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lord showed great ability and a thorough knowledge of the subject. He was supported by his opponents of the year before, and carried these important resolutions with the full consent of both sides of the house. Bills on the two first resolutions were brought in with rapidity, passed both houses, and received the royal consent before the holidays.
The third resolution involved more extensive considerations; and it was also felt desirable to ascertain, before further concession, in what spirit it would be received. Happily, the Irish parliament, as well as the people, took the measure with every expression of gratitude and satisfaction, and granted supplies for a year and a half. A sum of £610,000 was borrowed, to discharge the arrears upon the establishment, and an addition to the revenue was made, to the amount of £150,000 a-year.
The new-born spirit of independence was not long suffered to slumber in congratulation. When, shortly after, the mutiny bill, passed as usual for a limited time, was transmitted, it was made perpetual by the English privy council. This infringement of rights was soon and hotly debated in the Irish parliament; but this body was perhaps actuated by a sense that they had shown enough of spirit, and that much had been conceded; they now finally confirmed the altered bill. The compliance gave high and instantaneous offence to the public. Several of the boroughs at once remonstrated. The merchant corps of the volunteers held a meeting at the Royal Exchange, in which several highly spirited resolutions were passed. Of these we shall only distinguish one:-“ Resolved, that we will concur with the volunteer corps of this kingdom, and the rest of our fellow-subjects, in every effort to avert the dangers we are threatened with.” But on this, and numerous minor incidents, which during the next following year occupied the public, it will be unnecessary to enter in detail. It will be enough to state, that their general effect was to awaken, keep on the alert, and concentrate the public attention; so that a growing excitement, an increasing consciousness of power, and a sense that the occasion was critical for the assertion of national rights, pervaded every class at all susceptible of political impulse. The Irish volunteers continued to increase in spirit and strength; and while they thus increased, they also began more and more to assume the overt form of a political organ, and to appear less equivocal in their similarity to the ordinary developments of revolutionary movement. At length, in 1782, they assumed an attitude so imposing and formidable, that all obstacles of a political nature gave way before the menace of their power, and the party which was backed by their formidable influence gained a victory, which would have been more productive of unmixed advantage, if the victors had more fully appreciated their position, and seen where to stop. The event to which we allude was the meeting of the representatives of 143 corps of volunteers of Ulster, at Dungannon. They passed resolutions, which imbodied every question and every cause of complaint. They first asserted their own right to debate and publish their opinions, and then proceeded, in a series of spirited resolutions, to declare the exclusive right of legislation to be in the king, lords, and commons of Ireland. They declared against the powers assumed by the privy council of both kingdoms, under the pretence of Poyning's law. They asserted the right of free trade in its fullest extent, condemned the perpetual mutiny bill, asserted the necessity of the independence of the judges. They declared their fixed resolution to seek the redress of the grievances thus stated, appointed a standing committee to represent, act for them, and call general meetings of the province. They strongly condemned the conduct of the court of Portugal, which refused admission to Irish goods, and pledged themselves not to consume any wine of the growth of that kingdom during the continuance of such an exclusion, and concluded by a declaration of their approbation of the recent acts in favour of the Church of Rome, in the following terms:-" That we hold the right of private judgment in matters of religion to be equally sacred in others as in ourselves. Resolved, therefore, that as men and as Irishmen, as christians and as protestants, we rejoice in the relaxation of the penal laws against our Roman catholic fellow-subjects," &c. They also moved an address of thanks to the minority in the two houses. The brevity of this address enables us to give it a place, which its nervous spirit and its importance merits:
“My Lords and Gentlemen,
“We thank you for your noble and spirited, though hitherto ineffectual efforts in defence of the great constitutional and commercial rights of your country. Go on; the almost unanimous voice of the people is with you; and in a free country the voice of the country must prevail. We know our duty to our sovereign, and are loyal. We know our duty to ourselves, and are resolved to be free. We seek for our rights, and no more than our rights; and in so just a pursuit, we should doubt the being of Providence if we doubted of success.”
The conduct of the Ulster volunteers met with universal applause, and their example was followed by all the other corps throughout Ireland. We shall only specify the lawyers' corps, which resolved, “that we do highly approve of the resolutions and address of the Ulster volunteers, represented at Dungannon on the 15th February instant. That as citizens and volunteers, we will co-operate with the several corps whose delegates met at Dungannon," &c.
The Dungannon committee immediately published a spirited address to the electors of Ulster. Among other strong expressions they said, “ It is a time pregnant with circumstances which revolving ages may not so easily combine. The spirit of liberty is gone abroad; it is embraced by the people at large, and every day brings with it an accession of strength. The timid have laid aside their fears, and the virtuous sons of Ireland stand secure in their numbers." These sentences may be offered as descriptive of the sensation at that moment beginning to be universal in Ireland.
These demonstrations were followed by others as decided from other public bodies, of whom the sheriffs, freemen, and freeholders of Dublin may be mentioned. Still more remarkable for its forcible, yet tempered and constitutional expression of the general feeling, was the address from the university of Dublin to its representatives, Wal
ter Burgh and John Fitzgibbon. To this we shall have to revert on a future occasion.
At last, the combination of favourable circumstances necessary for the great change which was to take place, was fully matured. Strong expediency; a determined and unanimous national feeling; leaders the ablest, as well as most influential, were added to a friendly administration. Mr Fox brought down a message to the English commons from the king, “that being concerned to find discontents and jealousies prevailing among his loyal subjects in Ireland, on matters of great weight and importance, he earnestly recommended to the house to take the same into their most serious consideration, in order to such na final adjustment as might give satisfaction to both kingdoms.” The sincerity of the intentions of the king and of the British government, was rendered now apparent by the straightforward and unequivocal manner of their proceeding. The same message was sent to the house of lords; and that the measure consequent thereupon should have the fullest concurrence of both kingdoms, a similar message was conveyed to the Irish parliament through the secretary, which office was then held by John Hely Hutchinson. The detail of the transactions of a legislative character which emanated from this proceeding, will more appropriately be entered upon in the life of Mr Grattan, to which we refer for the continuation of the political history of this immediate interval,--here simply confining our narration to such notices as may render intelligible the remainder of the history of the Irish volunteers and of lord Charlemont.
On the king's messsage, an address was moved by Mr Grattan, in the Irish house of commons, both expressing the gratitude of Ireland, and stating her principal grievances: and, in consequence, a repeal of the not 6th Geo. I. was moved on the same day in both houses in England. As to the mutiny bill, and on Poyning's law—the English parliament viewing them as concerns lying entirely between the king und the Irish parliament-simply carried a general resolution, purporting that a solid connexion should, by mutual consent, be established between the two countries; at the same time, a bill for securing the independence of the judges had been returned to the castle. For our present purpose of a mere summary, there is no more to be told. The Irish legislature was at once placed in a position of the most unqualified independence, and all was triumph and congratulation. The services of Mr Grattan, in bringing about this desirable consummation, were acknowledged by the secretary, and it was also on this occasion that a munificent reward for those services was voted by the Irish house of commons. A sum of £100,000 was voted toward raising 20,000 seamen for the fleet.
The volunteers of Ulster and Connaught published loyal addresses, which expressed or gave a tone to the public mind; and for the moment a common feeling of enthusiasm appeared universal. “The distinction between England and Ireland is no more; we are now one people; we have but one interest, one cause, one enemy, one friend, and we trust that the conduct of the Irish nation will demonstrate to all mankind, that the same spirit which grasps at liberty and spurns at usurpation, is equally alive to the impressions of friendship, of kindness, and of generosity." Such was the language of the Irish volunteers, in this moment which seemed so auspicious for the fortunes, and so satisfactory to the pride of this country.
We now pass to the more exclusive history of lord Charlemont and his volunteers. It demands no elaborate exposition to render it clear to the common experience of the most ordinary observer of popular movement, how a body constituted of such elements, and having a bond of combination so charged with excitement, should, by no very slow degrees, change in its character and in the direction of its views; how the sense of influence and of strength, how the stimulus and love of power, and how, also, the extension of its originating motives and principles, with many other less obvious causes, would by degrees transgress the limits within which their application could be useful or safe. Such spontaneous organizations of national power and patriotism, called forth by public emergency, cannot, indeed, be too exclusively confined to the immediate occasion which has thus required them; for the virtue, discretion, and knowledge of the best class of men who are not professionally conversant with public affairs, is altogether unequal to any safe interference beyond the call of these rough expediencies. Of these reflections, the history of the volunteers offers no inaccurate illustration. Called together by a moment of obvious and imminent danger, the existence of the volunteers was happily coincident with a juncture of circumstances which gave them an incidental weight in hastening the progress of measures favourable to the freedom and commercial prosperity of Ireland. But having been thus so far fortunately efficient, they quickly became the centre in this country for the reception of many popular influences of a more questionable nature, which then profoundly worked in the heart of Europe, and more especially in France and England. The fervour of liberty was to gather intensity until it had reached the fever point; and we cannot but consider the subsequent conduct of the Irish volunteers as among the most remarkable indications of the early working of the same principle which afterwards showed itself in its more advanced stages in the French Revolution and in the Irish Rebellions. Happily for the time of our history, these dangerous elements were as yet far from the point of explosion; it must also be admitted that the volunteers were constituted of the very best elements of the Irish population, and governed by the purest and noblest of the classes above them.
At the same period involved in our present narrative, there was in England a strong public excitement upon the question of parliamentary reform. In Ireland it found a ready reflection in the ranks of the volunteers. Here, indeed, the demand for such a reform was far more evident, as will be readily admitted from the statements in the foregoing part of this memoir. Here the cry for reform had already been more than once raised by a few eminent members of the opposition, and the advantages so recently obtained, now gave increased ardour to the political zeal of the volunteers and the opposition members in the Irish house of commons. “The voice of England," observes Mr Hardy,-“ in favour of reform was re-echoed here, not by the people, but by the volunteers; issuing indeed from the people, but still a military body, numerous and formidable.”
Thus gradually heated by a strong zeal, the volunteers exalted their sense of their own character, and enlarged their requisitions. They began to arrogate to themselves the deliberative functions of a parliament, and the right of dictation to the national legislature. In the spring of 1783, they began to hold meetings, in which strong resolutions in favour of reform were passed; and in July, a committee of delegates met in Belfast, and sent letters to lord Charlemont, as well as to the duke of Richmond, Mr Pitt, and other members of the British administration. In that which lord Charlemont received, the following passage announced the extent of their views:-“We have yet another favour to request, viz., that your lordship would inform us whether shortening the duration of parliaments, exclusion of pensions, limiting the number of placemen, and a tax on absentees, or any of them, be, in your lordship's opinion, subjects in which the volunteers of Ireland ought to interfere; and we earnestly request that your lordship may favour us with a sketch of such resolutions as your lordship would think proper to be proposed at Dungannon.”
This letter was received by lord Charlemont with some sensations of uneasiness. He fully approved the political sentiments which it expressed, but strongly deprecated the spirit of interference which it not less plainly manifested. He wrote a manly and temperate answer, in which, having expressed his concurrence with their view of measures generally, he reminded them that these questions were already in competent hands, and advised them to confine their addresses simply to the general desire for parliamentary reform.
The moderation of his lordship was unhappily confined to himself. On the 8th September, 1783, 500 delegates, representing 248 volunteer corps of Ulster volunteers, assembled in Dungannon. They passed thirteen resolutions, of which the substance was generally such as every one will at once truly conjecture; the last alone will be enough to quote:-“ That a committee of five persons from each county be now chosen by ballot, to represent this province in a grand national convention, to be held at noon, in the Royal Exchange, Dublin, on the 10th day of November next, to which we trust each of the other provinces will send delegates, to digest and publish a plan of parliamentary reform, to pursue such measures as may appear to them likely to render it effectual, to adjourn from time to time, and convene provincial meetings if found necessary.” This remarkable resolution was accompanied by directions to their delegates as to the expediency and means of obtaining specific information upon the state of the boroughs, and a recommendation to the Irish representatives to refuse their consent to bills of supply, for any term beyond six months, till a full redress of all grievances should have been obtained. They also published an address to the “ volunteer armies of the provinces of Munster, Leinster, and Connaught.” The language of this address
alculated to alarm every thinking and observing person;
Specious and inflammatory, and spoke precisely the language which has always proceeded from revolutionary conventions, under whatever name they have met. One clause will be for the present enough:-“ From a grand national convention, distinguished by integrity, and inspired with the courageous spirit of the constitution, every