Page images
PDF
EPUB

power--indeed such a portion as it Catholic relief, which, though lost was now proposed to vest for a time in the upper House, must yet have in the government of Ireland. Now shown the people, that conciliation he would ask, whether the House was intended to accompany coerwas prepared to place such power cion. The act, then, of 1825, was in the Irish government perma- not the only measure, upon which nently? He was not at liberty to the House of Commons depended state to the House what passed for the tranquillity of Ireland, in his majesty's councils, during when they had recorded its accomthe period in which he had the paniment by the admission that honour of enjoying a seat at the Catholic disabilities ought to be council board, neither was it removed. These were the causes, necessary that he should do so : he which had prevented the effectual was at liberty, however, to state operation of the law of 1825. this,—that, having come to the The act passed: but the Associaconclusion which he had just tion rendered it unnecessary to declared to the House, he could not make use of the powers which it help coming to another conclusion bestowed. Their parliamentary also ; and that was, that, consist- friends had pointed out to them, ently with his public duty, he could that, as matters stood, with the not grant to the government that government pledged to emancipaarbitrary power which was neces- tion, their continuing together as sary to put down the Catholic a body could only do mischief ; Association, without putting an and the Association, even before the end, at the same time, to the cruel bill had completed its hasty prosystem of exclusion which called gress, declared itself dissolved. It that Association into existence. was plain, however, even from the Either in or out of office, he never explanations given by ministers would have agreed to such a mea- themselves, that the Association sure of coercion, if assured it was had been allowed to bully the goto be a permanent measure, unless vernment into submission, and that it had been accompanied at the the present act for its suppression same time by an assurance, that was mere legislative mockery—the the evil system, which the Associa- ridiculous assumption of a threattion sought to remedy, was going ening gesture to cover and conceal to be abandoned.

their impotence. The Association Mr. Peel said, that to state the had demanded emancipation, unreasons why hedid not enforce qualified emancipation, and nothing the act of 1825, would make it else.

It had said to the governnecessary to go into the whole ment, give us emancipation, and history of affairs in Ireland dur- we exist no more ; refuse us what ing the last four years, which we ask, and we defy your power would lead to the conclusion that, either to restrain or to resist us. amid the divisions and conten- The question between it and the tions which prevailed, the real government had never been, wheabatement of faction was impossi- ther it would be quiet, if the goble. Moreover, it should be borne vernment gave all that it demandin mind how the act of 1825 was ed—but whether or no the governfollowed up by the same parlia- ment could compel it to be quiet, ment which introduced it. It had even though it should get nothing. been followed up by a bill for In such circumstances, when one hand held a bill for suppressing the claims had been one main ground Association, while the other con- on which the University had made tained a bill granting all that the him its representative, and tenderAssociation demanded, to speak of ing his resignation.* His resignahaving suppressed the Association was an abuse of words. It was as The following is Mr. Peel's letter: if a man should boast of his victory --To the reverend the vice-chancellor

of Oxford. over a highwayman, to whom he

Whitehall, Feb. 4. exclaims, when the pistol is at his My dear Sir,-1 take the very first breast, “down with your pistol, sir, opportunity of which I am at liberty to for there are my purse and my avail myself, to make a communication watch.” The robber would have to you which is most distressing to my the best of it, and so had the Asa

feelings.

I have considered it to be my duty, sociation.

as one of the responsible advisers of the The bill, which commemorated king, humbly to signify to his majesty this wretched triumph, received the opinion which I have formed, in the royal assent on the 5th of entire concurrence with all my colleaMarch; and on the same day Mr. is arrived when his majesty's servants

gues in the government, that the period Peel moved in the House of Com- must take, in their collective capacity, mons, that the House should go some decisive line with regard to the into a Committee on the laws

state of Ireland, and to the various subwhich imposed disabilities on the country, which are involved in what is

jects affecting the tranquillity of that Catholics. But he no longer rose called the Catholic question. as member for the University of After maturely weighing the present Oxford. That honourable rank he position of affairs, and the prospects of had reached, and had retained, as

the future-adverting to the opinions

repeatedly expressed by majorities in the firm opponent of Catholic en- the House of Commons-to the difficulcroachments; the University had ties which must arise, in the present sent him forth to defend the civil state of Ireland, froin continued division and religious institutions to which in the councils of his majesty, and disshe was attached, and hitherto liament—it has appeared to his majesty's

union between the two Houses of Parhe had done his part faithfully government that there is less of evil and and well. A few short months less of danger, under the existing cirhad converted him into a leader of cumstances of the country, in the atCatholic aggression, and found him tempt to make some satisfactory adjust

ment of the Catholic question, than in zealously employed in creating any other course which we can suggest. every one of those dangers, which in the offer of my advice to his majesty, his life had been spent in detecting as one of his

contidential and responsible and resisting. If the change was

servants, I have been compelled to ex

clude every consideration but that of justified by his duty as a statesman, the interests and necessities of the he could not, in common decency country. or honesty, retain his seat as men- No sooner, however, had I fulfilled ber for Oxford. On the 4th of the obligations of my duty to his maFebruary, the day before the meet- jesty, than ! began maturely to reflect

on the relation in which I stand to the ing of parliament, he addressed a

University of Oxford. letter to the Vice-chancellor of the I cannot doubt that the resistance University, announcing the new

which I have hitherto offered to the views of policy by which he was

claims of the Roman Catholics has been about to be guided, acknowledging have been entitled to the confidence and

one of the main grounds upon which I that his resistance to the Catholic support of a very large hody of my contion was accepted; Mr. Peel va- a blind disposition in the University cated his seat, and was immediately to receive their opinions from the proposed as a candidate at the new minister of the day, or an excess of election. His opponent was sir personal attachment which would Robert Harry Inglis, who had not render political opinions matters of yet seen the expediency of change indifference. In both expectations ing his opinions. Mr. Peel, in he was disappointed. Never were trusting that the University would greater exertions made in the course return him, must have counted on of

any

election. The united in

fluence of the government and of stituents; and although I discontinue the Whigs was pushed to its utmost that resistance solely from the firm be- limit in behalf of the Home Secrelief that perseverance in it would be not only unavailing, but would be injurious tary. On the other hand, sir to those interests which it is my especial Robert H. Inglis was supported by duty to uphold, yet I consider myself some of the dignitaries of the bound to surrender to the University, church, and, with great zeal, by the without delay, the trust which they parochial clergy, as well as by have confided to me.

I take the liberty of requesting that many who, without any predilecyou will communicate this letter to those tion for the cause itself, were satisleading members of the University with fied with any issue which should dewhom you may think proper to confer, feat a candidate whom they did not to the period at which it will be most merely consider an apostate, but convenient to the University that my who came among them expressing seat in parliament should be vacated. an opinion that the University

I will be guided by the suggestions would wheel round at the word of with which you may favour me in this

command ;-for not many days respect, in making my application to the crown for some nominal appoint- had elapsed since the presentation ment, which may vacate my seat. of the University petition against

By this painful sacrifice-by the for- concession to the House of Lords, seiture of that high distinction which I

which had been carried by a majorhave prized much more than any other object of ambition, I shall at least give ity of three to one in the most a decisive proof that I have not taken numerous convocation ever my present course without the most sembled in Oxford. After a conmature deliberation, and that I have

test of three days, during which not suffered myself to be influenced by 1364 voters polled, Oxford reany other motive than that of an overpowering sense of public duty.

jected Mr. Peel by a majority of My present relation to the University 146. He was immediately rewill be terminated—but, believe me, turned for the borough of Westthat to the latest hour of my existence, bury; and, in this character, he I shall never be unmindful of the confidence with which I have been honoured,

was charged with introducing into and of the kindness and indulgence the House of Commons those meawhich I have invariably experienced; sures, which he had been teaching and that I shall study to maintain, with the country for twenty years would unabated zeal, the privileges and inter- be ruinous to its interests and its ests of the University and of the Church of England, notwithstanding the disso- freedom, and in regard to which lution of those ties which have more he was even now to express his inmediately bound me to their service. unaltered conviction, that they were

I have the honour to be, my dear Sir; pregnant with danger to the conwith every sentiment of respect and

stitution. regard, your most faithful servant,

ROBERT PEEL. He and his colleagues had no

asmons.

reason to fear the result. During It felt little anxiety as to the issue, the interval which had already because no doubt could be enterelapsed, the country had covered tained what that issue would be ; the tables of both Houses of parlia- but it felt much anxiety to learn, ment with petitions against the on what grounds all the doctrines, proposed innovation ; but the which but six months before, had people were left without leaders been held essential to the integrity capable of representing the pub- of the constitution, and the welfare lic voice in the House of Com- of the country, were now to be

All the talkers of the made out, by the very same men, ministry were now joined to all to be injurious to the freedom and the talkers of the opposition : the prosperity of the empire. whole mass of ministerial influence On the 5th of March, for which was brought into play to gain day a call of the House had been votes, without even seeking to ordered, Mr. Peel moved, “that cover the change of opinion with the House resolve itself into a any other excuse than the threat committee of the whole House, to of dismissal or displeasure In consider of the laws imposing civil short, it now was a ministerial disabilities on his majesty's Roman measure, as well as an opposition Catholic subjects." He began with one; and where both ministers stating, that he rose, as a minister and their adversaries unite in a of the king, to vindicate the advice fixed determination to carry one

which an united cabinet had given great point, cost what it may, of to his majesty, to recommend to what value is the parchment op- the consideration of parliament the position of petitions, however condition of the Catholics, and to strongly and however truly they submit to the House those measures may speak the real sentiments and by which government proposed to wishes of the country? Feeling carry that recommendation into that defeat would be utter ruin, effect. He was aware that the ministers resolved at once that no subject was surrounded by many one, whose hopes or fears they could difficulties, which were increased control, should be allowed to per- by the relation in which he himplex himself with any freedom of self stood to the question ; but opinion. If they could justify having come to the sincere convictheir own change, they could jus- tion that the time was arrived, tify that of all their adherents. The at which an amicable adjustment revolutions of sentiment, which of the disputed claims would be accordingly took place, were ridi- accompanied with less danger than culously sudden, and, in many in- any other course which he could stances, mean and disgraceful,- suggest, on that conviction he was but the cheers and the votes of such prepared to act, unchanged by any persons were as useful as those of expression of opinion of an opposite better men. The victory was se- nature, however general or deepcured, before the battle was begun. unchanged by the forfeiture of The country felt that it would be political confidence, or by the vain to struggle against the coali- heavy loss of private friendship. tion of parties, and the accumula- He had long felt, that, with a tion of influence, which was now House of Commons favourable to brought into play, all on one side. emancipation, his position as a

mons.

course

minister opposed to it was unten- tions. First, matters cannot conable. Under this feeling, when a tinue as they are: the evils of bill passed the House in 1825, he divided councils are so great, that had intimated to Lord Liverpool something must be done, and a his wish to resign, that he might government must be formed with thereby remove one obstacle to the one common opinion on the subject. settlement of the question. His Secondly, a united government resignation, he was informed, once formed must do one of two would occasion that of Lord Liver- things; it must either grant furpool, and dissolve the ministry : hether political rights to the Catholics, had agreed, therefore, to wait the or recall those which they already decision of a new House of Com- possess; but, thirdly, to deprive

The new House of Com- the Catholics of what they already mons, elected in 1826, decided in had would be impossible, or at 1827 against the Caholics ; but in least, would be infinitely more 1828 it adopted a different course, mischievous than to grant them and came to a resolution deter- more, and therefore no mining the principle of the ques- remained to be adopted, except tion. After that decision he was that of concession. prepared to follow the course His first proposition, viz. that which he had proposed to himself something must be done, to gain after the decision of 1825, with a ministry united in opinion on this addition—that he notitied to this question, was proved, he said, the duke of Wellington, not only by the mischievous influence which his readiness to retire from office, the diversity of sentiment had but that, seeing the current of exercised on the general governpublic opinion, he was ready to ment of the country, the state sacrifice consistency and friendship: of parliament, and the government and, by whatever parties the settle- of Ireland. For thirty-five years ment of the question was under- the state of government in this taken, he for one was prepared, in country on the Catholic question whatever post he might be, to had been disunion. Lord Fitz, support the measure, provided he william had gone to Ireland as thought it was undertaken on Lord Lieutenant in 1794, and his principles safe for the Protestant government came to a termination establishment. He

-on account of a difference about that he was called on to make out the Catholic question. In 1801 a case for this change of policy: Mr. Pitt's government came to a and he was now to submit to the close, and on the same ground—a House an argument of fact which difference about the Catholic ques proved to his mind, with the force of tion. He resumed the government demonstration, that it was impera- in 1804, composing his cabinet in tive on ministers to recommend a manner which showed that it the measure which he was about was not formed on the principle of to introduce, however inconsistent unqualified resistance. After his it might seem to be with their death succeeded a new ministry, former tenets.

which endured about eighteen The argument by which this months, and then came to a termia case was to be made out resolved nation, still on the same grounditself into the following proposi- a difference about the Catholic

was

aware

« PreviousContinue »