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recommended union as a means of strength, Grattan muved that unanimity could best be obtained by enacting such laws as would secure to all of the King's subjects “the blessings and privileges of the Constitution, without distinction of religion.” Mr. Curran was among those who supported this liberal view. His speech on this occasion contained many truths, well put. "Believe me, Sir," he said, “ an invader can look for nothing but certain destruction when he is opposed by the wishes and passions of the people. It is not garrisons, it is not generals, nor armies, upon which we can repose in safety. It is on the union and zeal of the general inhabitants, removing provisions, discovering designs, marring the projects, and hanging on the retreats of an enemy, that baffles and defeats him more than any regular force can do." In all probability, this was suggested by the orator's recollection of the manner in which, during the American War of Independence, the troops of Great Britain were discomfited. Mr. Curran was fond of historic studies, and had warmly sympathised with the Americans in their arduous contest for national independence.
Another passage is worthy of quotation, as illustrative of Mr. Curran's figurative style. Answering the remark that the Irish Catholics had got much, and ought to be content, he said: “Why have they got much? is it from the Minister? is it from the Parliament which threw its petition over its bar? No, they got it by the great revolution of human affairs, by the astonishing march of the human mind; a march that has collected too much moment on its advance to be now stopped in its progress. Tho bark is still afloat, it is freighted with the hopes and liberties of men; she is already under weigh—the rower may faint, or the wind may sleep, but rely upon it, she has already acquired an energy of advancement that will support her course, and bring her to her destination; rely upon it, whether much or little remains, it is now vain to withhold it; rely upon it, you may as well stamp your foot
upon the earth, in order to prevent its revolution. You cannot stop it ! you will only remain a silly gnomon upon its sur
face to measure the rapidity of rotation, until you are forced round and buried in the shade of that body, whose irresistible course you would endeavour to oppose."
The Attorney-General moved that leave be given to bring in a Bill similar to what had been enacted when England was threatened with invasion, authorizing the Irish Executive to take up and detain all persons suspected of treasonable practices. Leave was given, the bill was forthwith presented, read a first and second time that night (Oct. 13, 1796), and ordered to pass into committee the next day. On the motion that it be committed, a small opposition party, headed by Mr. George Ponsonby, resisted the measure. Mr. Curran, commenting on the haste with which it had progressed, said: “At two o'clock in the morning, the House was moved for leave to bring in a Bill to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act; at five minutes past two in the morning, the bill was read a first time; and, after grave and mature deliberation, the bill was ordered to be read, and was accordingly read a second time at ten minutes past two in the morning. Its principle was then fully considered and approved of; and at fifteen minutes after two in the morning, it was laid before a Committee of the whole House !" The division was 137 to 7, and the Habeas Corpus act was suspended accordingly.
On October 17th, 1796, in a debate on Grattan's motion in favour of the admission to seats in Parliament (seconded by George Ponsonby, and strenuously opposed by the Government), Dr. Duigenan, a polemical and political intolerant of the first (mud-and-) water, used violent and offensive language against the Catholics, in whose communion he had participated in his youth. Mr. Curran replied to him, and said, “ He has abused the Catholics, he has abused their ancestors, he has abused the merchants of Ireland, he has abused Mr. Burke, he has abused those who voted for the order of the day." Mr. Curran then described his manner and matter of speaking—" that confusion of history and divinity, and civil law and canon law—that rollicking mixture of
politics and theology, and antiquity, with which he has overwhelmed the debate; for the havoc and carnage he has made of the population of the last age, and the fury with which he seemed determined to exterminate, and even to devour, the population of this; and which urged him, after tearing and gnawing the characters of the Catholics, to spend the last efforts of his rage, with the most unrelenting ferocity, in actually gnawing the names. In truth, sir, I felt some surprise, and some regret, when I heard him describe the sceptre of lath, and the tiara of straw, and mimic his bedlamite Emperor and Pope with such refined and happy gesticulation, that he could be prevailed on to quit so congenial a company.” Alluding to the declaration that the Catholics must not have Emancipation, because they demanded it with insolence, Mr. Curran said, “Suppose that assertion, false as it is in fact, to be true, is it any argument with a public assembly that any incivility of demand can cover the injustice of refusal ? How low must that assembly be fallen, which can suggest as an apology for the refusal of an incontestible right, the answer which a bankrupt buck might give to the demand of his tailor-he will not pay the bill, because the rascal had dared to threaten his honour.'” The motion in favour of Catholic Emancipation was lost by 143 to 19.
On January 6, 1797, Mr. Curran strongly joined in the animadversions of the Opposition on the inactivity of the British navy, when invasion was anticipated, whereby Hoche's expedition was within an ace of success. When the French fleet were in Bantry Bay, not a British line-of-battle ship was on the whole course of the kingdom of Ireland. A few weeks later (February 24th 1797), Curran supported an address for the increase of the domestic army of Ireland, especially the yeomanry corps. The Ministerial
e of the
* Dr. Duigenan, who used excessive gesticulation, and sometimes lashed himself into such a rage as to foam at the mouth, had such a peculiar way of barking out the name of Mr. Keogh, one of the Catholic leaders, that Mr. Curran said it was a sort of pronunciaLory defamation.-M.
party resisted the proposition, which was based on the increasing power of France, the inability or inactivity of England for the defence of Ireland, and the danger of Ireland herself. Mr. Curran mentioned, as a fact, that when the French fleet arrived in Bantry, there were not, in that quarter of the country, including Cork (the second city of Ireland), one thousand men to meet the enemy!
In February, 1797, Mr. Curran also spoke on Ponsonby's motion of censure on the Irish Ministry, and on Vandeleur's motion for an Absentee Tax. In March of the same year, he went rather freely, and very forcibly, into the motion of censure for disarming the inhabitants of Ulster, on the pretext that “daring and horrid outrages” had been perpetrated in that province. This, in effect, was declaring the inhabitants generally to be guilty of high treason. The Government had obtained a great majority in the Commons, and the motion was defeated. In truth, by this time, they had so distributed places, pensions, peerages, and promises, that they could carry or defeat any and every motion in both Houses of Parliament.]
His last parliamentary effort was in the debate on Mr. William Brabazon Ponsonby's plan of parliamentary reform,* which included Catholic Emancipation, and was brought forward by the Opposition as a final experiment to save Ireland from the horrors of the impending rebellion. By the late report of the secret committee, it had appeared that extensive associations for treasonable objects existed throughout the country: the Administration considered that force alone should be resorted to—the Opposition were as decided that conciliation, and conciliation alone, would restore tranquillity. The ostensible objects of the conspiracy were reform and Catholic Emancipation: the Administratration admitted that these were merely pretexts, and that revolution was the real though covert design ; but they argued that the House ought to make a stand, and say that rebellion must be
put down, before the grievances that were made its pretext should be even discussed." To this it was answered by Mr. Curran, “if Reform be only a pretence, and separation be the real objects of the leaders of the conspiracy, confound the leaders by destroying the pretext, and take the followers to yourselves. You say they are one hundred thousand; I firmly believe they are three times the number; so much the better for you.
If these seducers can attach so many followers to rebellion, by the hope of reform through blood, how much more readily will you engage them, not by the promise, but the possession, and without blood." "Reform (he continued) is a necessary change of mildness for coercion: the latter has been tried, and what is its success? The Convention Bill was passed to punish the meetings at Dungannon and those of the Catholics : the Government considered the Catholic concessions as defeats that called for vengeance----and cruelly have they avenged them; but did that act, or those which followed, put down those meetings ? the contrary was the fact; it most foolishly concealed them. When popular discontents are abroad, a wise Government should put them in an hive of glass; you hid them. The associations at first were small—the earth seemed to drink it as a rivulet; but it only disappeared for a season : a thousand streams, through the secret windings of the earth, found their way to one source, and swelled its waters ; until at last, too mighty to be contained, it burst out a great river, fertilizing by its exundations, or terrifying by its cataracts. This was the effect of your penal code-it swelled sedition into rebellion. What else could be hoped from a system of terrorism ? Fear is the most transient of all the passions-it is the warning that nature gives for selfpreservation ; but when safety is unattainable, the warning must be useless, and nature does not therefore give it. The Administration mistook the quality of penal laws: they were sent out to abolish conventicles; but they did not pass the threshold, they stood sentinels at the gates. You thought that penal laws, like great dogs, would wag their tails to their masters, and bark only at