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The union between Great Britain and Ireland first brought under the notice. parliament Arguments for and against that measurem-It is generally unpopular throughout IrelandAnimated debate of two and twenty hours in the Irish commons-Majority of one in favour of ministers—Proceedings in the British legislature-Further discussions in the Irish-Mr. Grattan accepts a seat to oppose it-The measure carried.
THE incorporate union between England and Ireland, was one of those measures which would necessarily greatly agitate the minds of men. Tar removed from the character of a temporary or local question of politics, but, on the contrary, embracing in its extensive operation, the complicated interests of the whole nation, it inflamed men's minds to a degree of unprecedented fervour. The first hint of the intention of government was thrown out, in a publication entitled “ Arguments for and against a union between Great Britain and Ireland, considered,” written, or procured to be written, by a Mr. Edward Cooke, the under secretary of the civil department. This
demi-official pamphlet was considered as speaking the language of administration; and accordingly the whole country took the alarm. In the course of two or three months, no less than thirty other pamphlets appeared, taking different sides and written with various ability. Meetings were also held in the metropolis and different parts of the country, to protest against the measure. The gentlemen of the Irish bar convened a meeting on the gih of December: to them the matter was of importance, for if the Irish parliament were annihilated, and a few of its members incorporated with the English legislature, it would cut them off from all hopes of political eminence as their professional avocations in Dublin, would not permit them to attend the sittings of parliament in England. The metropolis also was hostile to the measure because it justly feared that it would fall into decay when, by the removal of the legislature, there would be no longer the saine influx of individuals, nor the same circulation of money; while a meeting at Galway, declared that the representatives had no power to vote away the indes pendence of the realm. The nation, in fact, was agitated from one end to the other, , The distinctions of catholic and protestant, Orangemen and Defenders, no longer prevailed. The whole population was divided into two distinct classes, UNIONISTS and ANTI-UNIONISTS. Government was sedulous to multiply its partizans by a very liberal and comprehensive system of corruption,
Meeting of parliament, while the patriots were no less anxious to strengthen their cause by arguments and facts.
In the midst of this political fermenty parlia, ment assembled on the 22d of January 1799. The viceroy's speech, after touching upon the late rebellion, the defeat of the French fleet of the coast of Ireland, by Admiral Warren, and the victories of Lord Nelson in Egypt, adverted specifically to the question of union, in the concluding paragraph. " The unremitting industry with which our enemies persevere in their avowed design, of endeavouring to effect a separation of this kingdom from Great Britain, must have en gaged your particular attention, and his majesty çommands ine, to express his anxious hope, that this consideration joined to the sentiment of mu: tual affection, and common interest, may dispose the parliaments in both kingdoms to provide the most effectual means of maintaining and improv; ing a connexion essential to their common security, and of consolidating as far as possible into one firm and lasting fabric, the strength, the power, and the resources of the British empire.". An address was moved in the lords which, as usual, was au echo of the speech; but an amendment was proposed by Lord Powerscourt, strongly reprobating the measure of a legislative union. The address, however, was voted by a large majority, though similar motions were made by Lord Glandore and Bellamonte. In the commons the address was moved, by Lord Tyrone, though he desired it 19
be understood, that he did not pledge himself in any manner to support the union. An importadt and animated debate ensued. It lasted two and tirenty hours. In this preliminary discussion almost all the topics for and against the measure were advanced. Mr. G. Ponsonby moved an amendment asserting, “ the undoubted birthright of the people of Ireland to have a resident and independent legislature, such as was recognized by the British legislature in 1782 and was finally settled at the adjustment of all differences between the two countries. This amendment produced a very animated discussion. There was a vast display of talent on both sides. Mr. Fitzgerald, late prime serjeant, contended that it was not within the moral competence of parliament to destroy and extinguish itself, and with it the rights and liberties of those who created it. This doctrine was embraced by many others; and Mr. Lee, who argued also upon the additional influence which the British minister would have by transplanting 100 Irish members into the English parliament, contended that the only way in which parliament could be made com. petent to do what they were now required to do, was to dissolve the existing parliament, and call together a new one, issuing public notice of the object for which they were assembled; such a parliament would come commissioned with express authority for the purpose. Mr. (now Sir Jonah Barrington) declared that corrupt and unconstitutional means had been used by the noble lore
Arguments in favor of the union. હૈ
297 to individuals of the Irish parliament with a view to influence their votes; and 'he alluded distinctly to the case of two of the oldest servants of the crown, members of that house, who had been dismissed from their places, because they were re. solved to vote conscientiously. Peerages, also, he had heard, were bartered for the rights of minors, and every effort used to destroy the free agency of parliament. Lord Castlereagh, (who was frequently designated in the course of this debate by the epithet of stripliny), in reply urged the general amount of what could be urged in behalf of the measure. He begged that the discussion might be calm and dispassionate. He denied the argument of the parliament's incompetency and was surprized to hear it advanced, by constitutional lawyers; and maintained that the legisJature was at all times competent to do that for xvhich it could only have been instituted, viz. the adoption of the best means to promote the geneyal happiness and prosperity. He denied that Ireland possessed the British constitution or could possess it, for it was contrary to the
very essence of that constitution to have two separate and independent legislatures and one
The greater country must lead: the less naturally follow, and must be practically subordinate in im. perial concerns ; but this necessary and beneficial operation of the general will, must be preceded by establishing one common interest. He con