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reply of Mr Grattan remains yet unparalleled among the reports of parliamentary encounter, for its condensed and compendious severity. Mr Flood was for the moment completely bewildered by its overpowering effect; a fact which is perfectly apparent in the few sentences of incoherent reply which have been preserved. The two gentlemen, after having for two hours been allowed to discharge their whole indignation upon each other by a house of commons, which entered with all the keen interest of a cockpit into this display of rival force, were, from something of the same spirit, suffered, after it was over, to steal away for the purpose of following up their quarrel in the way most usual at the period. After a little time had passed in the confusion which immediately followed, orders were given for the arrest of the parties. Mr Flood was taken, but made his escape from the sheriffs.
A challenge from Mr Flood ensued; but, after some days spent in negotiation, they were both served with a warrant from the king's bench, and bound over to keep the peace towards each other for two years. A few days after, Mr Flood was allowed by the house to enter into a formal vindication of his character, in which he displayed very considerable eloquence and talent. The quarrel just related had the effect of putting an end to the acquaintance of these two eminent orators. The kindliness of Mr Flood's temper has been exemplified by the courtesy with which, upon a subsequent occasion, he saluted Mr Grattan when they chanced to pass each other in the streets; this advance was, however, so coldly received, that he took care not to repeat it. He also presided at some meetings at which resolutions complimentary to Mr Grattan passed.
We should next have to relate the incidents of the convention of delegates, in which Mr Flood bore a distinguished part, had we not already given as much space to the subject as can well be afforded in this volume.* In this, as in the incident previously mentioned, there is among those respectable writers who have noticed these passages of his life a very remarkable difference of opinion. We should not hesitate to sum their arguments, direct or inferential, and endeavour to cast the balance between their opinions for or against Mr Flood, but that, in truth, we consider them, as reasoning, to be quite inconclusive. We have already shown that the peculiar course of conduct pursued for a considerable number of years by Mr Flood, can be within the ordinary analogies of human nature, referred to either of two very opposite classes of motives. His deportment in this latter instance carries with it the same ambiguity. "It must depend on the general estimate of his character, otherwise formed, to which class his conduct is to be referred. The public professions of men, and the compliments of partisans or friends, go for nothing in such an estimate. There is scarcely on record a course of action in which the invidious or the biassed cannot find strong grounds for imputation; or which the agent himself cannot set forth in lofty colours.
With respect to Mr Flood's motion for parliamentary reform, it may be said for Mr Flood that such reform was wanting; while the pernicious nature of the unconstitutional resource by which it was, on
* Life of Charlemont.
this occasion, sought to be obtained, was not equally apparent. The ultimate tendency of the principles which were then in their first development, was only made known by the experience of subsequent events; nor was it sufficiently self-evident, for most intelligences, that popular interference has a narrow Hmit to its powers for good. It may doubtless have appeared to Mr Flood that the state of Ireland was still such as to warrant the application of an irregular force: like a far greater man (Mr Fox) he was more a theorist in political science, than a profound observer of those laws, according to which the movements of men and nations must ever be governed: his reasoning was that of a lawyer and a casuist, and built on the dogmas, maxims, and statutes, but not studied precedents of jurists and political writers: he belonged, with some favourable allowance, to that most eloquent class of public men who will argue on an abstract case, while the facts are momently bursting from the grasp of application. From such an estimate some deduction may, it is true, be made, and some further apology for Mr Flood may be found in the consideration that he had hitherto lived and acted in the chaos and confusion of a state, in which the government and the opposition were unregulated, and in which the only prospect of a better order of things was in the application of that strong external force from which so much had been attained: and he may have felt justified in endeavouring to obtain it by the use of the same means which had already been found successful to such an extent. This view may be enough for the justification of his conduct on the occasion--so far as such a justification ought now to be sought. Should any one consider it wholly unnecessary, we must answer, that, on an attentive consideration of the state of things then sufficiently noticeable, there must arise a strong impression that Mr Flood's conduct on the occasion stated, was actuated by no regard to any consideration beyond the impulse of certain strong personal feelings. If he was not goaded by sentiments of jealous rivalry and disappointed ambition, he was more or less than man he had seen his vast popularity ebb, and the unrivalled championship, the thunder of the senate, pass into the hands of a junior,--a rival, and a reputed enemy. On the other hand, he had been ill-treated by the government. Such a position was laden with the elements of desperation. The force of which he put himself at the head, was the same that had prostrated and paralyzed the forces of the Castle, and floated his rival into wealth, influence, and fame. Such motives may have been beneath his pride, and unworthy of his understanding; but, while we frankly admit the possible uprightness of his motive, we must observe, as honestly, that we cannot pay the same compliment to his understanding. It was not a time for the further pressure of parliamentary reform in this country; no merely constitutional reform would here have answered any purpose, save as an argument for some further step; but a reform carried at the point of the bayonet could only have the effect of undoing all that had already been effected. The house of commons, which should have adopted any resolution under the circumstances already described, would have wanted something more than reform. The error in principle does not admit of discussion; it is too obvious; but, in point of policy, there was, in our opinion, an error not so much on the surface at that time, though plain enough to those who look back along the course of after events. It is a consideration on which we have already entered at some length. The social state and the political constitution of this kingdom were advancing with unequal steps. The leading statesmen of the popular party took up their notions and principles from English books, the British constitution, and the debates in the British parliament: when they harangued on the affairs of Ireland they were unconsciously thinking of England. They who now read their speeches have no very precise notion of the state of things to which they were intended to apply. A great step in advance had been made,-when the independence of the judges, the free trade, and the independence of parliament had been secured. For the sound working of these measures, something more was wanting. It is a mistake into which statesmen are but too liable to fall the idea that a system of enactments can amount to national prosperity-whereas, on the other hand, every measure in its application is wholly modified by circumstances on which legislation has no power. No freedom or no laws could have secured prosperity or good government to Ireland, or happiness and respectability to the people, until they had first made some advances wholly dependent on peace. We have already taken some pains to show the necessary progress of wealth, prosperity, and civil order, when subject to no interference from popular movements. When once fairly ingrafted, civilization with its consequences depend on quiet, and the workings of law depend on civilization. The tyranny of one stage of civilization drops away link by link, according to a law not in the will of cabinets and councils, but in the hand of nature: laws become obsolete by an insensible course, and opinion works out institutions and enlightened laws by a process nearly as insensible. These effects cannot be, or never were the work of popular will, an instrument useful in desperate emergencies, but in these alone; useful to vindicate freedom, but not to fit people to be free. In Ireland, the principal want was an interval of quiet; the utmost had been done that national excitement could at the time effect: and the balance of force was visibly shifted. Wise men would have applied their whole strength to secure, to give a rooted existence and a sane working to the new elements of constitutional strength. To promote trade to improve the condition of the peasantry to remove the prejudices which operated against the country, and to quiet the turbulence which seemed to justify those prejudices, in a word, to look into the actual state of the Irish people, who were the least cared for, and least consulted for in a struggle for the sake of which they were excited into a state of exasperation, fatal to their own best interests. The spirit of the people had received already some fierce impulses, which a sagacious politician would desire to check; and the public mind was already commencing that most fatal course, which was to receive no effectual check, until it obtained a permanent form, and became the parent of all our subsequent calamities. The impression was then just beginning to be communicated of an unreclaimable hostility to order and lawa temper which would find cause of complaint in any change of circumstances, and which could only be civilized by an iron domination; and which by the impression of national fickleness and faithlessness
which it communicated, effectually drove commercial confidence, and the outlay of capital from a country which offered the best advantages to industry. Such charges, were it necessary, we should be among the most strenuous to repel. But in that day, lessons were taught in Ireland, which have never since ceased to be evil.
Whatever conclusion may be arrived at by the historian, on the conduct of Mr Flood, according to the aspect in which the events and politics of the time may present them to his view: whether his actions are to be explained by the impetuous ambition of a proud spirit, disappointed in its aims, and jealous of its old pre-eminence; or of mistaken or just views of national interest, or of the mingled and complicated tissue of human impulses, motives and opinions which can be traced in the course of most men of whom distinct note has been ever taken and preserved: one thing will suggest itself to most readers of his history;—that he was at this time in a position, in which if he was susceptible of the feelings of declining influence and disputed popularity, they must have been often and painfully excited in his breast. The beginning, and all the earlier years of his career had been such as to place him first among those to whom the kingdom looked as the champions of her rights and interests: and an undisputed pre-eminence of political talents, must at the same time have suggested hopes no less ambitious than we may admit them to have been honourable. But he was in his age, and under the infliction of a painful infirmity, with declining health and abated physical powers,
-doomed to the pains, anxieties, and jealousy of a strenuous rivalry with youth, enthusiasm, and transcendent talents. If, as we can readily admit, he was firm in conscious integrity, he must have withered under the painful sense of misrepresentation: if, as is not utterly impossible, the reproaches of a rival had found any echo in his breast, he must have been also touched by other feelings not much less painful; in either case he must have been more than human, if he was not mortified by the defection and dissent of early admirers and followers, the assaults of rivals, and the ultimate results of much labour and many high expectations. If such conjectures, or any part of them have any foundation in truth, the reader will easily comprehend the relief to Mr Flood, which must have grown out of the prospect of being transferred to another scene of effort: a broader and loftier scope for the exertion of his powers was thus presented in prospect: and the dignity of a seat in the British senate appeared more than equivalent to the loss of influence in that of his own country. But such a change offered a still stronger recommendation to feelings wounded by an insult received from the British minister, in advising the king to strike his name off the lists of the privy council.
At this period, Mr Flood entered into treaty with the duke of Chandos for a borough belonging to this nobleman. The duke appears to have been a warm admirer of Mr Flood, and to have belonged to the same political school: there had been some correspondence as well as friendly intercourse between them, of which there are traces at an earlier period, to be found in the printed correspondence of Mr Flood and his friends. In October, 1783, we find a letter to Mr Flood from the duke of Chandos, on the subject of Mr Flood's election to the borough of Winchester, which was in the nomination of the duke. Mr Flood, unwilling to occupy a dependent seat, purchased his election at the cost of four thousand pounds.
It was on the third of December, at the close of a long debate on Mr Fox's East India bill, that Mr Flood entered the English house of commons for the first time as a member. His intention was to vote with Mr Pitt against this measure: it was perhaps a wonted impulse that prompted him to rise, with a view to say a few words on the principle of the bill. His fame had travelled before him, and expectation had been strongly excited among the members, so that the instant effect of his standing up, was to recall to their places many who were about to retire—to cause silence, and the appearance of universal attention. According to the received account, Mr Flood at once caught the feeling of the house, and could not resist its effect: he recoiled from the idea of disappointing a popular sensation, which was flattering to his pride, and suffered himself to be carried on into details, for which it is generally assumed he had made no previous preparation. Of this we must, by the way, assert our doubt. For many days previous to the debate on the India question, he had received several letters and enclosures on the subject from the duke of Chandos,* and it may be presumed from others, anxiously urging his journey that he might take a part in the discussion on the second reading of Mr Fox's bill; on the very night of the debate, he arrived, after a forced march which it is not easy to disjoin from some specific purpose. It is true that he cannot have had the full advantage of the voluminous documentary papers which lay on the table: but for any purpose of a display of oratory, or for a statement of general principles, such a laborious investigation was unnecessary. He, however, still laboured under many disadvantages. Among others, that of a long and fatiguing journey: and were we even to assume that he had fully meditated the subject with a view to take a part in its discussion, yet it must be understood by every one who has been in the habit of public speaking (or indeed private conversation,) that the effect of bodily fatigue, or any cause which depresses the physical powers, is to lower the springs of thought and still more of language. With these considerations, it can be felt that should we even admit, what some may suspect, much unacknowledged preparation, Mr Flood must have arisen at an enormous disadvantage. His language was nevertheless not destitute of its customary correctness-his exposition of his view of the subject, accurate and well digested-he had justly seized all the prominent points of the subject, and viewed them in the same light as Mr Pitt: a fact inconsistent with the assumption of an unprepared rising. But his language was cold, his manner tedious and embarrassed, and the arguments which he used already exhausted: the charm of eloquence was entirely wanting, and a coldly correct piece of trite argument was entirely inadequate to satisfy the demands of expectation, and far below the reputation of Mr Flood. There was, in truth, a disadvantage of a kind less purely incidental, which it would too much swell this memoir to notice here—as it cannot be mentioned without diffuse ex