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his Irish friends. He became enamored of politics, and resolved to shine in the Parliament of his native island. Some of his sketches found their way into the Dublin newspapers, and their point and power gave plausibility to the charge at one time made, that he was the author of Junius. In answer to a direct application to him, in 1805, to know if he were the famous author, he laconically replied :
“SIR: I am not 'Junius,' but your good wisher and obedient servant,
On his permanent return to Ireland, he immediately conDected himself with the opposition to the Vice-Regal Governmont, opening the attack by a series of newspaper articles in Findication of Irish rights, which attracted much attention, and came near subjecting him to a royal prosecution. From that moment, he gave his whole mind and soul to public affairs, and, during the subsequent fifty years, every page of Irish history records his name, associated with some measure for the amelioration of Irish wrongs.
He is the author of what is miscalled “ Irish Independence.” On the accession of George III to the throne, the government of Ireland was then, as it is now, the chief difficulty of Ministers. During the American Revolutionary war, intestine commotions, from the incendiary proceedings of the “Whiteboys,” (a rabble band which fired the houses of the landlords, and now and then put to death a non-complying tenant,) and the danger of invasion from France, impelled the middle classes to petition Government for succor and protection. They were frankly told that no aid could be afforded them, and they must take care of themselves. Acting on this license, a volunteer militia was enrolled in all parts of the island, the Government furnishing arms, which swelled till it numbered 100,000 men, of the bone and sinew of Ireland. The “ Whiteboys” shrunk into the caves, the threatened invasion was abandoned, and the popular leaders, who had been active in mustering the volunteers, took advantage of their strong position to demand the removal of onerous restrictions on Irish commerce, and the amelioration of the Catholic penal code. The British Government essentially modified the commercial regulations between the two countries, and though some of the darker features of the code were relaxed, it still remained a disgrace to civilization. The greatest burden yet existed—the supremacy of the British Parliament over Irish affairs. Emboldened by success, an attempt was made to procure its repeal. Flood, the rival of Grattan, demanded a distinct disavowal, by the British Parliament, of the right to govern Ireland. Grattan, who had the hearts of his countrymen in his hand, avowed that he would be satisfied if Britain would repeal all existing laws interfering with Irish rights. The measure was adopted, and the Irish Parliament became the supreme legislature of Ireland, subject to the supervision of the King in Council. Hibernia was intoxicated with joy, and, in the fervor of their gratitude, the countrymen of Grattan voted him £50,000. Thus, in 1782, was quasi legislative independence granted to Ireland. But British gold and intrigue were ever able to seduce the integrity and distract the counsels of its legislators, till, eighteen years afterward, all was obliterated in the Act of Union. It was in allusion to the rise and fall of legislative independence that Grattan, years subsequently, so beautifully said, “I watched its cradle ; I followed its bier." During these eighteen years, he did all that great talents and vigilant patriotism could to secure the prosperity and save the honor of his native land. The leader of the liberals in the Irish Parliament, he resisted the oppressions of the Saxon, and spurned his bribes, and appealed to Hibernia to be true to herself, and to maintain her national identity. Exasperated beyond endurance, Irish patriotism fomented the rebellion of 1798–9, which precipitated upon the heads of the "United Irishmen” the whole weight of British hatred and revenge. The scaffold ran blood, and the cheek of Ireland turned pale. In 1799, Pitt proposed the Union. Undaunted
by the defection around him, Grattan, in the Irish Commons, resisted it with such vehement eloquence, that it was postponed till the next year.
In the mean time, British gold proved more potent than its bayonets. Half the Irish Parliament was bribed into compliance with England's base proposals, and in 1800, after a last effort to rally the drooping spirits of his countrymen, Grattan followed the bier of Hibernian Independence to its resting place in St. Stephen's Chapel. Said his compatriot, young Emmet, the martyr, about to perish upon the scaffold, When Ireland becomes a nation, let my epitaph be written !” Forty years afterward, in the midst of an excited throng, in the Dublin Corn Exchange, I heard O'Connell say, “Men of Ireland ! I swear by your wrongs that Ireland shall yet become a nation !" Those wrongs are yet unavenged, the vow is yet unredeemed, the epitaph unwritten. BUT THEY WILL BE !
Grattan entered the British Parliament in 1805, where he remained till his death, in 1820. Ever in the front rank of Reformers, he was the special champion of Catholic emancipation, divided the House almost every year, and frequently two or three times in a session, on various propositions looking to ultimate emancipation, but without success; and in his last effort was defeated by only two majority-an earnest that the
was coming. He met with the common misfortune of displeasing the ultras of both parties. He asked too little to please the extreme Catholics—too much to win the favor of the extreme Protestants. He asked for a part, and got nothing. At a later day, O'Connell demanded the whole, and got the greater part. History is philosophy teaching by examples.
Grattan was a model orator. His style had the genius, the enthusiasm, the brilliancy, the pathos, which mark Hibernian eloquence, and was divested of many of those peculiarities which often mar the forensic displays of a country where, as an accomplished Irishman says, “ you may kick an orator out
good time »
of every bush."
If he was fertile in illustrations, he was redundant in principles—if his speech was replete with epigram, it abounded in terse reasoning—if it sparkled with wit, it was luminous in its calmer statements—if it blighted with its sarcasm, it mellowed with its pathos—if it was charged with the lightning of invective, it was freighted with the most ponderous argument–if it could wither a groveling enemy with its scorn, it could persuade a manly opponent with its logic. Nor did he overlay the solid parts of his oratory with the lighter graces of declamation, nor smother them under a redundancy of poetical illustration. He was a master of the compressed, nervous, rapid, racy style of argumentation---the very perfection of the art.
On the death of this great man, the cause of Catholic emancipation fell under the guidance of MR. PLUNKETT, who, next to him, was the ablest Irish representative in the Commons. Sir James Mackintosh sketches him, in one of his dashing conversational profiles, thus If Plunkett had come earlier into Parliament, so as to have learned the trade, he would probably have excelled all our orators. He and Counselor Phillips (or O'Garish, as he is nicknamed here) are at the opposite points of the scale. O'Garish's style is pitiful to the last degree. He ought, by common consent, to be driven from the bar.” Plunkett brought to his work a true Irish heart, talents of the first class, eloquence cast in a rare mold, and a reputation unsurpassed at the Dublin bar. He bore a conspicuous part in all those violent throes, in and out of Parliament, in regard to Catholic emancipation, which convulsed the country from 1820 to 1829, and drove Ireland to the borders of rebellion. He won several partial triumphs over Ministers, preliminary to the granting of the great boon in the latter year, when the kingdom held its breath while O'Connell, the dreaded “Agitator," appeared at the bar of the Commons, to demand his seat for the county of Clare. When the Whigs rose to pow
in 1830, Mr. Plunkett was made Lord Chancellor of Ireland.
Even this meager notice of the early friends of Catholic emancipation would be incomplete without the name of SYDNEY Smith, the founder of the Edinburgh Review. Of all English Protestants, out of Parliament, he rendered the most effective aid to that cause. In six or eight articles in that influential periodical, in an equal number of speeches and sermons, and as many pamphlets, he pressed the Catholic claims upon public attention during twenty-five years, in a style which no mortal man but Sydney Smith could do. He did not so much argue the claims of the Catholics as ridicule the fears of their opponents. And never were wit, drollery, humor, irony, and sarcasm, rained down upon a bad cause in greater variety or rarer quality. He fairly drowned the High Church party in their own absurdities. His ten letters, signed Peter Plymley, addressed to “My Brother Abraham, who lives in the country,” are the very effervescence of ridicule. They will be read when test acts are remembered only to be execrated. They will preserve them from the rottenness of oblivion. They are inimitable-capable of driving the blues from the cloister of an Archbishop. In the preface to his works, Mr. Smith says: “I have printed in this collection the letters of Peter Plymley. The Government of that day took great pains to find out the author. All that they could find was, that they were brought to Mr. Budd, the publisher, by the Earl of Lauderdale. Somehow or other it came to be conjectured that I was that author. I have always denied it.
I But finding that I deny it in vain, I have thought it might be as well to include the letters in this collection. They had an immense circulation at the time, and I think above 20,000 copies were sold.” This is cool. But the users were cooler. They gibbeted the absurd opposition which his Episcopal brethren made to emancipation, “ without benefit of clergy." The services of Mersrs O'Connell and Shiel will be noticed in the next chapter.