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however, is perfectly true and much but which must be considered with to be regretted, is that Mr Pitt regard to the peculiar circumhad underrated the strength of the stances both of the King and the opposition which he was to en- country at the moment, and which counter from his sovereign upon casts no discredit upon the honour the question of the Catholic claims. of the Minister. It must, moreover,
True to his favourite practice of be borne in mind that, in his opblackening the character of the position to the Catholic claims, British statesmen who carried the George III. was undoubtedly supUnion, Mr Gladstone (p. 468) au- ported by a strong popular feeling thoritatively declares that, whilst in Great Britain. The prejudice “the Roman Catholic bishops were and bitterness against the Cathoencouraged to believe that they lics and their religion which existed and their clergy would after a during the earlier part of the presUnion receive the countenance and ent century is almost beyond besupport of the State, ,” “Mr Pitt lief, and the Catholic question had was perfectly aware of the King's slowly to make its way through objection to all such measures, not a storm of popular opposition from policy alone, but as involving which we can hardly estimate tohim in perjury." The "accurate day. Mr Pitt may well have and indefatigable" Mr Ross, on ”
underestimated the extent and the contrary, tells us that “the strength of this opposition; and question, most certainly, had never the fact that he failed to encounter been laid before the King; and his and overcome it, is no proof whatinsuperable objection was not made ever that he had not acted with known to the Irish Government, perfect consistency and honour nor probably were any of the Eng- from first to last in his dealings lish Ministers aware of his fixed with the Irish Catholics during determination.” 1
the contest for the Union. If furIt is not my purpose to discuss ther evidence be necessary as to here the course taken by Mr Pitt, the truth of this matter, it will be either in resigning because the found in the confidential memoKing interposed to prevent his set- randum delivered by Lord Corntlement of the Catholic claims, or wallis to Lord Fingall and Dr in subsequently resuming office Troy, to be by them circulated upon the understanding that he among the principal Catholics in should not propose that settle- different parts of Ireland. In this ment. I have only to point out paper Lord Cornwallis explicitly that the resignation, whilst it declares that, whilst he and his proves the unwillingness of Mr colleagues were about to resign on Pitt and those colleagues who re- account of “not being sanctioned signed with him to abandon the in bringing forward
the concesCatholics, in no way substantiates sion of further privileges to his the assertion that he had given Majesty's Roman Catholic subthem “pledges or assurances in jects,” he had, during the passage connection with their support of of the Act of Union, “ been cauthe Union. His resumption of tious in his language on the subject, office indicates a personal loyalty and had studiously avoided any towards the sovereign which may declaration to the Catholics on or may not have been overstrained, which they could raise an expecta
tion that their wishes would be tions against the Union are said to conceded. Through the whole have been signed in this propormeasure of the Union, which was tion.” But the question is really in discussion two years, and dur- immaterial as to whether half a ing which period every effort was million or seven hundred thousand made to procure a resistance to signatures were obtained to petithe measure on the part of the tions in a country in which Mr whole body of the Catholics, no Gladstone himself tells us (p. 456) favourable assurance or promise “ the practice of petitioning was was made to them.” 1
in extended use," and where, as is With something which ap- proved by superabundant evidence, proaches very near to inconsis- influential persons were straining tency, Mr Gladstone, at the same every nerve to obtain signatures to moment that he alleges that “ such petitions.
Indeed matters impression had been made upon were carried so far that Lord many of the higher Roman Catho Devonshire transmitted the draft lic clergy and those who followed of a petition against the Union to them,” hastens to declare that very his regiment of militia at Carlow; few petitions or addresses were and complaints were made that presented in favour of the Union. “officers and privates, even those He tells that “Dr Ingram lays who were under age, were indisclaim in all to seventy-four ad- criminately called upon to sign it.”2 dresses and petitions,” and that As to the manner in which peti« this number of addresses is alto- tions were got up on both sides, gether trivial.” But Dr Ingram Plowden tells us that “if credit be was only quoting from Lord Castle- allowed the reports of the antireagh's speech of March 4, 1800, Unionists, the meanest artifices more than three months before the were practised to obtain signaAct of Union was passed; and tures to the several addresses, there is nothing to show that a and the lowest of the rabble were great number of petitions and ad- invited to subscribe their names or dresses may not have been pre- affix their marks, on the other sented during those three months. hand the Unionists accused their It is quite true that Mr Grey men- opponents of having had recourse tioned in the House of Commons, to scandalous misrepresentations, on 21st April 1800, that peti- and of having abused the credutions, signed by more than 700,000 lity of the populace by shameless persons, had been presented against impositions. These mutual charges the Union ; but at the same time and recriminations were unfortuhe stated that only 3000 persons nately but too well founded.” had declared in its favour—a state- The truth of this matter is ment which Mr Gladstone him- abundantly established in the self, in this very review, shows Cornwallis Correspondence. The to have been wholly incorrect. Mr Union was at first unpopular, but Lecky, indeed, whom Mr Gladstone it greatly increased in popularity quotes as having cited the number during the two years' discussion of 700,000 “ without any note of which followed its introduction. discredit,” by no means endorses re were good reasons for this, it, but merely remarks that “peti- two of which I will give without
2 Ibid., p. 179.
1 Cornwallis Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 343. 3 Plowden, vol. ii. part ii. p. 977.
note or comment. Mr Ross, after pating advantages to their Church giving us a letter of Lord Corn- from the greater liberality of a wallis (March 28, 1799), in which united Parliament, that numerous he says that “the opinion of the petitions were certainly presented. loyal part of the public is, from The statement of the
Grat everything that I can learn, chang- tan that only 7000 signatures were ing fast in favour of the Union," attached to petitions in favour of goes on to remark that this change the Union, cannot even by Mr was "caused principally by its Gladstone's ability be made otherhaving transpired that material wise than grossly and ludicrously alteration would be made in the incorrect. Plowden, as Mr Gladdetails of the measure,
,"1 in the stone tells us, mentions two petidirection of conciliating the tions with over 4885 signatures, “various classes affected by the and two more with 558, making a plan originally proposed”—i.e., by total of 5444. But Plowden avowgiving compensation to the owners edly only gives these as examples, of seats in the Irish Parliament. and adds in a footnote that “ тапу This gives a clue to the change of other such addresses were made by opinion which undoubtedly took the different bodies of Roman place, and Plowden supplies an- Catholics ;” and Dr Ingram gives other in the following words : references to many similar addresses
(one of them from Roscommon with “When, therefore, the Catholics 1500 signatures), which abundantly perceived that the greatest number and the most violent opponents of prove that the assertion of the the legislative Union were the most younger Grattan cannot for a movirulent of the Orangemen, and the
ment be sustained. real malcontents and separatists, their
But if Mr Gladstone conspicufeelings were not deeply excited to ously fails in his attempt to concoalesce with the anti-Unionists. It vict Dr Ingram of inaccuracy upon may, indeed, be said that a very great the points to which I have alluded, preponderancy in favour of the Union existed in the Catholic body, particu; mit that he makes out a some
I am constrained in fairness to adlarly in their nobility, priests, and clergy."
what better case with regard to
his general charge of corruption Mr Gladstone vehemently assails against those who carried the Act Dr Ingram for the most audacious of Union through the Irish Parliaassertion that no petition against ment. I have never ventured to the Union was presented by the allege with Dr Ingram that the Roman Catholics.” I do not un- Irish Union is " free from
any derstand Dr Ingram to intend to taint of corruption,” because I convey
the meaning that no Catho- cannot but think that the belics signed petitions to this effect, stowal of peerages and pensions, which would, of course, be incor- and the heavy compensation to rect, but that no such petition was the proprietors of boroughs, borpresented by Catholics as such ; ders closely upon such corruption, whilst it was as Catholics, antici- even though much may be said to 1 See Lord Cornwallis to Mr Dundas, July 1, 1799.
“There cannot be a stronger argument for the measure than the overgrown parliamentary power of five or six of our pampered boroughmongers, who are become most formidable to Government by their long possession of the entire patronage of the Crown in their respective districts."
Plowden, vol. ii. part ii. p. 979.
extenuate and excuse it under the of dealing with those vested inextraordinary circumstances of the terests which ruled the Irish Parcase; and the charge of direct liament, and of satisfying them
, money bribes is unsupported by against the pecuniary loss which any reliable evidence. But if I they would otherwise have suffercannot join in Dr Ingram's de- ed. I cannot defend the transacscription of these transactions, tion except on the score of necesstill less can I agree in the ex- sity; but, at the same time, it is travagant and reckless exaggera- unfair to apply the term “bribtion of Mr Gladstone in the oppo- ery to a purchase in which the site direction. It is impossible to same value was given, totally irre. judge of the morals of 1800 by the spective of the political and parstandard of 1887, and it is unjust liamentary action of the vendor. to condemn the statesmen of the Mr Gladstone, indeed, tells us (p. earlier period without a full con- 458) that “the anti-Unionists, it sideration of the circumstances in is true, shared the compensation; which they were placed. Mr Glad- and alleges as the reason that “in stone, indeed, tells us (p. 446) that bribing the body it was necessary he “shall not say a word upon the to pay an extra price, as the dismerits of the Union ;” but the senting minority could not be exmerits of the Union have a great cluded without destroying the only deal to do with this question. disguise which covered the hideous The British Ministry were pro- nakedness of the measure.” This foundly convinced of the absolute is an ingenious but ungenerous necessity of this measure for the way of stating the fact that opwelfare of Ireland and the security ponents and supporters alike reof the empire. “ This country ceived the apportioned sum upon could not be saved without the losing that which had been valuUnion,” 1 writes Lord Cornwallis ; able property, as soon as it had and the same sentiment appears been determined, rightly or wrongthroughout his correspondence.2ly, that compensation should be But there were only two ways given. of accomplishing that Union, of We must bear in mind, howwhich an essential feature was ever (whilst finding fault with that the amalgamation of the Legis- which nowadays has become so latures of Great Britain and distasteful to us, that even a
or free Ireland. Either the Irish Parlia- lunch” given at Templecombe to ment must have been suppressed Gladstonians and therefore, of by the superior force of Great course, to purists of the first Britain, or it must have been water—cannot escape the charge brought to see the desirability of of bribery), that the British Govsuppressing itself. In adopting ernment of 1800 had to deal in the latter alternative, the British Ireland with a state of things Government undoubtedly chose hopelessly corrupt. Lord Cornthat course which was most in wallis appears to have been fully accordance with Irish feeling and aware of this fact. opinion. But, having chosen it, man in this most corrupt country," there at once arose the necessity he writes, “should consider the
- That every
1 Cornwallis Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 249.
2 “Without the Union, Ireland is a country in which it will be impossible for any civilised being to live.”—Ibid., p. 79.
important question before us in that Lord Castlereagh may not no other point of view than as it have deemed the term “profligate may be likely to promote his own inapplicable to the scheme of “ private objects of ambition or
of ambition or pensation ” to which I have alavarice, will not surprise you."i luded, and to which he had been Again : “The leaders of the Oppo- driven by the difficulties of the sition, who know and eagerly pur- position. But this letter affords sue their own little dirty inter- no evidence of that direct money ests,” &c. ;2 and, “There is no bribery which the writer had him. trick too impudent or too profli- self explicitly disavowed in his gate for a thoroughpaced Irish place in Parliament. It is certain politician.”3
There is little won- that accusations of such bribery der, indeed, that Lord Castlereagh were made on both sides; and Lord should speak of Lord Cornwallis Castlereagh writes to the Duke as having been "the person to buy of Portland sundry particulars of out and secure to the Crown for alleged bribery by the Opposition, ever the fee-simple of Irish cor- stating amongst other things that ruption, which has so long en- we have undoubted proof, though feebled the powers of Government not such as we can disclose, that and endangered the connection ;” they are enabled to offer as high and it is surprising that, with the as £5000 for an individual vote; knowledge which even his imper- and I lament to state that there fect study of Irish history must are individuals remaining amongst have given him, Mr Gladstone us that are likely to yield to this should have no word of condem- temptation.” nation or even disapproval for Irish But in truth this question of profligacy, but only for the British corruption is one which is little statesmen who, fighting fire by likely to be further - elucidated by fire, strove once for all to put an controversial argument, and Mr end to the corruption by which Gladstone will hardly expect reasIrish administration and the Irish onable men to accept as a conclusParliament had so long been dis- ive proof of the guilt of the British graced.4
Government the fact that certain Mr Gladstone triumphantly gentlemen have destroyed the letquotes a passage from Lord Castle- ters of their fathers and grandreagh's letter to Mr Cooke of 1st fathers written at the period of June 1800, in which he speaks of the Union. “ the profligacy of the means by As to the statement that "it which the measure has been ac- would not be difficult to show that complished.” The context of this the British Government took an letter pretty plainly shows that it active part in the work of suphas mainly reference to the peer- pression," it would be premaages which had been promised to ture to reply until Mr Gladstone persons “either actually members deems it desirable to afford some of, or connected with, the House further proof than the anecdote of Commons," and is very possible which he relates as having been
1 Cornwallis Correspondence, vol. iii. p. S. 2 Ibid., p. 101.
3 Ibid., p. 288. 4 Lord Cornwallis wrote, January 26, 1799: “The proposal of union provoked the enmity principally of the boroughmongers, lawyers, and persons who, from local circumstances, thought they should be losers.”