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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 2


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But the national convention immediately agreed to a counter address, in which they denied the intentions of revolution imputed to them, and professed the warmest loyalty. This did not, however, prevent the volunteer bodies continuing their high pretensions. They professed to have saved the country, and they claimed to govern it. They were instructing all that they could in the use of arms, and catholics and protestants forgot their differences in the ardour of this object. The elective franchise was demanded by the volunteers for people of all religious persuasions. On the 13th of March, Mr. Flood introduced his bill once more, for equalising the representation of the people in parliament. It proposed to abolish the right of boroughs altogether to send members, and to place the franchise in the people at large. Sir John Fitzgibbon, the attorney - general, stoutly opposed it; Grattan dissented from it, and it was thrown out on the motion to commit it.

Exasperated at the failure of this measure, a furious mob broke into the Irish house of commons on the 15th of April, but they were soon quelled, and two of the ringleaders seized. The magistrates of Dublin were censured for observing the gathering of the mob, and taking no measures to prevent its outbreak. The printer and supposed publisher of the "Volunteers' Journal" were called before the house and reprimanded, and a bill was brought in and passed, to render publishers more amenable to the law. The spirit of violence still raged through the country. Tumultuous associations were formed under the name of Aggregate Bodies. Some adopted the North American system of tarring and feathering their victims; some, still more inhuman, called themselves houghers, and deliberately maimed the objects of their vengeance, particularly soldiers. It was found necessary to pass an act to restrain their violence, and to make provision for its crippled victims. The lord-lieutenant himself was insulted by them, and the Whiteboys once more came forth and renewed their atrocities. Means were taken for assembling another congress in Dublin. They insisted that the sheriffs should call meetings for the election of delegates to the congress.

These circumstances roused the attention of Pitt, who instructed the attorney-general to warn the sheriffs against any compliance with these demands; and the sheriff of the county of Dublin having already complied, was prosecuted, fined five marks, and confined for a week. But this formidable agitation was suddenly shorn of its most menacing phases in a manner which could not have been foreseen. The question of the catholic disabilities was introduced into the discussions of the volunteer meetings, and so completely broke up their great military body, " that," says Plowden, "constituted and organised as they were, formidable in numbers, fierce in debate, vigorous in resolution, commanded and directed by noblemen of high rank, and regarded with affection by one party and alarm by the other, they disappeared like a bubble on the face of a stream. At night they existed with all their attributes of power and their claims to respect; on the following day, the room of their assembly was shut, their colours waved no more, their uniform no longer was seen in the streets, and the body, without formal order or notice, was disbanded."

The congress, which met in October, was but partially attended, passed some strong resolutions, and then peace ably adjourned. But commercial and manufacturing distress was severe in the country, and the unemployed workmen flocked into Dublin and the other large towns, demanding relief and menacing the police, and directing their fury against all goods imported from England. On the 2nd of January, 1785, another congress sate in Dublin, consisting of delegates from twenty-seven counties, and amounting to about two hundred individuals. They held adjourned meetings, and established corresponding committees in imitation of their great models, the Americans. In truth, many of the leaders of these present movements drew their inspiration now from American republican correspondents, as they did afterwards from those of France, by whom they were eventually excited to rebellion.

The government of England saw the necessity of coming to some conclusion on the subject of Irish commerce, which should remove the distress, and, as a consequence, the disorder. The Irish government, at the instigation of the English administration, sent over commissioners to consult with the Board of Trade in London, and certain terms being agreed upon, these were introduced by Mr. Orde, the secretary to the lord-lieutenant, to the Irish house of commons, on the 7th of February. These were, that all articles not of the growth of Great Britain or Ireland should be imported into each country from the other, under the same regulations and duties as were imposed on direct importation, and with the same drawbacks; that all prohibitions in either country against the importation of articles grown, produced, or manufactured in the other should be rescinded, and the duties equalised. There were some other resolutions relating to internal taxation, to facilitate the corn trade, and some details in foreign and international commerce.

These, after some debate, were passed on the 11th, and, being agreed to by the lords, were transmitted to England.

On the 22nd of February the English house of commons resolved itself into a committee, on the motion of Pitt, to consider these resolutions. Pitt spoke with much liberality of the old, restrictive jealousy towards Ireland. He declared that it was a system abominable and impolitic; that to study the benefit of one portion of the empire at the expense of another was not promoting the real prosperity of the empire at large. He contended that there was nothing in the present proposals to alarm the British manufacturer or trader. Goods, the produce of Europe, might now be imported through Ireland into Britain by authority of the navigation act. The present proposition went to allow Ireland to import and then to export the produce of our colonies in Africa and America into Great Britain. Beyond the Cape of Good Hope, or the Straits of Maghellan, they could not go, on account of the monopoly granted to the East India Company.

Delay was demanded, to hear what was the feeling of merchants and manufacturers in England, and these soon poured in petitions against these concessions from Liverpool, Manchester, and other places; one of them, from the Lancashire manufacturers, being signed by eighty thousand persons. After two months had been spent in receiving these petitions, hearing evidence and counsel, Mr. Pitt introduced his propositions on the 12th of May. It was then found that the English interests, as usual, had triumphed over the ministerial intentions of benefiting Ireland. Not only was Ireland to be bound to furnish, in return for these concessions, a fixed contribution out of the surplus of the hereditary revenue towards defraying the expenses of protecting the general commerce, but to adopt whatever navigation laws the British parliament might hereafter enact. Lord North and Fox opposed these propositions, on the ground that the cheapness of labour in Ireland would give that country an advantage over the manufacturers in this. The resolutions were at length carried both in the committee and in the house at large on the 25th of July.

But the alterations were fatal to the measure in Ireland. Instead now of being the resolutions passed in the Irish parliament, they embraced restrictive ones originating in the English parliament - a point on which the Irish were most jealous, and determined not to give way. No sooner did Mr. Orde, the original introducer of the resolutions to the Irish parliament, on the 2nd of August, announce his intention to introduce them as they now stood, than Floods Grattan, and Dennis Browne declared the thing impossible; that Ireland never would surrender its birthright of legislating for herself. Mr. Orde, however, persisted in demanding leave to introduce a bill founded on these resolutions, and this he did on the 12th of August. Flood attacked the proposal with the utmost vehemence. He exclaimed: "I am content to be a fellow-subject of my countrymen, but not their fellow-slave. If you give leave to bring in such a bill, you are no longer a parliament: I will no longer consider you so. Meet it, then, boldly, and not like dastards fearful to guard your rights, and, though you talk loudly to your wives and children, trembling at a foreign nation." Grattan, Curran, and others declared that the Irish parliament could hear no resolutions but those which they themselves had sanctioned. Accordingly, though Mr. Orde carried his permission to introduce his bill, it was only by a majority of nineteen, and under such opposition that, on the 15th, he moved to have it printed for the information of the country, but announced that he should proceed no further in it at present. This was considered as a total abandonment of the measure, and there was a general rejoicing as for a national deliverance, and Dublin was illuminated. But in the country the spirit of agitation on the subject remained: the non-importation associations were renewed, in imitation of the proceedings in Boston, and the most dreadful menaces were uttered against all who should dare to import manufactured goods from England. The consequences were the stoppage of trade - especially in the sea-ports - the increase of distress and of riots, and the soldiers were obliged to be kept under arms in Dublin and other towns to prevent outbreaks.

Before the Irish affairs were done with, Pitt moved for leave to bring in his promised reform bill. If Pitt was yet; really desirous of reforming parliament, it was the last occasion on which he showed it, and it may reasonably be believed that he introduced this measure more for a show of consistency than for any other purpose. He had taken no active steps to prepare a majority for the occasion; every one was left to do as he thought best, and his opening observations showed that he was by no means sanguine as to the measure passing the house. " The number of gentlemen," he said, " who are hostile to reform are a phalanx which ought to give alarm to any individual upon rising to suggest such a motion." His plan was to transfer the franchise from thirty-six rotten boroughs to the counties, giving the copyholders the right to vote. This plan would confer seventy-two additional members on the counties, and thus, in fact, strengthen the representation of the landed interest at the expense of the towns; and he proposed to compensate the boroughs so disfranchised by money. Wilberforce, Dundas, and Fox spoke in favour of the bill; Burke spoke against it. Many voted against it, on account of the compensation offered, Mr. Bankes remarking that Pitt was paying for what he declared, under any circumstances, unsaleable. The motion was lost by two hundred and forty-eight against one hundred and seventy-four.

But though Pitt ceased to be a parliamentary reformer - and by degrees became the most determined opponent of all reform - he yet made an immediate movement for administrative reform. He took up the plans of Burke, praying for a commission to inquire into the fees, gratuities, perquisites, and emoluments which are or have lately been received in the various public offices, with reference to abuses existing; jn the same. He stated that, already - acting on the information of reports of the board of commissioners appointed in lord North's time - fixed salaries, instead of fees and poundages, had been introduced in the office of the land-tax, and the post-office was so improved as to return weekly into the treasury three thousand pounds sterling, instead of seven hundred sterling. Similar regulations he proposed to introduce into the pay-office, the navy and ordnance office. He Stated, also, that he had, when out of office, asserted that no less than forty-four millions sterling was unaccounted for by men who had been in different offices. He was ridiculed for that statement, and it was treated as a chimera; but already twenty-seven millions of such defalcations had been traced, and a balance of two hundred and fifty-seven thousand pounds sterling was on the point of being paid in. In fact, the state of the government offices was, at that time, as it had long been, such that it was next to impossible for any one to get any business transacted there without bribing heavily. As a matter of course, this motion was strongly opposed, but it was carried, and Mr. Francis Baring and the two other comptrollers of army accounts were appointed the commissioners.

Pitt announced his scheme of a sinking fund by appropriating surplus revenue to the liquidation of the national debt. The scheme was, in reality, that of Dr. Price, an eminent dissenting minister, and friend of Dr. Priestly. This, however, he deferred to the next session, but proceeded at once to lay on new taxes with that unhesitating facility for which he became more and more famous. He wanted to raise four hundred and thirteen thousand sterling a-year, and his taxes were all laid on the industrious, and some of them on the very poorest: a stamp duty on gloves, on post-horses, pawnbrokers' licences, and hawkers' licences; but the most objectionable, perhaps, were those on men servants, on whom he proposed to levy thirty-five thousand pounds sterling, and on women servants one hundred and forty thousand pounds sterling. They were all carried. Some of these were so unpopular, or so unprofitable, that they were soon repealed again.

Our relations with Holland were now brought under notice of parliament. The Dutch had been severely punished for their ingratitude to us in the late war. Having received from England the most extraordinary and unselfish aid against the attempts of Louis XIV. to swallow up their country, having been brought triumphantly out of that, to them, otherwise overwhelming conflict, on the very first opportunity of showing a due sense of the benefit, at the persuasion of their old antagonist, France, still their most dangerous neighbour', ancbinstigated by a base hope of destroying our power at sea, and with it our rivalry in commerce, as well as of possessing themselves of a good share of our foreign possessions, east and west, they joined France and Spain against us. The consequence was that their fleet was soon almost entirely destroyed, and their West Indian Islands captured by us. France, their new ally, had taken some of these from us; but, on the peace, refused to return them to their beloved allies, the right owners. Thus deservedly weakened and humiliated, Holland was still further paralysed by internal faction. There was the faction of the house of Orange, which stood by the stadtholder; and the French faction, which was in violent opposition to the house of Orange. The Orangeists accused the French faction of encouraging the designs of France, of opening the country to the influences of that most dangerous nation, and to a democratic licence which favoured the hopes of an ambitious and unscrupulous neighbour. On the other hand, the democratic party accused the Orangeists of aiming at monarchy, and thus crushing for ever the ancient liberties of Holland. The eyes of Joseph II. of Austria were fully observant of this condition of weakness and disorganisation, and he determined to profit by it. Joseph was a man of many right and liberal ideas; he was a great reformer, but rash, and therefore unsuccessful in that character; and he was, at the same time, ambitious, which made him, like all ambitious of aggrandisement, unprincipled. He was in close alliance, with France, his sister, Marie Antoinette, being queen; he therefore calculated that France would not interfere with his proceeding against the Dutch, and England, the great naval power, which, more than all others, could have defeated his plans, was utterly alienated from the Dutch by their ingratitude.

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