Struggles for Parliamentary Independence

Patrick Weston Joyce

736. On the accession of George II., lord Carteret, who was popular on account of abolishing Wood's halfpence, was retained as lord lieutenant. In 1727 the Catholics prepared an address to him expressing their loyalty, and their intention to keep peaceful. It was presented to the lords justices, one of whom was archbishop Boulter; but they never forwarded it, and no notice was taken of it.

737. It was chiefly through primate Boulter's influence that the Catholics were disfranchised in the beginning of this reign (701). Finding that they would not conform, his next plan was to begin with the children. He induced the government to found the "Charter schools" in 1780: free schools in which the children of poor Roman Catholics were taught, clothed, fed, and apprenticed to a trade, all free: and educated as Protestants. But these charter schools did not effect much.

738. For years there had been great distress from the general depression of trade; and this, as well as the Test and Schism acts, drove from the country vast numbers of the Ulster Presbyterians, who continued to emigrate to New England. This alarmed the Government, as it increased the relative proportion of Catholics; yet they obstinately retained these two acts, though the duke of Dorset the lord lieutenant attempted to have them repealed in 1733: failing like lord Wharton (703).

739. The duke of Dorset was succeeded in 1787 by the duke of Devonshire, who lived in great magnificence, and bought over men by liberal bestowal of places; so that the Patriot party found it hard to retain their influence in parliament.

740. In 1745 the Scottish rebellion broke out in favour of the Pretender; but though his army was largely composed of exiled Irishmen, the Irish Catholics at home, thoroughly crushed, took no part in it. Nevertheless the English government felt greatly alarmed about Ireland: and in that same year they sent over the earl of Chesterfield as lord lieutenant, with instructions to exercise moderation.

741. The local oligarchy of Dublin pressed for more severity against the Catholics: but be ridiculed their recommendations: and having satisfied himself by his spies that the Catholics had no hostile designs, he allowed them to worship in their chapels without molestation.

A few days after the battle of Culloden in 1746, which crushed the rebellion, he was recalled. On the day of his departure he walked through the streets to the place of embarkation with his countess on his arm, amid the acclamation of the people, Catholics and Protestants.

742. In 1747 the earl of Harrington came over as lord lieutenant. In the same year George Stone was appointed primate of Armagh; and like primate Boulter, had the chief management of English affairs in Ireland. His constant study was to maintain English ascendancy, which he did in the most arrogant manner; so that he rendered himself intensely unpopular.

743. The duke of Dorset returned as lord lieutenant in 1751. His son lord George Sackville was secretary, and made himself quite as much detested as primate Stone, and for the same reasons. At this time there was a surplus of revenue; and the consideration of how to apply it revived the old question of privilege between the English and Irish parliaments.

744. The Patriots proposed, in 1749, that it should be applied to pay off some portion of the national debt; but the court party held that this could not be done without the sanction of the king.

745. There were two very able men on the side of the Patriotic party:—counsellor Anthony Malone their leader in parliament, a man of a high order of intellect, and a good orator; and Dr. Charles Lucas, first a Dublin apothecary, and subsequently a practising physician; a member of the town council; but not yet in parliament.

746. Primate Stone and secretary Sackville violently advocated the king's right to interfere; and they and their party were as violently resisted by the opposition headed by Malone in parliament, by Lucas outside, and by the earl of Kildare (afterwards duke of Leinster) in the house of lords.

747. In 1758 the commons, after great opposition from the party of Stone and Sackville, passed a bill by a small majority (of 6) disposing of the money without making any reference to the king or his consent. This gave great offence to the court party. At the same time the earl of Kildare presented a bold address to the king complaining Of the arrogance and corruption of Stone and Sackville.

748. The disturbances reached such a serious pass, that the English government recalled lord Dorset in 1755, and sent over the marquess of Hartington in his place. Under him matters settled down: but the Patriots had gained ground—the two parties being now nearly balanced—and the spirit of independence had greatly advanced within the last few years.

749. There was an increasing tendency to toleration; and even the Catholics began to bestir themselves to obtain relief, but with small result for the present.

The Catholic movement had its small beginnings in the efforts of three Catholic gentlemen:—Dr. Curry, a physician of Dublin, the historian of the civil wars in Ireland; Charles O'Conor of Bellanagar in Roscommon, a well-known scholar and antiquarian; and Mr. Wyse of Waterford. They endeavoured to stir up the Catholic clergy and aristocracy to agitate for their rights; and though they did not succeed, they spread enlightenment and infused some small life and hope among the Catholics.

750. They were more successful with the merchants and business men; and they founded the "Catholic Committee" to watch over the interests of Catholics, which was to hold its meetings in Dublin. In 1757, when John Russell duke of Bedford was appointed lord lieutenant in place of the marquess of Hartington, the Catholics forwarded him an address to which lord Russell sent a kindly-worded reply. This was the first faint beginning of a movement for Catholic relief which subsequently became so formidable under O'Connell.

751. In 1759 there were rumours of a Union between England and Ireland, which caused great excitement. The people of Dublin became enraged when they heard that their parliament was to be removed to London, and that they would have to pay the same taxes as in England; and there was a terrible riot. The mob broke into the house of lords, and seated an old woman on the throne to mock Bedford, who even before this had become very unpopular; and they tried to burn the parliamentary books.

They also made every lord and commoner they met in the streets swear to oppose the union. The military were called out, but the rioting went on, till night sent the mob home. The people who rose this time were all Protestants: the Catholics were still too crushed and timid to take part in any such movement.