Page images

liament in its sole and exclusive Legislature one step farther, and proposed to impart the these are my terms.

Mr. Grattan now moved the Declaration of Right, which was carried almost without a dissenting voice; and a bill soon after passed the British Parliament, ratifying the decision by repealing the obnoxious act of George I.

The Parliament of Ireland was at last independent; but the beneficial results, so glowingly depicted by Mr. Grattan, were never realized; all were sacrificed and lost through a spirit of selfishness and faction. The Protestants of Ireland were divided into two parties, the Aristocracy and the Patriots. The former were exclusive, selfish, and arrogant; the latter were eager for reform, but too violent and reckless in the measures they employed to obtain it. The Parliament of Ireland was a borough Parliament, the members of the House of Commons being, in no proper sense, representatives of the people, but put in their places by a comparatively small number of individuals belonging to the higher classes. These classes, while they were among the foremost to demand that "England should not give law to Ireland," were equally determined that the Irish Parliament, in making laws, should do it for the peculiar benefit of the Aristocracy, and the support of their hereditary influence. The Patriots, on the other hand, demanded Parliamentary Reform, and clamored for universal suffrage. To enforce their claims, they assembled a Convention of the Volunteers at Dublin in 1783, with a view to influence, and perhaps overawe the Parliament. Their success would have been certain if they had gone

privileges they enjoyed to the Roman Catholics, by making them voters. But this the Protestants of neither party were willing to do. The Romanists comprised three quarters of the population; very few of them could read or write; and both parties-the Patriots as well as the Aristocracy-equally shrunk from the experiment of universal suffrage among this class of their fellow-citizens. Under these circumstances, the call for Parliamentary Reform was very faintly echoed by the great body of the people. The Convention of Volunteers had none of that power which they had previously exerted on the question of Parliamentary Independence. A bill was brought into the House of Commons by Mr. Flood for extending the right of suffrage, but it was voted down in the most decisive manner. The bitterest animosities now prevailed, and new subjects of contention arose from time to time. Associations were formed, at a later period, under the name of United Irishmen, designed to promote the cause of liberty. Rash men, in many instances, gained the ascendency; an insurrection was planned, and in part commenced; and measures of great severity were resorted to by the British government to restore order. The more sober part of the community became weary of these contentions, and some began to look to a union with England as the only safeguard of their persons and property. The British ministry had the strongest motives to urge on this measure in order to prevent future troubles; and in the year 1800, to a great extent by the use of bribes, the union was effected, and from this time the Parliament of Ireland became extinct.



It has been said by Mr. Flood, that "the pen have been corrupt; and in the last, seditious; would fall from the hand, and the fetus of the that after an envenomed attack on the persons mind would die unborn," if men had not a privi- and measures of a succession of viceroys, and lege to maintain a right in the Parliament of En- | after much declamation against their illegalgland to make law for Ireland. The affectation ities and their profusion, he took office, and beof zeal, and a burst of forced and metaphorical came a supporter of government when the proconceits, aided by the arts of the press, gave an fusion of ministers had greatly increased, and alarm which, I hope, was momentary, and which their crimes multiplied beyond example; when only exposed the artifice of those who were wick- your money bills were altered without reserve ed, and the haste of those who were deceived. by the Council; when an embargo was laid on your export trade, and a war declared against the liberties of America. At such a critical moment, I will suppose this gentleman to be corrupted by a great sinecure office to muzzle his declamation, to swallow his invectives, to give his assent and vote to the ministers, and to become a supporter of government, its measures, its embargo, and its American war. I will suppose that he was suspected by the government that had bought him, and in consequence thereof, that he thought proper to resort to the acts of a trimmer, the last sad refuge of disappointed am

But it is not the slander of an evil tongue that can defame me. I maintain my reputation in public and in private life. No man who has not a bad character can ever say that I deceived; no country can call me cheat. But I will suppose such a public character. I will suppose such a man to have existence. I will begin with his character in its political cradle, and I will follow him to the last state of political dissolution.

I will suppose him, in the first stage of his life, to have been intemperate; in the second, to

of office, I will suppose him to come forth, and to tell his country that her trade had been destroyed by an inadequate duty on English sugar, as her Constitution had been ruined by a Perpetual Mutiny Bill! In relation to three fourths of our fellow-subjects, the Catholics, when a bill was introduced to grant them rights of property and religion, I will suppose this gentleman to have come forth to give his negative to their pretensions. In the same manner, I will suppose him to have opposed the institution of the Volunteers, to which we owe so much, and that he went to a meeting in his own county to prevent their establishment; that he himself kept out of their associations; that he was almost the only man in this House that was not in uniform, and that he never was a Volunteer until he ceased to be a placeman, and until he became an incendiary.

bition; that, with respect to the Constitution of his country, that part, for instance, which regard ed the Mutiny Bill, when a clause of reference was introduced, whereby the articles of war, which were, or hereafter might be, passed in England, should be current in Ireland without the interference of her Parliament-when such a clause was in view, I will suppose this gentleman to have absconded. Again, when the bill was made perpetual, I will suppose him again to have absconded; but a year and a half after the bill had passed, then I will suppose this gentleman to have come forward, and to say that your Constitution had been destroyed by the Perpetual Bill. With regard to that part of the Constitution that relates to the law of Poynings, I will suppose the gentleman to have made many a long, very long disquisition before he took office, but, after he received office, to have been as silent on that subject as before he had been loquacious. That, when money bills, under color of that law, were altered, year after year, as in 1775 and 1776, and when the bills so altered were resumed and passed, I will suppose that gentleman to have absconded or acquiesced, and to have supported the minister who made the alteration; but when he was dismissed from office, and a member introduced a bill to remedy this evil, I will suppose that this gentleman inveighed against the mischief, against the remedy, and against the person of the introducer, who did that duty which he himself for seven years had abandoned. With respect to that part of the Constitution which is connected with the repeal of the 6th of George the First, when the inadequacy of the repeal was debating in the House, I will suppose this gentleman to make no kind of objection; that he never named, at that time, the word renunciation; and that, on the division on that subject, he absconded; but when the office he had lost was given to another man, that he came forward, and exclaimed against the measure; nay, that he went into the public streets to canvass for sedition; that he became a ramblingorous opposition you became, on a sudden, silent; incendiary, and endeavored to excite a mutiny in the Volunteers against an adjustment between Great Britain and Ireland, of liberty and repose, which he had not the virtue to make, and against an administration who had the virtue to free the country without buying the members.

With respect to commerce, I will suppose this gentleman to have supported an embargo which lay on the country for three years, and almost destroyed it; and when an address in 1778, to open her trade, was propounded, to remain silent and inactive. And with respect to that other part of her trade, which regarded the duty on sugar, when the merchants were examined in 1778, on the inadequate protecting duty, when the inadequate duty was voted, when the act was recommitted, when another duty was proposed, when the bill returned with the inadequate duty substituted, when the altered bill was adopted, on every one of those questions I will suppose the gentleman to abscond; but a year and a half after the mischief was done, he out

With regard to the liberties of America, which were inseparable from ours, I will suppose this gentleman to have been an enemy, decided and unreserved; that he voted against her liberty, and voted, moreover, for an address to send four thou sand Irish troops to cut the throats of the Americans; that he called these butchers "armed negotiators," and stood with a metaphor in his mouth, and a bribe in his pocket, a champion against the rights of America, the only hope of Ireland, and the only refuge of the liberties of mankind. Thus defective in every relationship, whether to Constitution, commerce, or toleration, I will suppose this man to have added much private improbity to public crimes; that his probity was like his patriotism, and his honor on a level with his oath. He loves to deliver panegyrics on himself. I will interrupt him, and say, "Sir, you are much mistaken if you think that your talents have been as great as your life has been reprehensible. You began your parliamentary career with an acrimony and personality which could have been justified only by a supposition of virtue. After a rank and clam

you were silent for seven years; you were silent on the greatest questions; and you were silent for money! In 1773, while a negotiation was pending to sell your talents and your turbulence, you absconded from your duty in Parliament; you forsook your law of Poynings; you forsook the questions of economy, and abandoned all the old themes of your former declamation. You were not at that period to be found in the House. You were seen, like a guilty spirit, haunting the lobby of the House of Commons, watching the moment in which the question should be put, that you might vanish. You were descried with a criminal anxiety, retiring from the scenes of your past glory; or you were perceived coasting the upper benches of this House like a bird of prey, with an evil aspect and a sepulchral note, meditating to pounce on its quarry. These ways-they were not the ways of honor-you practiced pending a negotiation which was to end either in your sale or your sedition. The former taking place, you supported the rankest measures

that ever came before Parliament; the embargo, sorry game of a trimmer in your progress to of 1776, for instance. 'O, fatal embargo, that breach of law, and ruin of commerce!' You supported the unparalleled profusion and jobbing of Lord Harcourt's scandalous ministry-the address to support the American war-the other address to send four thousand men, which you had yourself declared to be necessary for the defense of Ireland, to fight against the liberties of America, to which you had declared yourself a friend. You, sir, who delight to utter execrations against the American commissioners of 1778, on account of their hostility to Americayou, sir, who manufacture stage thunder against Mr. Eden for his anti-American principlesyou, sir, whom it pleases to chant a hymn to the immortal Hampden-you, sir, approved of the tyranny exercised against America; and you, sir, voted four thousand Irish troops to cut the throats of the Americans fighting for their freedom, fighting for your freedom, fighting for the great principle, LIBERTY! But you found, at last (and this should be an eternal lesson to men of your craft and cunning), that the King had only dishonored you; the court had bought, but would not trust you; and, having voted for the worst measures, you remained, for seven years, the creature of salary, without the confidence of government. Mortified at the discovery, and stung by disappointment, you betake yourself to the sad expedients of duplicity. You try the

the acts of an incendiary. You give no honest support either to the government or the people. You, at the most critical period of their existence, take no part; you sign no non-consumption agreement; you are no Volunteer; you oppose no Perpetual Mutiny Bill; no altered Sugar Bill; you declare that you lament that the Declaration of Right should have been brought forward; and observing, with regard to both prince and people, the most impartial treachery and desertion, you justify the suspicion of your Sovereigu, by betraying the government, as you had sold the people, until, at last, by this hollow conduct, and for some other steps, the result of mortified ambition, being dismissed, and another person put in your place, you fly to the ranks of the Volunteers and canvass for mutiny; you announce that the country was ruined by other men during that period in which she had been sold by you. Your logic is, that the repeal of a declaratory law is not the repeal of a law at all, and the effect of that logic is, an English act affecting to emancipate Ireland, by exercising over her the legis lative authority of the British Parliament. Such has been your conduct; and at such conduct every order of your fellow-subjects have a right to exclaim! The merchant may say to youthe constitutionalist may say to you-the American may say to you—and I, I now say, and say to your beard, sir—you are not an honest man !”



Has the gentleman done? Has he completely done? He was unparliamentary from the beginning to the end of his speech. There was scarce a word that he uttered that was not a violation of the privileges of the House; but I did not call him to order. Why? Because the limited talents of some men render it impossible for them to be severe without being unparliamentary; but before I sit down I shall show him how to be severe and parliamentary at the same time. On any other occasion I should think myself justifiable in treating with silent contempt any thing which might fall from that honorable member; but there are times when the insignificance of the accuser is lost in the magnitude of the accusation. I know the difficulty the honorable gentleman labored under when he attacked me, conscious that, on a comparative view of our characters, public and private, there is nothing he could say which would injure me. The public would not believe the charge. I despise the falsehood. If such a charge were made by an honest man, I would answer it in the manner I shall do before I sit down. But I shall first reply to it when not made by an honest man.

The right honorable gentleman has called me an unimpeached traitor." I ask, why not

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

traitor," unqualified by any epithet? I will tell him; it was because he dare not. It was the act of a coward, who raises his arm to strike, but has not courage to give the blow. I will not call him a villain, because it would be unparliamentary, and he is a privy counselor. I will not call him fool, because he happens to be Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I say he is one who has abused the privilege of Parliament and the freedom of debate, to the uttering language which, if spoken out of the House, I should answer only with a blow. I care not how high his situation, how low his character, how contemptible his speech; whether a privy counselor or a parasite, my answer would be a blow. He has charged me with being connected with the rebels. The charge is utterly, totally, and meanly false. Does the honorable gentleman rely on the report of the House of Lords for the foundation of his assertion? If he does, I can prove to the committee there was a physical impossibility of that report being true; but I scorn to answer any man for my conduct, whether he be a political coxcomb, or whether he brought himself into power by a false glare of courage or not. I scorn to answer any wizard of the Castle, throwing himself into fantastical airs;


but if an honorable and independent man were | blow is aimed at the independence of our counto make a charge against me, I would say, "You charge me with having an intercourse with rebels, and you found your charge upon what is said to have appeared before a committee of the Lords. Sir, the report of that committee is totally and egregiously irregular." I will read a letter from Mr. Nelson, who had been examined before that committee; it states that what the report represents him as having spoken is not what he said. [Mr. Grattan here read the letter from Mr. Nelson, denying that he had any connection with Mr. Grattan, as charged in the report; and concluded by saying, "never was misrepresentation more vile than that put into my mouth by the report."]

From the situation that I held, and from the connections I had in the city of Dublin, it was necessary for me to hold intercourse with various descriptions of persons. The right honorable member might as well have been charged with a participation in the guilt of those traitors; for he had communicated with some of those very persons on the subject of parliamentary reform. The Irish government, too, were in communication with some of them.

The right honorable member has told me I deserted a profession where wealth and station were the reward of industry and talent. If I mistake not, that gentleman endeavored to obtain those rewards by the same means; but he soon deserted the occupation of a barrister for those of a parasite and pander. He fled from the labor of study to flatter at the table of the great. He found the Lords' parlor a better sphere for his exertions than the hall of the Four Courts; the house of a great man a more convenient way to power and to place; and that it was easier for a statesman of middling talents to sell his friends than a lawyer of no talents to sell his clients.

For myself, whatever corporate or other bodies have said or done to me, I, from the bottom of my heart, forgive them. I feel I have done too much for my country to be vexed at them. I would rather that they should not feel or acknowledge what I have done for them, and call me traitor, than have reason to say I sold them. I will always defend myself against the assassin; but with large bodies it is different. To the people I will bow; they may be my enemy-I never shall be theirs.

At the emancipation of Ireland, in 1782, I took a leading part in the foundation of that Constitution which is now endeavored to be destroyed. Of that Constitution I was the author; in that Constitution I glory; and for it the honorable gentleman should bestow praise, not invent calumny. Notwithstanding my weak statc of body, I come to give my last testimony against this Union, so fatal to the liberties and interest of my country. I come to make common cause with these honorable and virtuous gentlemen around me; to try and save the Constitution; or if not save the Constitution, at least to save cur characters, and remove from our graves the foul disgrace of standing apart while a deadly

The right honorable gentleman says I fled from the country, after exciting rebellion; and that I have returned to raise another. No such thing. The charge is false. The civil war had not commenced when I left the kingdom; and I could not have returned without taking a part. On the one side there was the camp of the rebel; on the other, the camp of the minister, a greater traitor than that rebel. The strong-hold of the Constitution was nowhere to be found. I agree that the rebel who rises against the government should have suffered; but I missed on the scaffold the right honorable gentleman. Two des. perate parties were in arms against the Constitution. The right honorable gentleman belonged to one of those parties, and deserved death. I could not join the rebel-I could not join the government. I could not join tortureI could not join half-hanging-I could not join free quarter. I could take part with neither. I was, therefore, absent from a scene where I could not be active without self-reproach, nor indifferent with safety.

Many honorable gentlemen thought differently from me. I respect their opinions; but I keep my own; and I think now, as I thought then, that the treason of the minister against the liberties of the people was infinitely worse than the rebellion of the people against the minister.

I have returned, not, as the right honorable member has said, to raise another storm-I have returned to discharge an honorable debt of gratitude to my country, that conferred a great reward for past services, which, I am proud to say, was not greater than my desert. I have returned to protect that Constitution of which I was the parent and the founder, from the assassination of such men as the honorable gentleman and his unworthy associates. They are corrupt-they are seditious-and they, at this very moment, are in a conspiracy against their country. I have returned to refute a libel, as false as it is malicious, given to the public under the appellation of a report of the committee of the Lords. Here I stand, ready for impeachment or trial: I dare accusation. I defy the honorable gentleman; I defy the government; I defy the whole phalanx. Let them come forth. I tell the ministers I will neither give them quarter nor take it. I am here to lay the shattered remains of my constitution on the floor of this House, in defense of the liberties of my country.

[blocks in formation]

My guilt or innocence have little to do with the question here. I rose with the rising fortunes of my country-I am willing to die with her expiring liberties. To the voice of the people I will bow, but never shall I submit to the calumnies of an individual hired to betray them and slander me. The indisposition of my body has left me, perhaps, no means but that of lying down with fallen Ireland, and recording upon her tomb my dying testimony against the flagitious corruption that has murdered her independence.

The right honorable gentleman has said that this purchase public scorn by private infamy-the was not my place that, instead of having a voice lighter characters of the model have as little in the councils of my country, I should now stand chance of weaning me from the habits of a life a culprit at her bar-at the bar of a court of spent, if not exhausted, in the cause of my nacriminal judicature, to answer for my treasons. tive land. Am I to renounce those habits now The Irish people have not so read my history; forever, and at the beck of whom? I should but let that pass; if I am what he said I am, the rather say of what-half a minister-half a monpeople are not therefore to forfeit their Constitu- | key-a 'prentice politician, and a master coxtion. In point of argument, therefore, the attack comb. He has told you that what he said of me is bad-in point of taste or feeling, if he had here, he would say any where. I believe he either, it is worse-in point of fact, it is false, would say thus of me in any place where he utterly and absolutely false-as rancorous a thought himself safe in saying it. Nothing can falsehood as the most malignant motives could limit his calumnies but his fears-in Parliament suggest to the prompt sympathy of a shameless he has calumniated me to-night, in the King's and a venal defense. The right honorable gen- courts he would calumniate me to-morrow; but tleman has suggested examples which I should had he said or dared to insinuate one half as have shunned, and examples which I should have much elsewhere, the indignant spirit of an honfollowed. I shall never follow his, and I have est man would have answered the vile and venal ever avoided it. I shall never be ambitious to slanderer with-a blow.


The Secretary stood alone. Modern degeneracy had not reached him. Original and unaccommodating, the features of his character had the hardihood of antiquity. His august mind overawed Majesty; and one of his Sovereigns [George III.] thought royalty so impaired in his presence, that he conspired to remove him, in order to be relieved from his superiority. No state chicanery, no narrow system of vicious politics, no idle contest for ministerial victories, sunk him to the vulgar level of the great; but, overbearing, persuasive, and impracticable, his object was England-his ambition was fame. Without dividing, he destroyed party; without corrupting, he made a venal age unanimous. France sunk beneath him; with one hand he smote the house of Bourbon, and wielded in the other the democracy of England. The sight of his mind was infinite, and his schemes were to affect, not England, not the present age only, but Europe and posterity. Wonderful were the means by which these schemes were accomplished, always seasonable, always adequate, the suggestions of an understanding animated by ardor, and enlightened by prophecy.

The ordinary feelings which make life amiable and indolent-those sensations which soften and allure, and vulgarize, were unknown to him. No domestic difficulties, no domestic weakness, reached him; but, aloof from the sordid occurrences of life, and unsullied by its intercourse, he came occasionally into our system to counsel and decide.

1 See page 63.

A character so exalted, so strenuous, so various, so authoritative, astonished a corrupt age, and the Treasury trembled at the name of Pitt through all her classes of venality. Corruption imagined, indeed, that she found defects in this statesman, and talked much of the inconsistency of his glory, and much of the ruin of his victories-but the history of his country and the calamities of the enemy answered and refuted her.

Nor were his political abilities his only talents; his eloquence was an era in the Senate. Peculiar and spontaneous, familiarly expressing gigantic sentiments and instinctive wisdom-not like the torrent of Demosthenes, or the splendid conflagration of Tully, it resembled, sometimes the thunder, and sometimes the music of the spheres. Like Murray [Lord Mansfield], he did not conduct the understanding through the painful subtilty of argumentation; nor was he, like Townsend, forever on the rack of exertion, but rather lightened upon the subject, and reached the point by the flashings of his mind, which, like those of his eye, were felt, but could not be followed.

Upon the whole, there was in this man something that could create, subvert, or reform; an understanding, a spirit, and an eloquence to summon mankind to society, or to break the bonds of slavery asunder, and rule the wildness of free minds with unbounded authority; something that could establish or overwhelm empire, and strike a blow in the world that should resound through its history.

2 Mr. Charles Townsend. See his character in Burke's speech on American Taxation.

« PreviousContinue »