Sayfadaki görseller

ginally given. On coming out of the closet, Lord Howick stated to Lord Grenville what had passed, who agreed with him in opinion, that His Majesty was not hostile to the bill. On the next day, the bill was introduced into Parliament; a whole week subsequently elapsed without the slightest suspicion of His Majesty's objection to the measure. At length, on Wednesday the 11th of March, His Majesty stated to Lord Grenville his decided objection, and referred to the conversation he had with Lord Howick, at levee, on the Wednesday preceding. It being out of their power to surmount the objections His Majesty entertained, the bill was abandoned altogether ; and a minute of this intention was sent to His Majesty, claiming, at the same time, their right, as individuals, to pronounce their opinions on the Catholic question ; and, as ministers, to submit, from time to time, such advice on this subject, with regard to Ireland, as circumstances and the interest of the empire might require. The royal answer expressed satisfaction at the withdrawing the bill; it expressed some dissatisfaction that the ministers should feel it necessary to express their opinions upon it; and it required the ministers absolutely to withdraw the latter part of the statement; His Majesty declaring that he could never consent to any future concessions to the Catholics ; and demanding from the ministers a positive assurance on this subject. They answered, they could not give such an assurance, consistent with their obligations as His Majesty's sworn counsellors. The next day His Majesty declared his intention to look out for other ministers, and a change of administration followed. On this day (the 9th) Mr. Brand brought forward his motion. He contended that the late ministers had acted strictly consonant to the principles of the constitution ; they were sworn to give advice according to the best of their opinion ; and if the King could command them what advice to give, and what to withhold, the King was his own minister, and they were but his creatures. Even admitting the prerogative of the Crown to choose its ministers, yet the King possessed no right to restrict them in their advice; to dictate what measures they should submit to His Majesty ; or to control the free exercise of their judgment. No honest servants could listen to any pledge which went to restrict them in the advice they were to give; and which, in their conscience, they might think necessary for the interests of the country. The late ministers had refused to accede to such dishonourable propositions, and were dismissed in consequence'; but their conduct was meritorious. He concluded by moving the following resolution : That it is contrary to the first duties of the confidential servants of the Crown, to restrain themselves by any pledge, expressed or implied, from offering to the King any advice, which the course of circumstances may render necessary for the welfare and security of any part of His Majesty's extensive empire."

The motion was seconded by Mr. Lamb. It was opposed by General Crawford, Mr. Fuller, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Percival), Doctor Duigenan, Mr. Canning, Mr. Bathurst, and Mr. Osborne, who moved, “That the other orders of the day be now read." It was said on their part, that the Crown was bound to exercise its own judgment, and support its own opinion, otherwise the legislature would consist only of Lords and Commons, and the King become a mere cypher. His Majesty's intention had been merely to grant the extension of the Irish Act of 1793 to England, and was determined to go no further. Mr. Percival contended, that the measure proposed would have weakened the Protestant establishment, and would have been detrimental to the liberty and religion of the country.

Mr. GRATTAN said, the bill which was the immediate cause of the dismissal of His Majesty's late ministers, had his entire approbation ; as he thought thereby we should have combined the physical with the intellectual force of the empire. The question now under the consideration of the House, might very properly be divided into two heads: first, the conduct of the late ministers in respect to the Catholics; secondly, their conduct relative to His Majesty. The great object as to the Catholics was, that the bill lately brought into the House, by the noble lord near him, had been promised to Ireland more than thirteen years ago; and the particular reason was, that the Irish officer in England might be on a similar footing with the English officer; and it was certainly no more than justice that he should be so. The right honourable gentleman (Mr. Percival) had said, that the objection had been attended to, and remedied by the mutiny bill; but that, in fact, was not the case; and it was certainly very wrong to have left the Irish officer, in case of his coming into this country, liable to the penalty of 5001, for attending his regiment in defence of it; and a still further and more galling dissatisfaction, that he could not bring any suit, nor be entitled to that protection of the law, of which every other description of persons equally enjoyed the benefit. The second objection was, that of the common men, who were rendered liable to the greatest difficulties, and severest disabilities; they were compelled to go to church, and prohibited from attending mass, by which we made the Protestant religion the tormentor of the Roman Catholic soldier, and his own religion the engine of his punishment. For his own part, he was free to own, he did not possess that agonizing foresight, which could see the ruin of the church in our having a Roman Catholic staff-officer; and he feared, if we continued to proceed on that idea, we might avoid dangers that were only imaginary, but should certainly incur those that were real. The bill was part of the national defence, and the question was, whether they should continue to impose disabilities, which operated not merely on the Roman Catholics, but greatly to the disadvantage of the

whole empire. The objections stated by the right honourable gentleman (Mr. Percival), were stronger as to the principle of the bill, than to the bill itself. He seemed to think, that the principle of the bill tended to overturn the established church. In this, he differed from him altogether; for he considered the principle of the bill as calculated to soften and mitigate the asperity of religious prejudices, to amalgamate and blend the jarring opinions of men professing different religious persuasions, and to unite them all in one common bond of union, 80 that they might act together freely and heartily in the defence of the whole empire. This would secure the established church on the most permanent foundation, by a union of all men of all religious opinions, without which the empire could not be long preserved; the principle of the bill went to give the Catholics of Ireland a participation in the defence of the country, by enabling them to enjoy commissions in the army and navy, and to show them, that they were in future to be placed on a more liberal footing with regard to the law.

The right honourable gentleman (Mr. Percival) had argued, that it was not in human nature for the Roman Catholics to be contented with what was granted to them by the bill ; but the fact was, the right honourable gentleman mistook human nature, substituted for it a casuistical argument, and then debased human nature to make it subservient to his own casuistry. The right honourable gentleman had talked of the Roman Catholics wanting to establish high ranks in the orders of their religion, and to have magnificent bishops. How they were to do this he could not tell, unless they were to get the French to make Irish bishops rich, who had already made French bishops poor. The right honourable gentleman and others, had said, that the Roman Catholics in Ireland were dissatisfied; as to that, he would not deny that they might be so at particular periods of time. He had known them to be sometimes satisfied, and sometimes the contrary; they were satisfied when the administration was such as pursued a system of lenity, and did not harass them with disabilities; they were dissatisfied, when a contrary conduct was observed towards them. In 1793 they were bighly satisfied with what was done in their behalf. He would not say they were so at another period, when they had been persecuted for no greater offence than the great and mighty crime of presenting a petition. There was an instance on record, where two men in the county of Wexford were, for the crime of presenting a petition, indicted and brought to trial; and when the witnesses came to be heard against them, the judge declared from the bench that every one of them ought to be prosecuted. If they were to treat the Catholics of Ireland in the way they had been treated by the late ministers, they would be greatly satisfied. He would not say, they would be altogether satisfied without power ; but they woulă be so far satisfied as to fight the French, which is what is very much to be desired. By conceding to them the advantages they would have derived from the late bill, it might give them what he might call, “ the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war.” It made them in some sort congenial with ourselves, and thereby gave them an enthusiasm, which they could not, under the present circumstances, be supposed to possess.

The Catholics had been remarkable for their loyalty, the proof of which appears in the preambles of the act of the 13th and 14th of the king; and several others which went to that effect. It had been said, that we ought to be careful in preserving the acquisitions of the church; and that, by favouring the Catholics, we should injure the church. His answer to that was, that formerly, when the Protestants were engaged against the Catholics, the disputes were altogether between themselves; but now the French were engaged against the whole, and against that common enemy all had to contend. If they were joined with the Catholics, there was every favourable prospect and probability that they would conquer; if, on the contrary, they fought without them, and should be beaten in the battle, they would not be beaten by the Catholics, but by their own prejudices, which deprived them of their assist

These circumstances required the most serious and attentive consideration.

It had been said, that His Majesty had been deceived as to the nature, operation, and extent of the bill in question. He was at a loss to find out how this could be. It appeared, that on the 2d of March, the ministers sent all the clauses in the. bill for His Majesty's perusal, and they were afterwards returned to them without any objection. The bill was afterwards given up, so that there could be no deception of His Majesty on that point; with respect to the pledge, it was impossible they could accede to it, without incurring the greatest disgrace. They must have renounced the principles of the whole of their former life: they must have relinquished the office of counsellors, and the high character of statesmen, and have become the mere creatures of salary. If they were bound not to present their petitions to the king, they would have given up what former ministers had never done; for many privileges had been granted to the Catholics, which they had petitioned for at various periods of time, and had


been denied, but which privileges had, at a subsequent period, been granted to them; for this various reasons might be assigned, according to the different circumstances of the times. He would suppose a French army landed in Ireland, would it not be natural to suppose that privileges might be then granted, which had previously been refused ? Ministers, in pledging themselves not to bring the case of the Catholics under the consideration of His Majesty, would have forfeited their duty as officers, and their principles as statesmen. He entirely approved the conduct of the late minister, because he thought it that of a great statesman. He had seen the effects of a former administration, whose conduct had been different towards the Catholics, against whom the press in Ireland was continually loaded with points and paragraphs, which were good composition, but bad sense, until they stung and goaded the people almost to madness.

If we joined issue with the Catholics, we should fight against ourselves; we would do well to keep in mind, that there is but one enemy, the French, and that our best defence against that enemy, is our unanimity. He well knew that the Catholics of Ireland did not dislike the Protestant people of England; and he hoped the English people would not insult the religion of the Irish Catholics. He admired the ministry for the mildness of the conduct they had pursued, in consequence of the disturbances which had occurred in the west of Ireland. It had been productive of the happiest effects, by putting a speedy end to them, without applying to the military for their assistance. He had before admired Lord Hardwicke for a similar proceeding, who, instead of letting slip the dogs of war, had sent forth the judges into the different disturbed counties, and put an end to the disturbance, by the fair, impartial, and equal hand of the law. If he were to say how he thought Ireland ought to be treated, he would advise that the utmost leniency should be observed: he would make tolerance the rule and guide of his conduct: he would tell the Irish Catholics, what he hoped the vote of that night would assure them of, that they had not only a root in England, but a root also in that House; and by those means, he had no doubt, that whatever might be the event of the question, the two nations would be united as one, and the integrity of the empire established.

The original motion was supported by Mr. Orde, Mr. Fawkes, Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald (Knight of Kerry), Sir S. Romilly, Lord Henry Petty, Lord Howick, and Mr. Plunkett (Attorney-General for Ireland). They maintained, that, if the ministers had given the pledge as required by the King, they would have been guilty of a high crime and misdemeanor; and the House would have neglected

« ÖncekiDevam »