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His Majesty's illness-Communicated to the House of Commons-Mr. Curran's speech
upon the Address-Regency question-Formation of the Irish Whig opposition—Mr.
The year 1789 was in many respects one of the most interest-
address to assume the full and unrestricted exercise of the regal functions; and fortunately for his fame, he had too much respect for his duties and his character, to sacrifice them to any considerations of personal advancement.
The Irish administration had been anxious to defer the meeting of the legislature until the whole proceedings respecting the regency should be completed in England, in the hope that the conduct pursued by the British parliament might be followed as a precedent in Ireland; but the urgencies of the public business not admitting so long a delay, the session was opened on the 5th of February, 1789, by the viceroy (the Marquis of Buckingham), when the King's illness was for the first time announced to the country.* On the following day, in the debate on the address of thanks, his Excellency's late conduct was made the subject of much severe animadversion. Upon that occasion Mr. Curran spoke as follows:
“I oppose the address,t as an address of delay. I deeply lament the public calamity of the King's indisposition: it is not so welcome a tale to me as to call for
thanks to the messenger any
Early in 1764, (the year in which George III. suggested to Lord Granville the taxation of America, as a grand financial measure for relieving the mother country from the heavy war expenses, which had chiefly been incurred for the security of the Colonies), George III. was attacked by an indisposition of six weeks' duration, which is suspected to have been similar in its nature to, though less in its degree than, the malady which assailed him in 1788-'9, and completely clouded the last ten years of his life. It is a wellknown fact, that the Royal Family of England have a predisposition to insanity, attri. buted to their in-and-in breeding system, caused by their marriages with other than royal and Protestant houses being prohibited by law, which has led to their union with cousins and such near relations. It has been sharp!y said, "that the Guelphs are divided into only two classes,--those who are bad, and those who are mad.”—M.
+ One of the paragraphe us the address upon which the debate arose was the following: "We return your excelleres sincere thanks (however we must lament the necessity of such a circumstance) for ordering the communication of such documents as you have received respecting his majesty's health, as well as for your intention of laying before us such further information as may assist our deliberations upon that melancholy event."-C.
[In 1782-'3, Earl Temple (subsequently created Marquis of Buckingham) was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In December, 1787, he was again appointed and held the office for two years.)-M.
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that brings it. Instead of thanks for communicating it now, it should be resented as an outrage upon us that he did not communicate it before.* As to thanks for the wishes of Ireland, it is a strange time for the noble Marquis to call for it. I do not wish that an untimely vote of approbation should mix with the voice of a people's lamentation : it is a picture of general mourning, in which no man's vanity ought to be thrust in as a figure. But if it is pressed, what are its pretensions? One gentleman (Mr. Boyd) has lost hundreds a year by his arts, and defends him on that ground; another (Mr. Corry) praises his economy for increasing salaries in the ordnance—the economy of the noble lord is then to be proved only by public or by private losses. Another right honourable gentleman (the Attorney-General) has painted him as
* George III. had a bilious fever in October, 1788. On the 24th of that month, however, he attended a levee, but, immediately after, exbibited symptoms of insanity. For some time before, he had complained of weight or pressure on the brain, and anticipated how it would end. At a private concert, one evening, he said to Dr. Ayrton, “I fear, sir, I shall not be able long to hear music; it seems to affect my head, and it is with some difficulty I bear it. Alas! the best of us are but frail mortals." The King's illness was publicly known in November. Dr. Warren, the regular physician to the Royal Household, had no hope of his recovery. Dr. Willis, famous for his success in the treatment of mad people, declared that the malady would be of short duration. Charles Fox and the Opposition held on by Warren's prognostication. William Pitt, and the ministerial party confided in the opinion of Willis. It was generally admitted that a Regency was indis. pensable, and that the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.) was the proper person, as his heir-apparen:, to be appointed. Then came the dispute as to the degree of power which, as the King's representative, the Regent should exercise. Fox contended that he should have the royal authority in as much plenitude as the Sovereign himself. Pitt advocated the necessity and legality of imposing various restrictions upon his authority. Pitt's proposition was carried, and the bill had reached its last stage, in the English Par. liament, when the King suddenly recovered-in consequence, it is said, of Dr. Willis hav. ing calmed him by sleep, brought on by the use of a pillow stuffed with hops. Meanwhile, the Irish Parliament had hastily carried a measure giving an unrestricted Regency to the Prince of Wales. The Viceroy, having refused to transmit their resolutions to London, a deputation from the Irish Lords and Commons was despatched with them, and made such good speed as to arrive in London a week after the king's convalescence was announced ! In one of the stages of the King's malady, it was announced in one of the bulietins of health, that his Majesty had been so far recovered, as to be able to take the air on horseback. “Then,” said Curran, "all this work about appointing a Regent is gone for nothing. What happiness will be diffused among his Majesty's subjects, when they learn that he is now able to take the reins."-).
a man of uncouth manners, much addicted to vulgar arithmetic, and therefore entitled to praise. But what have his calculations done! They have discovered that a dismounted trooper may be stript of his boots, as a public saving, or that a mutilated veteran might be plundered of half the pittance of his coals, as a stoppage for that wooden leg, which perhaps the humane marquis might consider as the most proper fuel to keep others warm.
"But a learned gentleman (Mr. Wolfe)* has defended the paragraph, as in fact meaning nothing at all. I confess I find the appeal to the compassion of the puplic stronger than that to their justice. I feel for the reverses of human fate. I remember this very supplicant for a compliment, to which he pretends only because it is no compliment, drawn into this city by the people, harnessed to his chariot, through streets blazing with illumination; and now, after more than a year's labour at computation, he has hazarded on a paragraph stating no one act of private or of public good; supported by no man that says he loves him; defended, not by an assertion of his merit, but by an extenuation of his delinquency.
"For my part I am but little averse to accede to the sentment of an honourable friend who observed, that he was soon to leave us, and that it was harsh to refuse him even a smaller civility than every predecessor for a century had got. As for me, I do not oppose his being borne away from us in a common hearse of his political ancestors; I do not wish to pluck a single faded plume from the canopy, nor a single rag of velvet that might flutter on the pall. Let us excuse his manners, if he could not help them; let us pass by a little peculation, since, as an honourable member says, it was for his brother; and let us rejoice that his kindred were not more numerous.
But I cannot
learned friend who defends the conduct of the noble lord, on the present occasion. The Viceroy here, under a party that had taken a peculiar line in Great Britain, should not have availed himself of his trust to forward any of their measures : he should have considered
himself bound by duty and by delicacy to give the people the earliest notice of their situation, and to have religiously abstained from any act that could add to the power of his party, or embarrass any administration that might succeed him. Instead of that, he abused his trust by proroguing the two Houses, and has disposed of every office that became vacant in the interval, besides reviving others that had been dormant for years. Yet the honourable member says he acted the part of a faithful steward. I know not what the honourable member's idea of a good steward is; I will tell mine. A good steward, if his master was visited by infirmity or by death, wouid secure every article of his effects for his heir; he would enter into no conspiracy with his tenants; he would remember his benefactor, and not forget his interest. I will also tell my idea of a faithless, unprincipled steward. He would avail himself of the moment of family distraction; while the filial piety of the son was attending the sick bed of the father, or mourning over his grave, the faithless steward would turn the melancholy interval to his private profit; he would remember his own interest, and forget his benefactor, he would endeavour to obliterate or conceal the title deeds; to promote cabals among the tenants of the estate, he would load it with fictitious incumbrances; he would reduce it to a wreck, in order to leave the plundered heir no resource from beggary except continuing him in a trust which he had been vile enough to betray. I shall not appropriate either of these portraits to any man: I hope most earnestly that no man may be found in the community, whose conscience would acknowledge the resemblance of the latter.*
“I do not think the pitiful compliment in the address worthy a debate or a division ; if any gentleman has a mind to stigmatize the object of it by a poor, hereditary, unmeaning, unmerited panegyric, let it pass; but I cannot consent to a delay at once so dangerous and so disgraceful."
The opposition proved upon this occasion the stronger party;