Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

assenting to the imputations of his opponents, we would deduct considerably from the too indiscriminate defences of his friends; and were we to enter on a precise analysis, we should incline to refer to the mixed motives so generally to be discovered at the root of human conduct. There are few so ignorant as not to have some perception of the manner in which a lurking self-interest will be spun round and adorned by the dexterity of reason, with a comely cloud of lofty and conscientious motives. This is but a reading of the prophet's adage, “ The heart is deceitful above all things," &c. Any one who treads the common ways of life, and watches, as they deserve, the shiftings of human opinion, will not want examples.

Mr Flood's bequest to Ireland has been commemorated and commented upon in a little book which is itself an honourable monument.

The following is the actual clause of his will:- “ To the University of Ireland, commonly called Trinity College, Dublin, by whatsoever style, and under whatsoever title it is most properly and legally characterized and distinguished, to hold in fee and for ever for the purposes hereinafter mentioned; that is to say, I will and direct that, on their coming into possession of this my bequest, on the death of my said wife, they do institute and maintain, as a perpetual establishment, a professorship of, and for the native Irish, or Erse language, and that they do appoint, if he be still living, colonel Charles Vallancey to be the first professor thereof, with a salary of no less than £300 sterling a-year, that by his eminent and successful labours in the study and recovery of that language, he well deserves to be first appointed. And I will and appoint, that they do grant one annual and liberal premium for the best, and another for the next best composition in prose or verse, in the native Irish, or Erse language, upon some point of ancient history, government, religion, literature, or situation of Ireland; and also one other annual and liberal premium, one for the best, and another for the next best composition in English prose or verse, in commemoration of some of those great characters, either of ancient or modern nations, who have been eminently serviceable and honourable to their country-seeing that nothing stimulates to great deeds more strongly than great examples; and I will that the rents and profits of my said lands, houses, hereditaments, and estates, shall be further applied by the said university to the purchase of all printed books and manuscripts in the said native Irish or Erse language, wheresoever to be obtained; and next, to the purchase of all printed books and manuscripts of the dialects and languages that are akin to the said native Irish, or Erse language; and then to the purchase of all valuable books, and editions of books, in the learned and in the modern polished ladguages."

[merged small][ocr errors]

Or Walter Hussey, who took in addition the name of Burgh, our records are scanty indeed, being confined to the scattered notices which are to be met with in reports and among the memoirs of some of his conternporaries, who had the better fortune to be commemorated before time had obliterated the recollections of their personal history. Yet among the most illustrious characters of a period abounding in eminent men, there can hardly be named one more truly entitled to the meed of history. Unhappily, these remarks will also in some measure apply to several distinguished persons of the same eventful time. Nor are the memories of Charlemont, Flood, and Grattan, much more indebted to the pre-eminent situations they filled in the political scene, than to the fortunate circumstance of their having attached friends or relatives, who did not suffer them to pass without their record. The names of Burgh, Daly, Perry, &c., &c., which filled no secondary place in the annals of the most remarkable crisis of Irish history, must, we regret to say it, occupy a comparatively slight space in our pages. This is it is true, the less to be lamented, as the events and incidents which should constitute the main portion of such records, are, for the most part, identical with the materials which compose our more circumstantial memoirs; and we may, perhaps, after all, best perform our duty to the public, by collecting those few scattered lights which occur in the pages of the historians and political writers of the period. As we cannot even pretend to exercise our judgment very freely upon such narrow grounds, we have also to premise that we must adhere more closely than we have generally seen reason to do to the statements, and even the language of our authorities.

The first notice which we have been enabled to find of Burgh, places him in the Irish commons as the member for a borough of the duke of Leinster, in 1768. He then took a conspicuous part in opposition to lord Townshend's government. We incidentally learn, that, in the university, he had been highly distinguished for classical learning, and for his poetic taste and talent. On his first appearance in the house he obtained notice for a style, which, from Mr Hardy's designation, we should presume to have been rather too highly embellished with the flowers of poetry, and with a more profuse display of classical quotation than would be approved by his maturer experience. But we are also told that every session refined away something of these superfluities, and improved him into the most elegant and interesting debater of his day.

He was at the same time a barrister of considerable business and high character; and, in the early part of lord Buckingham's administration, obtained the rank of prime sergeant. Finding it difficult to reconcile his politics with those of the government, after one year's trial, he threw up his office, and his return to the popular party was a subject of general congratulation.

On the introduction of the question of Irish trade in 1779, by Mr Grattan's amendment to the address in answer to the lord-lieutenant's speech, Mr Burgh concluded a spirited debate, by moving, instead of the amendment, “ That it is not by temporary expedients, but by a free trade alone, that this nation is now to be saved from impending ruin.” This amendment had been previously concerted between Messrs Burgh, Daly, and Grattan. The amendment to the address, as first proposed by Mr Grattan, had been previously drawn up by

Daly, but several objections having arisen, were concluded by Mr Burgh's amendment. At this time Mr Burgh was member for the University, of which body he represented the opinions in favour of Irish trade. The merit of his conduct was enhanced by the fact that he then held office. Shortly after, in the same year, and while the Irish parliament was yet held in irritating suspense on the subject of trade, a motion was made in the committee of supply to limit the grant to six months. On this occasion Mr Burgh made a speech, which has been often commemorated by Irish historians, both for its effects and intrinsic merits. This was the occasion on which he felt it necessary to resign his office. Soon after, when Mr Grattan was about to bring forward his motion on the question of the independence of the Irish parliament, he wrote to request the support of Burgh, and was answered, “I shall attend, and if it were my last vote I shall give it in favour of my country.” When he had made his speech in this debate, he turned to Mr Grattan, and said, “ I have now sacrificed the greatest honour an Irishman can aim at."

He was, nevertheless, soon after raised to the bench as chief baron of the exchequer, in which high station he died in 1783, in the fortieth year of his age. On the subject of his character some fine things have been said by Mr Flood, Mr Grattan, and others, most of which are become familiar by frequent repetition, Mr Flood, in speaking of his death, observed, “ he did not live to be ennobled by patent-he was ennobled by nature.” Lord Temple's letter on the occasion, contains a testimony the more valuable, because it is not liable to the species of deduction mostly to be made from rhetorical eulogy. “No one had that steady decided weight which he possessed in the judgment and affections of his country; and no one had more decidedly that inflexible and constitutional integrity which the times and circumstances peculiarly call for.”

Burgh left his family in embarrassed circumstances. His infirmity was the love of ostentatious display: his equipage was stately and expensive beyond his rank and means; six horses and three outriders would, in our times, expose a chief baron to the world's smile. Mr Grattan proposed, and obtained from parliament, a grant for the relief of his family.

[merged small][ocr errors]

JOHN HELY HUTCHINSON was the son of Mr Francis Hely, the name of Hutchinson was afterwards assumed in consequence of his marriage with a Miss Nixon, through whom he obtained possession of the estate of Richard Hutchinson, of Knocklofty, in the county of Tipperary.

He was called to the bar in 1748, and made a rapid progress to professional eminence. His legal and political knowledge, and distinguished powers as an orator, soon opened the way to advancement, and the house of commons was the sure avenue to promotion. He began as a sturdy ally in the ranks of opposition, and soon made himself

of sufficient importance to attract the offers of government, in consequence of which he soon obtained his silk gown, and, in 1762, was appointed prime sergeant.

In this station he continued until 1774. He then resigned and gave up his professional pursuits for the high appointment of provost, to which dignity he was promoted on the death of provost Andrews.

Such an appointment being of a nature not merely anomalous, butlooking to the character and objects, to the constitution and dignity of the university of Dublin-bearing the characters of a most unwarranted stretch of power, must necessarily arrest the reader's attention. It seems assuredly to demonstrate the urgent necessities of the administration of that day for political support against the growing power of opposition. It also illustrates strongly the contempt for Ireland, so often indicated in the proceedings of the Castle. To the fellows, professors and scholars of Trinity college, in that very time eminent for even more than their usual reputation of learning and talent, such an outrage could bardly have been offered by an administration competent either to appreciate these qualifications, or to understand the more true and permanent interests of the country, Ireland, then beginning to cry aloud for the privileges of national manhood, but yet whole generations away from moral and intellectual puberty, was to be over-ruled by expedients. Instead of fostering institutions, and endeavouring to spread and cultivate the seeds of future civilization and prosperity, all was sacrificed first to still the sounds of gathering discontent, and then to conciliate by premature, yet insufficient, concessions. There was none of the mild and kindly wisdom which looks to the real wants and actual interests, and anticipates the growth of a nation. The viceroy, if he aimed to be popular, acted with indiscriminating indulgence—if not, he only considered how best the domination of England was to be preserved whole. To repress the impatient and unenlightened, though in the main generous clamours of demagogues, and to restrain the over-zealous and equally uninstructed adherents—who but too well justified the discontents and complaints which they vainly endeavoured to silence by intimidation-formed no part of the policy of the English government. It never entered into their contemplation—that Ireland, though far behind England, in the civilization of her people, yet comprised in her higher ranks a large and increasing nucleus of the very highest civilization, essentially English in its entire frame: and that consequently, whether matured or not, she would never rest content, one single step short of England, in advantages or pretensions. The dispute could not fail to arise, and could not proceed without propagating an impulse through every rank. This fundamental and axiomatic truth, would have demanded from a comprehensive and enlightened government, an early attention to the diffusion of the comforts, arts and knowledge of civilized life. To conduct, in peace, the administration of a country of which the whole civil system was disorderly, and to maintain the pressure of a destructive and intolerable fiscal pressure, was the main end of British policy. From such a policy, the venerable seat of science and polite letters, might well have congratulated itself upon a considerable interval of immunity from the time when it was converted into a barrack by the vile Tyrconnel and the cowardly

tyrant James—to the rude and inconsiderate imposition of an extern provost.

Yet if such an insult and wrong could be excused, it may find its apology in the distinguished reputation of the person thus advanced. As an orator, he was the rival of Flood, and in their frequent conflicts, was generally considered to have the advantage: he was specially distinguished for a peculiar command of style, which enabled him to be concise or diffusive, perplexing or perspicuous, simple and plain-spoken, or splendid and figurative as the occasion required: as a debater he has been thus described by secretary Hamilton: "he was the speaker, who, in support of the government, had always something to say which gratified the house—that he could go out in all weathers, and as a debater was therefore inestimable.” He always contrived to interest and retain the attention of the house, and in every collision he preserved his temper and conciliated his hearers by the appearance of respect. He was a fine scholar, and a lover of classical learning.

Among the recorded peculiarities of his character, was his inordinate and indiscriminate appetite for promotions. Among other instances, a story is told of his having made an application to lord Townshend, for some addition to the numerous appointments which he had contrived to sweep together in his own person. Townshend jestingly answered, that there was at the moment nothing vacant but a majority of horse. But to his surprise, Mr Hutchinson immediately pressed for it. It may now be considered as matter of more legitimate wonder, that it was granted, and that being himself unable to serve in that capacity, his valour was obliged to be represented by a deputy major. The incident was indeed by no means new-nor are we quite sure that the following mot of lord North’s was altogether original; it is still highly appropriate. When Mr Hutchinson appeared in the court of St James, the king asked who he was: lord North answered, " that is your majesty's principal secretary of state, in the Irish establishment; a man, on whom if your majesty were pleased to bestow England and Ireland, he would ask for the Isle of Man for a potato garden."

The spirit of exaction without pretensions, and of lax and unprincipled concession thus ascertained, may sufficiently explain the intrusive appointment of a provost. The result was vexatious to Hutchinson, as it was derogatory to the university. Such an appointment could not be willingly submitted to by the senior fellows, or by any member of the university; and indications of this reluctance did not fail to appear. Hutchinson's dexterity supported by the power of administration, served him in good stead: he quickly contrived to create a division in his favour. Unable to propitiate in any way the injured dignity of the fellows, he successfully appealed to the folly and vanity of the students. The prospect of converting a seat of learning, a school of science, ancient literature and theology, into a seminary for the ligbt-heeled and light-fingered frivolities of fashionable society; a dancing school, a riding school, and a gymnasium, where young gentlemen might be accomplished for the ball room and the race course; where the sons of the nobility might acquire those rudiments which had been neglected in the stables at home, and where their

« AnteriorContinuar »