Bants is vested in the Crown ; the into.' On July 22, 1785, Lord 

incumbent, the Rev. B. Herbert, Kenmare again wrote, reconi- 

is lately dead. He was presented mending a particular clergyman 

to it on my recommendation by for the living of Killarney, of 

my Lord Townshend; and his which he was patron. Misccl- 

predecessor, Mr. Thomas Orpin, laneoua Papers, Chief Secre 

obtained it through the same tary's Office, Irish State Pape- 

from the late Earl of Harrington. Oilice. 


long as the penal laws subsisted, the condition of the 
Catholics depended largely on the conduct of the agents 
of the Crown, and it was in a great degree owing to their 
connivance that the portions of the code which related 
to the Catholic worship had been allowed to fall into 
complete desuetude. There was a general feeling spread- 
ing in Ireland, as in England, that penal laws against 
religion belonged to another age; but it is a very 
memorable and well-attested fact that the Irish Catholics 
for a long time before 1778 looked upon the Govern- 
ment, not as their oppressor, but as their protector, and 
sympathised much more strongly with their English 
rulers than with their native Parliament. 1 At the end 
of 1767, or in the beginning of 1768, prayers for the 
King and Royal Family were offered up in the Catholic 
churches for the first time since the Revolution. 2 The 
tyrannical and apparently illegal imposts called quar- 
terage, which were levied by the Protestant corporations 
on Catholic traders, were much resisted in the beginning 
of the reign of George III., and a Bill to establish and 
define them was introduced into the Commons by Lucas 
in 1767, but though it passed the House, the Govern- 
ment stifled it in the Privy Council. 3 

In 1774 a measure was carried which, without be- 
stowing any positive privilege on the Catholics, enabled 
them to attest their loyalty by taking, before a justice 
of the peace, the oath of allegiance, accompanied by a 

1 Speaking of the Bill of 1778 ment that attachment which for 

in favour of the Catholics, Charle- obvious reasons had hitherto been 

mont wrote : 'I clearly saw the confined to the former.' MS. 

necessity, previous to our in- Autobiography. 

tended efforts [for legislative in- 2 Gentleman's Magazine, 1768, 

dependence], of conciliating the p. 42. Ellen's Ecclesiastical 

affections of a body of men so History, ii. 293. 

very considerable from their num- s O'Conor's History of the 

bers, and of dividing at least be- Irish Catholics, pp. 329, 330. 
tween Government and Parlia- 

o 2 


declaration prescribed by law. The Catholic who sub- 
scribed this declaration solemnly renounced all allegi- 
ance to the Stuarts, repudiated the opinion that heretics 
might be lawfully murdered, that faith need not be kept 
with them, and that excommunicated sovereigns may be 
deposed or murdered, and denied that the Pope had or 
ought to have ' any temporal or civil jurisdiction, power, 
superiority, or pre-eminence directly or indirectly' 
within the realm. 1 It is worthy of notice that, a few 
years before, De Burgo, the Bishop of Ossory, in his 
' Hibernia Dominicana/ had strongly asserted the un- 
lawfulness of a similar oath, but now the bishops of 
Munster, without even consulting Rome, met at Cork 
and unanimously agreed that the oath contained nothing 
contrary to their faith, and they took the same occasion 
of condemning the treatise of the Bishop of Ossory, and 
of proclaiming their emphatic loyalty to George III. 
The Congregation De Propaganda Fide afterwards 
mildly censured them for expressing their opinion with- 
out consulting Rome ; they stated that the oath, though 
not contrary to orthodoxy, appeared to them liable to 
misconstruction ; and in the Ultramontane seminaries 
on the Continent it was much condemned, but in Ire- 
land both ecclesiastics and laymen accepted it with 
alacrity. It was powerfully defended by O'Leary, and 
it contributed much to legalise the position of the 
Catholics, and to allay the fears of those who saw in the 
rebellion of the Whiteboys against tithes the symptoms 
of a Popish insurrection. 2 

It was noticed by a writer in 1775 that ' the courts 
of justice have long . . . very much discountenanced 

1 13 & 14 George in. c. 35. had been drawn up by the 

2 See a full history of the dis- Catholic Association at Dublin, 
cnssions relating to this oath, with the approval of their Arch- 
England's Life of O'Leary, pp. bishop. 

5U-79. The form of declaration 


the strict execution of the Popery laws,' and that a 
practice had grown up of evading, by the assistance of 
Protestants, a portion even of the laws relating to 
landed property. A Protestant friend filed a bill of 
discovery against a Catholic landlord, obtained the 
legal title to his estate, held it in trust for him, and 
enabled him under the shelter of a Protestant name to 
evade the chief disabilities of the code. 1 The expense 
of prosecuting suits under the penal code, and the sys- 
tematic hostility of the judges, appear to have greatly 
diminished their number. In 1776, Chief Baron Foster 
told Arthur Young that he did not know a single in- 
stance of a Protestant discoverer getting a lease by 
proving lands to be let under two-thirds of their value 
to a Catholic. 2 

It is difficult to reconcile this last statement with 
the language of a very powerful petition which was 
presented to the King in 1777 by the Irish Catholic 
peers and by more than 300 of the principal Catholic 
gentry. 3 They gratefully acknowledge that much had 
been done to moderate the rigorous execution of some 
of the laws, but they complain that ' several, and those 
the most severe and distressing, execute themselves 
with the most fatal certainty.' They complain of their 

1 'By the connivance of the the people, that they have a con- 
courts, Bills of Equity called bills fidence in the integrity of Pro- 
of discovery, are now used in the testants, and that a little en- 
nature of common recoveries, to couragement would finally ex- 
obtain decrees for Protestants tinguish every latent spark of 
ultimately in trust for Papists, jealousy.' An Inquiry into the 
And although by means of the Policy of the Popery Laws 
great expense attending this prac- (Dublin, 1775), pp. 108, 109. 
tice, and the uncertainty of its 2 Arthur Young's Tour, i. 125. 
being effectual, such decrees are 3 Oct. 13, 1777, Irish Depart- 
seldom worth being sought for, mental Correspondence, Irish 
being at best a precarious secu- State Paper Office. This peti- 
rity that entirely depends upon tion ia printed in Curry 's State of 
private honesty and fidelity, yet the Catholics of Ireland, ii. 287- 
it serves to show the temper of 293. 


inability to purchase land, to hold land in farm ' except 
on a tenure extremely scanted both in profit and in 
time,' and to raise the value of their hired farms 
by drainage or inclosures without making themselves 
liable to a forfeiture of their leases. ' There are a set 
of men,' they continue, ' who make it their employment 
to pry into our miserable property, to drag us into the 
courts, and to compel us to confess, on our oaths and 
under the penalties of perjury, whether we have in any 
instance acquired a property in the smallest degree 
exceeding what the rigour of the law has admitted; 
and in some cases the informers, without any other 
merit than that of their discovery, are invested (to the 
daily ruin of several industrious, innocent families) not 
only with the surplus in which the law is exceeded, but 
with the whole body of the estate and interest so dis- 
covered.' In Ireland, they say, informers have almost 
worn off the infamy that in other countries attaches to 
their character, ' and have grown into some repute by 
the frequency and success of their practices.' They 
complain, however, with especial bitterness of the 
clauses which enable a son, however undutiful and pro- 
fligate, by conforming to the Established Church, not 
only to deprive his father of the power of disposing of 
or mortgaging his property as the exigencies of his 
affairs may require, but also himself ' to mortgage, sell, 
or otherwise alienate the reversion of that estate from 
the family for ever a regulation by which a father, 
contrary to the order of nature, is put under the power 
of his son, and an early dissoluteness is not only suffered 
but encouraged, by giving a pernicious privilege, the 
frequent use of which has broken the hearts of many 
deserving parents, and entailed poverty and despair on 
some of the most ancient and opulent families of this 
kingdom,' while on his deathbed the Catholic has ' the 
melancholy and almost certain prospect of leaving 


neither peace nor fortune to his children, for by that 
law which bestows the whole fortune on the first con- 
formist, 1 or on nonconformity disperses it amongst 
the children, incurable jealousies and animosities have 

It was this portion of the penal code which was 
probably the most efficacious, and was certainly the 
most profoundly demoralising. Everyone who has 
mixed much in the world knows how frequently, even 
in the most religious and the most honourable families, 
some one member will gravitate, as by an irresistible 
instinct, into profligacy, dissipation, extravagance, dis- 
reputable company, hopeless debt, an utter wreck of 
moral principle^ There are few men who cannot recall 
many such instances, and who have not had some op- 
portunity of realising, the anguish they produce. In 
Ireland in the eighteenth century they were propor- 
tionately far more numerous than at present. Hard 
drinking, exaggerated sporting tastes, the tone of idle- 
ness, extravagance, and improvidence which was so pre- 
valent in the upper classes made the temptations of 
young men more than commonly great, and there were 
probably few large families among the gentry who could 
not point to at least one member who was gliding 
rapidly down the steep. Such a member, if he were 
the son of a Catholic landlord, had only to discard a 
religion which had no influence over his life, to become 
at once the favoured child of the law. He reduced his 
father to the most humiliating dependence, prevented 
him from selling, mortgaging, or otherwise disposing of 
hia property, secured for himself an immediate main- 

1 This statement is curiously present maintenance and a fur- 
inaccurate. 2 Anne, o. 6, and ther portion out of his father's 
8 Anne, c. 3, provided that if estates, but it was only the eldest 
any child of a Catholic conformed son who by conformity could 
lie should be at once secured a secure the whole estate. 


tenance, to the sacrifice of the prospects of all the other 
members of his family ; and if he were an elder son he 
had always, when debts began to multiply and credi- 
tors grew pressing, the resource of raising a mortgage 
on the family estate without his father's consent, or 
selling the reversion he had secured. In this manner, 
by the direct intention of the law, estates, profligates, 
and spendthrifts, all passed in a steady stream into the 
Established Church. 

This result was, no doubt, anticipated, but there 
was another consequence of the laws which no one 
appears to have foreseen, and which, in the latter part of 
the eighteenth century, began to produce a new class of 
converts. Debarred from education at home, a great 
part of the more wealthy Catholic families sent their 
children to France, and it began to be noticed that the 
young men who returned from thence were of a very 
different type from the fervent and simple-minded 
Catholics of the early years of the century. They came 
from a country where the whole intellectual energy, 
where all that was brilliant and fashionable, as well as 
all that was learned and profound, was intensely anti- 
Christian. Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, 
D'Alembert were the undisputed kings of literature. 
Condillac, HelvStius, and Holbach dictated the philo- 
sophy of the day. As early as 1753, D'Argenson had 
noticed that the number of communicants was rapidly 
diminishing, that the College of Jesuits was deserted, 
that the priests were on all sides ridiculed or hated, 
and as the century moved on, the anti-christian spirit 
became far stronger and more serious. The tone of 
literature, the tone of science, the tone of the drawing- 
rooms was no longer that of scepticism, but of an 
assured and derisive incredulity. In the Church of 
Bossuet, Massillon, and Bourdaloue, not a voice of any 
weight or power was heard in defence of Christianity, 


and the few who defended it did so mainly on grounds 
of expediency. The most conspicuous of the clergy had 
caught the prevailing spirit. Popular preachers began 
to drop the name of Christ from their sermons, and to 
speak only of ' the legislator of the Christians.' Great 
bishops and priors were known in their familiar circles 
to scoff at the popular belief, and it was said by a good 
observer that there were probably not more than four 
or five sincere Christians in the French episcopacy. 
There was a profound and serious division between 
atheists of the school of Holbach and deists of the school 
of Rousseau, but among the overwhelming majority 
of educated Frenchmen there were but two opinions 
about Christianity. There were those who regarded it 
as a noxious superstition which ought to be abolished, 
and there were those who regarded it as a harmless and 
beneficent superstition which must, in the interests of 
social order, be maintained. 1 

Such ways of thinking had been very rare in Ire- 
land, but the circumstances of the Catholics secured 
a steady influx of French thought. Men who were 
formed in this intellectual atmosphere were often 
eminently intelligent, honourable, and moral, but they 
were not likely to place themselves under a crowd of 
disabilities for the sake of Catholicism, or to feel any 
great scruple about giving a nominal adhesion to a 
religion which was the established faith of their country, 
and which they believed to be not more false, and some- 
what less grotesquely superstitious, than the faith of 
their fathers. The small stream of educated converts 

1 See many illustrations of writings of the Benedictine monk 

this in Taine's Ancien Regime, Dom Deschamps. See the curi- 

pp. 375-384. A remarkable ex- ous book of Beaussire, Ant&c&- 

ample of the extreme incredulity dents de V HAgelianisme dans la 

which was sometimes found Philosophic Franyaise (Paris, 

among high-placed ecclesiastics 18G5). 
ig furnished by the life and 


consisting chiefly of eldest sons of landlords and of 
men who desired to enter the law, perceptibly in- 
creased, though there does not appear to have been any 
spirit of religious proselytism among the Protestants, 
and though the administration of the penal code had 
been greatly relaxed. Between 1702 and 1773, 4,055 
converts only, had been registered in the Court of 
Chancery, and it was noticed that no less than 2,177 of 
these had been registered within the last twenty-one 
years. 1 

More than eighty years had now passed by since 
any act of rebellion or conspiracy or political turbulence 
had been proved against Catholics in Ireland. They 
had maintained an absolute, unbroken tranquillity 
during the Scotch rebellion of 1715, during the ex- 
pedition organised against the House of Hanover by 
Alberoni in 1719, during the great rebellion of 1745, 
during the long and desperate war that terminated in 
1763, and amid all the complications that had since 
arisen. Standing completely apart from the factions 
and violence of Protestant politics, they had rarely ap- 
peared in public life except to proffer their services to 
the Crown ; and officials in high position had repeatedly 
acknowledged that the severest scrutiny had discovered 
no trace of treasonable conduct among them, and had 
consented that, in times of great danger to the Em- 
pire, Ireland should be left almost destitute of troops. 
Those who might have been leaders or agents in sedi- 
tion had long since been scattered over the Continent. 
The ascendency of the landlords over their tenants 
was as yet undisputed, and the Catholic landlords were 
ardent in their loyalty to the Crown. No independent 
Catholic press had yet arisen. The mass of the popu- 
lation remained torpid, degraded, and ignorant; but, 

1 Bee Qrattan's Life, i. 266. 


although crimes of violence and turbulence were com- 
mon among them, those crimes were wholly uncon- 
nected with politics. Protestants were beginning to 
ask themselves how long, under such circumstances, 
the system of proscription was to continue whether 
laws which paralysed the industry of the great majority 
of the Irish people, which kept them in enforced 
ignorance and poverty, which directly discouraged 
those manly and energetic qualities that are most 
essential to national well-being, could be or ought to 
be maintained for ever. 

The general aspect of Catholicism, both in Europe 
and America, greatly strengthened the case. Probably 
at no period since the days of Constantino was Catho- 
licism so free from domineering and aggressive tenden- 
cies as during the Pontificates of Benedict XIV. and 
his three successors. The spirit of Ultramontanism 
seemed to have almost evaporated even in Italian 
counsels, and in Western Europe the prevailing type 
of theology was studiously moderate. In 1757, the 
Catholic Association issued a declaration of principles 
drawn up by O'Keefe, the Bishop of Kildare, in which 
they abjured in the strongest terms the doctrine that 
any ecclesiastical power in the Church had the right of 
deposing sovereigns, absolving subjects from their oaths, 
making war upon heretics as such, exercising any tem- 
poral power or jurisdiction in Ireland, or committing 
any act which is in its own nature immoral. They 
denied with much truth that the infallibility of the Pope 
was an article of the Catholic creed, and they solemnly 
pledged themselves to do nothing to disturb or weaken 
the existing establishments either of property, govern- 
ment, or religion. 1 All over Europe the influence of 
the Catholic clergy was employed on the side of autho- 

Parnell's Hist, of the Penal Laivs, pp. 78-82. 


rity, and Catholic populations were nearly everywhere 
almost wholly destitute of that spirit of political self- 
assertion, and of that systematic jealousy of authority 
which leads to civil liberty, but which also makes nations 
difficult to govern. Nearly all the political insurrections 
of modern times had been among Protestants. Political 
liberty since the Reformation had nearly everywhere 
followed its banner, and the countries where even the 
worst rulers found themselves most uncontrolled were 
nearly everywhere Catholic. ' I hold a Popish people,' 
wrote Henry Brooke, with great force and justice, * to 
be of all people the most amenable and submissive to 
rulers, whatever the form or nature of that State may 
be under which they shall happen to be subjected.' ' 
The experiment of governing Catholics and Protestants 
by the same laws and under Protestant rulers had been 
already frequently tried. In Holland it had been for 
generations the policy of the Protestants to root the 
Catholics in the soil by granting them the same liberty 
of worship as their fellow-countrymen, and thus giving 
them the same interest in the prosperity of the State ; and 
the result had been that historical antipathies, scarcely 
less violent than those of Ireland, seemed to have en- 
tirely disappeared. In Saxony, in Silesia, and in Han- 
over, the two religions had been successfully blended. 
The inhabitants of Minorca were originally Spaniards. 
From the time of the cession of the island to England at 
the Peace of Utrecht, they had been permitted the full 
enjoyment of their religion, and, although there had 
been two wars with Spain since the cession, and though 
the island had been conquered by France, the inhabit- 
ants had never shown the smallest impatience of Eng- 
lish rule. In 1774 a new experiment of the same kind 
had been tried in Canada by the Quebec Act, and it was 

1 BrooJciana, i. 193. 


already evident that, while the old Anglo-Saxon colonies 
were fast breaking from the mother country, the newly 
acquired Catholic province was disposed to remain firm 
in its allegiance. 

These considerations were beginning to have their 
weight upon Irish politicians, and in truth, if the ques- 
tion had been merely one of religion, if it had not been 
aggravated by a confiscation of property and by profound 
historical antipathies and antagonisms, it would probably 
have presented little difficulty. It was, however, quite 
certain that the great mass of the Catholic population 
in Ireland were as yet utterly unfit for the exercise of 
political power except under the guidance and training 
of the more enlightened classes. In a well-constituted 
society, property, tradition, and social eminence would 
have marked out for them natural leaders of their own 
creed. In Ireland such leaders did not, as a rule, exist, 
and it was the misfortune of the country that the most 
powerful influences dissociated the upper classes from 
the lower. Was it possible for a gentry who were 
almost all Protestant, and who were burdened by so 
many unhappy historical antecedents, to fulfil the indis- 
pensable task of leading, controlling, and educating the 
masses of their countrymen ? On the answer to this 
question the political future of Ireland mainly depended. 

It was only by slow degrees that Irish Protestant 
opinion became actively favourable to the Catholics. 
Whig traditions in Ireland, as in England, were ex- 
tremely anti-Catholic, and many of the earlier defenders 
of Irish liberty desired that liberty only for a small 
minority of their fellow-countrymen. Anthony Malone, 
it is true, seems to have early seen the evil of the penal 
laws, and Langrishe and Dennis Daly were steady 
friends of the Catholics, 1 but Lucas, who was long so 

Sec Grattan's Life, i. 59, 265-267, 290. 


prominent in the Irish national party, was virulently 
and aggressively anti-Catholic. 1 No one wrote more 
ably against the commercial restrictions than Sir James 
Caldwell, but when the Bill enabling Catholics to lend 
money on landed security was introduced, this measure, 
which was politically so moderate and economically so 
beneficial, was opposed by Caldwell not only in the 
Parliament but in the Press. He dilated upon the con- 
trast between the indifference of the Protestant clergy 
and the indefatigable earnestness of the Catholic priests, 
and upon the peculiar intensity which a long period of 
persecution had given to the Catholicity of the Irish 
people. 2 He said that there was scarcely a Popish 
family in Ireland which had not some relative who waa 
either a priest, or enlisted in a foreign army, or engaged 
in trade in France or Spain ; that their children were 
all taught Latin in the hedge schools which were scat- 
tered through the southern parts of the kingdom in 
order to qualify for foreign service ; that the few Popish 
landlords had none but Papists on their estates; that 
one Justin McCarthy, merely by the number of his 
debtors, kept the Protestants of a large district in awe 
of him, and had prevented during many years the exe- 
cution of the penal code ; and he concluded that any 
measure which increased the power of Catholics would 
be dangerous to Ireland. Flood was prepared to give 

1 Plowden's Historical Regis- ever he may err in his morals, 

ter, i. 302. O'Conor's History he is always a sincere Papist as 

of the Irish Catholics, p. 330. to his tenets, and by his profes- 

* ' A Papist in a Popish sion of that religion he gives a 

country may be only nominally public, a constant, and an indu- 

BO ... but no man in Ireland bitable test that he will sacrifice 

who is indifferent about religious interest to what he believes to be 

principles and duties is a Papist his duty.' Examinationwhether 

nominally. The nominal Papist it is expedient to enable Papists 

in Ireland is a Papist in fact; to take Real Securities, by Sir 

he has not the name but the James Caldwell, F.R.S. (Dublin, 

essence of his religion, and how- 1764), p. 20. 


the Catholics complete religious toleration and some 
economical advantages, among others the right of taking 
long leases and even of purchasing land ; l but through 
the whole of his career he was inflexibly opposed to 
giving them any measure of political power. 

Charlemont, one of the purest as well as one of the most 
prominent of Irish patriots, took the same course. While 
frequently supporting measures for mitigating the econo- 
mical condition of the Irish Catholics, he steadily main- 
tained that neither arms nor votes could be safely given 
to them. In a private letter to one of his most intimate 
friends, he predicted that at least a century must pass 
before the Catholics could be safely entrusted with the 
rights of citizens, 2 and in an autobiographical fragment 
which he bequeathed to his children he expressed his 
full approbation of the penal code. It was absolutely 
necessary, he said, that the armed minority should take 
away from their numerous antagonists every element of 
power. * Their inferiority in numbers could only be 
compensated by such a superiority m arms and dis- 
cipline as might make one man equal to ten.' An ex- 
clusive legislative power was necessary, and therefore 
the penal laws relating to land were necessary, and it 
was good policy to hold out every inducement to con- 

1 Warden Flood's Life of every franchise might not arise, 
Flood, p. 145. Grattan's Life, though I cannot be as sanguine 
i. 266. as you are, respecting the near- 

2 ' You say, and you say truly, ness of that period. It would, 
that the door of education should in my opinion, require a century 
previously be opened [to the at least of the best education, 
Catholics], and an indulgence before our semi-barbarians could 
granted to the legal profession, be brought to assimilate with 
and here agreeing with you, I their fellow-subjects, and to a 
am happy in the opportunity to capacity of duly performing the 
declare that in anything I have functions of a citizen.' Charle- 
said I never meant to insinuate mont to Dr. Halliday, Dee. IS, 
that a day of assimilation and 1791. Charlemont Papers. 
consequent communication of 


formity. ' From the natural operation of the laws, and 
from many other concomitant causes, the Protestants 
increased in strength, and the Catholics, though still 
retaining a great superiority in numbers, grew weaker. 
The greater part of the old Catholic gentry had, either 
from conviction or convenience, conformed to the esta- 
blished and ruling religion, and the quiet behaviour of 
the oppressed people had, or ought to have, well nigh 
obliterated the memory of their former excesses.' ! 

While himself firmly holding these views, Charle- 
mont acknowledged that towards 1778 a great and rapid 
change had passed over the sentiments of the Irish Pro- 
testants, and he has taken much pains to analyse its 
causes. He attributes it partly to a prevailing spirit of 
toleration, springing in his opinion ' rather from fashion- 
able Deism than from Christianity, which was now unfor- 
tunately much out of fashion/ and partly to the growth of 
a considerable Catholic interest which, directly or in- 
directly, exercised some political power. Catholics who 
had conformed in order to keep their lands, or to enter 
the law, were still united by blood and friendship and 
sympathy to the recusant body. In the southern coun- 
ties, at the time when the provision trade was flourish- 
ing, many Catholic merchants had acquired large for- 
tunes and great local influence, and they exercised some 
indirect patronage over Protestants, and were the chief 
money-lenders in the island. In some counties, land 
was let in very large portions to Catholic tenants, and 
it was the obvious interest of the landlords that those 
tenants should not be prevented by law from improving 
their farms. But in addition to these reasons there 
were others of a more purely political character. The 

1 Charlemont Papers. So event [the Revolution], were not 

Flood, in his speech on the laws of persecution, but of poli- 

Catholic question in 1782, said : tical necessity.' Life of Flood, 

' The laws that followed this p. 144. 


desire for national independence was growing stronger 
and stronger in Ireland. The wretched condition of the 
finances, the corrupt disposal of patronage, the refusal 
of the English Parliament to grant that commercial 
liberty which was essential to Irish prosperity, and, 
above all, the example of America, had strengthened 
incalculably the old spirit of Swift and of Molyneux. In 
the words of Flood, ' a voice from America had shouted 
to liberty,' and, although the loyalty of the Irish Protes- 
tants to the English Crown was unshaken, there had 
arisen among them a strong aspiration towards legisla- 
tive independence, and a conviction that it could only 
be attained if the Catholics were at least conciliated. 

A great personal influence had also arisen in the 
Irish Parliament. A young man had lately entered its 
walls whose eloquence surcharged, indeed, with epi- 
gram, and disfigured by a strong, though perfectly un- 
affected mannerism, but in the highest degree original, 
vivid, nervous, thoughtful, and picturesque placed him, 
for the space of forty years and in two Legislatures, in 
the first rank of contemporary orators, while his trans- 
parent simplicity and purity of character, and his ardent 
and self-sacrificing patriotism, gave him a rare power of 
influencing those about him. It was the firsb principle 
of Henry Grattan that ' the Irish Protestant could never 
be free till the Irish Catholic had ceased to be a slave;' 
and as early as 1778 Charlemont attributed to the ex- 
traordinary eloquence and influence of Grattan a great 
part of the change which on the Catholic question had 
passed over the minds of the Irish Protestants. 1 

The Government also had but little reason to oppose 
it. Hitherto they had usually been the friends of the 
Catholics. They had carried the great measure by which 
the Catholic Church was established in Canada. They had 
just supported a Bill slightly mitigating the persecuting 

1 Autobiography, C-harkmont Papers. 
VOL. II. . P 



laws against the English Catholics, and they were quite 
sensible that a conciliatory policy towards Ireland was 
necessary. The country seemed on the verge of bank- 
ruptcy. Distress and misery, with their inevitable 
attendant, political discontent, were increasing. The 
Presbyterians were openly on the side of America ; the 
example of the colonies was kindling a strong sentiment 
of nationality, and it was thought by many that Ireland, 
which had become the chief dependency of the Crown, 
would follow the example of the revolted colonies. The 
Government had every reason to strengthen its alliance 
with the majority of the nation which had not yet caught 
the contagion of American independence, and which 
naturally leaned most strongly on the side of authority, 
at a time when the country was almost undefended, and 
when two great Catholic Powers had just declared their 
hostility to Great Britain. 1 

A few years before, some unofficial communications 
on the subject are said to have taken place between the 

1 ' Government was now in- 
duced to court the Papists by 
their fear of the Protestants, 
and wished to oblige and 
strengthen that party which, as 
well from the influence of a ser- 
vile religion as from its precarious 
situation in the country, was 
likely, they thought, to be wholly 
dependent on them, thus raising 
what thejr deemed a necessary 
barrier against those encroach- 
ments which they now began 
exceedingly, and not without 
reason, to dread.' Autobio- 
graphy, Charlemont Papers. Wai- 
pole, who was bitterly opposed 
to all concessions to the Irish 
Catholics, complains that about 
1776, Colonel Dalrymple had 
been raising Boman Catholics in 

Ireland for the King's service, 
and had been assisted by the 
Popish Archbishop of Tuam, and 
he says that he had himself 
heard a person in very high office 
say ' that the Presbyterians were 
the worst subjects that the King 
had, and that the Boman Catho- 
lics were better subjects.' He 
mentions that Conolly, who was a 
conspicuous member of the Irish 
Parliament, and who had also a 
seat in the English one, said of 
Ireland : ' if the French land in 
the south every man there will 
join them, and if the Americans 
land in the north they will be as 
gladly received there by the Pres- 
byterians.' Last Journals, ii 
pp. 25, 85, 235 


English Government and the Vatican, and Hervey, the 
Protestant Bishop of Derry, who was then at Borne, 
appears to have been mixed up with them. 1 This very 
singular personage, who will appear conspicuously in 
another part of this narrative, was steadily favourable 
to a Catholic Belief Bill. The measure of 1774, en- 
abling the Catholics to testify their loyalty, is said to 
have been first suggested, and was strongly supported 
by him, 2 and in May 1778, he wrote from Rome an 
exceedingly alarming letter to Pery, the Speaker of the 
Irish House of Commons, predicting the terrible conse- 
quences that would ensue if the relief of the Catholics 
were delayed. 3 'Ireland,' he said, 'if the war with 
France takes pkice, must almost inevitably be thrown 
into the greatest confusion ; the first blow will certainly 
be directed there, and the Roman Catholics, exasperated 
by repeated disappointments, are ripe for an almost 
general revolt. Whether this disposition originated 
here, or was only stimulated and encouraged here, I 
cannot say ; but of this I am very well informed, that 
no encouragement is wanting, and that, some few 
prudent persons excepted, the hopes of the remainder 
are as sanguine as their exhortations are animated. 
The real intention is to render Ireland independent, and 
to establish, as in the Swiss cantons, a reciprocal tolera- 
tion of religions, to abolish all tithes except such as are 
to be paid by the Roman Catholics to their own clergy, 
and to throw themselves under the protection of France 
and if possible of Spain. If this attempt should not 
succeed, their project is then to make as general an 

1 See Saint Priest, Hist, de to Pery (some of them by Burke), 
la Chute des Jesuites, pp. 131, in the possession of LordEmly, 
314. to whose kindness I owe my 

2 England's Life of O'Leary, knowledge of them. They have 
pp. 53, 54. been printed in a little magazine 

3 This letter is in a curious called The Irish Monitor, for 
and valuable collection of letters April 1878. 


emigration as possible, and to settle in that part of Spain 
which was offered to them some years ago, or else in a 
part of the Pope's territory which is within forty miles 
of Rome, and now actually preparing for some very 
extensive colony ; and if my friend is not egregiously 
misinformed, this colony will be from Ireland. The 
disgust which prevails here upon the baffling of every 
attempt to relieve their countrymen is better conceived 
than expressed.' The bishop thinks that a ' reasonable 
concession in time ' would secure the allegiance of the 
Catholics, and he had been writing copiously to Lord 
Hillsborough on the subject. What was required was 
'a legal exercise of that silly but harmless religion 
which they now exercise illegally,' and a repeal of the 
Gavel Act, which breaks up the landed properties of 
Catholics by an equal division among the children, and 
' has so reduced the list of the Papist nobility that all 
the influence of the Popish people and gentry is thrown 
into the hands of the clergy.' If such measures were 
taken, a French landing in Ireland would not produce 
an insurrection of fifty Papists. This toleration should 
at least be granted to all who had taken the new oath 
of allegiance, and it would contribute to sunder those 
who were simply Catholics from those who were the 
supporters of an aggressive political faction. 

The Government did not altogether and decidedly 
adopt this view. In the beginning of the year the 
Catholics had presented a petition asking for relief, but 
it had not been favourably received. ' Their complaints,' 
Lord Buckingham wrote, ' extend to almost the whole 
of the Popery laws,' and he adds, ' it does not appear to 
me that they were in any degree admissible, and I pre- 
sumed it would appear in the same light to his Majesty.' l 
The time, he said, was a very unfavourable one for such 

1 Buckingham to Weymouth, reply of the English Government, 
March 4, 1778. See, too, the March 28. 


measures, which might throw the country into a flame 
when it was more than commonly important that it 
should be quiet. But although the Government would 
have gladly postponed the question, the independent 
party would not acquiesce in this course, and in May 
the Lord Lieutenant wrote that, in consequence of the 
recent Bills in favour of Roman Catholics in the English 
House of Commons, 'measures of a similar tendency 
are in agitation here ; but as there is a prospect of a 
warm opposition, particularly to the Gavelling clause, 
which is deemed by the gentlemen of that persuasion 
one of their most oppressive grievances,' it was neces- 
sary for him to receive instructions from England. His 
own opinion and that of the Primate was that Catholics 
should be put as far as circumstances would admit on a 
par in both kingdoms. Lord Weymouth thought this 
opinion a very reasonable one, but left it altogether to 
Buckingham to determine what relief could be prudently 
given. 1 

It appears, then, that the measure of relief origi- 
nated not with the Government, but with the indepen- 
dent members of Parliament, but it is also certain that 
the Government readily accepted and warmly supported 
it. Lord North, in the debate on Irish commerce, had 
taken occasion to say a few sympathising words in 
favour of the Catholics, and when Mr. Gardiner intro- 
duced his Bill in 1778, members attached to the Govern- 
ment were ready to assist him. No detailed report of 
the debates exists, but we know that Yelverton, who 
was one of the ablest of the party which on national 
questions supported the views of Grattan, took a leading 
part in preparing the Bill and that Grattan himself spoke 
in its favour. 2 Lord Buckingham's secretary writes 

1 May 24 1778, Buckingham Plowclen, i. 463. Grattan's 
to Weymouth. May 31, 1778, Life, i. 289. 
Weymouth to Buckingham. 


that ' a general inclination to give relief to the Roman 
Catholics ' was expressed in Parliament, ' but there was 
a variety of opinion both as to the mode and as to the 
extent. The great question of division was whether 
Catholics should be permitted to purchase land in 
freehold or should only be allowed to take land at leases 
of 999 years. The latter was carried by 111 to 108, 
and, although it was now one in the morning, those 
who desired to restrict the Catholic concessions were so 
encouraged by the division that they desired still to 
continue the debate; but the Government, in the in- 
terest of the Catholics, carried an adjournment by a 
majority of three. 

A new and very serious difficulty, however, was pro- 
duced by a clause for relieving the Presbyterians from 
the test, which was introduced by Sir Edward Newen- 
ham, a member who afterwards showed a strong desire 
to strengthen the democratic element in the constitu- 
tion. As the sacramental test had originally been intro- 
duced into Ireland in a Popery Bill, there was a manifest 
propriety in relieving the Dissenters in this manner as 
well as at this time ; but the Government, who looked 
upon the Presbyterians as pre-eminently the American 
party, were extremely opposed to it. ' It was intended,' 
the secretary wrote, ' to oppose giving liberty to receive 
this clause, but it being urged, even by the servants of 
the Crown, that the refusing to hear what might be said 
in favour of that considerable body of his Majesty's sub- 
jects would be an aggravation of what they deemed a 
grievance, the motion was suffered to pass.' ' It ap- 
pears that this question respecting the test will occa- 
sion very great difficulties, as many people seem in- 
clined to the measure.' 1 

The debates appear to have been very animated. 

1 Sir R. Heron to the English Government (the address not spe- 
cified) , June 17, 1778. 

CH. in. RELIEF ACT OF 1778. 215 

They were prolonged for several nights, and lasted till 
two or three in the morning. It was agreed that the 
Catholics in taking a 999 years' lease, should pay a 
money rent; but as its amount was not specified, it 
might be merely nominal. The Test Clause was sup- 
ported partly by the genuine friends of the Presbyterians, 
and partly by a small body of whom Lord Shannon and 
Lord Ely were the leaders, who were hostile to the whole 
Bill, and who imagined that the new clause would in- 
troduce such an element of dissension that it would be 
wrecked ; but the House of Commons passed the Bill 
with the additional clause. In the Irish Privy Council 
some members objected to the whole Bill, and others to 
the clause irf favour of the Dissenters, but neither 
section was sufficiently numerous to divide. * I must, 
however, give it as my opinion/ wrote the Lord Lieu- 
tenant, ' that a much greater number would have ap- 
peared against the Presbyterian clause if they had not 
conceived that it might be more properly rejected in 
England.' ' If the Bill is returned to us,' Pery at this 
time wrote to Burke, ' with the Test Clause, it will not 
meet with any opposition in our House, but it will be 
in much danger in the Lords. If it be without the 
clause, the fate of it will be uncertain in our House, 
and it is feared that the rejection of it, though a matter 
of no real benefit, will raise a dangerous flame in the 
north.' The English Privy Council sent back the Bill, 
shorn of its concession to the Presbyterians, and the 
enemies of the Catholics hoped that the Irish House of 
Commons would be so exasperated at the mutilation 
that they would reject the whole measure. They acted, 
however, more wisely, and the first great relief Bill for 
the Irish Catholics was carried through the Commons 
by 127 to 89, through the Lords by 44 to 28. 1 

1 Buckingham to Weymouth, Buckingham, July 24. Heron 
June 20, 26. Weymouth to to English Government, Aug. 5, 


It enabled the Catholics, on taking the oath of 
allegiance and a prescribed form of declaration, to hold 
leases of land for 999 years, though they might not 
purchase the freehold, and also to inherit land in ex- 
actly the same way as Protestants. The eldest son was 
no longer to be tempted to conform in order to secure 
the heritage ; the properties of those who refused to 
conform were no longer to be broken up by compulsory 
division ; and the great temptations which the old law 
had held out to profligacy and undutiful conduct in Catho- 
lic families were abolished. Any child could no longer, 
by conformity, secure a maintenance from his father's 
estate, and the eldest son could no longer make his 
father a mere tenant for life and mortgage his property 
without his consent. Converts to Popery, however, and 
converts to Protestantism who had relapsed, were ex- 
empted from the benefit of the law. The preamble 
emphatically acknowledged ' the uniform peaceable be- 
haviour ' of the Catholics ' for a long series of years,' 
and expressed the desire of the Legislature ' that all 
denominations should enjoy the blessings of our free 
constitution.' 1 

The Act gave much and promised more, and making 
every allowance for the great influence Government 
habitually exercised, and also for the strong opposi- 
tion which some portions of the measure undoubtedly 
encountered, the conduct of the Irish Parliament in 
passing it by so large a majority shows a very marked 
advance in the spirit of toleration. Burke, who was at 
this time corresponding actively with Pery in favour of 
the Catholics, was much struck with the improvement. 
' The Irish House of Commons,' he wrote, ' has done 

1778. Irish Monitor, April 1878, that the test clause was passed 

pp. 191-192. The account in by the Irish Commons. 

Plowden is not accurate, and he ' 17 & 18 Geo. III. c. 49. 
opt to have been a war* 


itself infinite honour. ... It gave me great pleasure 
to find, as I do from many accounts, that without dero- 
gating from the talents of the gentlemen who dissented 
from the Toleration Act, the far greater weight of the 
abilities and eloquence of the House was on the side 
where eloquence and ability ought ever to be on the 
side of liberty and justice.' ' You are now,' he con- 
tinued, ' beginning to have a country, and ... I am 
persuaded that when that thing called a countiy is once 
formed in Ireland, quite other things will be done than 
were done whilst the zeal of men was turned to the 
safety of a party, and whilst they thought its interests 
provided for in the distress and destruction of every- 
thing else.' l 'Outside the House the concession to the 
Catholics created no serious discontent among the Irish 
Protestants. As far as I have discovered, the Corpora- 
tion of Cork alone petitioned against the Bill when it 
was proceeding, and it seems to have been universally 
acquiesced in when it had passed. Two years later the 
small relief which was granted to the English Catholics 
convulsed both England and Scotland with agitation, 
and London itself was for three days almost in the 
power of an anti-Catholic mob. 

1 Burke to Pery, Aug. 12, 1778. 




THE modification of the Commercial Code and of the 
Popery Code is sufficient to make the year 1778 very 
memorable in Irish history. Another movement, how- 
ever, which was even more important in its imme- 
diate consequences, may be dated from the same year. 
I mean, of course, the creation of the Irish Volun- 

We have seen that in every war which had taken 
place since the Revolution, Ireland had been an assist- 
ance and not an embarrassment to England, and that, 
whatever may have been the faults of the Irish Parlia- 
ment and they were many and great the English 
Government, at least, had no reason to complain of any 
want of alacrity, or earnestness, or liberality in sup- 
porting the military establishments. This, however, 
was partly due to the disturbed, half-civilised, and half- 
organised condition of the country, which had given its 
ascendant class a peculiar aptitude and taste for military 
life, and which at the same time made the presence of 
a considerable armed force necessary for its security. 
Outrages like those of the Whiteboys, the Oakboys, and 
the Steelboys could not be otherwise repressed, and in 
the wilder parts of the country soldiers were often 
required to discharge ordinary police functions. It was 
an old complaint that in time of war Ireland had often 
been left almost unprotected, and it was an old desire of 


the country gentlemen that a permanent militia should 
be organised which would be less expensive than regu- 
lar troops, and equally efficient in maintaining internal 

Bills to this effect more than once passed the Irish 
House of Commons. Lord Townshend, though seeing 
some difficulties in the way of the scheme, was dis- 
posed to recommend it, 1 but nothing in his time was 
done. When the war with France appeared inevitable, 
the question of a militia revived, and a Bill creating 
such a force was carried, and returned from England ; 
but it was not put in force. Financial difficulties, the 
lateness of the season, hopes that the French danger 
might pass away, fears lest the militia might interfere 
with recruiting for the army, and, perhaps, jealousy of 
a purely national force, appear to have been the prin- 
cipal motives of the delay, and when the war actually 
broke out, Ireland found herself almost absolutely with- 
out the means of maintaining tranquillity at home, or of 
repelling a foreign invasion. The English fleet was 
occupied elsewhere, and the Irish coast was unprotected. 
It was said that little more than a third part of the 
12,000 men who were considered necessary for the 
defence of the country were actually there, and they 

1 A militia scheme for 5,000 land. In the former the difficulty 

men has been proposed in Par- has arisen from the officers, from 

liament here. It will cost the the provincial disputes, and other 

public about 20.000Z. in the two causes which affect them. In 

years. Our not opposing this Ireland the difficulty, in the 

measure had this good effect, south especially, will be to find 

that it brought the country the men, for as to the officers, 

gentlemen to our assistance in there are so many gentlemen 

restraining the money grants.' upon half-pay who have served, 

Townshend to Weymouth, Nov. and the situation of the landed 

24, 1769. In October 1770, he de- Protestants is so peculiar, that 

cidedly recommends the scheme, there can be little doubt but, 

and says : ' The case appears upon proper encouragement, a 

to me very different between a militia here would soon be offi- 

militia in Great Britain and Ire- cered.' 


were concentrated chiefly in one or two encampments. 
The treasury was empty, and Government was, there- 
fore, utterly unable to form a militia. In April 1778, 
Lord Buckingham wrote with great urgency that it was 
the general sense of the House of Commons, of the 
Lords of the Council, and of all degrees of people in 
Ireland, that in case of invasion, or apprehended in- 
vasion, either a militia, or independent companies of 
volunteers, were absolutely necessary for the protection 
of the country. 

But the Government, with the best intentions, was 
utterly unable to discharge the primary duty of securing 
the country. Its poverty was such that it was found 
necessary to borrow 20,0001. from La Touche's Bank, 
and all salaries and pensions, all civil and military 
grants, were suspended. A militia was impossible, for 
there were no means of supporting it, but ' several 
gentlemen of considerable property declared in the 
House of Commons that they would, if authorised, raise, 
without loss of time, independent companies, formed out 
of their respective tenantries, of men upon whom they 
could depend.' 

Buckingham recommended that such companies 
should be raised under royal sign manual, the Govern- 
ment providing the arms, accoutrements, and pay ; but 
it was soon found that even this, though much less 
expensive than a militia, was financially impossible. 
Meanwhile privateers were beginning to swarm around 
the coast. The communications even with England were 
greatly obstructed, and rumours of invasion increased. 
Parliament was in recess, and Government feared to 
assemble it. All through the country, but especially in 
the maritime towns, there was terror and insecurity, 
and it became evident that as Government was com- 
pletely paralysed, as the Executive could do nothing for 
the defence of the country, the greatest disasters were 


to be feared unless the gentry took the matter into their 
own hands and acted very much as if Government had 
been dissolved. 1 

They were fortunately peculiarly well fitted to do so, 
and the strong feudal attachment which in spite of many 
faults on both sides, and many causes of discord and 
antagonism, still subsisted over the greater part of 
Ireland between the landlords and the tenants, enabled 
them with very little difficulty to summon a large force. 
The number of Irishmen who had served in the last war 
was extremely great, and there was no want of old 
soldiers who were quite capable of marshalling the 
recruits. 2 It had been a common custom, when soldiers 
were wanted in Ireland to commission great proprietors 
to raise them ; and Lord Aldborough, Lord Bellamont, 
Lord Drogheda, Sir James Caldwell, and several other 
large proprietors, had raised considerable forces for the 
Crown. In 1760, when Thurot had effected a landing 
on the Irish coast, the rapidity with which the northern 
peasantry could organise themselves for self-defence was 
strikingly displayed. Lord Charlemont, as governor of 
the county, hastened to the scene of the invasion, and 
he found that more than 2,000 men, armed for the most 
part with the weapon called in Scotland the Lochaber 
axe a scythe fixed longitudinally to the end of a long 
pole had already assembled around Belfast, formed 
themselves into regular bodies, chosen their own officers, 
and, without the smallest tumult or riot or drunkenness, 

1 Buckingham to North, April the fleets and armies of Great 
21, 1778. Charlemont's Auto- Britain in the last war was oom- 
liography. Most of the more puted at 100,000. Commercial 
important Government letters Restraints, p. 236. Of the troops 
relating to this period have been on the Irish establishment Char- 
printed in Grattan's Life, i. 296- lemont estimated that about 
391. half had before the augmenta- 

2 Hely Hutchinson, in a book tion been usually on foreign 
published in 1779, stated that the service. Charlemont's Autobio- 
number of Irishmen serving in graphy. 


organised the defence of the town. The impression the 
scene made on his mind was not forgotten amid the 
dangers of 1778, and it was remembered that the Duke 
of Bedford in his speech from the throne had eulogised 
in warm terms the spirit shown on this occasion by the 
people, and had attributed it solely to their firm attitude 
that the French had not advanced beyond the walls of 
Carrickfergus. 1 In the Whiteboy agitation a similar 
spirit had been shown, and large bodies of volunteers 
organised by . the country gentry had done much to 
pacify the disturbed districts and hunt <lo\vn the 
marauders. Now, again, in the face of a still more 
pressing danger, associations for defence were every- 
where formed among the Irish gentry. Official news 
having come about this time that a French invasion of 
Belfast was imminent, the mayor asked for troops for 
its protection ; but it was answered that only half a 
troop of dismounted horsemen and half a company of 
invalids could be spared to defend the capital of Ulster. 
The people at once flew to arms. A sudden enthu- 
siasm, such as occurs two or three times in the history 
of a nation, seems to have passed through all classes. 
All along the coast associations for self-defence were 
formed under the direction of the leading gentry. They 
elected their officers, purchased their arms and accoutre- 
ments, assembled regularly under the direction of old 
soldiers to acquire military discipline, and without any 
legal obligation submitted themselves to the rules of a 
strict discipline. The chief persons in Ireland nearly 
everywhere placed themselves at the head of the move- 
ment. The Duke of Leinster commanded the Dublin 
corps ; Lord Altamont that of the county Mayo ; Lord 
Charlemont that of the county of Armagh ; and in most 
counties the principal landlords appeared at the head of 

1 Hardy's Life of Charlemont, i. 112-116. 


bodies of their tenants. Large private subscriptions 
were raised to purchase accoutrements, and great sacri- 
fices were made. The Catholics were not yet enrolled, 
but they subscribed liberally towards the expense. 
Those of the county of Limerick alone, raised 800Z., and 
those of Drogheda, Dingle, and other parts, exhibited a 
similar spirit. 1 

Lord Buckingham watched the rising movement 
with mingled sentiments, of which the most prominent 
was an impotent dismay. He could not deny that the 
volunteer movement was indispensably necessary to the 
security of the State ; that the men who formed and 
guided it were the most considerable and upright in the 
country ; that^ they were fulfilling with great energy 
and great ability a task which belonged properly to the 
Government, but which the Government was entirely 
unable to accomplish. On the other hand, he could not 
but look with alarm on a great body of armed men, 
rising up altogether independently of the Government 
at a time when so many causes and elements of discon- 
tent were circulating through the nation. 

His confidential correspondence with the Govern- 
ment reveals the situation more clearly than any descrip- 
tion I could give, and shows at once the character of the 
volunteers and the real sentiments of the Government. 
In December 1778, he wrote to Weymouth, describing 
the condition of affairs, how when war with France had 
become inevitable he found it impossible, in the condi- 
tion of the finances, to raise troops for the protection of 
the country, how the scheme of raising a militia seemed 
to him equally impracticable, and how the idea then 
arose among the people that they must associate to de- 
fend themselves. * Several of them,' he says, ' accord- 
ingly formed themselves into troops and companies, and 

1 Grattan'g Life, i. 343. 


applications were made to me to supply them with arms 
and ammunition. Though they consisted of Protestants, 
in general under the direction of persons of distinction, 
uniformly professing that they had nothing in view but 
the defence of their properties, . . . and though similar 
associations were formed during the Government of 
Lord Harcourt, in order to oppose the violence of the 
Whiteboys, ... I could not comply with any request 
of this nature, such associations, however justifiable in 
extreme dangers, not being allowable by law. I have 
made it my constant care to inquire into their conduct, 
and have not found that any bad consequence followed 
from it ; on the contrary, they have contributed to the 
preservation of the public peace, and being persuaded 
that any efforts of Government here to stop their pro- 
ceedings, . . . without making any other provision for 
the defence of the kingdom, might have made impres- 
sions of a dangerous tendency, I did not attempt to 
suppress them. I now find that these associations are 
spreading into the internal part of the kingdom.' l 

About six months later he wrote a very curious letter 
which clearly shows his dread of the new body, and his 
desire to suppress it at the very time when it was con- 
fessedly discharging duties of the first importance to the 
State. ' Upon receiving,' he says, ' official intelligence 
that the enemy meditated an attack upon the northern 
parts of Ireland, the inhabitants of Belfast and Carrick- 
fergus, as Government could not immediately afford a 
greater force for their protection than about sixty 
troopers, armed themselves, and by degrees formed 
themselves into two or three companies ; the spirit dif- 
fused itself into different parts of the kingdom, and 
the numbers became considerable, but in no degree to 
the amount represented. Discouragement has, how- 

1 Buckingham to Weymouth, Dec. 12, 1778. 


ever, been given on my part as far as might be without 
offence, at a crisis when the arm and goodwill of every 
individual might have been wanting for the defence of 
the State. In the interior and remote parts of Ireland, 
where magistrates are scarce, and those few act with 
reluctance and timidity, the mode of suppressing them 
would have been difficult and delicate. . . . Protes- 
tants might with some plausibility have murmured if 
they had not been indulged in arming in their own 
defence, at the moment when the Legislature was hold- 
ing out protection to a denomination of men whom 
they BO long had deemed their inveterate enemies. 
Those who arraign this proceeding do not consider that 
without this f6rce the camps could not have been 
formed, or the interior country must have been aban- 
doned to riot and confusion, and many parts of the 
coast left defenceless. ... By the Act of the 1st of 
William and Mary, c. 1, sec. 2, the subjects of Ireland 
may carry arms for their own defence, . . . and it 
would be a question of nice decision to determine 
whether they might not be justified at a time of de- 
clared public danger in learning the use of them. The 
seizing their arms would have been a violent expedient, 
and the preventing them from assembling, without a 
military force, impracticable. . . . My accounts state 
the number of the corps as not exceeding 8,000 men, 
some without arms, and in the whole very few who are 
liable to a suspicion of disaffection.' J 

The disquietude of the Lord Lieutenant may be 
easily understood. The utter paralysis of Government, 
the refusal of the English Parliament to grant the free 
trade which was indispensable to Ireland, the close 
affinity between the American cause and that of Ireland, 
the profound and justifiable discontent at the present 

1 Grattan's Life, i. 349. 


condition of Ireland which pervaded all classes, and 
the creation of a great army, which was a manifest ex- 
pression of the Protestant sentiment of the country, 
and which could not be managed or controlled like 
a parliament of boroughmongers, were all sufficiently 
alarming. In November 1778, an address to the Irish, 
bearing the name of Benjamin Franklin, and pointing 
out the close connection between American and Irish 
interests, was widely circulated. 1 In the following Feb- 
ruary the sheriffs of Dublin represented to the Lord 
Lieutenant that in that city alone more than 19,000 
persons connected with the weaving trade, besides 
many other poor, were on the brink of starvation, and 
that nothing but an ' extension of trade and a free 
export of their manufactures' could save them. 2 In 
April a great meeting was held in Dublin, at which 
all present pledged themselves not directly or indirectly 
to purchase any of the goods or manufactures of Great 
Britain that could be manufactured at home. 

' It concerns me greatly,' wrote Buckingham, when 
reporting this meeting, ' ( o mention that the discontent 
of this kingdom seems increasing, fomented, I appre- 
hend, by French and American emissaries. The alarms 
given by some are certainly exaggerated, but still the 
general appearance is serious,' 3 and if the present ses- 
sion of the English Parliament closed without some 
favour to Ireland, a formidable opposition might be 
expected when the Irish Parliament met. 4 He notices 
the ' insinuations which are daily circulated in the pub- 
lic prints, that the idea of the number of the volunteers 
may conduce to the attainment of political advantages 
for their country.' 6 He speaks of ' how very little is 

1 Nov. 4, 1778 (Record Office). 4 May 24, 1779. Buckingham 

* Feb. 25, 1779 (ibid.) to Weymouth. 

8 Buckingham to Weymouth, s May 23, 1779. Ibid, 
April 29, 1779. 


known of the interior and remote parts of this king- 
dom, and how difficult it is to obtain intelligence that 
may be depended on.' Having made it a rule from the 
beginning to decline giving any sanction or encourage- 
ment to the volunteers, ' it has seldom happened,' he 
says, ' that I have known anything of the associations 
until I saw them in the public newspapers. . . . Deli- 
cately circumstanced as Ireland is at present, it is 
scarcely possible in my situation to avoid censure for 
having said or done either too much or too little.' l 

He called upon the leading Irishmen, both in and 
out of office, to send him in writing their views of 
the cause of the great atrophy which had undoubtedly 
fallen on Irish prosperity, and Lord Lifford, Sir L. 
O'Brien, Flood, Burgh, Poster, Pery, Hely Hutchinson, 
and several others, sent in the reports, to which I have 
already referred, describing the condition of the country, 
and all concluding that, unless the commercial restric- 
tions were speedily removed, Ireland could no longer 
pay her way. The English Government consented that 
England should pay all the Irish troops which were at 
this time serving out of Ireland ; but the boon, though 
at other times it might have been much appreciated, 
had now no considerable effect. Buckingham himself 
urged that the drain of money from Ireland to England, 
in the shape of rents of absentees, interest of mortgages, 
and of the national debt, pensions, and lucrative offices 
held by Englishmen, ' will appear enormous in propor- 
tion to the most exaggerated estimate of the abilities 
of this kingdom ; ' that of late years ' the expense of 
collection from various causes is most seriously aug- 
mented ; ' that Irish farmers having no capital were 
ruined by the slightest check, and that in his private 
opinion which he had, however, carefully concealed 

1 June 4, 1779. Buckingham to Weymouth. 

o 3 


in Ireland * nothing short of permission to export 
coarse woollen goods will in any degree give general 
satisfaction.' * 

From that memorable year when the English barons 
availed themselves of the destruction of an English 
army by the French near the bridge of Bouvines, to rise 
against their sovereign and to extort from him the 
great charter of English liberty, there had been many 
instances of the pressure of foreign affairs being em- 
ployed to obtain concessions of civil liberty. Something 
of this kind was, no doubt, occurring in Ireland. The 
Irish Protestants, who were rapidly rising everywhere to 
arms, were determined, -yhile defending their country 
as a member of the British Empire, to insist upon the 
abolition of the trade restrictions which had destroyed 
its prosperity, and another and still higher object was 
rapidly strengthening among them. The doctrine that 
self-government is the characteristic feature of English 
liberty, that Ireland, though subject to the King of 
England, was not subject to the English Parliament, 
that no laws were valid in Ireland which had not been 
made exclusively by the King, Lords, and Commons of 
Ireland this doctrine was now rapidly becoming the 
dominant creed of the country. The American discus- 
sions had done much to convince all classes of Protes- 
tants that it was essential to their liberty, essential if 
they were to be permanently secured from taxation by a 
body in which they were wholly unrepresented, essential 
if they were to maintain any commercial liberty in the 
face of the great commercial jealousy of English indus- 
tries. It had been, as we have seen, the doctrine of a 
long series of Irish antiquaries that the English settlers 
in Ireland had originally possessed a constitution in all 
respects similar to that of England, and that Poyning's 

May 28, Jtme 8, 1779. Buckingham to Weymouth. 


law was the first of a series of encroachments which had 
been ratified and consummated by the Declaratory Act 
of George I. The right of Ireland to parliamentary 
independence had been unanimously asserted by the 
Irish Parliament of 1641 ; it had been a leading topic 
in the Remonstrance presented by the Irish Catholics to 
the Commissioners of Charles I. in 1642, and in the 
negotiation of the Catholic Confederates for peace in 
1645, 1 and it was reiterated in emphatic terms by the 
Parliament of James II., convened at Dublin in 1689. 
On the ruin of the Catholics, the banner which dropped 
from their hands was caught up by Protestants. The 
doctrine of the legitimate independence of the Irish 
Parliament passed from Molyneux to Swifb, from Swift 
to Lucas, from Lucas to Flood. It was strongly asserted 
in the writings of Henry Brooke. It was clearly though 
less strongly intimated by Sir James Caldwell. It was 
the first principle of the policy of Charlemont ; and the 
eloquence of Grattan, assisted by the example of America, 
and by the spirit of independence which the sense of 
power naturally gives, was rapidly preparing its triumph. 
It had become a leading topic in the press, 2 and made 
daily converts among all classes. 

At the same time the volunteer body was essentially 
and ardently loyal, and Buckingham fully admitted that 
there was not the smallest disposition among them to detach 

1 Irish Commons' Journals, tares of Guatimozin and of Owen 
July 26, 1641. Carte's Ormond, Roe O'Nial. Dr. Jebb, who was 
i. 545, Appendix No. 1. Curry's the author of the former, soon 
Civil Wars, ii. 337. See, too, after sold himself to the Govern- 
Monck Mason's Essay on t he An- ment for a pension of 300Z. a 
tiquity and Constitution of Par- year, and became one of the most 
liaments in Ireland, p. 56. active ministerial writers. See 

2 See especially two very re- Grattan's Life, ii. 175, 192. The 
markable series of letters in its letters of O'Nial are by a writer 
defence, which were reprinted in named Pollock. 

a separate form under the signa- 


themselves from the English Crown, that there was no 
question that they would exert themselves to the utmost 
in repelling invasion, and that they were in truth render- 
ing a great service to the Empire. They alone, in a 
time when the danger of invasion was extremely great, 
made Ireland defensible. They had liberated for the 
defence of the Empire large bodies of troops who must 
otherwise have been scattered over the country. They 
had greatly relieved the public treasury, and they were 
discharging with admirable ability and success the dif- 
ficult task of maintaining public order. A great part 
of Ireland was so uncivilised that criminals could only 
be arrested and carried to execution by soldiers. There 
were whole districts where the law was almost inopera- 
tive, and it was a common thing for prisoners to be 
rescued as they were carried to prison, by men who 
were perfect strangers to them and who knew nothing 
more of them than that they were in duress. 1 It was 
the just boast of the Irish patriots that at no period of 
Irish history was internal tranquillity so fully preserved 
or the law so strictly obeyed as between the rise of the 
volunteers and the close of the American war, 2 and the 
volunteers themselves maintained an admirable disci- 
pline. Men of all political opinions were enrolled in 
their ranks, and they appear at this time to have been 
guilty of absolutely no acts of violence or disorder. Some 
overtures to bring them under the direct control of the 
Government were rejected without hesitation, but they 
asked one thing from Government which could hardly 
be refused. A large number of militia arms had recently 

1 See a letter of Buckingham, in H.M.'s Casual Revenues, and 

Grattan's Life, i. 349, and a very in the Administration of Justice 

curious pamphlet describing the in Ireland, by an Attorney-at- 

lawlessness of many parts of Ire- Law (Dublin, 1788). 

land, called Astraa, or a Letter * Gordon's History, ii. 266, 

addressed to an Officer of the 267. Grattan's Life, i. 357. ParL 

Cowrtof Exchequer on the Abuses Hist. xx. 1160. 


been provided by the Irish Parliament, and as Govern- 
ment were unable to call out the militia at the time 
when it was most needed, and as the volunteers at their 
own expense were discharging the duties of a militia, 
the Administration could hardly refuse to put these arms 
at their disposal. 

The French and Spanish Ministers for a time hoped 
that matters in Ireland were tending to insurrection. 
In the spring of 1779 Florida Blanca wrote to Vergennea 
urging the necessity of attending to Irish affairs, and 
the French Minister answered that he had for a long 
time made them a matter of careful study. He believed 
that discontent in Ireland was extreme and universal, 
that an insurrection might at any time break out, and 
that it was the interest of France and Spain to do their 
utmost to support it, but secretly, without making any 
formal treaty with the insurgents, above all, without 
making any engagement which would oblige them to 
sustain the revolt longer than was in accordance with 
their own interests. The Catholics appeared to Ver- 
gennes not to have sufficient energy for insurrection, 
but the Presbyterians were daring, enterprising, and 
very hostile to the royal authority. Spain could work 
more effectively than France upon the Irish Catholics ; 
but an American,, who was a secret agent of Vergennes, 
was now starting for Ireland with instructions to move 
among the Presbyterians of the North, and, if possible, 
to persuade them to follow the example of America. 
Six months later, however, Vergennes wrote to Madrid 
about Irish matters in a more desponding tone. The 
Irish were merely endeavouring to free themselves from 
many oppressions under which they suffered, and the 
English Opposition were sustaining the popular move- 
ment, but there was no real desire in Ireland to separate 
from the Crown and Government of England, and no 
present prospect of advantage to foreign Powers. France 


and Spain should, however, wait patiently. If the 
conflict in Ireland became more intense, their assistance 
might still be demanded. 1 

A few more extracts from the letters of Lord Buck- 
ingham will paint the situation. In May and June 
1779, there were persistent alarms, which the Govern- 
ment thought well founded, that an immediate French 
invasion of Ireland was impending. Sir Lucius O'Brien, 
one of the members for Clare, wrote urgently in the 
name of the gentry of that county, asking that its 
militia might be arrayed and supplied with militia arms, 
and stating ' that they will cheerfully defray every other 
expense which may be necessary on this account between 
this time and the next Session of Parliament.' The 
gentry of many other counties, Sir Lucius O'Brien 
added, ' would offer their service upon the same terms ; ' 
but Buckingham, while forwarding this offer to the 
Home Government, was obliged to acknowledge that ' it 
would lead to a general array of the militia through the 
whole kingdom, which would unavoidably bring on an 
expense his Majesty's revenue is at this time unable to 
support.' a The Knight of Kerry offered to raise a body 
of troops in that county for the King's service, provided 
he were allowed to name the officers. 3 Lord Clanricarde 
wrote 'that a very large and respectable number of 
gentlemen in the county of Gal way had formed them- 
selves into a body for the protection of that county, and 
had done him the great honour of placing him at their 
head as Colonel, under the appellation of the Clanricarde 
Volunteers. . . . Should the French or any other enemy 
presume to land or invade this kingdom, he took the 
liberty of offering their services to march at their own 

1 Vergennes to Montmorin, 318, 319. 

May 29-Nov. 13, 1779. Circourt, 2 Buckingham to Weymouth, 

L' Action Commune de la France June 30, 1779. 
et de I'Amerique, iii. 315-317 * June 28, 1779. 


expense to any part of the kingdom in support of Go- 
vernment. . . . ' He will also ' engage on the shortest 
notice to raise amongst his friends and tenants in the 
county of Galway 1,000 men who will swim in their 
own blood in defence of his Majesty, and of their native 
country.' Buckingham, however, while acknowledging 
' his Lordship's peculiar zeal and attachment to his Ma- 
jesty's and the public service,' and while intimating that 
in the moment of actual invasion he might call upon his 
assistance, said he could not ' give any encouragement 
or sanction ' to associations which he was informed were 
illegal. 1 

To the Government at home, he writes : ' The ac- 
counts of the 'temper and disposition of this kingdom 
are very differently represented in England to those 
which are stated to me. Commercial indulgence and 
general relief is universally wished for ; but assurances 
are given us from all parts that there never has existed 
an era when a hostile attempt from any quarter would 
have been so strenuously resisted as at present.' a 
' Hitherto,' he writes a few weeks later, ' when a truly 
authentic account of any of the independent companies 
has reached me, it has done honour as well to their 
dispositions as their conduct, and their numbers have 
fallen short of report. Applications are hourly made 
for arms in consequence of the late alarm, which shall 
in every instance be civilly refused. . . . Temporising 
is, in my opinion, called for, and whatever may be the 
sentiments of Government respecting the independent 
troops, most studiously to avoid giving them any reason 
to believe that they are either feared or suspected. Ex- 
pense, fatigue, avocation from business, and subordina- 
tion will, by rendering their situation irksome, thin their 
ranks, and a peace will soon put a period to their 

1 Grattan's Life, i. 354-356. 

* May 29, 1779. Buckingham to Weymouth. 


existence. The conduct of all denominations of men 
upon the rumours of last week . . . carries with it 
the agreeable conviction of there never having existed a 
period when Ireland was equally able and willing to 
resist any attempt of invasion.' l 

The condition of foreign politics, however, was such 
that it was not possible for the Government to treat the 
volunteers as a wholly alien body. The fears of invasion 
became stronger and stronger. In June, Buckingham 
wrote that ' some of the most respectable noblemen of 
this kingdom, who are governors of counties,' repre- 
sented that in case of invasion it would not be in the 
power of gentlemen of the country without additional 
arms to defend themselves, and they urgently requested 
that the arms prepared for the militia should be granted. 2 
Soon the hostile squadron of Paul Jones, which in 1778 
had already hovered around the Irish coast, and had 
even captured a ship of war in Belfast Lough, 3 was 
again seen, while a combined fleet of sixty-five French 
and Spanish ships entered the British Channel, insulted 
unopposed the British coast, and might easily have de- 
stroyed Plymouth. Ireland was in daily, almost hourly, 
expectation of invasion. The Government thought it 
necessary to issue directions about the course to be pur- 
sued if the French landed ; but it could give no efficient 
protection by land or sea. The country was left almost 
destitute of English troops. The volunteers, and the 
volunteers alone, were there. Their numbers under the 
pressure of imminent danger had risen to about 42,000, 
and they were rapidly acquiring the discipline of regular 
soldiers. It was felt under such circumstances that the 
responsibility of withholding the arms that were lying 
idle was overwhelming, and, upon the urgent advice of 

1 June 12, 1779. Bucking- * In April 1778. Benn'a His- 
ham to Weymouth. tory of Belfast, p. 620. 

3 June 25, 1779. 


the Irish Privy Council, 16,000 stand of militia arms 
were distributed among the volunteers. 1 

The year was one of the most agitated Ireland had 
ever known. Internally, indeed, there was no real 
disloyalty, though there was much discontent ; but all 
classes were looking forward to the necessity of defend- 
ing their country from invasion. France and Spain 
were now united against England, while a great part of 
the British army was imprisoned in America. The 
Catholics exhibited on this occasion a spirit of warm 
gratitude for the favour that had last year been shown 
them, and seem to have done all in their power to assist 
the Government. Addresses poured in from them, 
expressive of the most unbounded loyalty and the most 
lively gratitude for the Relief Bill of 1778. In May, 
Lord Tyrone wrote to the Government that they were 
forming independent companies to defend the coast 
against invasion ; but that, though he was convinced 
that the measure was well intended, it was one which 
would be sure ' to raise such a noise at this and the 
other side of the water as must distress Government ; ' 
and he accordingly persuaded their leaders to desist 
from their intention, and to offer, in an address to the 
Government, to co-operate in case of invasion with the 
Protestant inhabitants, in any way the Government 
should point out. 2 The Catholics of Waterford and of 

1 Parl. Hist. xx. 1040. Grat- to Ireland, and that ' seminaries 
tan's Life, i. 366-368, 399. in France and Flanders have been 
Gordon's Hist. ii. 266. directed to send many of their 

2 May 28, 1779 (Irish State pupils to Ireland to promote the 
Paper Office). Many loyal Catholic views of the French Court. The 
addresses of this time are in the zeal which the Eoman Catholics 
Irish State Paper Office. Wey- of Ireland have shown leaves no 
mouth wrote to Buckingham, reason to doubt their loyalty, yet 
Aug. 4, 1779, that he had received it may be very proper to acquaint 
information that a considerable privately some of the principal 
number of Eoman Catholic priests gentlemen of that persuasion of 
were passing from the Continent these facts.' Buckingham an- 


Limerick subscribed largely to the volunteers, and also 
for additional bounties to those who would enlist in 
the King's troops ; l while O'Leary, the most brilliant 
writer of the sect, published a not very skilful address 
to the common people exhorting them to loyalty, and 
intimating his hope that they might be allowed to share 
with Protestants in the defence of their country. 2 

The Volunteer movement was spreading rapidly 
over all parts of the country. Nearly the whole resi- 
dent landed gentry took part in it, and a large propor- 
tion of the foremost names in Ireland may be found 
among its leaders. Volunteer rank became an object 
of ambition ; ladies gave it precedence in society, and 
to be at the head of a well-appointed corps was now the 
highest distinction of an Irish gentleman. Great efforts 
of self-sacrifice were made to obtain the funds necessary 
to keep the force together, to maintain without any 
assistance from the civil power a high standard of dis- 
cipline, to preserve this great body of armed men from 
all crime and violence and disorder. Never before in 
Ireland had public opinion shown itself so strong, so 
earnest, and so relf-reliant. A sincere loyalty to the 
Crown, and a firm resolution to defend the country 
from invasion, were blended with a resolute determina- 
tion to maintain a distinctively Irish policy; and it 
was soon noticed that even among the poorer farmers 
there was a marked improvement in dress, cleanliness, 
and self-respect. 3 Agreements to use only domestic 

Bwered that he had only been 2 O'Leary's Works (Boston, 

able to find that two priests had 1868), pp. 129-139. 

lately come into the kingdom, * Dobbs's History of Irish 

and that they had come to fill Affairs, from Oct. 12, 1779, to 

vacant cures. Grattan's Life, i. Sept. 15, 1782. Barrington's 

370. Rise and Fall of the Irish Na- 

1 Buckingham to Weymouth, tion, ch. iii. Shelburne, in the 

June 4, 1779. Munster Journal, English House of Lords, at this 

Aug. 23, 1779. time described the volunteers in 


manufactures, and to abstain from purchasing English 
goods till the commercial restrictions were removed, 
were now entered into by the grand juries of many 
counties, and by numerous county meetings, and were 
signed in most of the great towns. Ladies of high 
social position set the example. The scarlet, green, 
blue, and orange uniforms of the volunteers were all 
manufactured at home. It was proposed, in imitation 
of the Americans, to publish in the newspapers the 
names of those traders who had infringed the agree- 
ment, but this proposal, which would probably have 
led to much crime, was generally reprobated, and soon 
abandoned. Many of the counties sent up urgent in- 
structions to-their representatives, enjoining them not 
to vote any Money Bill for more than six months till 
the commercial grievances were redressed. 1 

The position of the Lord Lieutenant was both pain- 
ful and embarrassing. The expense of the establish- 
ments exceeded the net produce of the revenue for the 
year, by more than 240,OOOL, and yet Ireland did not 
obtain from those establishments the most ordinary 
security. Irish ships were taken within sight of her 
ports. But for the presence of the volunteers a hostile 
invasion might at ,any time be expected. War, restric- 
tive laws, and the embargo on the provision trade had 
together destroyed almost every source of national 
wealth, and the northern ports of Germany, and of the 
other countries around the Baltic, were already making 

these terms: ' This most formid- country. The Government had 

able body was not composed of been abdicated and the people 

mercenaries who had little or no resumed the powers vested in it, 

interest in the issue, but of the and in so doing were fully 

nobility, gentry, merchants, citi- authorised by every principle of 

zens, and respectable yeomanry ; the constitution.' Parl. Hist. 

men able and willing to devote xx. 1159. 

their tune and part of their pro- ' Oct. 18, 1779. Buckingham 

perty to the security of their to Weymouth. 


CH. IV, 

every effort to secure for themselves permanently the 
provision trade from which Ireland had been excluded. 
The drain of money to England still continued, and 
Irish revenues were still scandalously misused to pro- 
vide sinecure rewards for English politicians. 1 In the 
meantime, while discontent was on all sides increasing, 
the main defence of the country rested with a voluntary 
and perhaps illegal body, which had grown up in spite 
of the discouragement of the Government, which lay 
wholly beyond its control, which had begun evidently 
to aim at political changes, and which was no less 
evidently the truest representation of the Protestants 
of Ireland. 

Parliament was to meet in October, and Bucking- 
ham soon found that the discontent had penetrated to 
his confidential servants. Hussey Burgh, who was one 
of the most eloquent and most upright men at the 
Irish bar, had accepted the office of Prime Serjeant 
when Buckingham came to power. He had exerted 
his influence strenuously in favour of free trade, and he 
was the author of one of the ablest of the many able 
disquisitions on the condition of the country which had 
just been drawn up at the request of the Government. 
He resented bitterly the inadequacy of the Commercial 
Bill of 1778 ; he now refused to attend a meeting of 
the confidential servants of the Crown, and in De- 
cember he resigned his office. Flood was equally 
marked in his hostility, but while refusing to attend 
the confidential meetings, he Detained, by a great fault 
of judgment, his post of Vice-Treasurer, and the 
Government did not as yet expel him. His motives 

' Rockingham, in 1779, gave treme. The sinecure office of 

an extraordinary instance of the Clerk of the Pells had just been 

utter recklessness with which increased from 2.300Z. to 3,500Z. 

Irish patronage was bestowed a year, and given to Jenkinson, 

even at a time when the necessi- the English Secretary of War. 

ties of the country were most ex- Parl. Hist. xx. 1175. 


can only be a matter of conjecture. He may have clung 
to the political influence attached to a seat in the Privy 
Council, or have regarded his sinecure of Vice-Treasurer 
as external to party politics, or have been misled by 
the examples of Pitt, Grenville, and other English 
statesmen who had opposed Government when in office, 
or have desired as a political move to compel the minis- 
ters to dismiss him. That he was actuated by any 
sordid love of money is scarcely probable, for in that 
case he would not have taken a line of policy which 
exposed him to almost certain dismissal. 

When Parliament met, Grattan, in a speech of great 
eloquence, moved an amendment to the address, urging 
the absolute necessity of ' a free export trade,' if the 
country was to be saved from ruin, and it was evident 
that he carried with Him the sense of the House. 
Burgh, though still Prime Serjeant, rose, and moved 
that the terms of the amendment should be ' free export 
and import,' and Flood that it should be simply { free 
trade,' and in this last form it was carried without a 
division. An attempt to adjourn the question by sub- 
mitting it to a committee was indeed moved, but 
speedily rejected. The Chief Secretary expressed his 
strong dissent from the terms of the amendment to the 
address; but nearly the whole body of the country 
gentry who usually supported the Government, and 
even several men who were actually in office, declared 
that they would support it, and it was therefore thought 
better not to expose the Government to a crushing 
defeat. When the Speaker went to the Castle to pre- 
sent the amended address, two lines of Dublin volun- 
teers, under the command of the Duke of Leinster, 
lined the way, and presented arms as he passed. Votes 
thanking the volunteers for ' their spirited and necessary 
exertions' for the defence of the country were then 
carried unanimously in the Commons, with two dis- 


sentient voices in the Lords. The temper of the nation 
was such, that Buckingham declared he did not think 
it prudent to oppose them. 1 

The answer of the King to the address was studi- 
ously colourless and ambiguous, and it greatly increased 
the popular discontent. In Dublin, especially, a very 
dangerous spirit was abroad. On the anniversary of 
the birthday of William III., the Dublin volunteers 
paraded round his monument, which was hung on all 
sides with very significant inscriptions, and two cannon 
bore the labels, 'Free Trade or this.' A few days 
later a violent riot broke out in the Liberties, and a 
crowd of weavers, dyers, tanners, and other workmen 
attacked the house of the Attorney-General, and obliged 
some of the members of Parliament to swear that they 
would vote ' for the good of Ireland, free trade, and a 
short Money Bill. 5 The Government, at the request 
of the House of Commons, offered a reward for the 
apprehension of the rioters ; but the Lord Lieutenant 
complained that the Lord Mayor had been very remiss 
in repressing the disturbance. In the House of Com- 
mons the feeling against the legislative authority of the 
British Parliament in Ireland was so strong that even 
the Attorney-General found it necessary to disclaim any 
acknowledgment of that authority. 2 Grattan, alarmed 
at the violence that had been displayed, urged modera- 
tion, implored the people to abstain from any act of 
tumult and violence, and thus gradually to win all classes 
to the popular cause ; but his own policy showed no 
signs of flinching or timidity. In the teeth of the op- 
position of the Government, he carried by 170 to 47 a 
resolution, ' that at this time it would be inexpedient to 
grant new taxes ; ' and next day, when the House re- 

1 Buckingham to Weymouth, Oct. 13, 14, 1779. Grattan's Life, 
L 383 -398. 
* Ibid. i. 397. 


solved itself into a Committee of Supply, it was moved 
and carried by 138 to 100, that the appropriated duties 
should be granted for six months only. It was on this 
occasion that Burgh finally broke from the Government 
by a speech of such surpassing eloquence that the spec- 
tators who thronged the gallery burst into uncontrollable 
applause. Describing the condition of the country, he 
exclaimed, ' Talk not to me of peace it is not peace, 
but smothered war. England has sown her laws in 
dragon's teeth, and they have sprung up in armed men.' 
A few days later, Burgh sent in his resignation. ' The 
gates of promotion,' said G rattan, ' were shut as the gatea 
of glory opened.' l 

Another measure of great significance was taken. 
The clause relieving the Dissenters from the sacramental 
test had in 1778 been added by a large majority to the 
measure for the relief of Catholics, and had been strongly 
opposed by the Government, and extinguished in Eng- 
land. It was now brought forward again as a distinct 
measure. The Presbyterians of the North had been the 
earliest and the most numerous of the volunteers, and 
there was a keen and general desire that they should 
participate in the benefits which had of late been so 
largely extended to the Catholics. The abolition of the 
test, the Lord Lieutenant confessed, ' met with a general 
concurrence, great numbers of those members who had 
opposed it last session having pledged themselves for its 
support in the present session.' 2 While refusing to im- 
pose new permanent taxes, Parliament at the same time 
granted 340,OOOL, chiefly by a lottery, for discharging 

Buckingham, thoroughly alarmed at the condition 
of the country, strongly counselled the ministers to yield. 

1 Buckingham to Weymouth, 2 Buckingham to Weymouth 
Nov. 6, 8, 16, 25, 1779. Grat- Deo. 2, 1779. 
tan's Life, i. 899-403. 



The evils of free trade to Great Britain must indeed be 
great, he significantly said, if they overbalanced those 
which she might incur from the present resentment of 
Ireland against the commercial restrictions. Lord North, 
as we have seen, had been already disposed to grant a 
very liberal measure of commercial relief to Ireland, 
though he proposed to except the capital article of the 
wool trade ; but he had been intimidated by the clamour 
of the manufacturers in England. Now, however, the 
danger was too extreme for further delay. The fear of 
bankruptcy in Ireland, the non-importation agreements 
which were beginning to tell upon English industries^ 
the threatening aspect of an armed body which already 
counted more than 40,000 men, the determined and 
unanimous attitude of the Irish Parliament, the predic- 
tion of the Lord Lieutenant that all future military 
grants by Ireland depended upon the course that was 
now adopted, the danger that England, in the midst 
of a great and disastrous war, should be left absolutely 
without a friend, all weighed upon the English Minis- 
ter ; and, at the close of 1779, and in the beginning of 
1780, measures were carried in England which ex- 
ceeded the utmost that a few years before the most 
sanguine Irishman could have either expected or de- 
manded. The Acts which prohibited the Irish from 
exporting their woollen manufactures and their glass 
were wholly repealed, and the great trade of the colo- 
nies was freely thrown open to them. It was enacted 
that all goods that might be legally imported from 
the. British settlements in America and Africa to Great 
Britain might be in like manner imported directly from 
those settlements into Ireland, and that all goods which 
might be legally exported from Great Britain into 
those settlements, might in like manner be exported 
from Ireland, on the sole condition that duties equal 
to those paid in British ports were imposed by the 


Irish Parliament on the imports and exports of Ireland. 
The Acts which prohibited carrying gold and silver coin 
into Ireland were repealed. The Irish were allowed to 
import foreign hops, and to receive a drawback on the 
duty on British hops. They were allowed to become 
members of the Turkey Company, and to carry on a 
direct trade between Ireland and the Levant Sea. 1 

Thus fell to the ground that great system of com- 
mercial restriction which began under Charles II., which 
under William III. acquired a crushing severity, and 
which had received several additional clauses in the suc- 
ceeding reigns. The measures of Lord North, though 
obviously due in a great measure to intimidation and 
extreme necessity, were at least largely, wisely, and 
generously conceived, and they were the main sources 
of whatever material prosperity Ireland enjoyed during 
the next twenty years. The English Parliament had 
been accustomed to grant a small bounty rising in the 
best years to 13,0002. on the importation into England 
of the plainer kinds of Irish linen. After the immense 
concessions made to Irish trade, no one could have com- 
plained if this bounty had been withdrawn ; but North 
determined to continue it. He showed that it had been 
of real use to the Irish linen manufacture, and he strongly 
maintained that the prosperity of Ireland must ulti- 
mately prove a blessing to England. 8 

After a long period of hesitation and delay, the other 
capital demand of the Irish Parliament was conceded. 
In March 1780, the Bill relieving the Irish Dissenters 
from the sacramental test was returned from England, 
and a very curious page in Irish ecclesiastical history 
was thus terminated. The first imposition of the sacra- 
mental test was, as we have seen, wholly due to the 
English Ministers, who forced it on the Irish Parliament 

1 20 Geo. in. o. 6, 10, 18. Parl Hist. rx. 1275, 1282. 


by adding a clause to that effect to the Anti-Popery 
Bill of 1704. A generation later the parts were inverted. 
The English Whig ministers of George II. wished to 
abolish the Irish test, but they found insuperable 
obstacles in the anti-Presbyterian feeling of the Irish 
House of Commons, and in the preponderance of bishops 
in the Irish House of Lords. Now, at last, under a 
Tory King and a Tory ministry, at a time when the 
Church was in the height of its power in England, and 
when the Presbyterians were looked upon with more 
than common disfavour, the sacramental test was abo- 
lished at the request of the Irish Parliament, and by the 
influence of the volunteers. The Irish Dissenters were 
thus placed politically on a level with their fellow- 
countrymen, and they obtained this boon forty-eight 
years before a similar favour was granted to their co- 
religionists in England. 

The aspect of affairs in Ireland still appeared very 
alarming to the Government. Buckingham seems to 
have been severely blamed for having allowed the volun- 
teer movement to attain its present formidable height, 
and his letters are full of exculpations of his conduct. 
He maintained, with much truth, that, in the financial 
condition of Ireland, it was impossible to avoid it ; that 
the alternative was to leave the country a prey to com- 
plete internal anarchy and to the first invader who chose 
to land on its unprotected shore, or to suffer it to defend 
itself ; that the volunteer movement in its beginning 
was intended solely to protect the country from inva- 
sion ; and that it was in a great degree in consequence 
of encouragement from England that it was afterwards 
turned to home politics. At the same time, he had no 
illusion about the gravity of the situation. ' It may be 
rather too much,' he wrote, ' to advance that there was 
a general concert among the principal gentlemen of 
Ireland to alarm Great Britain into the present very ju- 


clicious measures. Yet had you seen the complexion of 
Parliament the first day of the sessions, and heard the 
language since held with respect to the Money Bill, you 
might have judged such a suspicion not altogether ill 
founded.' l ' The distressed state of this kingdom . . . 
has diffused a spirit unknown before. At this time the 
attention of the whole nation is fixed upon parliamen- 
tary proceedings, and not only the electors are instructed 
that their opinions are to determine the suffrages of 
members, whose sentiments cannot be openly canvassed 
as formerly when the contest was merely between dif- 
ferent factions. Beyond a certain line you cannot press 
for the intended conduct of independent gentlemen, and 
even positive assurances may not be able to resist popular 
clamour. . . . The Octennial Bill is the great source of 
this evil. . . . The volunteer companies continue atten- 
tive to their exercise. Those who should know assure 
me that a considerable majority are well disposed. . . . 
You cannot doubt of my anxiety to reduce them into 
some legal shape, and that no pains shall be omitted to 
effect it.' ' Upon the whole, it is my private opinion, 
that, barring insurrection, or something nearly resem- 
bling it, I shall go through the business of the session 
with success. The conduct of some of your English 
counties may be inconveniently infectious; but, hitherto, 
the Irish have been more discreet.' 2 

Up to this time the volunteers had been detached 
bands raised by local efforts for local defence, but great 
exertions were now made to give them the coherence 
and consistency of a regular army. In the beginning 
of 1780, arrangements were made for a number of re- 
views in the ensuing summer, in which the volunteers 
of many different districts might act in great masses 
together. A few cannon now belonged to the force, 

1 Jan. 2, 1780. Buckingham 2 Feb. 6, 1780.. Buckingham 
to Hillsborough (secret). to Hillsboroup;h. 


and great pains were taken to bring its discipline to 
perfection. Reviewing generals and exercising officers 
were chosen, and among the former Lord Charlemont 
was the most active. 1 At the same time the doctrine 
that armed men lost their right of discussing political 
questions was emphatically repudiated, and the news- 
papers were full of resolutions passed by different corps 
through the country. 

Many men of weight, property, and character were 
beginning to look upon the development of the force 
with alarm, and to doubt whether it would be possible 
to restrain it within legal limits; and in Dublin, at 
least, a more highly accentuated democratic tendency 
was beginning to appear. ' Very limited, indeed/ 
wrote the Lord Lieutenant, 'is the number of men 
of property who are not anxious to stifle ill humour, 
but the temper of the inferior orders is certainly in an 
unpleasing state of fermentation.' 2 The Duke of Lein- 
ster, who had been hitherto so prominent, began to 
fluctuate or to change, declared in Parliament that ' he 
had no idea of constitutional questions being forced by 
the bayonet,' and for some time gave his influence to 
the Government. 3 There was much agitation among 
the Dublin volunteers about this defection, and Napper 
Tandy, who was now beginning to emerge as a demo- 
cratic agitator, moved that the Duke should be ex- 
pelled, and was himself expelled in consequence. 4 In 
Parliament, measures were brought in for securing 
the seats of the judges during good behaviour, and for 
extending the Habeas Corpus Act to Ireland, and 
the Government as usual refrained from opposing 

1 History of Irish Affairs from * March 2, 1780. Buckingham 

Oct. 12, 1779, to Sept. 15, 1782, to Hillsborough. See this de- 

by Francis Dobbs. Plowden's spatch in Grattan's Life, ii. 24- 

Historical Register, i. 513. 26. 

8 March 8,' 1780. Buckingham * April 24, 1780. Buckingham 

to Hillsborough (private). to Hillsborough. 


them, leaving it to the Council in England to reject 
them. An old project of raising the number of judges 
from nine to twelve was introduced by the Government 
in spite of the almost desperate condition of the finances; 
but it was so unfavourably received that it was speedily 

The notion that a legislative union was the only 
safe solution of the present difficulties appears at this 
time to have been widely disseminated, 1 and to have 
been favoured by Hillsborough ; 2 but he received no 
encouragement from the Lord Lieutenant. ' I shall 
ever receive with the most grateful acknowledgment,' 
wrote Buckingham, ' any hints from you either respect- 
ing myself immediately or the business of the public. 
But let me earnestly recommend to you not to utter the 
word Union in a whisper or to drop it from your pen. 
The present temper will not bear it.' 3 Extreme cir- 
cumspection in word and action, and a careful reser- 
vation of their strength for the great constitutional 
questions that were impending, was the policy of the 
ministers. An embargo, to arrest some provisions from 
Cork, which were supposed to be intended to supply 
the French fleet, appeared to the English ministers a 

1 'The idea of an union be- had acquired such consistency 

tween Great Britain and this that the members for the county 

kingdom has been industriously of Limerick received instruc- 

disseminated here.' The Irish tions from their constituents to 

Spy (Dublin, 1779), p. 16. See, oppose it. Grattan's Life, i. 

too, A Letter to the People of 899. Arthur Young about the 

Ireland on Association in favour same time, while himself advo- 

of our Manufactures (Dublin, eating an union, ' was informed 

1779), and The First Lines of that nothing was so unpopular in 

Ireland's Interest in the Year Ireland as such an idea." Tour, 

1780 (Dublin, 1779). The last i. 65. 

pamphlet was in defence of an 2 See a note to Walpole's 

union. Franklin noticed that the George III. iv. 200. 

rumour of an intended union * Buckingham to Hillsborough 

prevailed as early as 1773 (Frank- (secret), Jan. 2, 1780. 
Un'a Works, viii. 84). In 1778 it 


measure of the utmost importance ; but to their great 
astonishment, the Lord Lieutenant implored them to 
abstain from it. The last embargo, he said, had been 
in force for three years, and was universally regarded as 
the cause of that great and long-continued distress, 
which had ruined so many merchants and graziers, 
lowered or stopped rents in all parts of the kingdom, 
and left innumerable farms without tenants. Any at- 
tempt to repeat such a measure would certainly produce 
general alarm, and would probably, in the present con- 
dition of the country, produce such dangerous distur- 
bances that the Government was entreated as the safer 
course to purchase the provisions itself. 1 

At the same time, parliamentary influence was care- 
fully collected and fostered, by the old plan of lavish- 
ing promises of peerages, baronetcies, and pensions ; 
and in February 1 780, Buckingham already writes that 
he had secured his majority and could oount upon the 
general support of 154 members out of the 300. He 
sent Lord Hillsborough an elaborate analysis of the 
grounds upon which he formed his opinion, and it is 
exceedingly curious as illustrating the way in which, 
under the system of nomination boroughs, ministerial 
majorities were composed. Of the votes favourable to 
the Government. 96, according to the Lord Lieutenant, 
depended on the influence of twenty-three men. Lord 
Shannon, the Duke of Leinster, and Lord Ely, who 
were the three largest borough owners in Ireland, were 
all prepared to support him, and they could together 
control no less than thirty-five votes in the House of 
Commons. Four bishops commanded together eight 
votes. Hillsborough himself was a large landowner in 
Ireland, and five members held their seats at his dis- 
posal. Eighteen members of the majority were nomi- 
nated by other peers, and Mr. Conolly, Sir R. Deane, 

1 See the Correspondence of Jan. and Feb. 1780. 


Mr. Clements, and Sir J. Parnell, including their own 
votes, commanded together twenty. Of the 154 mem- 
bers on whose support the Lord Lieutenant counted, 
78 had already either pensions or places. We shall 
presently see what promises had been given to stimu- 
late their zeal. 1 

These were the forces with which the Administration 
undertook to meet the rising spirit of the country. 
The determination to resist any constitutional change 
was very decided. The English party, who were now 
in power, had fought step by step against any concession 
to the demands of the Americans, and had again and 
again pledged their reputation to the policy of enforcing 
the legislative authority of the British Parliament over 
the dependencies; and Lord Hillsborough, in whose 
special department Irish affairs lay, had. in the divided 
Cabinets of the preceding year, been one of the most 
determined enemies to the conciliatory policy which 
had been advocated by the Duke of Grafton and Lord 
Camden, and which might have possibly averted or 
postponed the disruption of the Empire. 2 His policy 
in Ireland was very similar, and he gave the most strin- 
gent directions ' to prevent, if possible, any propositions 
for innovations upon or alterations in the Constitution 
from being transmitted ' to England. 3 

The chief strength of the opposition to the declara- 
tion of independence lay undoubtedly in corrupt influ- 
ence ; but there were also a few honest men and a few 
plausible arguments on that side. It was said that a 
declaration of independence would bring Ireland into 
violent collision with England ; that a continuance of 
popular agitation might lead either to anarchy or to 

1 State of the different Inte- * See Walpole's George III. 

rests in the House of Commons, iv. 199. 

which are in the Support of * March 28, 1780. See Grat- 

Government. tan's Life, ii. 31. 


stratocracy ; that it was ungrateful to press the consti- 
tutional question at a time when England was isolated 
in the world, when she was engaged in a desperate 
struggle against a hostile coalition, when she had just 
conceded to Ireland commercial boons of the amplest 
and most liberal character. 

But such objections, though they might sound 
powerfully in the Parliament, were lost throughout the 
country in the great cry for legislative independence 
which rose in every county from the volunteers, from 
the grand juries, from the freeholders, and the yeomen 
of every denomination. Those who were leading the 
movement were not rebels and were not demagogues. 
They had made they were making they were pre- 
pared to make every effort in their power for the defence 
of the Empire and of the connection. They were the 
gentry of Ireland, and they were asking nothing more 
than the restoration of their ancient rights nothing 
more than that political liberty which Englishmen 
themselves maintained to be the first of blessings. The 
utter paralysis of Government, and the great armed 
force which had in consequence arisen, at once demon- 
strated the necessity of a radical change in the condi- 
tions of Irish government and made it possible to effect 
it. Loyal men, devotedly attached to the Crown and 
the connection, who had strained the resources of the 
country to the utmost for the support of the Empire, 
who had borne with signal patience misgovernment of 
the most varied and most crushing character, who were 
themselves discharging by an admirable voluntary effort 
the neglected duties of the Government, might surely 
afford to bear the imputation of ingratitude if they 
availed themselves of the one opportunity which had 
arisen since the Revolution of recovering their birth- 
right of freedom. No one, as Grattan said, should 
ask a man to sacrifice his conscience, or a woman her 


honour, or a nation her liberty, to gratitude. It was said 
that the late commercial boons were a reason for not 
pressing for legislative independence. It was answered 
that without legislative independence those boons were 
perfectly precarious. 'The same power which took 
away the export of woollens and the export of glass 
might take them away again.' Lord North himself 
described the concessions to the Irish as ' resumable at 
pleasure.' No one who had watched the intense com- 
mercial jealousy of Irish industry which the manufac- 
turers and commercial towns of England had so lately 
displayed, no one who observed how entirely the recent 
concessions, had been due to the pressing exigencies of 
the moment, and how much irritation the mere demand 
for them had produced, could question that it was not 
only possible, but in a high degree probable, that in 
calmer times, if the English power of legislating for 
Ireland were still acknowledged, it would be employed 
in revoking every benefit that had been conceded. 

These views were widely held, and they were advo- 
cated with special effect in a letter to Lord North, 
written in the beginning of 1780 by a very eccentric 
lawyer named Francis Dobbs, who had been prominent 
in organising the Ulster volunteers, and who became 
at a later period member for Charlemont. He was a 
man of respectable family and private means, of an 
eminently pure, gentle, honourable, and benevolent 
character, and of some literary talent, and he has left 
behind him among other works an ' Universal History,' 
in nine volumes, which is now absolutely forgotten, 
and a short and valuable sketch of the early history of 
the volunteers. On all subjects but one he was es- 
teemed, if not a brilliant, at least a sober and well- 
judging man ; but a vein of religious enthusiasm 
amounting to monomania ran through his nature and 
blended strangely with his politics- Unfulfilled pro- 


phecy was the passion of his life, and when this chord 
was struck his whole being seemed suddenly changed. 
He had convinced himself that the present dispensation 
was at an end, that the Messiah was just about to de- 
scend to reign in person upon earth, and that he was 
first to appear in Ireland. Armagh, called in Irish 
Ardmaceaddon, or the- Hill of the Great Teacher, was 
the predicted Armageddon. The sea of glass, the 
golden harps, the robes of linen, foreshadowed the in- 
sular position, the national arms, the national manu- 
facture of Ireland : the Giant's Causeway was the stone 
of Daniel ; and in 1799, Dobbs in Parliament opposed 
the Union in an extraordinary speech in which, in a 
strain of passionate earnestness, he contended from the 
Books of Daniel and Revelation that by amalgamating 
Ireland with England it would run counter to the whole 
scheme of prophecy. In 1 780, however, these eccentri- 
cities had not yet fully appeared, and on more than one 
occasion Dobbs took a considerable part in directing 
the course of Irish politics. 1 

' The epidemic madness,' as Lord Buckingham called 
it, ' so assiduously circulated by Lord Charlemont, Mr. 
Grattan, Sir W. Osborne, and Lord Carysfort,' 2 rapidly 
spread, and on April 19, 1780, Grattan introduced a 
declaration of independence into the Irish House of 
Commons. It consisted of a series of resolutions as- 
serting that while the crown of Ireland was inseparably 
annexed to that of Great Britain, while the two nations, 
united under one sovereign, were indissolubly connected 
by ties of interest, loyalty, and freedom, no power on 
earth but the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland 
was competent to make laws for Ireland. The speech 

1 Dobbs's Concise View of His- Fall of tJie Irish Nation, 
tory and Prophecy (Dublin, 2 Buckingham to Hillsboiough, 
1800). Barrington's Rise and March 8, 1780. 


introducing these resolutions was long remembered 
as the most splendid that had ever been heard in the 
Irish Parliament, 1 and no one who reads it, can fail to 
feel the wonderful fire and energy both of thought and 
language which it displayed. One passage the Lord 
Lieutenant especially remarked as having made an ex- 
traordinary impression. It was that in which, having 
read the offers of reconciliation lately made to the 
revolted colonies, in which, not only the power of taxa- 
tion was given up and freedom of internal legislation 
established, but all power of the Parliament of Great 
Britain over America was renounced, Grattan asked 
whether it could be suspected that Great Britain would 
refuse to the-most loyal of subjects what she had offered 
to those who had been declared in rebellion. 

It was plain, however, that the majority were on the 
side of the ministers, though scarcely a voice was heard 
opposing the declaration on any other ground than that 
it was premature or inexpedient; and at last, after 
fifteen hours of debate, the question was indefinitely 
adjourned, leaving no entry of it in the Journals. ' The 
legislative power of Great Britain,' wrote the Lord 
Lieutenant, when reporting the transaction to the 
Government, ' was not insisted upon by any other than 
the Attorney and Solicitor General. The voice against 
it was so general that those who might otherwise have 

1 'One of the most forcible and ham wrote, 'was introduced by 

animated speeches that ever Mr. Grattan with very great 

distinguished a man.' Dobbs's ability and with great warmth 

History of Irish Affairs. Hardy and enthusiasm, omitting no 

says : ' The oration which Grat- argument that could be artfully 

tan made on that occasion can suggested to stimulate the mind.' 

never be forgotten by those who Buckingham to Hillsborough, 

heard it. The language of Milton April 21, 1780. Grattan him- 

or Shakespeare can alone describe self preferred this to all his 

its effects.' Life of Charlemont, other speeches. Grattan's Life, 

i. 39i. ' The subject,' Bucking- ii. 39. 


stood up to support it found themselves so few in number 
that they thought it more prudent to confine themselves 
to the inexpediency and ill effect of any declaration 
upon that head. ... It is with the utmost concern I 
must acquaint your lordship that, although so many 
gentlemen expressed their concern that the subject had 
been introduced, the sense of the House against the 
obligation of any statutes of the Parliament of Great 
Britain within this kingdom is represented to me to 
have been almost unanimous.' l 

The question could not rest there, and in two other 
forms it was revived in the same session. Yelverton 
proposed to amend Poyning's law, so as to take away 
from the Irish Privy Council its power of altering or 
suppressing Heads of Bills as soon as they had passed 
through one House of Parliament, and thus preventing 
the Irish Parliament from laying the wishes of the nation 
before the King. The Administration exerted all its 
powers against the proposition, and it was defeated by 
130 to 105. 2 A much more serious attack speedily fol- 
lowed. Hitherto the army in Ireland had been governed 
solely by the English Mutiny Act, and voices had 
already been heard disputing the validity of that Act. 
Two magistrates had separately brought the question to 
an issue by discharging deserters who appeared before 
them, on the ground that there was no Irish Act com- 
pelling them to remain in the ranks. 3 Gervase Bushe 
had given notice of his intention to allay the disquietude 
on the subject by proposing an Irish Mutiny BUI. The 
question was one of the gravest and most perplexing 
that could be raised. If the Government yielded, it was 
tantamount to acknowledging that the English Act was 
insufficient. If they refused to accept the proposed 

1 April 21, 1780 (printed in April 27, 1780. 
Grattan's Life, ii. 52-55). * Qrattan's Life, ii. 71-73. 

2 Buckingham to Hillsborough, 


measure, it was tolerably certain, after the general 
expression of opinion against the validity of English 
laws in Ireland, that few magistrates and no juries 
would take any notice of the English Mutiny Act, and 
that it would be in consequence perfectly impossible to 
enforce discipline or prevent desertion. A meeting of 
the most confidential servants of the Crown, and, a few 
days later, a formal discussion in the Privy Council, 
only brought out in clearer light the extreme difficulty 
of the situation. The Speaker, the Provost, Flood, the 
Duke of Leinster, Lord Annaly and the Chief Baron, all 
agreed that an Irish Mutiny Act was absolutely neces- 
sary, for the English law would be a mere dead letter if 
no magistrate, was willing to execute it. The members 
of the Privy Council, who had seats in the House of 
Commons, declared that the Bill would certainly pass 
that House by a great majority, that all attempts to 
resist it would be futile and extremely damaging to the 
Government, and that many of the most prominent and 
most devoted supporters of the Administration would 
vote for it rather than allow the country to remain 
without an army, or the army without the means of 
enforcing discipline. 

Under these circumstances, when Bushe introduced 
his motion into the House of Commons, Sir B. Heron, 
the Chief Secretary, moved that it should be postponed 
for a fortnight in order that instructions should be 
received from England, and he carried his motion by 
146 to 75. ' In the course of the debate,' the Lord 
Lieutenant wrote, 'there was an almost universal de- 
claration from all sides of the House of the necessity 
of some Bill to prevent the mischiefs that threatened. 
Many who supported the motion avowed their intention 
of voting for the Bill on a future day ; and the majority 
was solely owing to the wishes of gentlemen to give 
every reasonable time to Administration for considering 


the necessity of the measure. Some gentlemen declared 
that they would not as jurors, magistrates, or in any 
other capacity, suffer the British Mutiny law to be 
enforced, and the whole tenor of the debate leaves no 
room to doubt that few inferior magistrates will dare, 
even if they were so disposed, as they are not, to act 
under that mutiny law. . . . The gentlemen most 
zealous for his Majesty's service are determined to 
support this Bill. . . . The impossibility of any effectual 
efforts against it in the House of Commons is beyond a 
doubt. The dangerous consequences which must ensue 
from its being rejected elsewhere, when supported and 
deemed necessary by the voice of the Commons, are too 
glaring to be minutely mentioned,' and it was tolerably 
certain that the Irish Privy Council could not be in- 
duced to reject it. 1 

The measure of Bushe was one which could only be 
justified by the extreme urgency of the question, and it 
was the more remarkable because the House of Com- 
mons, which showed iteelf thus disposed at all hazards to 
assume the sole legislative power of Ireland, was at the 
same time the most liberal which had ever sat in Ireland 
in its grants to the Crown. At the height of the con- 
stitutional conflict all parties concurred in doing the 
very utmost in their power for the support of the 
general interest of the Empire. In the same month in 
which Buckingham wrote to the Government describing 
the determination of the Irish Parliament to have their 
own Mutiny Act, he wrote a remarkable letter describing 
their ' liberal endeavours ' to rectify the condition of the 
finances. ' Your lordship will observe,' he said, ' that 
the Commons have in this session granted 350,OOOZ. 
before Christmas, and 260,OOOZ. since Christmas, in the 
whole 610,OOOZ., to be raised by loan. They will also 

1 Buckingham to Hillsborough, May 8, 1780. 


have imposed new taxes to the estimated annual amount 
of 153,OOOZ. I understand, no effort of equal magnitude, 
either in loans or in taxes, was ever yet made in any 
one session. 5 All the new taxes, he added, that had 
been granted since the accession of George II. did not 
exceed those granted in this one year. All the sums 
borrowed previous to the year 1763, did not together 
amount to as large a sum as that which was borrowed 
in this single session. The largest sum ever borrowed 
before in a session was 466,OOOL, and this sum was 
raised in the session immediately preceding. 1 

Hillsborough, in answer to the letters of the Lord 
Lieutenant, enjoined him strenuously to resist the Mu- 
tiny Bill of Bushe, if it proceeded on the foundation 
of the British Act not being binding in Ireland, 2 and 
accordingly when Bushe, on May 22, introduced his 
motion for leave to bring in the Bill, Sir K. Heron was 
very reluctantly obliged to oppose him. He soon, how- 
ever, found that the feeling of the House was even 
stronger than he had anticipated, and a division being 
forced on, he was beaten by no less than 140 to 18. 3 
It was then proposed by some members who were 
favourable to the Government to introduce a Mutiny 
Bill which was verbally entirely different from the Eng- 
lish Act, and contained no allusion to it. They argued 
that, although the introduction of an Irish Mutiny 
Bill would, no doubt, imply a denial of the validity 
of the English Act, yet if this were not stated, and if 
the Irish Bill made no allusion to the English law, the 
Government might shut their eyes to the inference, and 
end the contest without much discredit. 4 This idea 
does not, however, appear to have been pressed, and the 

1 May 18, 1780. Buckingham to Hillsborough. 
to Hillsborough. * May 28, 1780. Buckingham 

4 May 14, 1780. to Hillsborough. 

3 May 22, 1780. Buckingham 


Bill moved by Bushe, with an additional clause moved 
by Foster, to the effect that the army should be regulated 
by such laws as the King has made, or may make, not 
extending to life and limb, passed successfully through 
the House of Commons and through the Privy Council, 
and was transmitted to England. 1 

So far the tactics of the national party had been 
eminently successful, but now a strange reaction oc- 
curred which illustrates vividly the spasmodic and 
uncertain character of the resolutions of the Irish Par- 
liament. 8 A large part of those who had supported 
the Irish Mutiny Bill did so, not on any constitutional 
principle, but simply in order to avert the great prac- 
tical evil of a disorganised army, and they were only 
too willing that the question should never be reopened. 
Some members considered the concession of an Irish 
Mutiny Act sufficient, and were willing as a compromise 
to make an equivalent concession to Government, 
arguing that Parliament retained the right of voting 
the supplies for the army, and corrupt influence was 
largely brought to bear upon the great borough owners. 
The Mutiny Bill was returned from England, but it was 
returned with a significant alteration, expunging the 
words which limited its duration from session to session. 3 
It was in vain that Grattan and his followers urged 
that to pass a perpetual Mutiny Bill would be to 

1 See Grattan's Life, ii. 85- that unless party or the times 

98. are very violent indeed, we al- 

1 Daly, one of the most pro- ways wish to shrink from a 
minent members of the Irish second resolution against a mi- 
House of Commons, very saga- nister, and to make, as it were, 
ciously said of it : ' Were I a some atonement for our precipi- 
minister and wished to carry a tant patriotism by as rapid a 
very untoward measure, it would return to our original civility and 
be directly after we had passed complaisance.' Hardy's Life 
some strong resolution against of Charlemont, i. 262-282. 
the Court. So blended is the ' The sessions of the Irish 
good-nature of Irish gentlemen Parliament being at this time 
with their habitual acquiescence, biennial. 


surrender in Ireland what Englishmen had ever regarded 
as an essential guarantee of constitutional freedom. 
It was in vain that they argued that such a measure 
would be more than commonly dangerous in Ireland, 
where the existence of the hereditary revenue had in a 
great measure deprived the Commons of the power of 
the purse. It was in vain that they even threatened 
to secede in a body from Parliament. A motion for 
restoring the original words was defeated by 114 to 62, 
and a perpetual Mutiny Bill passed, thus placing the 
government of the army beyond the power of Parlia- 
ment. 1 

Buckingham deemed it an important victory, though 
in truth it only created a new grievance, which it became 
a leading object of the national party to remove. The 
discontent it produced in the country was greatly aggra- 
vated by the conduct of the English Privy Council in 
reducing a protective duty which the Irish Parliament 
had imposed on refined sugar imported into Ireland, 
and by the conduct of the House of Commons in ac- 
cepting this alteration, which was believed to be fatal 
to the refining interest in Ireland. The language held 
towards the House of Commons in public meetings now 
became more violent. It was said that parliamentary 
reform was the most urgent of all the real wants of the 
country, and that the majority of the House were com- 
pletely in the hands of a few bribed borough owners. 
They had refused the passionate wish of the nation for 
a declaration of legislative independence, and they had 
granted Administration a right of governing the army 
without their consent, which in the worst times the 
most servile of English Parliaments would never have 
conceded. Three bodies of Dublin volunteers passed 
resolutions denouncing the conduct of the majority, and 

1 Sir E. Heron to Starrier Porten, Aug. 9. Buckingham to Wey 
IDOOth, Aug. 17, 1780. 



they ordered these resolutions to be published in the 
papers. The session ended on September 2, and nearly 
the last act of the House of Commons was to censure 
the volunteer resolutions as seditious and libellous, and 
to call upon the Lord Lieutenant to institute prosecu- 
tions against the printers and publishers. 1 

Se ended one of the longest and one of the most 
eventful sessions hitherto known in Ireland, and it was 
speedily followed by the recall of Buckingham. For a 
long time the nerves of the Viceroy had been strained 
almost beyond the limits of endurance. He spoke of 
himself as ' a man whose mind has been ulcerated with 
a variety of embarrassments for thirty weary months.' 2 
The utterly defenceless state of the country in the be- 
ginning of a great war, the weekly and almost daily 
fears of invasion, the rise of a great army of volunteers 
wholly beyond the control and influence of Govern- 
ment ; the rapid increase of the popular demand for a 
fundamental change in the constitution of the country, 
the doubts that hung upon the constitution of the Irish 
army, the determination of the Government, even at 
the last moment and in spite of his remonstrance, to 
drain the country of almost every available soldier, 3 all 
these things had reduced the Lord Lieutenant to a state 
of deplorable anxiety. The Home Government, pro- 
foundly ignorant of Irish affairs, saw a great movement 
rising which was completely beyond their control, and 
they blamed the Viceroy ; they compelled him on several 
occasions to pursue a policy opposed to his judgment, 
and they slighted several of his recommendations. Scott, 
the Attorney-General, and Beresford, who was soon 

1 Commons' Journals, six. by another hand, as his ' spirits 

499-601. were not equal to the task.' 

* March 1780. In another 3 Oct. 7, 1780. Buckingham to 

letter (Nov. 22), he says his mind Hillsborough. Three more regi- 

as ' very sensibly affected and ments were withdrawn, ' a mea- 

enervated, 1 and that he wrote sure of the most serious cast.' 


after First Commissioner of the Revenue, had long 
been intriguing against kirn, and had been endeavour- 
ing by repeated letters to Robinson, the English Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, to procure his recall. 1 In the last 
months of his administration Buckingham had been 
reduced to the necessity of opposing the overwhelming 
preponderance of national sentiment and nearly all the 
honest men in Parliament, by the most flagrant and 
overwhelming bribery. Nothing now remained but the 
distribution of the rewards ; and the despatches, which 
have fortunately been printed, written at the close of 
his administration, reveal the true character of the con- 

Immediately after the termination of the session, he 
wrote to Lord North, stating that ' without engage- 
ments strongly to recommend' several politicians for 
peerages, ' it would have been impossible in any sort 
to have surmounted the various difficulties which have 
lately attended the Government,' and he accordingly 
recommended eight commoners for the peerage, thirteen 
peers for advancement in the peerage, five appoint- 
ments to the Privy Council, seventeen persons for 
civil pensions, and several others for favours of other 
kinds. He apologises for the number of his recom- 
mendations, but says : ' I am driven to this necessity, 
not having any other means of gratifying the expec- 
tation of gentlemen who engaged in the service of 
Government through this long and arduous session.' 
In nearly every instance recent political services 
are given as the sole ground for the recommenda- 
tion. 8 

1 See the correspondence of 1779. 

the Bight Hon. J. Beresford 2 See the letters of the Lord 

(privately printed), and also a Lieutenant between Sept. 8 and 

most secret ' letter of Backing- Nov. 19, 1780. Grattan's Life, 

ham to Hillsborough, Dec. 17, ii, 163-175. 

262 IRELAND IN fllE EIGHTEENTH CENTtJftt. t*. tt. 

The English ministers were startled by the multi- 
tude of requests, and refused to grant them all. The 
King consented, however, besides many minor favours 
in the shape of places and pensions, to make five new 
peers, and to raise eleven peers one or more steps in 
the peerage. This was the price at which the per- 
petual Mutiny Act and a few other slight triumphs 
were purchased, and the Lord Lieutenant considered 
it exceedingly insufficient. * As the engagements I 
have entered into,' wrote Buckingham, ' are so many 
and so strong that I am convinced the Government 
will be materially prejudiced if the faith of the Chief 
Governor should not be maintained, I will trouble your 
lordship no further than to remark that the last session 
was extremely critical, and that the conclusion would 
not have been so decidedly favourable to Government 
if such engagements had not been entered into at the 
moment.' ! ' With respect to the noblemen and gentle- 
men whose requests have not succeeded, . . . the re- 
commendations of many of those persons submitted to 
his Majesty for that honour, arose from engagements 
taken up at the press of the moment to secure questions 
upon which the English Government were very par- 
ticularly anxious. My sentiments cannot but be the 
same with respect to the Privy Council and pensions, 
and I had not contracted any absolute engagements 
of recommendation either to peerage or pension till 
difficulties arose which necessarily occasioned so much 
and such forcibly communicated anxiety to his Majesty's 
Cabinet that I must have been culpable in neglecting 
any possible means of securing a majority in the House 
of Commons.' 2 Some of the letters of prominent poli- 
ticians are still preserved, expressing their indignation 
at the inadequacy of their rewards. 

> Dec. 6, 20, 1780. 

NOY. 19, 1780. Grattan's Life, ii. Ifi9, 170. 


It would be difficult to have a clearer illustration 
of the manner in whichj through the extreme concentra- 
tion of political power, it was possible in the Irish Par- 
liament to override the real sentiments of the country, 
and these transactions should be remembered by those 
who would form a just estimate of the later conduct of 
the volunteers on the question of parliamentary reform. 
It is manifest, too, how serious must have been the 
effect upon the Irish peerage of creations so lavish and 
so corrupt as those under Lord Townshend, Lord Har- 
court, and Lord Buckingham. The sale of peerages 
had become the ordinary resource of Government ; and 
Grattan, in a speech made some years later, predicted 
with great force its inevitable tendency ' to taint the 
nobility,' to * undermine the moral props of opinion 
and authority,' and to produce in Ireland a levelling, 
democratic, and revolutionary spirit of the most danger- 
ous kind. In truth, the respect for rank, however 
much it may be decried by philosophers as a mere fig- 
ment of the imagination, is, politically, a very real 
thing, for it is a great power of guidance and influence 
in the affairs of men. In a country like Ireland, which 
is torn by historical antagonisms and religious differ- 
ences, where the mass of the population are poor, igno- 
rant, credulous, and excitable, and at the same time 
passionately loyal to their leaders, none of the natural 
forms of healthy influence can be safely neglected, for 
nothing is more needed than wise guidance and well- 
directed respect. That the Irish gentry were not in- 
capable of political leadership is sufficiently shown by 
the volunteer movement, and by many honourable 
episodes in the history of the Irish Parliament ; and 
even in the disgraceful contest about the Perpetual 
Mutiny Act, Grattan was able to assert that, although 
the great borough owners had gone over to the Govern- 
ment, 'the weight of property, beyond comparison,' 


was on the popular side. 1 A dishonest historian, who 
selects or conceals his facts according to the impression 
he wishes to convey, may, no doubt, discover without 
difficulty authentic materials for an unqualified diatribe 
against the Irish Protestants and their Parliament ; but 
a true picture will contain many lights as well as many 
shades, and a faithful narrator will make large allowance 
for unfavourable circumstances and antecedents. He 
will be struck with the smallness of the military force 
with which Ireland in many troubled periods was kept 
in perfect peace. He will recognise the large amount 
of ability, loyalty, and public spirit which undoubtedly 
existed in the Irish Parliament during the last thirty 
years of its existence, the many steps of constitutional 
and material progress that were taken under its aus- 
pices, the noble efforts that it made to break down the 
system of religious proscription, and to bridge the chasm 
which yawned between the two great sections of the 
Irish people. But the taint of corruption had sunk 
deeply into the great borough owners. The peerage, 
which was the natural representative of the landed 
classes, was systematically degraded ; and the majority 
of Irish titles are historically connected with memories, 
not of honour, but of shame. 

Lord Buckingham was succeeded as Viceroy by 
Lord Carlisle, who took Sir W. Eden afterwards the 
first Lord Auckland as his chief secretary, and arrived 
in Ireland towards the close of December 1 780. The 
new Lord Lieutenant was a young man of considerable 
promise and accomplishments, but exceedingly inex- 
perienced in official life. He had been educated at 
Eton with Charles Fox, and with the Duke of Leinster ; 
had published a few short poems, among others a trans- 

1 See his pamphlet on the Perpetual Mutiny Act. Miscellaneous 
Works, p. 25. 


lation of the story of Ugolino from Dante ; had thrown 
himself ardently into the fashionable dissipations of his 
time, but, like his close friend, Charles Fox, had never 
lost his interest in politics, and had been selected in 
1778 as one of the Commissioners who were sent out 
to negotiate with the Americans. 1 Eden had on this 
occasion been one of his colleagues. He was bound to 
his future chief by a very warm friendship, and in 1779 
he had addressed to him some rather valuable letters 
on the trade restrictions of Ireland. 

As more than nine months elapsed before it was 
necessary to summon Parliament, Carlisle had ample 
time to master the circumstances of the country, and 
his general impression was decidedly favourable. Great 
caution, indeed, was required, and he especially urged 
that Ireland should not be included in the English 
Mutiny Act ; but he found among the chief people in 
Ireland a widespread sentiment, strengthened, no doubt, 
by the recent resolutions in favour of parliamentary 
reform, ' that the aristocratic part of the Government 
had lost its balance, that there was an evident necessity 
of regaining from the people that power which, if suf- 
fered to continue in their hands, must end in the 
general ruin of the whole ; and that, for their own se- 
curity and happiness, English Government must be sup- 
ported.' ' The wild notions of republicanism,' he thought, 
'were every day more the objects of contempt and deri- 
sion,' and ' the national fever was subsiding.' 2 One of 
his earliest measures was to bestow the Bishopric 
of Killala upon a brother of Pery, the Speaker, who, 
from his position, experience, and great ability, had 
much weight with all parties in Ireland, and who had 

1 Many particulars relating to second volume of Jesse's Life of 

Lord Carlisle who is now chiefly Selwyn. 

remembered by a line in Childe 2 Carlisle to Hillsborough, Jan, 

Harold will be found in the 9,1781. 


promised the new Administration ' a systematic and 
decided support upon a principle of public duty.' l 

Eden, in his confidential letters to England, ex- 
pressed himself well satisfied with the tone of feeling to- 
wards England prevailing both in Parliament and the 
country, 2 and he mentioned that of 198 members who 
were present at the meeting of Parliament, 160 were 
' as decided friends to Government as Irish politics can 
admit.' 3 At the same time, in a very curious and 
significant letter, he urged that one of the great wants 
of the Irish Government was a fund of secret service 
money like that which existed in England. There was, 
indeed,a small fund, varyingfroml,200Z.to2,OOOZ., which 
bore this name, but its title was altogether a misnomer, 
for it was merely a fund for paying extra packet-boats, 
donations to foreigners in distress, illuminations, beer 
to the populace on the King's birthday, and such like 
expenses. It was disbursed by the ordinary clerks, and 
vouchers were duly sent in. * In short,' he says, ' as we 
have not the constitutional pretext of foreign service, 
we have not any means of carrying into Parliament 
a demand for a sum without accounting for its uses. 
The mischief which has long resulted from this circum- 
stance is not to be described, and in the present state 
of the country the wise application of about 3,OOOZ. 
a year might be of a degree of importance to his 

1 Carlisle to Hillsborough, son, Correspondence of the Bight 

Jan. 7, 1781. Hon. J. Beresford, i. 161, 162. 

3 ' The country is at this mo- ' Our session commenced on 

ment right-headed and kindly Tuesday last, with much good 

disposed, if frankly and fairly temper towards his Excellency 

used. . . . We are not fretfully and his secretary, and with a 

disposed, but we cannot help re- disposition towards Great Britain 

marking that we have not re- less suspicions than was ever 

ceived one syllable, either public known, and tending almost to 

or private, from Downing Street cordiality.' Ibid. p. 174. (March 

since we turned the corner on the 21, Oct. 13, 1781.) 

8rd December.' Eden to Robin- Ibid. p. 194. 

Ck. tt. btSPtJfE WITH fORTtJGAL. 267 

Majesty's affairs beyond what words can estimate. . . . 
When I state it at 3,0007. a year, I state it much below 
what I would wish, and below what in my conscience, 
I believe, would be for his Majesty's interests to allow.' 
He proposed that the Lord Lieutenant should be 
authorised to draw such a sum from the King's privy 
purse, ' to be applied here to his Majesty's service 
and the effective conduct of government,' a favourable 
occasion being taken to throw upon the Irish revenue 
a pension to an equivalent amount in favour of some 
person whom his Majesty would otherwise have pro- 
vided for from his English revenue. 1 

An embarrassing commercial question had just arisen. 
The free trade which had been so liberally granted 
to Ireland in 1779 had as yet been of very little use, 
for the war cut off all commercial intercourse with the 
American colonies, France, Spain, and Holland, and 
greatly added to the risks and difficulties of commerce 
with other countries. The Irish manufacturers had, 
however, sent some woollen goods to Portugal, and they 
heard with much astonishment and indignation that 
those goods were refused access into the country. By 
the Methuen Treaty in 1703 ' British ' woollens had ob- 
tained a free entrance into Portugal, and it was con- 
tended that in all the commercial treaties made at that 
time Ireland was included under the term British. In 
consequence of that treaty the wines of Portugal were 
admitted into Ireland on more favourable terms than 
the wines of France. The Portuguese, however, denied 
that Ireland was included in the treaty, and they argued 
with much force that its signers cannot have con- 
templated the admission of Irish woollens into Portugal, 

1 July 15, 1781. Eden to Hills- the Irish State Paper Office, and 

borough (most secret). A book quite supports the statement of 

containing the entries for secret Eden, 
service money is preserved in 


because at that time the Irish were expressly forbidden 
to export such goods to any country whatever. The 
English Government appears to have done what it could 
for the Irish, but its overtures were met by an obstinate 
resistance. It feared to alienate Portugal at a time when 
the greater part of Europe was actively hostile ; and it 
was extremely anxious to prevent the Irish Parliament 
from dealing with the question, both because rash words 
might sow enmity between England and Portugal, and 
also because the interference of the Irish Parliament in 
Imperial treaties would be a very dangerous precedent. 1 
In the summer months provincial reviews of the 
volunteers were held with much success. The move- 
ment showed no signs of flagging, and the volunteers 
had greatly increased in number and improved in dis- 
cipline and in their equipments. At the Belfast review, 
which was the most considerable, 5,383 volunteers were 
on the field, with no less than thirteen field-pieces. 2 
The number of volunteers in this review was nearly 
double that in the review of 1780 ; and it was alleged, 
though probably with some exaggeration, that the 
volunteers throughout Ireland towards the close of 1781 
amounted to not less than 80,000 men. 3 The dangers 
of foreign invasion were still sufficient to stimulate all 
the energies of the country, and in June it was found 
necessary to provide convoys for vessels trading between 
England and Ireland. In September a combined French 
and Spanish fleet of thirty-four sail appeared in the 
Channel, and some ships approached the southern 
coast of Ireland. 4 Charlemont, who had recently been 
elected head of the Leinster and Ulster volunteers, at 

1 A very voluminous corre- fairs from 1779 to 1782, p. 43. 
spondence on this subject will * Harrington's Rise and Fall 

be found both in the Irish State of the Irish Nation, ch. iv. Adol- 

Paper Office and the English phus (History of England, iii. 

Becord Office. 351) estimates them at 100,000. 

1 Dobbu, History of Irish Af- * See Grattan's Life, ii. 189. 

CB. iv. THE VOLUNTEERS IN 1781. 269 

once waited upon the Lord Lieutenant, who informed 
him that there was every reason to believe that an 
immediate invasion was meditated, that an express had 
just been received furnishing many particulars, and 
that the city of Cork was probably the intended point 
of attack. The moment of danger was well fitted to 
show whether the political agitation in Ireland had yet 
taken the form of disaffection, but no traces of such 
a spirit were shown. The Ulster volunteers under the 
command of Charlemont, the Dublin volunteers under 
the command of the Duke of Leinster, volunteered in 
great numbers to march at once into Munster, to act 
under the King's Commander- in-Chief and to assist the 
very small foj-ce of regular troops. The offer was ac- 
cepted in grateful though guarded terms, and it was 
computed that 15,000 men could be spared from Ulster 
for the defence of Munster without leaving the former 
province undefended. In Newry it was resolved to 
send all the younger volunteers southwards, and a corps 
called the Ladies' Fencibles was organised for the defence 
of the town and neighbourhood, in which no man was 
to be enrolled who was under fifty or was without a wife 
and children. 1 

1 Hardy's Life of Charlemont, should any powerful body of the 

i. 404, 406, 407. ' In eventu- enemy be landed here, and as 

ally accepting these offers of such an armed force as the vo- 

service I have used expressions lunteers of Ireland would cer- 

as guarded as the nature of the tainly not remain inactive in the 

situation would admit ; but I case of an invasion, I have judged 

have thought it my duty at it the most expedient step I could 

the same time not to mark take for H.M.'s service to secure 

the least jealousy either of the to Government the direction and 

strength or right disposition of application of that force wher- 

the volunteer corps, but to accept ever it may be found most useful 

their services with the utmost in the defence of the State. . . . 

confidence. I am fully aware of At present it is my intention, 

the delicacy of the present cir- if the exigencies of the State 

cumstances, but as the military should require it, to employ the 

force of this country is utterly volunteer corps both in detached 

unequal to its effective defence services and in the protection of 


The correspondence of the Lord Lieutenant shows 
that in the judgment of the Government the loyalty 
which was professed was not mere lip loyalty, and that 
the volunteer forces had become a very real and very 
powerful element in the defence of the country. Eden 
sent to Hillsborough their numerous addresses, 'in 
order,' as he said, ' to give your lordship an early idea 
both of the great extent of this business and of the 
loyal and generous spirit which appears on the present 
occasion.' ' I cannot foresee,' he added, ' how far this 
matter may be understood, and how it may be construed 
in England ; but here it is universally understood as a 
very pleasing turn in the whole political state of Ireland, 
creditable and strengthening to his Excellency's ad- 
ministration. . . . The bodies of men who had embodied 
and disciplined themselves for military service, and who 
had hitherto acted in a line entirely separated from 
Government, are now cordially desirous to act implicitly 
and zealously under his Majesty's commands in what- 
ever manner may be found expedient. It is a great 
and complicated machine, and subject to embarrassments 
and possible risks in the further conduct of it ; but so 
far as I can understand it from the near view which I 
have of it, I trust his Excellency will ... be able to 
model the whole business so as to render a very solid 
service to his Majesty 's kingdom. . . . 11, 000 or 12,000 
seem to have already offered, others are coming in every 
moment.' l ' No event,' Lord Hillsborough wrote to 
the Lord Lieutenant, ' could be more fortunate for the 
public security than the resolution which has been 

those parts of the kingdom from and more especially in a time of 

which the military shall Lave confusion, to be tempted to acts 

been withdrawn, which might of violence and plunder.' Sept. 

otherwise be left exposed to the 8, 1781. Carlisle to Hillsborough. 
ravages of the lower class of ' Sept. 14, 1781. Eden to HiUa- 

people, too liable at all times, borough (secret). 


taken to make those spirited offers of assistance which 
have lately been presented to your Excellency ; and it 
gives the King great satisfaction to receive, at so critical 
a conjuncture as the present, additional proofs of that 
loyalty, duty, and affection which he has constantly ex- 
perienced from his subjects im Ireland.' 1 Among the 
delegates of the volunteers who offered their uncon- 
ditional services to the Government in the event of 
invasion was Henry Grattan ; and a gratifying incident 
at this critical time was a letter from Mr. Goold, a 
Roman Catholic merchant of Cork, offering on the part 
of himself and his friends to furnish immediately 12,000 
guineas for the purposes of defence, and to risk their 
whole fortunes in support of the Government. 2 

Carlisle wished much to thank the volunteers as 
such, in his speech in opening Parliament in October, 
and he represented to the Government that ' so long as 
these corps are commanded by noblemen and gentle- 
men of known attachment to Government, they cannot 
furnish subject of apprehension, and as long as their 
loyalty is cherished and kept warm, the lower ranks 
will not withdraw themselves from commanders of a 
like disposition.' 3 Hillsborough, however, refused to 
allow any public recognition of the volunteer corps to 
be expressed on the part of the Crown, and the Lord 
Lieutenant was obliged to confine himself to a general 
acknowledgment of the ' spirited offers of assistance ' 
he had received from all parts of the kingdom. In the 
instructions he received to guide his administration 
during the ensuing session he was desired as far as 
possible to divert the Parliament from all constitutional 
questions, and to oppose with all his power any attempt 
to carry a declaration of independence, the repeal of 

1 Sept. 15, 1781. Hillsborough Hillsborough (private). 
to Carlisle. Bept. 24, 1781. 

* Sept. 17, 1781. Carlisle to 


Poyning's Act, or the limitation of the Mutiny Act. 
The Habeas Corpus Bill the ministers resolved after 
some hesitation to accept, provided a clause were in- 
serted enabling the Lord Lieutenant to suspend it when 
Parliament was not sitting. The Bill securing the in- 
dependence of the judges* they determined strenuously 
to resist unless it was accompanied by the clauses which 
had been introduced under Lord Townshend. 1 Lord 
Shannon, the Duke of Leinster, Lord Ely, and Lord 
Tyrone agreed to support the Government, and although 
a great preponderance of talent was independent of 
or opposed to it, a respectable majority in the House 
was secured. Outside the House, however, the Irish 
Protestants were almost undivided in their determina- 
tion to press on the great question of legislative inde- 

Among the first measures of the Parliament which 
met in October was another unanimous vote of thanks 
to the volunteers for their recent conduct, and a Habeas 
Corpus Bill was introduced and carried with little dis- 
cussion. The question of the trade with Portugal gave 
rise to more than one long and angry debate ; and some 
unfounded suspicions of the sincerity of the English 
Government were expressed, as well as some not un- 
natural indignation that a question of such capital im- 
portance to Ireland should not have been mentioned 
in the Speech from the Throne. An address to the 
King was ultimately agreed on, 2 and the debates were 
chiefly remarkable for the tone of undisguised hostility 
to ministers adopted by Flood. During the adminis- 
tration of Harcourt he had cordially supported, and had 
probably in some degree influenced, the Government, 
but under Lord Buckingham he complained bitterly 

1 Carlisle to Hillsbortragh, lisle, Sept. 29, Oct. 21, 1781. 
gept. 15. Hillsborough to Car- 2 Commons' Journ-als, zz. 286. 


that he was treated as ' a mere placeman,' without con- 
fidence and without power, and he appears in conse- 
quence to have absented himself on important occasions 
from meetings of the Privy Council, and to have rarely 
voted and scarcely ever spoken for the Government in 
Parliament. His interposition in favour of the free 
trade amendment had greatly embarrassed them. In 
the Privy Council he advocated the limitation of the 
Mutiny Act, and his attitude on the occasion of Grat- 
tan's motion for a declaration of independence in 1780 
was evidently intended to save that motion from defeat. 
In general, however, he who had under Lord Townshend 
been the most prominent orator in the Irish House of 
Commons sat'there a silent and a moody man, occupy- 
ing a position which was manifestly a false one, and 
not trusted on either side. Buckingham for a long 
time desired to remove him from his office, but the 
English Government took no notice of his request. 1 It 
is stated, though on no very good authority, that Flood 
had actually written out his resignation and entrusted 
it to Jenkinson, but it is certain that it never was pre- 
sented. 2 He was now, at the request of Lord Carlisle, 
replaced in his office of Vice-Treasurer by Lord Shan- 
non, and removed from his seat in the Privy Council ; 
and from this time, with a somewhat damaged reputa- 
tion, and amid many taunts at his long silence, he took 
a prominent part in opposition, and showed an evident 
desire to resume the direction of those popular questions 
which had now been taken up by others. 

A question which had not yet been considered was 
raised by Yelverton at the beginning of the session. 
The Irish coast had recently been almost absolutely 
unprotected and Irish vessels continually captured, the 

1 Buckingham to Hillsborough, 2 Warden Flood's Life of 
Nov. 20, 1780. Flood, pp. 129, 130. 



English fleet being chiefly occupied in other parta 
of the globe. Yelverton proposed that some frigates 
should be built at Irish expense, and devoted wholly to 
the protection of the Irish coast. The plan was post- 
poned at the desire of the Government ; but Lord 
North thought it feasible provided the Irish fleet re- 
mained under the full control of the Admiralty. Hills- 
borough, however, expressed his dissent in a letter 
which throws a vivid ray on his secret intentions. ' I 
do not like,' he said, * tie beginning of anything like 
a navy under the Parliament of Ireland. It opens a 
door to I cannot tell what, that raises some alarm in 
my mind. As soon as the Union I wish for takes place, 
you cannot have too many dockyards, shipbuilders, &c., 
and I very sincerely hope the glory of your Excellency's 
administration may be crowned with the completion of 
that important and salutary measure.' l 

A few other measures were brought in which may 
be briefly dismissed. A Habeas Corpus Bill was passed 
with general concurrence and sent over to England. 
The salaries of the judges were raised; Grattan, 
seconded by Flood, moved a limitation of the Perpe- 
tual Mutiny Act, but was defeated by an overwhelming 
majority; and Flood, who again brought forward the 
question in a slightly different form, was induced to 
withdraw it. The Government seemed decidedly gain- 
ing ground in the House ; and before the close of the 
winter Daly, Fitzgibbon, Bushe, Ponsonby and his 
friends, and all the Donegal interest except Yelverton, 
had passed from partial or complete opposition into a 
support of the Government. Outside the House the pro- 
spect was more dubious, and the Lord Lieutenant stated 
that he found the state of the country much more criti- 
cal than was imagined in England; ' nearly the whole 

1 Dec. 8, 1781. HUlsborough to Carlisle. 

cte. rtr. fHE SURRENDER OF YORK/TOWN. 275 

body of the people in arms, well appointed, and in a 
great degree disciplined, . . . much relaxed as to any 
idea and principle of government, full of speculative 
earnestness for fanciful improvements in their constitu- 
tion.' He believed, however, that the danger was 
diminishing, that there was no disloyalty, though much 
heat and suspicion, and that for the present at least he 
had succeeded in conciliating the good opinion and 
confidence of the kingdom. 1 

On December 4, Yelverton was to bring forward 
his important measure for amending, and in part re- 
pealing Poyning's Act ; but the news had just arrived 
of the capture^ of the army of Lord Cornwallis in Vir- 
ginia, and every other consideration was absorbed by 
the crushing calamity which had fallen on the English 
name. Few things in parliamentary history are less 
pleasing than the furious party recriminations which 
in the English Parliament immediately followed the 
announcement of the disasters both of Saratoga and of 
Yorktown. In the Irish Parliament no such spirit was 
displayed. 'Mr. Yelverton,' wrote the Lord Lieute- 
nant, ' postponed his intended motion, and, with a pro- 
priety which was felt universally by the House, proposed 
an address to his Majesty full of loyalty to his royal 
person, family, and Government, with offers of assist- 
ance of that House. . . . He introduced it with a 
speech of much dignity, expressive of the firmest at- 
tachment to his Majesty and to the interests of Great 
Britain.' a ' I must do this general justice,' adds the 
Viceroy, ' to every gentleman who rose in the debate, 
to say that they seemed to vie with each other in for- 
cible expressions of affectionate duty to the King and 
sincere attachment to the interests of Great Britain, 

1 Nov. 10, 1781. Carlisle to Dec. 5, 1781. Carlisle to 

Hillsborough. Hillbborough. 

T 2 


and the rest of the members by their warm and repeated 
approbation of such expressions demonstrated their 
cordial concurrence in them. I have sincere pleasure 
in this confirmation of my opinion that his Majesty has 
not anywhere more faithful subjects than his people of 
Ireland.' The address did not, however, pass without 
some opposition. Both Flood and Grattan urged that 
it should include a demand or recognition of Irish in- 
dependence; both of them, while supporting a full 
tender of Irish services against foreign enemies, ob- 
jected to any expressions encouraging a continuance of 
hostility against America ; and Grattan, in a speech 
which the Lord Lieutenant described as replete with 
art and eloquence, urged that Ireland would only be 
following the best English precedents in joining ' re- 
dress of grievances to an offer of supply.' The House, 
however, was in no mood for such a proceeding, and 
Yelverton's address was carried by 167 to 37. 1 

The question of Poyning's law was again introduced 
independently both by Flood and Yelverton. The former 
maintained, in a speech three and a half hours long, that 
the power of the Irish Privy Council to alter heads of 
Bills before transmitting them to England was no part 
of its original intention, and rested solely on an erro- 
neous decision of the judges in 1692. Yelverton en- 
tirely dissented from this view of the law, and there was 
a perceptible difference, both in tone and arguments, 
between the two speakers, though the objects at which 
they were aiming were substantially the same. Yelver- 
ton, who was a very able, a very moderate, and a very 
honest man, and whose legal knowledge was of great 
advantage to the popular party, seems to have been 
always ready to waive personal questions ; but the con- 
duct of Flood was marked with some violence and much 

Deo. 6, 1781. Carlisle to Hillsborough. 


jealousy. On one occasion he complained bitterly that 
' after a service of twenty years in the study of a 
particular question, it was taken out of his hands and 
entirely wrested from him ; ' and he added, ' the honour- 
able gentleman is erecting a temple to liberty ; I hope 
therefore at least I shall be allowed a niche in the fane.' 
Yelverton reminded him in reply, that ' if a man marries 
a wife and lives with her in constancy it is a crime to 
take her away from him ; but that by the criminal law, 
if a man shall separate from his wife, desert and abandon 
her for seven years, another might then take her up and 
give her his protection.' l 

It was clear, however, that the House was in no dis- 
position to oppose the Government on the question of 
Poyning's law, and a committee which Flood desired on 
the subject was refused by 66 to 135. At the same time 
the Lord Lieutenant was secretly counselling compliance 
with the demand of Yelverton, who stood wholly aloof 
from the Government, but for whose abilities and cha- 
racter he retained a very warm respect. Yelverton asked 
that the Irish Privy Council should be restricted to 
sending over to England the proceedings of the Irish 
Parliament without alteration, and this demand Carlisle 
thought should be accepted. ' The present time,' he 
wrote, ' is well suited to quieting these great questions 
in the most moderate manner. The independence of 
Irish legislation is become the creed of the kingdom ; 
but on any reasonable point which does not contravene 
that principle I am confident that his Majesty's Govern- 
ment possesses a loyal, practicable, and affectionate sup- 
port.' He urged above all things, as of vital import- 
ance in the present crisis, that Ireland should not be 
included in any British Act. ' Every regulation or re- 
striction which Great Britain may think fit to subject 

1 Parl. Debates, i. 189. 


herself to, and which she may consider as equally in- 
cumbent upon Ireland, will be cheerfully adopted by 
this country and effectually executed by Irish laws. The 
insertion, therefore, of Ireland in British Acts is become 
quite unnecessary, and the general and most generous 
readiness to adopt any measure in this Parliament that 
can be thought expedient in England for the benefit of 
both countries was well exemplified last week in the 
unanimous concurrence of the House of Commons in the 
Bill for regulating bounties, drawbacks, &c.' ! 

The Habeas Corpus Bill was returned from England 
and became law, thus realising one great object of the 
national party. Another subject of a still more impor- 
tant character was a contemplated measure in favour of 
the Roman Catholics. This measure, like that of 1778, 
emanated chiefly from the independent section in Par- 
liament. On December 29, when Parliament had 
entered on the Christmas recess, Carlisle wrote to 
Hillsborough, stating that some such measure was in 
contemplation. ' The members who take the lead in this 
are chiefly independent gentlemen, though some of them 
are disposed to show a degree of deference to the senti- 
ments of the Government.' 8 Hillsborough, in reply, 
urged that the time was not suited for a Catholic Bill. 
He reminded the Lord Lieutenant of the extent and 
violence of the disturbance which the English Bill in 
favour of the Catholics had produced in England, and 
feared that new concessions at this time might lead to 
new outrages. ' On the other hand, the Roman Catho- 
lics, whose conduct towards Government has for many 
years been not only unexceptionable but meritorious, 
will feel rather disappointed than gratified by such a 
Bill as Mr. Gardiner's appears to be. Every liberal- 

1 Dec. 29, 1781 (secret and con- Hillsborongh (secret and confi- 
fidential). dential). 

* Dec. 29, 1781. Carlisle to 


minded man wishes to go further in their favour,' and 
probably they would themselves wish the question to be 
postponed till more could be done. At the same time 
Hillsborough is careful to explain that he does not ' mean 
to suggest any absolute discouragement,' and that if a 
Bill is transmitted from Ireland, it will be very carefully 
considered. ' But,' he says, ' your Excellency ought to 
be informed that the prejudices upon matters of this 
kind in the North of Ireland go to a violence hardly to 
be credited, and much beyond those of their too near 
neighbours in Scotland.' l 

Hillsborough, as the event showed, misjudged the 
condition of the country, and had not realised the power 
of the national movement which had recently arisen in 
assuaging sectarian animosities. On January 31, 1782, 
when Parliament met after the adjournment, Gardiner 
gave notice of a Bill for the relief of Roman Catholics, 
and it was discussed in a somewhat desultory manner 
in several debates. It soon appeared that there was no 
real difference of opinion in the Irish Parliament about 
the propriety of giving a large and substantial relief to 
the Catholics, though there was some divergence of 
opinion about its exact amount, some alarm at the com- 
plexity of the subject arising from the great number 
of laws that must be repealed, and some fear lest an 
incautious measure should shake the security of property 
that was held under the Act of Settlement. On two 
important points the propriety of granting the Catho- 
lics a complete religious toleration and a full and unre- 
stricted possession of property there was a perfect 
agreement ; a but opinion was much divided about the 
expediency of giving them arms or votes, and allowing 
them to intermarry with Protestants ; and the question 
having been relegated to a committee, only the preli- 

" Jan. 24, 1782. Hillsborough to Carlisle. 
7 Parl. Debates, i. 307. 


minary steps had been taken before the change in the 
English. Ministry and the Irish Constitution. 

Some speeches, however, were delivered on the con- 
dition of Catholic education which are extremely remark- 
able from the light they throw on the real state of Irish 
Protestant feeling, and on the wide gulf that lay between 
the letter of the law and its actual administration. Fitz- 
gibbon, while strongly defending the laws which pro- 
hibited foreign education, said, ' I know to the honour 
of the present heads of the University that Catholics 
are received in it at this day by connivance. . . . The 
University of Dublin is open to them, and if they de- 
cline the advantage it is not on account of religion, for 
no religious conformity will be required.' Hely Hut- 
chinson, the Provost of the University, was present, and 
he did not deny that at this time Roman Catholics were 
actually to be found among the students, but he desired 
that their admission should be legalised on the largest 
scale ; and as the head of that great Protestant corpora- 
tion he sketched the following very remarkable scheme 
for Irish education. ' My opinion,' he said, ' is strongly 
against sending Roman Catholics abroad for education, 
nor would I establish Popish colleges at home. Our 
gracious Sovereign, who is the legislator of the Uni- 
versity of Dublin, may, I think, with ease be prevailed 
upon to pass a statute for admitting Catholics ; and 
whenever I receive his pleasure on that subject, I shall 
be truly happy in obeying. The advantage of being 
admitted into the University of Dublin will be very 
great to Catholics. ... If Roman Catholics are to 
participate in these advantages . . . they need not be 
obliged to attend the Divinity Professor, they may have 
one of their own ; and I would have a part of the public 
money applied to their use, to the support of a number 
of poor lads as sizars, and to provide premiums for 
persons of merit, for I would have them go into exami- 


nations and make no distinction between them and the 
Protestants but such as merit might claim. ... In 
order to prepare Roman Catholics for the University, I 
would increase the number of diocesan schools and have 
Catholics instructed gratis in them ; from thence they 
might come to Dublin, where they could live upon 
easier terms than in any other part of Ireland if it be 
considered that almost every family in the kingdom 
has friends or relations settled here. ... I am an 
enemy to force when applied to the mind ; let us by 
gentle means induce Roman Catholics to receive all the 
information they can in God's name let them choose 
for themselves. ... It is certainly a matter of import- 
ance that the' education of their priests should be as 
perfect as possible, and that if they have any prejudices 
they should be prejudices in favour of their own country. 
I therefore think that a clause to regulate their education 
will give this Bill the best assurance of success. The 
present laws are disgraceful ; they prohibit the Roman 
Catholics from receiving any education at all, and there- 
fore should be abolished. The Roman Catholics should 
receive the best education in the established University 
at the public expense ; but by no means should Popish 
colleges be allowed, for by them we should again have the 
press groaning with themes of controversy, college against 
college, and subjects of religious disputation that have 
long slept in oblivion would again awake, and awaken 
with them all the worst passions of the human mind.' l 
While these questions were discussed in Parliament 
discontent and exasperation were growing rapidly 
beyond its walls. A Parliament which had uniformly 
supported by enormous majorities the administration 
of Lord Carlisle, which had rejected every attempt to 
repeal or modify Poyning's law, and which showed itself 

Debates, i. 309, 310. 


completely subservient to a few venal borough owners, 
was no faithful representative of the sentiments or the 
aspirations of the Protestants of Ireland. Political 
resolutions had already emanated frequently from the 
volunteer body, and delegates from different corps had 
occasionally assembled ; but a conviction was now 
spreading that it was necessary to bring the influence 
of the force in a more organised and emphatic form into 
the domain of home politics. On December 28, 1781, 
the officers and delegates of the first Ulster regiment, 
commanded by Lord Charlemont, assembled at Armagh 
under the presidency of Francis Evans, and passed a 
series of resolutions deploring the little attention paid 
to constitutional rights by the majority of those whose 
special duty was to establish them, and asserting that 
the Constitution could only be restored to its original 
purity by the most vigorous efforts to root out corrup~ 
tion and Court influence from the legislative body. In 
order to attain this end they summoned a meeting at 
Dungannon of delegates from all the volunteers of 
Ulster to discuss the present alarming condition of 
public affairs, and to publish to the country the results 
of their deliberations. 

It was on February 15, 1782, that the delegates of 
143 corps of Ulster volunteers assembled in obedience 
to this invitation, in full uniform, in the great church of 
Dungannon. They were some of them men of high 
rank, and most of them men of large property and of 
excellent character, and they conducted their debates 
with a gravity, decorum, and moderation which no 
assembly could have surpassed. Elected by a popular 
constituency of 25,000 armed men, free from the borough 
influence and from the corruption which tainted the 
Parliament in Dublin, animated with a consciousness of 
great services performed and with a sincere and ardent 
patriotism, they were undoubtedly the most faithful re- 


presentatives then sitting of the opinions and wishes 
of the Irish Protestants. Colonel William Irvine was 
called to the chair, and a series of resolutions, drawn 
up by Charlemont, Flood, Grattan, Stewart the member 
for Tyrone, and Francis Dobbs, were submitted to the 

They first unanimously asserted their right of de- 
liberation by resolving that ' a citizen by learning the 
use of arms does not abandon any of his civil rights.' 
They then resolved with equal unanimity that ' a claim 
of any body of men, other than the King , Lords, and 
Commons of Ireland, to make laws to bindthis kingdom 
is unconstitutional, illegal, and a grievance;' that 'the 
ports of this country are by right open to all foreign 
countries not at war with the King ; ' ' that any burden 
thereupon or obstruction thereto, save only by the 
Parliament of Ireland, is unconstitutional, illegal, and 
a grievance ; ' and that ' the independence of judges 
is equally essential to the impartial administration of 
justice in Ireland as in England.' With a single dis- 
senting voice they resolved c that the power exercised 
by the Privy Council of both kingdoms under, or under 
colour or pretence of, the law of Poyning, was uncon- 
stitutional and a grievance ; ' that ' a Mutiny Bill not 
limited in point of duration from session to session is un- 
constitutional and a grievance ; and that ' the minority of 
Parliament were entitled to their most grateful thanks.' 
With eleven dissenting voices they pledged themselves 
' as freeholders, fellow-citizens, and men of honour,' at 
every coming election to support only those candidates 
who would seek a redress of these grievances, and to 
use all constitutional means to make the pursuit of 
redress speedy and effectual. They then unanimously 
determined that four members from each county in 
Ulster should be formed into a committee to act for the 
volunteers till the next general meeting, and to call 


general meetings of the province when required ; that 
another general meeting should be summoned in twelve 
months from the present, or within fourteen days of the 
dissolution of Parliament, should such an event take 
place sooner ; that the committee should appoint nine 
of their number to be a committee in Dublin, in order 
to enter into communication with such volunteer asso- 
ciations in other provinces as may enter into similar 
resolutions, and to deliberate with them on the most 
constitutional means of carrying them into effect. 

Then, after pledging themselves to consume no Por- 
tuguese wine till the restrictions had been taken offlrish 
exports to Portugal, they passed two memorable resolu- 
tions which had been drawn up by Grattan. They re- 
solved, ' that we hold the right of private judgment in 
matters of religion to be equally sacred in others as in 
ourselves; that as men and as Irishmen, as Christians 
and as Protestants, we rejoice in the relaxation of the 
penal laws against our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, 
and that we conceive the measure to be fraught with the 
happiest consequences to the union and the prosperity 
of the inhabitants of Ireland.' These resolutions, which 
marked the close of the long political schism between 
the Protestants and Catholics, were carried through the 
great representative body of the most Protestant pro- 
vince of Ireland with only two dissentient voices. 
Three clergymen, one of them an Anglican and the 
other two Presbyterians, were among the delegates, and 
they were also among the most prominent supporters of 
the resolutions, not only on grounds of policy, but on 
grounds of Christianity. ' The place we met in,' wrote 
Dobbs, who took a conspicuous part in these transac- 
tions, ' was the church, and I trust our proceedings did 
not pollute it.' The assembly before breaking up issued 
an address to the minority in Parliament. ' We thank 
you,' they said. ' for your noble and spirited though 


hitherto ineffectual efforts in defence of the great con- 
stitutional rights of your country. . . . The almost un- 
animous voice of the people is with you, and in a free 
country the voice of the people must prevail. We know 
our duty to our sovereign, and are loyal. We know 
our duty to ourselves, and are resolved to be free. We 
seek for our rights, and no more than our rights, and 
in so just a pursuit we should doubt the being of a 
Providence if we doubted of success.' l 

The assembly at Dungannon had an immediate influ- 
ence of the most decisive kind. Ulster was the heart of 
the volunteer movement as it was the heart of the Protes- 
tantism of Ireland ; and it became evident that no reliance 
could be henceforth placed on the continuance of those 
divisions and religious animosities which had hitherto 
paralysed the political energies of the nation. In all 
parts of the country the volunteer corps, guided by the 
leading gentry, and including all that was most respect- 
able and most energetic among the Protestants, hastened 
to give their adhesion to the resolutions of Dungannon. 
The grand juries in almost every county passed resolu- 
tions asserting the right of Ireland to legislative inde- 
pendence, 2 and it was evident that on this question all 
classes were substantially united. A few days after the 
Dungannon resolutions, Grattan, in a speech two hours 
long, moved in the House of Commons an address to 
the King containing a declaration of the independence 
of the Irish Legislature. His speech comprised a full 
review of the authorities in favour of the doctrine of 
the sole competency of the King, Lords, and Commons 
of Ireland to make laws binding Ireland ; he maintained 
that the doctrine of Ireland being bound by British 
Acts of Parliament was subsequent to the Restoration, 

1 Dobbs's History of Irish Af- Fall of the Irish Nation, 
fairs from Oct. 12, 1779, to Sept. 2 Private, March 26, 1782. 

15, 1792. Harrington's Rise and Carlisle to Hillsborough. 


and rested not on any basis of right but solely on pre- 
cedents such as might be adduced in England for the 
violation of the great charter, for forced loans, for ship- 
money, or for royal proclamations having the authority 
of law, and he concluded that the present moment was 
an eminently favourable one for securing the liberties 
of Ireland. It was impossible that England could 
safely refuse to the loyalty of Ireland the privilege she 
had offered to the arms of America, and he predicted, 
in a passage to which a hundred years have only given 
an additional significance, that American influence 
would long be felt in Irish politics. ' Do you see no- 
thing,' he said, 'in that America but the grave and 
prison of your armies ? And do you not see in her 
range of territory, cheapness of living, variety of climate 
and simplicity of life, the drain of Europe ? Whatever 
is bold and disconsolate ... to that point will pre- 
cipitate, and what you trample on in Europe will sting 
you in America.' ! 

' His speech,' wrote the Lord Lieutenant, ' was in- 
terwoven with expressions of loyalty to the King, and 
with sentiments of affection to and inseparable connec- 
tion with Great Britain, of a disposition to give her 
every possible assistance, yet with a determination 
never to yield to the supremacy of the British Legis- 
lature.' Brownlow seconded the address. Burgh, Flood, 
Yelverton, Forbes, Sir Lucius O'Brien, and others 
defended it. The Attorney-General, supported by 
Ponsonby, Bushe, Day, and the Provost moved the 
postponement of the question, and they carried their 
point by 137 to 68. Flood immediately said he would 
speedily renew it in another form. ' I must not omit 
to inform your lordship,' wrote Carlisle, ' that, through 
the whole course of this debate the principle of Ireland 

Grattan's Speeches, i. 117, 118. 


not being bound by acts of the British Legislature was 
most strenuously supported by every man who spoke on 
either side, even by those the most zealous in support 
of the Government, except only the Attorney-General, 
who, duly regarding his official situation, avoided de- 
claring his opinion upon the question of law, though re- 
peatedly and urgently called upon by Opposition.' ! 

The secret letters of the Lord Lieutenant at this 
crisis are so important, as showing the condition of 
opinion and the total impossibility of maintaining the 
old system of government, that it is necessary to quote 
them at some length. In a private letter of the same 
date as the last despatch, he wrote : ' The principle of 
Ireland not being bound by the laws of another Legis- 
lature is universally insisted upon with that enthusiasm 
and steady determination which leave no reason to 
imagine it will be abandoned. It has been spread with 
such industry that every rank and order in the nation 
are possessed of it, and I very much question whether 
any man of practice in the profession of the law would 
advise a client to bring his cause to issue upon the 
validity of a British Act in this kingdom, or whether a 
jury could be found to give a verdict on that founda- 
tion.' He again urgently asks that Ireland should not 
be mentioned in any British statute. * Should any 
regulations be necessary to extend to this kingdom as 
well as to Great Britain, I have not the least reason to 
doubt that the nation would immediately enact them 
by her own laws.' 2 No signs of disaffection to the 
connection appeared, and it was a significant sign of 
the wish of Parliament to act in harmony with the 
Lord Lieutenant, that it selected this period to ac- 
complish a scheme which had been suggested under 
Lord Townshend, and to purchase for him the Lodge in 

1 Feb. 23, 1782. Carlisle to * Feb. 23, 1782. (Private.) 

Hillsborough. Carlisle to Hillsborough. 


Phoenix Park as a summer residence. The most for- 
midable objection which had been brought in Ireland 
against the declaration of independence was that an 
assertion that the English Parliament had no right to 
legislate for Ireland would invalidate the titles of the 
numerous landowners who had obtained their properties 
after the great measures of confiscation, and who held 
them on the security of English Acts of Parliament. 
In order to remove this objection, which had spread 
some feeling of insecurity among Irish landlords, Yel- 
verton, in March, introduced a Bill adopting and giving 
force by Irish parliamentary authority to such English 
or British statutes as in any way affected the settle- 
ment of property in Ireland, or mutually affected and 
conferred equal benefits on the commerce and seamen 
of both kingdoms. 1 

' Mr. Grattan,' wrote Carlisle, ' from a natural en- 
thusiasm, and Mr. Flood from different motives, have 
concurred with great earnestness in bringing forward 
to public discussion every question tending to assert 
the independent right of legislation in Ireland. The 
plain line of conduct which I have endeavoured to fol- 
low has been to suffer in no case whatever the smallest 
diminution of any of the asserted rights of Great 
Britain;' but this course could not be much longer 
successfully pursued. ' The restless and reasoning dis- 
position of the volunteers of this kingdom, which un- 
doubtedly do not fall short of 30,000 men actually in 
arms, and in the practice of frequent meetings and 
distant correspondence with each other, the popular 
jealousy with which the interference of British laws 
has long been considered, the approaching meetings of 
the several corps at the opening of the spring, . . . 
the public attention raised by the late discussions in 

1 Parl. Debates, i. 327. 


Parliament, and the resentments excited by the uniform 
success of my Government, are all circumstances which 
induce me to look forward with some uneasiness. Your 
lordship cannot be ignorant that the actual exercise of 
the British Parliament of Ireland (sic) was utterly and 
totally impracticable long before I arrived in this king- 
dom. There was not a magistrate or revenue officer, 
however attached to or dependent on the British Go- 
vernment, who could venture to enforce an English law. 
The attempt would have been madness, as it was certain 
to receive a general and decided resistance. There was 
not a jury in the kingdom who would find a verdict 
under a British Act.' 

Under such circumstances, to the great regret and 
astonishment of the Lord Lieutenant, four or five Acts 
mentioning Ireland had only last session been suffered 
to pass the British Parliament. The very existence of 
permanent good government here depends upou keeping 
the supporters of ministers * in the fair opinion of their 
countrymen/ Yelverton's proposed Bill the Lord Lieu- 
tenant strongly supports. ' Mr. Yelverton stands very 
high in the opinion of the popular part of this kingdom. 
He has in several recent and essential instances shown 
a most sincere disposition to promote the loyalty and 
maintain the mutual interests of all his Majesty's domi- 
nions. It peculiarly became him to stand forth on the pre- 
sent subject, as his extensive practice at the bar had fur- 
nished him with many repeated instances of the deter- 
mination of Irish juries, as well in matters of commerce 
as of private property, to place English laws totally out 
of their consideration.' It was seconded by ' a gentle- 
man of so independent a character, and so cordially 
disposed towards Government, as Mr. Fitzgibbon.' * It 
has long been the unanimous sentiment of every mode- 
rate-minded man of the best abilities in this kingdom, 

VOL. n. u 


that the question of legislation is gradually tending to 
some very serious issue.' l 

Hillsborough answered, in evident perplexity, that 
it was now useless to give instructions for opposing 
Yelverton's Bill, but that he greatly questioned whether 
the Privy Council would return it ' without the consent 
and approbation of the Parliament of England.' The 
condition of Ireland appeared to him exceedingly alarm- 
ing, and he was especially startled by a paper which 
was circulating through the grand juries, binding them, 
in all capacities, to recognise only Irish statutes. 8 

It is perfectly idle, Carlisle somewhat impatiently 
continued, to dwell any longer on ' that bone of conten- 
tion the Declaratory Act of George I.,' asserting the 
right of the English Legislature to bind Ireland. There 
is an ' utter and universal despair among all descrip- 
tions of men of ever seeing that period when the right 
in question will ever be enforced on one hand or sub- 
mitted to on the other. The proposed Bill [of Yelver- 
ton] takes a middle and a lenient course. ... It has 
& friendly tendency and an honest meaning, . . . and 
holds out, in my poor judgment, a favourable and digni- 
fied opportunity to Great Britain at least to cut down 
this plant from which nothing wholesome will be ever 
gathered.' It is now passing through Committee, and 
' those gentlemen, and Mr. Grattan in particular, con- 
sidered the Bill to be a measure of conciliation facili- 
tating the intended declaration of independent legisla- 
tion which Mr. Grattan again gave notice should be 
moved by him immediately after the recess.' The 
conciliatory Act offered by the Government to America 
was again quoted as an example. ' Mr. Grattan said 
that the liberal allowance of new rights would for ever 
remove all rankling jealousies between the two coun- 
tries. ... I must add, that in all the debates upon this 

1 March 8, 1782. (Most secret.) March 12, 1782. HillBborough 
Jarlisle to Hillsborough. to Carlisle. (Most secret.) 


subject, there has been a general expression of the most 
cordial wishes that Ireland should be considered as in- 
separably united in interests with Great Britain, and 
that the commerce of this kingdom should at all times 
be governed by regulations similar to those of Great 

On March 14 the House adjourned for the Easter 
recess till April 16, and a few days after the adjourn- 
ment Carlisle wrote a long and very striking letter 
reviewing the whole history of his Administration. When 
he first arrived in Ireland, he says, all respect essential 
to good government was obliterated from the minds of 
the lower classes of people ; the higher ranks stood aloof 
from Administration, and such of the leading individuals 
as did not join the popular measures were in the practice 
of giving feeble and disjointed support to the Lord 
Lieutenant.' The manufacturers found themselves poor 
and helpless, and by no means the better for the trade 
laws. Grattan's declaration of independence was with 
difficulty ' postponed by assurances from the principal 
men in office, that England having desisted from the 
practice [of legislating for Ireland] it was unnecessary 
to declare against it. In this temper the session ended 
in September 1780, and the volunteer associations, which 
nearly trebled the established military force of the king- 
dom, . . . began to frame regular battalions, with 
troops of cavalry and trains of artillery.' They were 
not disloyal, but they might easily have become so ; and 
it was constantly reported that the military preparations 
were made to defend Ireland from ' foreign and domestic 
enemies,' the latter term being tacitly construed to mean 
the enemies of parliamentary independence. To add to 
the difficulty of the situation, ' within four months of 
the time of my departure, five laws passed in the Eng- 

1 March 12, 1782. (Most secret.) Carlisle to Hillsborough. 

u 2 


lish Parliament to bind Ireland. As they related to 
subjects of little importance, I presume they passed 
from mere inadvertence.' 

Carlisle had, however, taken every possible means 
to restore the action of the law. The alarm of French 
invasion enabled him to conciliate the volunteers. The 
leading people were to a great extent won over, and 
he had obtained in the present Parliament ' a system 
of support and demonstrations of regard more exten- 
sive and more steady than any Government here ever 
experienced.' Many good revenue laws were passed. 
' The trying questions respecting the Mutiny Bill, 
Poyning's law, a proposed address on the Judges' 
Bill, the treaties with Portugal, &c., were all either 
negatived or postponed,' and the unanimous vote for a 
country residence showed the personal regard of the 
Commons for the Governor. In the midst of these trans- 
actions the late Acts binding Ireland were discovered 
and brought forward. Except that relating to marines, 
all were re-enacted by the Irish Parliament. But the 
alarm went through the country ; ' the Dungannon 
meeting, which had been advertised by a small party of 
Presbyterians in the North without any decided object 
at the time, availed themselves of the occasion and 
founded their resolves upon it.' Flood and Grattan 
successively brought forward resolutions. ' The Lawyers' 
corps in Dublin were induced to adopt the Dungannon 
resolutions. . . . The popular ferment increased, and it 
was evident that combinations would soon take place to 
secure the property of Irish residents held under Eng- 
lish Acts.' If Government resisted any longer it ' would 
infallibly lose all weight in the kingdom,' and all well- 
judging men considered it a very fortunate thing that 
the question had fallen into such moderate hands as 
those of Yelverton. ' The character and weight of his 
Majesty's Government are safe, and the public peace is 


likely to be secured, if the present opening can be suc- 
cessfully used for the removal of all jealousies and ap- 
prehensions. It is beyond a doubt that the practica- 
bility of governing Ireland by English laws is become 
utterly visionary. It is with me equally beyond a doubt 
that Ireland may be well and happily governed by its 
own laws. It is, however, by no means so clear that if 
the present moment is neglected this country will not be 
driven into a state of confusion, the end of which no man 
can foresee or limit.' ' 

A week later he again wrote to Hillsborough, strongly 
urging ' the return of Mr. Yelverton's Bill without any 
material alteration.' * I even venture,' he added, * to 
submit that it may deserve the serious consideration of 
the ministers in whom his Majesty may place his con- 
fidence, whether the repeal of the 6 Geo. I. might not 
be a measure equally becoming and wise. ... If the 
measure to which I have here adverted should take 
place, the line which I am to pursue will be plain and 
obvious. If, on the contrary, it should be thought inex- 
pedient, I wish to know whether my Chief Secretary is 
expected to make any opposition to the motion which 
will be made by Mr. Grattan on April 16, declaratory 
of the independence of the Irish Parliament. I have 
in former letters observed to your lordship that my 
Government on every other point has the support of 
a most respectable and very large majority, and even 
resisted this particular question in several shapes in the 
course of the present session, but that under the uni- 
versal eagerness which has taken place through the 
kingdom to have this claim decided, I cannot expect the 
friends of Administration to sacrifice for ever their weight 
among their countrymen by a resistance which would 
possibly lead to serious consequences.' a The grand 

1 March 19, 1782. (Private.) 2 March 27, 1782. Carlisle to 

Carlisle to Hillsborough. Hillsborough. 


juries through the country were everywhere passing 
resolutions declaring the sole right of the King, Lords, 
and Commons of Ireland to pass laws for Ireland, and 
demanding the repeal of Poyning's law. ' The friends 
of Government who might be supposed to support tenets 
contrary to the principle of independent legislation 
would lose their weight in this country if that point 
should remain long undecided. The volunteer associa- 
tions (already in some places made use of in electioneer- 
ing purposes) have set the example in the county of 
Galway by withdrawing themselves from the command 
of Mr. Daly, and of other gentlemen who have shown 
themselves well-wishers of Administration. . . . It is my 
serious opinion that if the first day of the next meeting 
of Parliament does not quiet the minds of the people on 
that point, hardly a friend of Government will have any 
prospect of holding his seat for a county or popular cor- 
poration, and what is more immediately interesting, 
they will also lose their present subsisting influence 
over the armed Associations.' * 

The letters from which I have now so largely quoted 
appear to me those of an eminently honest and well- 
meaning man, and of a man who had a very considerable 
insight into the true conditions of Irish politics. Per- 
sonally, Lord Carlisle seems to have been much respected, 
and I cannot attribute the large amount of support his 
Government obtained in Parliament, solely or even 
mainly to corrupt motives. There are no signs in this 
Administration of the wholesale corruption which was 
practised under its predecessor, and the timidity and 
procrastination, the strange contrasts between speeches 
and votes that may be found in the majority, were pro- 
bably largely due to the fact that many who wished to 
see legislative independence in Ireland were still more 

1 Carlisle to Hillsborongh, March 28, 1782. 


anxious that it should be effected by the initiative of the 
Government, without weakening the Executive or dis- 
turbing the good relations between the two countries. 

The popular movement which was pressing on irre- 
sistibly to a triumphant issue we have hitherto looked 
upon chiefly as it is revealed in the despatches of the 
Government, and it is obvious that such a medium is an 
exceedingly unfavourable one. Every administrator has 
inevitably a certain bias against the opponents of his 
policy, and in describing them he is tolerably sure to 
underrate either their honesty, their ability, or their 
power. Yet even looked at through this disadvanta- 
geous medium the national movement in Ireland will, 
I think, appear worthy of a very high degree of admira- 
tion. Some slight traces of personal ambition and a 
good deal of boastfulness and extravagance of language 
may no doubt be descried, but on the whole few great 
movements of prolonged popular excitement have been 
conducted with so much sagacity and self-restraint, and 
have been disfigured by so little violence or corruption 
or crime. Charlemont and Grattan, in the purity of 
their motives and in the high quality of their patriotism, 
were not inferior to Hampden or Washington. The 
great unpaid armed force which the necessities of the 
country had evoked, self-constituted, self-governed, 
and for the most part self-armed, was guilty of abso- 
lutely no acts of violence, while it was discharging 
functions of the highest utility. It had made the 
country thoroughly defensible and had probably saved 
it from invasion. It had attained a degree of discipline, 
which though no doubt inferior to that of a regular 
army, made it for defensive purposes exceedingly for- 
midable. It was everywhere employed in necessary 
police functions, guarding gaols, escorting prisoners, 
keeping order at public meetings, securing property. 
It had chosen and steadily maintained at its head men 


who in character and property were among the fore- 
most in the country, and for a long space of time its 
different corps had acted together with a remarkable 
harmony. With the exception of a single riot in 
Dublin, we have found no trace of that ill usage of 
unpopular politicians which was so conspicuous in 
the corresponding movement in America, while under 
the influence of the national spirit animosities of the 
most dangerous and inveterate character were rapidly 
fading. The hostility of the Anglican to the Pres- 
byterian seemed to have wholly ceased; the division 
between the Protestant and Catholic had greatly 
diminished. Hitherto the two great ends of the Irish 
patriots had been steadily maintained and cordially 
combined. They were resolved to obtain for their 
country the constitutional freedom which England had 
secured by the Revolution of 1688, and they were no 
less firmly resolved to preserve a sincere, strenuous, and 
fruitful loyalty to the Crown and to the connection. 

The establishment of legislative independence had 
become inevitable from the simple impossibility of 
.governing Ireland on any other condition. The over- 
whelming majority of the classes in whose hands the 
administration of the country practically lay, were 
determined to obtain it, and no Government could have 
long delayed it; but the merit or the humiliation of 
conceding it was not reserved for the Administration of 
Lord Carlisle. Before the Irish Parliament met after 
the Easter recess the Government of Lord North had 
fallen. The disasters in America had struck a death- 
blow to its popularity; in division after division its 
supporters steadily diminished, and on the 20th of 
March Lord North announced that the ministry only 
held office till their successors were appointed. Rock- 
ingham became First Lord of the Treasury, Fox and 
Shelburne were Secretaries of State. Lord Carlisle 


was removed with circumstances of great abruptness 
and discourtesy from the government of Ireland ; the 
Duke of Portland was appointed in his place, and Mr. 
Fitzpatrick accompanied him as Chief Secretary. 

The men who now rose to power had long advocated 
the claims of America on those Whig principles which 
were the basis of the claims of Ireland to self-legislation. 
Rockingham and Fox, as well as Burke, were intimate 
friends of Charlemont, the leader of the volunteers. 
On April 8 the English Parliament met, and on that 
very day an attempt was made from an unexpected 
quarter to force the hand of the Government on the 
question of Ireland. Lord Carmarthen had been re- 
moved by the late Administration from the Lieutenancy 
of the East Biding of Yorkshire, and Lord Carlisle had 
been appointed in his place. One of the first acts of 
the new Government was to remove Carlisle and re- 
place Carmarthen. Eden had just come to England 
with the resignation of the Viceroy, and he resented 
bitterly, and resolved to revenge, the manner in which 
his chief was treated. He refused positively to hold 
any communication with the new Government, and 
availing himself of the seat which he still held in the 
English House of Commons, he appeared there on the 
first day of its assembly, and after a vehement speech 
in which he described the overwhelming power of the 
volunteers, the unanimity of Irish opinion, and the 
impossiblity of withholding independence, he gave 
notice of his intention to move a repeal of the Declara- 
tory Act of George I. Such a notice, emanating at 
such a time from a late Chief Secretary who had been 
officially employed in resisting the motions for inde- 
pendence, was extremely embarrassing to the Govern- 
ment, and Fox in a very powerful speech rebuked the 
attempt to hurry the ministry into a premature dis- 
closure of their designs. Next day a Royal message 


was sent to both Houses deploring the discontent pre- 
vailing in Ireland, and calling on Parliament to take 
it into consideration, ' in order to such a final adjust- 
ment as may give mutual satisfaction to both kingdoms.' 

In Ireland a special summons in a very unusual 
form had been already issued by the Speaker at the 
direction of the House, ordering the members to attend 
on April 16, the day following the Easter recess, ' as 
they tender the rights of the Irish Parliament.' As 
the Duke of Portland and Mr. Fitzpatrick only arrived 
in Ireland on the 14th, great efforts were made to pro- 
cure an adjournment for a fortnight or three weeks, in 
order to enable them to master the situation of the 
country before Parliament had taken any decisive line, 
and both Fox and Rockingham wrote strongly to 
Charlemont in this sense. Grattan was still very ill, 
having lately undergone a painful surgical operation, 
but he refused to allow any adjournment, declaring 
that the expectations of the country had been raised to 
the highest point by the very unusual call of the House, 
that the proposed measures were now public property, 
and that whatever course Government chose to take, 
Parliament owed it to itself and to the country to lose 
no time in asserting the claims of Ireland. 1 Both 
Charlemont and Grattan agreed in this course, and they 
both refused the offers of the Government to take office. 

Their course was probably a prudent one, for it 
is quite evident from the confidential letters of the 
Duke of Portland that he was anxious to yield as little 
as possible, and it is probable that a delay would have 
created widespread suspicion, and have led to much 
manoeuvring hostile to the popular party. Dublin was 
full of volunteers who had come up for an approaching 
review, and on the 16th they paraded the streets and 

1 Grattan's Life, ii. 213-227. 


lined the path through which Grattan passed to move 
the legislative independence of Ireland. The nation 
was wound up to the highest pitch of excitement. 
Many thousands of spectators filled the streets, but 
there was no tumult or disorder. The spacious galleries 
of the House were crowded with all that was most 
brilliant and weighty in Dublin society, and in the 
body of the House scarcely a seat was vacant. Port- 
land had refused to adopt the declaration of independ- 
ence, or to commit himself to any definite line of policy, 
but a message from him was read to the House by 
Hely Hutchinson, now Secretary of State, to the effect 
that 'His Majesty, being concerned to find that dis- 
contents and jealousies were prevailing among his loyal 
subjects in Ireland upon matters of great weight and 
importance, recommended to the House to take the 
same into their most serious consideration, in order to 
effect such a final adjustment as might give mutual 
satisfaction to his kingdoms of Great Britain and Ire- 
land.' Hutchinson accompanied the message with a 
few words in which, while disclaiming all authority 
from the Lord Lieutenant, he expressed his personal 
sympathy with the popular cause. A formal reply, 
thanking the King for his goodness and condescension, 
and assuring him that the Commons would act on his 
recommendation, was moved by George Ponsonby, and 
it was then that, after a short pause, Grattan rose to 
move as an amendment a declaration of rights and 

He was still pale and weak from recent illness, and 
his appearance denoted the evident anxiety of his mind, 
but as he proceeded his voice gathered strength, and 
the fire of a great orator acting on a highly excited and 
sympathetic audience, soon produced even more than 
its wonted effects. The strange swaying gestures, 
which were habitual to him, were compared by one 


observer to the action of the mower as his scythe sweeps 
through the long grass, and by another to the rolling 
of a ship in a heavy swell ; but he possessed beyond 
all other orators the peculiar gift of illuminating a sub- 
ject with an almost lightning-like intensity, and his 
speeches, with much that is exaggerated and over- 
strained, contain some of the finest examples in the 
English language of great energy and vividness, and 
condensed felicity of expression. On the present occa- 
sion he knew that the Parliament was with him, and 
he treated the victory as already won. He described 
in a few picturesque words the progress of the nation 
' from injuries to arms, and from arms to liberty/ till 
' the whole faculty of the nation was braced up to the 
act of her own deliverance,' and the spirit of Swift and 
of Molyneux had prevailed; and then, after a very 
exaggerated but perhaps not impolitic eulogy of the 
Parliament and public of Ireland, he touched with 
much discrimination on the services of the volunteers 
to the cause he was defending. ' It was not the sword 
of the volunteer, nor his muster, nor his spirit, nor his 
promptitude to put down accidental disturbance or 
public disorder, nor his own unblamed and distinguished 
deportment. This was much, but there was more than 
this. The upper orders, the property, and the abilities 
of the country formed with the volunteer, and the 
volunteer had sense enough to obey them. This united 
the Protestant with the Catholic, and the landed pro- 
prietor with the people. There was still more than 
this. There was a continence which confined the corps 
to limited and legitimate objects. . . . No vulgar rant 
against England, no mysterious admiration of France. 
. . . They were what they professed to be, nothing 
less than the society, asserting her liberty according to 
the frame of the British Constitution, her inheritance to 
be enjoyed in perpetual connection with the British 


Empire. . . . And now having given a Parliament to 
the people, the volunteers will, I doubt not, leave the 
people to Parliament, and thus close specifically and 
majestically a great work. . . . Their associations, like 
other institutions, will perish; they will perish with 
the occasion that gave them being, and the gratitude 
of their country will write their epitaph. . . . Con- 
nected by freedom as well as by allegiance, the two 
nations, Great Britain and Ireland, form a constitu- 
tional confederacy as well as one empire. The Crown 
is one link, the Constitution another, and in my mind 
the latter link is the most powerful. You can get a 
king anywhere, but England is the only country with 
whom you can- participate a free constitution.' 

He concluded by moving an address to the King, 
asserting that while the crown of Ireland was insepar- 
ably united to that of England, Ireland was by right a 
distinct kingdom, that her King, Lords, and Commons, 
and these alone, had a right to bind her, and that the 
discontents and jealousies of the nation were chiefly due 
to three great infringements of her freedom. These 
were the claims advanced by the British Parliament in 
the Act of George I. to legislate for Ireland and exer- 
cise a right of final judicature ; the power exercised 
under Poyning's law by the Privy Council to suppress or 
alter Irish Bills, and the perpetual Mutiny Act, which 
placed the Irish army beyond the control of the Irish 
Parliament. The address concluded with reminding 
his Majesty that 'the people of this kingdom have 
never expressed a desire to share the freedom of Eng- 
land without declaring a determination to share her fate 
likewise, standing or falling with the British nation.' ' 

The address was seconded by Brownlow, and it passed 
unanimously. A few days later the House adjourned to 

1 Grattan's Speechet, i. 123-130. Commons' Journals, xx. 352, 


the 4th, and then to the 27th of May, to await the King's 
reply to their addresses. Meanwhile the volunteer corps 
all over Ireland were sending up resolutions thanking 
Grattan and the Parliament for their declaration, and 
pledging themselves to support the demands it con- 
tained with their 'lives and fortunes/ and the grand 
juries in many counties took a similar step. 

To understand the true feelings of the Government 
we must pass once more into the Viceregal Cabinet, and 
examine the letters in which Portland confidentially re- 
ported to the ministers the state of the country. Im- 
mediately after his arrival we find him complaining to 
Shelburne that ' heats and passions ' ' have taken a much 
stronger and fuller possession of the people here than 
your lordship or any person on the other side of the water 
can possibly be aware of,' deploring ' the absolute sub- 
mission which is paid to the volunteers by every rank and 
order of men,' and to Grattan as their mouthpiece, and 
concluding that nothing will restore quiet to the country 
short of a modification of Poyning's law, and ' such a re- 
laxation of the 6 Geo. I. respecting the legislation, which 
is the great object upon which the expectations of the 
whole country are fixed, as may render it independent 
of the Legislature of Great Britain with respect to the 
interior government of this country, and the alteration 
of the present Mutiny Act.' l f Although the question 
of independent legislation had been four times agitated 
in the space of the last two years, only one man among 
all the servants of the Crown and the numerous and 
zealous friends of Government was bold enough to 
resist the doctrine of right. All the others that com- 
posed that corps fled from the question, and skulked 
either under the improbability of Great Britain attempt- 
ing it, or the impossibility of her exercising: it.' a 

Portland to Shelburne, April 16, 1782. * Ibid. April 24, 1782. 


Portland was much struck and mortified by observing 
how little the Irish Parliament moved in the lines of Eng- 
Ksh parties, how little its members attributed any con- 
cessions to the change of ministry, and how sincere a re- 
spect they entertained for Lord Carlisle. Grattan, indeed, 
identified himself to a great degree, and Charlemont to 
a still greater, with the Whig party, but in general the 
change of Government was not deemed, from an Irish 
point of view, a matter of any material moment. Par- 
liament passed a warm vote of thanks to Lord Carlisle 
for his conduct when administering Ireland, and it was 
commonly believed that it was the intention of the late 
ministry ' to renounce the right, and that they only 
waited till matters were ripe.' ' You are not,' Portland 
said, ' considered here better friends to the Constitution 
. . . than your predecessors.' It is the almost universal 
foible of Irish members to speak of ' the uniform sup- 
port ' they have ' given to English Government.' * By 
this sort of conduct the distinction between administra- 
tion and government is so totally lost that it can hardly 
be said to exist . . . Gentlemen being strongly im- 
pressed with the justice of their claims and satisfied of 
the pretended disposition of the last Administration, 
have construed the assurances I was empowered to give 
them of the good wishes of the present ministers not as 
the consequence of a revolution in their favour, but as 
the execution of the plan which they had forced their 
preceding Governor to adopt.' ' I have had the mortifi- 
cation of observing the public expectation of carrying 
all the points stated in the addresses of the two Houses 
acquires daily strength, insomuch that I can give little 
or no hope of their receding upon any one of them.' 
'There is not a difference of opinion respecting the 
universality of the expectations. ... It is no longer 
the Parliament of Ireland that is to be managed or at- 
tended to. It is the whole of this country. It is the 


Church, the law, the army, I fear, when I consider how 
it is composed, the merchant, the tradesman, the manu- 
facturer, the farmer, the labourer, the Catholic, the Dis- 
senter, the Protestant, all sects, all sorts and descriptions 
of men, who, I think, mistakenly upon some points, but 
still unanimously and most audibly, call upon Great 
Britain for a full and unequivocal satisfaction.' The 
rumours of an approaching peace are ' a matter of per- 
fect indifference to them with regard to the subject 
matter of their demands. They know and feel their 
strength, and are equally sensible of your situation and 
resources. They are not so ignorant of the effects of a 
peace as not to be convinced that if you had the good 
fortune to conclude one to-morrow, it would not be in 
your power to send over such a force as would compel 
them to relinquish their claims, and having so recent an 
example of the fatal consequences of coercive measures 
before you, they are in no fear that Great Britain will 
attempt a second experiment of the same sort. But to 
do them the justice they deserve, I think I may assert 
that they have still so much confidence in the magna- 
nimity, generosity, and wisdom of the English nation 
as to believe that the redress they ask depends not upon 
any foreign or domestic occurrence. ... I under- 
took this important and arduous employment with 
hopes which I had soon the mortification to be 
obliged to relinquish.' If the Irish demands were 
now refused, 'there would be an end of all govern- 
ment.' I 

A few days later, Portland expressed his hope that 
if the material points in the addresses were conceded, 
' the royal favours may be dispensed in this kingdom 
with a more sparing and economical hand ; ' that ' the 
honour of serving the Crown may take precedence of 

1 April 24, 1782. Portland to Sbelburne. 

tin. IT. PROPOSED NEGOfiAf lOtf. 305 

the endowments to which I fear the attention of* the 
King's servants in this kingdom has been of late too 
much fixed ; ' and he added his conviction that the Irish 
people ' will, if properly directed, return the generosity 
of his Majesty and the Parliament of Great Britain ten- 
fold into the bosom of their friends and protectors.' l 
He made no secret to the Government of his extreme 
dislike to the Constitution he recommended. ' Though 
I feel the strongest and most poignant reluctance 
in being obliged to recommend the mode of relation 
which I have taken the liberty to suggest, I see no 
other resource, for I am convinced that the spirit of 
this country is raised so high that she would expose 
herself to any hazard rather than relinquish or retract 
any of the claims she has insisted on through her Par- 
liament ; ' 2 but he fully agreed with Shelburne that a 
negotiation should be entered into with commissioners 
authorised by the Irish Parliament, to determine finally 
and definitely the exact limits of the independence, the 
superintending power of England in matters of trade, 
the consideration to be given by Ireland for protection, 
and the amount of her contribution to the general sup- 
port of the Empire. Without some such arrangement 
he even doubted whether the country would be worth 
possessing. 3 Such a distinct agreement Shelburne 
strongly maintained was necessary to put an end to all 
further disputes between the two countries, to give a 
unity to their policy, and to attach them in their new 
conditions by a firm bond of connection. 4 

Grattan, however as I conceive very unwisely 
refused to enter at this time into any such treaty. He 
urged that the Irish declaration related to matter of 

> April 27, 1782. Portland to May 6, 1782. Ibid. 

Shelburne. 4 Shelburne to Portland, May 

May 6, 1782, Ibid. 18, 1782. 



right, and would therefore be compromised if it were 
made the subject of negotiation and barter. He shared 
with most Irishmen a etrong dread lest what was given 
should be indirectly drawn back, lest the full compe- 
tence of the Irish Parliament to determine the policy 
and dispose of the resources of the country should be 
abridged, lest it should be bound by rules which placed 
it on a lower plane of authority than the Parliament in 
England. ' We cannot,' he said, ' establish perpetual 
regulations more favourable to England than to Ireland 
with regard to commerce, a fluctuating subject which 
cannot be ruled but by occasional laws/ He spoke of 
' the alienated sentiment which a negative, or a nego- 
tiation founded on an ultimatum would inspire ; ' of the 
inevitable tendency of a negotiation at this moment to 
throw the nation into a defensive attitude, to prolong a 
crisis which it was necessary for the peace of both coun- 
tries to terminate as quickly as possible, to arouse sus- 
picions and to impair gratitude. For the present, at 
least, he chose that the bond between England and Ire- 
land should be in law of no other kind than that which 
in our own day binds England to Canada or her Aus- 
tralian colonies, and that the support Ireland gave to 
England in war should be a free and an unstipulated 
act. 1 

It was plain that whatever negotiations were made 
they must be subsequent to a surrender by England of 
the chief points at issue. We have committed ourselves, 
Grattan wrote to Fox, only to measures which are in- 
dispensable to our freedom, and which you have thought 
indispensable to yours. ' The powers, legislative and 
jurisdictive,' claimed by England, ' are become imprac- 
ticable. We have rendered them so ourselves, and all 
we ask of England is that she will withdraw a barren 

1 See his letter to Day (April 22), Grattan 's Life, ii. 249-252. 


claim, that we may shake hands with her.' * ' If you 
delay, or refuse to be liberal,' wrote the Duke of Port- 
land, ' Government cannot exist here in its present form, 
and the sooner you recall your Lieutenant and renounce 
all claim to this country the better. But, on the con- 
trary, if you can bring your minds to concede largely 
and handsomely, I am persuaded that you may make 
any use of this people, and of everything that they are 
worth, that you can wish.' 2 

In accordance with this opinion resolutions were 
brought forward on May 17, in the British House of 
Lords by Shelburne, and in the British House of Com- 
mons by Fox, for the purpose of giving satisfaction to 
Ireland. The first resolution announced the opinion of 
the House that the Declaratory Act of George I. should 
be repealed. The second stated that ' it was indispen- 
sable to the interest and happiness of both kingdoms 
that the connection between them should be established 
by mutual consent upon a solid and permanent footing, 
and that an humble address should be presented to his 
Majesty that his Majesty will be graciously pleased to 
take such measures as his Majesty in his royal wisdom 
should think most conducive to that important end.' 
Lord Carlisle was one of the first to express his warm 
approval of these resolutions, and he bore ample testi- 
mony to the zeal and loyalty of the Irish, and to the 
services of the volunteers during his administration. In 
the Commons, Fox enumerated the different demands of 
the Irish, and announced the resolution of the Govern- 
ment to concede them absolutely and unconditionally. 
They were determined to repeal the Declaratory Act of 
George I., to abandon the appellate jurisdiction of the 
English House of Lords, to consent to such a modifi- 
cation of Poyning's law as would annihilate the excep- 

1 Grattan's Life, ii. 243-250. 

Ibid. pp. 274, 275. (Private and confidential ) 

x 2 


tional powers of the two Privy Councils, and to limit 
the Mutiny Act. He would ' meet Ireland on her own 
terms and give her everything she wanted in the way 
she herself seemed to wish for it.' At the same time 
he intimated that a formal treaty should be made be- 
tween England and Ireland c establishing on a firm and 
solid basis the future connection of the two kingdoms.' 
At present, however, he proposed no such treaty, and 
contented himself with suggesting that commissioners 
might at some future time be appointed to negotiate it. 
Of the volunteers he spoke with warm eulogy. ' They 
had acted with temper and moderation notwithstanding 
their steadiness, and . . . had not done a single act 
for which they had not his veneration and respect.' 
' The intestine divisions of Ireland,' he added, ' are no 
more ; the religious prejudices of the age are forgotten, 
and the Roman Catholics, being restored to the rights 
of men and citizens, would become an accession of 
strength and wealth to the Empire at large, instead of 
being a burthen to the land that bore them.' 1 

It is a striking proof both of the necessity of these 
concessions and of the grace and dignity with which 
that necessity was accepted, that the two resolutions I 
have cited passed unanimously through the House of 
Commons, and with the single negative of Lord Lough- 
borough, through the House of Lords. 

The promises of Fox were fully kept ; a Bill repeal- 
ing the 6 Geo. I. was at once introduced, and in due 
course carried through the English Parliament, and 
when the Irish Parliament met on May 27, 1782, the 
Duke of Portland was instructed to announce to it that 
the King was prepared to give his unconditional assent 
* to Acts to prevent the suppression of Bills in the Privy 
Council of this kingdom, and the alteration of them 

1 Parl. Hist, xxiii. 17-48. 


anywhere,' and to limit the duration of the Mutiny Act 
to two years. Grattan, immediately after the Speech 
from the Throne was read, rose to move an address of 
thanks and to express in the strongest terms his full 
satisfaction with what was done. ' I understand,' he 
said, ' that Great Britain gives up in toto every claim 
to authority over Ireland. I have not the least idea 
that in repealing the 6 Geo. I. Great Britain should be 
bound to make any declaration that she had formerly 
usurped a power. This would be a foolish caution, a 
dishonourable condition, and the nation that insists 
upon the humiliation of another is a foolish nation. . . . 
Another point^ of great magnanimity in the conduct of 
Britain is that everything is given up unconditionally. 
This must for ever remove suspicion. . . . The whole 
tenour of the conduct of the British Minister towards 
us has been most generous and sincere.' l The address 
stated the full satisfaction of Parliament, and contained 
words which afterwards occasioned much discussion. 
' We do assure his Majesty that no constitutional ques- 
tion between the two nations will any longer exist which 
can interrupt this harmony, and that Great Britain, as 
she has approved of our firmness, so may she rely on 
our affection.' The first clause of this paragraph did not 
pass without some adverse comment, but two members 
only voted against it. 2 

The remaining proceedings of the Irish Parliament 
during this memorable Administration, though very 
important, may be briefly told. It in the first place 

1 Grattan's Speeches, i. 132- tional question between the two 

134. countries will any longer exist, 

* It is plain that the phrase that can interrupt their harmony, 
was not resented by the Govern- and that Great Britain may rely 
merit, for in the answer of the on their affections, are very pleas- 
King to the address, he said : ing to his Majesty.' Commons' 
' The declarations of the House Journals, xx. 404. 
of Commons that no constitu- 


evinced its gratitude to Almighty God by a day of 
thanksgiving ' for the many blessings of late bestowed 
on this kingdom, and particularly for that union, har- 
mony, and cordial affection happily subsisting between 
the two kingdoms,' and also its gratitude to England 
by voting 100,OOOZ. towards furnishing 20,000 addi- 
tional sailors for the British navy. Grattan himself, 
who was, as he said, ' desirous above all things next to 
the liberty of the country, not to accustom the Irish 
mind, to an alien or suspicious habit with regard to 
Great Britain,' ' moved the latter resolution, and the 
volunteers pledged themselves in their different coun- 
ties to employ their influence in raising the recruits. 

Shelburne warmly acknowledged this timely assist- 
ance, 8 but he desired something more. He had never cor- 
dially acquiesced in the pledge which England had given 
under Lord Townchend, that 12,000 of the troops on the 
Irish establishment should be always kept in Ireland for 
its defence, except in case of actual invasion or rebellion 
in England, and he now sounded Portland as to the pos- 
sibility of modifying or cancelling the engagement. 3 
There was no information, he said, of any intended at- 
tack on Ireland, but there was great fear of a sudden 
attack on the English seaports while the fleet continued 
inferior to that of the enemy, and in this case there 
were neither troops nor fortifications in England suffi- 

1 Grattan'g Life, ii. 251, 252. and could not fail to prove of the 
1 'Words could scarcely do most essential service to Great 
justice to the grateful sense of Britain. This, therefore, proved 
Ireland on the occasion. . . . that Ireland was satisfied ; in- 
He believed he might assure the deed it was agreed in that king- 
House that Ireland had resolved dom thai there now remained no 
on a very extraordinary proof of other constitutional point to be 
its gratitude, no less than giving settled between the two conn- 
20,000 seamen to the British tries.' Parl. Hist, xxiii. 94. 
navy. Such a gift as that was a * June 8, 1782. (Secret.) Shel- 
solid, substantial, and real ad- burne to Portland, 
vantage. It would tell abroad, 


cient for its defence. It was greatly to be wished that 
England could avail herself of some of the regular forces 
now in Ireland if means could be discovered ' for getting 
over any difficulty arising from the engagements for- 
merly entered into, which, however unadvisable and 
unwarrantable at the time, require to be attended to.' 

The Irish Parliament at once acceded to the wishes of 
the minister, and authorised the King at any time be- 
fore December 25, 1783, to withdraw from Ireland an 
additional force of 5,000 men. 1 The measure was far 
from pleasing to Portland, for it threw the country 
almost wholly into the hands of the volunteers, and 
Portland, though he was carrying out a popular policy, 
looked upon that force with much more jealousy and 
dislike than his predecessor. He represented to the 
Government that if 5,000 troops were withdrawn there 
would not be sufficient in Ireland for the country guards ; 
that 'although the volunteers had uniformly and very 
much to their credit been ready to co-operate with the 
civil magistrate in enforcing obedience to the laws,' he 
' had great reason to doubt of the same disposition being 
shown in support of the revenue officers; ' that they had 
so little camp equipage that few in case of invasion 
could be employed at distances from their neighbour- 
hoods ; that they were not likely to take commissions 
under the Crown, or to place themselves under the 
Articles of War ; that they were chiefly concentrated 
in Ulster, and that Munster was the province most 
liable to invasion. 2 Ultimately, however, 3,245 troops 
out of the 5,000 were sent to England. 3 

Another class of measures which were now brought 
to a completion dealt with the disabilities that divided 
different sections of Irishmen. The penal laws against 
the Catholics had been a great subject of discussion 

1 21 & 22 George III. c. 58. Townshend. 

July 18, 1782. Portland to 3 July 31, 1782. Ibid. 


during the Administration of Carlisle, but it was only 
in the succeeding Administration that the contem- 
plated measures were finally carried. There was a 
general agreement in Parliament that the policy of re- 
conciliation which had inspired the Relief Bill of 1778 
should be extended, but there was much difference 
as to the degree, and there was a strong, and at this 
time successful opposition, supported by Flood in the 
Commons and by the bishops in the Lords, to giving 
Catholics any measure of political power. The penal 
laws formed so large and complicated a system that 
Gardiner thought it advisable to divide his propositions 
into three Bills. The first, which was called ' An Act 
for the further relief of his Majesty's subjects professing 
the Popish religion,' ! applied to all Catholics who had 
taken the oath of allegiance and the declaration enacted 
under Lord Harcourt. It enabled them to purchase 
and bequeath land like Protestants, provided it was not 
in a parliamentary borough. It abolished a number of 
obsolete laws making it penal for Catholic bishops or 
regulars to subsist in the country, subjecting priests to 
the necessity of registration, enabling any two justices 
of the peace to oblige Catholics to declare on oath where 
they last heard mass, and forbidding Catholics to live 
in Limerick or Galway. These concessions, however, 
were encumbered with some slight restrictions, and the 
Act expressly reaffirmed the provisions against prosely- 
tism, against perversion to Catholicism, against Catho- 
lics assuming ecclesiastical titles or rank, or wearing 
vestments outside the precincts of their chapels, against 
chapels having steeples or bells, and against priests 
officiating anywhere except in their accustomed places 
of worship. Some grossly oppressive enactments which 
still in force were at the same time repealed. A 

1 31 & 22 George HI. c. 24. 


Protestant could no longer appropriate the horse of his 
Catholic neighbour if he tendered him 5L Horses of 
Catholics could no longer be seized at every alarm of 
invasion. Catholics were no longer obliged to provide 
Protestant watchmen at their own expense, or to re- 
imburse the damage done by the privateers of an enemy. 
By a second Bill * they were allowed to become school- 
masters, ushers, and private tutors, provided they took 
the oath of allegiance, subscribed the declaration, re- 
ceived a licence from the ordinary, and took no Pro- 
testant pupils. A Popish university or college, or 
endowed school, was still forbidden in Ireland, but 
Catholic laymen were now permitted to be guardians to 
Catholic children. 

These two measures became law, but a third, in- 
tended to legalise intermarriages between Protestants 
and Catholics, was ultimately defeated. The Adminis- 
trations of Carlisle and Portland refused to adopt the 
Catholic Bills, but they were on the whole very favour- 
able to them, and Grattan and some of the more con- 
spicuous members of his party would have carried them 
much further. 'The question is now,' Grattan said, 
' whether we shall be a Protestant settlement or an Irish 
nation, . . . for so long as we exclude Catholics from 
natural liberty and the common rights of man we are 
not a people. ... As the mover of the Declaration 
of Rights, I should be ashamed of giving freedom to 
but 600,000 of my fellow-countrymen, when I could 
extend it to two millions more.' Experience has not 
verified Grattan's anticipations of the results that would 
follow from bringing Catholics within the pale of the 
Constitution, but those anticipations appeared extremely 
probable in the state of religious thought prevailing 
before the great convulsions of the French Revolution. 

& 22 George III. c. 62. 


' The indulgence,' he said, ' we wish to give to Catholics 
can never be injurious to the Protestant religion. That 
religion is the religion of the State, and will become 
the religion of Catholics if severity does not prevent 
them. Bigotry may survive persecution, but it can 
never survive toleration. Gentlemen who speak of the 
enormities committed by Catholics ... do not take 
into account the enlightening and softening of men's 
minds by toleration ; nor do they consider that as they 
increase in wealth they will increase in learning and 
politeness.' 1 The opposition to carrying measures in 
favour of the Catholics further than Gardiner's Bills 
was exceedingly powerful, for it comprised nearly all 
the bishops, some of the principal borough owners, and 
also Charlemont and Flood. There was a general feel- 
ing that the repeal of the penal laws should be effected 
by degrees, and the Relief Bills of 1778 and of 1782 
did undoubtedly mark two great stages in the direction 
both of religious toleration and of national unity. 

In the same session the last serious grievance of the 
Protestant Dissenters was removed. They had already 
been freed from the vexatious prosecutions and penal- 
ties to which they had been liable on account of the 
marriages celebrated in their meeting-houses by their 
ministers, but the legal validity of those marriages was 
very doubtful. A short Act was now passed to set 
those doubts at rest, and to give Protestant dissenting 
ministers, as far as their co-religionists were concerned, 
the same right of celebrating valid marriages as Angli- 
can clergymen. 2 It is worthy of notice that it was only 

1 Parl. Debates, i. 257-259. reformation ; and both divisions 

So in a speech on tithes a few of Christianity, unless they have 

years later, he said : ' What lost their understanding, must 

Luther did for us philosophy have lost their animosity though 

has done in some degree for the they have retained their distino- 

Roman Catholics, and their re- tions.' 
ligion has undergone a silent 2 21 & 22 George III. c. 25. 


in 1836 that the Imperial Parliament, under the in- 
fluence of Lord John Russell, granted a similar boon to 
the Dissenters in England. 

Acts were at the same time passed repealing the 
gieater part of Poyning's law, confirming a large number 
of British statutes relating to Ireland, limiting the 
Mutiny Act, and establishing the right of final judica- 
ture in Ireland, and the independence of the Irish 
judges. 1 One other measure also was taken of a different 
kind. The man who during the last anxious years had 
stood forth from his countrymen beyond all rivalry and 
all comparison was Henry Grattan. His splendid 
eloquence, the perfect confidence which was felt in his 
honour and in his disinterestedness, the signal skill, 
energy, and moderation with which he had at once 
animated and controlled the patriotic party, were uni- 
versally acknowledged, and at this time, almost univer- 
sally admired. He had shown that it was possible to 
combine very ardent attachment to Irish interests with 
a not less loyal devotion to the connection, and to con- 
duct a great popular movement without any of the 
violence, the dishonesty, or the untruthfulness of a 
demagogue or an agitator. One of the most incon- 
testable signs of the profound degradation of modern 
political opinion in Ireland is the class of men who 
have risen to be popular idols. One of the best signs 
of the Ireland of 1782 was the ardour with which 
popular gratitude still centred upon Grattan. The son 
of the Recorder of Dublin, he was a man of good family, 
but of very modest patrimonial estate, and as he had 
refused the offers of the Government, and had announced 
his intention to accept no office carrying emoluments, 
he was quite prepared to resume his profession as a 

1 21 & 22 George III. c. 43, 47, 48, 49, 50. 


barrister; but Parliament, expressing in this respect 
most faithfully the general sentiment of the country, 
determined to bestow on him such a gift as would at 
once mark the gratitude of the nation for his services 
and enable him to devote his undivided energies to 
political life. Without the consent or knowledge of the 
intimate personal friends of Grattan, Bagenal, one of 
the members for the county of Carlo w, moved that a 
grant of 100,OOOZ. should be made to Grattan, and the 
proposition was unanimously accepted ; but Grattan's 
particular friends at his instance interposed, and de- 
clared that nothing would induce him to accept such a 
grant. At last, however, after some discussion, and 
acting on the advice of his friends, and upon the urgent 
wish of the Parliament, he agreed to accept 50,000?., 
and from this time he gave up all thought of prac- 
tising at the bar, and devoted himself exclusively to the 
service of his country. 1 Government would gladly have 
attached him to themselves by rewarding him from the 
pension list, and Portland even offered to confer upon 
him the new Viceregal Lodge in Phoenix Park, but he 
soon found that these offers were wholly unacceptable. 8 

1 ' Nothing could have pre- Nation, c. xi. Grattan's Life 

vented the vote in favour of Mr. ii. 304, 305. 
Grattan amounting to as large a '-' The merits of this offer are 

sum, or possibly exceeding that somewhat diminished by the fol- 

given towards raising seamen, lowing paragraph relating to it 

but the interposition and firm- in Portland's confidential corre- 

ness of Mr. Grattan's own par- spondence with Shelburne : 'For 

ticular friends, who assured the this I was the more anxious, as 

House that Mr. Grattan himself in addition to the very extrava- 

would be very unwilling to ac- gant price the public has agreed 

cept anything, and would cer- to pay for it, I am persuaded 

tainly refuse so glaring a mark that it will require at least 

of profusion.' June 5, 1782. 10,OOOZ. to make it fit for tha 

(Private.) Portland to Shelburne. reception of any chief governor.' 

See, too, on this grant, Barring- Portland to Shelburne, June 

ton's Rise and Fall of the Irish 5, 1782. 

CH. iv. IRELAND IN 1782. 31? 

In this manner, without the effusion of one drop of 
blood, and with singularly little of violence and dis- 
order, the whole Constitution of Ireland was changed, 
and a great revolution was accomplished, which Burke 
described without exaggeration as the Irish analogue of 
the English Revolution of 1688. Abuses, perplexities, 
and dangers no doubt lay thickly around the infant 
Constitution. The extreme difficulty of making it work 
in harmony with the Parliament of England ; the ex- 
cessive concentration of political power in a very few 
hands ; religious and historical antipathies, great igno- 
rance and great poverty, the exclusion of more than 
three-fourths of the population from all political rights, 
scandalous abuses of patronage, and many forms both 
of corruption and of anarchy, still continued. Yet when 
all this is admitted, a noble work had been nobly 
achieved. Ireland from the slave of England had now 
risen to the dignity of independence. She participated 
at last in all that was best in the English Constitution. 
Her religious animosities were rapidly fading beneath 
the strong national sentiment which had arisen, assisted 
by the intellectual tendencies of an eminently tolerant 
age. She had regained her freedom both of commerce 
and manufacture, and might reasonably hope with re- 
turning peace to attain some measure of material pro- 
sperity. After a long winter of oppression and misery, 
the sunlight of hope shone brightly upon her, and a 
new spirit of patriotism and self-reliance had begun to 
animate her people. Nor had her loyalty to England 
ever shown itself more earnest or more efficacious. The 
intellect, the property, the respectability of the country 
still led the popular movement, and as long as this 
continued no serious disloyalty was to be apprehended. 
A remarkable letter written at this time by Burke to 
Charlemont expressed with much vividness the prevail- 
ing sentiments of the best Irishmen. ' I assure you/ 


he said, ' that I take a sincere part in the general joy, 
and hope that mutual affection will do more for mutual 
help and mutual advantage between the two kingdoms 
than any ties of artificial connection. ... I am con- 
vinced that no reluctant tie can be a strong one, and 
that a natural cheerful alliance will be a far securer 
link of connection than any principle of subordination 
borne with grudging and discontent.' ! 

1 Grattan'e Life, ii. 801. 




THE victory which had been achieved by the Irish 
popular party in 1782 was a great one, but many ele- 
ments of disquietude were abroad. An agitation so 
violent, so prolonged, and so successful, could hardly be 
expected suddenly to subside, and it is a law of human 
nature, that a great transport of triumph and of grati- 
tude must be followed by some measure of reaction. 
Disappointed ambitions, chimerical hopes, turbulent 
agitators thrust into an unhealthy prominence, the 
dangerous precedent of an armed body controlling or 
overawing the deliberations of Parliament, the appetite 
for political excitement to which Irishmen have always 
been so prone, and which ever grows by indulgence, the 
very novelty and strangeness of the situation, all con- 
tributed to impart a certain feverish restlessness to the 
public mind. Unfortunately, too, one of the foremost 
of Irish politicians was profoundly discontented. Flood, 
who had been the earliest, and, for a long period, by far 
the most conspicuous advocate of the independence of 
the Irish Parliament, found himself completely eclipsed 
by a younger rival. He had lost his seat in the Privy 
Council, his dignity of Vice-Treasurer, and his salary of 
8,500Z. a year, but he had not regained his parlia- 
mentary ascendency. All the more important consti- 
tutional questions were occupied by other, and usually 
by younger, men. He was disliked by the Government 


and distrusted by the Parliament. Even his eloquence 
had lost something of its old power, and by too frequent 
speaking in opposition to the sense of the House, he 
had often alienated or irritated his hearers. 

Yelverton was made Attorney-General, and Burgh 
Prime Serjeant, but the Government had no wish to 
restore Flood to his office, though they were willing to 
replace him in the Privy Council. Their intentions, 
however, in this respect were frustrated by a curious 
blunder. One of the most remarkable facts in this 
period of Irish history is the number of false steps 
which were due, not to any miscalculations of leading 
statesmen, but simply to the carelessness of subordinate 
officials. We have already seen that the insertion of 
Ireland in four or five very insignificant British Acts, at 
a most critical moment and in defiance of the warnings 
of the Viceroy, had been one of the chief circumstances 
in creating the violent demand for independence, and 
that, in the opinion of Lord Carlisle, this insertion was 
due to pure inadvertence, official draughtsmen having 
probably copied the forms of previous Acts. 1 In 1782 
the Government at last consented, after a long struggle, 
to accept the Bill making the judges removable only by 
the address of the two Houses of Parliament in Ireland, 
and to relinquish the disputed clause making the con- 
currence of the Irish Privy Council indispensable ; but 
the Bill had scarcely been returned from England, when 
Shelburne wrote in much alarm to Portland that he had 
discovered that, ' by a mere mistake of the Council 
Office,' the very clause which was the subject-matter of 
dispute had been inserted, though ' it was not intended 
to have been adopted by the Committee of Privy 
Council,' and he begged the Lord Lieutenant to take 
such measures that no bad consequences should follow 

> Bee p. 292. 


from the error. 1 In the dealings with Flood a much 
more serious mistake was made. The Lord Lieutenant 
thought it very desirable to enter into negotiation with 
him, and he wished to be authorised in the course of 
this negotiation, if he thought it expedient, to offer 
Flood a seat in the Privy Council ; but a clerk by some 
strange mistake sent the nomination which was meant 
to be conditional, and at the option of the Lord Lieu- 
tenant, directly to the ' Gazette,' and it was from this 
source that Flood first learnt the intentions of the 
ministers. He refused to accept the position, and the 
Lord Lieutenant spoke with very justifiable irritation of 
the great injury that was done to the public service by 
the premature- disclosure. 2 Portland regarded Flood 
with much dislike. ' His ambition,' he said, ' is so im- 
measurable that no dependence can be placed upon any 
engagement he may be induced to form.' 3 

The question of the sufficiency of the measures that 
had been taken for securing the constitutional inde- 
pendence of the Irish Parliament, had been raised in a 
discussion on the clause of the Address, which stated 
that ' there will no longer exist any constitutional 
question between the two nations that can disturb their 
mutual tranquillity.' Flood described this clause as 
superfluous and possibly dangerous, but he refused to 
divide against it, and the only two members who voted 
for its omission were Sir Samuel Bradstreet the Recorder 
of Dublin, and an able lawyer named Walshe, who first 
raised in Ireland the question of the adequacy of what 
was termed ' simple repeal.' The nature of this question 
may be stated in a few words. The Irish Parliament 
in 1782 had asserted its own independence of the British 
Legislature, and the British Parliament had responded 

1 May 3, 1782. Shelburne to Portland. 
* June 8, 1782. Portland to Shelburne. 
1 August 9, 1782. Portland to Townshencl. 
?OL. JJ, Y 


by repealing the Declaratory Act of George L, which 
asserted the legislative and judicial power of Great 
Britain over Ireland. It was contended by the two 
lawyers I have mentioned, that as a matter of law this 
measure was insufficient to annul the assumed right of 
the British Parliament to legislate for Ireland. The 
Declaratory Act had not made the right, and therefore 
its repeal could not destroy it. Long before that Act 
had passed, the right of the English Parliament to legis- 
late for Ireland had been asserted by Coke and other 
great authorities had been frequently exercised and 
had been frequently acquiesced in. If it existed then, 
it existed still, and although as a matter of expediency 
the English Parliament had withdrawn its assertion, it 
was open to it at any time to renew it. No lawyer, it 
was said, would assert that the assumed right of Great 
Britain to legislate for Ireland could be taken away by 
implication. ' The repeal of a declaratory statute is not 
in construction of law a repeal or renunciation of the 
principle upon which that statute was founded.' It 
leaves the legal right exactly as /t was before the 
Declaratory Act had passed. Nothing but an Act of 
the British Parliament expressly relinquishing or dis- 
claiming the right to legislate for Ireland could be 
legally sufficient. Ireland must not rest content with 
' a constructive freedom.' She must obtain such an ex- 
plicit renunciation from Great Britain as would put an 
end to all further controversy and cavil, and become a 
perpetual charter of her freedom. The language of Fox 
in moving the repeal of the Act of George I. seemed to 
draw some distinction between external and internal 
legislation, and to foreshadow an attempt to retain some 
part of the former. 

These arguments were at first treated in the Irish 
Parliament with much contempt, and were regarded 
merely as the quibbles of lawyers, and, although Floo4 


soon after adopted them and brought them forward on 
several occasions, he found the great majority against 
him. Grattan, especially, contended that nothing could 
be more impolitic, nothing more ungrateful, nothing 
more dangerous, than to reopen a question which Par- 
liament had solemnly pronounced to be closed. The 
dealings of nations, he said, must rest upon broad 
principles of equity and not upon mere legal special 
pleading, and it was plain that England in repealing 
the Declaratory Act had taken a step which was morally 
equivalent to a renunciation. She had in the first place 
formally asserted her right to legislate for Ireland. She 
had then, in consequence of an address of the Irish 
House of Commons denying that right, and with the 
avowed object of meeting the wishes of the Irish people, 
as formally retracted and expunged her assertion, and 
she had thus in effect disavowed or resigned the right. 
No reasonable man could doubt that this was the plain 
meaning of the transaction, nor could England revive 
her claim without t).^ grossest perfidy. But if the sup- 
position of perfidy were admitted, an Act of renuncia- 
tion would be as useless as simple repeal. Nations 
cannot be bound like individuals by bonds or warrants. 
Parliament might renounce its own renunciation, and 
what one Parliament had enacted, another might repeal . 
Good faith alone could maintain the connection, and 
the good faith of England was already pledged to Irish 
independence. Ireland, it was said, might justly de- 
mand the withdrawal of a claim which was an act of 
usurpation, but with what consistency could she call 
upon England to renounce rights which she denied that 
England had ever possessed, or, while assuming to be 
an independent nation, seek the charter for her freedom 
in a foreign statute book ? The Irish Parliament had 
stated its grievances, had received redress, had acknow- 
ledged itself satisfied. A new demand could only be 



regarded as an unworthy attempt to humiliate England. 
Its only effect would be to shake the confidence of the 
people in their Constitution to prolong a period of 
very dangerous agitation ; to foster animosity and dis- 
trust between the two countries at a time when it was 
vitally important to Ireland and to the Empire that all 
such feelings should be speedily allayed. 

These views predominated in the Irish Parliament, 
and they would no doubt have predominated in the 
country had not a series of very unfortunate incidents, 
originating in England, inflamed the jealousy of the 
nation. Lord Beauchamp, the son of Lord Hertford, 
strenuously maintained both in the British Parliament 
and in a pamphlet which was widely read, that simple 
repeal was entirely insufficient, unless it was accom- 
panied by a formal renunciation. 1 Lord Abingdon a 
not very conspicuous member of the English House of 
Lords moved for leave to bring in a Bill declaring 
the right of the Parliament of Great Britain to regu- 
late and control the whole external commerce and 
foreign trade of Ireland, and repealing any legislation 
that withdrew any portion of the commerce of Ireland 
from its control. The Bill was never, it is true, for- 
mally introduced, but its mere announcement was quite 
sufficient to excite consternation in Ireland. 2 Then 
came the news that two trade laws had passed in 
England which were drawn up it is said through the 
inadvertence of clerks in such a way as to include Ire- 
land, 8 and about the same time Lord Mansfield decided 
an Irish law case, which had come up on appeal to the 
Court of King's Bench before the late Act had passed. 

All these things occurred within a few months 
of the establishment of the Constitution of Ireland, 

1 Parl. Hist, xxiii. 30, 31. Life, pp. 165-167. Townshend 

See, too, Lord Beauchamp's to Temple, Oct. 26, Nov. 4, 1782. 
Letter to the 1st Belfast Com- * Parl. Hist, xxiii. 147-152, 
fan)/ of Volunteers. Flood's Ibid. 335, 336 t 


and at the very time when a great reaction of feeling 
was most to be apprehended. It was known that the 
Constitution of 1782 had been reluctantly conceded, 
that it had been conceded mainly in consequence of the 
desperate condition of public affairs, that it was de- 
tested by the Tory party on grounds of prerogative 
and by a large section of the Whig party as putting 
an end to the system of commercial monopoly. Lord 
Buckingham, whose character was universally respected, 
had just died. The dispute for his succession had 
thrown English politics into great confusion and un- 
certainty, and brought other men to the helm, and 
Portland was now replaced by Lord Temple as Lord 
Lieutenant of 'Ireland. It was widely believed that 
there was a disposition on the part of men in authority 
to undo in time of peace what had been granted in 
time of war, and a revulsion of feeling speedily set in. 
The judges, indeed, in Ireland, and several of the lead- 
ing lawyers, asserted the sufficiency of what had been 
done, but the lawyers' corps of volunteers, which com- 
prised a very large part of the legal profession, drew 
up a declaration that in their opinion no real security 
had been obtained, until the British Legislature had in 
express terms acknowledged its incapacity to legislate 
for Ireland. The popularity of Grattan suddenly sank, 
and that of Flood rose with a corresponding rapidity. 
It was said that the nation was deceived, that nothing 
had been really gained, that England was already 
showing a manifest disposition to withdraw what she 
had granted. 

These suspicions were not unnatural, but they were 
certainly essentially unfounded. The conduct of Lord 
Mansfield, though much contested, was thought by the 
best lawyers to be in accordance with law, as the case 
which he decided had been entered in his court before 
the jurisdiction of that court was removed. Lord 


Beauchamp spoke solely in the interests of Ireland; 
Lord Abingdon had no connection with the Govern- 
ment, and the two English Bills in which Ireland was 
involved appear to have been only another instance of 
the gross carelessness of the official draughtsmen. It 
is, however, perfectly true that the English Ministers 
had from the first disliked the new Irish Constitution, 
and aimed at an ideal which was wholly different. To 
any statesman, indeed, who looked on the question with 
real prescience and without illusion, it must have been 
evident that the complete independence of the Irish 
Parliament as it was established in 1782, if it remained 
unqualified by any further arrangement, must weaken 
and might endanger the Empire. It was true, indeed, 
that at this time the one essential condition of co-opera- 
tion subsisted. There could be no reasonable doubt 
that the Irish Parliament, and the classes it repre- 
sented, were unfeignedly and heartily loyal to the 
British connection. But was it quite certain that this 
state of things would always continue ? Strange as it 
may now appear, the danger of a rebellious Catholic 
interest appears at this time to have been little felt. 
The general conservatism of Catholicism throughout 
the Continent; the total abstinence of the priesthood 
from Irish politics ; the sincere and undoubted loyalty 
of the Catholic gentry; the passive attitude of the 
Catholic population during all the political troubles of 
the eighteenth century ; the authority which the land- 
lords exercised over their tenants ; the complete con- 
centration in Protestant hands of the elements of 
political power, and the enormous superiority of the 
Protestants in energy and intelligence, made danger 
from this quarter appear veiy remote. But among the 
Presbyterians of the North, and in the ranks of the 
volunteers, there were some disquieting signs of a 
republican and anti-English spirit, and if, by any 


change in its Constitution, these elements became as- 
cendent, or even powerful, in the Irish Parliament, 
there was everything to be feared. A separate Irish 
Parliament consisting of men who were disloyal to the 
English Government could only lead either to complete 
separation or to civil war. It would be the most power- 
ful and the most certain agent that the wit of man 
could devise for organising the resources of Ireland 
against England. 

This contingency might appear a distant one, but 
even without any serious or reasoned disloyalty, there 
were in the Constitution of 1782 grave possibilities of 
conflict, and they were fully present to the minds of 
the English statesmen who originally consented to it. 
Fox declared, in the most emphatic language, that ' the 
intentions of those ministers who had sent the repeal 
of the declaratory law [to Ireland] were thereby to 
make a complete, absolute, and perpetual surrender of 
the British legislative and judicial supremacy over 
Ireland,' l but be afterwards acknowledged that it was 
only with extreme reluctance, and in consequence of 
what he regarded as irresistible necessity, that he con- 
sented to the surrender of the right of external or com- 
mercial legislation, which left the Empire without one 
general superintending authority to embrace and com- 
prehend the whole system of its navigation. 2 The sur- 
render had been made, but he desired that the two 
nations should enter into a treaty arrangement, which 
would draw them more closely together, and one of the 
resolutions of the English Parliament, which has been 
already quoted, pointed to such a treaty. 3 ' As there 
can no longer exist any grounds of contest or jealousy 
on matters of right between the two countries,' wrote 

1 Parl. Hist, xxiii. 323. ment was made in 1785. 

2 Ibid. xxv. 9GG. This state- 3 See pp. 305-308. 


Rockingham to Portland, ' the only object of both will 
be how finally to arrange, settle, and adjust all matters 
whereby the union of power and strength and mutual 
and reciprocal advantage may be best permanently 

Portland, however, was aiming at something more 
than this ; and his secret correspondence shows that he 
was extremely anxious to regain for England a very 
large part of the legislative supremacy which had been 
surrendered. I have already referred to the letter in 
the beginning of May, in which he expressed his san- 
guine hope that the Irish Parliament would be prepared 
to enter into a treaty, either with Commissioners from 
the English Parliament, or through the medium of the 
Lord Lieutenant, ' to settle the precise limits of that 
independence which is required, the consideration that 
should be given for the protection expected, and the 
share it would be proper for them to contribute towards 
the general support of the Empire.' ' The regulation 
of their trade,' he added, * is a subject which, I think, 
would very properly make a part of the treaty,' and he 
concluded that without such an adjustment the country 
would not be worth possessing, and that it might even 
be advisable to abandon it altogether. 2 

It soon, however, appeared evident that the Irish 
leaders, though they were quite ready to vote additional 
sailors and soldiers for Imperial purposes, were not pre- 
pared at this time to enter into any treaty which would 
restrict their future liberty of action. In June, Fitz- 
patrick, the Chief Secretary, was authorised, in the Irish 
Parliament, publicly to disavow any intention of bring- 
ing forward further measures grounded on the second re- 

1 May 25, 1782. Grattan's Bhelburne. (Printed in Grat- 
Life, ii. 289. tan's Life, ii. 286-288.) 

J May 6, 1782. Portland to 


solution of the British Parliament. 1 But within three 
days of this disavowal, certain hopes which had been 
held out by an Irish member named Ogilvie, had drawn 
Portland into a new negotiation. Without the know- 
ledge of his Chief Secretary, and with the most urgent 
injunctions of secrecy, he wrote to Shelburne, express- 
ing his hope that the Irish Parliament might be induced 
to pass an Act 'by which the superintending power 
and supremacy of Great Britain in all matters of State, 
and general commerce, will be virtually and effectually 
acknowledged, that a share of the expense in carrying 
on a defensive or offensive war, either in support of 
our dominions or those of our allies, shall be borne by 
Ireland in proportion to the actual state of her abilities, 
and that she will adopt every such regulation as may 
be judged necessary by Great Britain for the better 
ordering and securing her trade and commerce with 
foreign nations, or her own colonies or dependencies.' 2 
Shelburne received the intimation with delight. * Let 
the two kingdoms,' he wrote, ' be one ; which can only 
be by Ireland now acknowledging the superintending 
power and supremacy to be where Nature has placed 
it, in precise and unambiguous terms.' 3 In a few days, 
Portland wrote with great mortification, that he found 
it would be impossible at this time to induce Parlia- 
ment to adopt any such scheme, but it is probable that 
the rumour of his negotiations spread abroad, and con- 
tributed something under the new viceroyalty to the 
prevailing uneasiness. 

Lord Temple had arrived in Dublin on September 

1 See his letter to Grattan, expressed his firm persuasion 

Grattan's Life, ii. 297. that Grattan would support the 

* Portland to Shelburne, June Bill, but he had evidently no 

6, 1782. Grattan's Life, ii. 291, communication with Grattan on 

292. This correspondence was the subject, 

first disclosed by Pitt, in the * Shelburne to Portland, Jane 

Union Debate in 1799. Portland 9, 1782. 


15, and his first impression was, that the task he had 
undertaken was almost desperate. In some very confi- 
dential letters to Shelburne, he depicted the state of the 
country in the blackest colours. ' No Government,' he 
says, ' exists.' ' Those to whom the people look up with 
confidence are not the Parliament, but a body of armed 
men composed chiefly of the middling and lower orders, 
influenced by no one, but leading those who affect 
to guide them.' ' There is hardly a magistrate who 
will enforce, or a man who will obey, any law to which 
he objects.' Every day, he said, confirmed his opinion 
of the necessity of maintaining the strongest opposition 
to Flood, and to the majority of the volunteers. For 
this purpose he had made immediate overtures to Charle- 
mont, but he wrote to Shelburne ' in the strictest confi- 
dence,' and with a desire that it should be communicated 
to no one but the King, that hb had no real wish to add 
weight to Lord Charlemont's party. His object was to 
prevent that party from flying off in support of Mr. 
Flood's doctrines which were daily growingmore popular, 
and also ' to foment that spirit of disunion among the 
volunteers, upon which alone,' he said, 'I found my 
hopes of forming a Government.' The middle and lower 
classes of volunteers were fast ranging themselves under 
the banner of Flood, but Flood was universally disliked 
by the nobility and persons of property, and he must 
be resisted or possibly bought. ' It is my unalterable 
opinion,' wrote the Lord Lieutenant, ' that the concession 
is but the beginning of a scene which will close for ever 
the account between the two kingdoms.' ' Much time 
is necessary to recover to the Crown that energy which 
alone can check a ferment that confines itself to no 
settled objects, but pervades eveiy part of Ireland.' 
The one chance of securing the authority of the Govern- 
ment, lay in the Irish Parliament. ' The country is too 
wild to act from reflection, and till you can oppose 


Parliament effectually to the volunteers, nothing can be 
done.' Grattan was decided to stand his ground, and 
confident of success if the Government would support 
him. ' Nothing but a Parliament,' repeated Templej 
' can recover the Government, and be opposed to the 
volunteers,' and he urged the Government to hasten the 
elections and summon speedily a new Parliament. 1 

The picture must be judged with some allowance for 
the colouring of a mind which was always peculiarly 
prone to exaggerate difficulty and opposition. In one 
respect Temple speedily changed his policy. 'No 
terms of reprobation,' he wrote in October, could be too 
strong to apply to the ' execrable and iniquitous publi- 
cation of Lord Beauchamp,' but when in the following 
month the decision of Lord Mansfield was announced, 
it appeared to him that both in policy and honour a new 
course was required. 2 

' The claim,' he then wrote, ' so solemnly made, was 
as solemnly yielded by England, and the repeal of the 
6 George I. was understood by England and accepted 
by the Parliament of Ireland in their addresses to his 
Majesty, as a full and final renunciation of all claims 
of jurisdiction and of legislation internal and external. 
And to this compact the Duke of Portland was enabled 
to pledge his personal faith, and as far as my testimony 
could add to it, I conceived myself, on my arrival here, 
authorised to pledge the faith of the King's servants of 
England, and my own, that these concessions should be 
maintained inviolate. It is now certain, that notwith- 
standing this compact . . . Lord Mansfield has con- 
ceived himself authorised to entertain and decide a 

1 Temple to Shelburne, Sept. stracts in the Lansdowne Pa- 

30, Oct. 9, 28, Dec. 2, 6, 1782. pers. British Museum, Add. 

These letters are not in the M8S. 24 131. 

regular Government correspon- * Temple to Shelburne, Oct. 

dence in the Eecord Office. I 28, Dec. 2 and 6, 1782. 
know them through the ab- 


cause which had been removed into his court prior to 
the passing of the Act.' Such a measure might be legal, 
but it was a distinct breach of the compact by which 
the right to bind and to judge Ireland only by her own 
laws and by her own courts was clearly yielded. 1 

There were those in Ireland who maintained with 
Flood that an Act of renunciation was imperatively ne- 
cessary to the security of the Constitution. There were 
those who, with Grattan, considered that such an Act 
was wrong in principle, and should not be conceded, 
and there were those who with Charlemont and Chief 
Baron Burgh considered that, though legally and con- 
stitutionally superfluous, it had become politically ne- 
cessary, as the only means of allaying discontent. To 
this opinion Temple had now come. It would have been 
better in his opinion, ' in the interest of the whole 
Empire, that external legislation (that is, the right of 
directing the commerce of Ireland) had been reserved by 
England .' But it had not been reserved , and it remained 
only to fulfil religiously, the terms of the compact. He 
had been authorised to pledge the faith of Government, 
and his own, ' that no attempt should be made to tread 
back one iota of concessions already made, or to break 
the good faith so solemnly pledged ; ' and when ' the 
question of the sufficiency of simple repeal was agitated 
from one end of the island to the other,' he had declared 
in the strongest terms, and with the full approbation of 
the Government in England, that ' simple repeal com- 
prised complete renunciation.' But the judgment of 
Lord Mansfield had baffled his policy. * I owe it to the 
King's service,' he said, ' to be understood clearly that 
there is not a man in Ireland (even of those who most 
firmly supported Lord Carlisle), who will maintain 
opinions favourable to this measure or even palliating it, 

1 (Most secret and confidential) Temple to Townshend, NOT. 30, 


and that the only reason for the appearance of a calm 
is that all Ireland is persuaded that England will explain 
this breach of compact. ... If the rights specifically 
acknowledged by England should now be controverted 
(and I must contend from the clear and unequivocal 
words of the Irish address, that the right to bind and to 
judge Ireland only by her own laws and by her own 
courts was clearly yielded), I cannot hesitate to say that 
the public faith of the nation, and the private honour of 
individuals, are committed. Conceiving that this cannot 
be the intention of the Cabinet, I am only alarmed at 
the delay.' Two Irish causes are now before the English 
House of Lords. If it should decide them, ' I will not 
answer for the effect of such a judgment twenty-four 
hours after it is known.' Ministers should consider 
' the danger to which the public tranquillity of Ireland 
is exposed, for want of a clear and satisfactory avowal 
of those principles upon which the Parliament of England 
proceeded in the month of June last, when they ad- 
mitted the Irish addresses as the basis of their proceed- 
ings.' ' This crisis,' he added, ' will be decisive upon 
the practicability of governing Ireland by English con- 
nection and influence, for, as to an attempt by force 
(even if a foreign peace would permit it), I trust that 
the consideration is too wild to have occurred to any 
man.' ! 

The Government and Parliament of England acted 
frankly upon this advice, and, for the second time, they 
consented fully to meet the wishes of the Irish people. 
In the beginning of 1783, a renunciation Bill was carried 
without difficulty through the British Parliament, 8 
which completely set at rest every reasonable or plausi- 
ble demand of the party of Flood. It declared that the 
right claim by the people of Ireland, to be bound 

1 (Most secret) Temple to Townshend, Dec. 12, 14, 1793. 
$8 George IH. c. 28. 


only by laws enacted by his Majesty and the Parliament 
of that kingdom in all cases whatever, and to have all 
actions, and suits at law or in equity, which may be in- 
stituted in the kingdom, decided by his Majesty's courts, 
therein finally, and without appeal from thence, shall 
be, and it is hereby declared to be established, and as- 
certained for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be 
questioned or questionable,' and that no writ of error 
or appeal from Ireland shall under any circumstances 
be again decided in England. No surrender or dis- 
claimer could be more explicit or more honourable, and 
it must be remembered that it was not made by England 
at a time of great national danger, but at the very 
moment when the re-establishment of peace had restored 
her power. When Temple communicated the news to 
the King's servants in Ireland, the impression it made 
was very deep. ' I found in everyone,' he wrote, ' the 
strongest impressions of the national good faith with 
which Great Britain has acted, at a moment when her 
external situation might possibly have given another 
turn to her councils.' l 

The Renunciation Act forms the coping-stone of the 
Constitution of 1782, and before we proceed with our 
narrative it may be advisable to pause for a moment in 
order to form a clear conception of the nature of that 
Constitution its merits, its defects, and its dangers. 
Much had indeed been gained the independence of 
the judges, the control of the army, the appellate juris- 
diction of the Irish House of Lords, the extinction of 
the power of the Privy Council to originate, suppress, 
or alter Irish legislation, the renunciation of the power 
of the British Parliament to legislate for Ireland, the 
full and repeated acknowledgment of the doctrine that 
the King, Lords and Commons of Ireland had alone the 

Temple to Townshend, Feb. 12, 1783. 


right to make her laws. An Irish Act of Henry VIII. 
and the Irish Act of recognition of William and Mary, 
had established that the crowns of England and Ireland 
were inseparable, so that whoever was King of England 
was ipso facto King of Ireland ; but the two Legislatures 
were now regarded as independent, co-ordinate, and in 
their respective spheres co-equal. 

It is sufficiently plain, however, that this was not, 
and could not be, the case. English Ministers were 
necessarily dependent on the support of the British 
Parliament and of that Parliament alone, and even 
apart from corrupt agencies, English Ministers exer- 
cised an enormous influence on Irish legislation. The 
King's veto was obsolete in England, but it was not 
likely to be obsolete in Ireland, and it could only be 
exercised on the advice of his ministers in England. 
The British Parliament claimed and enjoyed a right of 
watching over and jontrolling the conduct of the Exe- 
cutive Government, even in the exercise of what are 
justly considered undoubted prerogatives of the Crown, 
and this right, or at least this power, was wholly, or 
almost wholly, wanting in Ireland. Even the English 
Privy Council, though it had lost all recognised and 
formal control Over Irish legislation, still retained a not 
inconsiderable influence. When Bills were sent over 
from Ireland to receive the royal sanction, it was the 
custom to submit them in the first place to a committee 
of the Privy Council, who were instructed to examine 
them and report on them to the King's law officers in 
England. This wheel of the machine of administration, 
indeed, was not public, and it appears to have escaped 
the notice of historians, but there is reason to believe 
that it was not inoperative. Occasionally mistakes 
were detected by the Committee of the Privy Council in 
Bills which came over from Ireland, and the Secretary 
of State then directed the Lord Lieutenant to introduce 


into the Irish Parliament supplemental Bills for the 
purpose of correcting them, and sometimes, where this 
was not possible, Irish Bills were not returned. 1 

Much more important was the fact that there was, 
properly speaking, no ministry in Ireland responsible 
to the Irish Parliament. The position of Irish Ministers 
was essentially different from the position of their col- 
leagues in England. Ministerial power was mainly in 
the hands of the Lord Lieutenant and of his Chief 
Secretary, and this latter functionary led the House of 
Commons, introduced for the most part Government 
business, and filled in Ireland a position at least as im- 
portant as that of a Prime Minister in England. But 
the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary were not 
politicians who had risen to prominence and leader- 
ship in the Irish Parliament. They were Englishmen, 
strangers to Ireland, appointed and instructed by Eng- 
lish Ministers, and changed with each succeeding Ad- 
ministration. The Irish Government was thus com- 
pletely subordinated to the play of party government in 
England. An Irish Administration which commanded 
the full confidence of the Irish Parliament might at any 
moment be overthrown by a vote in the English Parlia- 
ment on some purely English question. - 

This appears to me to have been a fatal fault in 
the Constitution of 1782. It explains why the duty 
of * supporting English Government,' as distinguished 
from party allegiance, was represented by very honest 
politicians, as a maxim essential to the safe working of 
the Irish Constitution. The form of Government was 

1 Several examples of this to have principally occurred in 

kind, taken from the books of regulating the commercial inter- 

the Privy Council, will be found course, on the basis of recipro- 

in a valuable article in the Edin- city. The duties or bounties 

burgh Beview, April 1886, pp. were sometimes incorrectly c'%1- 

579, 580. The mistakes appear culated. 


wholly different from that which now exists in the free 
colonies of England. In those colonies the English 
governor holds an essentially neutral position. He is 
appointed for a term of years irrespective of party 
changes, and although on a very few points affecting 
' the Empire at large, he receives instructions from Eng- 
land, he is not the real source or originator of colonial 
legislation. The local Parliament divides itself into 
two great sections representing colonial opinions. Co- 
lonial parties are entirely distinct from English ones. 
The leaders of the dominant section become naturally 
the ministers ; and when one side of the House is dis- 
credited, power is at once and without difficulty trans- 
ferred to the Other. If the local Parliament desired to 
sever the connection with the mother country, it would 
be a most formidable instrument in doing so ; but as 
long as it has no such wish, it is found by experience 
that under this system, great convulsions of opinion 
and changes of power may take place, either in England 
or the colonies, without in the smallest degree straining 
the connection, or affecting the position of the represen- 
tative of the Crown. Colonial and English policy move 
on different planes, and except on very rare occasions 
there can be no friction or collision. But such a form 
of government as existed in Ireland must necessarily 
have led to the gravest contest, if the Irish Parliament 
became a really representative body, fluctuating with 
the fluctuations of Irish opinion, and at the same time 
moving on English party lines. It would be absurd to 
suppose that the balance of parties in the two Legis- 
latures could be always the same, and would always 
vibrate in harmony, and it was not only possible, but 
in the highest degree probable, that the time would 
come when the full tide of party feeling would be run- 
ning in one direction in England, and in the opposite 
in Ireland. Could a Constitution then subsist under 


which an English Cabinet appointed and directed the 
administration of Ireland ? 

Under any circumstances the difficulty of keeping 
the Irish Parliament free from the contagion of English 
party spirit must have been considerable. Ireland was 
too near England, and too variously and closely con- 
nected with her, not to feel her dominant impulses. 
Some seats in the Irish House of Commons were at the 
disposal of great English noblemen who were conspicu- 
ous in English politics. Flood, Conolly, and several of 
the Chief Secretaries held seats at the same time in the 
Parliaments both of England and Ireland, and close 
ties of friendship, relationship, and common education 
connected many of the leading personages in the two 
countries. Every cause that acted powerfully on Eng- 
lish opinion was followed eagerly in Ireland, and some 
of the questions that were most vitally important to 
Ireland were party questions in England. Irish vice- 
roys continually represented to the English Govern- 
ment the danger of introducing in England measures 
for parliamentary reform, or for the relief of the Catho- 
lics, on account of the influence they were certain to 
have in Ireland. But that part of the Constitution 
which made the Executive in Ireland mainly dependent 
on English party changes, made it impossible to keep 
Ireland permanently external to English party divisions, 
and in a reformed Parliament it could not, as it seems 
to me, have long continued. 

I have already quoted the Duke of Portland's lament, 
in 1782, tljat he found the Whigs were not looked on 
in Ireland as in any way superior to the Tories ; and 
that the general maxim of supporting the King's 
Government had taken the place of party allegiance. 1 
In 1784, the Duke of Rutland, who had just become 
Lord Lieutenant, in a confidential letter to Lord Sydney 

1 See p. 303. 


adopted the opposite view, and dwelt on it with great 
emphasis. He mentioned that the addresses to him 
on assuming the government of Ireland were carried 
through both Houses with the single dissent of the Duke 
of Leinster, who had privately informed him that he 
must oppose the Administration. This, Rutland said, 
showed an evident intention to make the present state 
of English politics a ground for opposition in Ireland, 
and he adds that, in agreement with most of the leading 
people in Ireland, he was very anxious ' to separate and 
keep away every mixture of English politics and party 
division from the conduct of affairs.' It would be, he 
said, { a most serious misfortune to Ireland, and a great 
risk to her tranquillity and good order, if she had any 
implication in the consequences of those divisions and 
animosities which unhappily prevail in Great Britain.' 
It is impossible - to draw off the attention of many 
considerable persons in Ireland from English politics. 
They do ' very materially influence their conduct as to 
the degree of support and assistance they will engage 
to give.' Security must be given, ' on very high terms 
indeed, that particular persons shall be benefited, with- 
out being liable to disappointment in case of new 
changes in administration. I have not a doubt but 
that the principle of supporting English government 
prevails over any other, where no bias of interest is 
thrown on either side, and the good disposition to- 
wards his Majesty's service is very generally, and I 
believe sincerely, professed.' 1 

It must be added that the English doctrine that a 
parliamentary censure carried against a ministry, or the 
defeat of an important ministerial measure, must be 
followed by a resignation, was not recognised in Ireland. 
Of this fact we shall have more than one illustration in 

Eutland to Sydney (confidential), Feb. 27, 1784. 

z 2 


the following pages. The inferiority, however, of the 
Irish House of Commons in this respect, appears to me 
to have been a good deal exaggerated ; for it is, I think, 
plain that a parliament, in which the ministers were in 
a permanent minority, possessed ample power of driving 
them from office. If an English ministry, which has 
lost the confidence or incurred the condemnation of the 
House of Commons, now retires from office, this is not 
because there is any law compelling it to do so, but 
simply because the House of Commons exercises such a 
commanding power in the State that it would be im- 
possible to govern without its concurrence. The Irish 
Parliament also, under the Constitution of 1782, pos- 
sessed a great reserve of coercive power. Without the 
annual Mutiny Act the army could not be supported. 
Without the additional duties which were voted, at first 
biennially and afterwards annually, the public service 
could not be carried on. The magnitude of the here- 
ditary revenue, and the absence of an appropriation Act, 
placed a much larger proportion of the revenues in 
Ireland out of the control of the Parliament than in 
England, and gave great facilities for corruption ; but 
the hereditary revenue consisted mainly of duties voted 
in perpetuity, which could never be efficiently collected 
without the assistance of Parliament. 1 

These remarks will, I think, be sufficient to show 
how impossible it would have been to preserve the 
Constitution of 1782 unchanged, if the Irish Parliament 
was so constituted that the balance of political power 
fluctuated as frequently and decisively as in England. 
There were also certain other points on which there 
was much need of supplemental legislation, and 
which presented grave possibilities of difficulty and 
danger. If the Irish endeavoured to foster their in- 

1 See on this subject a forcible statement in Grattan's Speecliet, 
i. 244, 245. 


dustries by protective or prohibitory duties on English 
goods, they would be acting in perfect accordance with 
the economical notions prevailing in every leading 
country in Europe, and especially with the precedents 
of English policy. There was no treaty arrangement 
between the two countries which prevented such a course, 
but it was a course which might prove both economically 
and politically dangerous to England. Economically, 
it would close against English trade a market which, 
in the eighteenth century, had a great importance, 
and which commercial jealousy considerably overrated. 
Politically, it might loosen the connection between the 
two countries, produce feelings of alienation, if not of 
positive hostility, and greatly strengthen the connection 
between Ireland and France. It was quite possible that 
some foreign country might become more closely con- 
nected with Ireland than England. At the same time 
there was no provision whatever for the formation of an 
Irish navy, or for any participation of Ireland in the 
expense of the British navy, which protected Irish com- 
merce. It was noticed in 1783 that the whole navy of 
Ireland consisted of but six revenue cruisers. 1 

In foreign policy the position of Ireland was neces- 
sarily completely subordinate. The whole subject of 
peace and war, alliances and confederacies, lay beyond 
her domain. Whenever the King of England made 
peace or war, Ireland was involved in his act. A de- 
claration of war in London at once exposed her coast to 
invasion. A treaty of peace at once rendered it secure 
and bound Ireland by its terms. It was no doubt 
technically true that peace or war lay within the pre- 
rogative of the Crown, but the Sovereign in these as in 
all other matters could only act by the advice of his 
English Ministers, and could only select as ministers 

Irish Parliamentary Debates, ii. 75. 


those statesmen who were supported by a majority in 
the British Parliament and who were prepared to carry 
its policy into effect. It was probable that the declara- 
tion of war would be the issue of a long train of foreign 
policy, repeatedly discussed and modified by the British 
Parliament, but the Irish Parliament would have no 
voice in directing its course. It was probable that the 
war would arise from some question with which Ireland 
was totally unconcerned, perhaps some commercial ques- 
tion relating to parts of the world from which Irish com- 
merce was excluded. Situated indeed as Ireland was, it 
was scarcely possible that she should have any enemies 
except those who were made so by British policy, yet 
she was perpetually liable to be involved in British wars. 
She had, however, one power which might be very 
efficient, but also very dangerous, to the Empire. The 
actual participation of Ireland in the common cause 
could only be effected and sustained by the independent 
action of the Irish Parliament. If that Parliament, 
disapproving of the policy which led to the war, desiring 
to make its power felt in the only possible way in 
foreign politics, disliking the ministry which made the 
war, or convinced that Ireland had no interest in its 
issue, thought fit to withhold its assistance, the Empire 
might in the most critical periods be deprived of a great 
portion of its strength, and Ireland by a tacit arrange- 
ment with the enemy might be at peace while England 
was at war. From a military point of view the import- 
ance of Ireland to England was very great. Her geo- 
graphical position and her excellent harbours would make 
her invaluable to an enemy. In times of peace she main- 
tained an army of 15,000 men, while Great Britain usually 
maintained only 17,000 or 18,000, and in every war she 
had contributed largely to the armies in the field. 1 But 

1 I have already abundantly lowing passage, from a speech ol 
illustrated this fact ; bat the fol- Burke in 1785, may not be with- 


under the Constitution of 1782 this assistance was 
purely optional, depending on the precarious and tran- 
sient humours of a popular assembly. If the Irish 
Parliament at any time thought fit to reduce its army 
as excessive, it had full power to do so, and in time of 
war the danger that might result from the conflicting 
action of two independent Parliaments could hardly be 
overrated. In the great revolutionary war which filled 
the last years of the century, the English Parliament 
exhibited the spectacle of a minority which was fiercely 
opposed to the war and which did everything in its 
power to embarrass the ministry that conducted it. 
Such a minority had a considerable and very injurious 
moral influence on the struggle, but being a minority it 
was not able to carry its designs into effect. But if the 
majority in the Irish Parliament had shared the senti- 
ments of the minority in England, we should probably 
have seen Ireland neutralising her ports, withdraw- 
ing her troops, forbidding recruiting, passing votes of 
censure on the war, and addressing the King in favour 
of peace. Could it be questioned that under such cir- 
cumstances the very existence of the Empire might 
have been endangered ? 

I hasten to add that these things never occurred. 

out interest to the reader. ' He to keep an army of 24,000 in pay, 
was sorry to say that she [Ireland] of which 8,000 were sent by her 
at present, in time of profound to fight the battles of Great 
peace, was running in debt, her Britain abroad, while 16,000 re- 
expenses greatly exceeding her mained in the kingdom for home 
income ; but he remembered that defence. She also sent 33,000 
in 1753 she had been able to pay recruits, her own natives at her 
off a considerable debt, and had own expense, to fill Uj) regiments 
besides a surplus of 260.000Z. in in the British service, and spent 
her treasury. But what was truly above 600.000Z. in Germany for 
astonishing, and he had been a the support of the war. This 
witness of it himself, so soon was an effort from which Eng- 
after as 1761 she was enabled by land had reaped the greatest ad. 
her prudent system of economy vantage.' Parl. Hist, xxv. 651, 


Nothing is more conspicuous in the history of the Irish 
Parliament than the discretion with which it abstained 
from all discussions on foreign policy, and the loyalty 
and zeal with which it invariably supported England in 
time of war. Pitt, in introducing the Union in 1799, 1 
dwelt strongly on the dangers I have described, and 
represented them as leading motives of his policy ; but 
he at the same time acknowledged that the divergences 
in time of war between the two Parliaments which he 
so gravely feared, had in fact never occurred, and 
Foster declared that ' in points of peace and war the 
Irish Parliament had never even during centuries dif- 
fered in opinion from ihe British, though its power 
to do so had been as free and unlimited before as 
since the Constitution of 1782.' On no point was the 
policy of Grattan more strongly marked and more 
consistent than in the earnestness with which he urged 
that in all questions of peace and war, Ireland must 
unreservedly follow in the wake of England. But it 
is the part of a prescient statesman to look forward to 
distant dangers and to changed dispositions. If the 
overwhelming power of British Government on the 
Irish Parliament were withdrawn ; if in time of war 
party passions raged, and factious talent was in the 
ascendant ; if the Parliament of Ireland ceased to be 
drawn exclusively from classes that were thoroughly 
loyal to the connection, there were grave dangers 
to be feared. There is reason to believe that such 
dangers were already vividly present to the minds 
of English Ministers ; and as early as 1 783, the Duke 
of Richmond had declared in Parliament, that they 
could only be adequately met by 'an incorporate 
Union.' 2 

The effect of the simple repeal controversy on Irish 

1 January 23, 1799. 

* Plowden, Historical Review of the State of Ireland, ii. 17. 


politics, was very pernicious. It prolonged for several 
months the period of agitation. It divided the national 
party in Ireland, and transferred the popular ascen- 
dency from Grattan to a man of much more doubtful 
purity of motive. It, above all, profoundly discredited 
the Irish Parliament. The English Act of Renunciation 
was accepted as a proof that the reasoning of Flood was 
correct, that nothing had before been secured, that the 
Irish Parliament, in maintaining the adequacy of simple 
repeal, was betraying the liberties of the country, and 
that those liberties had once more been saved by the 
rolunteers. To the pressure exerted by that body, it 
ivas said, Ireland ultimately owed her free trade, the 
concessions of 1782, and the final charter of 1783, and 
had Parliament been her sole representative, no one of 
these things would have been obtained. Irish freedom 
was now established as far as words could settle it, but 
could it be safely entrusted to the guardianship of an 
assembly, in which twenty or thirty great borough 
owners could always control a majority? Might not 
such a parliament, it was asked, be induced to sell to 
an English minister its independence, or even its sepa- 
rate existence ? Flood strenuously maintained that one 
more great battle must be fought before the Irish Con- 
stitution could be secure. The volunteers must induce 
or coerce Parliament to pass such a reform bill as would 
make it a true representative of the Protestant section 
of the nation. 

The question was not altogether a new one, nor was 
it exclusively of home growth. In England, as we have 
seen, parliamentary reform had acquired a foremost 
place among political topics, and there was scarcely 
any other which stirred so strongly the popular senti- 
ment. Chatham had strenuously advocated it, and he 
had predicted that, ' before the end of the century, 
either the Parliament will reform itself from within, or 


cm v. 

be reformed with a vengeance from without.' The 
question was brought before the British Parliament 
with great elaboration by Wilkes in 1776, by the Duke 
of Eichmond in 1780, by the younger Pitt in 1782 and 
in 1783. Propositions for disfranchising the rotten 
boroughs, for enfranchising the great manufacturing 
towns, for adding to the electors and to the members 
of the counties, for annual parliaments, for universal 
suffrage, and for equal electoral districts, had been 
eagerly discussed both in Parliament and beyond its 
walls. Powerful democratic societies had been formed 
in the great cities, and they were already in close cor- 
respondence with the Irish volunteers, and extremely 
anxious to induce them to make the attainment of parlia- 
mentary reform a capital object of their policy. 

It was obvious that a victory in one country would 
accelerate a victory in the other, and the arguments in 
favour of reform were much stronger in Ireland than in 
England. Among the English reformers who corre- 
sponded with the Irish volunteers were the Duke of 
Richmond, Price, Cartwright, and Lord Effingham. In 
June 1782 Portland, when forwarding to the Govern- 
ment an address from the volunteer delegates of Ulster, 
thanking the British Parliament for the concessions that 
had been made, mentions the appearance in their resolu- 
tions of ' some new matter respecting the state of the 
representation in this country, which . . . has been 
endeavoured of late to be brought into discussion by a 
very active emissary, who has come from England ex- 
pressly for that purpose ; ' ' but it was not until the 
simple repeal question was raised, that the subject of 
reform acquired real importance. In March 1783 a 
provincial meeting of volunteers at Cork passed resolu- 
tions in favour of parliamentary reform, and on July 1 

Portland to Shelburne, June 25, 1782. 


following, delegates of forty-five companies of Ulster 
volunteers assembled at Lisburn, resolved to convoke 
for the ensuing September a great meeting of volunteers 
at Dungannon, to consider the best way of obtaining a 
more equal representation in Parliament. 

In truth, even putting aside the great anomaly that 
the Eoman Catholics were wholly unrepresented, it was 
a mockery to describe the Irish House of Commons as 
mainly a representative body. Of its 300 members, 64 
only represented counties, while 100 small boroughs, 
containing ostensibly only an infinitesimal number of 
electors, and in reality in the great majority of cases at 
the absolute Disposal of single patrons, retuvned no less 
than 200. Borough seats were commonly sold for 
2,OOOZ. a parliament, and the permanent patronage of 
a borough for from 8,OOOZ. to 10,OOOZ. The Lower 
House was to a great extent a creation of the Upper 
one. It was at this time computed that 124 members 
of the House of Commons were absolutely nominated 
by fifty-three peers, while ninety-one others were chosen 
by fifty-two commoners. 1 

It needs no comment to show the absurdity and the 
danger of such a condition of representation. In Ire- 
land, it is true, as in England, borough influence was 
not always badly used, and the sale of seats, and the 
system of nomination, neither of which carried with 
them any real reproach, introduced into Parliament 
many honourable, able and independent men, who were 
thoroughly acquainted with the condition of the country. 
But the state of the Irish representation was much 

1 Gordon's Hist, of Ireland, ii. parliamentary reform. Proceed- 
286. Letter to Henry Flood on ings relating to the Ulster As- 
the Representation of Ireland sembly of Volunteer Delegate* 
(Belfast, 1783). See, too, a full (Belfast, 1783) ; and also the de- 
report, by the committee ap- tailed analysis of the Irish repre- 
pointed by the delegates at Lis- sentation in Grattan's Life, iii. 
burn to collect evidence about 472-487. 


worse than that of the English, and incomparably more 
dangerous to the Constitution of the country. England 
was at least her own mistress. The strongest minister 
only kept his power by a careful attention to the gusts 
of popular feeling, and no external power desired to 
tamper with her Constitution. But the relation of Ire- 
land to England was such that it was quite conceivable 
that an Irish parliament might act in violent opposition 
to the wishes of the community which it represented, 
and quite possible that an English minister might wish 
it to do so. As long as the volunteers continued, 
public opinion possessed such a formidable and organ- 
ised power that it could act forcibly on Parliament. 
But once that organisation was dissolved, the reign of 
a corrupt oligarchy must revive. However independent 
the Irish Parliament might be in the eyes of the law 
and in the theory of the Constitution, it could not fail 
to be a dependent and subordinate body holding a pre- 
carious existence, as long as a full third of its members 
were placemen or pensioners, and as long as the English 
Minister could control the election of the majority of 
its members. Some borough seats were at the disposal 
of bishops appointed by Government. Some were in 
the hands of great English noblemen. It was only 
necessary to secure a small number of great native 
borough owners, to obtain a compact majority inde- 
pendent of all fluctuations of popular feeling. The 
lavish distribution of peerages had proved the cheapest 
and most efficacious means of governing Parliament, 
and a pamphleteer in 1783 reminded his countrymen 
that since 1762 inclusive, the Irish peerage had been 
enriched or degraded by the addition of thirty-three 
barons, sixteen viscounts, and twenty-four earls. 1 

During the short Administration of Lord Temple, 

1 Seward'g Rights of the People Asserted (Dublin, 1783), p. 34. 


which lasted only from September 1782 till the follow- 
ing spring, and corresponded with the Shelburne Minis- 
try in England, the Reform agitation scarcely appeared. 
This Lord Lieutenant was son of George Grenville, and 
with a double share of the unhappy temper, he inherited 
much of the industry and something of the financial 
ability of his father. He succeeded in detecting and 
punishing several instances of great peculation in ad- 
ministration, and he announced to Lord Charlemont his 
firm intention of reducing ' that impolitic and unconsti- 
tutional influence which has been the bane and ruin of 
both countries.' During his government the order of 
the Knights of Saint Patrick was created, and Charle- 
mont was one of its first members, and a scheme was 
adopted for establishing in Ireland a colony of refugees 
from Geneva, who desired to expatriate themselves on 
account of the aristocratic revolution which had just 
taken place in that city. It was hoped that they might 
introduce into Ireland some valuable industries and 
their excellent system of education, and a sum of 
50,000?. was assigned for establishing the settlement at 
a place near the confluence of the Barrow and the Suir. 
A few refugees came over, but the plan ultimately 
failed on a dispute about terms. It is remarkable as 
showing how little the Irish Government dreaded the 
introduction into the country of extreme forms of con- 
tinental democracy, and if it had succeeded it is pro- 
bable that it would have brought to Ireland some men 
who bore a conspicuous part in the French Revolu- 
tion. 1 

On the resignation of Shelburne, and the triumph 
of the coalition of Fox and North, Temple at once re- 
signed his post, and Lord Northington was appointed 
to succeed him. English politics were, however, for 

Plowden, ii. 23-27. 


CH. r. 

Borne weeks in a state of extreme uncertainty and con- 
fusion, and although the resignation of Temple was sent 
in on March 12, it was not until June 5 that he was 
allowed to leave Ireland. He complained bitterly of 
the delay as a personal injury, and added that it was 
exercising a most dangerous influence in Ireland. ' The 
very uncertain state of Government in England,' he 
wrote, ' has operated very strongly upon Irish Govern- 
ment, by unsettling the confidence and opinions which 
I have so eagerly laboured to impress.' ' The Govern- 
ment of this kingdom suffers by this interregnum to an 
extent which I cannot describe, and which will materi- 
ally affect its political situation.' l 

A dissolution, which immediately followed the arri- 
val of Northington, contributed to maintain the political 
excitement. It was a significant indication of the rela- 
tions between the King and his new ministers, that 
some of the bishops refused to take the ordinary course 
of placing their borough patronage at the disposal of 
the Government ; 2 and among the lower classes a very 
bad harvest, followed by great commercial depression, 
prepared the way for political disaffection. The last 
letters of Lord Temple and the early letters of Lord 
Northington were full of complaints of the intensity 
of the distress. In November 1782, the Irish Parlia- 
ment had laid an embargo on the export of corn, 
flour, and potatoes, and about six months later the 
Lord Lieutenant complained that in all parts of the 
kingdom the prices were so high that the industrious 
poor could barely support their families by their labours. 
In the North, oatmeal, on which the poor chiefly de- 
pended for their food, in a short time trebled in price. 
A proclamation was issued authorising the Custom- 

1 Temple to Townshend, March * (Secret and confidential) 
12. Temple to North, May 9, July 4, 1783, Northington to 
1783. North. 


house officers to accept bonds for the high duties im- 
posed by law on foreign corn imported into Ireland, 
on the understanding that Parliament as soon as it met 
would pass an Act to cancel these bonds ; a bounty was 
offered for the importation of wheat, oats, and barley, 
and in several parts of Ireland tumultuous risings inter- 
fered with the removal of food. 1 

Peace had been signed, but there was no prospect 
of a dissolution of the volunteer body. The last reviews 
had been the most splendid hitherto celebrated, and the 
institution had become a great recognised national 
militia, discharging many important police functions, 
and bringing the Protestant gentry and yeomanry into 
constant connection with each other. An attempt of 
the Administration under the Duke of Portland to draw 
off a portion of the volunteer force into some newly 
organised regiments, called Fencibles, proved very un- 
popular and met with little success. Constant inter- 
changes of civilities between the volunteers and the 
ordinary troops marked the high position which the 
force had attained ; and when the new Parliament met 
in October 1783, another vote of thanks to the volun- 
teers for ' their spirited endeavours to provide for the 
protection of their country, and for their ready and 
frequent assistance of the civil magistrate in enforcing 
the due execution of the laws,' was carried through 
Parliament at the proposal of the Government. 2 The 
ministers saw that it was inevitable, and therefore 
did not wish to lose the credit of proposing it ; and 
among those who disliked the continuance of the volun- 
teers, there were several who were prevented from re- 
signing their posts through fear of being replaced by 

' Temple to North, May 23, 30. Oct. 14, 1783, Northington 

Proclamation, June 9. Northing- to North. Irish Parl. Debatet, 

ton to North, June 10, 26, 1783. ii. 9. 
Irish Parl. Debates, ii. 346, 347. 


cm. v. 

incendiaries. Grattan and Charlemont had both been 
made .Privy Councillors, but when the volunteers threw 
themselves into the reform agitation, the relations be- 
tween the Castle and Charlemont became very cold, 
and Charlemont was rarely summoned to the meetings 
of the Council. 

Among the measures which were announced in the 
Speech from the Throne, were the establishment of a 
separate post office and Court of Admiralty in Ireland, 
and at this time the system of annual sessions was in- 
troduced. Lord North expressed the strong dislike of 
the Government in England to this innovation, but 
Northington urged that it was generally expected in 
Ireland, and that it appeared to the King's servants 
both useful and inevitable. It would accelerate deci- 
sions upon appeals, which were now confined to the 
Irish House of Lords. It would prevent delay in adopt- 
ing any new commercial regulations that might be made 
in the English Parliament, -and it was likely to check 
the growing habit of provincial meetings, which were 
justified by the long recesses of Parliament. Supplies 
were accordingly henceforth voted only for a year. 1 

The hostility which tLe simple repeal question had 
created between Flood and Grattan became deeper and 
deeper. The dominant idea of the policy of Grattan at 
this time was that the public mind should at all hazards 
be calmed. Ireland, he contended, had passed through 
a period of violent and convulsive change, and there 
was great fear lest the fever of political agitation should 
become inveterate in her system. Nothing could be 
more fatal to her new-born liberty, than that a body of 
armed men should constitute themselves permanently 
into a kind of legislative assembly, should dictate mea- 
sures to Parliament, should overawe Parliament by 

1 Northington to North, Sept. 23, Oct. 18. North to Northiugton, 
Oct. 7 1783 


scarcely disguised menaces of force. Next to the liberty 
of their own country, the first object of all true Irish 
patriots should be the strength and unity of the Empire, 
and the extinction of all feelings of disloyalty and ani- 
mosity towards England. The agitation on the simple 
repeal question had already done much mischief, and it 
was evident that a very dangerous spirit of restlessness 
was abroad. A violent and sometimes a seditious press 
had arisen, and there were agitators who sought to gain 
popularity, power, and perhaps reputation, by inflaming 
the public mind against England and against the Par- 
liament, at a time when a great part of the Protes- 
tant population were under arms, and when the recent 
triumphs in America had stimulated the republican 
elements that were smouldering in Ulster. 

The example of Flood, and the recent resolutions 
of the volunteers, had greatly intensified the spirit of 
disquietude. Irish manufacturers, who found them- 
selves in a period of extreme distress, and overpowered 
by English competition, began to call loudly for protect- 
ing duties. An absentee tax was proposed by Moly- 
neux, and discussed at much length, but it ultimately 
only found twenty-two supporters. 1 Sir Edward New- 
enham, an ardent partisan of Flood, introduced, with- 
out a shadow of reason, a motion for limiting the sup- 
plies to six months. The language used on the ques- 
tion of parliamentary reform, by the volunteers, and 
by their organs in the press, was much less that of a 
petition than of a command. There were loud and 
justifiable complaints of the extravagant management 
of the finances. The revenue, indeed, was said to 
have increased in two years by more than three hun- 
dred thousand pounds, but there was an annual deficit 
of about two hundred thousand pounds, and Ireland, 
which had no national debt in 1755, had now a 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. ii. 277-289. 


debt of nearly two millions. 1 The field for retrench- 
ment in the civil administration was very ample, but 
Flood insisted that the most important retrenchment 
should be sought in the military department, that in a 
country like Ireland a peace establishment of 15,000 
men was extravagantly and fatally large, that 12,000 
men would be amply sufficient, and that the condition 
of the finances imperatively demanded the reduction. 
He brought forward the subject again and again with 
great pertinacity, and it is probable that one leading 
object of the proposal was to throw the country still 
more absolutely into the hands of the volunteers. 

There was little danger of Parliament adopting 
these measures, and Flood was usually supported only 
by a small minority ; but the agitation of such ques- 
tions greatly increased the disquietude of the pub- 
lic mind. Grattan opposed the proposition for reduc- 
ing the army with especial vehemence. The magnitude 
of the Irish army, he said, was Ireland's contribution to 
the defence of the Empire, and her compensation for 
the protection she received from the British fleet. The 
augmentation, under Lord Townshend, was part of a dis- 
tinct compact which was binding in honour though not 
in law. It had been made at a time when England pos- 
sessed America and owed 150 millions less than she 
owes at present, when Ireland had no trade at all, and 
when her Constitution was denied. Since then Ire- 
land had regained her Constitution and her commercial 
liberty ; England had conceded to her the vast benefits 
of the plantation trade, and the Irish Parliament had 
pledged itself to stand or fall with her. Was this a 
period in which Ireland, with an augmented revenue, 
an increased population, and a vastly greater interest 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. ii. 34, 79, 81, 103. Grattan estimated the in- 
crease of the revenue during the last two years at 100.000Z. per year 
(p. 103.) 


in the Empire, could honourably withdraw her old sup- 
port ? l 

The sense of the House was strongly and manifestly 
on the side of Grattan, and, in the course of the debate, 
more than one voice urged upon the volunteers the pro- 
priety of disbanding. The course adopted by Flood, 
though it had re-established his popularity with the 
volunteers, had alienated him from several of his most 
valuable friends, had produced a strong remonstrance 
from Charlemont, and had more than once brought him 
into collision with Grattan. In October 1783, in one 
of the debates on the proposed reduction of the forces, 
a violent altercation broke out between Flood and 
Grattan, and two invectives, both of them disgracefully 
virulent, and one of them of extraordinary oratorical 
power, made all cordial co-operation, for the future, ex- 
tremely difficult. The interposition of the House pre- 
vented a duel. Flood afterwards very magnanimously 
occupied the chair at a volunteer meeting, when a vote 
of thanks to Grattan was passed, and Grattan long 
afterwards, in his pamphlet on the Union, and on many 
occasions in private conversation, bore a high testimony 
to the greatness of Flood ; but the old friendship of the 
two leaders was at an end, and words had been spoken 
which could never be forgiven. 

The essentially political attitude which the volun- 
teers were now assuming created much alarm. In July 
1783, 'a committee of correspondence,' appointed by 
the delegates assembled at Lisburn for the purpose 
of arranging the forthcoming meeting at Dungannon, 
wrote to Charlemont asking his support and advice. 
They begged him to indicate ' such specific mode of 
reform ' as appeared to him most suitable for the con- 
dition of Ireland, and at the same time to inform them, 

Irish Parl. Deb. 84, 103, 104. 

A A* 


whether in his opinion the volunteer assembly should 
bring within the range of their discussions at Dun- 
gannon, such subjects as the propriety of shortening 
the duration of parliaments, exclusion of pensioners, a 
limitation of the numbers of placemen, and a tax on 
absentees. Charlemont perceived with much alarm the 
disposition of the force to attempt to regulate and per- 
haps control the whole field of legislation, and he urged 
the committee to confine themselves to the single ques- 
tion of reform, and on this question to content them- 
selves with asserting the necessity of the measure, 
leaving the mode of carrying it out, exclusively to the 
mature deliberation of Parliament. 1 

The volunteers could hardly have had a safer coun- 
sellor, and Charlemont, though by no means a man of 
genius, exercised at this time a very great influence in 
Irish politics. He was now in his fifty-fifth year. He 
had inherited his title when still a child, and having 
never gone through the discipline of a public school, 
had spent more than nine years in travelling on the 
Continent. For some years he plunged deeply into the 
dissipations of the lax society in Italy, but he never lost 
a sense of higher things, and he brought back a great 
taste and passion for art, a wide range of ornamental 
scholarship, and a very real earnestness and honesty of 
character. At Turin he had formed a close intimacy 
with Hume, but it had not impaired either his religious 
principles or his strong Whig convictions. In Paris he 
had discussed Irish politics very fully with Montesquieu, 
and was struck with the earnestness with which that 
great philosopher recommended a legislative union with 
England as the best safeguard of Irish liberty. He 
afterwards became an intimate friend of Burke, an 
early member of that brilliant club which Johnson and 

Hardy's Life of Charlemont, ii. 94-98. 


Reynolds had formed, a careful and discriminating 
student of the debates in the English Parliament, and 
then an almost constant resident in Ireland and a lead- 
ing figure in Irish politics. A nervousness which he 
was never able to overcome, and which was aggravated 
by much ill health, kept him completely silent in the 
House of Lords, and in his intimate circle he often 
showed himself somewhat vain and irresolute and easily 
offended; but in addition to his great social position, 
he had personal qualities of a kind which often go fur- 
ther in politics than great brilliancy of intellect, and 
he was one of the very few prominent Irish politicians 
who had never stooped to any corrupt traffic with the 

Like his contemporary Rockingham he possessed a 
transparent purity and delicacy of honour, which won 
the confidence of all with whom he came in contact, a 
judgment singularly clear, temperate and unbiassed, a 
natural affability of manner which made him peculiarly 
fitted to conciliate conflicting interests and characters. 
He wrote well, though often with a vein of weak senti- 
mental ism which was the prevailing affectation of his 
time, and he threw himself into many useful national 
enterprises with great industry, and with invariable 
singleness of purpose. He was a Whig of Whigs 
with all that love of compromise ; that cautious though 
genuine liberality ; that combination of aristocratic 
tastes and popular principles ; that dislike to violence, 
exaggeration, and vulgarity ; that profound veneration 
for the British Constitution, and that firm conviction 
that every desirable change could be effected within its 
limits, which characterised the best Whig thought of 
the time. His property lay in the province which was 
the centre of the volunteer movement. He was one of 
the earliest and most active of its organisers, and the 
unbounded confidence of the more liberal section of the 


Irish geaitry in his penetration and his judgment, had 
raised him speedily to its head. 

His position was, however, now becoming very 
difficult. Flood and Grattan, with whom he had hitherto 
most cordially co-operated, were alienated from each 
other, and both of them were in some degree alienated 
from him. Though he ultimately admitted the expe- 
diency of passing the Act of Renunciation, and though 
he cordially maintained the necessity of parliamentary 
reform, he strongly disapproved of the conduct of Flood 
in raising the first question, and in bringing the second 
question under the deliberations of an armed body. 
Grattan had been first brought into Parliament by 
Charlemont, and a deep attachment subsisted between 
them ; but a coldness had lately grown up which soon 
culminated in a breach. Grattan was now wholly alien- 
ated from the volunteers ; he would evidently have 
gladly seen their dissolution at the peace, and he cor- 
dially supported Lord Northington's Administration. 
Charlemont, on the other hand, was strongly in favour 
of the maintenance in arms of the volunteer force. He 
had more and more gravitated to opposition, and he 
was in consequence rarely consulted by the Adminis- 
tration with which Grattan was in close alliance. 
Grattan appears to have done everything in his power 
to soothe the irritation of his friend, and his letters to 
him are extremely honourable to the writer ; but he 
had to deal with a somewhat fretful and morbid tem- 
perament, and he was not able to succeed. At the same 
time a new democratic and even seditious spirit was 
rising among the volunteers, with which Charlemont 
had no sympathy and which it was very doubtful 
whether he could control, and a very singular rival had 
lately arisen in the North, who threatened, for a time, 
to obtain an ascendency in the volunteer body, and to 
throw the whole of Ireland into a flame. 


Frederick Augustus, Earl of Bristol, and Bishop of 
Derry, was the third son of that Lord Hervey who was 
long chiefly remembered as the victim of the most 
savage of all the satires of Pope, but whose reputation 
has been greatly raised by the publication of those 
masterly memoirs in which he had described the Court 
and politics of George II. His family had been noted 
for their eccentricity, and a saying attributed to Chester- 
field, that God created men, women, and Herveys, has 
been often repeated. 1 As was frequently the case with 
the younger sons of great families, he entered the 
Church without the smallest ecclesiastical leaning ; and 
his eldest brother having been for a few months Lord 
Lieutenant of Ireland, he obtained the promise of an 
Irish bishopric. In 1767 during the Viceroyalty of 
Lord Townshend he was made Bishop of Cloyne. He 
was translated in the following year to the enormously 
rich bishopric of Derry, and in 1779 he inherited an 
English earldom and a great fortune. 

Rich, hospitable, lavishly generous, passionately 
fond of show and popularity, an exquisite judge of 
art and by no means destitute of general learning 
and ability, anxious to search out and to encourage 
intellectual merit wherever he could find it, 2 and quite 
capable of playing many different parts with spirit and 
distinction, he soon made himself one of the most 
popular men in Ulster. No previous bishop in his 
diocese had done so much to build, restore, or embellish 
churches, and he also showed himself extremely liberal 
and energetic in developing the natural resources of the 
country. A new bridge over the Foyle was largely due 
to his energy. He undertook extensive operations in 
searching for coal. He opened out wild and uncivilised 

1 It has also been ascribed to 2 See Burdy's Life of Sltd- 
Lord Townshend and to Lady ton (Skelton's Works, i. xcvi, 
Mary Montague. xcvii). 


districts in his diocese by roads constructed at his own 
expense. He built two great palaces, collected pictures 
and statues, exercised a very liberal hospitality, and 
took especial pains to place himself on the most friendly 
terms with the Presbyterians. With the Catholics he 
was equally friendly. We have already caught some 
glimpses of the part which he took both at Rome and in 
Ireland in favour of the earlier Toleration Bill ; and 
it was noticed on the monument that was erected to his 
memory after his death, that the Roman Catholic bishop 
and the resident Presbyterian minister at Deny were 
both among the contributors. 1 

His papers have unfortunately perished, and we have 
no means of ascertaining whether any real change had 
passed over his character and opinions, which may help 
to explain the strange want of keeping between the 
different descriptions or periods of his life. In 1779 
Shelburne, who knew Ireland well, spoke in the House 
of Lords in strong terms of the neglect of duty and the 
abuse of patronage which were common among the 
Irish bishops, but he observed that there were a few 
eminent exceptions the most remarkable being Primate 
Robinson and the Bishop of Derry. 2 Charlemont, and 
Hardy the biographer of Charlemont, though extremely 
hostile to the Bishop, have both spoken in high terms of 
the manner in which he distributed his patronage among 
the oldest and most respectable clergy of his diocese. 3 
But the most curious picture of the Bishop, when read 
in the light of his later career, is that which is furnished 
by the Journal of Wesley, who, when he came over to 

1 Many particulars relating to ster. It is reprinted from the 

the Ulster life of the Bishop will Northern Whig. 

be found hi an interesting sketch * Parl. Hist. xx. 1164. 

of his history by the Kev. Clas- * Charlemont's MS. Autobio- 

son Porter, a gentleman who has graphy ; Hardy's Life of Charl& 

contributed much that is valu- mont, ii. 103. 
able to the local history of TJ1- 

fa. v. THE BISHOP OF DERRY. 861 

Ireland on his evangelical mission, found in Lord 
Bristol a most cordial supporter. ' The Bishop,' writes 
Wesley, describing a Sunday at Londonderry in 1775, 
' preached a judicious, useful sermon on the blasphemy 
of the Holy Ghost. He is both a good writer and a 
good speaker, and he celebrated the Lord's Supper with 
admirable solemnity.' A few days later, ' the Bishop 
invited me to dinner, and told me, "I know you do not 
love our hours, and will therefore order dinner to be on 
table between two and three o'clock." We had a piece 
of boiled beef and an English pudding. This is true 
good breeding. The Bishop is entirely easy and unaf- 
fected in his whole behaviour, exemplary in all parts of 
public worship, and plenteous in good works.' l 

It is curious to compare this picture with the 
emphatic judgment of Charlemont, who, while admitting 
the many generous actions of the Bishop, described him 
as a bad father, a worse husband, a determined deist, 
very blasphemous in his conversation, and greatly ad- 
dicted to intrigue and gallantry ; with that of Fox, who 
described him as a madman, and a dishonest one ; with 
that of Barrington, who delineated him at great length 
as a brilliant but purely secular and most unscrupulous 
politician. Jeremy Bentham met him atBowood in 1781, 
and described him in his diary in a passage which bears 
a strong impress of truth. ' He is a most excellent 
companion, pleasant, intelligent, well-bred and liberal- 
minded -to the last degree. He has been everywhere 
and knows everything.' He told Bentham that the 
rectors in his diocese enjoyed incomes of from 250Z. to 
1,500Z. a year, and declared it to be a wonder and a 
shame that they should be suffered to remain in posses- 
sion of so much wealth, since scarcely any of them 
resided, and since they only paid their curates ' 50Z. 

Wesley's Journal, June 1, 6, 1775. 


a year, which is their own estimate of what the service 
done is worth. . . . He assumed to me,' continued 
Bentham, 'unless I much mistook him, a principal share 
in the merit of carrying the Toleration Act through the 
Irish House of Lords. He was, in his own mind at 
least, for going further and admitting them [the Catho- 
lics] to all offices, that of member of Parliament not 
excepted.' Lord Shelburne, Bentham says, spoke of 
' the flightiness of Lord Bristol, who he says is equally 
known for his spirit of intrigue and his habit of draw- 
ing the long bow. Indeed, there does seem to be 
something of that in him.' 1 

There were reports that Lord Bristol had been 
refused the bishopric of Durham, and had even aspired 
to the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland ; but they seem to 
be attested by no evidence, and it was probably no 
deeper reason than an uncontrollable love of excitement 
and of popularity, that produced the strange spectacle 
of a man, who was at once a great bishop and an English 
earl, exerting all his energies to enroll and arm Irish 
volunteers, 2 and endeavouring to bring them into col- 
lision with the Irish Parliament and with England. 
At the assembly of volunteer delegates, which met at 
Lisburn in July 1783, a committee was appointed to 
collect information about the state of representation in 
Ireland, and to correspond with the different reform 
associations in England ; and the general meeting of 
delegates of the whole province of Ulster, which was 
held at Dungannon in the ensuing September, passed 
resolutions declaring that, a majority of the Irish House 
of Commons being returned by the mandates of a few 
peers and commoners, that House was in no sense a re- 
presentation of the people ; that ' the elective franchise 

1 Bentham's Works, x. 93, 94, Bishop offering assistance for 
101. the purchase of camp equips ga. 

* See the curious letter of the Grattan's Life, ii. 262, 263. 


ought of right to extend to all those, and those only, 
who are likely to exercise it for the public good,' and 
that the present imperfect representation, and long 
duration of Parliament, were intolerable grievances. 
They at the same time called upon the few representa- 
tives of free constituencies to refuse to vote any but 
short bills of supply, till their grievances were redressed ; 
expressed the warmest sympathy with the English and 
Scotch reformers, and summoned the volunteers of all 
four provinces to meet together, to elect a convention of 
delegates, chosen by ballot from each county in Ireland. 
This convention was to meet in Dublin on November 
10, shortly after Parliament had assembled and while it 
was still sitting, to frame a plan of reform, and to 
demand those rights without which ' the forms of a free 
nation would be a curse.' 

Charlemont and Flood were not present at t'aese 
proceedings. The first had probably abstained from 
policy, and the second on account of a passing illness. 
Colonel Stewart, the member for Tyrone, who was an 
intimate friend of Charlemont, was in the chair, but the 
influence of the Bishop appears to have predominated, 
and he had put himself at the head of the democracy 
of the North. Being absolutely free from every form 
of ecclesiastical superstition, and the most emphatic 
advocate of a wide measure of parliamentary reform, 
and of the most complete liberality in Church and State, 
he had become exceedingly popular among the Presby- 
terians, and in May 1784 a most curious address was 
presented to him by the Presbytery of Deny, expressing 
' their perfect approbation of the liberality of his lord- 
ship's religious sentiments.' ' Christianity,' they pro- 
ceed, 'is liberal, and he is the best disciple of Jesus 
Christ who possesses the most extensive charity and 
good-will to the human race. . . . As ministers of the 
Gospel of Peace . . . they rejoice in this opportunity of 


giving their tribute of deserved praise to a character in 
every respect so dignified.' ' The liberality of senti- 
ment/ answered the Bishop, ' which you ascribe to me, 
flows from the rare consistency of a Protestant bishop, 
who feels it his duty, and has therefore made it his 
practice, to venerate in others that inalienable exercise 
of private judgment which he and his ancestors claimed 
for themselves. ... On the great object which now 
centres in me the applauses of such various and even 
contradictory denominations of citizens, I do own to 
you the very rock which founds my cathedral is less 
immovable than my purpose to liberate this high- 
mettled nation from the petulant and rapacious oli- 
garchy which plunder and insult it.' l 

It was not, however, merely on the Presbyterians 
that the Bishop relied. One of his leading and most 
distinctive notions was to bring the Catholic body into 
active politics, by claiming for them the elective fran- 
chise and by inducing them to agitate for it themselves. 
At the meeting of Dungannon the question was already 
brought forward, but it was laid aside on account of 
the strenuous opposition of the friends of Charlemont. 2 
From this time, however, it entered into the programme 
of the more democratic party, and overtures to the 
Roman Catholics emanating for the most part from 
Presbyterian sources became frequent. 3 

The proposal to hold a volunteer convention in 
Dublin excited the keenest alarm. It was, in effect, to 
set up at the doors of the legal Parliament, and at a 
time when that Parliament was sitting, a rival repre- 
sentative body emanating from and supported by an 
armed force, and convened for the express purpose of 

1 Mant's Church History of * See an example of this in 
Ireland, ii. 692-694. the Freeman's Journal, Nov. 

2 Hardy's Life of CJiarlemont, 20-22, 1783, which Lord North- 
11. 100. ington sent to England. 


directing or intimidating the Legislature of the nation. 
Fox wrote with great emphasis, that if'such a body were 
suffered to continue, above all if the smallest concession 
were made in obedience to its mandates, the freedom of 
Ireland would be at an end ; her boasted Constitution 
would be replaced by a Government as purely military 
as that of the Praetorian Guards ; demand would follow 
demand, and complete anarchy would be the inevitable 
end. 1 At the same time it was almost impossible to 
prevent the Convention from meeting. The upper 
classes looked indeed with alarm on the new movement, 
but the yeomanry of the North were enthusiastic in its 
favour. Precedents had been established within the 
last few years, that made it very difficult to condemn 
it as illegal, and the volunteers had assumed such a 
position that it was almost impossible to repress them. 
They were a great and disciplined army comprising all 
that was best in the Protestant population of Ireland. 
They had been three times thanked by Parliament. 
The address of the two Houses of Parliament in 1 782 
had been carried to the Castle between two lines of 
volunteers. A succession of Lord Lieutenants had 
courted and eulogised them at a time when they were 
actually interfering in politics, and the Renunciation 
Act which had just been carried in England was mainly 
attributed to their influence. To prevent them from, 
now meeting in convention would in the opinion of the 
Lord Lieutenant be dangerous or impossible. 

Charlemont was confronted with that question which 
under different forms and names has constantly pressed 
upon Irish politicians. All the information from the 
North showed that it would be perfectly futile to oppose 
the meeting of the Convention. He had, as we have 
seen, tried at the outset to limit, its functions to that of 

1 Fox to Northington, Nov. 1, 1783. Grattan's Life, iii. 10ft- 
1783. Fox to Burgoyne, Nov. 7, 116. 


petitioning for parliamentary reform ; but it was ex- 
tremely doubtful whether the advice would be taken. 
The question he had to decide was whether he ought to 
take part in the Convention or to stand aloof from it. 
In the one case he would countenance and participate in 
a proceeding which he regarded as dangerous and un- 
constitutional. In the other case it was tolerably certain 
that the whole management of the Convention, it was 
possible that the whole direction of the volunteer force, 
would fall into the hands of demagogues of the most 
dangerous type. 

Charlemont determined to accept the first alterna- 
tive, to propose himself, and to induce others of the 
leading gentry connected with the movement to propose 
themselves, as candidates for election in the Convention. 
He has himself stated his motives with great candour. 
' Though I never cordially approved of the meeting, yet, 
as I found it impossible to withstand the general im- 
pulse towards it, ... I did not choose to exert my- 
self against it, especially as there was cause to fear my 
exertions would be fruitless, and if so might prevent 
my being useful towards moderating and guiding those 
measures which I could not with efficiency oppose, and 
directing that torrent which might otherwise have swept 
down all before it. I had upon mature consideration 
determined that to render the assembly as respectable 
as possible was the next best mode to the entire preven- 
tion of it.' l 

The efforts of Charlemont were in a great degree 
successful. The Convention, he says, formed ' a truly 
respectable body of gentlemen, for though some of the 
lower classes had been delegated, by far the majority 
were men of rank and fortune, and many of them 
members of Parliament, Lords and Commons.' Among 

1 Hardy's Life of Charlemont, ii. 106. 


the delegates were Charlemont, Flopd, and the Bishop 
of Deny. 1 

The Bishop did everything in his power, to aggravate 
by his conduct the dissension between the Convention 
and Parliament. He was now accustomed to go about, 
escorted by a troop of volunteer light cavalry enrolled 
and commanded by his nephew, George Robert Fitz- 
gerald, a man who about three years later was hanged 
lor a very aggravated murder, and whose history had 
been already a strange illustration of the utter lawless- 
ness prevailing in some sections of Irish life. He was 
the son of a gentleman of considerable fortune in 
the wildest parts of Mayo. His mother, Lady Mary 
Hervey, once maid of honour to the Princess Amelia, 
and sister to three successive Earls of Bristol, had been, 
compelled by the gross ill usage of her husband to seek 
a separate maintenance, and became in later life a 
prominent figure in the early Evangelical movement, 
and an intimate friend of Venn and of Fletcher of 
Madeley. 2 George Robert, their eldest son, was educated 
at Eton; he connected himself by marriage with the 
great families of Leinster and Conolly ; travelled on the 
Continent, was presented at the French Court, wrote 
both prose and verse with some grace, and concealed 
under the appearance of a well-bred, polished, and 
almost effeminate gentleman, a character reckless and 
savage to the very verge of insanity. He was soon 
noted as one of the best shots, one of the most desperate 
duellists, and one of the most arrogant bullies in the 
West, and a crowd of stories are told of the savage ani- 
mosity and the brutal insults with which he pursued his 
enemies, and of the terror which he excited in the wild 
country in which he lived. Among many other strange 
freaks, he was accustomed to hunt the fox in the deadest 

1 Hardy's Life of Charlemont, ii. 106. 

2 Life of the Countess of Huntingdon, ii. 194, 195 


hours of the night, to the terror of the superstitious 
peasantry, who, as the chase swept by and as the red 
gleam of the torches flashed through the darkness, 
imagined that hell had broken loose and that demon 
hunters were infesting the land. In consequence of a 
fierce family quarrel he seized upon his father and kept 
him for five months in strict confinement in his house at 
Rockfield, under the guard of 200 or 300 ruffians who 
followed his fortunes, and many of whom had escaped 
from gaol. Cannon were mounted around the house ; 
all communications were cut off; although the younger 
brother obtained without difficulty a writ, the sheriff did 
not dare to execute it, and, at last, when the assizes 
were being held at Castlebar, George Robert Fitzgerald 
appeared of his own accord in the court house, and 
calmly took his place among the grand jurors of the 
county. The audacity of the proceeding, however, 
proved too great. The younger brother was present, 
and at his request the judge ordered the arrest of Fitz- 
gerald, who was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 
three years' imprisonment and to a heavy fine. As was 
generally expected, he did not lie long in prison. 
Pistols were conveyed to him. He soon in broad day- 
light escaped, returned to Rockfield, which lay about 
three miles from Castlebar, and caused the cannon 
which defended his house to be fired several times in 
honour of his release. The younger brother urged upon 
the sheriff the necessity of executing the writ, but was 
informed that without the assistance of regular troops 
such an enterprise was hopeless, and Fitzgerald not 
only remained at large, but exercised a general terrorism 
over the whole country. 

He soon, however, by his own reckless imprudence, 
fell within the grasp of the law. About three weeks 
after his escape from Castlebar he ventured to Dublin 
in the company of his father, and was there, by the in- 


strumentality of his brother, and on the information of 
his father, arrested and committed to prison. He ob- 
tained a writ of error, but the King's Bench affirmed 
his sentence, and he lay in confinement for more than 
eighteen months, when bad health, and influence in 
high quarters, procured his release. At the end of 
March 1783, the Attorney-General recommended him 
for pardon. 1 He appears to have speedily gone to his 
uncle at Derry, and to have thrown himself actively into 
volunteering, and in May 1784, little more than a year 
after his release from prison, through the influence 
of the Bishop, he was presented with the freedom of the 
city of Londonderry. 2 

Accompanied by the troop of dragoons commanded 
by this singular personage, the Bishop of Derry entered 
Dublin in November 1783 in royal state. Dressed en- 
tirely in purple, with diamond knee and shoe buckles, 
and with long gold tassels hanging from his white 
gloves, he sat in an open landau drawn by six noble 
horses caparisoned with purple ribbons. The dragoons 
rode on each side of his carriage, which proceeded 
slowly through the different streets amid the cheers of 
a large crowd till it arrived at the door of the Parlia- 
ment House, where a halt was called, and a loud blast 
of trumpets startled the assembled members. Several 
wholly ignorant of the cause of the tumult flocked from 

1 See the memorial of Charles upon it, will be found in the Irish 
Lionel Fitzgerald to the Earl of Eecord Office, Entries of Civil 
Carlisle (Sept. 24, 1781), and the Petitions. See also The Case of 
letter of G. B. Fitzgerald to the G. B.Fitzgerald, impartially cow- 
same, Jan. 26, 1781, Irish State sidered,with Anecdotes of his Life 
Paper Office. Two of Fitzgerald's (1786) ; A Letter to the Right Hon. 
letters from prison are preserved W. Eden, by a Member of the 
in the miscellaneous correspond- RocJcfield Legion commanded by 
ence, Irish State PaperOffice; and O.R.Fitzgerald; and a curious 
his very curious memorial to the lifeofFitzgeraldpublishedinl786. 
Government in 1783, and the 2 Mant's History. of the Irish 
opinion of the Attorney-General Church, ii. 693. 



curiosity to the door, and the Bishop saluted them with 
royal dignity. The volunteers presented arms ; the 
bands played the Volunteer March ; and then, with a 
defiant blast of trumpets, the procession proceeded on 
its way. The Bishop was highly elated. He imagined 
that he would be elected president of the Convention, 
and he appears to have entertained a real design of 
heading a rebellion. ' We must have blood, my lord, 
we must have blood ! ' he once exclaimed to Lord 
Charlemont. 1 

Fortunately, however, for the peace of the country, 
the great majority of the Convention, which assembled 
in Dublin on November 10, were men of a very differ- 
ent stamp from the warlike Bishop. To his great dis- 
appointment Charlemont was elected the chairman, and 
though the Convention contained some demagogues and 
incendiaries, it consisted chiefly of country gentlemen 
of character and position, and contained several expe- 
rienced and constitutional politicians, who had been in- 
duced by Charlemont to offer themselves as delegates 
for the express purpose of moderating its proceedings, 
and also some warm friends of the Government, who 
deliberately laboured to perplex its debates by divided 
counsels and multiplied propositions. 8 The meeting 

1 Hardy's Life of Charlemont. fence of his Sovereign and of 

Barrington's Rise and Fall of the Constitution.' Speech of 

the Irish Nation, ccvii. xix. Earl of Clare, February 19, 1798 

Fitzgibbon, many years later, in (Dublin, 1798), p. 80. I believe 

reviewing this period of Irish this was certainly not true of 

history, while speaking of the the Bishop of Derry. 

extreme danger to Government 2 ' The next step was to try 

of such a military Convention by means of our friends in this 

as that of 1783, made the follow- assembly [the Convention] to 

ing remarkable admission : ' In perplex its proceedings and to 

that Convention I will venture create confusion in their delibe- 

to say there was not a single rations, in order to bring their 

rebel ; there was not a member meeting into contempt and to 

of it who would not willingly create a necessity of its dissolv- shed hip blood in the de- ing itself. This method had con- 


was first held in the Exchange, but was afterwards 
adjourned to the Rotunda. Having endeavoured to 
justify their proceedings by a resolution that, ' the Pro- 
testant inhabitants of this country are required by the 
statute law to carry arms and have the use of them, and 
are not by their compliance with the law excluded from 
the exercise of their civil rights/ and having asserted in 
the strongest terms their attachment to the Sovereign 
and to the Constitution, they proceeded to the great 
task of drawing up a scheme of parliamentary reform. 
On the motion of the Bishop of Derry, a committee 
consisting of one member from each county was ap- 
pointed to frame a plan for the approbation of the 
Convention, bnt little progress was made till, at the 
suggestion of the same person, Flood, who was not on 
the committee, was called in as an assessor. His prac- 
tised eloquence and great constitutional knowledge soon 
obtained a complete ascendency. The Bishop more than 
once endeavoured to bring forward the question of the 
Catholic franchise, but Flood and Charlemont opposed 
him, and though he met with considerable support he 
was defeated. 1 A proposition to recommend vote by 

siderable effect. They are strongly zeal likewise induced him to at- 
embarrassed by a multiplicity of tend the Convention, of which 
plans, and are much alarmed by he was chosen a member, where 
the Eoman Catholics claiming a he exerted his efforts constantly 
right to vote.' Northington to to check and control the mis- 
Fox, Nov. 17, 1783: Grattan's chievous tendency of measures 
Life, iii. 130, 131. In the be- proposed there, and to support 
ginning of 1784 Northington re- what might be the wishes of 
commended very strongly Ogle, the Government.' Northington 
the member for Wexford, for the to Sydney, Jan. 25, 1784. 
place of registrar of deeds. He * ' The Bishop again renewed 
says : ' His private character and the Catholic question, in which 
public conduct command uni- he was warmly supported by 
versal esteem. He has given many of the Connaught and by 
the most decided and cordial some of the Munster delegates, 
support upon all occasions to while even a few of the Northern 
my administration. . . . His Dissenters, by their speeches and 

B a 


ballot was rejected after some debate, and at last, after 
three weeks of deliberation, a very comprehensive plan 
of reform drawn up by Flood was agreed upon. Charle- 
mont and the five other borough proprietors who sat in 
the Convention, declared their readiness to surrender 
their patronage. At length, on November 29, 1783, 
the preliminary measures being all accomplished, Flood 
proposed that he and such other members of Parliament 
as were present, should at once proceed from the Con- 
vention to the Parliament, and move for leave to bring 
in a Bill of reform corresponding to the plan which had 
been agreed upon, and that ' the Convention should not 
adjourn till the fate of the motion was known.' 

It would be impossible to assert more strongly the 
position of the Convention as a kind of rival Legislature, 
and to bring it more directly into conflict with the 
Parliament. Charlemont greatly disapproved of the 
step, and he would gladly have sent down the Volun- 
teer Bill to the different counties to be recommended 
by public meetings and petitions ; but Flood would 
admit no delay, and his influence, supported by that of 
the Bishop, swayed the meeting. That night he appeared 
with several other members of the Convention in the 
House of Commons, dressed in the uniform of the volun- 
teers, and asked leave to bring in his Reform Bill. In 
substance, the Volunteer Reform Bill was much less 
extreme than the schemes of reform which about this 
time were recommended by the Duke of Richmond and 
other reformers in England. It proposed to restrict 
the right of voting, except in the case of electors who 
possessed freehold or leasehold property of 20Z. a year, 
to men who had actually resided in the constituency six 

acquiescence, appeared already were, not long after, actuated.' 
to indicate the approach of that Charlemont's MS. Autobio- 
strange madness by which they graphy. 


months out of the preceding twelve ; to throw open the 
decayed boroughs by extending their franchise to the 
neighbouring districts ; to annul by Act of Parliament 
the by-laws by which any corporation had contracted 
the right of franchise ; to give votes to all Protestants 
resident in any city or borough, who possessed free- 
holds or leaseholds of a specified value and duration ; 
to incapacitate all who held pensions during pleasure 
from sitting in Parliament ; to compel every member 
of Parliament accepting a pension for life, or any place 
under the Crown, to vacate his seat and submit to a 
new election ; to oblige all members to swear that they 
had not given, money for their seats ; and finally to 
limit the duration of Parliament to three years. 

The prospects of the Bill, however, were soon seen 
to be hopeless. It asked at least two-thirds of the 
members of the House of Commons to make a sacrifice 
of power, privilege, or money., such as no Legislature 
or ascendent caste has ever consented to make, except 
under the pressure of extreme necessity or of extreme 
enthusiasm, and it asked them to do this at a time 
when they had every motive to strengthen them in 
their resistance. A large proportion of the Convention, 
including itfc president, were notoriously half-hearted, 
or hostile fco its proceedings. Many of the leading 
patriots of Ireland, and among them the chief author 
of the Constitution of 1782, were utterly opposed to 
the meeting of the Convention. The language and 
conduct of the Bishop of Derry ; the Catholic question 
suddenly thrown into the arena of Irish politics ; the 
violence of a considerable part of the Press, had dis- 
turbed, irritated, and divided the nation. The natural 
pride of Parliament was aroused by the encroachment 
on its prerogative. The elections were just over, and 
they had on the whole been favourable to the Govern- 
ment, and the Government was inflexibly opposed to 


all concessions to the Convention. Yelverton, who was 
Attorney-General, in a speech of great power moved 
that the House should refuse even to take the Bill into 
consideration, as it originated with an armed body, and 
was an attempt to compel Parliament to register the 
edicts of another assembly, and to receive propositions 
at the point of the bayonet. Flood answered that he 
and his colleagues had never mentioned the volunteers. 
They came as members of Parliament to present a regu- 
lar Bill in regular form. Would the House receive it 
from them ? Under the Duke of Portland, the House 
had consented without difficulty to take a Reform Bill 
into consideration. The anomalies and abuses of the 
representation were glaring and notorious. Petitions 
from many counties showed the sense of the nation on 
the subject. Would Parliament refuse even to inquire 
into the grievance ? He and his friends had not intro- 
duced the volunteers into the debate, but as they were 
introduced, he would not shrink from defending them. 
He recapitulated with great power their services to the 
Constitution, reminded the House how largely Parlia- 
ment in its political struggle had rested upon them, 
and asked whether it was Parliament or the volunteers 
who had changed. A positive Act directs that every 
Protestant in Ireland is to bear arms, and ' because one 
man fulfils more of his duty as a citizen than another, 
should he enjoy less of a citizen's privilege ? ' 

The debate was continued till three in the morning, 
and it terminated in the House refusing by 157 votes 
against 77 to receive the Bill. A resolution moved by 
the Attorney-General, to the effect that it had ' become 
necessary to declare that this House will maintain its 
just rights and privileges against all encroachments 
whatever,' and an address to the King moved by Conolly 
asserting the ' perfect satisfaction ' of the House with 
the Constitution, and the determination to support it 


with their lives and fortunes, were then carried. Grat- 
tan, in a few conciliatory words, supported the pro- 
position to consider the Bill upon its own merits, but 
he voted silently for the ensuing resolution. 1 

This memorable night gave a fatal blow to the 
political influence of the volunteers. There were not 
wanting indeed among them wild spirits who would 
have gladly pushed matters to extremity, but Charle- 
mont strained his influence to the utmost and succeeded 
in putting an end to the Convention. The debate in 
the House of Commons took place on Saturday night, 
and Charlemont with some difficulty persuaded the Con- 
vention, in spite of their previous resolution, to adjourn 
to the ensuing Monday. On Sunday he held a meet- 
ing of his own friends, and they agreed together, that 
the Convention must be dissolved. On Monday the 1st 
and on Tuesday the 2nd of December the Convention 
again met, and Flood fully supported Charlemont in 
advocating moderation. The Bishop of Deny and Sir 
Edward Newenham, who represented the more demo- 
cratic party, were both present, and the debate appears 
to have been full and dignified. It was agreed to take 
no formal notice of the recent proceedings in Parlia- 
ment. A resolution was passed asserting anew the 
manifest necessity of a parliamentary reform. The 
delegates agreed to forward the plan of reform adopted 
by the Convention to their several districts, and to 
endeavour by public meetings, petitions, instructions 
to members, and the publication of abuses to obtain for 
it a great weight of civil support. The Convention 
then proceeded to adjourn sine die. One of its last acts 
was an address to the King, which was composed and 

1 Irish Parl. Debates, ii. 225- The Commons' Journals, how- 

264. The numbers in the first ever, and also a letter of Lord 

division are given erroneously in Northington (Nov. 30, 1783), give 

the Parl Debates as 158 to 49. them as in the text. 


moved by Flood, and which may be looked upon as its 
defence before the bar of history. In this remarkable 
document ' the delegates of all the volunteers of Ire- 
land ' begged ' to express their zeal for his Majesty's 
person, family, and Government, and their inviolable 
attachment to the perpetual connection of his. Majesty's 
crown of this kingdom with that of Great Britain ; to 
offer to his Majesty their lives and fortunes in support 
of his Majesty's rights, and of the glory and prosperity 
of the British Empire ; to assert with an humble but 
an honest confidence that the volunteers of Ireland did, 
without expense to the public, protect his Majesty's 
kingdom of Ireland against his foreign enemies at a 
time when the remains of his Majesty's forces in this 
country were not adequate to that service ; to state 
that through their means the laws and police of this 
kingdom had been better executed and maintained 
than at any former period within the memory of man, 
and to implore his Majesty that their humble wish to 
have certain manifest perversions of the parliamentary 
representation of this kingdom remedied by the Legis- 
lature in some reasonable degree, might not be imputed 
to any spirit of innovation in them, but to a sober and 
laudable desire to uphold the Constitution, to confirm 
the satisfaction of their fellow-subjects, and to perpetu- 
ate the cordial union of both kingdoms.' ! 

1 See Grattan's Life, Hi. 159- accusing Charlemont of having 

162 ; Hardy's Life of Charle- come to the Hall before the usual 

mont, ii. 138-142 ; Charlemcnt hour on Monday, the 1st, with 

Papers. There is a full report his own friends, and adjourned 

of the proceedings of the Con- the Convention sine die before 

vention in a pamphlet, called the arrival of the opposite party. 

Proceedings of the Volunteer As a matter of fact the debate 

Delegates of Ireland (1784), and extended over two days, and 

also in the Hibernian Journal Flood, the Bishop of Derry, and 

for 1783. Barrington (Rise and all the other more conspicuous 

I'all of the Irish Nation, c. xix.) members of the Convention wer 

has grossly misrepresented the present. 
closing scenes of the Convention, 


The Volunteer Convention was peacefully dissolved, 
but in the March of the following year Flood again 
brought the Reform Bill before Parliament. It was 
supported by petitions from twenty-six counties. It 
was introduced and defended with a moderation that 
could hardly offend the most sensitive politician, and 
there was no parade or menace of military force. As 
might have been expected in a Parliament where the 
Government was hostile to reform and where more than 
two-thirds of the members represented nomination 
boroughs, it was rejected almost with contempt. The 
House did not, it is true, as on the former occasion re- 
fuse leave for its introduction, but it was thrown out 
on the second reading by a majority of seventy-four. 1 
From that time the conviction sank deep into the minds 
of many that reform in Ireland could only be effected 
by revolution, and the rebellion of 1798 might be 
already foreseen. 

So ended a most unhappy episode in the history of 
Ireland. The divisions among the reformers had para- 
lysed their force, and in the opinion of the great ma- 
jority of the best judges, the creation of a Convention 
and the attempt to dictate measures to Parliament 
were gross political errors. There have always, how- 
ever, been a few writers who have in this controversy 
adopted the side of Flood, who have maintained that 
if Grattan had not stood aloof and if Charlemont had 
been truly in earnest, the volunteers might have forced 
a reform Bill through Parliament, and that the tran- 
scendent importance of making the Irish Parliament a 
really representative body outweighed the great danger 
and evil of the precedent that would have been created. 
Sir Jonah Barrington, the brilliant Irish historian of 
the period, adopted this view, and it was strongly sup- 

Irish Parl. Deb. in. 13-23, 43-85 


ported by another writer whose name will have greater 
weight with English readers. Jeremy Bentham lived 
at a time when the recollection of the volunteer move- 
ment was still vivid, and he appears to have paid special 
attention to its history. He described the conduct of 
the volunteer organisation during five troublous years 
as one of the very best illustrations in history of the 
high qualities of patriotism and self-control that are 
produced in a self-governed democracy. They ' exalted,' 
he said, c the average mass of public and private felicity 
in Ireland to a pitch unknown before or since, and as 
at once a cause and a consequence of it, public and 
private virtue.' 'Commercial emancipation and par- 
liamentary emancipation united the wishes of almost 
everybody . . . and nothing could be more evident 
than that but for the armed association they never could 
have been accomplished.' The pressure of the Conven- 
tion, he thinks, was ' the only means by which any con- 
stitutional reform could have been effected,' and he 
attributes it wholly to the half-heartedness of Charle- 
mont, of Grattan and their party, that ' Mr. Grattan's 
great and worthy rival Flood ' did not succeed in carry- 
ing reform.' l 

The question is not susceptible of any positive solu- 
tion, and the difficulties on all sides seemed nearly in- 
superable. The experience of all countries shows that 
a monopoly of power, as complete as that which was 
possessed by a small group of borough owners in Ire- 
land, is never, or scarcely ever, broken down except by 
measures bordering on revolution. The Reform Bill 
of 1832 would never have been carried, but for an 
agitation which convinced the most enlightened states- 
men that the country could not be peacefully governed 

1 Bentham, Radicalism not dangerous, part iv. ; Collected Work?, 
iii. 613-620. 


on any other condition. Yet the English monopoly 
before 1832 was but a faint shadow of that Irish Parlia- 
ment, in which more than two-thirds of the representa- 
tives were nominated by individual patrons, and a 
majority were dependent on a few great families. Cor- 
ruption ever follows monopoly as the shadow the sub- 
stance, and where political power was concentrated in 
so few hands, party management necessarily resolved it- 
self into personal influence. The Protestant yeomanry 
of the North, and the great bulk of the Protestant 
gentry, found themselves either unrepresented or most 
inadequately represented ; and these classes, who com- 
prised most of the intelligence, and a great preponder- 
ance of the property, of the country, mainly constituted 
at this time both the volunteers and the reformers of 
Ireland. 1 

To create popular, but at the same time purely Pro- 
testant, institutions was the aim of Charlemont and 
Flood, and the whole history of the volunteer organisa- 
tion appears to me to show that the ascendant caste had 
attained a level of political intelligence and capacity 
which fully fitted it for increased political power. 

1 ' If property and fortune are equal representation.' ' The 
the criteria of consequence, the Volunteer Eeform Bill,' says the 
members of the Convention were same writer, ' was neither fraught 
of equal importance, and pos- with speculative principles nor 
sessed an equal interest in the new-fangled doctrines ; it dealt 
public welfare as the members neither in experiment nor inno- 
of the House of Commons. . . . vation, and though possibly not 
There cannot be a more irrefrag- the best that human wisdom 
able argument in favour of a re- could devise, yet at least it must 
form of Parliament than, origi- have had some excellencies to 
nating with the people, that it recommend it, from the almost 
should be embraced by almost unanimous applause that awaited 
every man of rank and fortune it in every quarter of the king- 
in the kingdom, except the indi- dom.' History of the last Ses- 
viduals whose respective inte- sion of Parliament, by a member 
rests and usurpation were sup- of the sub-committee of the Con - 
posed to be affected by a more vention (Dublin, 1784), pp. 9, 10. 


Beyond this Flood and Oharlemont refused to go. To 
place political power in the hands of the vast, ignorant, 
and turbulent Catholic peasantry would, they maintained, 
be an act of madness which would imperil every institu- 
tion in the country, shake property to its very basis, 
and probably condemn Ireland to a long period of 
anarchy. I have already quoted the remarkable letter, 
in which as late as 1791 Charlemont predicted that a 
full century was likely to elapse before the mass of the 
Irish Catholics could be safely entrusted with political 
power ; l and in his comments on the proceedings of the 
Convention of 1783, he expressed his views on the sub- 
ject with great clearness. ' Every immunity,' he wrote, 
' every privilege of citizenship should be given to the 
Catholics excepting only arms and legislation, either of 
which being granted them would, I conceive, shortly 
render Ireland a Catholic country, totally break its con- 
nection with England,' and force it to resort to the pro- 
tection of France or Spain. 2 Flood, as we have seen, 
held very similar opinions, and it appears to have been 
partly in order to divert the volunteers from taking up 
the Catholic question that he pushed on so strenuously 
the question of reform. A democracy planted in an 
aristocracy, popular institutions growing out of an 
intelligent and ascendant class, formed their ideal, and 
the memory of ancient Athens with its democracy of 
30,000 free citizens rising above a vast population of 
unrepresented slaves was probably present to many 

Such a reform, they maintained, would have at least 
placed the Irish Parliament on a secure basis, made it a 
real representative of the intelligence and property of 
Ireland, put an end to the inveterate system of corrup- 
tion, and called the action of party government into full 

1 See p. 207. 2 MS. Autobiography. 


and healthy play. The result may appear to show that 
it would have been wise at almost any hazard, and 
without any delay, if possible, to have at this time forced 
a large infusion of the popular element into Parliament, 
but the result is a less decisive test than is often thought 
of the wisdom of statesmen. Politics are little more 
than a calculation of probabilities, and the train of 
events which appears reasonably the most probable does 
not always occur. If the course of the world for fifty 
years after 1782 had been as peaceful as it had been 
during the first three quarters of the century, reforms 
might probably have been introduced by slow steps, and 
no great catastrophe would have occurred. Mere political 
difficulties and ordinary wars had never seriously affected 
the loyalty and the peace of the country. The American 
Revolution with its direct and evident bearing on the 
relations of dependencies to the mother country was the 
first contest which acted powerfully upon opinion, and 
even its influence was of a very sober, measured, and 
rational kind. Unfortunately for the peace of Ireland, 
before the close of the century an event occurred which 
in its immediate moral and political effects was wholly 
unequalled since the great religious convulsions of the 
sixteenth century. The fierce spirit of democracy, 
which the French Revolution had engendered, swept 
like a hurricane over Europe, lashed into sudden fury 
popular passions which had slumbered for centuries, 
and strained to the utmost every beam in the Constitu- 
tion. Six or seven quiet years were granted to Ireland 
after her legislative emancipation to prepare for the 
storm, but when the first blast was felt, nothing had as 
yet been done, and the Parliament was as far as ever 
from a real representative of the nation. 

I do not propose to examine the history of those 
years in very minute detail, and shall be content if I 
can sketch their general characteristics. In England 


another revolution of power had taken place, which was 
destined to exercise a great influence in Ireland. The 
Coalition Ministry had fallen. Pitt came into power 
with an irresistible majority, and in February 1784 
Lord Northington left Ireland, and the Duke of Rut- 
land succeeded him as Viceroy, with Thomas Orde as his 
Chief Secretary. For some months after the dissolu- 
tion of the Convention a dangerous agitation might be 
discerned. ' A rage for supporting the Convention,' 
wrote one of Charlemont's best informed correspondents, 
' has laid hold on the yeomanry. ' l The Northern prints 
were full of passionate addresses, and the Bishop of 
Derry in emphatic language urged the volunteers to 
make the political emancipation of the Catholics one 
of their first objects. 2 The Government, alarmed at his 
proceedings, for a time contemplated the possibility of 
prosecuting him, and induced a gentleman from the 
neighbourhood of Derry to attach himself to him as 
a spy in order to learn his intentions, and to discover 
whether it was true, as they suspected, that he was im- 
porting arms from Birmingham. 3 

The distress which had been so severe in 1783 still 
continued. In the beginning of 1784 a proclamation 
was issued forbidding the export of oats, oatmeal, and 
barley, and Irish letters continually speak of food risen 
almost to famine prices ; of great multitudes of work- 
men unemployed ; of riots to prevent the transport of 
food from one part of the country to another ; of non- 
importation agreements ; illegal combinations of work- 
men ; industry in all its forms lamentably depressed. 
The cry for protecting duties became louder and louder, 

1 Sam. Maxwell to Charlemont, * March 20, 1784 (most secret 

Jan. 3, 1784. Charlemont Papers. and confidential), Rutland to 

* See his remarkable letters, Sydney. See, too, G rattan's Life, 

Barrington, Rise and Fall of the iii. 137, 138. 
Irish Nation, o. nc. 


and in February an amendment pointing to them was 
moved by Sir Edward Newenham in the discussion 
on the address. It was rejected without a division, but 
Rutland wrote that ' the most difficult subject which is 
likely to be introduced is that of the protecting duties, 
which is much more earnestly called for from the 
distresses which are brought upon the poor, and espe- 
cially the manufacturers, by the extraordinary incle- 
mency of the season.' l Gardiner, one of the members 
for Dublin, who was aggrieved with the Government 
because they had not given him a peerage which had 
been promised, 2 placed himself at the head of the 
movement, and he was afterwards supported by 

Resolutions in favour of protecting duties were more 
than once introduced, and the question was debated at 
great length, and with great ability. It was argued 
that Irish industries could never really flourish unless 
Parliament adopted the policy of giving native manu- 
factures a decided preference in the home market. 
History, the supporters of the resolutions said, proved 
that England and France, and every other country which 
was at liberty to pursue its own interest, had uniformly 
pursued this plan, and they only asked the Irish Parlia- 
ment to follow the example of Great Britain herself, 
' of all her wise ministers and of all her wise Parliaments 
since the Revolution.' A poor country could never, 

1 Butland to Sydney, Feb. 26, case of his support, which he 

27, 1784. Irish Parl. Deb. ii. promised, stating, however, that 

374. he had pledged himself to move 

* See in the Kutland Corre- that question [protecting duties] 

spondence, letters of Pitt to But- after the recess, but that he 

land, Feb. 1, and of Buckingham would take the first moment to 

to Pitt, Jan. 23, 1785. Bucking- quit it, and to return to that 

ham says of Gardiner : ' I cer- system from which he had been 

tainly held myself authorised to driven by Lord Northington. 
hold it [a peerage] oat to him in 


without protective duties, compete even in her domestic 
market with a far more wealthy neighbour. The long- 
established manufactures of England could always 
undersell the unprotected industries of Ireland. Great 
capitalists could easily afford some temporary loss in 
order to drive feebler rivals from the field, and the 
English manufacturer was ready to give two years' 
credit, while the Irish trader could not give more than 
six months. The Irish woollen manufacture, which 
England had formerly so absolutely suppressed, had 
been in some small degree revived since the more liberal 
legislation of the last few years ; but in spite of the 
peculiarly excellent quality of Irish wool, it was im- 
possible to maintain it, for while prohibitory laws still 
excluded Irish wool from the English market, an over- 
whelming English competition crushed it at home. 
' The only way to serve the manufacturers of Ireland 
was to put them on an equal footing with the English 
artists, to lay such duties on the import of woollens as 
might serve to counterbalance the great capitals of the 
English, the low price of their wool, and their great- 
exactness in furnishing goods.' Prohibitory duties were 
not asked, and the demand was not made in any spirit 
of hostility to England. It arose ' from a commiseration 
for the distresses of the wretched inhabitants of the 
country, and not from any party spirit or factious motive 
whatsoever.' The primary cause of the prevailing dis- 
tress is to be found ' in a radical error of our com- 
mercial system, which nothing but the interference of 
the Legislature can effectually remove.' ' England has 
flourished from adopting protecting duties, and Ireland 
has sunk by neglect of them.' ' Will any man in this 
House refuse to put the Irish manufacturer upon an 
equal footing with the Englishman ? Is it possible that 
so just, so equitable a proposition can be rejected ? ' 
Such arguments, urged at a time of acute commer- 


cial distress, and supported by the example of Dearly 
every country in Europe, and by numerous petitions 
from the manufacturing classes, could hardly fail to 
have much influence on opinion, but the demand was 
strenuously resisted. Foster, the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, who led the opposition, urged that the pre- 
vailing distress was much more local, and much more 
due to temporary causes than had been said ; that the 
effect of protective duties would be, that Irish manu- 
factures would deteriorate in quality and increase in 
price ; that the measure the House was asked to adopt 
would inevitably throw England into an attitude of 
hostility, and produce reprisals, and that the probable 
result of such reprisals would be the total ruin of the 
principal industry of Ireland. The Irish linen manu- 
facture mainly depended on the English market. The 
immense importance of that market was shown by the 
fact that while the whole value of English manufactures 
imported into Ireland was less than one million, Irish 
linens alone exported to England were valued at a 
million and a half. 1 England encouraged them by a 
small bounty, but this was a trifling matter and might 
be easily replaced. She assisted the manufacture much 
more effectually by admitting it to her market duty 
free. This was her compensation for the many Irish 
industries she had suppressed and excluded, and if 
this liberty were withdrawn the effects would be most 
calamitous. England would transfer her linen trade to 
Germany, and Irish linen would be excluded by heavy 
duties from her market, as it already was from the 
chief markets on the Continent. 

These arguments did not convince the manufac- 
turers, and it was remarked that none of the linen 
manufacturers opposed the petition for protecting duties, 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. iv. 129. 
VOL. II. 00 


while some of the most considerable actively supported 
it, maintaining that the country was likely to gain more 
by moderate duties than she could suffer from any pro- 
ceeding which Great Britain could find it her interest 
to take. 1 The political dangers of entering into a 
commercial contest with England were probably more 
keenly felt, and the resolutions in favour of protecting 
duties were rejected by overwhelming majorities. The 
House of Commons, however, felt that something must 
be done to meet the wishes of the distressed manufac- 
turers, and that a future conflict with England on com- 
mercial questions could only be averted by a commer- 
cial arrangement on the basis of reciprocal advantages. 
After some discussion, an address to the King was 
unanimously voted on May 13, 1784, in which, after 
warm protestations of gratitude and loyalty, the House 
expressed their hope ' that the interval between the 
close of the present session and the beginning of the 
next, will afford sufficient opportunity for forming a 
wise and well-digested plan for a liberal arrangement 
of commercial intercourse between Great Britain and 
Ireland to be then brought forward,' and added ' that 
Ms faithful Commons humbly beg leave to assure his 
Majesty that such a plan, formed upon the broad basis 
of reciprocal advantage, would be the most effectual 
means of strengthening the Empire at large, and che- 
rishing the common interest and brotherly affection of 
both kingdoms.' 2 

This address had afterwards important consequences. 
Some new bounties on manufactures were about the same 
time granted, and a measure was taken which exercised 
an influence of the most powerful kind on Irish agri- 
culture. Foster's Corn Law of 1784, granting large 
bounties on the exportation of corn and imposing heavy 

Jrish ParlDeb. iii. 135-138. * Ibid. p. 223. 


duties on its importation, is one of the capital facts in 
Irish history. In a few years it changed the face of 
the land, and made Ireland to a great extent an arable 
instead of a pasture country. 

I have devoted, in a former volume, a considerable 
space to the causes and effects of the immense pre- 
dominance of pasture in Ireland during the earlier 
years of the century. 1 The great and dominant cause was, 
I believe, that nature has made Ireland a supremely 
good pasture country, while as a wheat-growing country 
it is much below the average of Europe ; but there were, 
as we have seen, many subsidiary causes strengthening 
the tendency. Such were the penal laws ; the political 
and social insecurity which made landlords prefer the 
simplest type of property ; the bad farming which was 
prevalent ; the unjust exemption of pasture from the 
burden of tithes ; the fact that the bulk of the popula- 
tion, and that section which increased most rapidly, lived 
not upon bread but upon potatoes. It was also a very 
important consideration that England, till near the close 
of the century, was a wheat-exporting country. Ireland 
could find no steady market there, for, except in years 
of great scarcity, importation was discouraged by heavy 
duties, and in good years English corn, encouraged by 
the large English bounty on exportation, and checked 
by no duty in Ireland, flowed in, in overwhelming 
quantities, and beat down the price of native corn. 

The evils of this state of things were peculiarly felt 
on account of the great want of manufactures. In the 
eighteenth, as in the nineteenth century, the main 
economical evil of Ireland was the small number of its 
productive industries. The great want of a variety of 
employments had thrown the population to an un- 
healthy degree for subsistence on the soil, and pasture 

See vol. i. pp. 219-226. 

o o 2 


could only support a much smaller population than 
tillage. Several laws had already been passed, chiefly 
in periods of great distress, for the encouragement of 
tillage, but most of them were perfectly inefficient. 
English influence dominated in Irish legislation, and 
would suffer no measure that could interfere with the 
English corn trade, and Irish landlords, for the reasons 
I have mentioned, had a general leaning towards pas- 
ture. Some bounties on exportation were granted in 
1707, but they were far smaller than those in England, 
and they only came into operation when the price had 
sunk to a level which it scarcely ever reached. They 
were slightly increased in 1756, in 1765, and in 1774, 
but were sfcill too low to have any considerable effect. 
The Act of 1729, making it compulsory to till five 
acres in every hundred, was little more than a dead 
letter, and no great result can have followed from the 
Act of 1765, which offered premiums to the landlords 
and farmers in each county who had the largest quan- 
tities of corn on stands four feet high, and with flag- 
stones at the top. Some considerable effect in stimulat- 
ing tillage is, however, said to have been produced by 
those curious Acts which offered bounties on the inland 
carriage, and a few years later on the carriage, by 
the coast, of corn to Dublin ; and under these Acts, 
882,149J. was paid in bounties between 1762 and 
1784. 1 But the great and decisive impulse towards 
tillage in Ireland was not produced until the memor- 
able law of Foster, which was modelled on the English 
corn laws, as they had existed since the Revolution. 
It granted a bounty of 3s. 4d. a barrel on the export of 
wheat as long as the home price was not above 27s. a 
barrel; and other very considerable bounties on the 

1 Newenham's View of the (1809). This valuable book con- 
Nalural, Political, and Com- tains the fullest account I know, 
niercial Circumstances of Ireland of the corn legislation in Ireland. 


exportation of flour, barley, rye, oats, and peas ; and it 
at the same time laid a duty of 10s. a barrel on im- 
ported wheat when the home price was under 30s. ; 
and a number of other duties, varying according to the 
home price, on the importation of the other articles 
that have been mentioned. 1 

As I have already observed, the value of corn 
bounties was one of the points on which the opinions 
of the eighteenth century differed most widely from 
those of our own generation. In Ireland it was the 
almost unanimous belief of all the most competent 
authorities towards the close of the century, that the 
corn bounties^ of Foster had proved an inestimable 
benefit to the nation. Newenham, who of all writers 
has most fully examined the economical condition of 
Ireland in the period we are considering, described 
Foster's Act as incomparably the most beneficent Irish 
measure of the eighteenth century, and as especially, 
and in the highest degree, beneficial to the small 
farmers and labourers. From that time, he main- 
tains, acute distress in Ireland ceased ; a manufactures 
flourished in consequence of increased profits in agri- 
culture ; and while population rapidly augmented, the 
well-being of all classes steadily rose. 3 These views 

1 23 & 24 Geo. III. o. 19. This View of Irish Affairs since the 

is a very long and complicated Revolution, ii. 128-131. Both 

Act. The reader may find a Newenham and Crumpe argue 

tolerable abstract of its provi- elaborately against the views of 

sionsin Newenham, pp. 213, 214. Adam Smith on the subject. One 

* P. 143. of the very few instances of a 

* See the very elaborate ex- contemporary unfavourable view 
animation of the subject in of the corn bounties in Ireland, 
Newenham's View of the Cir- will be found in a memorial of 
cumstances of Ireland, and in Eich. Burke to Dundas. Burke's 
the same writer's work on The Correspondence, iv. 46-57. The 
Population of Ireland, pp. 44- writer, however, admits that 
50. See, too, Grumpe's Essay the corn trade created by the 
on the Employment of the People bounties, was at first very iucra- 
(1798), pp. 260-272 ; Mullala's the. 


OH. V. 

appear to have been very generally held, and the corn 
bounties received the warm and almost unanimous ap- 
probation of Parliament. It is impossible, indeed, to 
question the magnitude of the change that followed them. 
Vast pasture lands were rapidly broken up into small 
tillage farms ; corn mills were erected in every quarter 
of the land, and a great corn trade was produced. The 
quantity of corn, meal, and flour exported in twelve 
years after the passing of the Act exceeded that which 
was exported in the eighty-four years that preceded 
it. Its value in ten years after 1785 was about four 
millions and a quarter. 1 .The large number of farmers 
who held leases for life or for a considerable period, that 
had not yet expired, made great and sudden gains, and 
there was a rapid rise in the rental of land. Ne wen- 
ham, writing in 1808, expressed his belief 'that since 
the year 1782 the rent of land, which a short time 
before that year had begun to fall in many places, has 
been much more than doubled in all parts of Ireland 
one with another, more than trebled in many ; and that 
the greatest rise has been in those counties where 
tillage has been most pursued ; ' while the average price 
of agricultural labour, which was only 6^d. when Arthur 
Young visited Ireland, had risen in the next thirty 
years to 1 O^d. Foster's Act, he says, ' may fairly be 
considered as the great primary cause of the unprece- 
dented increase of wages that has taken place in 
Ireland since the year 1778.' 2 

Modern economists of the school of Adam Smith, 
will probably refuse to attribute to the corn bounties 
the undoubted progress and prosperity of Irish agricul- 
ture in the last sixteen years of the century, and will 
point to other causes which made tillage at that time 
unusually profitable. It may, however, I think, be 

1 Newenham's Circumstances of Ireland, pp. 215, 216. 
1 Ibid. pp. 230, 231 


truly claimed for Foster's Act, that in a country where 
there was very little capital and enterprise, it turned 
agriculture decisively and rapidly in this profitable 
direction. It was enacted at the time when the growth 
of the manufacturing population in England had begun 
to press heavily on the nation's means of subsistence. 
England ceased to be a wheat-exporting country. Her 
vast market was thrown open to Irish corn, and a few 
years later the great French war raised the price of 
wheat almost to a famine rate and made the profits of 
corn culture proportionately large. 

It is quite true that a great and sudden increase of 
prosperity is never likely to be a permanent benefit to 
an improvident and uneducated people. The corn 
bounties appear to have contributed largely to that ex- 
cessive subdivision of farms which became ultimately 
so disastrous ; to an increase of population out of all 
proportion to the permanent resources of the country ; 
to modes of cultivation which, in order to obtain large 
and speedy returns, exhausted and impoverished the 
soil. 1 The artificial system which turned into a wheat- 
growing country a land which nature had intended for 

1 See the powerful statement the present century, and has 

of the case against corn bounties probably seriously diminished 

in M'Culloch's Account of tJie tbe productive powers of Irish 

British Empire, i. 438, 439, 531, land. Much information about 

532. The ruinous practice of it will be found in a curious and 

skimming off and burning the valuable pamphlet called Help 

surface of old grass lands was pro- for Ireland, by William PilMng- 

bably largely stimulated by the ton (5th ed. London, 1887). For 

corn bounties, for it was found an enumeration and description 

that the ashes produced in this of the Irish laws on the subject 

manner made the soil peculiarly see McN ally's Justice of the Peace 

fitted for the speedy growth of for Ireland (1820), art. ' Burning 

great crops of wheat or potatoes. Land." Ramsay (Scotland and 

This practice had already pre- Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Cen- 

vailed in Ireland under George tury, ii. 193-196) notices the evil 

II., but it acquired extraordinary effects of the same practice in 

dimensions in the early years of Scotland* 


pasture was necessarily transient, and with the great 
fall of prices that followed the peace and with the sub- 
sequent adoption by England of the policy of Free Trade 
the whole economical condition of Ireland was again 
changed. But during the closing years of the eigh- 
teenth century, legislation and circumstances had un- 
doubtedly combined to give an immense impulse to 
agriculture, and on agriculture more than on any other 
single influence the prosperity of Ireland depended. 

These results, however, were not immediately at- 
tained, and the rejection of the protecting duties in 
1784 at first produced considerable disturbances. Rut- 
land had soon to report a long series of outrages in 
the metropolis of the most dangerous kind. Soldiers 
were more than once called in to repress them, and 
they became the objects of fierce popular animosity. 
Several were brutally houghed by butchers in the 
streets, and the crime assumed such dimensions that a 
special Act was passed to make it capital, and to throw 
the support of the wounded soldiers on the district if 
the culprit was not detected. 1 Many tradesmen or 
artisans, who had imported English goods, or worked 
at low wages or in branches of manufacture to which 
they had not been bred, or who had come up from the 
country to work in Dublin when Dublin workmen were 
on strike, were tarred and feathered after the American 
fashion or otherwise ill used. On one occasion a man, 
who had been concerned in some of these outrages, 
being publicly whipped, the mob attacked the soldiers 
on guard, who fired, killed one man, and wounded 
several others. On another a threatening mob burst into 
the gallery of the House of Commons, and it was found 
necessary to call in soldiers to eject them. On a third 
the Duke of Rutland was hooted in a theatre. A paving 

23 & 24 Geo. III. o. 66. 


Act, which was supposed to press heavily on the poorer 
ratepayers, was the cause, or, as the Government be- 
lieved, the pretext, of new disturbances. Houses were 
attacked, members of Parliament were insulted, threat- 
ening letters became very common, and a Press of the 
most savage and seditious nature had arisen. One 
paper, called ' The Volunteer's Journal,' was especially 
conspicuous for its scarcely disguised advocacy of as- 
sassination, and three men were actually arrested on a 
charge of being concerned in a conspiracy for assassi- 
nating seven members of Parliament, who were con- 
spicuous in opposing protecting duties. With ineffi- 
cient watchmen, timid magistrates, and a fierce mob, 
these outrages passed almost unpunished. There were 
vague rumours, resting on no real evidence, that French 
influence was concerned in them, and that officers of 
the Irish brigade in the French service had secretly 
come over to Ireland. It was, however, the firm con- 
viction of the Lord Lieutenant that some of the ( master 
manufacturers ' were at the bottom of the outrages, and 
that considerable sums had been subscribed to foster 
them. 1 

They appear to have been almost exclusively con- 
fined to Dublin. In April, Rutland, while describing 

1 Feb. 26, April 12, 1784, Rut- assassination. Every discovery 
land to Sydney (secret and con- we make tends to confirm it, and 
ndential). Next day Orde wrote : the glorious idea is kept alive by 
1 We are really in a very dis- the encouragements of the news- 
agreeable situation in respect to papers and the pulpits. ... It 
internal disorder. Those accursed is a damnable scene, and I most 
manufacturers, pent up in a vile cordially detest it.' Orde to Ne- 
suburb of the city, are brooding pean, April 13, 1784. There are 
mischief upon the several other letters on the sub- 
doubt, of more considerable per- ject, written in the spring and 
sons among the weavers. Their summer of 1784. See, too, Irish 
machinations are the more alarm- Parl. Deb. ii. 419-421, iii. 147- 
ing, because there is no doubt of 168. 
their design to commit private 


their magnitude, added : ' I have the satisfaction at the 
same time to find that the country is in a perfect state 
of quiet. The judges have finished their circuits, and 
at no place whatsoever did the grand juries show any 
spirit of discontent or any attempt at innovation. I 
hear of violence nowhere but in the metropolis.' * Even 
in Dublin the disturbances, though for a time very 
serious, in a few months subsided, and a Press Bill, 
which was introduced by Foster, did much to check 
them. It provided that the true names of every news- 
paper proprietor must be registered ; made receiving or 
offering money for printing or forbearing to print libels 
a high misdemeanour, and prevented the sale of un- 
stamped papers in the streets. 2 Towards the close of 
the year, however, the Whiteboy disturbances broke 
out again with great violence in the county Kilkenny 
and spread widely over several counties. 

An incident, which occurred in Dublin in the 
spring of 1784, added seriously to the alarm. The 
' Liberty ' corps of the volunteers so called because it 
was recruited in the Earl of Meath's liberties, where 
the woollen manufacturers chiefly dwelt thought fit 
without consulting any other volunteers to advertise 
for recruits, and enlisted about two hundred of the 
lowest class, who were chiefly Roman Catholics. Such 
a proceeding was wholly contrary to the wishes of 
Charlemont, to the general custom of the volunteers, 
and to the law which forbade Catholics to carry arms 
without licence, and at a time when the spirit of out- 
rage was so rife in Dublin it was peculiarly dangerous. 
The other corps of the volunteers marked their disap- 
probation by refusing to join the Liberty corps at their 
exercises : but neither the Government nor the leaders 

1 Rutland to Sydney, April 28, 2 23 & 24 Geo. III. c. 28 ; Irish 
1784. Parl Deb. iii. 154. 


of the volunteers ventured to take the decisive step of 
disarming the new recruits, and the example of Catholic 
enlistment began to spread. 1 

The change, indeed, which was now taking place in 
the character of the volunteer body, was especially 
alarming. The original volunteers had consisted of 
the flower of the Protestant yeomanry, commanded by 
the gentry of Ireland, and in addition to their services 
in securing the country from invasion in a time of 
great national peril, they had undertaken to preserve 
its internal peace, and had discharged with admirable 
efficiency the functions of a great police force. But 
after the signature of peace, and, again, after the dis- 
solution of the' Volunteer Convention, a great portion 
of the more respectable men connected with the move- 
ment considered their work done and retired from the 
ranks, and they were being replaced by another and 
wholly different class. The taste for combining, arm- 
ing, and drilling had spread, and had descended to the 
lower strata of society. Demagogues had arisen who 
sought by arming and organising volunteers to win 
political power, and who gathered around them men 
who desired for very doubtful purposes to obtain arms. 
Grattan, who at all times dreaded and detested any- 
thing that withdrew political movements in Ireland 
from the control and guidance of the gentry, was one 
of the first to denounce the change. ' I would now 

' ' I was satisfied that the old ing the people, the encourage- 
corps, who are very completely ment the plan must give to idle- 
appointed and pique themselves ness, and the dislike of other 
as gentlemen upon their man- corps to the measure, would 
ners and appearance, and upon frustrate the attempt. The event 
being men in substantial circum- hitherto has in a great degree 
stances, would not submit to justified my expectations.' Eut- 
unite with the meanest and poor- land to Sydney, May 19, 24, 
est rank ; and I expected that 1784. 
the expense of clothing and arm- 


draw the attention of the House,' he said, *to the 
alarming measure of drilling the lowest classes of the 
populace. . . . The old, the original, volunteers had 
become respectable because they represented the pro- 
perty of the nation, but attempts had been made to 
arm the poverty of the kingdom. They had originally 
been the armed property of Ireland. Were they to 
become the armed beggary ? ' ' The populace,' he added, 
c differ much and should be clearly distinguished from 
the people,' and he spoke of the capital that has been 
drained, the manufacturers who have been deterred, 
the character of the nation that has been sunk by in- 
discriminate arming, and by the establishment of re- 
presentative bodies unconnected with Parliament. 1 

The debates of this year furnish many illustrations 
of the growing evil. One speaker complained that men 
whom the old volunteers emphatically repudiated, and 
with whom they refused in any way to associate, ' men 
of no property and of every persuasion,' were of their 
own authority forming themselves into separate armed 
corps. In Kerry, men calling themselves volunteers 
beat off one of his Majesty's sloops of war with their 
small arms, and in many places men assuming the 
same name were in receipt of daily pay. Another 
speaker stated that in some of the recent Dublin riots 
volunteers had remained absolutely passive, and refused 
when summoned to assist the civil power. A third had 
seen two sergeants, in back parts of Dublin, drilling 
two parties of seventy or eighty ragged and dangerous- 
looking ruffians, and when he accosted them he found 
that they were acting entirely on their own authority, 
being determined, as they told him, that when a re- 
bellion or disturbance broke out, they would have 
armed men at their command. Fitzgibbon, who was 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. iv. 41, 42. See, too, pp. 237, 238. 


now Attorney-General, said that the great majority of 
the original volunteers had hung up their arms and 
retired to cultivate the arts of peace, and that their 
places were often taken by men of the worst character. 
He asserted that one corps, called the ' Sons of the 
Shamrock,' had voted every Frenchman of character 
an honorary member, and that he had himself seen 
resolutions inviting the French to Ireland, and enthu- 
siastic eulogies of Lewis XVI. It was reported that 
officers of the Irish brigade in the French service had 
come over to engage volunteers. The law forbidding 
Catholics to carry arms without licence had hitherto 
been enforced, and it was regarded even by the Catholic 
gentry as of vital importance to the peace of the coun- 
try, for while the more respectable Catholics readily 
obtained licences, it gave the Government the power of 
restraining, in a very lawless and turbulent country, 
the great masses of the rabble from the possession of 
arms. But now, under the colour of volunteering, and 
in direct defiance, not only of the letter of the law, but 
also of the wishes of the commander of the volunteers, 
an extensive and indiscriminate arming of Catholics 
was going on, and the Lord Lieutenant complained 
that great quantities of arms were being scattered 
through the very lowest section of the population. 1 

In Ulster, it is true, the volunteers retained much 
of their primitive character, and Charlemont for many 
years presided at their annual reviews ; but in other 
parts of the country, and especially in Dublin, the 
change was very marked. In a letter written in 1793, 
Charlemont, while deploring the shameful and utter 
degradation of the Dublin volunteers, incidentally men- 
tioned that though he was still their nominal com- 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. iv. 225, 227, letters of Rutland and Orde 
979, 280, 294. See, too, the during the latter half of 1784. 


mander, they had, for many years past, in no one 
instance asked his advice, nor had they ever taken it 
when it was offered. ' 

The disquiet caused by these things was very evident. 
In the House it was frequently expressed, and when 
a partisan of the volunteers recalled the former votes 
of thanks to the volunteers, and proposed another 
similar vote, Gardiner moved an amendment, which was 
strongly supported by Grattan and carried by a great 
majority, expressing high approbation of those who 
since the conclusion of the war had retired to cultivate 
the blessing of peace. 2 The letters of the Lord Lieu- 
tenant for some time showed the anxiety with which he 
regarded the continuance of the volunteer movement 
and especially the arming of Catholics. The creation of 
a purely Protestant militia was the favourite remedy, 
but both the English and Irish Governments agreed 
that an attempt to disarm or even to prohibit the volun- 
teers would be extremely dangerous, and that it was best 
to trust to the probability that in times of peace they 
would dwindle away. 3 The prevision was on the whole 
justified ; in a few years complaints on the subject 
almost ceased ; but a portion of the volunteers were still 
in arms when the French Revolution called all the dis- 
affected elements in Ireland into activity. 

By far the greater part of the disturbances of 1784 
and 1785 were probably due to no deeper cause than 
commercial depression acting upon a very riotous popu- 
lation, and with the return of prosperity they gradually 
ceased ; but there was a real and dangerous element of 
political agitation mixing with the social disquietude. 
The decisive rejection of Flood's Reform Bill, in spite 

1 CharlemonttoHalliday.Feb. 25, 1784; English instructions 

26, 1793. to Rutland, Jan. 11, 1785 ; Syd- 

* Irish Parl. Deb.vr. 266-297. ney to Rutland, Jan. 7, 1786; 

Orde to Nepean, Feb. 19, 1785. Eutland to Sydney, Feb. 27, 

3 See Rutland to Sydney, Oct. ^786 


of the many petitions in its favour, and the refusal of 
the House of Commons to impose protective duties, 
stimulated political agitation, and the question of the 
Catholic franchise now began to rise into prominence. 
Several of the opponents of Flood's Eeform Bill had 
made the omission of the Roman Catholics an argument 
against it ; l and some of the supporters of that Bill 
accused the Government of raising the Catholic question 
in order to divide and weaken the reformers. 2 On the 
other hand a democratic party had arisen, who, following 
the advice of the Bishop of Derry, contended that the 
best way of breaking the power of the aristocracy and 
carrying parliamentary reform was to offer the franchise 
to the CatholieSj and thus enlist the great body of the 
nation in the agitation. Dr. Richard Price, the eminent 
Nonconformist minister who was so prominent among 
the reformers in England, wrote to the volunteers : 
' I cannot help wishing that the right of voting could 
be extended to Papists of property in common with 
Protestants ; ' and Todd Jones, one of the members for 
Lisburn, published a letter to his constituents strongly 
advocating the measure. In July 1784 an address in 
this sense was presented to Lord Charlemont by the 
Ulster volunteers who were reviewed at Belfast ; but 
Charlemont in his reply, while reiterating his adhesion 
to parliamentary reform, pronounced himself strongly 
against Catholic suffrage. 3 

In Dublin a small knot of violent and revolutionary 
reformers, chiefly of the shopkeeper class, had arisen, 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. Hi. 54,65, Charlemont's answer 'brought 

69. upon him the most virulent abuse 

* See a pamphlet by Sir Lucius in the public prints, but it is no 

O'Brien, called A Gleam of Com- more than the lot of every man, 

fort to this distracted Empire who differs in the smallest de- 

{London, 1785). gree from whatever may be the 

8 Grattan's Life, iii. 228-230. popular cry of the moment.' To 

Hutland,inrelatingthis,saysthat Sydney, July 21, 1784. 


CH. v. 

and some of them were members of the Corporation. 
Napper Tandy, the son of an ironmonger in the city, 
was the most conspicuous, and he afterwards rose to 
great notoriety. By the exertions of this party, meet- 
ings in favour of reform were held in Dublin. A per- 
manent committee was created, and in June 1784 this 
committee invited the sheriffs of the different counties to 
call meetings for the purpose of electing delegates to 
meet in Dublin in the ensuing October. This was an 
attempt to revive in another form the convention of the 
previous year, with this great distinction, that it was to 
have no connection with any armed force, but was to be 
a true representative of the Irish Protestants. In many 
quarters the idea was accepted with alacrity, and the 
Government did not distinctly challenge the legality of 
the congress ; but Fitzgibbon, by a strained and unusual 
construction of law, treated the conduct of the high 
sheriff of the county of Dublin, in summoning a meeting 
to elect delegates, as a contempt of the Court of King's 
Bench ; proceeded against him before that court by the 
method of ' attachment/ and without the intervention 
of a jury caused him to be condemned to a small fine. 
The legality of this proceeding was much disputed by 
Flood, and by lawyers in the Parliaments both of 
England and Ireland. Erskine was consulted on the 
subject, and he wrote a remarkable letter in which 
he asserted that the conduct of the King's Bench 
judges was such a gross and daring usurpation that it 
would justify their impeachment, and that the precedent, 
if acquiesced in, would be in the highest degree fatal 
to liberty in both countries. 1 

1 Grattan's Life, iii. 221-226. some conversation with your At- 

I am quite incompetent to give torney-General on the subject of 

any opinion on the subject. Pitt the attachments, who defends 

in a private letter to Orde (Jan. his cause very ably and puts it in 

12, 1785) writes : ' I have had the best light it can admit of. 


The feeling in favour of reform continued to be very 
strong throughout the country, and it was accompanied 
with great irritation against the majority in Parliament. 
The prediction of Flood that without a reform of Parlia- 
ment there was no security for the stability of the 
present Constitution, and that a corrupt majority might 
one day overturn it, had sunk deeply in the popular 
mind, and petitions to the King poured in from many 
quarters, describing the House of Commons as having 
wholly lost the confidence of the nation and fallen com- 
pletely into the hands of a corrupt oligarchy. One 
petition which came from Belfast l attracted special 
notice from its openly revolutionary character. It stated 
that the majority was ' illegally returned by the man- 
dates of Lords of Parliament and a few great Com- 
moners, either for indigent boroughs where scarcely 
any inhabitants exist or for considerable towns where 
the elective franchise is unjustly confined to a few . . . 
that the House of Commons is not the representative of 
a nation, but of mean and venal boroughs . . . that the 
price of a seat in Parliament is as well ascertained 
as that of the cattle of the fields,' and that although the 
united voice of the nation had been raised in favour of a 
substantial reform, yet 'the abuse lying in the very 
frame and disposition of Parliament itself, the weight of 
corruption crushed with ignominy and contempt the 
temperate petitions of the people.' Under these cir- 
cumstances, said the petitioners, the repeated abuses 
and perversion of the representative trust amounted to 
a virtual abdication and forfeiture in the trustees, and 
they had summoned ' a civil convention of representa- 
tives to be freely chosen by every county and city and 
great town in Ireland . . . with authority to determine 

Still, I think it a matter of Correspondence of Pitt and 

great delicacy and caution, and Rutland. 

enough has been done already.' July 1784. 



in the name of the collective body on such measures as 
are most likely to re-establish the Constitution on a pure 
and permanent basis.' They accordingly asked the 
King to dissolve the Parliament and ' to give efficacy to 
the determination of the convention of actual delegates, 
either by issuing writs agreeably to such plan of re- 
form as shall by them be deemed adequate, or by co- 
operating with them in other steps for restoring the 

In such language it is easy to recognise the strong 
democratic fervour which was arising in the North, but 
the gentry of Ireland had in general no sympathy with 
such views, and although, in spite of all obstacles, the 
congress met in October 1784, and again in the follow- 
ing January, it proved to be a body of very little 
importance. Nearly all the more important persons 
either openly discountenanced it or only consented to 
be elected in order to keep out more dangerous men. 
Sir Edward Newenham, a warm partisan of Flood, a 
strong advocate of parliamentary reform, and also a 
strong opponent of Catholic suffrage, seems to have 
been the most prominent of its active members. The 
Bishop of Derry did not attend. Flood only appeared 
once. The Catholic question speedily divided the 
members, and little resulted from the congress except 
some declamatory addresses in favour of parliamentary 
reform which had very little effect upon opinion. 

It is a question of much difficulty whether the 
Catholics themselves took any considerable part in these 
agitations. For a long period an almost death-like 
torpor hung over the body, and though they formed 
the great majority of the Irish people they hardly 
counted even in movements of opinion. Even when 
they were enrolled in volunteer corps there were no 
traces of Catholic leaders. There was, it is true, still a 
Catholic committee which watched over Catholic inte- 


rests ; Lord Kenmare and a few other leading Catholics 
were in frequent communication with the Government ; 
two or three Catholic bishops at this time did good 
service in repressing Whiteboyism, and Dr. Troy, who 
was then Bishop of Ossory, received the warm thanks of 
the Lord Lieutenant, 1 but for the most part the Catholics 
stood wholly apart from political agitation. The well- 
known Father O'Leary indeed had one day visited 
the Volunteer Convention in 1783 and had been received 
with presented arms and enthusiastic applause, and one 
of the corps had even given him the honorary dignity 
of their chaplain. 2 In the same Convention when 
the Bishop of Deny brought forward the question of 
Catholic suffrage a strange and very scandalous incident 
occurred. Sir Boyle Roche, a member of Parliament 
who was well known for his buffoonery, but who was 
also a prominent and a shrewd debater, closely connected 
with the Government and chamberlain at the Castle, 
rose and asserted that Lord Kenmare having heard that 
the question was about to be raised had sent through 
him a message explicitly disavowing on the part of the 
Catholics any wish to take part in elections. Such a 
communication at such a time had naturally great 
weight, but it was speedily followed by a resolution 
from the Catholic Committee declaring that it was 
totally unknown to them, and a few days later by a 
letter from Lord Kenmare stating that no such message 
had been sent, and that the use of his name was entirely 
unauthorised. Sir Boyle Koche afterwards explained 
that he considered the conduct of the Bishop and his 
associates so dangerous that ' the crisis had arrived in 
which Lord Kenmare and the heads of the Catholic 
body should step forth to disavow those wild projects 
and to profess their attachment to the lawful powers.' 

Plowden, ii. 107, 108. England's Life of O'Leary, p. 105. 

D D 2 


Unfortunately Lord Kenmare and most of the other 
leading Catholics were at this time far from Dublin, and 
therefore, ' authorised only by a knowledge of the senti- 
ments of the persons in question,' he considered himself 
justified in inventing the message. It is a strange 
illustration of the standard of political honour prevailing 
in Ireland that a man who, by his own confession, had 
acted in this manner continued to be connected with 
the Government and a popular speaker in the House of 
Commons. 1 

It was true, however, that Lord Kenmare and 
several other prominent Catholics were not favourable 
to the Convention, that their influence was uniformly 
exerted against political agitation, and that on this 
ground many of their co-religionists were beginning to 
desert them. 2 The question of giving votes to the 
Catholics was first raised with effect by an Anglican 
bishop and by some Presbyterian agitators, but there is 
reason to believe that in Dublin Catholics were being 
slowly drawn into the vortex. A few years later, as we 
shall see, they were numerous among the followers of 
Napper Tandy, and as early as 1784 the Irish Govern- 
ment attributed most of the disturbances to French 
instigation, and a large proportion of the seditious 
writing to Popish priests. 3 It is now impossible to 

1 Grattan's Life, iii. 119-122. with others who style themselves 
* Wy&e'a History of the Catho- free citizens, assemble. They 
lie Association, i. 103. drink the French King on their 
3 ' I have discovered a channel knees, and their declared purpose 
by which I hope to get to the is a separation from England and 
bottom of all the plots and ma- the establishment of the Roman 
chinations which are contriving Catholic religion. At their meet- 
in this metropolis. As I always ings an avowed French agent 
expected, the disturbances which constantly attends, who is no 
have been agitated have all de- other than the person in whose 
rived their source from French favour the French ambassador 
influence. There is a meeting in desired Lord Carmarthen to write 
which two men named Napper to me a formal introduction. . . . 
Tandy and John Birmey , together One of this meeting, alarmed at 


ascertain how far such suspicions were justified. For 
some months a panic prevailed which made men very 
credulous. A thousand rumours, as the Chief Secretary 
himself said, filled the air. False testimony was very 
common. None of the reports that reached the Castle 
appear to have been tested in the law courts, and in 
a short time all serious alarm had passed away. It is, 
however, antecedently probable that the contagion of 
political agitation was not unfelt in the Catholic body, 
and that they were not insensible to the overtures of the 
democratic party. The Government at least thought so, 
and they sent over two or three spies to Ireland to 
ascertain the secret sentiments of the Catholics. There 
is grave reason, to believe that among these spies was a 
man whose literary and social gilts had given him a 
foremost place among the Irish Catholics and whose 
character ranked very high among his contemporaries. 
Father O'Leary, whose brilliant pen had already been 
employed to vindicate both the loyalty and the faith of 
the Catholics and to induce them to remain attached to 
the law, appears to have consented for money to discharge 
an ignominious office for a Government which distrusted 
and despised him. 1 

the dangerous extent of their principal persons, especially by 

schemes, has confessed, and has the titular prelates, who are 

engaged to discover to me the earnest to express and manifest 

whole intentions of this profligate their reprobation of such ex- 

and unprincipled combination.' cesses.' Orde to Nepean (most 

Rutland to Sydney (most secret), private), April 30, 1784. 
Aug. 26, 1784. ' We are now ' Sept. 4, 1784, Sydney writes 

very certain that most of the to Rutland, ' O'Leary has been 

abominable letters and para- talked to by Mr. Nepean, and he 

graphs in the public papers are is willing to undertake what is 

written by Popish priests. We wished for 100L a year which has 

shall, I really believe, be very been granted him.' On Sept. 8 

soon able to get sufficient evi- Orde writes to Nepean thanking 

dence which we may make use of, him for sending over a spy or 

to apprehend and arrest them. detectivenamedParker.andadds, 

We shall be assisted by the 'I am very glad also that you 



It may, however, I think, be confidently stated that 
the suspicion of the Government that French influence 
was at the bottom of the disturbances in Ireland, 
and that an agent connected with the French ambas- 
sador was directing them, was without foundation. For 
several years, it is true, foreign statesmen had given 
some slight and intermittent attention to Irish affairs. 
We have already seen this in the case of Vergennes, 1 
and in the correspondence of Lord Charlemont there is 
a curious letter from St. Petersburg written by Lord 
Carysfort complaining of the evil effects which the 
Volunteer Convention and the growing suspicion on the 
Continent that Ireland was about to follow the example 
of America were likely to have on English influence 

have settled matters with 
O'Leary, who can get at the 
bottom of all secrets in which 
the Catholics are concerned, and 
they are certainly the chief pro- 
moters of our present disquietude. 
He must, however, be cautiously 
trusted, for he is a priest, and if 
not too much addicted to the 
general vice of his brethren here, 
he is at least well acquainted 
with the art of raising alarms for 
the purpose of claiming a merit 
in doing them away.' On Sept. 
23 he writes, ' We are about to 
make trial of O'Leary's sermons 
and of Parker's rhapsodies. They 
may be both in their different 
callings of very great use. The 
former, if we can depend upon 
him, has it in his power to dis- 
cover to us the real designs of the 
Catholics, from which quarter, 
after all, the real mischief is to 
spring The other can scrape 
an acquaintance with the great 
leaders of sedition, particularly 

Napper Tandy, and perhaps by 
that means may dive to the 
bottom of his secrets.' On 
Oct. 17 he writes to Nepean, al- 
luding to some rumour about 
O'Leary which is not stated, 
Del Campo's connection with 
O'Leary, or rather O'Leary's with 
him, may have given rise to all 
the report, but after all I think 
it right to be very watchful over 
the priest and wish you to be so 
over the minister. They are all 
of them designing knaves.' The 
Christian name of this O'Leary 
is nowhere given, nor is anything 
said about his being a monk ; 
and as the surname is a very 
common one, it is possible that 
the person referred to may not 
have been the well-known writer. 
Considering, however, the im- 
portant position and connections 
attributed to this O'Leary, the 
conjecture is, I fear, an impro- 
bable one. 

1 Pp. 231, 232. 


and on English commercial negotiations. 1 But the 
very full and confidential correspondence which Count 
d'Adhe"mar, the French ambassador at London, carried 
on at this time with his Government, sufficiently shows 
that he had no agent employed in Ireland and little or 
no knowledge of Irish affairs which might not have been 
derived from the public newspapers and from the current 
political gossip of London. Though D'Adhemar believed 
firmly in the high character and sincerely pacific dispo- 
sition of Pitt, he was persuaded that peace with France 
would only continue as long as England was too weak 
for war. The nation, he said, ulcerated by the humilia- 
tion of the last war, was implacably hostile, and would 
soon force its. Government into a renewed struggle. In 
the interval French influence should be employed to 
injure England wherever she was weak, and the two 
quarters in which it might be most profitably exerted, 
were India and America. 

In April 1784 he first called attention to affairs of 
Ireland. He mentions the great excitement produced 
in the English as well as the Irish newspapers by 
Foster's Press Bill; the skill with which Fox had 
already made use of it ; the probability that it would 
assist him in the Westminster election which was now 
pending. He afterwards reports that the Viceroy had 
been attacked on account of the Press Bill ; that 
the Irish corporations were protesting against it ; that 
non-importation agreements were multiplying ; that the 
affairs of Ireland were taking a very serious turn. The 
Government, he believed, were anxious to disavow 
Foster, and a courier had started for Ireland for the 
purpose of suspending the operation of the Bill. He 
knew, from a good source, that ministers had desired to 
arrest the Bishop of Derry, but were prevented by a 

Lord Carygfort to Charlemont, Sept. 10, 1784. Cluirlemont 


division in the Council. The Duke of Rutland was 
anxious to resign, and the Duchess had lately written to 
a lady friend in England, expressing her anxiety about 
the incapacity of her husband and the frightful growth 
of the spirit of insurrection. There had been a meeting 
at the Dublin Town Hall, presided over by the municipal 
officers, at which the corrupt constitution of Parliament 
was unanimously denounced. ' There is a military asso- 
ciation which has been deliberating about presenting 
an address to Lewis XVI., the defender of the rights of 
the human race.' From the accounts of the volunteer 
reviews it appeared to the ambassador, that more than 
70,000 men were under arms. ' Even if no other 
advantage,' he added, ' came from threatening the 
British coast, the calling this great force under arms 
would have been a great one.' ! 

The tension, however, soon passed, and several years 
elapsed before French ministers were seriously occu- 
pied with Ireland. The next few years of Irish history 
were quiet and uneventful, and although no great re- 
form was effected, the growing prosperity of the country 
was very perceptible. The House of Commons gave the 
Government little or no trouble, and whatever agitations 
or extreme views may have been advocated beyond its 
walls, the most cautious conservative could hardly ac- 
cuse it of any tendency to insubordination or violence. 
It consisted almost entirely of landlords, lawyers, and 
placemen. Its more important discussions show a great 
deal of oratorical and debating talent, much knowledge 
of the country and considerable administrative power ; 
it was ardently and unanimously attached to the Crown 
and the connection, and the accumulation of borough 
interests at the disposal of the Treasury, and the habi- 

1 Letters of Count d'Adhemar, April 23, May 7, June 18, Aug. 3, 
1784, French Foreign Office. 

CH. V. 


tual custom of ' supporting the King's Government,' 
gave the Government on nearly all questions an over- 
whelming strength. The majority had certainly no 
desire to carry any measure of reform which would alter 
their own very secure and agreeable position, or expose 
them to the vicissitudes of popular contests, but the in- 
fluence of the Government was so overwhelming that 
even in this direction much might have been done by 
Government initiative, and it is remarkable that in all 
the letters of the Irish Government opposing parlia- 
mentary reform, nothing is- said of the impracticability 
of carrying it. On the whole, it would be difficult to 
find a legislative body which was less troublesome to 
the Executive. There was one subject and only one 
upon which it was recalcitrant. It was jealous to the 
very highest degree of its own position as an inde- 
pendent Legislature, and any measure which appeared 
even remotely designed to restrict its powers and to 
make it subordinate to the British Parliament, produced 
a sudden and immediate revolt. 

The prosperity of the country was advancing, and 
the revenue was rising, but the expenses of the Govern- 
ment still outstripped its income, and there were loud 
complaints of growing extravagance. Many things had 
indeed recently conspired to increase the national ex- 
penditure. Free trade opening out vast markets for 
Irish products, had induced Parliament to give larger 
bounties for the purpose of stimulating native manu- 
factures. The erection of a magnificent custom-house ; 
great works of inland navigation ; an augmentation of 
the salaries of the judges in 1781 ; additional revenue 
officers required by an expanding trade ; additional 
officials needed for the New National Bank, fell heavily 
on the finances. In 1783 an independent member pro- 
posed that the salary of the Lord Lieutenant should be 
raised from 16,OOOZ., at which it had been fixed twenty- 


two years before, to 20,OOOZ. It was argued that the 
expense of the office was notoriously greater than its 
salary ; that the constant residence of the Lord Lieu- 
tenant, the annual sessions of Parliament, and the in- 
creased cost of living had largely augmented it, and 
that it was not in accordance with the dignity of the 
nation, that an English nobleman should be obliged to 
appropriate part of his private fortune to support the 
position of Viceroy of Ireland. The augmentation was 
refused by Lord Northington, but accepted by his suc- 
cessor, and it was speedily followed by the addition of 
2,OOOZ. a year to the salary of the Chief Secretary. 
Strong objections were made to the latter proposal, 
and it appears to have been carried mainly on account 
of a speech of the Attorney-General, who promised that 
it would put an end to the scandalous system of grant- 
ing great Irish offices for life to retiring Chief Secre- 
taries. Some of the chief offices in the country had 
been thus bestowed, and with the single exception of 
Sir John Blaquiere all those who held them lived habi- 
tually in England. 1 In 1784 three new judges were 
appointed, and the introduction of annual sessions of 
Parliament involved some necessary and legitimate ex- 
penditure, and probably contributed not a little both to 
parliamentary prodigality and Government corruption. 
' The contention for parliamentary favour',' it was said, 
'became in a manner perpetual. The doors of the 
temple were never shut,' 2 and the increased importance 
of the House of Commons made Government more and 
more desirous of securing by pensions and sinecures an 
overwhelming parliamentary influence. 

There was a strong desire to bring back the great 
Irish offices to the country. In the beginning of the 
reign of George II. it was noticed that among the 

1 Irith Parl. Deb. ii. 202-204. Ibid. vi. 78, vii. 187, 138. 


habitual absentees were officers of the Irish Post Office, 
whose salaries amounted to 6,OOOZ. a year ; the Master 
of the Ordnance ; the Master of the Rolls ; the Lord 
Treasurer and the three Vice-Treasurers ; the four 
Commissioners of the Kevenue ; the Secretary of State ; 
the Clerks of the Crown for Leinster, Ulster, and Mun- 
ster ; the Master of the Revels, and even the Secretary 
of the Lord Lieutenant. 1 One of the most scandalous 
Irish measures in the early years of George III. had 
been the grant of the Irish Chancellorship of the Ex- 
chequer for life, to Single Speech Hamilton, in 1763. 
He was allowed to treat it as an absolute sinecure, and 
the management of Irish finances was thrown for many 
years upon the Attorney- General, a busy lawyer who 
had no special knowledge of the subject. Although the 
value of the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer was 
only 1,800Z. a year, the Government after a long nego- 
tiation consented in 1784 to buy it back from Hamilton 
by the grant of a life pension on Ireland of 2,500Z. a 
year, with the power to sell his pension. 2 

The office, however, was admirably bestowed, being 
granted to John Foster, one of the very foremost figures 
in the Irish Parliament. He was the son of that Chief 
Baron Foster whom Arthur Young had described as one 
of the ablest men, and one of the best and most improving 
landlords in Ireland, and he had already taken the lead- 
ing part in the foundation of the National Bank. He 
was also the author of some measures which had been 
extremely successful in encouraging the linen trade, as 
well as of the corn bounties which we have already con- 
sidered. That excellent judge, Woodfall, described him 
as ' one of the readiest and most clear-headed men of 
business ' he had ever met with, 3 and no one, I think, 

1 Newenham's State of Ire- 145, viii. 365, ix. 258, 259. 
land, p. 110. Auckland Correspondence,]). 

Irish Parl. Deb. ii. 406, v. 80. 


CH, V. 

can read his speeches without being struck with the 
singular ability and the singular knowledge they dis- 
play. His strong opposition to protecting duties ; his 
Press Bill, and the prominent and very able part which 
he took in defence of the commercial propositions of 
1785, made him for a time unpopular in Dublin ; but 
his high character and his great financial knowledge 
were universally recognised. In the autumn of 1785, 
when Pery retired from the Chair which he had occu- 
pied for more than fourteen years, Foster was unani- 
mously elected Speaker, and he held that position till 
the Union. He still, however, occasionally contributed 
some admirable speeches to the debates. He was suc- 
ceeded as Chancellor of the Exchequer by Sir John 

Several other great offices were still held by ab- 
sentees, 1 but none of them were as important as the 
Chancellorship of the Exchequer. In 1784, there was 
a curious discussion on the habitual absence of the 
Master of the Rolls, and it was defended by the Attor- 
ney-General Fitzgibbon, on the very grotesque ground 
that it was conducive to the good administration of 
justice. ' If the Master of the Rolls,' he said, ' was 
compelled to become a resident and efficient officer, it 
would render the business of the Court of Chancery 
more prolix and tedious than it is at present.' There 
would be another appeal in Chancery suits, and ' this 
would be attended with delay and inconvenience to 
suitors, and would give great additional reason to curse 
the law's delay.' 2 The office was held by Rigby, who 
had no other connection with Ireland since he had 
ceased to be Chief Secretary in the first year of the 
reign. On his death in 1788, it was brought back to 

1 See Irish Parl. Deb. ii. 203. illustrations of the manner in 
* Ibid. iii. 87. The same de- which the Caurt of Chancery 
bate brought out some curious was conducted in Ireland. 


Ireland, but it was still treated as a mere lucrative 
sinecure and was given to the Duke of Leinster. 1 

This abuse at last gradually ceased. Some offices 
were bought back by pensions, though often on most 
extravagant terms. 2 Others fell in by death ; the feel- 
ing on the subject in Parliament was generally strong 
enough to prevent fresh appointments to absentees, and 
the Government in Ireland desired to employ all their 
patronage at home in resisting the movement for a 
parliamentary reform. 

The position of the English Government on the 
question of reform varied at different times, but on the 
whole English statesmen were usually considerably 
more liberal- than the Administration in Ireland. Pitt 
came to power with the reputation of a great parlia- 
mentary reformer, and he was at first seriously desirous 
of carrying out his early pledges and of fulfilling the 
programme of his illustrious father. If reform was 
needed anywhere, it was needed in Ireland, and if it 
was carried in one country it was tolerably certain that 
it would be impossible to resist it in the other. His 
confidential letters to the Duke of Rutland are preserved, 
and they show that he was at one period sincerely 
anxious to reform the Irish Parliament, though he was 
at this time equally determined not to admit the Catho- 
lics to power. ' The line to which my mind at present 
inclines,' he wrote (' open to whatever new observations 
or arguments may be suggested to me), is to give Ireland 
an almost unlimited communication of commercial advan- 
tages, if we can receive in return some security that her 
strength and riches will be our benefit, and that she will 
contribute from time to time in their increasing propor- 
tions to the common exigencies of the Empire; and having 

1 Sydney to Buckingham .June 10, 1788. 
Irish ParL Deb. viii. 69. 


by holding out this, removed, I trust, every temptation 
to Ireland to consider her interests as separate from 
England, to be ready, while we discountenance wild 
and unconstitutional attempts, which strike at the root of 
all authority, to give real efficacy and popularity to the 
Government by acceding (if such a line can be found) 
to a prudent and temperate reform of Parliament, which 
may guard against, or gradually cure, real defects and 
mischiefs, may show a sufficient regard to the interests 
and even prejudices of individuals who are concerned, 
and may unite the Protestant interest in excluding the 
Catholics from any share in the representation or the 
government of the country.' 1 He begs Rutland to 
sound the dispositions of Charlemont and the other 
reformers, and says, ' By all I hear accidentally, the 
parliamentary reformers are alarmed at the pretensions 
of the Catholics, and for that very reason would stop 
very short of the extreme speculative notions of uni- 
versal suffrage.' ' Let me beseech you,' he adds, * to 
recollect that both your character and mine for con- 
sistency are at stake unless there are unanswerable 
proofs that the case of Ireland and England is differ- 
ent ; and to recollect also, that however it is our duty 
to oppose the most determined spirit and. firmness to 
ill-founded clamour or factious pretensions, it is a duty 
equally indispensable to take care not to struggle but 
in a right cause.' ' I am more and more convinced in 
my own mind every day, that some reform will take 
place in both countries. Whatever is to be wished (on 
which, notwithstanding numerous difficulties, I have 
myself no doubt), it is, I believe, at least certain that if 
any reform takes place here, the tide will be too strong 
to be withstood in Ireland.' ' If it be well done, the 

1 Pitt to Butland, Oct. 7, 1784. lished. The italics are in the 
This correspondence is now pub- original. 


sooner the better.' ' Should there appear, after a cer- 
tain time, a prospect that the complete arrangement of 
commercial questions will be followed by some satis- 
faction on this essential point of reform, I believe the 
arms will then drop out of the hands of the volunteers 
without a struggle.' He only desired that the Irish 
Government should not commit itself irrevocably to 
reform ' while the question is undecided in England.' ' 

The Irish Administration, on the other hand, was 
strongly opposed to any measure of reform. They had 
got their majority by the small borough system, and 
they wished to keep it, and opposed a strong passive 
resistance to every attempt from England to impel 
them in the ^direction of reform. The chief governor 
was naturally surrounded by great borough owners, 
whose personal interests were bound up with the ex- 
isting political system, and the spirit both of resistance 
and of anti-Catholicism was very greatly strengthened 
when, on the promotion of Yelverton to the Bench in 
1783, Fitzgibbon became Attorney-General. This re- 
markable man, who for the last sixteen years of the 
century exercised a dominant influence in the Irish 
Government, and who, as Lord Clare, was the ablest, 
and at the same time the most detested, advocate of the 
Union, had in 1780 opposed the Declaration of Bight 
moved by Grattan in the House of Commons, but had 
supported the policy of Grattan in 1782, and had used 
strong language in censuring some parts of the legis- 
lative authority which Great Britain exercised over Ire- 
land. 2 It is very questionable whether he ever really 

1 Pitt to Rutland, Oct. 7, Dec. 4, claim of the British Parliament 
1784 ; Jan. 11, 12, 1785. to make laws for this country is 

2 In a remarkable letter to his a daring usurpation of the rights 
constituents of the University of of a free people, and have uni- 
Dublin, he said, in 1780, ' I have formly asserted the opinion in 
always been of opinion that the public and in private.' He saya 


approved of the repeal of Poyning's Law, and his evi- 
dent leaning towards authority made him distrusted by 
several leaders of the popular party, but Grattan does 
not appear to have shared the feeling, and when he was 
consulted on the subject by Lord Northington, he gave 
his full sanction to the promotion of Fitzgibbon. 1 For 
some time there was no breach between them, and in 
one of his speeches in 1785 Fitzgibbon spoke in high 
terms of the character and services of Grattan, 2 but the 
dispute on the commercial propositions appears to have 
separated them, and Fitzgibbon soon followed the true 
instincts of his character and his intellect, in opposing 
an iron will to every kind of reform. In private life he 
appears to have been an estimable and even amiable 
man ; several acts of generosity are related of him, and 
the determination with which in spite of a large in- 
herited fortune he pursued his career at the bar, shows 
the energy and the seriousness of his character. He is 
said not to have been a great orator, but he was un- 
doubtedly a very ready and skilful debater, a great 

that although he had opposed reprobated the idea of appealing 

the Declaration of Rights when to the volunteers, though I was 

it was first moved, he would now confident Ireland was in no 

yield his opinion to that of his danger while .they followed the 

constituents and support it, but counsel of the man whom I am 

that he could not support a total proud to call my most worthy 

repeal of Poyning'a Law. He and honourable friend [Mr. 

adds, 'There is not a doubt in Grattan] ; the man to whom 

my mind that a perpetual Mutiny this country owes more than, 

Bill lays the foundation of a mill- perhaps, any State ever owed to 

tary despotism in this country ; an individual ; the man whose 

on this principle I will, while I wisdom and virtue directed the 

live, make every effort in my happy circumstances of the 

power to procure a repeal of it.' times and the spirit of Irishmen 

O'Flanagan's Lives of the Chan- to make us a nation. While 

cellars of Ireland, ii. 166, 167. the volunteers continued under 

1 See Grattan's Life, iii. 134, his influence I feared no evil 
200, 201. from them.' Iris k Parl. Deb.iv. 

2 ' From the first I have ever 286. 


master of constitutional law, a man who in council had 
a peculiar gift of bending other wills to his own, a man 
who in many trying periods of popular violence dis- 
played a courage which no danger and no obloquy could 
disturb. He was, however, in public life arrogant, 
petulant, and overbearing in the highest degree, de- 
lighting in trampling on those whom he disliked, in 
harsh acts and irritating words, prone on all occasions 
to strain prerogative and authority to their utmost 
limits, bitterly hostile to the great majority of his 
countrymen, and> without being corrupt himself, a most 
cynical corrupter of others. Curran, both in Parlia- 
ment and at the bar, had been one of his bitterest op- 
ponents, and a -duel having on one occasion ensued, a 
great scandal was created by the slow and deliberate 
manner in which, contrary to the ordinary rules of 
duels, Fitzgibbon aimed at his opponent, 1 and when he 
became Lord Chancellor he was accused of having, by 
systematic hostility and partiality on the bench, com- 
pelled his former adversary to abandon his practice in 
the court. 2 

1 Phillips' Life of Curran ; sane gentleman [Curran] has as- 
Barrington's Else and Fall. serted much, but he only emitted 

2 Phillips' Life of Curran, some effusions of the witticisms 
pp. 151, 152. Curran himself of fancy. His declamation, in- 
long afterwards wrote of this : deed, was better calculated for 
1 Though I was too strong to be the stage of Sadler's Wells than 
beaten down by any judicial the floor of a House of Corn- 
malignity, it was not so with mons. A mountebank with but 
my clients ; and my consequent one half the honourable gentle- 
losses in professional income man's theatrical talent for rant 
have never been estimated at would undoubtedly make his 
less, as you must have often fortune. However, I am some- 
heard, than thirty thousand what surprised he should enter- 
pounds.' A passage from one tain such a particular asperity 
of Fitzgibbon's speeches in Par- against me, as I never did him 
liament against Curran may be any favour. But perhaps the 
given as a specimen of the kind honourable gentleman imagines 
of language he was accustomed he may talk himself into conse- 
to employ. ' The politically in- qaence. If so, I should be sorry 



As a politician, Fitzgibbon, though his father had 
been one of the many Catholics who abandoned their 
faith in order to pursue a legal career, represented in 
its harshest and most arrogant form the old spirit of 
Protestant ascendency as it existed when the smoke of 
the civil wars had scarcely cleared away, and he laughed 
to scorn all who taught that there could be any peace 
between the different sections of Irishmen, or that the 
century which had elapsed since the Revolution had 
made any real change in the situation of the country. 
A passage in his great speech in favour of the Union 
is the keynote of his whole policy. ' What, then,' he 
asked, ' was the situation of Ireland at the Revolution, 
and what is it at this day ? The whole power and pro- 
perty of the country has been conferred by successive 
monarchs of England upon an English colony com- 
posed of three sets of English adventurers, who poured 
into this country at the termination of three successive 
rebellions. Confiscation is their common title, and from 
their first settlement they have been hemmed in on every 
side by the old inhabitants of the island, brooding over 
their discontents in sullen indignation.' * 

In accordance with these views his uniform object 
was to represent the Protestant community as an Eng- 

to obstruct his promotion ; he this scene, and he has given a 

is heartily welcome to attack me. graphic description of it. AitcTc- 

One thing, however, I will as- land Correspondenee, i. 78, 79. 

sure him that I hold him in No one, I think, who follows the 

so small a degree of estimation reported speeches of Fitzgibbon, 

either as a man or a lawyer that can fail to be struck with the 

I shall never hereafter deign to extraordinaryarrogancetheydis- 

make him any answer.' Grat- play, and it is said to have been 

tan's Life, iii. 268. The scene much aggravated by his manner, 

is alluded to, but not reported, In Charlemont's MS. Autobio- 

as being purely personal, in the graphy there is an elaborate and 

Irish Parl. Deb. v. 472. Wood- exceedingly (I think unduly) un- 

fall, the famous parliamentary favourable character of him, 

reporter, happened to be in the ' P. 22. 
Irish House of Commons during 


lish garrison planted in a hostile country, to govern 
steadily, sternly, and exclusively, with a view to their 
interests, to resist to the utmost every attempt to relax 
monopoly, elevate and conciliate the Catholics, or draw 
together the divided sections of Irish life. Even in 
the days when he professed Liberalism, he had endea- 
voured to impede the Catholic Relief Bill of 1778 by 
raising difficulties about its effect on the Act of Settle- 
ment ; and after he arrived at power, he was a steady 
and bitter opponent of every measure of concession. 1 
He was sometimes obliged to yield. He was sometimes 
opposed to his colleagues in Ireland, and more often to 
the Government in England, but the main lines of his 
policy were on the whole maintained, and it is difficult 
to exaggerate the evil they caused. To him, more per- 
haps than to any other man, it is due that nothing was 
done during the quiet years that preceded the French 
Revolution to diminish the corruption of the Irish Par- 
liament, or the extreme anomalies of the Irish eccle- 
siastical establishment. He was the soul of that small 
group of politicians, who, by procuring the recall of 
Lord Fitzwilliam and the refusal of Catholic emancipa- 
tion in 1795, flung the Catholics into the rebellion of 
1798, and his influence was one of the chief obstacles 
to the determination of Pitt to cariy Catholic Emanci- 
pation concurrently with the Union. He looked, in- 
deed, upon the Union as shutting the door for ever 
against the Catholics, and it was only when it had 
been carried by his assistance, that he learned to his 
bitter indignation that the Government, without his 

1 My unalterable opinion is, attached subject to a Protestant 

that so long as human nature State, and that the Popish clergy 

and the Popish religion continue must always have a commanding 

to be what I know they are, a influence on every member of 

conscientious Popish ecclesi- that communion.' Speech on 

RStic never will become a well- the Union, p. 69. 

B IS 2 


knowledge, had been negotiating secretly with their 
leaders. 1 

The possibility of a loyal Irish Parliament under- 
going parliamentary and ministerial fluctuations, like 
those which are now frequent in the robust constitu- 
tional Governments of the colonies, never appears to 
have entered into his calculations, and he avowed very 
cynically that in his theory of a separate Parliament, 
corruption should be the normal method of govern- 
ment. * The only security,' he said, ' which can by 
possibility exist for national concurrence, is a perma- 
nent and commanding influence of the English Execu- 
tive, or rather of the English Cabinet, in the councils 
of Ireland.' ' A majority in the Parliament of Great 
Britain will defeat the minister of the day, but a ma- 
jority of the Parliament of Ireland against the King's 
Government goes directly to separate this kingdom 
from the British Crown. . . . It is vain to expect, so 
long as man continues to be a creature of passion and 
interest, that he will not avail himself of the critical 
and difficult situation in which the Executive Govern- 
ment of this kingdom must ever remain under its 
present Constitution, to demand the favours of the 
Crown, not as the reward of loyalty and service, but 
as the stipulated price to be paid in advance for the 
discharge of a public duty.' 2 In one of the debates on 
the Regency he openly avowed that half a million had 
on a former occasion been spent to secure an address to 
Lord Townshend, and intimated very plainly that the 
same sum would, if necessary, be spent again. 3 

We can hardly judge such sentiments with fairness, 
if we do not remember that with the partial and disas- 

1 Lord Holland's Mems.ofthe 'Irish Parl. Deb. ix. 181. 

Whig Party, i. 162. See Grat- Grattan more than once alluded 

tan's Life, Hi. 402, 403. to this speech. 

* SpeechontheUnion,j>fA5,t6. 


trous exception of the American Legislatures, the ex- 
periment of free parliamentary life in colonies had 
not yet been tried, and also that the necessity of re- 
taining a great Crown influence in the English House 
of Commons was still widely held. Nor was this view 
confined to party men or to active and interested poli- 
ticians. In 1752 Hume published those political essays 
which are still among the most valuable and were on 
their first appearance by far the most popular of his 
works, and in one of these essays he inquires what it 
is that prevents the House of Commons from breaking 
loose from its place in the Constitution and reducing 
the other powers to complete subservience to itself. He 
answers that ' -the House of Commons stretches not its 
power because such a usurpation would be contrary to 
the interests of the majority of its members. The 
Crown has so many offices at its disposal, that when 
assisted by the honest and disinterested part of the 
House it will always command the resolutions of the 
whole. . . . We may call this influence by the in- 
vidious appellations of corruption and dependence ; but 
some degree and some kind of it are inseparable from 
the very nature of the Constitution, and necessary to 
the preservation of our mixed government.' 1 

To exactly the same effect is the judgment of Paley, 
whose treatise on moral and political philosophy ap- 
peared in 1785, and who devoted an admirable chapter 
to the actual working of the British Constitution. He 
asserts that about half of the members sitting in the 
House of Commons of England when he wrote, held 
their seats either by purchase or by the nomination 
of single patrons, and he urged with singular ingenuity 
that, however absurd it might appear in theory, some 
such system of representation was absolutely necessary 

1 Essay VIII. on Independency of Parliaments. 


fn the British Constitution to give cohesion and solidity 
to the whole, to counteract the natural centrifugal 
tendency which would otherwise lead the House of 
Commons to break loose from its place in the Constitu- 
tion, and the natural tendency of its own democratic 
element to acquire a complete control over its policy. 
He describes the saying that an ' independent parlia- 
ment is incompatible with the existence of a monarchy ' 
as containing 'not more of paradox than of truth,' and he 
attributes the severance of the British colonies in North 
America from the mother country, mainly to the fact 
that the English Government held so little patronage 
in those colonies that it was never able to acquire a 
commanding and interested support in the colonial 
Legislatures. 1 

In such maxims we find principles very similar 
to those of Fitzgibbon, and they were unfortunately 
predominant in the Irish councils. ' The question of 
reform,' Rutland wrote to Pitt, ' should it be carried in 
England, would tend greatly to increase our difficulties, 
and I do not see how it will be evaded. In England it 
is a delicate question, but in this country it is difficult 
and dangerous to the last degree. The views of the 
Catholics render it extremely hazardous. . . . Your 
proposition of a certain proportionable addition to county 
members would be the least exceptionable, and might 

1 ' In the British colonies of brook an authority that checks 

North America the late Assem- and interferes with its own. To 

blies possessed much of the power this cause, excited perhaps by 

and constitution of our House of some unseasonable provocations, 

Commonn. The King and Go- we may attribute, as to their 

vernment of Great Britain held no true and proper original, we will 

patronage in the country which not say the misfortunes, but the 

could create attachment and in- changes which have taken place 

fluence sufficient to counteract in the British Empire.' Paley'a 

that restless, arrogating spirit, Moral and Political Philosophy, 

which in popular assemblies, vi. ch. vii. 
when left to itself, will never 

ftt. V. 



not, perhaps, materially interfere with the system of 
Parliament in this country, which, though it must be 
confessed that it does not bear the smallest resemblance 
to representation, I do not see how quiet and good 
government could exist under any more popular mode.' l 
' The object of reform,' he wrote a few months later, ' is 
by no means confined to a correction of alleged abuses 
in the representation, but extends to a substantial 
change of parliamentary influence. Nothing short of 
that will satisfy the clamorous, and any such change 
will completely dissatisfy the friends of Government and 
the established Constitution.' He warned the Govern- 
ment that any change in the representation would 
strengthen and perhaps unite the factious elements in 
the nation ' the Dissenters, who seek for such an 
alteration in the Constitution as will throw more power 

1 June 16, 1784. Dr. Halliday, 
the founder of the Whig Club, in 
a letter to Charlemont, complains 
that an English Whig is only a 
Whig for England, but a Tory 
with respect to her dependencies," 
and he adds : ' I have been can- 
didly told that since the acknow- 
ledgment of our independency, 
nothing can preserve the integrity 
and peace of the Umpire but a 
government of corruption in Ire- 
land . . . that a truly democratic 
House of Commons, one really 
the representative of the people 
here, would shiver all to pieces.' 
April 10, 1785. Charlemont 
Papers. Lord Camden, who had 
pushed Whig principles during 
the American contest to their 
extreme consequences, was in 
Ulster in the summer of 1784, 
and he wrote a curious letter to 
the Duke of Graf ton on the state 
of Ireland. ' There is one ques- 

tion,' he said, 'that seems to 
have taken possession of the 
whole kingdom, and that is the 
reform of Parliament, about which 
they seem very much in earnest. 
For who [sic] does wish so much 
for that reformation at home 
cannot with much consistence 
refuse it to Ireland, and yet their 
corrupt Parliament is the only 
means we have left to preserve 
the union between the two 
countries. But that argument 
will not bear the light, and no 
means ought in my opinion to 
be adopted that is too scandalous 
to be avowed. I foresaw when 
we were compelled to grant in- 
dependence to Ireland the mis- 
chief of the concession, and that 
sooner or later civil war would 
be the consequence.' (Aug. 13, 
1784.) Grafton'a MS. Autobio- 


into their hands; . . . the Roman Catholics, whose 
superior numbers would speedily give them the upper 
hand if they were admitted to a participation in the 
Legislature ; and those men who oppose the Government 
upon personal considerations.' 1 In accordance with 
these views we find him, at the very time when the 
demand for reform and retrenchment was at its height, 
advocating the creation of new places for the purpose of 
strengthening the parliamentary influence of Govern- 
ment. 2 

In sharp contrast with these views was the policy of 
Grattan and of a small number of able and patriotic 
men who followed his standard. Grattan clearly per- 
ceived that after the great triumph that had been 
achieved and the great agitation that had been under- 
gone, it was necessary to pacify the public mind, to lead 
it back to the path of gradual administrative reform, to 
strengthen the Executive against the spirit of disorder, 
and at the same time to discourage all feeling of dis- 
loyalty to England. We have already seen how he 

1 Rutland to Sydney, Jan. 13, plains of ' the scantiness of the 
1785. provision which is in the disposal 

2 On April 19, 1784, he writes of Government for the support 
a ' most secret and confiden- of an increased and increasing 
tial ' letter to Sydney about the number of claimants,' urges the 
growing independence of the 'necessity of taking some mea- 
Irish House of Lords. 'A greater sure as early as possible for the 
attention and a more expensive enlargement of our means,' and 
influence than heretofore will says, ' it will be absolutely in- 
therefore be required, if we seek, cumbent upon me to endeavour 
as we must, to direct its progress to establish in that House the 
in the right way. A share also strongest and most immediate 
of the lucrative favours of Go- connection of Administration 
vernment must be set aside for with a certain number of power- 
the purpose of gaining attach- ful members, who may be at all 
merits in that House, as the in- times looked to for the declara- 
vention of mere external allure- tion and explanation of the in. 
ments will no longer maintain tentions and wishes of Govern- 
the influence which they may ment.' 

for a moment acquire.' He com- 


looked upon the Renunciation Act, the Volunteer Con- 
vention, and the proposed diminution of the military 
establishments. In 1782, when the Dublin weavers re- 
solved to enter into a non-importation agreement, he 
dexterously defeated the design by substituting for it a 
subscription list, pledging all who signed to purchase 
Irish goods to the amount placed opposite their names. 1 
He steadily opposed the agitation for protecting duties 
which would have separated the commercial interests of 
England and Ireland. 2 He was foremost in denouncing 
a portion of the Irish press which was openly inciting 
to assassination, and which had lately introduced a 
detestable system, that already existed in England, of 
extorting money from timid individuals by threats of 
slander, and in spite of the violent outcry that was 
raised, he cordially supported Foster's Press Bill. 3 The 
tone of the seditious press he justly described as a 
matter deserving the most serious consideration of Par- 
liament. 'I have no idea,' he said, ' of wounding the 
liberty of the Press, but if it be suffered to go on in the 
way it is at present, one of two things must ensue : it 
will either excite the unthinking to acts of desperation, 

1 May 18, 1782, Portland to liberty of the Press (to use his 
Shelburne. own expression) against the at- 

2 Grattan's Life, iii. 289. tacks of the printers ; the fair 
* Plowden, ii. 89. ' Govern- and explicit justice which he did 

ment has been necessarily under to Administration by stating the 
very great difficulties, and must nature of their proposition and 
feel much obligation to those their declared readiness to con- 
persons who have assisted in ciliate unanimity by any conces- 
bringing about the fortunate sion which on fair discussion 
event [the passing of the Press should be generally thought ad- 
Bill]. It is really but justice to visable, had altogether a striking 
Mr. Grattan that I should put effect upon the House, and con- 
him at the head of such a list, tributed greatly to make the 
The manly and decisive tone in whole measure acceptable.' But* 
which he pointed out the neces- land to Sydney (secret and con. 
aity of some regulations and re- fidential), April 12, 1784. 
Strlctions, and of securing the 


or it will itself fall into utter contempt, after having 
disgraced the nation.' l 

In 1785, when the Government resolved to organise 
the militia chiefly for the purpose of rendering the 
volunteer force unnecessary, Grattan gave them his full 
support ; and when this measure was represented as an 
offence to the volunteers, he repudiated the argument 
with a scathing severity. ' The volunteers,' he said, 
' had no right whatever to be displeased at the esta- 
blishment of a militia, and if they had expressed dis- 
pleasure, the dictate of armed men ought to be dis- 
regarded by Parliament.' ' We are the Legislature 
and they the subject.' ' The situation of the House 
would be truly unfortunate if the name of the volunteers 
could intimidate it. ... That great and honourable 
body of men, the primitive volunteers, deserved much 
of their country, but I am free to say that they who now 
assume the name have much degenerated. . . . There 
is a cankered part of the dregs of the people that has 
been armed. Let no gentleman give such men coun- 
tenance, or pretend to join them with the original 
volunteers.' He looked with extreme disapprobation on 
all attempts to set up rival centres of political power 
outside Parliament, and at the risk of a complete sacri- 
fice of his popularity he censured in- strong terms the 
national congress which had assembled in Dublin, 
asserting that, whether it- was legal or not, such a body 
was not reconcilable with a House of Commons ; that 
' two sets of representatives, one de jure, and another 
supposing itself a representative de facto, cannot well 
co-exist,' and that it was such meetings that ' gave the 
business of reform the cast and appearance of innovation 
and violence.' * The populace,' he said, ' differ much 
and should be clearly distinguished from the people.' 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. iii. 166. 

da. *. f OLlCt OF GRAfTAff. 427 

' An appeal to the latent and summary powers of the 
people should be reserved for extraordinary exigencies. 
The rejection of a popular Bill is no just cause for their 
exertion.' 1 

No politician had ever less sympathy than Grattan 
with disorder and anarchy ; and his whole theory of Irish 
politics was very far from democratic. From first to 
last it was a foremost article of his policy that it was 
essential to the safe working of representative institu- 
tions in Ireland that they should be under the full 
guidance and control of the property of the country, 
and that the greatest of all calamities would be that 
this guidance should pass into the hands of adventurers 
and demagogues. He desired the House of Commons 
to be a body consisting mainly of the independent 
landed gentry and leading lawyers, and resting mainly 
on a freehold suffrage ; and he would have gladly in- 
cluded in it the leading members of that Catholic 
gentry who had long been among the most loyal and 
most respectable subjects of the Crown. He believed 
that a body so constituted was most likely to draw to- 
gether the severed elements of Irish life ; to watch over 
Irish interests ; to guide the people upwards to a higher 
level of civilisation and order ; to correct the many and 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. iv. 237,238; ants being admitted, the rights 
Grattan's Life, iii. 214-216. of freeholders were overturned 
Orde, describing the debates, and wrested from them by the 
says : ' Mr. Grattan, in a most populace. He described the 
able and ingenious speech, con- change that those violences had 
demned in the strongest terms made in the volunteer institu- 
the meeting of the congress as tions, that they had formerly 
not existing in the principles of consisted of responsible and 
the Constitution, and destroying respectable characters, whereas 
the very existence of Parliament. now Boman Catholics were ad- 
He pointed out the illegality of mitted, and the lowest and most 
some of the addresses and reso- riotous of the people were armed.' 
lutions, and several of the county Orde to Nepean, Jan. 26, 1785. 
meetings where, all the inhabit- 


glaring evils of Irish life. But in order that it should 
perform this task, it was indispensable that it should 
be a true organ of national feeling ; a faithful repre- 
sentative of educated opinion and of independent pro- 
perty; able and willing to pursue energetically the 
course of administrative reform which was imperatively 
needed. It was necessary above all that the system of 
governing exclusively by corruption and family interest 
should be terminated. Such a system was absolutely 
inevitable in a Parliament constituted like that of 
Ireland, and without any one of the more important 
legislative guarantees of parliamentary purity that 
existed in England. 

Grattan would gladly have left it to the Government 
to take the initiative in the question of parliamentary 
reform, but when that question was introduced he 
strongly maintained, in opposition to the Government, 
that the Bills which were brought before the House 
should at least be suffered to go into committee, to be 
discussed, modified, and amended in detail. While 
opposing a reduction of the military establishments he 
maintained that for this very reason civil retrenchment 
ought to be more earnestly pursued, and he vainly 
attempted to procure an inquiry into the expense of 
collecting the revenue. He complained that this ex- 
pense had risen between 1758 and 1783 from 81,000/. 
to 157,000?., from 13 to 16 per cent, of the revenue, 
and that it was a common thing to grant by royal pre- 
rogative large additional salaries to sinecure or per- 
fectly insignificant offices, held by supporters of the 
Government, in order that their names should not 
appear in the pension list. Grattan vainly tried to 
procure a parliamentary condemnation of this system 
of masked pensions, and he dilated in many able 
speeches on the absolute necessity of reducing the 
expenditure within the limits of the public income. 


During the Administration of Lord Northington he 
gave the Government an independent support. In the 
following Administrations, when the influence of Fitz- 
gibbon became supreme, when it became evident that 
the Government was opposed to all serious retrenchment 
and reform, when pensions and offices were created 
with the obvious purpose of increasing parliamentary 
influence, Grattan passed gradually into opposition, and 
endeavoured to create an organised party capable, if 
any change occurred, of taking the reins of power. 
He was at this time undisputed leader of his party. 
Flood reintroduced his Reform Bill in the spring of 
1785, and he afterwards concurred heartily with Grattan 
in opposing- the amended commercial propositions; but 
after this time he rarely appeared in the Irish Parlia- 
ment, and he died in 1791. Charlemont had never 
much parliamentary influence, and the Bishop of Deny 
eoon after the episode of the Convention left Ireland 
on the plea of ill health, and spent the remaining years 
of his life in Italy, where he led a wild and profligate 
life, and at length died at Albano in 1803. 1 

The measures advocated by Grattan and the small 
party who followed him, during the period we are con- 
sidering, were usually of the most moderate character. 
A place Bill limiting the number of placemen who sat 

1 Some very curious letters of ticulars relating to his Italian 

the Bishop in 1795-6 to the life will be found in the Life of 

Countess de Lichtenau (the mis- Lady Hamilton, in the Personal 

tress of the King of Prussia) Memoirs of Pryse Lockhart Oor- 

will be found in the memoirs of don, i. 172-177, and in Lord 

that lady. The Bishop was a Cloncurry's Personal Recollec- 

great patron of art in Italy. He tions, 190, 191. See, too, the 

appears to have openly professed enthusiastic dedication to the 

materialist opinions. On the out- Bishop, of Martin Sherlock's 

break of war between England curious Lettres d'un Voyageur 

and France, he was imprisoned Anglois (1779), and also Brady'g 

by the French for eighteen Anglo- Roman Papers, 197-200. 
months at Milan. Several par- 


in the House of Commons, copied from that which for 
more than eighty years had exis'ted in the English 
statute book ; a pension Bill limiting the number of pen- 
sioners ; a responsibility Bill giving additional guaran- 
tees for the proper expenditure of different branches of 
the revenue, and a disenfranchisement of revenue and 
custom-house officers like that which had been carried 
in England under Rockingham, would at this time have 
satisfied their demands. But such demands were met 
with a steady resistance. Nothing was done to dimi- 
nish the evil, and, on the contrary, it continued to in- 
crease. It was alleged in Parliament, apparently with 
perfect truth, that in the beginning of 1789, exclusive 
of the military pensions, the pension list had risen to 
101,OOOZ. a year, and that pensions to the amount of 
16,OOOZ., many of them distributed among members 
of Parliament, had been created since March 1784, be- 
sides considerable additional salaries which had been 
added to obsolete, useless, and sinecure offices in the 
hands of members of Parliament. 1 Grattan in the be- 
ginning of 1790 described in a few graphic words the 
condition of the House of Commons. ' Above two- 
thirds of the returns to this House are private property ; 
of those returns many actually this moment sold to the 
minister ; the number of placemen and pensioners sit- 
ting in this House equals near one-half of the whole 
efficient body ; the increase of that number within the 
last twenty years is greater than all the counties in 
Ireland.' 2 

The rights which Irish commerce had attained in the 
last few years have already been described. The very 
liberal legislation of Lord North had granted Ireland the 

1 See the resolutions of Forbes, Speeches, ii. 237, 238, 243). 
Feb. 11, 1790, and Grattan'a 2 Grattan's Speeches, li. U1Q 
speech, Feb. 20, 1790 (Grattan's (Feb. 1, 1790). 


full right of direct trade with the English plantations of 
Africa and America, on the sole condition of establish- 
ing the same duties and regulations as those to which 
the English trade with the plantations was subject, and 
also a full participation of the English trade with 
the Levant, while the subsequent establishment of 
her legislative independence had left her absolutely 
free to regulate her trade by treaty with all foreign 
countries. The monopoly of the East India Company 
still excluded her from the Asiatic trade, but in the 
present condition of her undeveloped manufactures this 
was not considered a matter of any real importance. 
The trade between England and Ireland was of course 
regulated by^the Acts of their respective Parliaments. 
Ireland admitted all English goods either freely or at 
low duties ; she had not imposed any prohibitory duty 
on them, and whenever she laid heavy duties on any 
article which could be produced in Great Britain, she had 
almost always excepted the British article. 1 The British 
Parliament had excluded most Irish manufactures, and 
especially Irish manufactured wool, by duties amount- 
ing to prohibition, but in the interest of English 
woollen manufacturers it freely admitted Irish woollen 
yarn, and in the interest of Ireland it admitted linen, 
which was the most important article of Irish manufac- 
ture, without any duty whatever, and even encouraged 
it by a small bounty. ' The whole amount of the 
British manufacture which Ireland actually takes from 
England under a low duty,' said Pitt, ' does not 
amount to so much as the single article of linen which 
we are content to take from you under no duty at 

1 See The Proposed System of lation. It was commonly called 

Trade with Ireland explained ' the Treasury pamphlet,' and 

(1785), pp. 31, 32. This very attracted much attention from 

able pamphlet was written by being understood to represent 

George Eose, who took a leading most fully the views of tile 

Part in pitt's commercial legis- Government, 


all.' l Either Parliament had the right of altering this 
arrangement, and it was tolerably certain that if Ireland 
imposed prohibitory taxes on English goods, England 
would pursue a corresponding policy towards Irish linen. 
By a construction of the Navigation Act, foreign com- 
modities could not be carried into England by or 
through Ireland, and although Ireland had the right of 
trading directly with the colonies, she was prohibited 
from sending plantation goods to Er^land, or receiving 
them from her. 3 She might, however, send her own 
manufactures to Africa and America, and bring back 
to Great Britain all their produce. 3 

Pitt was one of the few persons who perceived that 
a perpetual free trade between the two countries would 
be an advantage to both, and he hoped to frame such a 
treaty as would unite the two parts of the Empire in- 
dissolubly both for military and commercial purposes, 
would put an end to all possibility of a future war 
of hostile tariffs, and, without altering essentially the 
existing constitutional arrangements, would at the same 
time add considerably to the military strength of the 
Empire. He proposed that a treaty should be carried, 
establishing for the future perfect free trade between the 
two countries. But as such a treaty, throwing open to 
Ireland the enormous markets of England, and securing 
to her for ever the market of the plantations, would be a 
much greater boon to Ireland than to England, Ireland 
might reasonably be expected to purchase it by paying 
a fixed contribution in time of peace and war to the 
general defence of the Empire. The terms of the pro- 
posal were very clearly stated in a confidential letter 

1 Pitt to the Duke of Butland, land exceeded two millions and 

Jon. 6, 1785. Fitzgibbon stated a half. 

at this time that the imports * Irish ParL Deb. iv. 178, 188. 

from England did not exceed one * The System of Trade with 

million, and the exports to Eng- Ireland explained, p. 20. 


from Sydney to Rutland : ' Your grace should endeavour 
to obtain, at the same time with the intended commer- 
cial regulations, an act of the Parliament of Ireland 
appropriating the future surplus of the hereditary 
revenue ... to the Navy and general defence of the 
Empire . . . leaving the manner of applying it, and of 
having it particularly accounted for, to the Parliament 
of this country. It should also be explicitly understood, 
first, that any mode of contribution to be thus esta- 
blished is not to be made a pretext for withdrawing any 
part of the aid now given by the Irish Parliament 
towards the general expenses of the Empire, in the 
maintenance of the regiments upon the Irish establish- 
ment serving 'out of this kingdom, and, secondly, that 
such a fund is considered only as a means for defraying 
. . . the ordinary expenses of the Empire in time of 
peace, and that Ireland will still in case of war or any 
extraordinary emergency be called upon and expected 
voluntarily to contribute, as in reason and justice she 
ought, to such further exertions as the situation of affairs 
and the general interests of the Empire may from time 
to time require.' l The hereditary revenue was selected 
as the source of the proposed contribution for two 
reasons because it consisted mainly of custom and 
excise duties, the increase in which would, it was anti- 
cipated, be a direct consequence of the commercial boons 
that were offered; and because the proposition was 
likely to be more palatable to the Irish Parliament as it 
gave that Parliament a right of appropriating for ever 
to objects in which Ireland had an essential interest, 
a portion of the revenue which was now ' entrusted to 
the general direction of the Crown.' 2 The Navy was 
selected for the application of the fund because it would 
always be in part employed to defend the coast and the 

1 Sydney to Kutland, Jan. 6, 1785 (most secret and confidential). 
Ibid. Feb. 1, 1785. 


OH. V. 

commerce of Ireland. The Parliaments of the two 
nations were in the first instance to be asked to carry 
resolutions embodying these terms, and these resolu- 
tions were then to be turned into Bills. 

Before the plan was brought into Parliament it 
was fully discussed in confidential letters which passed 
between the English and Irish Governments, and the 
Lord Lieutenant clearly stated what were likely to 
be the Irish objections to the scheme. The creation of 
a free trade between England and Ireland was the great 
offer made to Ireland, but there was a party in Ireland 
who looked upon this much more as an evil than as 
a good. It would for ever prevent Ireland from im- 
proving her manufactures by protecting duties or special 
bounties on exportation, and would secure the ascend- 
ency which great capital, extensive establishments, and 
a settled position had given to English manufacturers 
<*ven in the Irish market. The plantation trade ought 
surely, it would be said, not to be made an element in a 
new bargain, for it had been already granted to Ireland 
under Lord North, and he had in this respect only re- 
placed Ireland in the position she had occupied before 
the amended Navigation Act of Charles II. These 
things, however, the Lord Lieutenant thought could be 
got over, but he warned the Government that the 
provision obliging Ireland to contribute to the Imperial 
expenditure must be managed with extreme delicacy, 
and might lead to the most violent resistance. No such 
stipulation had been annexed to the commercial con- 
cessions of 1779. The public revenue of Ireland was at 
this time at least 150,OOOZ. a year less than the public 
charges, and therefore it was exceedingly unfit to bear 
an additional burden. Nor was this a time in which 
any unpopular proposal could be safely brought forward. 
' The disappointment by Parliament of the popular 
expectations respecting a reform in the representation, 

en. t. tHfi COMMERCIAL fruofosmoNS. 435 

and their not granting protecting duties which the 
manufacturers of this city more particularly demanded, 
drove the people from their accustomed deference to the 
decisions of Parliament, and led them to look to other 
methods of accomplishing their ends by means of a con- 
gress and by non-importation agreements. The county 
candidates in general found themselves under the ne- 
cessity of giving in to the popular cry, and the unsuc- 
cessful candidates joined in.' Abstractedly, the proposal 
of the Government seemed to the Lord Lieutenant 
perfectly just, but he feared that it would be so un- 
popular that even if it were carried through Parliament 
it would seriously unsettle the country and unite the 
factious elements. England should be content with the 
large military expenditure which Ireland cheerfully con- 
tributed to the Empire, and with the many indirect 
ways in which she benefited the richer country. 1 To 
insist upon a forced contribution would probably have 
the effect of diminishing the voluntary grants, and would 
therefore be of no service to the Empire, while consti- 
tutional objections of the most serious kind might 
be raised. This was the first instance of an attempt to 

1 The extreme Irish view of a year in imports and exports ; 

these advantages was thus stated above a million a year in absentee 

by Flood : ' What nation would expenditure which, at the griev- 

not protect Ireland without tri- ous issue of one million a year 

bute, to whom Ireland were to from Ireland, carries above two 

give what she gives to Britain ? hundred thousand pounds a year 

She gives her the nomination of in taxes into the British ex- 

her monarch, and therein of her chequer ; she gives her the use 

whole administration through of three millions of people in 

every department ; a third estate peace and war, and of seventeen 

in her Legislature ; the creation millions of English acres in a 

of her peerage; the influence happy climate and a happy 

over placemen and pensioners in soil, and so situated as to be 

the House of Commons; she the best friend or the worst 

gives her a mighty army ; the enemy in the world to Britain. 1 

use of near a million and a half Irish Parl. Deb. v. 398, 399. 
of yearly revenue ; five millions 

rr I 


impose an obligatory contribution, and it would be 
a calamitous thing if it could be represented as bearing 
any resemblance to the policy which had proved so 
disastrous in America. Any stipulation which tended 
to make Ireland a tributary of England, which deprived 
the Irish Parliament of its exclusive control over Irish 
resources, which made it in any degree dependent on 
or inferior to the British Legislature, would strike 
the most sensitive chord in the Irish Parliament. ' If 
the surplus/ wrote Rutland, ' is in any way whatever to 
be remitted into England either in money or in goods, 
the resolution will never be carried.' If the Govern- 
ment insisted upon a contribution, the Lord Lieutenant 
hoped that it might be specified that it should be 
expended in Ireland ; and it might be employed for the 
purpose of maintaining a portion of the British Navy 
devoted to the defence of the Irish coast. 1 

Pitt himself devoted some confidential letters to an 
explanation of the views of the Cabinet, and they appear 
to me eminently creditable both to his economical 
sagacity and to his honesty of purpose. 2 * In the 
relation of Great Britain [with Ireland],' lie wrote, 
' there can subsist but two possible principles of con- 
nection, one, that which is exploded, of total subordina- 
tion in Ireland and of restrictions on her commerce for 
the benefit of this country, which was by this means 
enabled to bear the whole burden of the Empire ; the 
other, . . . that of an equal participation of all com- 
mercial advantages and some proportion of the charge 
of protecting the general interests.' ' The fundamental 
principle and the only one on which the whole plan can 

1 Eutland to Sydney, Jan. 13, published by the Duke ct 
24, 25, 1785. Eutland in 1890. The corre- 

2 The correspondence between spondence of the Irish Govern- 
Pitt and Eutland was privately ment with Sydney is in the Be* 
printed by Lord Stanhope (then cord Office. 

Lord Mahon) in 1842, and was 


be justified ... is that for the future the two countries 
will be to the most essential purposes united. On this 
ground the wealth and prosperity of the whole is 
the object ; from what local sources they arise is indif- 
ferent.' ' We open to Ireland the chance of a compe- 
tition with ourselves on terms of more than equality, 
and we give her advantages which make it impossible 
she should ever have anything to fear from the jealousy 
or restrictive policy of this country in future.' We desire 
to make ' England and Ireland one country in effect, 
though for local concerns under distinct Legislatures, 
one in the communication of advantages, and, of course, 
in the participation of burdens.' ' In order to effect this 
we are departing from the policy of prohibiting duties 
so long established in this country. In doing so we 
are, perhaps, to encounter the prejudices of our manu- 
facturing [interests] in every corner of the kingdom. 
We are admitting to this competition a country whose 
labour is cheap and whose resources are unexhausted ; 
ourselves burdened with accumulated taxes which are 
felt in the price of every necessary of life, and, of course, 
enter into the cost of every article of manufacture. It 
is, indeed, stated on the other hand that Ireland has 
neither the skill, the industry, nor the capital of this 
country ; but it is difficult to assign any good reason 
why she should not gradually, with such strong encou- 
ragement, imitate and rival us in both the former, and in 
both more rapidly from time, as she grows possessed of 
a larger capital, which, with all the temptations for it, 
may, perhaps, to some degree be transferred to her from 
hence, but which will, at all events, be increased if her 
commerce receives any extension.' 

England, however, had a perfect right to make the 
opening of the plantation market an element in the 
question. The removal of restrictions which prevented 
Ireland from trading with foreign countries had been 3 


matter of justice; but the English plantations had been 
established under the sole direction of the English Par- 
liament and Government ; it was, therefore, by a mere 
act of favour that Ireland was suffered to trade directly 
with them ; l it was proposed that she should have the 
additional advantage of supplying England through 
Ireland with their goods, and now that a final arrange- 
ment is made, now that 'the balance is to be struck 
and the account closed between the two countries, we 
must take full credit as well for what has been given 
by others ... as for what we give ourselves.' 

The indispensable condition to be insisted on, is 
that there should be ' some fixed mode of contribution 
on the part of Ireland, in proportion to her growing 
means, to the general defence ; ' that this contribution 
should not be left dependent upon the disposition and 
humour, the opinions and interests, that may from time 
to time prevail in the Irish Parliament, and that it 
should be under the complete control of the supreme 
Executive of the Empire. ' In Ireland it cannot escape 
consideration that this is a contribution not given 
beforehand for uncertain expectations, but which can 
only follow the actual possession and enjoyment of the 
benefits in return for which it is given. If Ireland does 
not grow richer and more populous, she will by this 
scheme contribute nothing. If she does grow richer by 
the participation of our trade, surely she ought to con- 
tribute, and the measure of that contribution cannot 
with equal justice be fixed in any other proportion. It 
can never be contended that the increase of the heredi- 
tary revenue ought to be left to Ireland as the means 

1 This had been stated by the Act granting Ireland the 

Lord North. See Macpherson's plantation trade was revocable 

Annals of Commerce, iii. 647. at pleasure, while the commer- 

Pitt does not urge in his letters, cial treaty would secure it for 

a point on which the ministry ever. 
in Ireland dwelt largely that 


of gradually diminishing her other taxes, unless it can 
be argued that the whole of what Ireland now pays is a 
greater burden, in proportion, than the whole of what 
is paid by this country. ... It is to be remembered 
that the very increase supposed to arise in the heredi- 
tary revenue cannot arise without a similar increase in 
many articles of the additional taxes ; consequently 
from that circumstance alone, though they part with 
the future increase of their hereditary revenue, their 
income will be upon the whole increased, without im- 
posing any additional burdens. On the whole, there- 
fore, if Ireland allows that she ought ever in time of 
peace to contribute at all, I can conceive no plausible 
objection to 'the particular mode proposed.' ! 

' The idea of Ireland contributing only for the sup- 
port of her own immediate and separate benefit,' Sydney 
urged, 'is the direct reverse of the principle which 
ought to govern the present settlement, and utterly in- 
admissible.' 2 It was essential to the strength and unity 
of the Empire that some such contribution as was pro- 
posed should be made, and it was perfectly idle to sup- 
pose that without some such evident advantage to the 
Empire the British Parliament would consent to re- 
linquish its trade monopolies. The most desirable ar- 
rangement, in the opinion of the Government, would be 
that the surplus of the Irish hereditary revenue should 
be applied to the reduction of the English national debt. 
But if, as might easily be expected, this very singular 
proposal proved unacceptable, the Cabinet insisted that 
the surplus must at least be set aside by the Irish Par- 
liament to be applied to the naval forces of the Empire. 
There was no objection to giving a preference to Irish 
stores and manufactures for the use of the Navy, and if 

1 PitttoEutland,Deo.4,1784; 2 Sydney to Eutland (most 
Jan. 6, March 1, 1786. secret), Feb. 1. 1?85. 


it was absolutely impossible to carry the scheme in any 
other form, the required sum might be annually appro- 
priated by, and the estimates annually laid before, the 
Irish Parliament. 1 

Pitt's plan was brought before the Irish Parliament 
on February 7, 1785, in the form of ten resolutions. 
Their most important provisions were that all foreign 
and colonial goods might pass from England to Ireland 
and from Ireland to England without any increase of 
duty, that all Irish goods might be imported into Eng- 
land and all English goods into Ireland either freely or 
at duties which were the same in each country, that 
where the duties in the two countries were now unequal 
they should be equalised by reducing the higher duty 
to the level of the lower, that except in a few carefully 
specified cases there should be no new duties on im- 
portation or bounties on exportation, that each country 
should give a preference in its markets to the goods of 
the other over the same goods imported from abroad, 
and that whenever the hereditary revenue exceeded a 
sum which was as yet not specified, the surplus 'should 
be appropriated towards the support of the naval forces 
of the Empire in such manner as the Parliament of this 
kingdom shall direct.' 2 

These were the propositions now laid by Orde before 
the Irish Parliament, but it was soon found that one 
important modification of the plan was necessary. Grat- 
tan looked with much favour upon the general scheme, 
but he at first hesitated about the compulsory contribu- 
tion. It assumed, to his mind, too much the appear- 
ance of a subsidy. It was indefinite in its amount and 
might rise with the prosperity of the country to a wholly 
inordinate sum, and he evidently agreed with Foster 
that as a matter of policy ' it would be better for Britain 

1 Sydney to Rutland (most secret), Feb. 1, 1785 
* Irish Parl. Deb. iv. 116-125. 

CH. V. 



to leave the affair to the liberality and ability of the 
moment when our aid might be necessary.' J This ob- 
jection, however, on reflection he was ready to waive, 
but he insisted strenuously that no additional contribu- 
tion should be paid to the general defence of the Empire 
till the Government had consented to put an end to the 
ruinous system of annual deficits and almost annual 
loans which had already seriously injured the credit of 
the nation. 2 In order to meet this objection a new 
resolution was introduced, which made the contribution 
in time of peace contingent upon the establishment 

1 Grattan's Life, iii. 236-239. 
See, too, Irish Parl. Deb. vi. 121. 

2 Butland describes a conver- 
sation of Orde with Grattan. 
' No argument -could move him 
[Grattan] to consent to the ap- 
propriation of the surplus for 
the purposes of the Empire un- 
til Ireland should be free from 
all burthen of debt. Your lord- 
ship is not unacquainted with 
Mr. G.'s character, and experi- 
ence has shown to what effect 
he can exercise his abilities when 
a strong ground of popularity is 
given him to stand upon.' After 
several conversations, ' Mr. Grat- 
tan remained obstinate in his 
opinion unless the expenses of 
government should be made 
equal to the revenue. He said 
he knew this to be the opinion 
of every intelligent and knowing 
man with whom he had commu- 
nicated upon the subject . . . 
that he should state his opinion 
in Parliament with such argu- 
ments as he was convinced would 
render it impossible for any 
honest man, who pretended to 
the slightest regard to his coun- 
try, to support the measure. . . . 

He thought the present system 
of carrying on government by 
accumulated loans was highly 
ruinous. ... He conjured Mr. 
Orde to see the chief friends of 
Government, and know explicitly 
their opinion.' Orde, knowing 
that several of the most zeal- 
ous friends of the Government 
thought ill of the policy of the 
measure, determined not to call 
them together, but having a 
meeting of some of the chief law 
officers in his apartment, he 
'mentioned with a seeming care- 
lessness that Mr. Grattan still 
continued his objection to the 
last resolution, when they one 
and all burst out with entreaties 
that the proposition might be 
revised, that some turn might be 
given to it to avoid the strong 
objection admitted by every one 
against bringing it in while the 
present income of the nation fell 
so much short of the expense.' 
Upon this opinion the Govern- 
ment determined to introduce 
an additional resolution. Rut- 
land to Sydney (most secret), 
Feb. 12, 1785, 



of a balance between revenue and expenditure. The 
hereditary revenue was now 652,OOOZ. and was steadily 
rising. The new resolution provided that whatever 
surplus it produced 'above the sum of 656,0002. in 
each year of peace wherein the annual revenue shall 
equal the annual expense, and in each year of war with- 
out regard to such equality, should be appropriated 
towards the support of the naval force of the Empire in 
such manner as the Parliament of this kingdom shall 
direct.' l 

Sydney, in a secret letter to Rutland, expressed his 
strong dislike to this concession to the views of Grattan, 8 
but the English Government took no step to disavow 
their representatives in Ireland, and Rutland himself 
urgently maintained that the new condition was both 
necessary, politic, and just. 'The continued accumu- 
lation of debt and the providing for it by annual loans 
must be acknowledged to be a ruinous system. The 
extent to which these loans have already arrived in the 
last nine or ten years has sunk the value of Government 
four per cent, debentures, which were above par, to 
eighty-eight per cent. . . . ' When the nation, instead 
of applying the redundancy of its revenues to the dis- 
charge of its incumbrances, agrees to appropriate that 
redundancy to the general expenses of the Empire, it 
cannot be thought unjust that it should at the same 
time restrain the Government from running into debt.' 3 

Though the resolutions were vehemently opposed 
in the House of Commons by Flood and a few other 
members, and though there were a few hostile petitions 
from manufacturers who desired protecting duties and 
who saw that all chance of obtaining them was now 
likely to disappear, they encountered no serious or 

1 Irish Part. Deb. iv. 201. Rutland to Sydney, Feb. 25 

Sydney to Rutland, Feb. 24, and March 4, 1785. 


formidable difficulty, and at last passed through the 
Irish Parliament with a general concurrence. Grattan 
in a few words commended them as not only strength- 
ening the Empire, but also securing the great end of 
a sound and honest financial administration, by inte- 
resting both the British and Irish Ministers in Irish 
economy. ' The plan,' he said, ' is open, fair, and just, 
and such as the British Minister can justify to both 
nations.' ! One of the first consequences of the resolu- 
tions was a motion which was introduced by Foster, 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and carried by a large 
majority, imposing restrictions on the grants to manu- 
factures, charities, and public works, which had hitherto 
been lavishly and often corruptly voted, 2 and the Par- 
liament then imposed additional taxes estimated to 
produce 140,OOOZ. a year for the purpose of enabling 
Ireland to fulfil her part in the transaction, and showing 
that she had no desire to evade the obligation of a 
contribution. 3 

The popular portion of the House appears to have, 
with very few exceptions, fully concurred with the 
Government, and there was no sign of serious disturb- 
ance in the country. There was, undoubtedly, a party 
among the manufacturers who hated with a desperate 
hatred the notion of free trade ; but it had little political 
power, and it would on the whole perhaps not be too 
much to say that economical opinion at this time was 
more enlightened in Ireland than in England. The 
manner in which new arguments are received often 
depends much less upon their intrinsic weight, than 
upon the disposition of the hearers, and circumstances 
had given English mercantile opinion a strong bias 
towards monopoly, and Irish opinion an almost equal 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. iv. 198. Ibid. pp. 212, 218, 219. 

Ibid. v. 34-43. 


bias towards free trade. The great, ancient, and 
wealthy industries of England, largely represented in 
the Imperial Parliament, fortified in all directions by 
laws of privilege, and commanding the markets of all 
the subordinate portions of the Empire, were very 
naturally marked out by their circumstances as the 
champions of monopoly, and their representatives 
regarded the advantages of the protective system as 
self-evident. The arguments of Hume and of A.dam 
Smith appeared to them the mere subtleties of un- 
practical theorists, glaringly opposed to the dictates of 
common sense, and belonging to the same category as 
the speculations which denied the existence of matter, 
or of free will, or of a sense of right and wrong in man. 
The whole commercial history of Ireland, on the other 
hand, since the Restoration, had been a desperate 
struggle against commercial restrictions, and Irish 
thinkers were therefore prepared to welcome the new 
school of writers, who maintained that a policy of 
commercial restriction was universally and essentially 

The resolutions passed to England, and were intro- 
duced by Pitt on February 22, in a speech of masterly 
power ; but it soon appeared that they were destined 
to encounter a most formidable opposition. Fox and 
North at once denounced the propositions as ruinous 
to English commerce, and all over England the com- 
mercial classes were soon arrayed in the most violent 
opposition to the plan. Delegates of manufacturers 
from all England met in London, and, chiefly under 
the direction of the illustrious Wedgwood, they formed 
themselves into a permanent association called ' The 
Great Chamber of the Manufacturers of Great Britain,' 
for watching over their interests. Petitions poured in 
from every important manufacturing centre in England 
and Scotland. Liverpool led the way ; a petition from 


Lancashire bearing 80,000 signatures was laid on the 
floor of the House, and in a short time no less than 
sixty-two other petitions were presented. They alleged 
that the low taxes, and the low price of labour, in 
Ireland, would make anything like free trade ruinous 
to English manufacturers; that the English trader 
would be driven, not only out of the Irish, but even 
out of his own market ; that the English manufacturer 
would be obliged in self-defence to transfer his works 
and capital to Ireland, and they clamorously demanded 
to be heard by counsel against the scheme. 

Nearly twelve weeks were expended in hearing 
evidence against it, and during all that time the oppo- 
sition in England was growing stronger and stronger. 
It was certain that the resolutions in their present form 
would not be carried, and when Pitt again brought 
forward the scheme in May 1785, the original eleven 
resolutions had expanded into twenty. Some of these 
related to patents, copyright of books, and the right of 
fishing on the British coast, and were open to little 
or no objection; but others modified the plan most 
seriously to the detriment of Ireland. Even alter the 
expiration of the present charter of the East India 
Company, and as long as England thought fit to main- 
tain any such company, Ireland was precluded from 
carrying on any direct trade with any part of the world, 
whether English or foreign, beyond the Cape of Good 
Hope to the Straits of Magellan, and from importing 
any, goods of the growth, produce, or manufacture of 
India, except through Great Britain. She was pro- 
hibited from importing to England arrack, rum, foreign 
brandy, and strong waters, which did not come from 
the British West Indies. She was to be compelled to 
enact without delay, and without modification, all laws 
wliich either had been made, or which for the future 
should be made, by the British Parliament respecting 


navigation, all existing and future British laws regu- 
lating and restraining the trade of the British colonies 
and plantations, and all laws either prohibiting or im- 
posing duties upon goods and commodities imported 
from either the British or foreign colonies, Africa, or 
America. The same regulating power of the British 
Parliament was extended to all goods exported from 
Ireland to the British colonies of America and the 
West Indies, and even to a portion of the trade with 
the United States of America. 1 With very few excep- 
tions the same laws and restrictions would apply to the 
English and Irish trade ; but the circumstances of the 
two countries were so widely different, that it was easy 
to show that they would often be most unequal in their 
operation, and it was for the British Parliament alone 

1 Besolutions 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 16. 
Grattan thus stated the effect of 
these provisions: 'You give to 
the English, West as well as East, 
an eternal monopoly for their 
plantation produce, in the taxing 
and regulating of which you have 
no sort of deliberation or inter- 
ference, and over which Great 
Britain has a complete supre- 
macy. . . . There is scarcely an 
article of the British plantation 
that is not out of all proportion 
dearer than the same article is 
in any other part of the globe, 
nor any other article that is not 
produced elsewhere, for some of 
which articles you might esta- 
blish a mart for your manufac- 
tures. . . . What, then, is this 
covenant ? To take these articles 
from the British plantations and 
from none other, at the present 
high rates and taxes, and to take 
them at all times to come, sub- 
ject to whatever further rates and 

taxes the Parliament of Great 
Britain shall enact.' Speeches, 
i. 235. Flood, in a very remark- 
able passage, argued that the 
trade which was likely to be most 
beneficial to Ireland in the future 
was that with the United States, 
and that the commercial arrange- 
ment would completely destroy 
it. It ' subjects our imports 
from the independent States of 
America to such duties, regula- 
tions, and prohibitions as the 
British Parliament shall from 
time to time think fit to impose 
on Britain, as to all articles 
similar to those that are pro- 
duced hi the British colonies or 
settlements. Now what articles 
can America send to us, to which 
similar articles are not, or may 
not be, produced in some of the 
colonies or settlements of Bri- 
tain ? 'Irish Parl. Deb. v. 402, 


to determine the laws relating to navigation, to the 
trade with the English colonies, to the trade with the 
foreign plantations, and to part of the trade with 
the United States. On all these subjects the right of 
legislation was virtually transferred or abdicated, for 
the Irish Parliament would have no propounding, de- 
liberative, negative, or legislative power, and would be 
obliged simply to register the enactments of the Par- 
liament in England. 

Even in their modified form the commercial resolu- 
tions were bitterly opposed by Fox, North, Burke, and 
Sheridan ; and Eden, whose authority on commercial 
matters was very great, was on the same side. Burke, 
though he was by no means an unqualified opponent 
of the propositions, 1 described one part of them as a 
repetition of the English policy in America a new 
attempt by the mother country, through the medium of 
Parliament, to raise a revenue by legislative regulations. 1 
Fox and Sheridan declared that the resolutions went 
to the complete destruction of the commerce, manufac- 
ture, revenue, and mercantile strength of England, and 
they at the same time, while constituting themselves 
the especial champions of English commercial jealousy, 
did their utmost to excite Irish feeling against the 
scheme. They described it as a plan to make Ireland 
tributary to England, and as involving a complete sur- 
render of the power of exclusive legislation, which Ire- 
land so highly prized. It was, as Sheridan truly said, 
' unquestionably a proposal on the part of the British 
Parliament, that Ireland should, upon certain condi- 
tions, surrender her now acknowledged right of external 
legislation, and return, as to that point, to the situation 

1 See a curious private letter * Parl. Hist. xxv. 647-651; 
which he wrote to Sir John Tydd, Wraxall's Post. Hems. i. 320. 
Grattan's Life, iii. 250-252. 


from which she had emancipated herself in 1782.' It 
bound Ireland, said Fox, to impose restraints ' undefined, 
unspecified, and uncertain, at the arbitrary demand of 
another State/ and Fox concluded his denunciation by 
a skilful sentence, which appealed at once to the jealousy 
of both countries. ' I will not/ he said, ' barter Eng- 
lish commerce for Irish slavery ; that is not the price 
I would pay, nor is this the thing I would purchase.' 

Pitt exerted both his eloquence and his influence to 
the utmost, and at last, after a fierce debate which con- 
tinued till past 8 A.M., 1 the resolutions were carried by 
great majorities through the English Parliament. It 
would probably have been on the whole to the advan- 
tage of Ireland even now to have accepted them, but 
we can hardly, I think, blame the Irish Parliament for 
its reluctance to do so. Pitt, in endeavouring to make 
them acceptable to England, had been obliged to argue 
that the industrial ascendency of England was such that 
serious Irish competition was little short of an impossi- 
bility, while the opposition in England had loudly pro- 
claimed that the project was completely subversive of 
Irish independence. The resolutions to which the Irish 
Parliament had agreed were returned to it in a wholly 
altered form, and all the more important alterations 
were expressly directed against Irish interests, and 
tended to establish the ascendency of the British Parlia- 
ment over Irish navigation and commerce. The very 
essence of the Constitution of 1782 was that the Irish 
Parliament possessed an exclusive right to legislate for 

1 See the animated account of the House adjourned at 6 A.M. in 

it in Wraxall's Post. Mems. i. the great debate on the commer- 

310-320. Wraxall states that cial propositions. The speech of 

on one, if not more, occasion, in Sheridan (Parl* Hist. xxv. 743- 

the Wilkes discussions at the 757) is probably the strongest 

beginning of the reign, the House statement of the case against the 

sat till 9 A.M. According to the propositions. 
Parliamentary History, however, 


Ireland commercially and externally, as well as in- 
ternally, and it was this right which, three years after 
its establishment, Ireland was virtually asked in a great 
measure to surrender. The price, or at least a part of 
the price, which was asked for the commercial benefits 
that might be expected, was the relinquishment by 
Ireland of her full right of regulating her trade with 
foreign countries, and the restoration to the British 
Legislature of a large power of legislating for Ireland. 
It was said, indeed, that the new restrictions did not 
differ essentially, and in kind, from those under which 
Ireland had already accepted the trade to the English 
plantations, but it was answered that they at least dif- 
fered enormously in the extent and uncertainty of the 
obligations imposed on future Irish legislation ; in their 
interference with the rights of the Irish Parliament to 
regulate its foreign trade. It was said, too, that Ire- 
land might at any time abandon the compact and regain 
her liberty ; but once an intricate commercial system 
is established, it is often very difficult to withdraw from 
it, and as long as it continued, the hands of the Irish 
Parliament on many of the ordinary subjects of legisla- 
tion would be completely tied. Grattan now denounced 
the scheme with fiery eloquence as fatal to that Irish 
Constitution which he valued even more than the British 
Empire. 1 Flood, once more, warmly co-operated with 

1 Rutland wrote of this speech was also published separately, 

to Pitt : ' The speech of Mr. He wrote to Eden : Grattan, 

Grattan was, I understand, a whose conversion is in Dublin 

display of the most beautiful ascribed to Sheridan's speech 

eloquence perhaps ever heard, (which I took such pains to pro- 

but it was seditious and inflam- cure for the public correctly), 

matory to a degree hardly ere- was admirable. His manner, as 

dible.' Aug. 13, 1785. Woodfall, you well know, is most singular ; 

the parliamentary reporter, heard but he said some of the finest 

this debate, and made the report things in the newest mode I ever 

which ia in the Parl. Deb. It heard.' Auckland Correspond- 



him. Several members on the Treasury Bench sup- 
ported him. Petitions against the scheme flowed in 
from the great towns, and, after a debate which lasted 
continuously for more than seventeen hours and did 
not terminate till nine A.M., the House only granted 
leave to bring in a Bill based on the twenty resolutions, 
by 127 to 108. 1 Such a division at the first stage of 
the Bill, and in a House in which the Government 
usually commanded overwhelming majorities, was equi- 
valent to a defeat ; at the next meeting of Parliament, 
Orde announced his intention not to make any further 
progress with the Bill, and that night Dublin was illu- 
minated in attestation of the popular joy. 

The scheme for uniting the two countries by close 
commercial and military bonds thus signally failed, and 
it left a great deal of irritation and recrimination behind 
it. How, it was asked with much bitterness, can Ireland 
expect to be duly cared for in any treaty negotiation 
with Great Britain, when her only representatives in 
such a negotiation must be ministers appointed and 
instructed by the British Cabinet? The English Go- 
vernment appears to have acted with perfect honesty, 
and to have only modified its course under the pressure 
of overwhelming necessity, but its position in both 
countries was exceedingly embarrassing and somewhat 
humiliating. Orde, the Chief Secretary of Ireland, had 
brought forward the original propositions as the offer of 
the Government to Ireland. His supporters had repre- 
sented them as certain to be carried in England, and on 
the strength of that assurance the Irish Parliament had 
voted 140,OOOZ. a year of additional taxation. Yet the 
English Government had soon been obliged to discard 

tnce, i. 79, 80. See, too, Hardy's ii. 231-249. 

Life of Charlemont, ii. 148, and ' Irish Parl Deb. v. 443. 

the speech in Grattan's Speeches, 


that principle of equality which was the essence of 
the original resolutions, and had returned them to 
Ireland so amplified and altered as to be scarcely 
recognisable. On the other hand, Pitt by the most 
strenuous efforts, and in the face of a storm of denun- 
ciation and unpopularity, had carried his commercial 
scheme through the Parliament of England, only to find 
it rejected in Ireland. 

It is worthy of notice that the words ' legislative 
union ' were at this time frequently pronounced in con- 
nection with the commercial propositions. The free 
trade which they would have secured to Ireland had 
only been granted to Scotland on the condition of an 
union. Wilberforce in the English House of Com- 
mons, and Lord Lansdowne in the English House of 
Lords, spoke of a legislative union as the best relation 
for the two countries, but pronounced it to be impracti- 
cable, as Ireland would never consent. Lord Sackville, 
on the other hand, argued strongly in favour both of the 
practicability and expediency of such a measure, and of 
its great superiority to a commercial treaty. Sydney, 
when reporting this speech to Eutland, spoke of an 
union as impracticable, ' especially at a time when the 
Irish were but just in possession of their favourite object, 
an independent Legislature.' 1 It is certain, however, 
that Rutland had some time previously expressed a 
strong opinion in favour of a legislative union, 2 and 
it was noticed that shortly after the rejection of the 

1 Sydney to Rutland (secret Watson mentioned that in 1785 
and confidential), July 20, 1785. be had pressed the advantages 

2 ' Were I to indulge a distant of an union on Rutland, who had 
speculation, I should say that answered that ' he wholly ap- 
without a union Ireland will not proved of the measure, but 
be connected with Great Britain added, the man who should at- 
in twenty years longer.' Eutland tempt to carry it into execution 
to Pitt, June 16, 1784. In a would be tarred and feathered.' 
speech delivered in 1799, Bishop Parl. Hist, xxxiv. 736. 

o o 2 


commercial propositions several pamphlets discussing 
that question were published. 

No positive evils, however, appear to have followed 
from the rejection of the commercial propositions. Ire- 
land as a distinct country continued to legislate in- 
dependently for her commerce, and her Parliament did 
not show the faintest disposition to interfere with 
English commercial interests. The commercial treaty 
which Pitt negotiated with France in 1786 included 
Ireland, and it was vehemently opposed by the Whig 
party in England ; but the address approving it was 
carried in Ireland without a division, and the resolutions 
for making the necessary alterations in Irish duties 
passed without the smallest difficulty. 1 A new Irish 
Navigation Act proposed by the Government and adopt- 
ing almost the whole of the English Navigation Act of 
Charles II. was soon after carried with equal facility. 1 
A few years later some resolutions were moved resenting 
the exclusion of Ireland from the Asiatic trade, but 
nothing was done, and as far as commercial matters 
were concerned, England had certainly no reason to 
distrust or complain of the Irish Parliament. In 1790 
applications were made by persons engaged in the 
leather trade in England, to limit by high duties the ex- 

1 The resolutions of the House raising field upon which the 

of Commons [relating to the country might exert her arts and 

changes of duty] were severally industry.' Orde to Nepean, March 

agreed to with the almost unani- 6, 1787 (private). ' The treaty of 

mous concurrence of the House.' commerce between Great Britain 

' Mr. Grattan spoke shortly but and France is very popular in 

strongly in favour of the treaty, this country, and the attention 

and said that although Ireland paid therein to the interests of 

should fail of the benefit she Ireland, is felt with a sensible 

might expect from it, such a dis- gratitude by the whole nation.' 

appointment ought not to be im- Rutland to Sydney (private), May 

puted to any defect in the treaty, 31, 1787. 

which in his opinion was fair * 27 Geo. III. c. 23. Orde to 

and liberal, and opened a pro- Nepean, March 29, 1787. 

CH. V. 


port of bark from Great Britain to Ireland, in order to 
insure the ascendency on the Continent of the English 
leather trade over that of Ireland. Lord Westmorland, 
who was then Lord Lieutenant, remonstrated against 
this measure, and his letter to the English Government 
contains the following remarkable passage. ' Since the 
failure of the propositions for a commercial intercourse 
between Great Britain and Ireland, no restraint or duty 
has been laid upon British produce or manufacture to 
prejudice the sale in this country, or to grasp at any 
advantage to articles of Irish manufacture, nor has any 
incumbrance, by duty or otherwise, been laid on ma- 
terials of manufacture in the raw or middle state, upon 
their exportation to Great Britain. At the same time 
in everything wherein this country could concur in 
strengthening and securing the navigation and com- 
merce of the Empire, the Government has found the 
greatest readiness and facility. The utmost harmony 
subsists in the commerce of the two kingdoms, and 
nothing has arisen to disturb it or give occasion for 
discontent.' * 

The commercial propositions of 1 785 form the first 
of the two great differences between the English and 
Irish Parliaments. In the interval between their re- 
jection and the dispute about the Regency, only a few 
incidents occurred to which it is necessary to refer. 

The scandalous state of the administration of justice 
in the metropolis has been already adverted to, and 
in 1786 a Police Bill was introduced and carried by the 
Government, for the purpose of remedying it. Dublin 
was divided into four districts. The watchmen, who 
had hitherto been under the control of the several 
parishes, were reorganised and placed under three new 
paid commissioners of the peace, who were nominated 

1 Westmorland to W.Grenville (private), Nov. 19, 1790. 


by the Crown from among the Dublin magistrates, 
allowed to sit in Parliament, invested with large patron- 
age and almost absolute power, and made practically 
responsible for the maintenance of order in the city. 
A new force of regular police consisting, however, 
as yet, of only forty-four men was created and placed 
under the commissioners. They were to see that the 
watchmen discharged their duties ; they were also them- 
selves to discharge ordinary police functions, and they 
had powers considerably beyond those of the old watch- 
men, of arresting suspicious persons and breaking into 
houses in search of criminals or stolen goods. Several 
rates were imposed for the purpose of supporting the 
new system, and there were many complicated police 
regulations of a less important character, which it is not 
necessary to describe. 1 

A somewhat similar scheme had shortly before been 
proposed for London, but it at once aroused opposition, 
and it had been dropped on account of a strongly adverse 
petition from the City. 2 The Government in England 
recommended the scheme as being almost equally 
needed in both capitals, but more easy to carry in 
Dublin than in London. 3 It speedily, however, aroused 
great opposition. Its opponents complained that it im- 
posed a large additional expense upon the City ; that it 
was essentially a patronage Bill intended to strengthen 
the power of the Government in the Corporation of 
Dublin, and to add to the very large number of places 
tenable by members of Parliament ; that it violated the 
charter of the City by transferring the regulation of 
Dublin from the Lord Mayor and Corporation to the 
Crown; that it laid the foundation of a new semi- 
military force which might prove very dangerous to 

1 26 Geo. III. c. 24. Sydney to Rutland (most 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. vi. 367, 368, secret), Jan. 7, 1786. 


liberty. The last argument when regarded in the light 
of modern experience will appear very futile, but appre- 
hensions of this kind were long prevalent in England, 
and were often expressed in 1829, when Sir Robert Peel 
created a Metropolitan Police Force in London, placed 
under the control of two Government commissioners, 
and no longer dependent on parochial authority. 

Grattan, while acknowledging that the old watch- 
men were thoroughly inefficient, and that a change in 
the machinery for enforcing the law was imperatively 
necessary, opposed strenuously the Government Bill. 
He believed that it was intended mainly to increase 
patronage, and that all the legitimate purposes of the 
measure could be attained without violating the charter 
or withdrawing its ancient privileges from the Corpora- 
tion. It is difficult at this distance of time to pro- 
nounce with any confidence on the merits of the case. 
The dangers feared were no doubt exaggerated or 
chimerical, and the confidential correspondence of the 
Government seems to show that though they were not 
indifferent to the possibility of increasing their influence 
over the Dublin magistracy, they were at least animated 
by a genuine desire to repress lawlessness and crime. 1 
It does not appear, however, that in this respect the 
police measure of 1786 had much effect. For a few 
months, it is true, there was some diminution of crime, 
but little more than a year had passed when petitions 

1 ' We have made a successful the quiet and good order of the 

foundation, at least, to a scheme whole community. The opposi- 

of effectual police in this capital, tion given to the Bill in the 

with some additions applicable House of Commons has been 

to the country. We thought it chiefly confined to the extension 

right to begin with moderation, of the influence of Government, 

but we have established the prin- and to the armed force with 

ciple, and obtained now, I trust, which they are to be entrusted.' 

an influence in the magistracy of Rutland to Sydney, March 31, 

the city, which may be used to 1786. 
the most salutary purposes for 


were presented by a great body of Dublin householders, 
asserting that the new police were as inefficient as the 
old watchmen, and that crime had fully regained its 
former level, while the expense of the police had trebled, 
and a great amount of purely corrupt expenditure had 
been incurred. 1 

The Whiteboy outrages, directed chiefly against 
tithes, but often taking the form of combinations for 
regulating the price of labour and lands, and the dues 
of the priesthood, raged fiercely during the later months 
of 1786 in several counties in the South of Ireland, 
and were accompanied by all the atrocities I have 
already described. At the end of January 1787, Fitz- 
gibbon moved that further provisions by statute were 
indispensably necessary to prevent tumultuous risings 
and assemblies, and more effectually to punish persons 
guilty of outrage, riot, illegal combinations, and admi- 
nistering and taking unlawful oaths. Only a single 
dissentient voice was heard, and soon after, a very 
stringent Crimes Bill was carried through the House 
of Commons by 192 votes to 30. Grattan fully and 
emphatically admitted the necessity of fresh coercive 
legislation, 8 though he desired to introduce some slight 

1 See Irish Parl. Deb. viii. 248, of the Dublin police was noticed 

249, 340, 344. See, too, a very by Sir liichard Hoare in Ms Tour 

curious report by a parliamentary in Ireland in 1806, p. 300. 
committee on the subject, in * ' The necessity of coercion 

Plowden, append. Ixxxii. The was universally admitted, and 

committee found, among other Mr. Grattan, in particular, very 

things, that the police charge strongly urged the principle as 

for stationery in two and a half essential to the prosperity of the 

years was 3.316Z. 6s. 6|d. Of country. He and Mr. Brownlow 

this more than 1501. was said to were tellers for the majority, and 

have been paid for gilt paper, the Bill was supported by great 

and 49Z. 8s. 8d. for sealing wax. numbers of the independent coun- 

The powers of the Corporation try gentlemen, among whom was 

over the police were, as we shall Mr. Conolly.' Orde to Nepean, 

see, for the most part restored in Feb. 19, 1787. See, too, Grattan'g 

1796. The wretched character Speeches, ii. 7, 8. 

ex. v, WHITEBOY ACT, 1 787. 457 

mitigations into the Government Bill, and would have 
gladly confined its operation to the counties in which 
the outrages were taking place. On this point, how- 
ever, he did not insist, but he strongly opposed and 
ultimately obtained the withdrawal of a clause in Fitz- 
gibbon's scheme, which would probably have converted 
the Whiteboy movement into a religious war. It pro- 
vided that if it were established by the evidence of a 
single witness that an illegal oath had been tendered 
in, or adjoining to, a Popish chapel, that chapel should 
be at once destroyed, and its materials sold, and that if 
within the space of three years any new Catholic place 
of worship was erected in the same parish it also should 
be destroyed-. 1 

The Act, as it was carried, made all persons who 
administered illegal oaths liable to transportation for 
life, and all who took them without compulsion, to 
transportation for seven years ; it made most forms of 
Whiteboy outrage, including the unlawful seizure of 
arms, levying contributions by force and intimidation, 
and even publishing notices tending to produce riots 
or unlawful combinations, capital offences, and it intro- 
duced into Ireland the provisions of the English Riot 
Act. This part of the measure excited considerable 
debate, and although Grattan acknowledged its neces- 
sity, 2 it was much opposed by several members, and 
especially by Forbes. He read to the House the well- 
known passage in which Blackstone described the 
English Riot Act as a vast acquisition of force to the 
Crown, and he then enumerated the many English 
Acts passed since the Revolution to restrain undue 
influence the Bill of Rights, the Act for excluding 
pensioners and placemen from the House of Commons, 
the Act for limiting the civil list, the Nullum Tempus 

> Grattan's Life, iu. 283-287. Irish Parl. Deb. vii. 180, 227. 


Act, the Acts for preventing revenue officers from 
voting at elections, for excluding contractors from the 
House of Commons, and for limiting the amount of the 
pension list. ' He observed that not one of those laws 
was to be found in the Irish statute book, and asked 
whether members could reconcile it with their duty to 
give this vast acquisition of force to the Crown, without 
enacting at the same time those laws which the wisdom 
of the Legislature of England had provided against its 
abuse and encroachments.' l The measure, however, at 
last passed with little dissent, though Fitzgibbon, at 
the suggestion of Grattan, consented to limit its opera- 
tion to three years. 2 

The Whiteboy Act of 1787 is another of the many 
examples of the prompt and energetic manner in which 
the Irish Parliament never hesitated to deal with 
epidemics of outrage. Fitzgibbon complained, how- 
ever, that much of the evil was due to the supineness 
and sometimes even to the connivance of magistrates, 
and he alleged that they were prone on the slightest 
occasion to call for military assistance. An important 
Act ' for the better execution of the law ' was carried 
in this year, for reforming the magistracy and estab- 
lishing throughout the country a constabulary appointed 
by the grand juries but under the direction of peace 
officers appointed by the Crown. 3 

But while Grattan warmly supported the Govern- 
ment in measures for the suppression of disorder and 
crime, he maintained that it was equally imperative for 
the Parliament to deal with those great evils from 
which Irish crime principally sprang. The enormous 
absurdity, injustice, and inequality of the Irish tithe 
system has been explained in a former chapter, 4 and 

1 Irish Parl. Deb. vii. 210. f Ibid. c. 40. 

1 27 Geo. III. c. 15. See pp. 13-19. 


tithes and the tithe proctor were the chief cause of the 
Whiteboy disturbances which were spreading every 
kind of evil and disaster over a great part of Ireland. 
Pitt with the instinct of a true statesman had expressed 
his wish, as early as 1786, that tithes in Ireland should 
be commuted into a money rate, levied on the tenants 
of the parish, regulated by the price of corn and calcu- 
lated on an average of several years. 1 But although 
many of the poorer clergy would have gladly accepted 
such a plan, and although in the opinion of Rutland 
the majority of the laity ' were opposed to tithes, and 
strong advocates for some settlement,' the bishops ' con- 
sidered any settlement as a direct attack on their most 
ancient rights and as a commencement of the ruin of 
the Establishment ; ' 2 and the Irish Government, dis- 
carding the advice of Pitt, obstinately resisted every 
attempt to modify the offensive system. Grattan had 
mastered the subject in its minutest details, and in 
1787, in 1788, and in 1789 he brought it forward in 
speeches which were among the greatest he ever de- 
livered, suggesting as alternative and slightly varying 
plans to pay the clergy a sum calculated on the average 
of several years and raised by applotment like other 
county charges ; to institute a general modus in lieu of 
tithes ; to make a commutation by a general survey of 
every county, allowing a specified sum for every acre in 
tillage, and making the whole county security for the 
clergymen. These plans were in principle very similar 
to the suggestion of Pitt, and in addition to their 
other advantages they might have made the collection 
of tithes by the resident clergy so simple and easy that 
the whole race of tithe farmers and proctors would 
have gradually disappeared. Grattan also proposed 
that lands which had been barren should for a certain 

Pitt to Rutland, Nov. 7, 1786. z Rutland to Pitt, Sept. 13, 178d 


CH. V. 

time after their reclamation be exempt from tithes ; that 
the partial or complete exemption of potatoes and 
linen, which existed in some parts of the kingdom, 
should be extended to the whole ; and that a moderate 
tax should be imposed on the non-residence of the 
clergy. 1 The exemption of barren lands from tithes 
was approved of by Fitzgibbon, 2 and although it was 
for some years rejected on account of the opposition of 
the clergy, it was ultimately carried. But the other 
proposals of Grattan were met by an obstinate resist- 
ance. Fitzgibbon, and the majority which he led, 
refused even to grant a committee to investigate the 
subject, and the Irish tithe system continued to be the 
chief source of Irish crime till the Commutation Act of 
Lord John Russell in 1838. 

The persistent refusal of the Irish Parliament to 
rectify or mitigate this class of abuses, appears to me 
the gravest of all the many reproaches that may be 
brought against it. Although about seven-eighths of 
the nation dissented from the established religion, the 
general principle of a Protestant establishment had as 
yet very few enemies ; but the existing tithe system 
was detested both by the Catholics and the Protestant 
Dissenters, and it was exceedingly unpopular among 
the smaller landed gentry. Its inequalities and injus- 
tices were too glaring for any plausible defence, and the 
language of Pitt seems to show that England would 
have placed no obstacle in the way of redress. How 
possible it was to cure the evil without destroying the 
Establishment was abundantly shown by the Act of 
1838. That Act, which commuted tithes into a land 
tax paid by the landlord with a deduction of twenty- 
five per ce,nt. for the cost of collection, is probably the 
most successful remedial measure in all Irish history. 

1 Orattan's Life, in. 317-335. Irish Parl Deb. ix. 435, xi. 344. 


It proved a great benefit to the Protestant clergy, and 
it at the same time completely staunched an old source 
of disorder and crime, and effected a profound and im- 
mediate change in the feelings of men. Very few poli- 
tical measures have ever effected so much good without 
producing any countervailing evil. The Irish Church 
when it was supported by tithes was the most unpopular 
ecclesiastical establishment in Europe, and it kept the 
country in a condition verging on civil war. After the 
commutation of tithes nearly all active hostility to it 
disappeared. The Church question speedily became in- 
different to the great mass of the people ; the Protes- 
tant clergy were a beneficent and usually a popular 
element in Irish society, and the measure which finally 
disendowed them was much more due to the exigencies 
of English party politics than to any genuine pressure 
of Irish opinion. But no such measure as that of 1838 
could be carried in the Irish Parliament, and in the last 
ten years of its existence even Grattan desisted from 
efforts which were manifestly hopeless. Yet at no time 
had the question been more important. Resistance to 
the exaction of tithes was year by year strengthening 
habits of outrage and lawless combination, and in the 
hope of abolishing the tithes the Irish Jacobins found 
the best means of acting upon the passions of the 

But whatever social or agrarian disturbances may 
have existed in the remoter counties, the political con- 
dition of Ireland in the closing period of the adminis- 
tration of Rutland presented an aspect of almost absolute 
calm. Prosperity was advancing with rapid strides. 
The credit of the nation was re-established. Both the 
young Viceroy and his beautiful Duchess were ex- 
tremely popular. A gay, brilliant, and dissipated court 
drew men of many opinions within its circle or its in- 
fluence, and political tension had almost wholly ceased. 


Forbes, it is true, and the little group of independent 
members whom he represented, brought in motion after 
motion, condemning the increasing pension list, and the 
multiplication of places ; but they were easily defeated in 
Parliament, and they were supported by no strong opinion 
beyond its walls. The distress which had formerly 
stimulated discontent was no longer acute. The fears 
of bankruptcy disappeared. Financial measures which 
will be hereafter related, lightened the burden of debt, 
and an extensive system of education was promised. 

The confidential letters of Rutland and of his secre- 
tary in the latter period of the Administration, form 
a curious contrast to the anxious and agitated letters 
that issued from the Castle during the Administrations 
of Buckinghamshire, Carlisle, Portland, and Temple. 
Thus in February 1786, Rutland in a letter largely de- 
voted to a description of the outrages of the Whiteboys 
in Munster says : ' The etate of this country, as far as 
regards the proceedings of Parliament, affords a pro- 
spect highly promising and satisfactory. The most im- 
portant money Bills have passed the Commons without 
any material opposition, and scarcely a troubled wave 
appears upon the political surface.' l A year later, when 
the Government introduced its very stringent coercive 
legislation for the suppression of the Whiteboys, the 
Parliament responded with an alacrity which at once 
surprised and delighted the Chief Secretary. ' We have 
succeeded wonderfully/ he wrote, ' in our first measure, 
of amending the laws against riot and unlawful com- 
bination. It would not have been supposed possible 
even three years ago to have obtained almost unanimity 
in the House of Commons to pass a Bill of coercion 
upon the groundwork of the English Riot Act. ... I 
am confident that this circumstance alone, as an in- 

1 Rutland to Sydney (secret and confidential), Feb. 27, 1786, 


dication of the determination of the Legislature to 
strengthen the hands of Executive Government, will go 
far to quiet the disturbance throughout the kingdom.' ! 
' 1 am highly ambitious,' wrote Rutland, a few months 
later, ' to see this nation prosper under the auspices of 
my administration of the King's Government ; to find 
it of weight in the general scale, and become a source 
of strength to the Empire. A Riot Act, an optional 
police to be applied when it may be adjudged necessary, 
an extensive and well-considered system of education, 
which, I trust, will be carried into execution in the en- 
suing session, together with the adoption of the British 
Navigation Act, are measures of no inconsiderable mo- 
ment and importance to the general welfare. The 
country for the present is for the most part free from 
commotion, except in the county of Cork, where some 
slight indications of discontent appear, but even these 
are merely partial and local.' 2 

On October 24, 1787, a short fever, accelerated, it 
is said, by convivial habits, carried off the Duke of 
Rutland in the thirty-fourth year of his age, and ter- 
minated a viceroyalty which had been singularly pro- 
sperous. Lord Temple, who had now become Marquis 
of Buckingham, succeeded him, and arrived in Dublin 
in December. His short viceroyalty in 1783 had given 
him some Irish experience, and it was thought that the 
fact that his wife was a Catholic might give him some 
popularity. With considerable business talents, how- 
ever, the new Lord Lieutenant was one of those men 
who in all the relations of life seldom fail to create 

1 Orde to Nepean, Feb. 24, ceive much satisfaction in being 

1787. informed of the loyal and tran- 

z Rutland to Sydney (private), quil state, in which I have found 

May 31, 1787. A little later, the once factious and disturbed 

after a journey in the North, he province of Ulster.' Aug. 10, 

writes : ' Your lordship will re- 1787. 


friction arid irritation. Great haughtiness, both of 
character and manner; extreme jealousy and proneness 
to take offence, had always characterised him ; and 
before he had been many months in Ireland we find 
him threatening his resignation, bitterly offended with 
the King, angry and discontented with the ministers 
in England, and very unpopular in Dublin. 1 He in- 
stituted with commendable energy inquiries into pecu- 
lations of clerks and other subaltern officers of the 
Government, and succeeded in detecting much petty 
fraud which had been long practised with impunity ; 
but corruption in the higher forms of government 
showed no tendency to diminish. Salaries were in- 
creased. At least one obsolete office was speedily re- 
vived. The measures of economy that were introduced 
into Parliament were strenuously resisted, and the first 
session of Parliament was abruptly and prematurely 
shortened. An Irish pension of 1,700Z. a year given 
to Orde, who had now retired from the office of Chief 
Secretary, and whose health was much broken, was 
attacked with reason as a violation of the assurance on 
the strength of which Parliament had consented a few 
years before to increase the salary of that office ; and 
an appointment was soon after made which excited the 
strongest indignation. 

I have mentioned the anxiety of all parties in Ire- 
land to bring back to the country the great offices which 
were held by absentees. Rutland, shortly before his 
death, had tried to induce Pitt to make an arrangement 
for the restoration of the Vice-Treasurers to Ireland. 
It would, he said, be ' an object of great utility to his 
Majesty's Irish Government, both as a measure calcu- 
lated to fasten on popularity, and at the same time as 
uniting the more solid advantage of creating new ob- 

1 See his letters in Buckingham's Courts and Cabinets, vol. i. 


jecta for ambition of the first men and the most exten- 
sive connections in this country.' l Pitt was unable or 
unwilling to consent, but shortly after the appointment 
of Buckingham the death of Rigby made it possible to 
bring back the important office of Master of the Rolls. 
The office, however, was coveted by William Grenville, 
the brother of the Lord Lieutenant, who was now Presi- 
dent of the Board of Trade in England. His letters on 
the subject are curious, and far from edifying. 2 He 
found that part of the revenue which Rigby had re- 
ceived was derived from an illegal sale of places. He 
doubted whether the office could be legally granted for 
life, and whether the performance of certain duties 
might not be. required, and for these and some other 
reasons he at last determined to relinquish it to the 
Duke of Leinster, but asked and obtained for himself 
the best Irish reversion that of the office of Chief 
Remembrancer, which was held by Lord Olanbrassil. 3 
An appointment so flagrantly improper completely dis- 
credited Buckingham at the outset of his administra- 
tion, and it was well fitted to exasperate equally both 
the most selfish and the most disinterested of Irish poli- 

The unpopularity of the Lord Lieutenant was, how- 
ever, chiefly personal, and confined to a small court or 
political circle. The country continued perfectly quiet. 
The alarm which was felt in the closing months of 

1 Eutland to Pitt, Sept. 13, was the English statesman to 
1786. whom Ireland owed most, as it 

2 They will be found in Buck- was he who had introduced the 
ingham'a Courts and Cabinets, Renunciation Bill, and thus es- 
i. 365-387. tablished the independence of 

8 Parsons, who in 1788 was in the Irish Parliament, which 

violent opposition to Grattan, Grattan had left precarious and 

attempted to defend this job in unfinished. See Irish Parl. Deb. 

Parliament on the ingenious ix. 256. 
ground that William Grenville 

VOL.. II. H H 


1787, when the complications in Holland made war 
with France extremely probable, did not create the 
smallest disturbance. Recruiting was actively and 
successfully carried on, and the regiments on the estab- 
lishment were raised to their full strength. Although 
combinations against tithes continued, and a measure 
granting compensation to defrauded clergymen was 
renewed, the new Secretary, Fitzherbert, was able to 
write that the commotion in the South had ceased. 1 
The credit of the country had never been better, and 
the chief votes of supply passed without a division. 
Lord Lifford, who had been Irish Chancellor since 
1767, wrote to Buckingham in August 1788, that he 
had never in his long experience known Ireland so 

It must be added that one other important question 
of patronage was pending. Lord Lifford was old and 
broken, and he desired to resign the seals. Although 
most of the judgeships were now given to Irishmen, no 
Irishman had yet been appointed Chancellor, but Fitz- 
gibbon the Attorney- General strongly urged his claims. 
He went over to England to press them, but did not 
succeed in obtaining any promise from Pitt, and he 
appears to have somewhat irritated the not very patient 
Viceroy by his many letters on the subject. 3 The 
matter, however, was still unsettled when the great 
question of the Regency arose and suddenly changed 
the whole aspect of Irish politics. 

This question, indeed, was well fitted to strain 
seriously the constitutional relations between the two 
countries. The King was incapacitated by madness. 
No provision had been made for carrying on the Go- 

1 Fitzherbert to Nepean, Jan. Cabinets, i. 422. 
30, 1788. Ibid pp. 424-426. 

1 Buckingham 1 ! Courts and 


vernment, and it remained to reconstruct and to deter- 
mine the first estate in the realm. 1 The event was one 
absolutely unprovided for by law. There was no real 
precedent to guide the decision. It was only possible 
to argue the question from the general principles of 
the Constitution and from very distant and imperfect 
analogies, and the real influences which shaped and 
guided the arguments of lawyers and statesmen were 
of a party nature. The King was warmly attached to 
his present ministers. The Prince of Wales was closely 
connected with the Whigs, and would probably transfer 
the reins of government to their hands. 

I have elsewhere related at some length the discus- 
sions on the subject in England, 2 but in order to make 
the Irish aspects of this important question perfectly 
clear, I must now ask the reader to excuse some con- 
siderable repetition. 

Two opposing theories confronted one another. Pitt 
maintained that during the lifetime of the King he and 
he only was on the throne ; that as he was incapacitated 
by illness it devolved upon the other two branches of 
the Legislature to provide for the government of the 
country; that Parliament had a right to select the 
Regent, and to define and limit his powers, and that it 
should exercise this right in such a manner that the 
Sovereign on his recovery should find his power and 
patronage as little as possible impaired during his ill- 
ness, and be able without difficulty to resume the full 
direction of affairs. Fox, on the other hand, main- 
tained that the English monarchy being hereditary and 

1 I have already mentioned retained the language of the 

that in the Eegency debates in time, although it is not, strictly 

England, as well as in Ireland, speaking, accurate, 

the King was uniformly spoken 2 History of England in th 

of as 'the first estate of the Eighteenth Century, v. 387- 

realm,' and I have, therefore, 441. 

B H 2 


not elective, and the eldest son of the King being of 
age, he had a right to enter into the full exercise of the 
royal power during the incapacity of his father, but 
that the two Houses of Parliament as the organs of the 
nation were alone entitled to pronounce when the Prince 
ought to take upon him this power. 

As it was ultimately admitted by Pitt that the 
moral claim of the Prince of Wales to exercise the 
office of Regent was overwhelming, and by Fox that he 
could not assume this office without the sanction and 
invitation of the two Houses of Parliament, the real 
difference on this point between the two rivals lay 
within narrow limits. Both parties, again, agreed that 
the Regent should have full right of changing the 
ministry and calling such statesmen as he pleased to 
the helm. Fox considered such a right to be inherent 
to his position ; Pitt contended that it should be con- 
ferred on him by legislation ; but both statesmen ad- 
mitted that he should have it. The essential question 
at issue was the question of limitations. Fox main- 
tained that the condition of the King gave the Prince 
of Wales the right of exercising while Regent the full 
royal power. Pitt, on the other hand, maintaining 
that the temporary exercise of royal authority was 
essentially different from the possession of the throne, 
contended that Parliament, while granting such powers 
as were necessary for this temporary administration, 
should leave the custody of the royal person and the 
appointment of the royal household in the hands of 
the Queen, and should strictly limit the power of the 
Regent to grant peerages, offices in reversion and pen- 
sions, and to dispose of the real and personal property 
of the King. 

On this point there was one serious difficulty to be 
encountered by Pitt from which the theory of Fox was 
exempt. If the Prince had an inherent right to assume 


the royal power in all its plenitude, it was a simple 
thing for the two Houses to carry an address inviting 
him to do so. But if limitations were to be imposed 
and a form of government was to be constructed, this 
could only be done by Act of Parliament, and no Act 
of Parliament could exist without the royal assent. 
Scott, however, who was then the chief law officer in 
England, devised a legal fiction for surmounting the 
difficulty. He maintained that a commission might be 
appointed by the two Houses for the purpose of keep- 
ing that Great Seal the impress of which was the formal 
expression of the King's assent ; that this commission 
might be assumed to act as the representative and bj 
the direction of the King, and that under this fictitious 
authority it might affix the Great Seal and give validity 
to the Regency Bill. Probably if no party motive had 
been aroused, and if Parliament had not determined in 
accordance* with the general wishes of the people that 
it was desirable that the power of the Regent should be 
limited, such an expedient would have been rejected as 
equally ridiculous and illegal ; but as there appeared to 
be no other way of limiting the Regency, the plan was 
adopted by large majorities in the British Parliament. 

It is easy to see how perplexing the doctrine of 
Pitt must have been to the strenuous supporters of 
Irish parliamentary independence. Their fundamental 
doctrine was that the Crown alone was the link be- 
tween the two countries, and that the British Parlia- 
ment had no authority whatever over Ireland or the 
Irish Parliament ; but they were now told that in con- 
sequence of the incapacity of the King, it was for the 
British Parliament to create the temporary sovereign 
whom they were to obey, and to define the powers 
which he was to exercise. The views of the indepen- 
dent party in Ireland naturally coincided with the 
doctrine of Fox as the one which was the most con- 


sistent with their own Constitution, and several other 
motives acted in the same direction. The Administra- 
tion of Lord Buckingham had become unpopular. The 
feeling of personal loyalty which was very strong in 
Ireland was shocked by the restrictions imposed by the 
English Minister on the heir to the crown. Some men 
were not insensible to the charm of asserting for Ire- 
land the right to pursue a separate line of policy on a 
question of great constitutional importance, while many 
others thought they saw an approaching change in the 
source of patronage, and were eager to be among the 
first to win the favour of the coming ruler. It was 
generally believed that the King would be unable to 
resume the royal authority, and the chief borough 
interests, which had long been almost passive in the 
hands of the ministers, began to gravitate rapidly to- 
wards the new planet which seemed mounting above 
the horizon. The great interests of Shannon, Leinster, 
Tyrone, and Drogheda passed speedily into opposition 
and at once changed the balance of power; and the ex- 
perience and debating power of Ponsonby and Hely 
Hutchinson were soon found on the same side. 

It would be idle to suppose that the great mass 
of placemen and nominees who had so long been the 
docile servants of Administration were animated by any 
other than purely selfish motives ; but no one who has 
studied the history of the time will attribute such 
motives to Grattan and Charlemont. The main reason 
for their conduct lies, I think, on the surface. The 
Whig doctrine of the Eegency was, beyond all question, 
more in harmony with the Constitution of 1782 than 
the doctrine of the Government. There were, however, 
other considerations which influenced them. A strong 
political and personal sympathy had long attached them 
to the Whig leaders in England, and on the eve of the 
Kegency debates, an assurance appears to have been 


given to Grattan that in the event of a Regency the Go- 
vernment in Ireland would be changed, and that the 
new Government would accept and carry through some 
of those measures of reform which Grattan had so long 
unsuccessfully advocated as indispensably necessary to 
put an end to the reign of corruption in Ireland, and 
to make the Irish Parliament a real reflex of the 
educated opinion of the nation. 1 

The Irish Parliament was not sitting when the 
English Parliament began the discussions on the Regency 
question, and as the incapacity of the Sovereign caused 
much less embarrassment in Ireland than in England 
owing to the large powers possessed by the Lord Lieu- 
tenant, it was 'especially unfortunate that the unexpected 
prolongation of the debates in England, and the ap- 
proaching expiration of some essential laws in Ireland, 
made it necessary to assemble the Irish Parliament 
before the question had been determined in England. 
At first the Lord Lieutenant believed that he could 
secure a large majority for the English plan, and that 
only a small section of the Irish Parliament wished 
to proceed by address. 2 But gradually his confidence 
diminished, and the week before Parliament met, the 
Chief Secretary wrote to the Government in a strain of 
great and evident mortification. 'The specific assur- 
ances of support,' he said, ' upon which alone I could 

1 See Grattan's Life, iii. 867, dom for the last three months, 

372-375. After the conflict was supported from Great Britain, 

over Lord Buckingham wrote: under the circumstances of the 

4 Your lordship will be surprised present times and urging on the 

to hear that the engagements popular frenzy, would have com- 

with the English opposition pletely overthrown every appear - 

tended to a system of mischief, ance of government in Ireland.' 

which I hope was not completely Buckingham to Sydney, March 

foreseen by those who framed 23, 1789. 

this measure ; for I do not h^si- * Ibid. Nov. 23,1788; Jan. 10, 

tate to say that such a combina- 1789. 
tion as bad existed in this king- 


form any opinion of the strength of the Government 
in Parliament, have in the course of the last three days 
been withdrawn in so many quarters where from every 
consideration I could least expect it, that I have very 
little hope to be able to stem on February 5 the address 
which will be moved by both Houses to his Royal 
Highness to take upon himself the Regency of this 
kingdom.' 1 When Parliament met, it was at once 
seen that the most important of the great interests 
in both Houses, many men who were in high employ- 
ment under the Crown, and also the popular party 
directed by Grattan were resolved to act at once. 
A. motion to postpone the question till the English Par- 
liament had decided on the Regent was rejected by 128 
to 74. The plan of proceeding by Bill, which was pro- 
posed by the Government, was rejected; and after a 
long debate, and chiefly under the guidance of Grattan, 
both Houses of Parliament agreed to address the Prince 
of Wales to take upon himself ' the government of this 
nation during the continuation of his Majesty's present 
indisposition, and no longer ; and under the style and 
title of Prince Regent of Ireland, in the name and 
on the behalf of his Majesty, to exercise and administer, 
according to the laws and Constitution of this kingdom, 
all regal powers, jurisdiction, and prerogatives, to the 
Crown and Government thereof belonging.' 

It is worthy of notice that in the Irish debates 
the question of limitations, which was so prominent in 
England, was thrown completely into the background. 
It was asserted by Grattan, and it was fully acknow- 

1 Fitzherbert to Nepean, Jan. some of the independent and 

29, 1789. ' The union of most of unconnected members in both 

the great connections in this Houses, who usually vote against 

kingdom has left me no hope Government, may in the present 

of a majority on the Kegency instance be induced to support 

question, except those which are it.' Buckingham to Sydney, Jan. 

founded on the expectation that 29, 1789. 



ledged on the part of the Government, that the restric- 
tions which were necessary in England were immaterial 
in Ireland, and that there was no insuperable difficulty 
in the Regent exercising different degrees of power 
in the two countries. 1 The real question at issue was 
whether, under the peculiar circumstances of the Con- 
stitution of Ireland and the connection of the two 
crowns, the proper mode of investing the Prince of 
Wales with the Regency was by address or by Bill. 
Grattan and those who agreed with him in adopting the 
former alternative, argued, like the English Whigs, 
that it was impossible to legislate with only two estates 
of the realm, and that, therefore, the creation or re- 
cognition of -a third estate was the indispensable pre- 
cursor of every act of legislation. They treated the 
Commission appointed in England to guard the Great 
Seal and represent the royal person, as a pure phantom, 
and the Great Seal of England as of no importance ex- 
cept as authenticating and attesting the royal volition 
and assent. They urged that the British Parliament, in 
attempting to deal with the question in the way of legisla- 
tion, and in inventing a fictitious royal assent, had been 
actuated by a desire to restrict the power of the Regent, 
and that this end was confessedly of no moment inlreland. 

1 ' If you make the Prince of 
Wales your Regent and grant 
him the plenitude of power, in 
God's name let it be done by 
Bill ; otherwise I see such danger 
that I deprecate the measure 
proposed. ... I abominate the 
idea of restraining the Prince 
Regent in the power of making 
peers in this country, or in limit- 
ing him in the power of making 
grants on the narrow principles 
of suspicion and distrust. This 
is a question which rests upon 
very different ground in this 

country from that on which it 
has been taken up in England; 
and if gentlemen can reconcile 
to themselves a precedent for 
adopting in this country a differ- 
ent form of executive govern- 
ment from that established in 
England, I have not the smallest 
apprehension that the powers 
which may be committed to the 
Prince of Wales by the Parlia- 
ment of Ireland will be abused 
by him.' Speech of Fitzgibbon, 
Irish Parl. Debates, ix. 53, 54. 


They acknowledged that the crowns of England and 
Ireland were indissolubly connected, but they utterly 
denied that an English Regent made by an English 
statute could have any authority in Ireland unless he wa3 
also made Regent by the Irish Parliament ; and they 
accordingly contended that the proposed method of pro- 
ceeding by a Bill which was to become an Act of Par- 
liament by the assent of a Regent of Great Britain, 
elected by the British Parliament, and as yet unre- 
cognised by the Irish Parliament, was directly opposed 
to the Constitution of 1 782. Ireland was acknowledged 
to be independent of the British Parliament, and there- 
fore, now that the supreme authority was eclipsed, the 
Irish Parliament, without reference to the proceedings, 
without waiting for the decision of the British Parlia- 
ment, called upon the eldest son of the Sovereign, who 
had already declared his willingness to accept the 
Regency of Great Britain, 1 to assume the full power and 
prerogatives of the Crown in Ireland. 

The address was copied from that of the two En- 
glish Houses inviting William of Orange to take upon 
himself the conduct of affairs. ' There are points,' 
Grattan said, 'in which the Revolution bears a near 
resemblance to the present period, as there are others 
in which it is not only different but opposite. The 
throne being full, and the political power of the King 
existing, the power of the two Houses cannot be applied 
to that part of the monarchical condition; but the 
personal capacity of the King, or rather the personal 
exercise of the royal power, being deficient, the laws of 
the land not having in the ordinary course of law made 
provision for that deficiency, and one of the estates being 
incapable, it remains with the two others to administer 
the remedy by their own authority. The principle of 

1 See his answer to the Committees of the British Houses, Jan. 30, 


your interference is established by the Revolution ; the 
operation of that principle is limited by the contingency.' 
In this case there was, at least, no dispute about 
persons. The same person was acknowledged to be the 
one possible Regent in both countries, and that person 
was the heir to the throne. 

It is remarkable, however, that Grattan carefully 
abstained from committing himself to the unpopular 
doctrine of Fox that the Prince of Wales, when of full 
age, had such an inherent right to the exercise of 
the royal power, that the function of Parliament in the 
matter was a function not of choice, but of adjudication. 
This doctrine was considered by the English Whigs, 
and, as it appears to me, with good reason, logically 
essential to their case. Grattan carefully avoided any 
distinct statement on the question of right. He spoke 
only of 'the irresistible claim' of the Prince. He based 
his argument for proceeding by address, on the ground 
that this is the natural method of proceeding when the 
third estate is incapable of acting, and that the supposed 
necessity of imposing restrictions on the Regency, 
which induced the British Parliament to adopt a dif- 
ferent course, did not exist in Ireland. He never dis- 
tinctly denied the validity of the proceedings of the 
British Parliament. He denied only that a Regency 
Bill which passed the two Irish Houses could become a 
valid Irish law by the assent of a Regent whose authority 
was based upon an English statute, and who was still 
unrecognised by the Irish Parliament. Curran and 
Hutchinson, indeed, strongly and ably supported the 
full doctrine of Fox, but much of the language ot 
Grattan bore more resemblance to that of Pitt ; and he 
seems to have thought it possible to take an intermediate 
position between the two parties in England. ' The 
method,' he said, ' whereby I propose these great assern- 


blies shall supply this deficiency is address. There 
are two ways of proceeding one is by way of legisla- 
tion, the other by address. When they proceed by way 
of legislation, it is on the supposition of a third estate in 
a capacity to act ; but address is a mode exclusively 
their own, and complete without the interference of a 
third estate. It is that known parliamentary method by 
which the two Houses exercise those powers to which 
they are jointly competent. Therefore it is I submit to 
you the mode by address, as the most proper for sup- 
plying the present deficiency ; and although the address 
shall on this occasion have all the force and operation 
of law, yet still that force and operation arise from 
the necessity of the case and are confined to it. ... 
But as addresses of Parliament, though competent, 
in the event of such a deficiency, to create an efficient 
third estate, yet do not, and cannot with propriety, 
annex to their act the forms of law and stamp of legis- 
lation, it is thought advisable, after the acceptance of 
the Regency, that there should be an Act passed 
reciting the deficiency in the personal exercise of the 
royal power, and of his Royal Highness's acceptance of 
the Regency of this realm, at the instance and desire of 
the two Houses of the Irish Parliament ; and further to 
declare and enact that he is and shall be Regent thereof 
during the continuance of his Majesty's present indis- 
position. The terms of the Act are to describe the 
powers of the Regent, and the power intended is the 
personal exercise of the full regal authority ; and the 
reason why plenitude of the regal power is intended by 
the address, and afterwards by the Bill, is to be found 
in the nature of the prerogative, which was given not 
for the sake of the King but of the people. . . . We 
know of no political reason why the prerogatives in 
question should be destroyed, nor any personal reason 
why they should be suspended.' 


Such were the arguments of Grattan. In opposi- 
tion to them Fitzgibbon, in speeches of admirable 
subtlety and power, but now for the first time supported 
only by a small minority in Parliament, maintained 
the doctrine which had been accepted in England. A 
simple address of two Houses of Parliament could not 
possibly give the Prince of Wales the royal authority 
if he did not already by v^ght possess it, and to assert 
that he did possess it was treason, for it was to assert 
that George III. was no longer on the throne. This 
argument was common to both countries, but there 
were others which applied especially to Ireland. The 
most powerful was derived from an Act which had been 
drawn up by Yelverton and carried in 1782, and which 
defined the manner in which the royal assent should be 
given in Ireland. The object of this Act was to put 
an end to the practice of altering Irish Bills in the 
Privy Council. It provided that all Irish Bills, after 
passing through the Irish Parliament, should be sent 
under the Great Seal of Ireland to England ; that they 
should be returned without alteration to Ireland under 
the Great Seal of England, and that the Lord Lieute- 
nant should be then empowered to give them the royal 
assent. 1 No Irish Bill, therefore, could become law 
without the Great Seal of England, but the Irish Par- 
liament had no control whatever over that seal, and 
could, therefore, take no steps in appointing a Regent 
until the British Parliament had definitely decided in 

1 21 & 22 Geo. III. o. 47. action, meant more than a for- 

Another clause of the Act pro- mal attestation of the genuine- 

vided that no Parliament could ness of the documents that 

be held in Ireland until a licence passed from country to country, 

had been obtained from his See, however, on the importance 

Majesty under the Great Seal of different seals in establishing 

of Great Britain. It appears to ministerial responsibility, the re- 

me very doubtful whether the marks of Mr. Dicey, The Law of 

use of either seal in this trans- the Constitution, pp. 332-335. 


CH. T. 

whose hands that seal should be placed. No Regent 
appointed by the Irish Parliament could convert an 
Irish Bill into a law without this seal, which was for 
the present at the disposal of the British Parliament. 

' Were the King of England and Ireland,' said Fitz- 
gibbon, ' to come here in person and to reside, he could 
not pass a Bill without its being first certified to his 
Regent in England, who must return it under the 
Great Seal of that kingdom before his Majesty could 
even in person assent to it.' The Great Seal of 
England on Irish Bills is the bond of union and con- 
nection with England, and anyone who disputes its 
necessity, contradicts the direct letter of the law and 
weakens the essential security of the connection. Since 
the Constitution of 1782 the union of the supreme 
Executives of the two nations alone connects them, 
and whoever tampers with, impairs, or dissolves that 
union is preparing the way for separation. It is at 
least conceivable that the Prince of Wales might at 
the last moment decline the restricted Regency of Eng- 
land, and in that case the supreme executive powers of 
England and Ireland would be completely separated. 
' It is a wise maxim,' said Fitzgibbon, ' for this country 
always to concur with the Parliament of Great Britain, 
unless for very strong reasons indeed we are obliged to 
differ from it. ... Constituted as it is, the Govern- 
ment of this country never can go on unless we follow 
Great Britain implicitly in all regulations of Imperial 
policy. The independence of your Parliament is your 
freedom ; your dependence on the Crown of England 
is your security for that freedom ; and gentlemen who 
profess themselves this night advocates for the inde- 
pendence of the Irish Crown are advocates for its 
separation from England.' ' The only security of your 
liberty is your connection with Great Britain, and 
gentlemen who risk breaking the connection must 


make up their minds to a union. God forbid that I 
should ever see that day ; but if ever the day in which 
a separation shall be attempted may come, I shall not 
hesitate to embrace a union rather than a separation.' 
' What, then, have we to do ? As soon as we shall be 
certified that the Prince of Wales is invested with the 
authority of Regent in England, pass an Act to invest 
him with that authority in Ireland ; send this Act to 
the Prince Regent in England ; he will then have the 
command of the Great Seal of England, and will re- 
turn our Act authenticated according to law. His 
Lord Lieutenant may then, by his command, give the 
royal assent to it ; and who shall say that it is not a 
law of the land ? ' 

Such, as fully as I can state them, were the leading 
arguments advanced upon each side of the controversy. 
It is my own opinion that the constitutional importance 
of the question, its danger, and its significance were all 
grossly exaggerated by party spirit at the time, and 
have been not a little magnified by succeeding histo- 
rians. It appears evident that the case was so new and 
unprecedented that no course could possibly have been 
taken without straining or violating some part of the 
Constitution. It was an illegal thing for the Irish Par- 
liament under any possible circumstances to deny the 
necessity of the Great Seal of England for the validity 
of Irish Acts, and for the Parliament of either country 
to assume that George III. was no longer on the throne ; 
but it was an act of at least equal violence to create 
by parliamentary action a fictitious royal assent, to 
frame during the monarch's incapacity a new Constitu- 
tion fundamentally different from hereditary monarchy, 
and to make the exercise of monarchical functions sub- 
ject to election. In the words of a great lawyer, ( the 
phantom of a commission issued by an incapable King, 
to confer upon what the other branches of the Legisla- 


ture had proposed, the outward semblance of a statute 
passed by all the three, was an outrage upon all con- 
stitutional principle, and, indeed, upon the common 
sense of mankind, yet more extravagant than the elec- 
tive nature of the whole process.' l The doctrine of 
Scott that the Great Seal makes the assent of the 
Crown complete in law, though the Sovereign may be 
incapable of giving any warrant for affixing it, was 
certainly far more inconsistent with the principles of 
monarchy than the doctrine of Grattan, that the essence 
of the consent of the Crown is the volition of the 
Sovereign, and that the Great Seal has no value except 
as attesting and authenticating it. The former doc- 
trine might be extended not only to an infant or lunatic 
king, but to a king who was a prisoner in the hands of 
rebels. It virtually substituted a seal for a monarch, 
and it reduced the place of royalty in the Constitution 
to complete insignificance. 

But if, putting aside the metaphysics of the Con- 
stitution, we judge the question on the grounds of 
political expediency, I cannot see that any real evil 
would have ensued if the Irish Parliament, under the 
very exceptional and embarrassing circumstances of 
the case, had delayed its proceedings till the English 
Parliament had finally and irrevocably determined the 
Regency of England. Such a course would probably 

1 Brougham's Statesmen of mise of the Crown, and by pre- 
George III. : Lord Lough- senting an address to him pray- 
lorough. Another great legal ing h