« AnteriorContinuar »
if it was
The duel between Alcock and Coldclough, which took place in the presence of several hundred freeholders and eight or ten county magistrates, was preceded by a discussion whether, one of the combatants being near sighted, neither should wear spectacles or both. · * Without my glasses !' exclaimed the near-sighted combatant; I could not see to shoot a man at twelve paces, my own father.'
Martin tried the temper of George Robert Fitzgerald's concealed armour by disebarging two holster pistols pointblank against his ribs. Notwithstanding the repeated detection and exposure of this notorious bully's cowardly and treacherous inode of fighting, he retained a footing in society till he was hanged.
The climax of unreason was reached in Curran's. affair with Major Hobart, then Secretary for Ireland. Curran, having been affronted by a man named Gifford, declared ‘he would rather do without fighting all his life than fight such a fellow; but as Gifford was a revenue officer, maintained that Major Hobart should dismiss him for his impertinence, or fight in his place. The Secretary demurred, and on Curran's insisting, referred the question to Lord Carhampton, the commander-in-chief, who decided it thus : 'A secretary of state fighting for an exciseman would be rather a bad precedent, but a major in the King's service is pugnacious by profession, and must fight anybody that asks him. They exchanged shots without harm to either. In one remarkable instance, Lord Carbampton, the Colonel Luttrell of Middlesex celebrity, did not abide by his own maxim ; for he refused to fight his father, not because he was his father, but because he was not a gentleman.
Station, however grave, was not claimed or accepted as a bar. The Provost of the College, Hutchinson, fought Doyle, a Master in Chancery; and when a pupil asked his advice about a course of legal study, replied, " Buy a case of good pistols, learn the use of them, and they will get you on faster than Fearne or Blackstone.' Toler (Lord Norbury) followed this method so successfully that he was said to have shot up into preferment. A curious
cimen of his language has been preserved, along with many other curious traits of Irish manners, by Mr. Charles Phillips : 'Had I (said Toler) heard a man out of doors using such language as that by which the honourable member (George Ponsonby) has violated the decorum of Parliament, I would have seized the ruffian by the throat and dragged him to the ground.'
The only gleam of good sense in their code of honour was the common understanding that no affront was implied in a joke, as when, in a debate on the Sinecure Bill, Curran declared he was the guardian of his own honour; and Sir Boyle Roche reVol. 105.—No. 209.
torted, " Then the Honourable Gentleman holds a very pretty sinecure, and has taken the wrong side.'
It was consequently not grossly improbable that some such scheme as that mentioned by Grattan and Barrington should have been meditated; but it was absurd to father it on Lord Castlereagh, who combined a polished calmness of demeanour with imperturbable courage. He coolly and almost contemptuously replied to an unparliamentary provocation from Grattan :
'Every one must be sensible that if any personal quarrel were desired, any insulting language used publicly where it could not be met as it deserved, was the way to prevent and not to produce such a rencounter.'
One story currently related, and generally believed amongst his ill-wishers, was, that a member of the Irish Parliament who had stood out for higher terms fell ill, and was visited in his sick-room by his Lordship, who announced that he had made up his mind to accede to them. It is too late, my Lord,' said the invalid; “I have been at the point of death, and I made a vow that, if ever I got well, I would lay all that has passed between us before the House of Cominons. . And if you do,' replied Lord Castlereagh, 'I will give you the lie direct first, and shoot you afterwards. ' Most of our readers will recollect a somewhat similar anecdote traditionally recorded of Wilkes, on Luttrell's threatening to expose him from the hustings.
The Irish Parliament met on January 22, 1799, and the question of the Union, already broached in the British Parliament by Mr. Pitt, was made the subject of an animated discussion in the House of Commons. It arose on an amendment to the address moved by Mr. Ponsonby, “That the House would be ready to enter into any measure short of surrendering their free, resident, and independent Legislature, as established in 1782. The point on which the Opposition principally relied was the incompetency of Parliament to entertain the question. The debate continued without intermission twenty-one hours,* from Tuesday, January 22, 4 P.M., to Wednesday, January 23, 1 P.M., when the division took place, and the numbers were 105 for the amendment and 106 against, giving the Government a majority of one.
All sorts of stories were afloat as to the manner in which this majority was obtained. The Opposition organs asserted that,
* The longest debates, says Mr. Ross, ever known in the Imperial Parliament were those on the Walcheren expedition in 1810; on the committal Sir F. Burdett to the Tower in the same year; and on the Reform Bill in 1831. In the first the fourth division took place about 8 A.M. on the following day; the second also lasted fifteen hours; and in the last Mr. Fergusson found the House still sitting between seven and eight in the morning, when he came down to take his seat for the debate of the ensuing night.
whilst the debate was proceeding, Mr. Cooke, the Under-Secretary, was observed in close communication with Mr. Trench, afterwards Lord Ashtown,* who, having spoken strongly for the amendment, voted against it; and such things had been far from rare in that assembly. Sir Henry Cavendish was famous for the accuracy of the reports which he was in the habit of sending from the House to the Castle. One evening the Lord-Lieutenant asked Sir Hercules Langrishe whether Sir Henry had been taking notes ?
I believe,' said Sir Hercules, he has been taking either NOTES or ready money, but I don't know which.'
The day following, on Sir Lawrence Parsons moving to expunge a paragraph from the Address, the contest was renewed with increased asperity, the Castle party accusing the Opposition of having unfurled the bloody flag of rebellion,' and the Opposition denouncing Ministers for 'flinging abroad the banner of prostitution, corruption, and apostacy. Lord Castlereagh made a speech which, in the opinion of his friends, demolished Ponsonby, and, in the opinion of Ponsonby's, was a dead failure. In the
. course of the debate,' writes Lord Cornwallis, Mr. Smith, son to one of the Barons of the Exchequer, delivered a very fine and complete argument, which made very great impression.' Barrington says:
Mr. Egan trampled down the metaphorical sophistries of Mr. William Smith. Such reasoning he called rubbish, and such reasoners were scavengers. Like a dray horse he galloped over all his opponents, plunging and kicking and overthrowing all before him. No member on that night pronounced a more sincere, clumsy, and powerful oration. Of matter he had abundance of language he made no selection; and he was aptly compared to the Trojan horse, sounding as if he had armed men within him.'
The debate again lasted through the night, and it was on the morning of the 25th that the House divided. The Ministers had only 105; the Opposition, who had withdrawn to the Court of Requests, 111. Egan, the dray horse' of the debate—a coarse, , bluff, red-faced fellow—was the last who entered. · His exultation,' says Barrington, 'knew no bounds. As No. 110 was announced, he stopped a moment at the bar, flourished a great stick which he had in his hand over his head, and with the voice of a Stentor cried out, “And I'm a hundred and eleven!”'
In the exultation of the moment, and in evil hour for his cause,
Another version was that Trench had stood out for a peerage, and that, shortly before the division, Lord Castlereagh handed him a scrap of paper containing merely the name of the place from which the title, as originally proposed, was to be taken. Trench wrote · Ashtown' instead, and returned the paper. Lord Castlereagh nodded, and the bargain was complete.
Mr. Ponsonby attempted to improve his victory by pledging the House never to give up the undoubted birthright of Irishmen, an Independent Parliament; and he was on the verge of success when one of the 111, Mr. W. C. Fortescue, objected to such a pledge, and carried with him three or four others of the band. Ponsonby found his flank turned, and withdrew his resolution amidst the sneers and taunts of the adverse phalanx. “It was a retreat after a victory,' exclaimed Sir Henry Cavendish, and Plunkett murmured as they broke up
• The over-daring Ponsonby
By this unheeding, rash, and desperate enterprise.' The House of Lords had favourably entertained the project; yet, without waiting for the Ministerial defeat on the 25th, Lord Cornwallis had come to the conclusion that the attempt must be abandoned for the present. On January 23rd he had written to the Duke of Portland to this effect. But his energies rose as the difficulties increased, and although he never ceased complaining of the disagreeable work forced upon him, he went through it manfully and with an unalterable determination to succeed. Government influence was strained to the uttermost; prompt compliance was demanded as the condition of remaining in office, and both bribes and promises were distributed with unprecedented profusion. Lord Cornwallis knew that what Walpole said of the English Jacobites, was true of the noisiest of the Irish patriots, 'All these men have their price;' and he had made his mind to
it rather than be baffled in a scheme on which, like the English Minister, he had set his heart and staked his reputation. In a memorandum drawn up by Lord Castlereagh, the interested Opposition is resolved into its elements: the borough proprietors; the primary and secondary interests in the county representation; the holders of seats by purchase; the barristers in Parliament, fifty in number; and individuals connected by residence or property with. Dublin. · His calculation was that, after saving some of these interests as much as possible by alterations in the details of the measure, rather less than a million and a half would be required to buy them off. No less a sum than 1,260,0001. was subsequently voted to compensate the boroughholders; and the mode of distribution gave plausibility to the charge that most of it was meant and accepted as a bribe.
Each borough was valued at 15,0001., which was proportionally distributed. Thus, of the 15,0001. paid for Tuam, Lord Clanmorris got 14,0001. and the Hon. W. Yelverton 10001.; of that for Knocklofty, Sir Hercules Langrishe 13,8621. 10s., Sir George
Shee 11371. 10s. Lord Downshire received for seven seats, and Lord Ely for six. The 45,0001., payable for those boroughs in which members of the Episcopal body were interested in right of their sees, was paid to the Commissioners of First Fruits.
There is an audacity in this proceeding which startles us. Junius, indeed, argued that the patrons of places, like Gatton and old Sarum, might be bought off; but this is a very different thing from treating the entire borough representation of a nation as private property, and descending to the valuation of shares and fractions. The transaction was sanctioned by the British Parliament, and bears testimony both to the lax notions of the times and the supremacy of Pitt.
Place-holders, with various other possessors or claimants of vested interests likely to suffer from the Union, were also compensated; and Mr. H. Grattan states, on his father's authority, that of all the eventual supporters of the Union in the House of Commons, there were only seven who were not bribed in some shape. Certain it seems that, out of the barristers who stood by the Ministry, three-fourths were promoted or preferred, sooner or later. It was currently, though absurdly, reported that nearly three hundred Peerages were promised to carry the English Reform Bill. How many promises of this sort were given by different agents of the Castle to carry the Union, we cannot pretend to calculate ; but we know that forty-two Irish Peerages or promotions in the Irish Peerage, besides five English, were conferred on its supporters.
By the opening of the next session, the last of the Irish Parliament, the preparations were complete ; but the Ministers had resolved to feel their way before committing themselves, and the Viceroy's speech was silent on the all-absorbing subject. The Opposition were the first to break ground and challenge the conflict, by moving an amendment declaratory of the resolution of Parliament to abide by the Constitution of 1782. A debate ensued, in which the appeals to reason were almost all on one side ; but it must be admitted that in this and the subsequent debates some of the finest specimens of invective and declamation that exist in any language were called forth on the other. Plunkett pre-eminently distinguished himself in this line:
• The two Parliaments may clash! So in Great Britain may King and Parliament ; but we see they never do so injuriously. There are principles of repulsion! yes; but there are principles of attraction, and from these the enlightened statesman extracts the principle by which the countries are to be harmoniously governed. As soon would I listen to the shallow observer of nature, who should say there is a centrifugal force impressed on our globe, and therefore, lest we should be hurried