Abbildungen der Seite

men, as ignorant of the matter as those who spoke on it, could with difficulty believe that senators would stand forth the accusers of the highest of our courts of justice without taking the least pains to understand the principles, or investigate the facts, on which the question of its merits or demerits necessarily turned. It did not occur to common understandings, that a man of sense and virtue could hold himself out as the improver of a machine with the frame and structure of which he was totally unacquainted.

On the 15th of May, the Attorney-general moved "for leave to bring in a bill to regulate the practice of the Court of Chancery." He prefaced his motion by a long and able speech, in which he explained, in popular language, some of the general principles of courts of equity, and the outline of their forms and course of proceeding. It was the more necessary to do this, because, the great difficulty of meeting the attacks of enemies of the court of Chancery consisted, not in detecting the futility of the objections that were made, but in communicating so much knowledge of the subject to those who made or heard the objections as would enable them to comprehend when a satisfactory refutation was given. He described, likewise, the course which the commissionershad taken; and, without descending to minute details, pointed out the aim and nature of the alterations which the proposed bill was intended to effect. We do not enter into the particular topics discussed in the speech; partly because they were necessarily of a nature too strictly

professional to be generally intelligible, and partly because it was not intended that any farther proceeding should be taken in the matter during the present session. The object of his motion was, merely to bring the subject before parliament; but the prosecution of the bill was to be deferred to the first session of a new parliament.

The discussion which followed the motion of the attorney-general, was very temperate. Some of Ae minor orators were dissatisfied tfiat the commissioners had not found faultwith theLord Chancellor; and they stated, or insinuated, that that noble person had, in fact, 'by his influence caused the investigation to stop far short of the lengths to which it ought to have gone. These statements and insinuations were fully answered by Dr. Lushington: "With regard," said he, "to the conduct of the Lord Chancellor, he (Dr. Lushington) did but discharge a debt of justice to that individual when he said, that, from the beginning to the end of the investigation he had given the most material assistance to the commissioners. He did not deliver his opinions to them as dogmas, but allowed those who doubted' of their correctness to investigate them thoroughly, affording them every explanation which they required, and that, too, in a manner which left on his mind a most favourable impression with regard to the learning, intelligence, and integrity of that learned lord. So far from ever seeking to check inquiry, he had done every thing to promote and forward it."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

ALTHOUGH Ireland was sharing largely in the general distress, her internal situation was one of tranquillity, if allowance be^snade,; for those acts of individual,a(;rpcity wliich so frequently darken her annals, and those hejwtnharBdngs :fostered, if not kindled,, by; the Catholic Association, which, in summer, blazed fofith.^t the command of the priesthood, against the landlords at the gen.ejal >. election. The Catholic Association, notwithstanding the act for its suppression, still existed in;substance; the same irritating, and yet absurd, harangues were delivered; the same engines of influence were kept in active operation; the same contributions, which formed the Catholic rent, stjlL, continued to be levied. The ordinary turbulences of elections were) t indeed''aggravated by the unhappy spirit of religious rancour which the zeal of the Catholic clergy superadded to political differences; and, in more instances than one, they terminated in blood. But, with this exception, there was no violation of the public peace; and Ireland remained free from the outrages to which the suffering artizans, in the manufacturing districts of England, allowed themselves to be excited by poverty and distress.

During the session of parliament, the question of emancipation was not formally stirred in either House. The vote of the House of Lords in the preceding session had convinced the supporters of the measure, that little could be hoped from again so speedily agitating the question; and the atrocious language used, and violent resolutions voted, in assemblies of Catholics, only tended to create additional obstacles, by exciting greater irritation, and displaying more clearly their ultimate and dangerous views.* The question,

■ .■ .- ■■ r . !i 'I,,

* The oratory of men who can neither think coolly and correctly, nor speak with propriety, is never worth preserving, except as shewing the very lowest degree of sense and decency compatible with public notoriety, and vulgar influence. Of this it would be impossible to find a more valuable specimen than the following language, used in a public meeting in Dublin, in the beginning of November, by Mr. O'Connell. When it is recollected that the speech was delivered white the" duke of York was labouring under the illness which, inafew weeks, terminated his life, and just a month before Britain, roused in a moment by an inroad of despotism upon an ally, stood armed with the rapidity of lightning, on the banks of the Tagus, and, fearless and prompt, frowned Europe into peace; it furnishes an admirable commentary on the goodness of the man's heart, and the soundness of his head, on the extent

however, was still kept before the eye of both Houses (by petitions from different districts and bodies in Ireland, particularly those presented to the House of Peers, by lords Darnley and Grey, and the marquis of Lansdown, and to the Commons by sir Francis Burdett, and Mr. Brougham. The petitions were more especially directed to a disclaimer of the imputation of owing a divided allegiance; evidently on account of the weight which the argument of the AntiCatholics on this point had carried with it, or had seemed to carry with it, in the debate of the preceding session. Lord Darnley, in fact, in presenting a petition from Drogheda, proceeded to answer

of. his learning, and the suavity of his manners.

"I wish no physical ill to the royal duke; but if he has thrown his oath in the way of our liberties, and that as long as he lives justice shall not be done to the people of Ireland, it is mockery to tell me that the people of Ireland have not an interest in his ceasing to live. Death is the corrector of human errors; it is said to be man's hour for repentance, and God's opportunity. If the royal duke should not become converted from his political errors, I am perfectly resigned to the will of God, and shall abide the result with the most christian resignation [laughter and cheers]. The Whigs, and, amongst others, lord Grosvenor, have blamed us for the honest expression of our opinions. I blame the Whigs for this. A former duke of York, the (legitimate king of England, was dethroned by the English Whigs, although he had never taken an oath against their rights and liberties; and who, instead of endeavouring to injure a single Protestant in person or in property, could be only charged with the crime of proclaiming perfect liberty of conscience. Only contrast the duke of York whom they dethroned with our modern duke'."

m • • •

"We will drag before the House of Commons the enormous abuses of the

the speech of lord Liverpool deli.vered the year before, and characterized the imputation of divided allegiance as "a false pretence," because the Catholics in all their petions declared, that, in the oaths which they took, and were ready to take, they swore allegiance to his majesty alone. Lord Liverpool answered, that although he never doubted the sincerity of the Catholics in disclaiming civil allegiance to any foreign power, the fact could not affect the argument; for his argument was that spiritual subjection to a foreign power was inconsistent with civil obedience to our own sovereign.

At the same time, a sort of schism threatened to take place

established church [loud cheers]. We will call for the restoration of the people's property. Through the doors of the House of Commons we will tell the peasantry that their property is in the hands of men who abuse and trample on them. We will announce to them who are the robbers of the poor, and when we have done that, let such statesmen as Liverpool and Peel keep us unemancipated, in order to strengthen and secure the established church." • • • #

"England's weakness is our advantage. I do not rejoice at individual distress or misfortune, but I cannot help being gratified by the national misfortunes of England. Her revenue is on the decline, while her expenditure is increasing. I read with pleasure of the cheers with which the speech of Mr. Canning was received at the JV^ansion-house in London, when he told them that there was not the least danger of war—all was hush! Oh! humiliated England! When before did she fear battle; and was not the peace of the world at her disposal? Was she not always ready to enter the field at the call of glory, interest, or honour? But Mr. Canning told these good boys that there was no danger of the peace of the world being disturbed. I understand his meaning well—England dare not go to war while Ireland remains discontented,"

between the Catholics and the Dissenters. It appeared to the former, that the Dissenters, from whom as also labouring under political disqualifications they naturally looked for sympathy and support, had either openly joined the body of their opponents, or had manifested only a cold and discouraging neutrality, not reflecting, that the liniment applied annually, in the shape of an Indemnity bill, to the sores of the Dissenters, prevented that constant irritation which kept the wounds of the Catholics perpetually green, especially under the care of such rash, and ignorant, and interested, practitioners as the associated agitators; and that it is never easy to rouse men to battle for an abstract principle, where no practical inconvenience is felt, or supposed to be felt, from its non-assertion. Lord Darnley complained bitterly of their inconsistency in pressing the abolition of negro slavery, and resisting the abolition of Catholic disabilities. "They form," said his lordship, "a powerful and numerous sect in this country, and are undoubtedly respectable and well-meaning: yet, while they were urging the government and parliament to precipitate the emancipation of the negroes, they were busily engaged last year, in most unnatural connection with the High Church party, in inducing their lordships to reject the prayer of the Catholics of Ireland. In one breath, these persons called upon parliament to precipitate a measure, the precipitation of which it was by no means impossible might compromise the safety of the colonies, and to deny to Ireland that emancipation by which alone her tranquillity and safety could be effectually secured." Perhaps

the Dissenters might have answered, without being thought to violate sound reasoning, that, although Dissenters, they were Protestants; that apprehensions of the influence of foreign spiritual supremacy, the conviction of the degrading and debasing effects of the Catholic superstition in all the relations of life, and the reasonable dread that all its powerful control over the minds of its adherents must be, and would be, directed to the overthrow of the Protestant religion, and of the form of government that gave supremacy to protestantism—that all these causes of opposition, whether wellfounded or not, were common to all Protestants; and that no inconsistency could exist in the union of a churchman and a dissenter to repel a common danger.

While the claims of the Catholics were merely the subject of incidental remarks, the condition of the Protestant church in Ireland, the discharge of its duties, and the management of its funds, were frequently made the subjects of more direct discussion.

In the House of Lords, lord Kingston moved for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the state of the Protestant church in the province of Munster. He founded his motion upon the evils which he stated to have arisen from the union of livings, and the consequent want of churches to which the Protestant people might repair. In the province in question his lordship stated, it had not been uncommon to unite five, six, or seven livings in one person; and, in many parishes, if the Protestant inhabitants wished spiritual consolation, or to have the benefit of religious worship, the nearest clergyman who could advise them, and the nearest church in which service was performed, was probably at a great distance. Two parishes which contained, the one eight thousand acres, and the other between four and five thousand, had only one church each. In the latter, the only church to which the Protestant parishioners could resort, was a chapel which had been built by a private nobleman, for the convenience of his own family; and, in another, you might ride twenty-two miles without seeing a church at all. It was, he said, a scandalous thing that there should be such a want both of churches and clergymen in a country where Protestantism was the established religion; and his only object was, to prevent, by supplying both, the extinction of that religion throughout the province; for the Catholics, on their side, were most active and exemplary in remedying similar deficiencies. Lord Harrowby, and the Bishop of Leighlin, answered, that all the information,which sucha committee might acquire, was already contained in the voluminous mass of evidence on the subject collected last session by the Lords' committee to inquire into the state of Ireland. There could be no doubt that unions existed, frequently to an inconvenient extent. They had been made, some by the episcopacy, some by acts of Council, over which the diocesan had no control, 'and some existed by prescription; but in many cases the union had been a matter of imperative necessity. The number of acres in a parish formed no criterion by which the House could be guided: the important element was the extent of the population. In some cases the parishes were very extensive, and the population could not pay the expenses of the

church. There was one instance of a parish which contained four churches; and to the curates of these churches, the rector paid more than he actually derived from the whole parish. As the returns on the table of the House shewed all the unions of parishes that existed in Ireland, and the authority by which they had been made, the motion was unnecessary. The motion was withdrawn.

The want of churches, which it was the object of this motion to supply, was intimately connected with the administration of the fund formed of the first-fruits of all ecclesiastical benefices. These revenues, being the first year's income of every benefice, had been originally payable to the Pope. On the Reformation they were vested in the Crown; and the building of churches was one of the purposes to which they had been appropriated by an act of Queen Anne. Sir John Newport brought the management of this fund, and the inequalities and insufficiencies of the system according to which the contributions of the clergy to it were regulated, under the notice of the House of Commons by a series of resolutions declaratory of its nature and history, and by a motion for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into its condition and administration. The reasons by which he justified his motion were, that the first-fruits, where they were paid at all, continued to be paid upon the rate of valuation, for which there was no authority in the law, and that thus by far the greater portion of a fund which the Crown had sacrificed, and the legislature had set apart for public purposes, was allowed to remain in the pockets of the clergy, while new burdens were laid upon

« ZurückWeiter »