Page images
PDF
EPUB

1782]

LEGISLATIVE INDEPENDENCE

221

[ocr errors]

her, and bowing to her august presence, I say, Esto perpetua.'

Grattan's resolution was carried by acclammation; and the House of Commons thus affirmed, without a dissentient voice, the right of the Irish parliament, and the Irish parliament alone, to make laws for Ireland.

Next day the volunteers passed a resolution declaring that, 'We will support Colonel Grattan with our lives and fortunes.'

But an Act of Parliament was now necessary to give effect to Grattan's resolution, and the English minister seized the opportunity which the delay afforded of trying to minimise the concession which he had reluctantly granted. Even, at the eleventh hour, he endeavoured to induce Grattan to accept a subordinate instead of an 'independent' parliament, but Grattan firmly refused.

On April 19th, Lord Shelburne wrote to Mr Fitzpatrick, Irish secretary, to stiffen his back,— The only thing I fear of you is giving way too easily. It is incredible how much is got by arguing and perseverance. Tell them that peace (with America] may be made in a moment, and it behoves them to make the most of the instant, and conclude on reasonable terms.'

Grattan determined to 'conclude' on the terms' of the Declaration of Rights, and on no other terms. On April 22d, he wrote to his agent in London, Mr Day,—“Take the first opportunity of going to Lord Shelburne and state to him, as a friend to both countries, the

absurdity of negotiating on the Irish subject. We have sent an ultimatum. We have asked for RIGHTS; exclusive judicature, exclusive legislature are our rights; we cannot consent to pay for them, or to negotiate upon them. The country is committed, and cannot put in a train of treaty what is decided in both Houses of Parliament, and backed by the lives and fortunes of the nation. Take notice that we not only conceive ourselves committed, but conceive the question now carried, and drink the 16th April 1782 as the day of our redemption. We want only to thank England, not to negotiate with her.

On May 6th, the lord - lieutenant, the Duke of Portland, wrote to Lord Shelburne:

Every day convinces me not only of the impossibility of prevailing on this country to recede from any one of the claims set forth in the addresses, but of the danger of new ones being started. The hope I expressed of reserving the final judicature, if not totally, at least by retaining the writ of error, no longer exists.' On the same day, Grattan wrote to Fox :- I understand it is wished our demands should be as specific as possible--they are so—a withdrawal of the claim of supremacy, legislative and judicative, by England ... no foreign legislature, nor foreign judicature, nor legislative council, nor dependent army, nor negotiation, nor commissioners to settle these matters.'

He followed up this letter by despatching an ultimatum to Day, on May 11th :—'I

1782]

ÎEGISLATIVE INDEPENDENCE

223

[ocr errors]

have only time to say that if nothing is concluded before our meeting—the 26thwe must proceed as if refused. Protraction is inadmissible. Mention this, as it is of the last consequence.' Six days afterwards, the English House of Lords consented unanimously, on the motion of Lord Shelburne, to repeal the obnoxious Act of George I., and the Commons, on the motion of Mr Fox, acquiesced. Nevertheless, what he gave with one hand, the English minister tried to take away with the other. He still clung desperately to the hope that Ireland might admit the superintending power and supremacy of Great Britain.'

On June 6th, the Duke of Portland wrote to Lord Shelburne :-'I have good reason to hope that I may shortly be enabled to lay before you the sketch or outlines of an Act of Parliament to be adopted by the legislatures of the respective kingdoms, by which the superintending power and supremacy of Great Britain in all matters of state and general commerce will be virtually and effectively acknowledged.' Shelburne replied on June 9th :—No matter who has the merit, let the two kingdoms be

can only be by Ireland now acknowledging the superintending power and supremacy in precise and unambiguous terms to be where Nature has placed it.' But Ireland did not acquiesce in the views of the British minister. Grattan would not recede one step from the ground he had taken up. On June 22d, Portland wrote in despair to Shelburne :

one, which

me

'The disappointment and mortification I suffer by the unexpected change in those dispositions which had authorised to entertain the hopes I had perhaps too sanguinely expressed in the letter which I had the honour of writing to your lordship on the 6th inst., must not prevent my acquainting you that for the present those expectations must be given up. Any attempts to conciliate the minds of this nation to any such measure as I intimated the hope of, would at this moment be delusive and impossible.' Had England had to deal with the Irish parliament only, she might have obtained her own terms. But behind the Irish parliament stood the Irish volunteers, and they would not give way. 'Those to whom the people look up with confidence,' wrote Lord Temple, who became lord-lieutenant in September 1782 ; 'are not the parliament but a body of armed men composed chiefly of the middle and lower orders,

leading those who affect to guide them.' The end at length came. The English minister surrendered unconditionally. England renounced forever all claim to make laws for Ireland. A free Irish parliament, untrammelled by English control, and an independent Irish judicature unfettered by English authority, were finally established without cavil or question. In January 1783, the English parliament passed a 'Renunciation Act,' declaring that the right claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only by laws enacted by his majesty and the parliament of that

1782]

CATHOLIC RELIEF ACT

225

kingdom in all cases whatever shall be, and is hereby established and ascertained forever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable. Thus was the battle of Irish legislative independence fought and won.

Besides the Catholic Relief Act of 1778, the repeal of the Commercial Code in 1779, and the great victory of 1782, other measures of importance were passed. In 1780, the Test Act was repealed and Protestant dissenters were placed politically on a level' with their Episcopalian fellow - countrymen. In 1781, the Habeas Corpus Act was introduced. In 1782, Catholics were allowed to buy, sell and dispose of land in the same way as Protestants. They were allowed to teach in schools; the laws expelling Catholic bishops and regular clergy, subjecting secular priests to the necessity of registration, and other measures in restraint of Catholic worship, were repealed. Catholics were no longer prohibited from keeping a horse above the value of £5, or compelled to make good the losses inflicted by the privateers of a Catholic enemy. Catholics were permitted to live in Galway and Limerick, and were allowed to be guardians of their own children. A National Bank was established, and the judges were made independent of the Crown. The wave of revolution which had swept over the country, between 1778 and 1783, carried justice and freedom with it.

There was now a season of repose. But the Catholics were resolved to improve the victories they had gained. In 1790, while the French

P

« PreviousContinue »