« TrướcTiếp tục »
position of an indispensable urgency, unless the ministers were prepared to maintain, that the Lordlieutenant's secretary was actually the regent of Ireland. The transaction was against all forms, as the established mode would have been by proclamation of the Lord-lieutenant in council.
After some further discussion, of which it is unnecessary to give the particulars, the motion was negatived without a division.
In the House of Commons on the same day, a similar motion was made by the Hon. Mr. Ward, whose speech principally tended to shew the little necessity for the measure in question, and the expediency of further information on the subject. He was replied to by Mr. Yorke, who argued, from the terms of the Convention act, that the paper issued by the secretary of the Catholic committee was a gross violation of the law, and required the notice of government. He also affirmed that it was not in the power of ministers to gratify the desire for further information, since they were not yet in possession of any such as could elucidate the subject more than what had been given.
Mr. Grattan then rose, and said, that he should consider this matter simply as it was likely to affect the most important interests of the two parts of the empire, one of which could not exist without the other. He thought that the house was peculiarly bound to watch over the concerns of the Catholics in Ireland, since they composed the mass of population there, and had no representatives of their own to speak for them.. The house should also endeavour to keep open the
communication with the Catholics, and shew them every disposition to listen to their claims, so long as they are preferred in a peaceable and constitutional manner. With respect to the Convention act, he looked upon it as a bad law, made in bad times, and calculated by its arbitrary constructions, and acrimonious provisions, to keep alive, and in a state of continual activity, the basest passions of the most malignant minds. According to the exposition just given of it by the Rt. Hon. Gentleman, it went directly to throw difficulties in the way of the Catholics, in expressing their general sense, and approaching that house and the executive with their humble and just petitions; for which reason the house ought to take its provisions in the most liberal sense and interpretation they would admit of. Great allowances should be made for the circumstances in which they stood, and the peculiar prejudices and difficulties with which they had to contend. He remembered that when he was in the habit of particularly attending to the claims of the Catholics in the Irish parlia ment, he never presented a petition from them, but he was constantly met by the objection, that such petition did not speak the general sense of the Catholics. It is true, said the opposers of these petitions, here are a great number of names, but still those persons bear a very small proportion to the whole body of Catholics, and we cannot receive this petition as coming from that whole body. It was clear, therefore, that the general sense of that body could only be obtained by a fair and constitutional delegation; and such a delegation
delegation had been allowed by the government of Ireland for several years last past.
After Mr. Parnell and Sir John Newport had spoken on the same side, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, first deprecating inflammatory language in discussing the case of the Irish catholics, asserted his conviction that their proposed convention was illegal, and that therefore the only question for the House to consider was, whether there was a prima facie ground for censuring the proceeding of the Irish government. He concluded with asserting that it was not the intention of the government of ei ther country to obstruct the catholics in the exercise of the right of petitioning the legislature, or expressing their grievances.
Mr. Whitbread succeeded, and in a speech of much asperity condemned the conduct of government towards the Irish catholics. Some personal remarks which he made on the Chancellor of the Exchcquer, as having come into power under a bond to make no concessions to the catholics, called up that minister again, positively to deny that he had given such a bond to any one. Mr. Whitbread, in explanation, said that his coming into power in place of a ministry which had gone out because they declined to give such a pledge, virtually implied such a condition on his part; which was all that he
meant to assert,
The House divided upon the motion, which was rejected by 80 against 43.
On March 3d, Mr. Wellesley Pole appearing in his place in the House of Commons, Mr. Ponsonby rose to make a motion concerning his letter, and previously requested
to know from that gentleman what were the circumstances which induced him to issue the circular communication to which he was calling the attention of the house. He then read from a widely circulated Dublin newspaper a public relation of the proceedings in the catholic committee on Jan. 19th, at which the secretary read several letters in answer to his circular of Jan. 1st, and he desired to be informed how it happened that the government suffered 24 days to elapse before it thought proper to interfere with the acts of what it denominated an unlawful assembly. He also expressed his surprize that this interference should not have been by a proclamation, which would have had the sanction of the council and the law officers of the crown; and wished to know whether the opinions of the latter had been taken on the proceedings; and whether the Right Hon. gentleman had been advised to call the catholic committee an unlawful assembly. He concluded his speech with moving, "That an humble address should be presented to the Regent, praying that he would order to be laid upon the table copies of all proclamations issued in the year 1811 by his Grace the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, relative to the enforcement of the 33d of the King in that country; and also copies of all cases on that subject referred to his Majesty's Attorney or SolicitorGeneral in Ireland, or to either of them, with their opinions thereupon; and also copies of all dispatches between the Lord-Lieute nant of Ireland and the government of this country relative to the assembling of the Catholic committee."';
Mr. W. Pole began his reply
to erect yourselves into a perpetual parliament!" and Lord Fingal was publicly attacked at a meeting for his moderation. The Lord-Lieutenant had hitherto forborne to take notice of their proceedings, though he viewed them with an anxious eye; but it now became the general opinion that it was high time for the government to interfere.
with fully admitting the right of the hon. gentleman to demand from him, an explanation of the measures alluded to. He then proceeded to consider the first charge made against the Irish government, viz. that they had not executed the law in time, and that if the Catholic committee was really an illegal assembly, it should have been sooner terminated. He gave a history of the committee of 1809, With respect to the question the deliberations of which were why the Irish government deferred always confined to their petition, so long to control their proceedand which had declared their reso- ings, he assured the House that lution not to transgress the con- neither he, nor any other member vention act by any thing like a of administration, ever saw Hay's delegation. That of 1810, he said, letter till the 10th of February, at acted upon very different princi- which time they received secret ples. It called an aggregate meet- information that it had been circuing of the Catholics, which came lated in every part of Ireland, that to a resolution that the committee many delegates had been chosen should have power to manage, not in consequence of it, and that sethe Catholic petition, but the Ca- veral would certainly meet on the tholic affairs. Some of the mem- 16th or the 23d at furthest. Gobers, Lord Fingal in particular, vernment was likewise informed now began to apprehend that they that various modes of election were were going too far; and some in- so arranged, as to ensure secrecy, stances appeared of the committee's and that several names had been taking into consideration certain transmitted from Dublin for elecsupposed grievances underwhich the tion, in order that there might be Catholics laboured. A committee always a majority residing in that of grievances was then appointed, capital to carry on the purposes of which met weekly, and imitated the committee. In answer to Mr. all the forms of the House of Com- Ponsonby's question, whether the mons. They grew more and more great law-officers had been conviolent, till at length some of the sulted on the measure pursued? more respectable of the Catholics He assured them that the Lordtook the alarm, and a resolution was Lieutenant had taken the opinions passed, but afterwards rescinded, of the Lord-Chancellor, the Attorthat the committee, by proposing ney and Solicitor-General, and that à delegation of ten members from the Attorney-General had drawn each county, had exceeded its up the letter issued in his (the Se powers. A petition was trans-cretary's) name, framed in such a mitted to England, after which, manner as to bring closely before Lord Ffrench said, Your com- the eyes of the Catholic committee mission is at an end; you have ex; the tendency of their proceedings ceeded your powers; do you mean to violate the convention act, With VOL. LIII. [C] respect
respect to denominating the Catholic committee an illegal assembly, it was in consequence of their having constituted themselves a committee of grievances.
Mr. Pole then proceeded to observe, that the Irish government could not wait for instructions from this country, because this self-constituted parliament would first have held one meeting, which might have produced a dangerous effect. He concluded a long speech with trusting that his statement had given satisfaction to the House, and that they would see no necessity for the production of the papers moved for.
After a reply from Mr. Ponsonby, in which he denied that the requisite satisfaction had been af forded by the explanation given, the question was put, and the motion was defeated by a large majority, the numbers being 133 against
On April 4th the matter was taken up in the House of Lords by Earl Stanhope, who began his speech with reading the following motion: "That the House having given full consideration to the circular letter of Mr. W. W. Pole, Secretary in Ireland, and to the act of 33d George III. chap. 29, to which the said letter referred, and to the consequences such letter might produce, deemed it necessary to declare, that the said letter required from the magistrates of Ireland acts of severity not authorised by the act to which it referred, and contrary to law; and that the said letter did require of the magistrates to attack the legal rights of the people; that it was an unjust attempt to invade the
liberties of the subject; and that it was contrary to that spirit of conciliation which it was the policy and duty of government to adopt and pursue." In his subsequent speech, the Earl began with considering the nature of a representative or delegate, and contended that these terms did not apply to persons deputed to convey the assent of others to a petition which they were not able to present by themselves. He then made various acute remarks on the wording of the letter, and contended that it was an illegal measure, which rendered the writer responsible for all the ill consequences it might have produced.
The Earl of Liverpool defended the Irish government, as having acted with all possible lenity and forbearance. He was answered by Lord Holland, who strictly confined himself to the legality of the letter. He argued that, in the first place, it deduced inferences from the act of the 33d, that were neither authorised by the common law, nor by that statute; and secondly, that it did not describe the offence as it was described in the act.
The Lord-Chancellor, in defending the measure generally, confessed that its language did appear to him put together in rather a slovenly manner. After some further discussion in a thin 'bouse, a division took place, in which there were for the motion 6, against it 21.
Thus ended the parliamentary proceedings respecting this memorab'e letter. We shall hereafter have occasion to speak of the consequences it produced in Ireland. CHAPTER
Mr. Whitbread's motion relative to the state of the King's health in 1804.-Commercial distresses: Report of committee appointed to in-. quire into them, and bill brought in for their relief.
T has already been mentioned in the account of the debates on the Regency Bill, that Lord Grey took notice of the King's being suffered to perform some of his royal functions at a time, in 1804, when his mental malady still placed him under medical control; and that a particular censure had been moved upon Lord Eldon for his conduct in that point. The subject was brought before the House of Commons on Feb. 25th, by Mr. Whitbread, who founded a motion upon it, prefaced by a long speech. After having adverted to the circumstance that upon his Majesty's, indisposition in 1801 a commission was issued under his sign manual on Feb. 24th, two days before his illness was declared, he said that he meant to confine his motion to what occurred in the year 1804. In that year the King was attacked with a return of his disorder on Feb. 14th, and it was announced to the public on the 15th. From that time bulletins continued to be issued to March 22d; but it was not till April 23d, when his Majesty attended a council in person, that he could be considered as perfectly recovered. On March 6th, however, the Chancellor, Lord Eldon, stated in the House of Lords, that he had been with the King on the 5th, and also on the 4th, and after having explained to
him the nature of a bill then pending, for alienating certain crown lands to the Duke of York, that his Majesty had commanded him to signify his assent to that bill. On March 9th a commission signed by the King was issued; and when. Lord Eldon was asked on that day whether he had personal knowledge of the state of the King's health, he declared that he was aware of what he was doing, and. would take the whole of the heavy responsibility upon himself. Mr. W. however would take upon himself to assert that his Majesty was. at that time, and to a period long posterior, unsound in mind; that he was incompetent to his functions; that his reason was clouded, and his judgment eclipsed. Yet, whilst the King was still in that state, Lord Sidmouth, on the 26th! of March, brought down a message to that House from the King. This fact he should broadly assert, and he called upon the House to put him in the situation to prove his charge. It was necessary for the character of the individuals that they should be disproved if not founded; and it was material to the public that they should be proved if true, because if the case was as he had stated it, the public had been imposed upon, and might be so again, if not prevented by the result of the inquiry proposed. [C 2]