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Chapter XV, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2

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With lord Eldon, however, he held different language, complaining bitterly of the difficulties in which the ministers had involved him. He is represented as struggling desperately in meshes from which he found it impossible to extricate himself; and, as usual with weak minds, he threw all the blame of his misery on others. Lord Eldon writes: - a He complained that he had never seen the bills - that the condition of Ireland had not been taken into consideration - that the Association Bill had been passed through both houses before he had seen it - that it was a very inefficient measure compared to those which he had in vain himself recommended - that the other proposed measures gave him the greatest possible pain and uneasiness - that he was in the state of a person with a pistol presented to his breast - that he had nothing to fall back upon - that his ministers had threatened (I think he said twice, at the time of my seeing him) to resign if the measures were not proceeded with, and that he had said to them 'Go on,' when he knew not how to relieve himself from the state in which he was placed; and that in one of those meetings, when resignation was threatened, he was urged to the sort of consent he gave by what passed in the interview between him and his ministers, till the interview and the talk had brought him into such a state that he hardly knew what he was about, when he, after several hours, said - 'Go on.' He then repeatedly expressed himself as in a state of the greatest misery, saying, 'What can I do? I have nothing to fall back upon; ' and musing for some time, and then repeating the same expression."

In reference to a subsequent interview, lord Eldon remarks: u I was not sent for afterwards, but went on Thursday, the 9th April, with more addresses. In the second interview, which began a little before two o'clock, the king repeatedly - and with some minutes intervening between his repeated declarations, musing in silence in the interim - expressed his anguish, pain, and misery that the measure had ever been thought of, and as often declared that he had been most harshly and cruelly treated - that he had been treated as a man whose consent had been asked with a pistol pointed to his breast, or as obliged, if he did not give it, to leap down from a five pair of stairs window. What could he do? What had he to fall back upon? "

After relating much more in the same strain, lord Eldon adds: " Little more passed, except occasional bursts of expression, ' What can I do? What can I now fall back upon? What can I fall back upon? I am miserable, wretched. My situation is dreadful; nobody about me to advise with. If I do give my consent I will go to the Baths after all, and from thence to Hanover. I'll return no more to England. I'll make no Roman catholic peers; I will not do what this bill will enable me to do. I'll return no more. Let them get a catholic king in Clarence! (I think he also mentioned Sussex.) The people will see that I did not wish this.' There were the strongest appearances, certainly, of misery. He more than once stopped my leaving him. When the time came that I was to go, he threw his arms round my neck, and expressed great misery. I left him at about twenty minutes or a quarter before five. I certainly thought when I left him that he would express great difficulty, when the bill was prepared for the royal assent, about giving it." The writer adds, sarcastically: - " I fear that it seemed to be given as a matter of course." Next day, lord Eldon wrote to his daughter: " The fatal bill received the royal assent yesterday afternoon. After all I had heard in my visits, not a day's delay. God bless us and his church." At Windsor, on the 13th of April, the king pronounced over the bill he so hated the words - 'Le roi le veut.' In his subsequent conduct he studiously evinced his displeasure towards the emancipationists, and his satisfaction with those who had opposed his government. To this manifestation of feeling lord Eldon refers in a letter to his daughter: - "The universal tattle here is about the manner in which the king, at the levée, received the voters for the catholics - most uncivilly, markedly so towards the lords spiritual, the bishops, who so voted - and the civility with which he received the anti-catholic voters, particularly the bishops. It seems to be very general talk now that his ministers went much beyond what they should have said in parliament as to his consent to the measure. Consent, however, he certainly did, but with a language of reluctance, pain, and misery which, if it had been represented, would have prevented much of that ratting which carried the measure."

The general talk to which lord Eldon refers very naturally arose out of the king's complaints. There were stories circulated at the time, on what appeared to be good authority, of repeated conferences, and extreme harshness and arrogance shown towards the king by the prime minister. For these stories his biographer assures us there was not a shadow of foundation. The duke saw the king more than once while the expediency of adopting a particular line of policy was still under consideration. They discussed the matter in all its bearings; and the king never concealed the reluctance with which he consented to follow the advice of his ministers. "But after the measure was arranged, the duke never saw the king, except on the morning of the 4th of March, till the bill had passed through both houses. All the stories told, therefore, of tears on the one side, and threats and rudeness on the other, were the mere inventions of malice or disappointed ambition."

The number of catholics in Britain at the time of passing the relief bill was estimated by themselves at nearly 1,000,000, scattered, in various proportions, through England, Scotland, and Wales. Of these, 200,000 were resident in London. The most catholic counties in England are Lancashire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Cheshire, Northumberland, Durham, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Kent. In Ireland, the Roman catholics were estimated at five millions and a half; and the protestants, of all denominations, at one million and three-quarters. By the removal of the disabilities, eight English catholic peers were enabled to take their seats by right in the house of lords. The catholic baronets in England were then sixteen in number. In Ireland there were eight Roman catholic peers; in Scotland, two. The system of religious exclusion had lasted 271 years, from the passing of the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity in 1559. The oath of supremacy, however, was not at first tendered to the members of the upper house; and several peers continued Roman catholics till the reign of Charles II During the excitement that followed the passing of the Emancipation Act, incessant attacks were made upon the character of the duke of Wellington. Perhaps the most violent of these was published in the Standard by the earl of Winchelsea, one of the most ardent of the anti- catholic peers, who charged the premier With disgraceful con- duct. The offence was contained in a letter addressed by lord Winchelsea to Mr. Coleridge, secretary to the committee for establishing the King's College, London. He said he felt rather doubtful as to the sincerity of the motives which had actuated some of the prime movers in that undertaking, " when he considered that the noble duke at the head of his majesty's government had been induced on this occasion to assume a new character, and to step forward himself as the public advocate of religion and morality." He then proceeded: - "Late political events have convinced me that the whole transaction was intended as a blind to the protestant and high church party; that the noble duke, who had, for some time previous to that period, determined upon breaking in upon the constitution of 1688, might the more effectually, under the cloak of some outward show of zeal for the protestant religion, carry on his insidious designs for the infringement of our liberties, and the introduction of popery into every department of the state." The duke having obtained from lord Winchelsea an avowal of the authorship, demanded a retractation or apology, which was refused. The matter was then referred to friends, and a hostile meeting was agreed upon. "It is," says Mr. Gleig, "a curious feature in this somewhat unfortunate occurrence, that when the moment for action arrived, it was found that the duke did not possess a pair of duelling pistols. Considering the length of time he had spent in the army, and the habits of military society towards the close of the last century, that fact bore incontestable evidence to the conciliatory temper and great discretion of the duke. Sir Henry Hardinge, therefore, who acted as his friend, was forced to look for pistols elsewhere, and borrowed them at last - he himself being as unprovided as his principal - from Dr. Hume, the medical man who accompanied them to the ground. The combatants met in Battersea Fields, now Battersea Park. Lord Winchelsea, attended by the earl of Falmouth, having received the duke's fire, discharged his pistol in the air. A written explanation was then produced, which the duke declined to receive unless the word 'apology' was inserted; and this point being yielded, they separated as they had met, with cold civility."

Long after these events had ceased to occupy public attention, the Rev. Mr. Gleig took occasion to refer to them in one of those confidential conversations with which he was occasionally honoured by the duke. " 'You speak as a moralist,' he observed, smiling; 'and I assure you that I am no advocate of duelling under ordinary circumstances; but my difference with lord Winchelsea, considering the cause in which it originated, and the critical position of affairs at the moment, can scarcely be regarded as a private quarrel. He refused to me, being the king's minister, what every man, in or out of office, may fairly claim - the right to change his views, under a change of circumstances, on a great public question. He did his best to establish the principle that a man in my situation must be a traitor unless he adhere, through thick and thin, to a policy once advocated. His attack upon me was part of a plan to render the conduct of public affairs impossible to the king's servants. I did my best to make him understand the nature of his mistake, and showed him how he might escape from it. He rejected my advice, and there remained for me only one means of extorting from him an acknowledgment that he was wrong.' 'But,' observed Mr. Gleig, 'he behaved well on the ground, at all events. He refused to fire at you.' 'Certainly,' replied the duke, 'he did not fire at me; and seeing that such was his intention, I turned my pistol aside, and fired wide of him; but that did not make amends for the outrageous charge brought against me in his letter. It was only the admission that the charge was outrageous that at all atoned for that; but it would have been more creditable to him to have made it when first requested to do so, than at last. He behaved, however, with great coolness; and was, and I am sure continues to be, very sorry that he allowed his temper to run away with him.' "

A third bill yet remained to be carried, in order to complete the ministerial scheme of emancipation, and supply the security necessary for its satisfactory working. This was the bill for disfranchising the forty shilling freeholders, by whose instrumentality, it may be said, emancipation was effected. It was they that returned Mr. O'Connell for Clare; it was they that would have returned the members for twenty-three other counties, pledged to support his policy. It is true that this class of voters was generally dependent upon the landlords, unless under the influence of violent excitement, when they were wrested like weapons from their hands by the priests, and used with a vengeance for the punishment of those by whom they had been created. In neither case did they exercise the franchise in fulfilment of the purpose for which it was given. In both cases those voters were the instruments of a power which availed itself of the forms of the constitution, but was directly opposed to its spirit. Disfranchisement, however, under any circumstances, was distasteful to both conservative and liberal statesmen. Mr. Brougham said he consented to it in this case "as the price - almost the extravagant price" - of emancipation; and Sir James Mackintosh remarked that it was one of those "tough morsels" which he had been scarcely able to swallow. The measure was opposed by Mr. Huskisson, lord Palmerston, and lord Duncannon, as not requisite, and not calculated to accomplish its object. But although Mr. O'Connell had repeatedly declared that he would not accept emancipation if the faithful "forties") were to be sacrificed, that he would rather die on the scaffold than submit to any such measure, though Mr. Sheil had denounced it in language the most vehement, yet the measure was allowed to pass through both houses of parliament without any opposition worth naming; only seventeen members voting against the second reading in the commons, and there being no division against it in the lords. Ireland beheld the sacrifice in silence. Mr. O'Connell forgot his solemn vows, so recently registered, and, what was more strange, the priests did not remind him of his obligation. Perhaps they were not sorry to witness the annihilation of a power which landlords might use against them, and which agitators might wield in a way that they could not at all times control. There had been always an uneasy feeling among the prelates and the 'higher clergy at the influence which Mr. O'Connell and the other lay-agitators had acquired, because it tended to raise in the people a spirit of independence which rendered them sometimes refractory as members of the church, and suggested the idea of combination against their own pastors, if they declined to become their leaders in any popular movement. The popular leaders in Ireland, however, consoling themselves with the assurance that many of the class of "bold peasantry" which they had glorified would still enjoy the franchise as ten-pound freeholders, consented, reluctantly of course, to the extinction of 300,000 "forties." They considered the danger of delay, and the probability that if this opportunity were missed, another might not occur for years of striking off the shackles which the upper classes of Roman catholics especially felt to be so galling.

When emancipation was carried, they did not forget the claims of Mr. O'Connell, who had laboured so hard for a quarter of a century for its accomplishment. A testimonial was soon after got up to reward him for his long services. Mr. C. O'Laughlin, of Dublin, subscribed £500; the earl of Shrewsbury 1,000 guineas, and the less grateful duke of Norfolk the sum of £100. The collection of the testimonial was organised in every district throughout Ireland, and a sum of £50,000 sterling was collected. Mr. O'Connell did not love money for its own sake. The immense sums that were poured into the coffers of the Catholic Association were spent freely in carrying on the agitation, and the large annuity which he himself received was mainly devoted to the same object. One means, which had no small effect in accomplishing the object, was the extremely liberal hospitality which was kept up, not only at Derrynane Abbey, but at his town residence in Merrion Square; and he had, besides, a host of retainers more or less dependent upon his bounty.

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