« PreviousContinue »
what was his offence? No greater, I solemnly believe, than that now of the King's Lieutenant-suffering the enemies of England a too easy access to his closet. He was not a United Irishman; but a man who was, and who recently and publicly boasted of the treason, is a privy-counsellor, a newly appointed Lord-Lieutenant of a county where almost all were United Irishmen, and the bosom friend of the Irish Viceroy! I was in the gallery of the House of Commons the memorable morning when the exile of obloquy, not of guilt, re-entered the theatre of his patriotic fame, to revivify his wasted fires at the altar of his country, and save from its grave the constitution which he had nursed in its cradle. The ravages of ingratitude and calumny were visible in his attenuated person and feeble steps; he was supported to the Speaker's chair by two compatriots, like himself now no more; strong dramatic effect gave all its aids to the scene-never shall I forget it! The morning's twilight mingled with the flickering of the expiring lamps; the members, at either side of the House, occupying the back benches, were struggling with, or had yielded to, a temporary repose: but the sound of Grattan's name was electric; the whisper of his approach was, in its effect, as the blast of the trumpet-every reclining head was raised, every eye open to attention. The privilege of being seated while he spoke yielded to his weakness; his speech on that occasion-all that followed-is matter of history. Grattan, Saurin, Plunkett, Bushe-all the new allies of Irish independence (so called) vainly brought their great talents to the contest; the friends of permanent British connexion supported the legislative union in the full principles and solemn compacts of Protestant ascendency. Those principles have been abandoned, the contracts have been broken; Protestants are depressed, if not actually persecuted; Roman Catholics are cherished and elevated. But for this distinction it could not be known that there is a government in Ireland; and if the policy that now fatally rules the King's councils be not soon and utterly reversed, it needs not the prophetic gift to perceive, in the lurid vista of no distant time,
the desolation of Ireland, or her separation from the British Imperial
I next saw him returned member for Dublin in the Imperial Parliament, where, until his death, he was faithful to imperial interests. Can the same be said of his sons? Let public opinion answer. The old patriot rode once more on popular favour— an unsteady and capricious support, and never better nor more finely described than by the late Lord Avonmore, in his place in the Irish House of Lords, and in reference to Mr Grattan (as well as I recollect) while. placed in political abeyance. In the Imperial Parliament he had honestly denounced a French party existing in this country. The O'Connell leaven was then beginning to work among the Roman Catholic rabble, and on Mr Grattan's second election his life was assailed by the wretches who now worship the arch-agitator of Ireland's peace; it was attempted to throw him over the battlements of one of the bridges into the river, and with difficulty, and some bruises, he escaped to his house in Stephen's Green- such the vicissitudes of a political life! Were he alive now, his noble attributes would avail him nothing in a competition with the vulgar beastly-minded Popish demagogue, whose legislative nominee one of his sons has descended to become.
Here terminated the peristrephic images of his public life, while I looked, and thought, and heard the murmuring of the type of passing time which flowed beneath me. But my recollections did not end here. The private and social hours of a great man are always deeply interesting, and one loves to see him divested of the rigid panoply in which he appears before the public eye, and his mind and manners at ease, and in the free action allowed by the dishabille of conversation at his own or a friend's table. That advantage was among the social gems of my life. I passed a summer in Mr Grattan's beautiful vicinage, and had the honour of dining with him at Tenehinch in a small and select circle. He was very temperate of table enjoyment. His conversation, although perfectly easy, partook of the 'epigrammatic character of his public speaking. Mr Hardy, the bio
grapher of the Earl of Charlemont, call Mr Grattan's happiest powers
or rather the historian of that nobleman's times, was of the party, He, lodged in the neighbourhood under distressing circumstances of every kind he was engaged in two labours at the time, both not pursued with equal assiduity. He was writing his life of Lord Charlemont, while he was the tender and affectionate nurse and guardian of a demented wife; the first was often and willingly intermitted, the second never; he and the object of his cares are both gone off the scene. Poor Hardy-he was faithful to his party, and zealous in its service. His character gave him more weight with the public than other men derived from their wealth and connexions; as a speaker, however, he ranked but in the second class. He shared with Mr Grattan the patronage, in early life, of the Earl of Charlemont, both having been introduced into the Irish Parliament by that nobleman, who, in this way, practically refuted Lord John Russell's arguments against nomination boroughs; and should the Reform Bill pass, to the extinction of those nurseries and asylums of talent, farewell to the political patronage of modest merit, statistical knowledge, and high-minded integrity: the vulgar, the impudent, the bustling and the brutal panders to the popular passions and prejudices, will acquire the ascendant. Hardy shared the too common lot of those who will not or know not how to make their public principles subservient to their private interests-he lived for a long time poor, andd ied poor. The same shameful and cruel neglect of the useful partisan is carried into our own day: but it must be acknowledged that it is monopolized here, in Ireland, by the Protestant party. The assailants of our institutions pay their instruments well -there is no lack of liberality, as the O'Connell tribute testifies; while, on the side where wealth most abounds, and where all is at issue to defend, pockets appear to be hermetically sealed, and words to be accounted the only coin of patriot currency. But let me bring Hardy and the reader back to the circle at Tenehinch.
It was fortunate that Mr Hardy was of the company; he assisted to
into play; each prompted the other to political recollections, and the secret history of transactions in which both were concerned. I was a delighted listener. Hardy played second fiddle; but he appeared necessary to the first. Grattan, I thought, played the patron a little, but with a delicate touch. Between them they produced an harmonic combination of personal anecdote and political circumstance, which I can never hope again to be equalled. Mr Grattan reclined on a sofa-the vivacity of his mind affected his body, which was in continual motion and change of position. He was Voltairean in appearance and in wit; but he partook nothing of the irreligion and immorality of the philosopher of Ferney. Mr Grattan was a Christian of the Reformation. He twisted and gesticulated as if in the throes of thought; but if the mountain was in labour, it always produced a gigantic birth-a political or philosophical maxim of the first order, was offered to the admiration and instruction of his hearers. I never so much wished the movement of time to be suspended; I never heard with such chagrin the hour strike, which warned me that I ought to take my leave.
I did take leave, and departed on my way home. It was a fine moonlight night-the way led by a back field, (not the public road,) and through the romantic glen, the Dargle. My host-splendid being! went forth to put me in the pathway-his head was uncovered-it was intellect personified-and his eye as a star which could lend light to other planets, but never needing to borrow, nor admitting of eclipse. The moon shone-he shone brighter. He accompanied me to the extreme gate of the Dargle, more than an English mile, bareheaded as he was. His chief theme was Hardy and the book he was writing; and I thought I could collect, that his humble friend was more the amanuensis than the author. Hardy is a man of talent, and I think his work will shew it; but he is an idle fellow, and requires the lash of the slavedriver to quicken his work. He must live the days of Lord Charlemont to write Lord Charlemont's life. It is to him as a schoolboy's task—any
thing and every thing will draw him from it. Hardy is an Epicurean, with a Stoic's self-denial; but it is on the enforcement of necessity. His will goes along with enjoyment, and he is ever ready to sip the honey of life wherever it is to be found. Poor Hardy! poor Hardy! I fear his own life will end before that of Lord Charlemont will begin; and we must all be at the mercy of that History, which may be only acquainted with our faults, or unwilling to confess our virtues-if we had them."
Such was the rich strain of intellectual treasures which this great man poured forth to the ear of a very humble auditor and companion, his eye-his powerful eye-occasionally flashing to the moonbeam, while the gentle rustling of the trees, at either side of the glen, and the murmur of the stream, urging its broken way through the rocks at the depth beneath, were the under accompaniments which inanimate nature furnished to the emanations of one of the most powerful minds that Ireland ever produced. At the extreme gate we parted-he returned home by the same way, probably, as it is said was his custom, rehearsing some Parliamentary oration to the oaks, the rocks, and rushing floods, meet auditors of his gigantic correspondent and sympathetic eloquence. When I last saw him-Heavens, what a change! He was stricken by the hand of the Destroyer. It was a little before he went to Parliament, for the last time, to offer his final sa
crifice on the altar of consistency, and lay down his life for a cause and a people-the one the bane of the country, the other never grateful for a benefit received, and never unvengeful for one denied. I went to Tenehinch, not expecting to see him, but to enquire after his health. Accident presented him to my aggrieved view; he was slowly and totteringly pacing along a walk at the southern aspect of the house. It was warm summer, yet he appeared winter-chilled. The blood was gradually retreating to its last citadel. He was enveloped in an old threadbare cloak-he was unshaven--his eye had lost its lustre-the power of recognition was faint; but when I was named, his spirit rallied, and he said. something as like his former self, as the shadow could be like the substance. Delicacy forbade to prolong the painful interview, and I parted from him for ever! He went, Curtius-like, draining the last dregs of life, to the performance of a mistaken duty, and to a grave that he knew was open to him. His apotheosis is among the departed greatness of England-he has taken his place of everlasting rest among the heroes, sages, and statesmen, who have contributed to the strength and glory of the empire, although the phantom, an aerial one, which he pursued, but lived not to catch, is now working to her weakness, humiliation, and perhaps her ruin. Political idol of my youth! Splendid, but mistaken man! HENRY GRATTAN, farewell!
VOL. XXXI. NO. CXCI.
A CREATION OF PEERS.
MUCH as we have already written on the Reform Bill, anxiously as we have contemplated it in all its bearings, the magnitude of the subject is such, that our only difficulty has been to compress the considerations which suggest themselves. Such is the force of the argument against the change, that it will admit of almost any concession, and becomes daily more powerful the longer the subject is considered.
The debate in the House of Lords brought out one leading feature in the measure, to which sufficient attention has never yet been paid, and which, in fact, could not be enlarged on with confidence till the legal opinions which were then delivered from the highest authority had become public. This is the unparalleled confiscation of private property which it threatens to produce, and the fatal blow at the tenure of every species of individual right which it promises to inflict.
It was urged as a serious objection to the Bill in the House of Commons, that it went to disfranchise boroughs to an immense extent, without any compensation to the individuals who now held the freehold; that this was a private right of great value, as was evinced by the anxiety with which it was sought to be taken from them by the reforming party; that they openly boasted that they had gained all that the boroughmongers had lost; that the freehold being private property, could not, on the first principles of justice, be taken away without an equivalent; and that if the precedent were once established of confiscating individual rights, upon the ground of public advantage, there was no limit could be assigned to the extent to which the invasion of property might, on the same principles, be carried.
To this it was replied, on the part of administration, that all this proceeded on a misconception of the nature of the right which was thus made the subject of invasion; that it was not private property, but a trust held for the public behoof, and
for the administration of which the owners were answerable to the country; that this trust had been grossly abused, and had fallen into so few hands as to be incapable of being exercised with advantage to the public; and therefore that there was no injustice in transferring the trust to other hands, nor any claim for compensation at the instance of the dispossessed proprietors.
But when the question was carried to the Peers, the ground was knocked from beneath this argument by the legal opinions delivered on the point of law by the great legal authorities who were there assembled. Lord Tenterden delivered an opinion, that the right of the freeholders and corporations threatened with destruction was both a right and a trust, and in this he was strongly supported by Lord Chancellor Eldon, who quoted Holt and Hale to the same purpose. Now, whatever opinion men may entertain on the merits of those Noble Lords as statesmen, we presume that as lawyers there is none who will gainsay the authority of Holt and Hale in ancient, and of Lords Tenterden and Eldon in modern times-the greatest authorities in point of law which the last or the present age can boast. The point, therefore, is fixed: the freehold rights threatened with disfranchisement are both a right and a trust-a right in the individual who enjoys it-a trust for the discharge of a public duty.
Considered as a right, which it is, though blended with a trust, therefore, the corporation freeholds, or the existing rights which are to be disfranchised, are as much entitled to protection as any other estate in the realm-as the rights of the Crown, the estates of the Aristocracy, or the liberties of the Commons. When once the law authorities declared that such rights were private property, the matter is at an end. We may blame the law, if we please, which conferred such rights-we may advocate the introduction of a new and more improved form of
government-but as long as the principles of justice are attended to by Government, the existing rights which the law has suffered to grow up, and taken under the cover of its shield, cannot be overturned without compensation being given, or the system of revolutionary confiscation openly adopted.
This principle runs through every department of jurisprudence. The inhabitants of a city or a county conceive that it would be advantageous to have a road, a canal, or a rail-road made in a particular direction-was it ever imagined that the public expedience of making such an improve ment, would justify its projectors in applying for an act of Parliament authorizing them to seize, without compensation, the whole land required for its completion, even though the remainder of the property thus intersected will doubtless be greatly benefited by the change? Was ever such an act of Parliament passed? Does not every act infringing on private property for the public good, contain a clause providing for the indemnification of those whose property is taken, and laying down specific rules for the ascertaining of its value, if the parties cannot agree upon it without legal interference? And is this great and established principle of justice to be set at nought, merely because the Ministers of the Crown happen to be the promoters of the measure; and an invasion of private right indulged to the supreme authority, which would not be allowed to any humbler parties in the realm? The principle of the law of England has hitherto been the reverse; it was the glory, and the deserved glory of its jurisprudence, that the Crown is more closely fettered than an ordinary individual; and that in cases of treason, an accumulation of evidence is required unknown in the ordinary transactions between_man and man: it was reserved for a Whig administration to reverse the principle, and bring forward a measure of spoliation, without compensation, which would never have been tolerated in any court which administered the law, and was governed by the principles of British justice. The same just and necessary principle has regulated all the measures
of Government since the Revolution, in legislating for the general improvement of the state. In 1746, the recent rebellion having demonstrated the expedience of abolishing the heritable jurisdictions, as they were called, of the chieftains in Scotland, they were extinguished by act of Parliament; but L.150,000 was at the same time voted, as a compensation to the dispossessed proprietors. At the Irish Union, a great number of boroughs in that island were disfranchised, in order to reduce the number of its members to something proportioned to its real importance in the empire; and a large sum was paid to the dispossessed proprietors, as a compensation for their loss.
The case of the Union with Scotland, and the recent disfranchisement of the 40s. Irish freeholders, by the Catholic Relief Bill, are no authority on the other side. At the time of the Union with England, the right of sending members to Parliament was regarded by the Scotch, not as a privilege, but a burden; and it was at their own earnest entreaty, that the number of their members was reduced from ninety, which was the number proposed by the English Government, to forty-five, at which it was fixed by the Treaty of Union. The Scotch thought that their country could not afford to send more than forty-five gentlemen to London; and that the burden of a greater number of representatives would drain the kingdom of all its precious metals! Of course, they could have no claim to compensation for the loss of boroughs which they esteemed and represented as so burdensome to the country. So also in the case of the confiscation of the Irish 40s. freeholders by the Catholic Bill; the act was accompanied by a great concession to the Irish Catholics, which, in their opinion, was more than worth the price at which it was purchased. The English Government said to the Catholics,"You have your 40s. freeholders, and you are excluded from places in the legislature-Will you hold by your freeholders, and retain your exclusion, or give up your freeholders, and be absolved from your exclusion ?" They replied,-"We will give up our freeholders, and get quit of the exclusion." The whole Ca