Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 9

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I told you in my last despatch that Townshend seemed to me much alarmed lest he should have gone too far in his letter to you, and that at the same time I had a.s.sured him that you would not think he went far enough, as the whole question turned upon the point of recognition, which was very distantly alluded to in his letter. When I saw him yesterday, his alarms appeared to be increased. This morning, however, he told me that he had been with Conway, who understood his authority to be quite sufficient for what he had done, and with Lord Shelburne, who said that it was a d.a.m.ned thing, and that he wished Lord Temple would have stood it, but that it could not be helped, and that he (Townshend) must therefore think over with the Crown lawyers such a preamble as should recognize in future, without any retrospect whatever. To this point Townshend said he thought your Bill went; and therefore he told me he was to send it down in that shape in which you sent it (excepting the omission of the words _of right_ in the two places where they occur) to Lord Camden for his opinion. I then mentioned what I had hinted to him before in the way of resolutions, which might, I thought, be so drawn as to preclude the idea of retrospect. He wished to see the form I had adopted; upon which I gave him, as coming from myself only, the enclosed paper, which you will see differs a little from that which I sent you before. Both these he sent to Lord Camden, with a letter, desiring that he and myself might see him to-morrow morning for his ideas on the subject. You will observe that _he_ is from principle warm for Irish claims; and therefore I think it not a bad quarter to begin with.

I flatter myself you will approve of my reason for withholding your despatch No. 16, as the word _courts_, without _of law_, which we have scratched out, certainly includes the Peers; and nothing would have been so agreeable to Lords T. and S. as a point of form which they need not have mentioned till towards the conclusion of the business, and so might completely have gained their darling object--time.

Still, however, I thought much of that letter--too important to be lost--and therefore threw it together into the enclosed paper, which I sent to Townshend the night before last, together with a copy of such parts of his despatches as authorized you to pledge the faith of Government, _he having asked me for them, not for himself_.

While I was still in a state of suspense, your letter and despatch of the 29th reached me. I thought it best to keep the latter till this morning, when, I need hardly say, I did not deliver it, though I thought proper to read it to Townshend, in order, as I told him, that he might be perfectly acquainted with your feelings on the occasion, and might see I had not exaggerated them. You will remember that your next despatch is numbered 16. If it comes before you receive this, I will alter it. To-morrow you shall know the result of Lord Camden's conversation, upon which much I think depends; though after what has now pa.s.sed, I have no idea of the possibility of their drawing back again, even if they were so inclined.

Brooke's business, Jemmy tells me, pa.s.sed the Treasury yesterday.

You will have had an answer, such as it is, about the Duke of L.

and Hussey Burgh.

With regard to Perry, I have written to you already fully on the subject.

I have talked once or twice about Portugal; but they want exceedingly to be quickened, _la-dessus_.

Townshend desires to make you an apology through me, and will do it himself when he writes, for the delay. From him no apology whatever is necessary. Adieu.

My dear brother, Ever yours, W. W. G.

When I pressed Lord Shelburne about Hussey Burgh, he said he thought there would be no objection to promising him that he should be made as soon as any one. I stated this to Townshend this morning, who is to speak to the King about it again to-morrow.

About this time another subject was engaging the earnest attention of Lord Temple--the foundation (already alluded to) of an Order of Knighthood in Ireland. Several letters relating to the details of the inst.i.tution, and the claims of different n.o.blemen to be admitted into it, pa.s.sed between Mr. Grenville and his brother. The following is selected as a specimen:--


Pall Mall, Jan. 7th, 1783.

My dear Brother,

Although I think there is every reason to hope that I shall be able to send you by a messenger, either to-night or to-morrow morning at furthest, the result of the Cabinet, which, after having been postponed ever since Sunday, is at last to be held this evening; yet, as I know by experience, that it may be again deferred, I would not omit writing to you by post express upon a subject which you will perhaps think trifling in itself. I went this morning to Townshend, with your despatches of the 2nd instant, upon which we had very little conversation, except his a.s.surances of bringing the business to an end this evening.

After that I turned the conversation to your Order, and read him the names. To my utter astonishment, he started a doubt whether my Lord Courtown _would take it_. To which I answered, that the first names in the list having signified their consent, undoubtedly it was not a thing to be offered where there was the least chance of a refusal. He then said that he would take upon him to sound Lord Courtown; and that, as he was his brother-in-law, he would throw out to him that a thing of the sort was in agitation; and that if Lord Courtown should like it, he believed that _he, Townshend_, would have interest enough to _procure it for him_. It was impossible for me to tell Townshend, or even to give him to understand what nevertheless certainly ought to have occurred to him, that it would but ill answer your purpose, whatever it was, in recommending Lord Courtown, that the merit of it should be ascribed to him.

I had nothing, therefore, left but to drop the conversation, and to write to you, as I now do, immediately on my return home, to suggest to you whether it would not be worth your while, without affecting to know anything of this, to write to Lord Courtown to offer it, and perhaps to Townshend, to make a great merit with him of the recommendation of his brother-in-law, as the only non-resident Knight. The sooner you send in the list and plan, &c., &c., undoubtedly the better.

Your names appear to me all unexceptionable, except possibly Lord Bechoe, who you know will give some trouble to the heralds to make out whether his father, who was a grazier, ever had a father of his own. But he is a man of great fortune, and a steady friend of Government, and I should think might pa.s.s. Lord Nugent's refusal leaves a vacancy. I own I should be inclined to Lord Mountgarret as the senior Viscount, which would show that it was not to be exclusively confined to Earls, at the same time that no other person could pretend the same claims with so old a peer, the senior Viscount, and the first man in rank of so great a family. Besides, this might detach Butler, of the county Kilkenny, from Flood; and it is surely a great object to cut him off from all hopes of the county, as that would give him an appearance of popularity, &c., &c. Unless you do something of this sort, shall you not apprehend affronting the lower orders of the peerage? If Lord Kinsale was not what he is, I should wish for him on the same account, but that is impossible. Pray consider the other well, for it strikes me as important.

I return you the Derry Papers. Townshend is to search his office for their intercepted correspondence here, which I will send you.

Bulkeley wrote me the enclosed, to which I returned an ostensible answer, referring to you, but at the same time distinguis.h.i.+ng between a pension, and provision out of the revenue for a revenue officer's widow.

Townshend sends you McLaughlin's pet.i.tion and case. What does Lord Beauchamp mean by his letter to the "Vol." about the King's speech?

Pray desire Lady Temple not to forget Lord Nugent's velvet, or he will be outrageous.

Believe me, ever yours, W. W. G.

One good result had been attained by the perseverance with which Mr.

Grenville pursued his object with Ministers in reference to the Renunciation Bill, and the consistency he observed in maintaining the policy which he and Lord Temple knew to be essential to the security of the British power in Ireland. If that policy was not carried out, Lord Temple was relieved from all responsibility, and was prepared to relinquish into other hands the confusion and disorder which he could not obtain the means of ameliorating. As Mr. Grenville observes in the following letter, he was "completely master of his own ground;" he had clearly stated, and constantly urged his views of the only course that could be followed with safety or credit; and if he failed in carrying them into effect, the _onus_ would rest with the Administration. Happily he did not fail. The Bill was shaped and pa.s.sed; but the obstacles which impeded it, and which are detailed in subsequent letters, rendered its ultimate success doubtful up to the last moment.

Looking back, at this distance of time, upon the curious struggle which took place in the Cabinet on this question, we cannot fail to be struck by the immense disproportion between cause and effect exhibited in this strange episode in the history of the Shelburne Administration. The full recognition of the rights of Ireland had received the concurrent sanction of the Legislatures of both kingdoms only a short time before.

No doubt whatever existed as to the intention of the repeal of the Declaratory Law. The Volunteers, to whose energetic demonstrations that healing measure was mainly attributable, were thoroughly satisfied, and, instead of displaying their nationality in angry and defiant resolutions, they adopted the language of congratulation and enthusiastic allegiance to the Government. This felicitous state of things was suddenly interrupted by one of those incidents which no foresight could have antic.i.p.ated, and which, absolutely trivial in itself, was magnified at once, by the jealous spirit of patriotism, into a violation of the solemn compact that had just been ratified on both sides of the Channel. An Irish cause was brought into an English court of justice, was heard in the ordinary way, like any other cause, without reference to the competency of the tribunal before which it was tried, and decided, as a matter of course, by Lord Mansfield. The remedy for this contravention of the notorious settlement of the judicial independence of Ireland was plain. The decision was waste paper: it could not be carried into effect. The Irish might have rested satisfied with the power which they possessed of nullifying and rejecting the authority of the English Judge. But the delays of the Cabinet awakened their suspicions, and they apprehended, not, perhaps, very unnaturally, that if they suffered this single case of illegal interference to pa.s.s without some decisive declaration on the part of the English Legislature, it would be wrested into a precedent for further and still more dangerous innovations. Mr. Grattan held this opinion also, but trusted implicitly to the honour of the English Parliament for a measure that should fully set at rest all uneasiness on the subject; while Lord Temple was so impressed with the propriety of adopting such a measure that he drew up the Bill of Renunciation, which, after much superfluous discussion, ultimately pa.s.sed into a law.

The case itself, however, lay in the narrowest compa.s.s, and admitted of the simplest solution. The Irish cause which had occasioned all this trouble, and menaced so seriously the tranquillity of the country, had been entered for hearing _before_ the operation of the Repeal, but delayed by some accident until a subsequent term. The reason why it was not dismissed when it came before the court was, that the time had elapsed for pleading against the competency of the court, pleadings having already begun upon the matter of the suit. The parties could not plead to the writ--to use the legal phraseology--because they had already pleaded in chief. The only time when, according to the practice of the court, the competency of the court could be objected to was when the cause was entered; but at that time the objection did not exist, and when the cause came on for hearing it was too late. Lord Mansfield took the cause without any reference to the special circ.u.mstances attending it, which he was not judicially called upon to notice. He acted strictly on the practice of the court; and, although it was held by some of the statesmen of the day that he ought to have taken a more enlarged view of so peculiar a case, it was the opinion of Mr. Fox that he could not have acted otherwise than he did. At all events, the case could never have been drawn into a precedent. The real point for consideration, upon which Mr. Fox--who had himself framed the Act of Repeal--entertained some doubts, was whether the Repeal was sufficiently minute and comprehensive in its scope, to extinguish the right of appeal in Irish cases, by writs of error, to the King's Bench of Great Britain. But this point was not raised, on its special merits, by Lord Mansfield's decision, which involved nothing more than a technical question arising out of the practice of the court. It was wise to allay the feverish anxiety of the people, by removing any obscurity that hung over the settlement of the separate judicature of Ireland; but, such being clearly the intention of the Imperial Legislature, it is difficult to understand why it should have entailed so much clamour and misunderstanding.


Pall Mall, Jan. 8th, 1783.

My dear Brother,

This morning I received your letter and despatch of the 3rd and 4th instant, and soon after, the enclosed note from Townshend.

The general idea is, that they have received the exceedingly bad news of their negotiation being totally at an end; and the style of this letter seems, I must own, to confirm it. Before I close this letter, which shall not be till to-night, I shall most probably know with certainty. If it should be so, I see nothing in Lord Shelburne's conduct throughout this business, which can prevent me from being convinced that he has foreseen this conclusion, that the _acquiescence_ is to be ascribed to that foresight, and to an intention of pledging you to some very strong measure to be immediately proposed to Ireland--of men, money, or some other support; and that his language about peace was calculated for no other purpose than that of making to himself a merit which he had not, and inducing me to pledge you with less difficulty to something of this sort, in the _improbable event_ of a continuation of the war. If that should have been his aim, I have at least the consolation to reflect that I made none but a _very_ general answer to that part of his conversation to which I allude, and which I stated to you at length in a former letter.

At the same time, I must freely own that I have been duped upon the subject of peace; not so much by their a.s.surances, strong as those have been, and often as they have been repeated, as by the opinion which I then held, and which I have not much altered now, that a peace was absolutely necessary to their system of government. However, be all this as it may, I think you are in a situation to _voir venir_, and to rest upon your oars in full confidence that you are now completely master of your own ground, whether you are to be left to carry on the Government of Ireland upon those principles on which you have begun it, and on which alone we know it can be carried on with success, or whether the system is to be altered, and committed, of course, to other hands; in which there is no doubt but that the ill-success and confusion that must follow will justify your predictions to such a degree, and place your character in such a light, as would almost make it an event to be wished for by you, if it was not so fatal to the interests of both countries.

And this brings me to another point, in which I am very happy to feel myself justified and confirmed by your instructions in that line of conduct which I had fully resolved to adopt. I mean the holding out the most peremptory refusal to making either you or myself at all a party to postponing the business beyond the 21st, except in the single instance of their having some proposition to bring forward then, about their negotiations, of such a nature as to make the reason obvious to the mind of every man in Ireland, as well as in England. In such a case I will acquiesce, because I think I cannot in decency avoid it, under the delay of one day only. In every other case which can be supposed, I will claim a right to state to the House that the delay is neither consented to by you, nor arises from you; but is in your idea most pernicious. Surely, my own character and honour, as well as your's, demand this from me.

I am sick to death of this scene. Since I wrote the first part of my letter I have been to the levee, where I saw Townshend, and learnt from him that Lord Camden had taken upon himself to draw up a new preamble, which was _to soften on both sides_.--(What the meaning of this curious expression is, I will not pretend to say.) I then said, that at least I hoped it would contain an _explicit_ recognition; because the measure would only be useful, in proportion as it _was_ explicit. He agreed with me, as he had always done, and wished that I had seen Lord Camden. I asked if he was in town; he said he was to go back to-day to Chiselhurst, and had desired _him_ to hold the council, _in his absence, on Friday_. I immediately went home, and wrote to Lord Camden, desiring to be allowed to wait upon him; but he was gone. I have just sent your despatch of the 4th, with the enclosed note to Townshend, which I hope will find him before dinner. How little does all this agree with Lord Shelburne's idea of doing what would be most satisfactory, and with all my fine reasoning at the beginning of my letter!

I will certainly write to you more when I come back from dinner; and, if I _can_ make him, Townshend shall write too, because they cannot, upon paper, a.s.sign any good reason for the delay, and a bad one will give you advantages. Upon the whole, what a scene it is!

The news at Court was, that the negotiations are not broke off, only delayed; and this I take to be the real case, as no letter has been written to the Lord Mayor. If that be so, I shall of course hear no more of it to-day.

Elliott is to have a Red Ribband.

Jan. 10.

I have delayed finis.h.i.+ng this letter till this morning, in the vain hope of being able to get something specific to propose to you. After dinner, on the 8th, Townshend produced Lord Camden's preamble. I send you a copy of it, and need not, I am sure, observe to you how unsatisfactory it is to Ireland, and how humiliating to Great Britain; and how perfect an ignorance it shows, after all that has pa.s.sed, of that business which is referred to him for a decision. Neither Lord Shelburne, Townshend, nor Pitt, who were present, attempted to defend it against the observations I made upon it.

Some conversation pa.s.sed upon it, after which Townshend went away. The conversation then turned more particularly upon what was to be done, in which the only very settled idea that I could find was, that your preamble was not to be adopted.

Pitt then threw out the idea of declaring the intention of the Act of Repeal, and making the new enacting clause a consequence of the principles then adopted. We talked this over a little. I pressed for something being settled to send over to you. The answer Lord Shelburne gave me was, that the Cabinet lawyers were all dispersed, and without them nothing could be finally settled. Pitt then went away. I continued the conversation, and asked Lord Shelburne if it would not be right, as he had approved of Pitt's idea, that I should see Pitt, and endeavour to put something upon paper upon it. In this he agreed.

When I went home, I sent the enclosed note to Pitt, and in consequence of it saw him yesterday morning. I was near two hours with him, drawing up something of a form. At last, the Bill No. 1. was settled: more, I believe, because we were both tired out with weighing words, than for any great merit that I see in it. However, at the time I thought it might do; but in the course of the day, thinking it over, I disliked it, and sent the form No. 2. to Pitt, who desired to see me again. When I went to him, he proposed, after some conversation, the Bill No.

3., which I took to consider.

But, in the meantime, I am _au dernier point_ at a loss what to do in it; because, after an absence of six weeks, I know no more of the present ideas of people in Ireland, and of the squabbles and distinctions of words on which the whole turns, than the Ministers here do; and less, G.o.d knows, I cannot know! If you wait till something is formally sent you, I shall certainly be reduced to the necessity either of putting the business off, or of doing something in a hurry, without knowing whether it be right or wrong. For you may depend upon it, that neither will any of the unlearned Ministers pledge themselves to a specific form, nor will the learned come from their rural retreats one hour before the 17th.

In this situation I feel myself obliged to lay upon my oars, and to entreat you to return the messenger as soon as possible, to say whether any and which of the forms will do, or what kind of thing I am to press for; for I am thrown quite wide. Your old preamble they will not adopt except compelled to it. What their objection is I cannot find; but most likely it is the dear delight of alteration that operates upon them. If you think that nothing short of saying "They have now the right" will do, for G.o.d's sake say so explicitly in a despatch. I have never quite lost my patience in this cursed business till this moment, and I confess now I cannot quite preserve it. After having carried the great point against their will and inclination, we shall now be ruined by their delay and their d.a.m.ned country-houses.

If you don't like any of these forms I send you, and yet will not _propose_ any other, for G.o.d's sake send one over to me that _I_ may propose it, or bring their's as near as possible to it.

Pray return your messenger as soon as you can, for this disappointment and anxiety works me more than I can express to you. Adieu.

Memoirs of the Court and Cabinets of George the Third Volume I Part 9

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