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took a leading part.* Lord Charlemont's biographer, who heard him upon all those occasions, says of him, “That he animated

for an inquiry into the sale of Peerages, the Catholic question, Parliamentary Reform. The inquiry regarding the sale of Peerages was twice moved; by Mr. Grattan, in 1790, and by Mr. Curran in the following year: both motions failed, although the fullest evi. dence of the fact was offered. “I have proof," said Mr. Curran," and I stake my character on producing such evidence to a committee, 29 shall fully and incontrovertibly establish the fact, that a contract has been entered into with the present ministers to raise to the peerage certain persons, on condition of their purchasing a certain number of seats in this house." Upon this last occasion Mr. Curran was loudly called to order, for having reminded the house, “that they should be cautious in their decision on this question for they were in the hearing of a great number of the people of Ireland." Mr. Grattan defended the expression, and thought the doctrine of censure passed upon it inconsistent with the nature of a popular assembly such as a House of Commons: in sup. port of this opinion he quoted an expression of Lord Chatham, who in the house of peers, where such language was certainly less proper than in a house of commons, addressed the peers, “My Lords, I speak not to your lordships; I speak to the public and to the constitution." “The words,” added Grattan, “were at first received with some murmurs, but the good sense of the house and the genius of the constitution justified him." Mr. Curran, on resuming, repeated the expression, and was again interrupted by violent cries to order, which, however, he silenced by observing, "I do not allude to any strangers in your gallery, but I allude to the constructive presence of four millions of people, whom a serjeant at arms cannot keep unacquainted with your proceedings.”—Irish Parl, Deb., 1791.

During the debate upon the same subject in the preceding year, Mr. Grattan produced a paper, and read as follows : “We charge them (the Ministers) publicly, in the face of their country, with making corrupt agreements for the sale of peerages : for doing which, we say that they are impeachable. We charge them with corrupt agreements for the disposal of the money arising from the sale, to purchase for the servants of the Castle seats in the Assembly of the People; for which we say that they are impeachable. We charge them with committing these offences, not in one, nor in two, but in many instances; for which complication of offences we say that they are impeachable; guilty of a systematic endeavour to undermine the Constitution, in violation of the laws of the land. We pledge ourselves to convict them; we dare them to go into an inquiry; we do not affect to treat them as other than public malefactors; we speak to them in a style of the most mortifying and humiliating defance; we pronounce them to be public criminals. Will they dare to deny the charge? I call upon and dare the ostensible member to rise in his place and say, on his honour, that he does not believe such corrupt agreements

* The debates in which, during this period (1791–4), Curran took a leading part were on February 12, 1791, when he made a long and powerful attack on the corruption of the Irish Government, and being reproved for alluding to strangers in the House, said, "I do not allude to strangers in the gallery, but to the constructive presence of the people of Ireland ;" on February 18, 1792, when he argued in favour of the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities ; on January 11, 1793, on the approaching war with France; on February 9, 1793, in favor of Parliamentary Reform.-M.




every debate with all his powers; that he was copious, splendid, full of wit, and life, and ardour." Of the justice of this praise sufficient proofs might be given, even from the loose reports of his speeches upon those questions; but it will be necessary in the following pages to offer so many examples of his forensic oratory, upon which his reputation so mainly depends, that his efforts in Parliament become, as far as his eloquence is concerned, of secondary moment, and claim a passing attention, rather with reference to his history and conduct, than as necssary to his lite

rary fame.

have taken place. I wait for a specific answer.” Major Hobart avoided a specific answer. Six days after, Mr. Grattan, alluding to these charges, observed, " Sir, I have been told it was said that I should have been stopped, should have been expelled the Commons, should have been delivered up to the bar of the Lords for the expressions delivered that day. I will repeat what I said that day.” After reciting the charges seriatim in the same words, he thus concluded, " I repeat these charges now, and if any thing more severe was on a former occasion expressed, I beg to be reminded of it, and I will again repeat it. Why do you not expel me now? Why not send me to the bar of the Lords! Where is your adviser? Going out of the House, I shall repeat my senti. ments, that his Majesty's Ministers are guilty of impeachable offences, and advancing to the bar of the Lords, I shall repeat these sentiments; and if the Tower is to be my habi. tation, I will there meditate the impeachment of these Ministers, and return not to capi. tulate, but to punish. Sir, I think I know myself well enough to say, that if called forth to suffer in a public cause, I will go further than my prosecutors both in virtue and in danger."-0.





State of parties–Trial of Hamilton Rowan-Mr. Curran's fidelity to his party-Rev.

William Jackson's Trial, Conviction, and Death-Remarks upon that Trial--Irish
Informers-Irish Juries—The influence of the times upon Mr. Curran's style of

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The period was now approaching which afforded to Mr. Curran's forensic talents their most melancholy, but most splèndid occasions of exertion. With this year (1794) commences the series of those historical trials which originated in the distracted condition of his country, and to the political interest of which his eloquence has now imparted an additional attraction.

From the year 1789 the discontents of Ireland had been rapidly increasing; the efforts of the Opposition in Parliament having failed to procure a reform of the abuses and grievances of which the nation complained, an opinion soon prevailed throughout the community that the Irish Administration had entered into a formal design to degrade the country, and virtually to annul its lately acquired independence, by transferring the absolute dominion over it from the English Parliament, which had previously governed it, to the English Cabinet, which was to be its future ruler. Without inquiring now into the truth of this opinion, it will be sufficient to observe, that, in the agitation of the many irritating questions that it involved, it soon appeared that Ireland had little hope of seeing them terminated by the gentle methods of argument or persuasion. The adherents of the Administration, and their opponents, were agreed upon the fact of the universal discontent, and upon the dangers that it threatened ; but they differed widely upon the measures that should be adopted for the restoration of repose.



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The first were determined to use coercion. They seemed to think that popular excesses are almost solely the people's own creation--that they are naturally prone to disaffection—that complaints of grievances are resorted to as a mere pretext to gratify this propensity; and, consequently, that a provident government should vigourously resist every movement of discontent as the fearful tokens of projected revolution. In conformity with these opinions it appeared to them that terror alone could tranquilize Ireland; and, therefore, that every method of impressing upon the public mind the power of the State, no matter how unpopular their nature, or how adverse to the established securities of the subject, should be adopted and applauded as measures of salutary restraint.

The truth and expediency of these doctrines were as firmly denied by others, who maintained that conciliation alone could appease the popular ferment. They deplored the general tendency to disaffection as notorious and undeniable; but they considered that there would have been more wisdom in preventing than in punishing it; that a very little wisdom would have been sufficient to prevent it; and that in punishing it now, the Ministry were “ combating, not causes, but effects.” They denied that the great inass of the Irish, or of any community, were naturally prone to disaffection. “ Their natural impulses (they observed, in replying to the advocates of coercion) are all the other way." Look into history; for one revolution, or attempt at revolution, of how many long and uninterrupted despotisms do we read; and, whenever such attempts occur, it is easy to assign the cause. There is one, and only one, way of measuring the excellence of any Government-by considering the condition of the governed. No well governed people will desire to exchange real and present blessings for the danger and uncertainty of remote and fantastic speculations : and if ever they are found to commit their lives and fortunes to such desperate experiments, it is the most conclusive evidence that they are badly governed, and that their sufferings have impelled them " to rise up in vengeance, to rend their chains upon the heads of their oppressors." Look to the neighbouring example of France, and see what abominations an infuriated populace may be brought to practise upon their rulers and upon themselves. Let Ireland be saved from the possibility of such a crisis. The majority of its people are in a state of odious exclusion, visiting them in its daily consequences with endless insults and privations, which, being minute and individual, are only the more intolerable. Would it not be wise then, to listen to their claim of equal privileges, which, if granted, would give you the strongest security for their loyalty? There are other grievances, the notorious corruption of the legislature—the enormity of the Pension List—and many more-of these the nation complains, and seems determined to be heard.* The times are peculiar; and, if the popular cry be not the voice of wisdom, it should at least be that of warning. The mind of all Europe is greatly agitated : a general distrust of Governments has gone abroad ; let that of Ireland exhibit such an example of virtue and moderation, as may entitle it to the confidence of the people. The people seem inclined to turbulence; but treat it as a disease

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* Every session the Opposition, again and again, pressed upon the Ministers the dangers to which their system was exposing the State. Thus Mr. Grattan observed, early in 1793, “ They (the Ministers) attempted to put down the Constitution; but now they have put down the Government. We told them so-we admonished them--we told them their driving would not do. Do not they remember how in 1790 we warned them? They said we were severe-I am sure we were prophetic. In 1791 we repeated our admonition-told them that a Government of clerks would not do-that the Government of the Treasury would not do--that Ireland would not long be governed by the trade of Parliament; we told them that a nation, which had rescued her liberty from the giant of Old England, would not long bear to be trodden on by the violence of a few pigmies, whom the caprice of a Court had appointed Ministers.” Mr. Curran's language was equally emphatic-" Ireland thinks, that, without an immediate reform, her liberty is gone--I think so too. While a single guard of British freedom, either internal or external, is wanting, Ireland is in bondage. She looks to us for her emancipation. She expects not impossibilities from us—but she expects honesty and plain dealing ; and, if she finds them not, remember what I predict-she will abominate her Parliament, and look for & reform to herself."-Parl. Deb., 1798.-C.

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