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Chapter XIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 4

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The chief governor of Ireland, at that time, was no timid civilian. He was a brave and distinguished soldier - a man of chivalrous honour himself, and therefore not prone to entertain doubts injurious to the honour of the profession of which he was an ornament. But lord Anglesey was also capable of estimating the force of popular contagious influences on military discipline and fidelity in an extraordinary national crisis; and he was so alarmed at the state of things developed by the Clare election, that he wrote confidentially to Mr. Peel, cautioning him against supposing that Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, from vexation and disappointment, should exaggerate the danger of the crisis, and telling him that he would send major Warburton on a secret mission, known only to his private secretary, to explain t® the government in London the state of affairs. Major Warburton, a very intelligent and trustworthy officer, was at the head of the constabulary, and commanded the force at Clare during the election. He testified, as the result of his observation there, that, even in the constabulary and the army, the sympathies of a common cause, political and religious, could not be altogether repressed, and that implicit reliance could not long be placed on the effect of discipline and the duty of obedience. On the 20th of July lord Anglesey wrote as follows: - " We hear occasionally of the catholic soldiers being ill-disposed, and entirely under the influence of the priests. One regiment of infantry is said to be divided into Orange and catholic factions. It is certain that, on the 12th of July, the guard at the castle had Orange lilies about them." On the 26th of July the viceroy wrote another letter, from which the following is an extract: - " The priests are using very inflammatory language, and are certainly working upon the catholics of the army. I think it important that the depots of Irish recruits should be gradually removed, under the appearance of being required to join their regiments, and that whatever regiments are sent here should be those of Scotland, or, at all events, of men not recruited from the south of Ireland. I desired Sir John Byng to convey this opinion to lord Hill."

In the meantime, Mr. Peel had, in the previous month, Communicated with the duke of Wellington, and intimated his wish to retire from the cabinet, and from the leadership of the house of commons, in consequence of his being in the minority upon a question which, of all others, most deeply affected the condition and prospects of Ireland, with the government of which he was charged as home secretary. The duke of Wellington's sentiments did not differ from his as to the embarrassment that must arise from divided counsels in the cabinet. The duke also acted upon the earnest advice of Mr. Peel not to take a course which would preclude an early settlement of the question. In the debate on lord Lansdowne's motion, on the 9th of June, that the lords should concur in the resolution passed by the house of commons, the duke and lord chancellor Lyndhurst took part in the debate, and, though they did not concur in the resolution, which was rejected by a majority of 44, the general tenor of their speeches and of those of the bishops led lord Lansdowne to observe, in reply, that he thought the noble lord on the woolsack and the noble duke must have had the intention of conceding the catholic claims, for no one knew better than they did the danger of holding out expectations which could not be realised. The session of 1828 was closed by a speech from the throne on the 28th of July. As only three weeks of the session had to elapse after the Clare election, Mr. O'Connell did not offer to take his seat, preferring to make the most of the "M.P." in the work of agitation till the meeting of parliament in the spring. And, besides, he was probably aware that he would have no opportunity of making a speech. If he appeared, the speaker would desire him to take the oaths required by law; and if he declined, he would treat him as a stranger and intruder, and listen to nothing he had to say. He could not be summoned to the house, and compelled to attend, because he was not returned at a general election; and it was thought better to let him enjoy his senatorial honours unmolested for six months, than to enter, at the close of the session, into an irritating and protracted contest. On the 2nd of July, in a letter to lord Francis Leveson Gower, the viceroy gave his deliberate opinion of the state of Ireland in the following remarkable terms: - "I begin by premising that I hold in abhorrence the association, the agitators, the priests, and their religion; and I believe that not many, but that some, of the bishops, are mild, moderate, and anxious to come to a fair and liberal compromise for the adjustment of the points at issue. I think that these latter have very little, if any, influence with the lower clergy and the population.

"Such is the extraordinary power of the association, or, rather, of the agitators, of whom there are many of high ability, of ardent mind, of great daring (and if there was no association, these men are now too well known not to maintain their power under the existing order of exclusion), that I am quite certain they could lead on the people to open rebellion at a moment's notice; and their organisation is such that, in the hands of desperate and intelligent leaders, they would be extremely formidable. The hope, and indeed the probability, of present tranquillity rests upon the forbearance and the not very determined courage of O’Connor, and on his belief, as well as that of the principal men amongst them, that they will carry their cause by unceasing agitation, and by intimidation, without coming to blows. I believe their success inevitable; that no power under heaven can arrest its progress. There may be rebellion - you may put to death thousands - you may suppress it, but it will only be to put off the day of compromise; and, in the meantime, the country is still more impoverished, and the minds of the people are, if possible, still more alienated, and ruinous expense is entailed upon the empire. But supposing that the whole evil was concentred in the association, and that, if that was suppressed, all would go smoothly, where is the man who can tell me how to suppress it? Many cry out that the nuisance must be abated - that the government is supine - that the insolence of the demagogues is intolerable; but I have not yet found one person capable of pointing out z remedy. All are mute when you ask them to define their proposition. All that even the most determined opposers to emancipation say is, that it is better to leave things as they are than to risk any change. But will things remain as they are? Certainly not. They are bad; they must get worse; and I see no possible means of improving them but by depriving the demagogues of the power of directing the people; and by taking Messrs. O'Connell, Sheil, and the rest of them, from the association, and placing them in the house of commons, this desirable object would be at once accomplished.

"The present order of things must not, cannot last. There are three modes of proceeding; first, that of trying to go on as we have done; secondly, to adjust the question by concession, and such guards as may be deemed indispensable 5 thirdly, to put down the association, and to crush the power of the priests. The first I hold to be impossible. The second is practicable and advisable. The third is only possible by supposing that you can reconstruct the house of commons, and to suppose that is to suppose that you can totally alter the feelings of those who send them there. I believe nothing short of the suspension of the habeas corpus act and martial law will effect the third proposition. This would effect it during their operation, and, perhaps, for a short time after they had ceased, and then every evil would return with accumulated weight. But no house of commons would consent to these measures until there is open rebellion, and therefore till that occurs it is useless to think of them. The second mode of proceeding is, then, I conceive, the only practicable one; but the present is not propitious to effect even this. I abhor the idea of truckling to the overbearing catholic demagogues. To make any movement towards conciliation under the present excitement and system of terror would revolt me; but I do most conscientiously, and after the most earnest consideration of the subject, give it as my conviction that the first moment of tranquillity should be seized to signify the intention of adjusting the question, lest another period of calm should not present itself."

Lord Anglesey had expressed himself so strongly in his communications with the government, that he was afraid of being regarded by them as a partisan. He deprecated giving the executive any additional powers, though not without apprehensions of a rebellion, which he believed he had sufficient force to quell, even in the improbable event of foreign aid, upon which some of the Irish people might, however rashly, rely for success. On the 20th of July he wrote: " It appears not improbable there may be an attempt to introduce arms, and finally insurrection. I am quite sure the disaffected are amply organised for the undertaking. They are partially, but ill-armed. Pikes, however, 1o any amount, and at very short notice, would be easily manufactured, if they are not already made and secreted. Still, I cannot bring myself to believe that the ruling characters are at all inclined to put their cause to the test of arms: and if they do, I cannot imagine how, without foreign aid - of which there appears no fear - they can calculate upon success." The priests had become all silent and reserved, even towards those with whom they had hitherto maintained confidential intercourse. No money would tempt them to make a single disclosure, and there was a general impression among them that some great event was at hand. The law officers of the crown had been consulted as to the expediency of prosecuting some of the agitators for the most violent of their speeches; but their advice was, that it could not be done with any prospect of success, because their most exciting stimulants were accompanied by declarations that they wished only to guard the government against insurrection, which only concession could prevent. Such being the condition of Ireland, the position of the government was in the highest degree perplexing. The house of commons was for emancipation; the lords were opposed to it; the king was opposed to it. The strength of political parties was nicely balanced in parliament, and strong political excitement prevailed on both sides of the channel. Sir Robert Peel, in view of this state of affairs, says: "I maturely and anxiously considered every point which required consideration, and I formed a decision as to the obligation of public duty, of which I may say with truth that it was wholly at variance with that which the regard for my own personal interests or private feelings would have dictated." His intention was to relinquish office; but he resolved not to do so without placing on record his opinion that a complete change of policy was necessary, that the catholic question should no longer be an open question, and that the whole condition of Ireland, political and social, should be taken into consideration by the cabinet, precisely in the same manner in which every other question of grave importance was considered, and with the same power to offer advice upon it to the sovereign. He also gave it as his decided opinion that there was less evil and less danger in conceding the catholic claims than in persevering in the policy of resistance. He left London for Brighton soon after the close of the session, having made a previous arrangement with the duke of Wellington that he should send him a memorandum explanatory of his views on the state of Ireland and on the catholic question, and that he should write to the duke fully in reply. On the 9th of August the duke wrote to him as follows: - " I now send you the memorandum which I sent to the king on the state of Ireland, a letter which I sent to him at the same time, his answer, a memorandum upon the Roman catholic question which I have since drawn up, and a letter which I wrote yesterday to the lord chancellor."

The result of the duke's deliberations upon the crisis, and the duty of government respecting it, were stated at length in an unpublished manuscript, which he left in his own handwriting, and is probably a copy of the memorandum sent to the king. The substance of this document is given by Mr. Gleig, in his " Life of Wellington." It is not less interesting than the reflections of Mr. Peel. Both show the workings of anxious and honest minds - the minds of great statesmen, influenced solely by a sense of public duty. The following is the substance of the duke's reflections: -

" The government, if it should determine under existing circumstances to maintain the statutes excluding Roman catholics from power must ask for new laws, the old having quite broken down. They must bring in a bill requiring candidates for seats in parliament to take at the hustings the oaths of supremacy and allegiance; otherwise they could not prevent Roman catholics from contesting every vacant county and borough in the United Kingdom, and from becoming ipso facto members of parliament, should constituencies see fit to elect them. Practically speaking, there might be small risk that either in England or Scotland this result would follow - at least, to any extent. But what was to be expected in Ireland? That every constituency, with the exception, perhaps, of the university and city of Dublin, and of the counties and boroughs of the north, would, whenever the opportunity offered, return Roman catholics; and that the members so returned being prevented from taking their seats, three- fourths, at least, of the Irish people must remain permanently unrepresented in parliament. Was it possible, looking to the state of parties in the house of commons, that such a measure, if proposed, could be carried? For many years back the majorities in favour of repeal had gone on increasing, session after session. Even the present parliament, elected as it had been under a strong protestant pressure, had swerved from its faithfulness. The small majority which threw out lord John Russell's bill in 1827 had been converted, in 1828, into a minority; and among those who voted on that occasion with Mr. Peel, many gave him warning that hereafter they should consider themselves free to follow a different course.

" But perhaps it might be possible to get a bill passed to disfranchise the Irish forty shilling freeholders - a class of voters who, as they had been created for acknowledged purposes of corruption in the Irish parliament, would have nobody to stand up for them in high places, now that they refused to play their patrons' game. This was quite as im^ probable an issue as the other. The disfranchisement of forty shilling freeholders had, indeed, been talked of in former years; but, if effected at all, it was to be in connection with a measure of catholic emancipation. To propose it now for the avowed purpose of rendering catholic emancipation impossible would be to insure the rejection of the bill. That plan, therefore, fell at once to the ground; and there remained but two others.

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