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1772]

PROTESTANT EMIGRATION

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emigrated from those parts of Ulster to the American settlements, where they soon appeared in arms against the British government, and contributed powerfully by their zeal and valour to the separation of the American colonies from the empire of Great Britain.'

CHAPTER XX

HENRY GRATTAN

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HESE social disturbances were followed by

great political crisis. The English colonists in Ireland, following the example of the English colonists in America, revolted against the mother country,

With this revolt the name of one of the greatest Irishmen of the period is immortally associated. The story of his life is, indeed, the history of that famous movement by which the English colonists in Ireland, supported by the native race, won free trade, and re-established Irish legislative independ

ence.

Henry Grattan was born in Dublin on July 3, 1746. Entering Trinity College in 1763,

1772-1775] THE IRISH PARLIAMENT

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he was called to the Bar in 1772, and became a member of the Irish House of Commons in December 1775.

At that time the Irish parliament was sunk in a state of utter subserviency to England :-(1) It could not be summoned without the permission of the English privy council ; (2) it could originate no Bills it could only prepare heads of Bills for approval in England; (3) it could not alter or amend any Bill coming from England — it could only accept or reject it.

But, besides its subserviency to England, it did not represent the Irish people in any true sense. Catholics (who still, despite the Penal Laws, constituted four-fifths of the population) could not, as have seen, be members of it; they could not even vote at elections.

But it hardly represented Irish Protestant opinion in any effective sense. members, 216 were elected for boroughs or manors. Out of these 216, 200 were elected by 100 persons, and about 50 by 10. One lord returned 16 members, another 9, another 7, while one family returned 14. In fact, the Irish parliament was a close corporation, nominated by a few Anglo-Irish aristocratic families. In addition to these defects, it was hopelessly corrupt.

Dominated by English viceroys, filled by English placemen, bribed in English interests, it was nothing more nor less than a court for registering the decrees of English statesmen.

Out of 300 Besides the subserviency and corruption of the Irish parliament, two other great questions engaged public attention (1) The Commercial Code, which chiefly affected Protestants; (2) the Penal Code which wholly affected Catholics. All three questions filled the mind and moved the heart of Grattan, and he came forward as the champion of religious liberty, commercial freedom and political independ

ence.

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Among all the Irish Protestant patriots of the period, Grattan was distinguished by his intense love of his Catholic fellow-countrymen, and his earnest desire to do them justice.

The question of Catholic Emancipation,' he once said, “involves the question whether we are to be a Protestant settlement or an Irish nation. And again, 'I conceive it a sacred truth that the Irish Protestant will never be really free until the Irish Catholic ceases to be a slave.'

The Catholics were of course in those days utterly helpless, and they had to depend on the support of enlightened and patriotic Protestants. Indeed, a Catholic committee had been formed between 1756 and 1760 by three eminent Catholics—Curry, Wyse and O'Connor. But it effected nothing and gradually melted away in 1763

The Catholic demands were then beneath the contempt of the government. In 1773, however, a new Catholic association was founded, and a fresh effort was made to ameliorate the condition of the Catholic population.

1778)

AMERICAN WAR

215

The time was opportune. England was on the eve of a great struggle with her American Colonies, whom her misgovernment had driven into revolt. The struggle actually began in 1775. It raged with fluctuating fortune throughout 1776. But on October 17th 1777, the English sustained a crushing defeat at Saratoga, where the English general, Burgoyne, and his whole army surrendered to the American general, Gates. Affairs looked black and desperate for England. Ireland was in a critical state. The country was denuded of troops ; all had been drafted off to fight the Americans, though, as Grattan said, 'America was the only hope of Ireland and the only refuge of the liberties of mankind.' In 1778 the situation was still more desperate. The French had united with the Americans and threatened England with war. The mayor of Belfast, fearing a French invasion, asked the government to garrison the town, and he was told that he could have 'half a troop of dismounted cavalry and half a troop of invalids.' England was no longer able to defend or to hold Ireland. Such a crisis had not arisen since Sarsfield had forced William to raise the siege of Limerick.

În this terrible predicament the English Protestant colonists flew to arms. If England could not defend them, they would defend themselves. Volunteer corps were raised throughout the whole country, and the ranks of the volunteers were filled by Catholics as well as Protestants. England became alarmed. She could trust

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