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right reverend reformer in the management of the cause, they proceeded to take steps exactly like those which generally precede a rebellion. Mr. Flood was instructed to move for reform in the House of Commons, whilst the Convention sat waiting for the result of his motion. The House of Commons, however, had the sense and spirit to despise this menace. Mr. Flood's motion was rejected by a large majority. People of property took the alarm. The insolence of the Convention, and the palpable mischief of its designs had diminished its popularity; and after a few violent debates, and a few impotent resolutions, it was induced, by the authority and management of Lord Charlemont, who sat as president, and the rest of its more respectable members, to disperse. It never met again; and the volunteer associations from which it sprung, (like every thing depending upon mere popular enthusiasm,) languished more and more in every succeeding year, and at last expired, when, nobody knew, and how, nobody cared. Thus Ireland, by singular good fortune, reaped all the advantages that could be derived from an irregular and dangerous institution, without being exposed to any of those evils, which, if it had been carried a very little farther, or lasted a very little longer, it could scarcely have failed to produce. As to the share which Lord Charlemont had in it, we must remark generally, that to continue at the head of a society, the objects of which you disapprove, and the legality of which you doubt, is always a matter of very questionable policy, and still more ques- tionable morality. However, this particular instance, we are ready to admit, is among the most excusable, if indeed it does not form an exception to the rule. The event may free Lord Charlemont from the charge of imprudence; and the whole tenor of his life amply proves the purity of his intentions : but the instance is, after all, one among those, not unfrequent in history, which although specially justified by their success, are perilous in their general example; and which no man should be tempted to imitate by the hope of similar justification, without being aware, at the same time, that the goodness of his intention will furnish no defence against the evils which will result from failure.
Lord Charlemont was a reformer. Indeed it was natural he should be one. Reform was much the fashion among the patriots of his day. Besides, the Irish House of Commons was infinitely farther removed than even that of England from the beau idéal’ of representation which the reformers wish to realize - Borough influence was much more extended, much more decisive, and much more notoriously liable to abuse. To what extent Lord Charlemont carried his ideas of change we are not told; but we think his own experience must have led him to doubt whether popular favour ought
to be the only avenue to a seat in the legislature. He had seen, and that too at the very moment when this measure of reform was most in vogue-the great leaders in the revolution of 1782 (as Mr. Burke calls it) utterly disregarded by the very people on which they had conferred such important and lasting benefit, and reduced to owe to the 'borough-mongering system' the opportunity of continuing to contribute to the honour and advantage of an ungrateful country. The fate of Mr. Grattan and Mr. Flood on this occasion, affords so instructive a lesson, that we shall give Mr. Hardy's account of it, accompanied by his own observations which are excellent, in spite of some quaintness and obscurity of style in which they are conveyed.
'In August, 1783, that is, three months before the meeting of the Convention in Dublin, the parliament was dissolved, and a new one summoned to meet. Here then were the people called forth to act their part in the choice of new representatives. If it be sullenly said, that the system of representation circumscribed the popular choice in too narrow limits, I accede to the proposition ; but I beg to add, that it was not so bound in as to prevent ils coming forth at all : and it did not come forth. Numerous as the boroughs were, still they did not overspread the entire field of elections; the counties and several free towns remained ; yet most certain is it, that not one county, not one free town, or corporation, throughout the kingdom, expressed their own or the people's gratitude, by electing any one of the eminent men who had so recently, and so gloriously, led them on to the best victory, the triumph of rational freedom. Nay, some country gentlemen, who had in the late contest acted a part the most independent, were thrown out. Let it be remembered too, that some portions of the country had divided themselves into two parties. One was for simple repeal, as already stated; the other for renunciation by act of parliament; and according to the usual acerbity which distinguishes very unimportant feuds of mankind, they began to hate each other with almost as perfect cordiality as they hated the usurpations of the British parliament. It might, therefore, be expected by those who know what mankind really is, that party division would effectuate that which public spirit had neglected to do; and as Mr. Flood was the renowned leader of one party, some place might be found where that party predominated, which would return him to parliament with an air of superior gratitude and resplendent patriotism; in other words, with great apparent magnanimity and much interior spite. No:--party was loquacious and venomous, and displayed itself in every shape, and every place, except where it should have most displayed itself at the moment, that is, on the public hustings.'—p. 276.
From the beginning of Mr. Pitt's administration to the year 1788, nothing memorable occurred in Ireland. The country was tranquil and prosperous, and its history of course uninteresting. With respect to Lord Charlemont, however, we must not forget
that that in 1786, he was made president of the Irish Academy. To this institution he contributed not only his name and patronage, but some very respectable papers upon Italian literature, with which his early travels and subsequent studies had given him an extensive acquaintance. In every respect he seems to have been extremely well qualified for the situation which he was now called upon to fill, from his high rank, from his dignified but popular manners, from his love and cultivation of learning, and from his elegant and liberal hospitality, which made his house the natural point of union for all persons, whether native or foreign, who were conspicuous for their knowledge and talents.
On the regency question in 1789, Lord Charlemont sided with the opposition, which, though a minority in the English, was a majority in the Irish parliament. Mr. Hardy complains heavily that this circumstance was afterwards made use of as the ground of an argument in favor of the Union. To us, we own, this argument appears not only obvious but just and convincing. The settlement of 1782, in establishing the independence of Ireland, had done that which with respect to Ireland itself must be considered as eminently beneficial : but it cannot be denied that it left the two countries in a relative situation, in which it was impossible they should long continue consistently with the honour or advantage of either. The one parliament would be sure to quarrel with the other about subordinate points, as actually happened in the third or fourth year of the legislative independence of Ireland in respect to the commercial propositions ; and they might probably differ (as in the instance of the regency) upon general and fundamental questions. In the latter case the whole machine must stand still, and unless some means could be speedily found of settling the difference, must inevitably fall in pieces. The providential recovery of his Majesty relieved Mr. Pitt from this, as from all his other difficulties ; but the warning was not lost upon him, and he seized the first opportunity of preventing for ever the recurrence of any similar embarrassment.
The next year was made memorable by the beginning of that awful event, the French revolution. Lord Charlemont in common with many good and many wise men, regarded it at first with strong partiality and with sanguine hope. But he never appears to have been seduced by the example of some of his political associates, to countenance the destructive principles which it soon began to develope, or to palliate the horrible excesses by whicb it was constantly disgraced.
In 1792, the situation of the Roman Catholics, which for several years before had not been much discussed, was again brought
under the consideration of parliament. As we are not writing a history of Ireland, or even an abridgement of it, but merely giving a hasty imperfect sketch of the life of one individual, we shall of course go into no details as to this great, difficult, and embarrassing question. But without exceeding our limits, or entering into the controversy-in which, as our readers will recollect, we have hitherto studiously abstained from engaging as partizans, we may, in strict conformity with those endeavours which we have uniformly made (when the occasion has fallen in our way) to inculcate forbearance and moderation in the disputants on both sides, derive from the history of this question, as connected with that of the individual whose life we are now contemplating, and of those with whom he acted in politics, some considerations which ought to temper the extreme violence so often displayed in the discussion of the Catholic claims. Those who profess eternal hostility to every farther concession; and who place this insurmountable barrier precisely at the point at which the course of such concessions (whether accidentally or designedly) stopped, may, perhaps, learn a lesson of caution from the conduct of the Irish parliament, and be contented to oppose the claims of the Catholics, without regarding those who refuse to convert a question of state policy into an immutable principle as unfriendly either to the political or ecclesiastical establishments of their country. On the other hand, those zealots of the Catholic cause, who check the disposition to indulgence by founding their claim on right; and who accuse every man that still continues to resist their demands, of folly, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry, and cruelty, would do well to consider what has been the opinion and the conduct of some of the best and wisest men that Ireland has produced; nay, what to a very late period, was the opinion and conduct of some of ihose who now appear among the most distinguished of their advocates. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that in the famous settlement of 1782, the work of the Whigs, the new birth of Irish independence, there was no more reference to the Catholics than if no such class of men had existed. In 1792, the Irish House of Commons not only refused to grant to the Catholics the whole of their claim, not only refused to grant them any part of their claim--but absolutely threw their petition off the table by the prodigious majority of 208 to 23. With this majority, if we are not misinformed, Mr. George Ponsonby voted and spoke. Lord Charlemont, whose mind was neither illi. beral vor unenlightened, and who certainly cannot be accused of entertaining any feeling unfavorable to liberty, was uniformly hostile not only to (what is called) emancipation, but to the grant of the elective franchise. And this opinion, we verily believe, was. common to almost every person in Ireland, that was distinguished
for for birth, station, or talents, up to the year 1793, with the exception of Mr. Grattan, and the fainily of Hutchinson.
In the course of less than twelve months from the decision of the Irish House of Commons to which we have referred, it is true that the opposition, and Mr. Ponsonby amongst the rest, had made so stupendous a progress towards a right understanding of the principles of religious freedom, that after baving in 1799 inveighed against the ministers on a suspicion of their intending to go too far, they in 1793 reviled them for not going far enough. We do not mention these things invidiously towards any man or any party, but we think they ought to teach both sides to be a little more measured in their language, and their doctrines; and especially that they ought to make the friends of toleration somewhat more tolerant towards such as are still unconverted to their cause, when they consider that, however important, it has not been seen in a clear point of view more than twenty years, even by some of those who are now the most thoroughly convinced of its truth themselves, and most eager to impart the knowledge of that truth to others. Still more earnestly are we of opinion, that whatever degree of deference might be due to the prejudices or hesitations of political leaders, or the intractability of political parties, one person at least there is whose unfeigned and conscientious scruples the feelings of all good Catholics, no less than of all good subjects, would lead them not only to indulge, but to revere. More has been done for Ireland-more has been done for toleration in the reign of our present sovereign, than in the time of all the kings put together that reigned before him. Piety therefore and gratitude conspired to forbid that his declining years should be vexed and harassed by repeated calls upon him to crown a long succession of spontaneous bounties by giving what, by a conscientious construction of the fundamental law of his realm, he believed himself sworn to reserve. And surely it were nothing but the most cruel injustice to blame an adherence to principles and doctrines which he must have imbibed in his youth from every statesman in his dominions, of whatever party, (but particularly from the whigs,) and which, whether justly questionable or not, it had never entered into the head of any set of men to call in question, until after he had sat upwards of thirty years upon the throne.
The calamitous state of Ireland, during the latter part of his life, could not fail of being severely felt by a man so much attached to his country as Lord Charlemont, and so attentive to its concerns. Through this troublesome period he generally opposed the court; but his good sense and moderation prevented him from concurring in the designs, or adopting the principles of the democratic party.