« ForrigeFortsæt »
those considerations; first, that the evils likely to arise (and which in France have arisen) from what is termed, in modern politics, the principle of centralization, have been for us either evaded or neutralized. The provinces, to the very furthest nook of these 'nook-shotten' islands, react upon London as powerfully as London acts upon them; so that no counterpoise is required with us, as in France, to any inordinate influence at the centre. Secondly, the very pride and jealousy, which could dictate the retention of an independent parliament, would effectually preclude any modern 'Poyning's Act,' having, for its object, to prevent the collision of the local with the central government. Each would be supreme within its own sphere, and those spheres could not but clash. The separate Irish Parliament was originally no badge of honor or independence: it began in motives of convenience, or perhaps necessity, at a period when the communication was difficult, slow, and interrupted. A Parliament which arose on that footing, it was possible to guard by a Poyning's Act, making, in effect, all laws null, which should happen to contradict the supreme or central will. But no law, in a corresponding temper, could avail to limit the jurisdiction of a parliament which had been confessedly retained on a principle of national honor. Upon every consideration, therefore, of convenience, and for the public service generally, and for the quick despatch of business, the absorption of the local into the central parliament was now loudly called for; and that Irishman only could consistently oppose the measure, who should take his stand upon principles transcending convenience; looking, in fact, singly to the honor and dignity of a country, which it was annually less absurd to suppose capable of an independent existence.
Meantime, in those days, Ireland had no adequate
champion the Hoods and the Grattans were not up to the mark. Refractory as they were, they moved within the paling of order and decorum; they were not the Titans for a war against the heavens. When the public feeling beckoned and loudly supported them, they could follow a lead which they appeared to head; but they could not create such a body of public feeling, nor lead and head where they seemed to follow. Consequently, that great opening for a turbulent son of thunder passed unimproved; and the great day drew near without symptoms of tempest. At last it arrived; and I remember nothing which indicated as much ill-temper in the public mind as I have seen on many hundreds of occasions, trivial by comparison, in London. My young friend and I were determined to lose no part of the scene, and we went down with Lord Ato the House. It was about the middle of the day, and a great mob filled the whole space about the two houses. As Lord A- -'s coach drew up to the steps of the entrance, we heard a prodigious hissing and hooting; and I was really agitated to think that Lord A-, whom I loved and respected, would have to make his way through a tempest of public wrath; a situation more terrific to him than to others, from his embarrassed walking. I found, however, that I might have spared my anxiety; the subject of commotion was, simply, that Major Sirr, or Major Swan, I forget which, so celebrated in those days for their energy, as leaders of the police, had detected a person in the act of mistaking some other man's pocket handkerchief for his own. No storm of any kind awaited us, and yet at that moment there was no other arrival to divide the public attention; for in order that we might see everything from first to last, we were amongst the very earliest parties. Neither did our party escape under any mistake of the crowd; silence had succeeded to the uproar caused by the
tender meeting between the thief and the Major; and a man, who stood in a conspicuous situation, proclaimed aloud to those below him, the name or title of members as they entered. That,' said he, is the Earl of A———— ; the lame gentleman, I mean.' Perhaps, however, his knowledge did not extend so far as to the politics of a nobleman who had taken no violent or factious part in public affairs. At least, the dreaded insults did not follow, or only in the very feeblest manifestations. We entered; and, by way of seeing everything, we went even to the robing room. The man who presented his robes to Lord A—, seemed to me, of all whom I saw on that day, the only one who wore a face of grief: his voice and manner also marked a depression of spirits. But whether this indicated the loss of a lucrative situation, or was really disinterested sorrow; and, if such, whether for a private loss, or out of a patriotic trouble, at the knowledge that he was now officiating for the last time, I cannot say. The House of Lords, decorated (if I remember) with hangings, representing the battle of the Boyne, was nearly empty when we entered. Lord A took this opportunity of explaining to us the whole course and arrangement of public business on ordinary occasions, and also of rehearsing the chief circumstances in the coming ceremonial.
Gradually the house filled: beautiful women sate intermingled amongst the Peers; and, in one party of these, surrounded by a bevy of admirers, we saw our fair, but frail enchantress of the packet. She, on her part, saw and recognised us by an affable nod; no stain upon her cheek, indicating that she suspected to what extent she was indebted to our discretion; for we had not so much as mentioned to Lord A- the scene which chance had revealed to us. Then came a stir within the house, and an uproar resounding from without, which announced the
arrival of his Excellency. Entering the house, he also, like the other Peers, wheeled round to the throne, and made to the vacant seat a profound homage. Then commenced the public business, in which, if I recollect, the Chancellor played the most conspicuous part, that Chancellor, of whom it was affirmed in those days by a political opponent, that he might swim in the innocent blood which he had caused to be shed. Then were summoned to the bar― summoned for the last time — the gentlemen of the House of Commons; in the van of whom, and drawing all eyes upon himself, stood Lord Castlereagh. Then came the recitation of many acts passed during the session, and the sounding ratification, the jovial
'Annuit, et nutu totum tremefecit Olympum.'
contained in the Soit fait comme il est desiré, or the more peremptory Le Roi le veut. At which point, in the order of succession, came the Royal assent to the Union Bill, I do not distinctly recollect. But this I do recollect — that no audible expression, no buzz, even, testified the feelings which, doubtless, lay concealed and rankling in many bosoms. Setting apart all public or patriotic considerations, even then I said to myself, as I surveyed the whole assemblage of ermined Peers - How is it, and by what unaccountable magic, that William Pitt can have prevailed on all these hereditary legislators and heads of patrician houses, to renounce so easily, with nothing worth the name of a struggle, and with no indemnification, the very brightest jewel in their coronets? This morning they all rose from their couches Peers of Parliament, individual pillars of the realm, indispensable parties to every law that is passed. To-morrow they will be nobody men of straw -terræ filii. What madness has persuaded them to part
with their birthright, and to cashier themselves and their children for ever into mere titular Lords? As to the Commoners at the bar, their case was different: they had no life estate at all events in their honors; and they might have the same chance for entering the Imperial Parliament amongst the hundred Irish members, as for re-entering a native Parliament. Neither, again, amongst the Peers was the case at all equal. Several of the higher had English titles, which would, at any rate, open the central Parliament to their ambition. That privilege, I believe, attached to Lord A―. And he, in any case, from his large property, was tolerably sure of finding his way thither — [as in fact for the rest of his life he always did] - amongst the twenty-eight representative Peers. The wonder was in the case of petty and obscure Lords, who had no weight, personally, and none in right of their estates. Of these men, as they were notoriously not enriched by Mr. Pitt, as the distribution of honors was not very large, and no honor could countervail the one they lost, - of these men I could not, and cannot fathom the policy. Thus much I am sure of, that, had such a measure been proposed by a political speculator previously to Queen Anne's reign, he would have been scouted as a dreamer and a visionary, who calculated upon men being generally somewhat worse than Esau, viz., giving up their birthrights, and without the mess of pottage. However, on this memorable day, the Union was ratified; the Bill received the Royal assent, without a murmur, or a whisper, one way or other. Perhaps there might be a little pause, - a silence like that which follows an earthquake; but there was no plain-spoken Lord Belhaven, as on the corresponding occasion in Edinburgh, to fill up the silence with, 'So, there's an end of an auld sang!' All was, or looked courtly, and free from vulgar emotion. One person