Page images
PDF
EPUB

the value of peace, a crowd of able men started up at the national summons; practised into moral activity by the labours of the legislature; shaped into the proportions of public manliness by public struggle; and bequeathing to their country the knowledge, that, if Irish talents had been hitherto obscure, it was because they were unsought for; that, like her minerals, they were to be found in every height and depth of the land, and that their uselessness hitherto was like that of her minerals, owing not to the penury of nature, but to the negligence of man.

Among those remarkable men was John Hely Hutchinson, the ancestor of the present Lord Donoughmore. He was a lawyer, and called to the bar in 1748. Hutchinson was a man of great natural ability, but more dishonourably conspicuous for a most extraordinary grasp at public office in every shape. Appointed Prime Sergeant early in the reign of George III., and with all the honours and emoluments of his profession fairly before him, he contrived, as he moved along, to pick up the pay of a major in the army. Another grasp in the opposite direction, equally singular, and not less tenaciously held, was that of the provostship of the Dublin University. His next seizure was one of power and emolument combined: he became Irish Secretary of State. To what he might have reached, if he could have kept death at arm's length, is to be conjectured only from his universal rapacity; but that great disturber of the designs of ambition, who reduces statesmanship to dreams, and puts a veto even on the pension list, grasped the grasper at last, and extinguished one of the ablest, wittiest, most eager and most reckless candidates of the goods of this world, who ever turned a shilling into a guinea. This rapacity was so obvious, as to become the subject of the well-known sarcasm of Chesterfield, that "if Hutchinson had been offered England and Ireland for an estate, he would ask the Isle of Man for a cabbage-garden." He had begun, according to the usual routine of determined placemen, by being a furious patriot. He abused the Government, until in its timidity it proposed to buy him. The rapid changes of Irish viceroys gave peculiar opportunity to these patriot recruitings. As every new viceroy came in under some promise of a

change of measures, the patriot's conscience was salved; he became a placeman without the scandal of a deserter, and had the comforts of salary to reconcile himself to any casual compunctions of honour. Hutchin son's chief personal fault was satire, which he lavished liberally on all characters. He called Flood a "spouter of periods," an "artificer of attitudes;" and, in allusion to his involved and pompous style, "a petty dealer in sevenfold phraseology.' Oddly as those expressions sound in our ears, they seem to have been either dexterously conceived or skilfully launched, for they still hang on the fame of the orator. But every thing in Ireland has a touch of oddity. What can be more curious than the answer of the Attorney-General Tisdall to this man? The Prime Sergeant and this high legal officer having been combined in some public operation, Hutchinson said to Tisdall," Now that we have done the service of the Government, what do you think if we were to do something for the country.' Tisdall replied, with his wonted air of gravity, "Mr Hutchinson, if we attempt that, we are undone―ruined, ruined; the Opposition may bear that we should take the emoluments, but if we lay claim to the popularity we are ruined for ever." They came as oddly into collision. Hutchinson, when provost, having quarrelled with Duiguenan, and thinking it beneath his dignity to take notice of him, or more probably unsuitable to his office—for Duiguenan was one of the fellows of the collegethe Provost called on Tisdall to make him responsible for his friend the Doctor's conduct. He said that one of his retainers had insulted him, that he must make him answerable for it, and that therefore he must consider that he, the Provost, now intended to insult him."

Tisdall calmly replied, " Mr Provost, I will consider no such thing;' and he instantly walked into the King'sBench, and applied for an information ! This was a source of high amusement and excitement to the bar. Seventeen counsel were engaged! Hutchinson defended himself, but the information would have been granted except for his accustomed luck. Tis dall died in the mean time.

This

event appeared doubly lucky; for the Attorney-General having been me m

Grattan's entrance into Parliament is thenceforth an era in the history of his country. He took his seat, for the first time, on the 11th of December 1775, for the borough of Charlemont, in which the death of the earl's bro ther, who was drowned in the Irish Channel, had left a vacancy. Thus

ber for the University, and a vacancy being thus created, the Provost pushed his son into his place. However, the most fortunate have some rubs in their career. His system had been too precipitate with the electors, (to use the gentlest phrase ;) a scrutiny was demanded, his son was thrown out, and he had the additional mortification to see him succeeded by Fitz-Gibbon, (afterwards Earl of Clare and Lord Chancellor,) and who had been one of Tisdall's counsel.

Hutchinson died in 1795, singularly fortunate in his career, having founded a family, and being the father of two peers, his eldest son possessing the title of Lord Donoughmore, and his second son, General Hutchinson, gallantly earning his peerage by the defeat of the French in Egypt. The fact was, that the only grand mistake of Hutchinson's life was the work of his love of place; the provostship of a learned university was the last situation which a man of his habits should have chosen. The seat was formed for a Churchman, as the head of a college, all whose fellows, with one or two exceptions, were necessarily in holy orders. Having been founded expressly for the maintenance of the Protestant religion in the land, it was evidently unsuited to a layman, and that layman a bustling, intriguing, ambitious man of the world. He besides wanted the exact literature and science which were required to preside at the public examinations, and other essential business of the college. This want, especially, exposed him to scorn among the fellows, and became the source of constant ridicule. A volume by his old enemy Duiguenan, entitled "Lachrymæ Academice," was a long and bitter burlesque of his literary deficiencies. But the provostship was three thousand pounds a-year, and the college returned two members to Parliament. Those were strong temptations. They were evidently too strong for his prudence, and equally so for his peace. The chief discomforts of his latter

years arose from them; and, singularly fortunate as his general life had been, his headship of the reluctant university might supply an important lesson to avarice and ambition, if either the one or the other was ever within the reach of experience, or reclaimable by human wisdom.

the great Irish Whig, like all the leading English ones, was indebted to the borough system, which they made a hypocritical theme of libel, for the very opportunity of uttering the libel. No popular constituency in Ireland at that time would have received Grattan, simply a young barrister, without fortune or public notoriety. But what the multitude and the Reform Bill never would have done for him, was done by an amiable and intelligent man of rank, possessed of just influence, and exerting it with an honesty and a discrimination which will never be found, to the end of time, in the corrupt and brawling crowd of the ten-pounders of a great town. The members now chosen for London, Dublin, and Edinburgh, the three capitals of the empire, are sufficient proofs of the utter inadequacy of the Reform Bill to provide qualified representatives, and of the sure victory of the vulgar, the time-serving, and the revolutionary. Thanks to the mischiefs concocted by the native virulence and long festering venom of old Lord Grey, aided by the fresh bile of his son-in-law Lord Durham, and put in action by the meagre servility of the menial of both, Lord John Russell!

In 1777, Fox visited Ireland, and happened to hear Grattan in the House. Afterwards, meeting him at dinner at Lord Moira's, (afterwards Marquis of Hastings,) he complimented the young orator on his speech, and quoted some of the passages with compliment. This instance of Fox's habitual politeness made a great impression on him, and probably afterwards constituted one of his strongest links to Whiggism. The newspapers, too, gave him due encouragement; the verdict of one seems to have been adopted by the whole : "Mr Grattan spoke-not a studied speech, but in reply the spontaneous flow of natural eloquence. Though so young a man, he spoke without hesitation; and, if he keeps to this example, will be a valuable weight in the scale of patriotism." That Grattan spoke

[ocr errors]

impressively on an occasion so important as his debut, we can well believe, for he never spoke otherwise; but that he spoke with spontaneous eloquence, we may as justly deny; for he never did any thing of the kind during the long after-years of his parliamentary life. Of all speakers, he was the most laborious in preparation. All his private hours were said, by those most intimate with him, to be given to the study of speeches. And in this we are so far from blaming him, that we honour the vigour of his application. He had a great object-fame-before him, and he followed it with the ardour of a great mind. We wish that the other pursuit of his private hours were less authentic. Harry Grattan was one of the most capital shots of his time. This, in the atrocious fashion of the day, was regarded as a necessity of public life; and Grattan was said to practise it with his customary vigour. Paragraphs and pistols were his daily employment; and it was not to be easily settled which was the more formidable. Cæsar's character of Brutus, quicquid vult valde vult, belonged to this little man of nerve in every thing, whether hitting a mark or sharpening a sarcasm, whether satirizing the Treasury Bench or shooting down a minister; and yet his manners were gentle, his personal con. duct was blameless, and his whole course of private life estimable. Such are the melancholy contradictions inflicted on men of public life, by the guilty laxity of the law, the feebleness of public morality, and the presumed rights of fashion. All the leading men of Ireland were duellists: to be ready to fight any one and every one, was as much a recognised faculty as the faculty of speech; and this gross and criminal insult to the spirit of all law, divine and human, was the common perpetration of men of all habits, feelings, and professions.

One of those remarkable men of Ireland, who, though scarcely known beyond it, would have been largely distinguished on a larger sphere, was Mr Denis Daly, an individual singularly gifted by nature and circumstances -of one of the best families in Ireland, a man of fortune, a man of fine ability, and having, in addition to all, the most striking comeliness of countenance and vigour of frame. As a proof of his bodily activity, he was said to have

once, for a wager, run side by side with a race-horse at full speed, for two hundred yards. A hundred yards has been sometimes achieved by able performers; but double the distance is a feat which was considered to belong to this strong and handsome athlete alone. Grattan (for we presume that it was his contemporary who has drawn his character) describes him as " noble, liberal, and open-hearted. He had no vanity, but he had pride; he was fastidious, not vain; his pride was that of talent. He had so excellent a manner, that he conciliated every body. Daly was rather a great speaker than a great debater. There were men who possessed more diligence and information, but he surpassed them all in talent. The noble quality of his mind placed him above the level of other men. He made use of the superior genius which nature gave him, to protect the weak: to do so seemed a part of his nature; and if there was a young man in company hardly pressed, he would come forth to his assistance, and throw his shield over him. The positions which he took were generally strong, and his skill in their defence rendered them impreg nable. He almost always prepared himself beforehand : no man took more care in writing his speeches, and none so little to preserve them."

We then have a slight sketch of his private habits-perfectly suited to be popular in the country and the time:

His hospitality was great, and his entertainments were frequent and agreeable. He was a good classical scholar, and possessed an excellent library; and his books, which were his chief personal expense, lay around in the room where his friends used to meet, and where the resources of his mind vied with the generosity of his disposition." But another unlucky Irish trait follows: "His liberality was great, and he left his fortune, in consequence, much encumbered."

A curious instance of his political foresight is recorded. There was a dinner at Mr Hobart's (the Irish Secretary of State) in 1785, in the late Duke of Rutland's viceroyalty, where Grattan, Daly, Fitz-Gibbon, and others, met. The Opposition had gained a party triumph: the "Commercial Propositions," a subject of violent debate in those days, had been conceded by the English minister; and the party were in high spirits with

their victory. Some of the company alluding to a union, Fitz-Gibbon (then Attorney-General) exclaimed; in an exulting tone, "Who will dare to talk of a union now? If such a thing were proposed to me, I should fling my office in the man's face!" The company were very gay; and when Fitz-Gibbon retired, Daly said, "That is the man who would support it-that little man who has talked so big, would vote for a union-ay, to-morrow.

It is highly interesting to us thus to find rescued from oblivion, men whose characters form a part of the character of their country. The vast transactions of England throw the public life of Ireland into littleness; but every example of ability and virtue raises the dignity of the general mind, and the remotest corner of an empire may thus add to its intellectual sovereignty. The great weapon of the Irish House was eloquence-it is the characteristic of the country. Ardour, vividness, and passion, are eminently qualities of the Irish mind. Among the rude habits of the lower people, they degenerate into ferocity; among the half-educated class, their soaring is bombast, and their passion eccentricity; but when cultivated by taste, polished by practice, and invigorated by the realities of public life, they have produced specimens of the noblest oratory since the days of Athens and Rome. Grattan, describing Daly's oratory, strikingly speaks of it as "a succession of electric shocks, which followed each other so quickly, that they not only - convinced, but subdued the understanding."

Irish Parliamentary life was all scenes: we shall give one. Hussey Burgh, the prime sergeant, and a man of distinguished elegance of mind, as well as learning in his profession, having begun his career as a Whig, and, like every other Whig, having become a placeman as soon as he could, naturally excited the wrath of those whom he had left behind, equally willing, but less successful. His tergiversation was pursued with a bitterness seldom exercised towards the pirouettism of a lawyer. The professional allowance of versatility was harshly refused to the treasury convert; and Hussey Burgh, in the end, was tormented out of the world. On the occasion in question, Burgh, the placeman, had voted against an embargo; Burgh, the pa

66

resem

triot, having formerly voted for it. Natural as was this little act of conversion, and ready to be emulated by three-fourths of its impugners, it brought down severe reprobation on the prime sergeant. Daly closed his speech by pointing a shaft full at the breast of the barrister. "The Treasury Bench," he exclaimed, bles the grave; it levels all distinctions!" The man of elegance was perhaps the more severely pained by the polish of the sarcasm, and could merely say, "To receive such attacks belongs to my situation; to deserve them, belongs to myself." He was much affected on this occasion, and striking his breast, as he sat down by Grattan, he turned to him, and said, "If I live, I shall answer it." He did so; and, says the narrator, in the noblest manner-not indeed by words, but by the most dignified and patriotic conduct, when, after an eloquent speech in favour of his country, on which occasion he electrified the House by the splendid allusion to the volunteers of Ireland and the laws of England, which he described" as sown, like serpents' teeth, and springing up in armed men,”—he resigned his office, and gave up all hopes of preferment.

His

This is well told; but poor Burgh is only exhibited in the light of that most extraordinary and improbable of all things, a sentimental lawyer. Whig apprenticeship had evidently been thrown away upon this romancer. We can easily imagine how keenly his former associates must have enjoyed this milkiness of heart, and how unanimously they voted him a simpleton. But with what astonishment must a modern Whig read those records; with what an upturned lip, after his dozen perfidies within half the number of years, must he scoff at the sensibility which could thus be stung by the recollection of a single trip; and, with nothing in his glance but profit at any rate, and place by any tenure, how sincerely must he set down the man for a lunatic, who, on any appeal to his principle, could give up either the one or the other!

The year 1779 was the period of an event remarkable in the history of any country-the arming of the people. The exigencies of the American war had withdrawn more than half the stipulated army from Ireland. That force, by Act of Parliament, had been 12,000

men-it was reduced to 5000. The junction of the French court to the American revolters-a junction fatal to the treacherous monarchy-made it now necessary to guard against European invasion. A French fleet had put to sea, and its destination was said to be the north of Ireland, which was full of Dissenters, always hostile to the established religion and throne, and now boiling over with sudden zeal for republican America. The magistrates applied for aid to the Government; but the Lord-Lieutenant, with an indolence which argued the most singular blindness to the signs of the times, informed them that he had no troops to spare except sixty dragoons This force for the defence of Belfast, the second city in Ireland, and for a large province, was a burlesque; and applications were next made by the inhabitants for leave to form independent companies for their own protection. The Irish Secretary (Heron) replied to all those applications by a promise of troops, and some laudatory expressions relative to the new and self-armed companies. This half approval was seized on by the enthusiasm of the people, the eagerness of the merchants to secure their property, and the party sagacity of those who saw deeper into the consequences of arming the multitude than either the supine Lord-Lieutenant or his purblind secretary.

There is a malignant spirit in this book. The author sees England continually with an evil eye. All the acts of a country which, since she became Protestant, has alone exercised the sceptre with justice-has alone laboured to spread the sense of freedom-and has alone been guiltless of any one act of intentional oppression in a dominion gradually extending round the world, pass before this prejudiced and bitter partisan as the acts of a tyrant. His angry folly never stops to enquire what object could the superior have in thus ruining the dependent? It is enough for his childish rage that he can declaim on dilapidated revenues, helpless trade, and torpid industry. His headlong ignorance never takes the trouble to enquire by what means a country, exhausted for ages by the war of its own factions, the indolence of its own superstitions, and the inveteracy of its own prejudices, can possibly reap the fruits of national prosperity in the utter abandonment of its

principles. With sciolists like this, government is all things: it is accountable for the wilful laziness of the populace, for the miserable hostility of the peasant to the discharge of his debts, and for the readiness with which the pike and the trigger are resorted to, as the receipt in full of all demands. With equal wisdom such haranguers expect that a rescript from the Council Office can instantly transform beggary into opulence, fill fields with culture, towns with manufactories, and ports with ships.

A wiser research, or a more sober understanding, would tell the writers who ramble on in this labyrinth, that government, as such, can do nothing, or next to nothing; that its true purpose is simply to protect the loyal by putting down the disturbers-to relieve industry from its pressures, and let it labour for itself; that its true province is negative; that where it interferes strongly, it interferes fatally; and that the best government is that which is most of the preserver, and least of the meddler; that its beauideal is the watchman, as that of Whiggism is the thief; or, if there be one character more ruinous than another, it is that where it takes the national industry out of the national hands, lavishes the public wealth in bounties to specious idleness or malignant agitation; and making harbours without traffic, and railways without intercourse, pours the purse of the Treasury into the pockets of faction, turns jobber-general, and plunders the empire, to create a rent for the hangerson of party.

He tells us that the Government, in 1779, wanted money, and the army wanted men. This is perfectly true, and this has always been the case in the earlier years of British war. But why? It is the result of British freedom.

If England had been the dominion of the Czar, the Treasury would have been full, and the troops have been tens of thousands. But the country was not poor. What was the poverty of that country which could, at this very period of clamour, afford to raise and equip a volunteer army of twice the amount of the whole British force-a sudden army of 50,000 men, afterwards raised to 100,000, with guns, tents, and all the necessaries for the field; clothed by themselves, able to serve without pay, and

« PreviousContinue »