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from each county, which should take the management of their affairs, not only for the purpose of petitioning, but for that of redressing the general grievances under which they laboured. The alarm this kind of organization gave to the Irish government produced the letter in question, which went to the enforcement of the convention act, a law expressly levelled against representative delegation by self-constituted bodies. It remains
to relate the proceedings consequent upon this resolution of the Irish ministers.
On February the 23d, two magistrates, Alderman Darley and Mr. Babington, by the direction of the government repaired to a house in Capel Street, Dublin, at which the catholic committee was accustomed to assemble, and were shewn into a room where a number of gentlemen were met, some of whom were in the act of signing the catholic petition to parliament. Immediately on their entrance, Lord Ffrench was called to the chair, who demanded of the magistrates by what authority they came there. He was answered, that understanding it to be a meeting of the catholic committee, they came as magistrates to require it to disperse, and that they had orders from government for that purpose. Some difference occurs in the two relations of the subsequent conversation; but it terminated in Alderman Darley's going to Mr. Pole for further instructions, while Mr. Babington remained in the
catholic gentlemen, for the purpose of signing and forwarding a petition to parliament, it was not the order of government that they should be interrupted. A desire was further intimated (but from which party is not agreed) that his lordship,with some of the other gentlemen, should have a conference on the subject with Mr. Pole. This conference in effect did not take place, neither party choosing to avow that the wish for it origiginated from them. Upon the whole it is pretty evident that government found itself embarrassed how to act on the occasion; for whether Lord Ffrench did or did not suggest the distinction between a meeting of the catholic committee, and one of catholic gentlemen for the purpose of petitioning, there is no doubt that it was in fact a meeting of the committee, and was so considered by most of those present. Such was the state of things when Mr. Pole departed for England. The petition was afterwards drawn up and presented; and the debates consequent upon it in both houses, with its rejection, have been reported in our account of parliamentary proceedings.
The Irish catholics were too confident of the goodness of their cause, and too sensible of the advantages arising from a well-concerted union, to renounce their plans in consequence of the prohibitions of government; and the summer was actively spent in county meetings for the appointment of delegates, several of which were attended by the protestant gentlemen; for it seemed as if former jealousies and animosities were
Laid aside, and the emancipation of the catholics was regarded as an essential branch of the general liberty of Ireland. A new committee of delegates being at length completely formed, it assembled on October 19th, to the number of nearly three hundred, at the theatre in Fishamble Street, Dublin, amidst a great concourse of spectators. Lord Fingal being called to the chair, addressed the meeting in a short speech; after which, Lord Netterville offered to the meeting a petition to the imperial parliament, and moved that it might be approved by the committee, and recommended to be adopted by the catholics of Ireland. It was read, and the motion was unanimously carried. A motion for adjournment being also carried, Lord Fingal quitted the chair, which was taken by Lord Netterville for the purpose of returning the thanks of the meeting to the chairman. This being effected, the business of the day, which had occupied only seventeen minutes from the time of taking the chair, was at an end, and the members began to retire, when Alderman Pemberton, Counsellor Hare, and other police magistrates, made their appearance. They attempted to speak, but were not listened to. At length Mr. Hare had some conversation with Lord Fingal, who told him that he could now speak only as an individual. Mr. Hare stated that his object in coming had been to disperse an assembly which he considered as unlawful; that as soon as the chair was taken, a person whom he had placed for the purpose came to appprize him of it,
and he had walked thither immediately. How far the circumstance of his not arriving till the business was finished might be a concerted matter, must be left to conjecture; the meeting, however, passed without any tumult or disturbance, and the honourable Mr. Barnewall, in conclusion, stepped forward to assure Mr. Hare, that none among them, from the peer to the ploughman, meant to shew disrespect to the government and magistrates of the kingdom, but were all determined to join heart and hand with their fellow-subjects of every religious persuasion, in the defence of their country, to the last drop of their blood.
Government, in the mean time, had resolved not to remain passive under the disregard of its injunctions; and five persons were apprehended by a warrant from the lord chief justice for a breach of the convention act in an aggregate meeting held at Dublin on July the 9th, for the purpose of appointing delegates to the general committee of catholics. One of these, Dr. Sheridan, was called to his trial at the court of King's Bench in Dublin. The trial lasted two days; and at the close, the Chief Justice in his charge to the jury gave a decided opinion, that if the facts adduced in evidence were believed, the traverser must be found guilty upon the construction of the convention act; and in this decision his brethren on the bench fully concurred. The jury; however, cither from some incom. petence of the evidence, or from a different opinion concerning the grounds of the imputed crime, brought in a verdict of not guilty, followed
followed by the enthusiastic acclamations of the crowded audience. After this result, the attorney-general chose to decline proceeding to try the other persons implicated in the same charge, affecting to hope, that since the law had so clearly been laid down by the court against the catholic convention, those gentlemen would in future abstain from its violation.
The committee of catholic delegates which had adjourned itself in the month of October, met again on December the 23d, at the theatre in Fishamble Street Counsellor Hare entered the place a little before twelve o'clock, and placed himself by the chair, then empty, but which was soon after occupied by Lord Fingal. Lord Netterville having moved the reading of the catholic petition, Mr. Hare addressed himself to the chairman, acquainting him that he came thither as a magistrate of the city of Dublin, by direction of the lord-lieutenant, who had been informed that this was a meeting of the catholic committee, composed of the peers, prelates, country gentlemen, and persons chosen in the different parishes of Dublin; and desired to know from his lordship if that was the case, and what was their object. Lord Fingal replied, that they were met for a constitutional object. Hare observed that this was not an answer to his question; and repeated it distinctly several times, without obtaining any other reply. He then said that he should consider this as an admission that it was a meeting of the catholic committee, and therefore an unlawful assembly, which he must require
to disperse, and he hoped no reż. sistance would be offered, as it was his wish to perform his duty in the mildest way. Lord Fingal said that no resistance to the laws of the land was intended, but that it was his determination not to quit the chair until he was compelled by some person to do so, that he might have his legal action against such person. Mr. Hare then took bis lordship by the arm, and gently moved him from the chair, saying that it was a legal arrest. Lord Netterville being then called to the chair, was removed in like manner by Mr. Hare. The meeting then successively called upon Lord Ffrench and the Hon. Mr. Barnewall to fill the chair, but at length, on the recommendation of Sir Edward Bellew, it dispersed. In the afternoon a number of gentlemen repaired to a tavern for the purpose of signing a requisition for an aggregate meeting of the catholics. Mr. Hare appeared among them, and asked whether that was a meeting of individual gentlemen; and on being answered in the affirmative, he said that he would not molest them. The requisition was then signed by above 300 persons.
On December the 26th, the aggregate meeting was held at the theatre in Fishamble Street, Lord Fingal in the chair, at which several protestants as well as catholics were speakers. A set of resolutions was passed, strongly censuring the proceedings of the Irish government with respect to the catholic committee, and expressing a determination not to submit in silence to the perversion of law and abuse of power that had been mani
fested. As one of the means for redress, it was resolved that an humble and dutiful address be presented to the Prince Regent, as soon as the restrictions on his authority should cease, upon the subject of the late invasion of their right to petition, and the insult offered to the Irish catholics. By another resolution, the general committee of catholics in Ireland was to be requested to assemble in Dublin on the 28th of February ensuing. The meeting closed with a vote of cordial thanks to Lord Fingal for his services. In this state the affairs of the Irish catholics stood at the close of the year.
The public tranquillity had been little disturbed in England, notwithstanding the pressure of the times, during the greatest part of the year; but before its termination, a series of disorders broke out which soon put on a serious aspect, and have been the prelude of a riotous and mischievous disposition in a large tract of the manufacturing districts, the effects of which still continue to be the occasion of much trouble and alarm. Their commencement was in the neighbourhood of Nottingham, the hosiers of which town having been obliged, from the decrease of demand for their manufactures, to discharge many of their workmen, much distress necessarily ensued for want of employment. This was enhanced by the new application of a certain wide frame in the weaving of stockings, whereby a considerable saving of manual labour was produced, and a consequent further diminution of hands. On November the 10th, a number of weavers assembling
near Nottingham, began forcibly to enter houses in which were frames of this kind, and destroy them. On the 11th they appeared before the house of a manufacturer at Bullwell, which was barricaded by the owner, who had also armed his men in its defence. On attempting to break in, the mob was fired at, and one person killed. This roused them to fury, and in increased numbers they renewed their attack, made an entry, the family having escaped to save their lives, and burnt every thing in the house. This act seemed a signal for more extensive outrages, which spread over the circumjacent towns and villages. Though the obnoxious frames were the chief object of their hostility, they began to declare enmity with millers, corn-dealers, and all whom they supposed instrumental in raising the price of provisions. The magistrates at length found it necessary to call in the aid of the military, but before any number of them could be collected, much further mischief was done. after a sufficient force was stationed at Nottingham to suppress any open violations of the peace in that vicinity, the destruction of frames still continued, as it could be easily effected by small parties, which finished their business, and dispersed before notice was given of their assembling. Their proceedings appeared to be directed by a spirit of system that rendered them the more dangerous. The rioters assumed the name of Luddites, and acted under the authority of an imaginary Captain Ludd, which name seems to have signified not one individual
individual, but a secret committee of management. The spirit of tumult spread into the neighbouring counties of Derby and Leicester, in the manufacturing parts of which many frames were destroyed during the month of December, though Nottingham
shire still continued the principal scene of mischief, and an advance of pay to the workmen had not the desired effect of restoring order. Through the course of this year, however, the evil was confined to the districts of the hosiery manufacture.