« ÖncekiDevam »
future—a ground that, while you yet hear me, is washed from
determination is yet in your power—dum versatur adhuc intra penetralia Vesta-that on the ocean of the future you must set your judgment afloat; and future ages will assume the same authority which you have assumed; posterity will feel the same emotions which you have felt, when your little hearts have beaten, and your infant eyes have overflowed at reading the sad story of the sufferings of a Russel or a Sydney."
All this bas been represented as very strange, and even absurd, by those who would not reflect upon the state of the times, and the necessity which it imposed upon the advocate of addressing the passions which he knew to be actuating his hearers, no matter to what order of the community they might belong.
Catholic Emancipation-Mr. Curran moves an address to the Throne for an inquiry into
the state of the poor-Other Parliamentary questions-Mr. Ponsonby's plan of Reform rejected-Secession of Mr. Curran and his friends-Orr's trial-Finnerty's trial-Fin. ney's Trial-The informer, James O'Brien.
[On May 4, 1795, a sharp debate took place in the Irish Commons, on the second reading of a Catholic Emancipation Bill, which had been introduced, during the preceding January, under the liberal auspices of Lord Fitzwilliam, the new and liberal Viceroy. But George III. was determined not to admit his Roman Catholic subjects to the enjoyment of civil rights, and the too liberal Viceroy was recalled. The Irish Commons, on the strength of the Emancipation Bill being a fact, had liberally voted large supplies for carrying on the war then raging between France and England. The money received, the Irish Government threw over the Catholics, and the second reading of the Emancipation Bill was lost—there being 155 votes against and 84 for it. Mr. Curran supported the measure, and defended the character and conduct of Lord Fitzwilliam.]
In May, 1795, Mr. Curran moved an address to the throne upon the distresses of Ireland, the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, and the misconduct of his Majesty's ministers in their government of Ireland. It was not expected, by the opposition, that this motion would be carried : their object in bringing it forward was merely to leave a record of their opinions upon the subjects contained in the address.* Mr. Curran prefaced his motion by a long speech, in the course of which he emphatically warned the House of the dangers that impended over the public tranquillity; but upon this, as upon many former occasions, his predictions were disregarded. “I know,” said he, “that this is not a time when the passions of the public ought to be inflamed; nor do I mean to inflame them (murmurs from the other side of the House). Yes, I speak not to inflame; but I address you in order to allay the fever of the public mind. If I had power to warn you, I would exert that power in order to diminish the public ferment–in order to show the
* This address, after a few prefatory clauses stating the attachment of the Commons to his Majesty's person, and the monarchical form of government, and their late extraordi. nary supplies for carrying on the present most eventful war, proceeds
That we were the more induced to this, from a zeal for his Majesty's service, and an attachment to Great Britain; but accompanied with an expectation that our extraordiDary grants would be justified to our constituents by a reform, under a patriot viceroy, of the various and manifold abuses that had taken place in the administration of the Irish Government; a reformation which we conceived, in the present times, and under such an increase of debt and taxes, indispensable, and which we do, therefore, most humbly persist to implore and expect.
That, after the supply was granted and the force voted, and whilst the chief governor, possessing the entire confidence of both Houses of Parliament, and the approbation of all the people, was reforming abuses, and putting the country in a state of defence, he was suddenly and prematurely recalled, and our unparalleled efforts for the support of his Majesty answered by the strongest marks of the resentment of his ministers.
That, in consequence of such a proceeding, the business of Government was interrupted, the defence of the country suspended, the unanimity which had under the then Lord Lieutenant existed converted into just complaint and remonstrance, and the energy, confidence, and zeal of the nation, so loudly called for by his Majesty's ministers, were, by the conduct of those very ministers themselves, materially affected.
That these, their late proceedings, aggravated their past system; in complaining of which, we particularly refer to the notorious traffic of honours-to the removal of the troops contrary to the law, and in total disregard of the solemn compact with the nation and safety of the realm-to the criminal conduct of Government respecting the Irish army-to the disbursements of sums of money, without account or authority--to the improvident grant of reversions, at the expense of his Majesty's interest, sacrificed, for the emolument of his servants, to the conduct of his Majesty's ministers in both coun. tries, towards his Protestant and Catholic subjects of Ireland, alternately practising on their passions, exciting their hopes, and procuring their disappointment,
That, convinced by the benefits which we have received under his Majesty's reign that the grievances of which we complain are as unknown to his Majesty as abhorrent from his paternal and royal disposition.
We, his Commons of Ireland, beg leave to lay ourselves at his feet, and, with all humility to his Majesty, to prefer, on our part, and on the part of our constituents, this our just and necessary remonstrance against the conduct of his ministers; and to implore his Majesty that he may be graciously pleased to lay his commands upon his minister to second the zeal of his Irish Parliament in his Majesty's services, by manifesto ing in future to the people of Ireland due regard and attention,
people that they have more security in your warmth than they can have in their own heat—that the ardour of your honest zeal may be a salutary ventilator to the ferment of your country-in order that you may take the people out of their own hands, and bring them within your guidance. Trust me, at this momentous crisis, a firm and tempered sensibility of injury would be equally honourable to yourselves and beneficial to the nation: trust me, if, at a time when every little stream is swollen into a torrent, we alone should be found to exhibit a smooth, and listless, and frozen surface, the folly of the people may be tempted to walk across us ; and, whether they should suppose they were only walking upon ice, or treading upon corruption, the rashness of the experiment might be fatal to us all.”
[He said that the abuses and grievances which afflicted Ireland were the sale of the honours of the peerage; the open and avowed sale, for money, of the peerage, to any man rich and shameless enough to be a purchaser.” Such a course, he said, depraved the Commons, profaned the sanctity of the Lords, poisoned the sources of legislation and the fountains of justice, and annihilated the very idea of public honour and public integritybut all this had been done by the government of Lord Westmorland. Next was the depriving Ireland of troops, when the enemy was at the gate, and the breach of the compact to maintain 12,000 soldiers in Ireland, might have been the loss of the island. Then came the wasteful expenditure of public money. There was the abuse of patronage-every office of value, of which a reversion could be granted, having been so disposed of for years and years to come. There was the injustice of neglecting, refusing, delaying relief to the Roman Catholics. Lastly, there were the restraints upon Irish Commerce.
This was a full budget. Curran moved the address, Grattan seconded, and Ponsonby supported it. The Government moved and carried the adjournment of the House, and thus the address was not even put to the vote.]
In the beginning of the following year, Mr. Curran moved " that a committee should be appointed to inquire into the state of the lower orders of the people,” to whose wretchedness he attributed the prevailing discontents; but his motion was, as usual, “ suffocated by the question of adjournment.” He also distinguished himself by his support of Mr. Grattan's amendments to the addresses in this year, by his exertions on the question of Catholic emancipation, and by his opposition to the suspension of the habeas corpus act.
[In December, 1795, Mr. Curran appeared in the Court at Dublin, as counsel for James Weldon, charged with high treason. His client had been one of the "Dublin Defenders," and was charged not only with associating with traitors unknown, to assist the French, the public enemies of the Crown, but with associating with the Defenders to subvert the Protestant religion, and with corrupting one William Lawler to become a Defender. The chief evidence for the Crown was this Lawler, whose testimony Mr. Curran cut up into tatters, besides giving proof that he was not credible. Weldon was convicted and hanged; though Leary, another prisoner, was acquitted, under precisely similar facts!
Some more particular notice of Mr. Curran's last year of Parliamentary life appears required here. In February, 1796, in the debate on the Indemnity Bill, he supported Grattan's unsuccessful motion that Justice Chamberlain and Baron Smith, the judges who had gone circuit in the disturbed districts, should first be examined, to open the state of the country and the general conduct of the magistrates. In the same month, he spoke in favour of free trade between England and Ireland, and strongly opposed the Insurrection Act, which gave magistrates the arbitrary power of transportation, describing it as "a bill for the rich and against the poor,” constituting poverty a crime, and leaving it to the discretion of wealth to apportion the punishment.
In October, 1796, when the French were preparing Hoche's expedition for the invasion of Ireland, and the Irish Government