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As a peer, lord Charlemont entertained a deep and impatient sense of this injustice to his country, and insult to his order; and, while yet a very young man, and not perhaps withheld by any very prudential forecast, he determined to bring it to the test. No one considered the English statute,—which really begged the question of right to be in the least binding ; its validity was evidently involved in the question it pretended to settle; and every one understands how much more keenly the sense of wrong is felt when the sense of reason is at the same time offended. Lord Charlemont came to a resolution, either by a real or fictitious suit, to bring this question of jurisdiction before the legislature; and, there is little doubt but the Irish lords would have found such an appeal very embarrassing, although it is as certain that they would have found reasons far more influential on the other side: it was therefore so far fortunate at the time, that a fit of illness, followed by a long interval of very delicate health, interfered. “ When more advanced in years,” says Mr Hardy, “ he used to speak of this illness rather as a fortunate one; for the house of lords, as he discovered, would not have entertained his suit.” We must, however, say, that we have some doubts on this point: the commons were not quite asleep-though, it must be allowed, not far from it -questions of less moment had been found to rouse their spirit, and the lords would have hesitated finally to admit, that they were bound by a statute of the English parliament. But the hour of trial was not yet come. “Neither Grattan nor Flood were then in parliament, nor if they were, would parliament have encouraged them. My splendid, but boyish scheme, fell therefore to the ground," was the comment of his lordship in later times. The illness, which is mentioned by his lordship, was probably the same which he experienced in 1757, and which invalided him until 1760: his recovery he attributed to the skill and attention of Lucas.
With the duke of Bedford, lord Charlemont maintained a courteous and even cordial acquaintance, though not the same friendly intimacy which had subsisted between him and lord Hartington. The duke was zealous in preserving the English interest, and at first-acting under that ignorance of Irish affairs, which has always, but chiefly then, characterized the English councils-he was more uncompromising in trifles than he afterwards became, when a native sense of justice tempered his conduct, and induced him to take more comprehensive and liberal views of the rights of the people than had previously been adopted.
Among the earliest acts of the duke of Bedford, there was one which was very much adapted to raise unfavourable anticipations in Ireland. In the first year of his administration, on the 1st of November, a resolution was passed by the commons that “ the pensions and salaries placed on the civil establishment in Ireland, since the 23d of March, 1755, amounted to the annual sum of £28,103; that several of such pensions were granted for long and unusual terms, and several to persons not resident in the kingdom; that granting so much of the public revenue in pensions was an improvident disposition of the revenue, an injury to the crown, and detrimental to the kingdom.” It was ordered that the house should wait upon the lord-lieutenant, and
request that his excellency would transmit this resolution to the king. The duke demurred, and said he could not at once determine the propriety of acceding. Two days after, the house resolved “ that all orders should be adjourned until the house should receive an answer from the lord-lieutenant.” At this decided step, the secretary (Mr Rigby) was alarmed, and next day brought a message from the duke that the resolution of the 1st Nov, should be transmitted forth with. Such facts, while they may help to illustrate the effect of extreme and hasty counsels, also show the existence of a formidable element of resistance, which cannot be too far seen and computed by statesmen. But such a concession was itself of deep importance in giving added impulse to the under-tone of nationality which compelled it. The duke of Bedford acted under the influence of the primate and Mr Rigby; to these, at least, his policy was attributed by lord Charlemont; his character has been exalted by praise which may well outweigh volumes of factious sarcasm; but the reader will perhaps recollect the terrific scalping of Junius, in his letter “ To the duke of Bedford," some years after the time at which he now appears before us. Mr Rigby's name will also bring to remembrance some sentences that are not easily forgotten. Rigby was well known for his convivial talents, and was perhaps more honourably appreciated in the circles of Irish hospitality than as a servant of the administration. But it need not be said that there was a very wide distinction between the government politics in the two countries, and that an enlightened English nobleman, whatever were his party views, could not fail quickly to discern that the policy maintained towards Ireland was not in unison with the principles of any existing party or creed; there was not in England; there was not even in Ireland, any class of men whose views were then identified with the Irish privy council. He could not fail to discover a fact-since too little observed in the obscurity of that time, and in the heat of subsequent animosities—that the stern policy of the Irish government was the counsel of a small knot of powerful individuals. Though the recollections of history unquestionably were such as to suggest fears from the papal church in Ireland, as elsewhere; yet, practically, no prepossession then prevailed, to any extent, against them. Nor were their numbers, wealth, or importance, at the time, such as to work on the fears or animosities of any but a few, whose immediate interests involved some such sentiment. We are not here questioning the foundation for such sentiments, had they existed to any extent, but simply stating the fact, that the English population, or, more properly speaking, the protestant population in Ireland, were full of the most kindly sympathies toward their Romish brethren, and that there was a universal abhorrence against the iniquitous policy of the statutes which we have already noticed in the foregoing narrative. Of course, it must be understood that a powerful faction, however small in number, must be surrounded by a cloud of partisans, composed of those who are ignorant, those who are paid, and those whose private interests are concerned.
The duke was generally considered as actuated by the most unfavourable impressions; his peculiar politics, and the hereditary bias which Irishmen are so liable to feel and to impute, were considered by
the popular party in Ireland as boding no good. “Greatly,” says Mr Hardy, “were such persons disappointed in the conduct of the duke of Bedford; and equally, though agreeably, disappointed were the catholics, in feeling the first rays of a more expanded protection beam on them from a quarter where they least expected it.” On this Mr Hardy applies Virgil's lines
- Via prima salutis, Quod minime reris, Graia pandetur ab urbe.” Mr Hardy, were he now alive, might easily find in recent events far more striking applications for the same quotation. We are not, nevertheless, quite sure of the propriety of its application to an English whig nobleman, even though lord-lieutenant of Ireland.
There was during the duke of Bedford's administration a very prevalent rumour of a legislative union between Great Britain and Ireland, though it does not very plainly appear from what quarter it proceeded. Mr Hardy conjectures that it arose from some convivial suggestion of Mr Rigby, who indulged much in social intercourse; and, from the constitution of town society at that period, such a hint, he supposes, would quickly spread. It is not improbable that it was a feeler-a straw thrown upon the wind of rumour; if so the indication was not doubtful, as great murmurs of discontent generally agitated the town; and the matter was presently forgotten.
We do not think it necessary to dwell at any length upon an event which occurred at this time, and created something of more serious alarm - the landing of 600 French in Carrickfergus bay. A more serious invasion was notoriously intended, but the victory of lord Hawke intercepted a squadron, which, with 18,000 men, had been destined for this expedition. Three frigates, however, entered that bay on the 21st Feb., 1760. There cannot be attached any very serious importance, under any circumstances, to so small a force landed in the North; but the little mischief they might have effected was prevented by the folly of the gentleman who commanded the expedition. His second in command, M. Thurot, a clever officer, who knew the country well, proposed a rapid descent upon Belfast; but M. Flobert, a disciple of the old school, could not conceive the propriety of leaving behind them a fortified city like Carrickfergus. The garrison was on parade, and there seems—notwithstanding a notice sent from the castle, of the probable expectation of such an event-to have been no kind of preparation: the officer on duty and his men thought the vessels to be English, and twelve boats were seen conveying armed men to Kilroot point before they guessed the truth. The French landed, and, with their usual expertness, availed themselves of hedge and ditch to advance securely. The commandant was, in the mean time, apprized of the circumstances, and the gates and avenues were guarded. The French came on and were received with a fire, which checked their advance, from a company which was advantageously posted for the purpose while they had been advancing. These had, however, but a few rounds of ammunition, which were expended in the first discharges, and they retired before the French, into the town. The French attacked both the north and south gates, and a warm fire continued for some time. Between the two fires the gates were battered open; the garrison, too, had spent their store of ball, and when the firing slackened, the French attacked the gates sword in hand. They were here, however, repulsed after a very severe but rather tumultuary struggle, in which their opponents mainly consisted of the gentlemen of the town, and a few of the people, with colonel Jennings, lord Wallingford, captain Bland, lieutenant Ellis. In this struggle sticks and stones were not the least effective weapons; and this small party fought with such desperate zeal that the French, with all their cool discipline, were compelled to retire from the gate. The gate stood open with its brave defenders in front outside. They now consulted; a sally was urged—we presume by the townsmen-but colonel Jennings saw the hopelessness of resistance with his small garrison, destitute as they were of ammunition—the gates not tenable, and a breach of fifty paces in the wall: a parley was beaten, and verbal articles easily agreed upon. The garrison was permitted to march out with the honours of war. The castle was to receive no injury, and the city was not to be injured or plundered. In the mean time the alarm was diffused, and M. Thurot who perfectly understood the danger of remaining until a force could be collected, embarked and put to sea, leaving behind M. Flobert and a few men, who were too severely wounded for removal.*
On the very first intimation of these occurrences, Lord Charlemont, who was governor of Antrim, hurried off to his post, but was only time enough to receive those who had remained as prisoners. And it is mentioned by Mr Hardy that the French expressed great delight on meeting a person to whom they could express their distresses in their own language. He entered with his wonted humanity into their grievances, and obtained for them accommodations which they could not otherwise have had any hope of. M. Flobert is described as a man of strange character; he obtained leave to go to London, and requested permission to accompany lord Charlemont, who readily consented. M. Thurot had scarcely put to sea when he was intercepted by captain Elliot of H. M. ship Æolus, with two other ships, the Pallas and the Brilliant, which had for some days watched his movements, but were prevented by weather from entering the bay. An engagement ensued, and, after an hour and a half, the French vessels struck their colours. The entire force of every description in the captured vessels amounted to 1245, of which perhaps 800 may have been military.
The fact which most deserves the reader's attention in this, otherwise not very consequential event, is the general zeal shown by every class of the northern public; a universal spirit of resistance called up large bodies of the peasantry, armed as chance directed, and, had the exigency required, there can be little doubt that a formidable force must have been speedily assembled by the magistrates and country gentlemen, even though the government had been remiss. It was, most probably, the evidence of hostility thus shown that mainly induced the French to retire. In the first project of the expedition there can be little doubt that a reliance on the old and well-known
* Official letter by major-general Strode.
disaffection of the peasantry had been an element of the calculation.
Thurot, though compelled (it is asserted) to put in by stress of weather, must, nevertheless, when he presumed to land, have calculated on the same consideration. But memorably different, indeed, was the result, and we have thought proper here to call attention to it as the early indication of the same spirit, which, from the same place, was, in a few years more, to produce results of a nature so critical in the fortunes of the nation. Lord Charlemont has himself left an interesting account of what he witnessed on his arrival in Belfast—we give this as extracted by Mr Hardy from his lordship’s private papers. “ The appearance of the peasantry who had thronged to its defence [the city of Belfast] many of whom were my own tepants, was singular and formidable. They were drawn up in regular bodies, each with its own chosen officers, and formed in martial array; some few with old firelocks, but the greater number armed with what is called in Scotland the Lochaber axe-a scythe fixed longitudinally to the end of a long pole--a desperate weapon, and which they would have made a desperate use of. Thousands were assembled in a small circuit; but these thousands were so thoroughly impressed with the necessity of regularity, that the town was perfectly undisturbed by tumult, by riot, or even by drunkenness.”
In 1760, the duke of Bedford returned to England, and on the 12th of October, in the same year, George II. died; and a new reign properly commences this present division of our history.
The duke was succeeded by lord Halifax. With him, as secretary, came over the celebrated William Gerrard Hamilton, of whom we shall hereafter, when writing the life of Edmund Burke, offer some notice. Lord Charlemont first introduced Burke to his acquaintance, an incident to which Mr Hardy attributes Mr Burke's subsequent rise-on this, too, we have some remarks to make in due season.
The marriage of George III. was the next event which brings lord Charlemont conspicuously and most honourably forward. Many of the Irish peeresses who were in town had prepared to walk in their order at the royal nuptials, when, to their surprise, they received a notification from the duchess of Bedford to apprize them that they were to be excluded from the entire ceremonial. This most unnecessary insult could not be tacitly endured by the ladies of Ireland; and, according to Mr Hardy, they applied to lord Charlemont,—a compliment, than which a higher cannot well be imagined. Their selection was, indeed, sagacious, and well approved by his conduct on the occasion. With the prompt spirit which marks every portion of his life, he zealously entered into the insulted feelings of his fair countrywomen, and went the round of the Irish peerage then in town, to rouse their sense of shame, and obtain the advantage of their concert and influence, in a matter nearly concerning their honour. His mission was so far vain, and he had doubtless to accuse himself of “moving such a dish of skimmed milk to so honourable an action;" in more instances than one. It is, indeed, hard to avoid thinking that Mr Hardy may have had very inadequate information: the habitual subserviency of the Irish peerage of that day is hardly sufficient to account for so abject a renunciation of a right, which it was not very