« PreviousContinue »
Sir George then adverted to the intimation which had been given by the ministry, that a change was to be made in the mode of conducting the American war. This, he said, was in fact telling the house, that they were determined to prosecute the war with all the feeble efforts of which they were yet capable. They did not intend to prosecute it in the same manner as before! Why? Because they could not, if they would. This disability reminded him of a story, which he must beg leave to relate to the house. A Lacedemonian, during
the time of action, having plunged into the sea, laid hold of an Athenian galley with his right hand. It was immediately chopped off. He then catched at the vessel with his left hand, and that likewise was cut off. The persons who were in sight, and who perceived these circumstances, immediately exclaimed, "You will not, sure, once more attempt to fasten on that galley?" Like the British ministry, he answered, "No: not in the same manner." What was the consequence? He seized the vessel with his teeth, and kept his hold until the enemy struck off his head. Thus it was with the minister and his colleagues. They had lost the two hands of the British empire; and they wanted to risk its head upon the prosecution of the same frantic and ineffectual war. Every unprejudiced and sensible observer must perceive, that so extraordinary a conduct resembled, if it did not indicate, the violence of insanity. And could that house so far forget their firmness, their dignity, and their wisdom, as not effectually to resist its influence? Would they madly entrust lunatics with the management of the public purse? Would they place the sword within their hands, and bid them use it at their own discretion?
I do not, I confess, like this style, though it is what many people call eloquent. There is a certain spirit and animation in it, but it is over-run with affectation. It is at the same time mechanical, uncouth, and extravagant. It is like a piece of Gothic architecture, full of quaintness and formality. It is "all horrid" with climax and alliteration and epithet and personification. "From injuries to arms, and from arms to liberty: precedent and principle, the Irish volunteers, and the Irish parliament." I am not fond of these double facings, and splicings and clenches in style. They too much resemble a garden laid out according to Pope's description, "Where each alley has a brother,
And half the platform just reflects the other."
On moving an Address to the Throne, containing a Declaration of Rights.
In his speech on this occasion, he pronounced an animated panegyric on the volunteers, and the late conduct of the Irish nation. He remembered Ireland, he said, when she was a child; he had beheld her progress from injuries to arms, and from arms to liberty. The Irish were no longer afraid of the French, nor of any kingdom, nor of any minister; no longer a divided colony, but an united land, manifesting itself to the rest of the world in signal instances of glory. If men turned their eyes to the rest of Europe, they found the ancient spirit expired, liberty yielded, or empire lost; nations living upon the memory of past glory, and under the care of mercenary armies. But in Ireland, the inhabitants had departed from the example of other nations, and had become an example to them. They had exceeded modern, and equalled ancient Europe. Liberty, in former times, and in other nations, was recovered by the quick feelings, and rapid impulse of the populace; but in Ireland, at the present period, it was recovered by an act of the whole nation, reasoning for three years on her situation, and then rescuing herself
by a settled sense of right pervading the land. The meeting of the military delegates at Dungannon was a great event; it was an original measure; and, like all original measures, matter of surprise, until it become matter of admiration. The English convention parliament was not in the ordinary course of things, nor was the manner of obtaining the great charter. The barons met king John, not in parliament, but in the field, and were in array when they formed the basis of English freedom. Great measures, such as these, the meeting of the English at Runny Mead, and the meeting of the Irish at Dungannon, were original transactions, not flowing from precedent, but containing in themselves precedent and principle. All the great constitutional questions had been lost, and the public cause had been lost, if they had depended only on parliament: but they fell into the hands of the people, and by the people would be preserved. The meeting at Dungannon had resolved, that the claim of the British parliament to bind Ireland was illegal; and this was a constitutional declaration. The Irish volunteers were associated for the preservation of the laws; but the claims of the British parliament were the subversion of all law. The Irish volunteers had supported the rights of the Irish parliament, against those temporary trustees who would have relinquished them. It should at the same time be observed, that England had no reason to fear the Irish volunteers. They would die for England, and her majestic race of men. Allied by liberty, as well as by allegiance, the two nations formed a constitutional confederacy. The perpetual annexation of the crown was one great bond; but Magna Charta was a greater bond. It would be easy to find a king, but impossible for the Irish to find a nation who could communicate to them a great charter, save only England; and it was this which made England their natural connection. Ireland was planted by British privileges, as well as by British men; it was a connection, not, as had been falsely asserted, by conquest,
but by charter. Every true Irishman would say, Liberty with England-but at all events, Liberty. Those, there fore, who would make the connection quadrate with the fixed passion with the country, contended for the British nation, and for the unity of empire. The Irish nation were too high in pride, character, and power, to suffer any other nation to claim a right to make their laws. England had, indeed, brought forward the question, not only by making laws for Ireland the preceding session, but by enabling his majesty to repeal all the laws which England had made for America. Had she consented to repeal the declaratory act against America, and would she retain the declaratory act against Ireland? Was she ready to acknowledge the independency of Ame rica, and would she not acknowledge the liberty of the ancient kingdom of Ireland? But if Great Britain were capable of refusing to repeal the declaratory act against Ireland, after she had enabled his majesty to repeal that which was made against America, if she were capable of imposing that distinction, the Irish nation was incapable of submitting to it.
On a reform in Parliament.
He observed, that the representation of the commons in parliament was a matter so truly interesting, that it had at all times excited the regard of men the most enlight. ened; and the defects which they had found in that representation, had given them reason to apprehend the most alarming consequences to the constitution. That the frame of our constitution had undergone material alterations, by which the commons' house of parliament, had received an improper and dangerous bias, and by which, indeed, it had fallen so greatly from
that direction and effect which it was intended, and ought to have in the constitution, he believed it would be idle for him to attempt to prove. It was a fact so plain and palpable, that every man's reason, if not his experience, must point it out to him. He had only to examine the quality, and nature of that branch of the constitution, as originally established, and to compare it with its present state and condition. That beautiful frame of government, which had made us the envy and admiration of mankind, in which the people were entitled to hold so distinguished a share, was so far dwindled and departed from its original purity, that the representatives ceased, in a great degree, to be connected with the people. It was the essence of the constitution, that the people had a share in the government by the means of representation; and its excellency and permanency must result from this representation being equal, easy, practicable, and complete. When it ceased to be so; when the representative ceased to have connection with the constituent, and was either dependent on the crown or the aristocracy; there was then a defect in the frame of representation, and it was not innovation, but recovery of the constitution to repair it.
It was not now his intention to enter into any inquiry respecting the proper mode of reform, or to consider what would most completely tally and square with the original frame of the constitution. All tha the at present intended was, to move for the institution of a committee, to be composed of such men as the house should, in' their wisdom, select, as the most proper and the best qualified for investigating this subject, and making a report to the house of the best means of carrying into execution a moderate and substantial reform of the representation of the people. But though he would not press any particular proposition upon the house, he still thought it his duty to state some facts and circumstances which, in his opinion, made this object of reform essentially necessary. He believed, indeed, VOL. II.