Page images

passing those of foreign countries for her own, by obtaining a transfer of capital, and enticing over artists and workmen, by false hopes and ill-founded prospects; in short, by smuggling, by evading, bý defrauding, by conniving, by deceiving. The profit earned by such means, would, by the system they tend to introduce, be ruinous in the end to the country which practised them, while they would immediately deeply injure the sister kingdom, if she submitted to them; but that would not long continue; the consequence would be, that even the name of Irishman would become odious and detestable to the commercial interest of Great Britain; and Ireland would soon be taught to know, that while she was pressing, by all possible means, her own advantage from this article of the settlement, she had, by other conditions of the treaty, surrendered into the hands of Great Britain the power of crippling and crushing the whole scheme of her commerce, of chastising her presumption, and of reducing her to her former state of abject dependence, whenever the interest, the prejudices, or the animosity of the trading part of this community should countenance the measure. Mr. Sheridan urged this in other points of view, and declared, that if he were a person of consideration in Ireland, so far from encouraging the people there to struggle for the British market, he should think it his duty, and what he owed to the interests of his countrymen, to call loudly to the whole land, to turn away their eyes and thoughts from that one object, to attempt no race or contest with the British manufacturer to shun, as the greatest evil, the jealousies, heart-burnings, and destructive ill-will, which would necessarily breed on such a competition, circumstanced so peculiarly with respect to burdens as Great Britain was, and biassed by rooted habits of thinking upon this particular point; but to endeavor to increase, by fair and gentle means, the home consumption of the produce of their own industry, and by systematic and vigo

[blocks in formation]


rous enterprise, to aim at a successful intercourse with every foreign port; there, if they met the British merchant, it would be a liberal emulation; there he could have no innovation or unfairness to complain of; and there, even if successfully rivalled, he would be conscious that the increasing wealth of Ireland, from such a source, might, with truth, be stated to be a fund wherein the general commerce of England would assuredly find its compensation. Thus might Ireland be addressed under her present circumstances; but let the settlement now proposed be once established, what would be the answer? Would not the Irish merchant and manufacturer reply"What you advise us to, is unreasonable and preposterous; we have bound ourselves for ever to the monopolies of Great Britain in the East and in the West; we receive the commodities of both at her will, at her prices, and at her duties; we are crippled in our intercourse with America, holding a precarious and restrained trade with those sovereign states as if they were still British colonies: our dreams of being the depôt and emporium for the foreign countries of Europe are, of consequence become visionary and ridiculous; we have violated the principles of our constitution, by giving a perpetual aid to a military force at the will of the executive magistrate; we have for ever surrendered our right of external legislation into the hands of the British parliament; for all this, the British market is our compensation; upon that we are compelled to fasten our minds; to that we must cling, that we must obtain, by every possible exertion of every kind; and if Great Britain suffers by it, the mischief is of her own seeking, and the restrictions which force us to this contest, is of her own imposing." These would be the happy fruits of a plan, whose boasted object was to cement the union of the two countries, and connect them by bonds of eternal amity, and reciprocal affection!

After enlarging on this, Mr. Sheridan concluded

with pressing on the attention of the house the propositions as they then stood, completely changed in spirit, principle, and regulation; and begging them to consider them in their true light, as new proposals from the British parliament,-those made by the Irish parliament being in fact rejected; and to decide, whether they were such as human reason could suppose the Irish parliament, weighing what they are to renounce, and what they are to acquire, could accept, if fair time was given them to argue and deliberate; or if, by surprise and management, they were hurried through that parliament, at a season of thin attendance and relaxed attention, whether the most fatal misunderstandings might not be apprehended, from the country's afterwards discovering the delusion which had been practised upon them, and the arts and fallacies which had obtained the irrevocable surrender of their dearest rights. The resolution in debate, was declared to be the essence of this new system; negative that, and the plan fell to the ground; if it passed that day, a deep wound would instantly be given to the confidence of Ireland in Great Britain; if adopted rashly by the Irish parliament, the decisive blow would be struck, and affection and good faith between the two countries be banished for ever.

Mr. Pitt, in reply, observed-" If a chain of recent events, and the whole tenor of the conduct that had been adopted by persons of a certain description, had not exhausted and anticipated his surprise at any thing that could come from them, he could scarcely believe his senses, when he beheld a gentleman (Mr. Sheridan) who for many weeks had concealed his intentions so effectually, as to leave it a doubt whether he was friendly or hostile to the arrangement now depending, stand forth the avowed enemy of a part of the system which was necessarsly connected with the whole, and take up a ground of opposition the most dangerous and inflammatory that could possibly suggest itself. But it was not to be wondered at, that the conduct of the honorable gentleman should be so inconsistent, when it was remembered how inconsistent all the measures of the party, of which he was the mouth-piece, were; and how inconsistent the persons who composed that party were with one another."-Lord North, Mr. Fox, and Mr. Sheridan, rose together instantly as Mr. Pitt sat

down; the two former gave way, as Mr. Sheridan had been so particularly pointed at in Mr. Pitt's speech.

[ocr errors]

Mr. SHERIDAN said, he was confident that the candor and liberality of the house would indulge him with a few minutes attention (though he had just taken up so large a portion of their time) to enable him to repel the grossest perversion, not of words merely, but of conduct and motives, which the most presumptuous adept at misrepresentation had ever attempted to maintain, in defiance of truth and decency. The right hon. gentleman had charged him, in the most acrimonious language of reproof, with inconsistency of conduct. He was accused of not having appeared to hold one uniform opinion upon the subject of the Irish propositions-a curious charge, and curiously supported; for the very words of the right honorable gentleman's accusation accounted for, and justified the contradictions he complained of. It was, because every day had brought forth new opinions-it was, because every time the committee met, the tone had been changed, and the ground had been shifted—that it had became utterly impossible for any person either to support or oppose his system upon the same principle, or with the same arguments, for two days together. But it was not very surprising that the right honorable gentleman, who had forgotten every ground which, at the commencement, he professed to act upon, should not very accurately remember the line of conduct pursued by others--nothing but this complete oblivion of himself, and what he had done in this business, could have betrayed him into the rashness of accusing gentlemen on that side of the house of acting a double game? Did he complain of a double game? he, through whose whole conduct in this business had not observed one direct proceeding,not one straight-forward step. The whole negociation, from the first hour, had been carved, twisted, and circuitous-a plan, opened with duplicity, and explained with equivocation. The gross and glaring contradictions between the right honorable gen

tleman's first statement and reasoning upon this business in England, and Mr. Orde's in Ireland, undoubtedly had no resemblance to a double game; there had been no double game in the committee of privy council, carrying on a mock investigation for His Majesty's information, after His Majesty had received an address of thanks for having adopted the measure; and, above all, no double game had been practised with the manufacturers; but all their misapprehensions had been owing to accident, or their own dulness! Whilst such things were in the recollection of the house, the right honorable gentleman must not expect to have his loose and unfounded charges pass unreplied to, however boldly urged with lofty tones and clamorous declamation. For his part, he defied the right honorable gentleman to tax him with any one inconsistency upon this subject. He was the mouth-piece of no party, as the right honorable gentleman had been pleased to style him, nor was he the tool of any party. He had as strong party feelings as any man; but he had those feelings, because those he was attached to, neither expected from him servility of judgment, nor pliancy of principle. The right honorable gentleman, perhaps, knew himself too well, what it was to be only the channel of conveying other people's sentiments and decrees-to be the eloquent mouth employed to promulgate schemes, not bred in his own judgment, nor approved by his own heart. This, he solemnly believed, was the right honorable gentleman's case at present. He was convinced, in his own mind, that that part of the plan which was to entrap Ireland into a surrender of her constitution, was no original wish of that right honorable gentleman's, but had been put upon him since, by those who will some day make still harder conditions with him, for the continuance of their countenance and support.

Mr. Sheridan then recapitulated his own conduct throughout the discussion; stating, that soon after the opening of the proposed arrangement, he had said in

« PreviousContinue »