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manage matters of a most disgusting nature to my feelings. My occupation is now of the most unpleasant nature, negotiating and jobbing with the most corrupt people under heaven. I despise and hate myself every hour for engaging in such dirty work. . It has ever been the wish of my life to avoid all this dirty business, and I am now involved in it beyond all bearing. . How I long to kick those whom my public duty obliges me to court.'
Almost all that was corrupt in Ireland supported the Union.
Almost all that was incorruptible opposed it. The unbribed intellect of the country, as Mr Lecky has well said, was against it. Who cares now to recall the speeches of those who defended it; while the speeches of those who attacked it are remembered not only as the patriotic utterances of honest men, but as choice specimens of fervent and earnest eloquence. Who is not familiar with the masterpieces of Plunket, of Bush, of Saurin and of Grattan; but what unionist speech is worth recording, if we
address of the unprincipled Clare, the common enemy of all that was liberal, enlightened and just, in both countries and in all parties. But Plunket, Bush, Saurin and Grattan fought in vain. The purse of the minister prevailed against the genius of the nation. Nevertheless, Irishmen may well remember with pride the brilliant though unsuccessful efforts of the best and purest of her sons to preserve the perishing liberties of
their country. 'I will make bold to say,' said Plunket, "that licentious and impious France, in all the unrestrained excess which Anarchy and Atheism have given birth to, has not committed a more insidious act against her enemy than is now attempted by the professed champion of the cause of civilised Europe against her friend and ally in the time of her calamity and distress—at the moment when our country is filled with British troops
when the loyal men of Ireland are fatigued and exhausted by their efforts to subdue the rebellion -efforts in which they had succeeded before those troops arrived—whilst the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended—whilst trials by court-martial are carrying on in many parts of the kingdomwhilst the people are taught to think they have no right to meet or deliberate, and whilst the great body of them are so palsied by their fears, or worn down by their exertions, that even this vital question is scarcely able to rouse them from their lethargy—at a moment when we are distracted by domestic dissensions—dissensions artfully kept alive as the pretext of our present subjugation and the instrument of our future thraldom.' 'For centuries,' said Bush, 'the British parliament and nation kept you down, shackled your commerce and paralysed your exertions, despised your characters and ridiculed your pretensions to any privileges, commercial or constitutional. She has never conceded a point to you which she could avoid, nor granted a favour which was not reluctantly distilled. They have been all wrung from her like drops
of blood, and you are not in possession of a single blessing (except those which you derive from God), that has not been either purchased or extorted by the virtue of your own parliament from the illiberality of England.' * If a legislative Union,' Saurin said, 'should be so forced upon this country against the will of its inhabitants, it would be a nullity, and resistance to it would be a struggle against usurpation, and not a resistance against law. You may make it binding as a law, but you cannot make it obligatory on conscience. It will be obeyed as long as England is strong, but resistance to it will be in the abstract a duty, and the exhibition of that resistance will be a mere matter of prudence.' 'When I take into account,' says Burrowes, 'the hostile feelings generated by this foul attempt-by bribery, by treason and by force—to plunder a nation of its liberties in the hour of its distress, I do not hesitate to pronounce that every sentiment of affection for Great Britain will perish if this measure pass, and that, instead of uniting the nations, it will be the commencement of an era of inextinguishable animosity.'
The question of the Union was brought before the Irish House of Commons January 22d, 1799. The English minister, who was still uncertain of his ground, proceeded with extreme caution. He did not propose a union point blank, he only asked the House to consider the subject of the relations between the two countries. But the National Party did not allow themselves to be caught
by this device; they refused to consider a scheme of union in any shape or form. The question, they said, was for ever closed by the compact of '82, and they would not re-open it. After a brilliant debate of twenty hours, the minister forced a division and carried his point, but only by a majority of one (106-105). This was virtually a victory for the Nationalists, and they improved it a few days afterwards by carrying a resolution against the Government by a majority of five. Thus the first battle of the Union was won by the Nationalists. Dublin was exultant. The whole city illuminated. The Nationalist members everywhere received an enthusiastic ovation. The Unionists were met with execrations and threatened with violence. Lord Clare's house was attacked, the windows were broken, the mob was fired on. The rejoicings ran into tumult, and the tumult alarmed the minister. Baffled and defeated in his first attempt, and seeing the excitement of the populace, and the hopelessness of carrying the question immediately to a successful issue, he abandoned it for the session of '99.
In England the question had fared differently. There, towards the end of January 1799, parliament declared in favour of a union by an overwhelming majority, and later the English minister said that the
the question should be brought forward again and again in the Irish parliament, until it was carried.
The Irish parliament was prorogued in June 1799. Then the floodgates of corruption were opened, and the country was inundated with
the bribes and cajolments of the minister. Unhappily, the members of the House of Commons were not proof against the temptations showered upon them, and a majority was ultimately secured, by a system of treachery and corruption, which has made the union between England and Ireland one of the most infamous transactions in history. Lord Cornwallis said, in June 1799, that when he found it 'impossible to gratify the unreasonable demands of our politicians,' he was reminded of the lines in which Swift had lampooned another Irish lord-lieutenant, and the system of corruption of an earlier date :
'So, to effect his monarch's ends,
Early in January 1800 the chief secretary, Lord Castlereagh, had taken pains to increase the budget. He wrote urgently to England :
We are in great distress, and I wish the transmiss was more considerable than the last. It is very important we should not be destitute of the means on which so much depends.'
On the 15th of January 1800, the Irish parliament assembled for the last time. The government were not anxious to bring the question on immediately; they were not yet quite ready.