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The Duke of Wellington and Catholic Emancipation

The following report is taken from the Life of Arthur, first Duke of Wellington by the Rev. GR Gleig (London, 1862) pp.433 - 464.


[433] Of the condition of Ireland at this time, under the influence of Daniel O'Connell and the Catholic Association, we do not purpose to give a detailed account. It was a state of perfect anarchy. The magistrates were intimidated; the king's government was powerless. A central board, which met in Dublin, issued its orders, which were obeyed throughout the island. Meetings called by directions from that body, were attended by thousands; tens of thousands walked in military array, as often as demonstrations were considered necessary. There were comparatively few crimes committed, little or no violence offered to persons or to property. But there was the most perfect organisation for either passive or active resistance to the laws of which history makes mention. And all avowedly directed to one end, the repeal of the laws disqualifying Roman Catholics from sitting in both Houses of Parliament, and from exercising elsewhere the same political rights which were exercised by their Protestant fellow-subjects.

[434] For years the struggle had gone on, till at last a bold measure suggested by Mr. O'Connell was tried with complete success. After proclaiming to the world that there was no statute in existence which disabled a Roman Catholic from sitting in the House of Commons, he avowed his intention of standing for the representation of the county of Clare, which the acceptance, by Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald, of the presidency of the Board of Control had rendered vacant. His cause was at once taken up by the whole body of Roman Catholics in Ireland. All the old ties which bound landlord and tenant together were broken; every altar in the land, from the Hill of Howth to Cape Clear, became, as Mr. Shiel well expressed it, a tribune. The progress of the agitator to the hustings was a triumph, and after a brief trial of his own weakness, Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald withdrew from the contest.

The results of the Clare election took all parties by surprise. It filled the Roman Catholics and their supporters in Parliament with delight. It stirred a feeling of anger and scorn among their opponents. The Duke saw that matters were brought by it to a crisis. To go on as former administrations had done, discussing the Catholic Question from year to year, and throwing out in the Lords bills passed by the Commons, was no longer possible. He must, therefore, choose between two courses, both difficult, and even dangerous, though not, as it appeared to him, in the same degree.

The government, if it should determine, under existing circumstances, to maintain the statutes excluding Roman Catholics from power, must ask for new laws, the old having quite broken down. They must bring in a bill, requiring candidates for seats in Parliament to take at the hustings the oaths of supremacy and allegiance; otherwise they could not prevent Roman Catholics from contesting every vacant county and borough in the United Kingdom, and from becoming ipso facto members of Parliament,, should constituencies see fit to elect them. Practically speaking, there might be small risk that either in England or Scotland this result would follow, at least to any extent. But what was to be expected in Ireland? That every constituency, with the exception, perhaps, of the university and city of Dublin, and of the counties and boroughs of the north, would, whenever the opportunity offered, return Roman Catholics; and that, the members so returned being prevented from taking their seats, three-fourths at least of the Irish people must remain permanently unrepresented in Parliament. Was it probable, looking to the state of parties in the House of Commons, that such a measure, if proposed, could be carried? For many years back the majorities in favour of repeal had gone on increasing session after session. Even the present Parliament, elected as it [435] had been under a strong Protestant pressure, had swerved from its faithfulness. The small majority which threw out Lord John Russell's bill in 1827, had been converted in 1828 into a minority; and among those who voted on that occasion with Mr. Peel, many gave him warning that hereafter they should consider themselves free to follow a different course.

But perhaps it might be possible to get a bill passed to disfranchise the Irish forty-shilling freeholders, a class of voters who, as they had been created for acknowledged purposes of corruption in the Irish Parliament, would have nobody to stand up for them in high places, now that they refused to play their patron's game. This was quite as improbable an issue as the other. The disfranchisement of the forty-shilling freeholders had indeed been talked of in former years: but if effected at all, it was to be in connection with a measure of Catholic Emancipation. To propose it now for the avowed purpose of rendering Catholic Emancipation impossible would be to insure the rejection of the bill. That plan therefore fell at once to the ground. And there remained but two others.

The minister might ask Parliament for power to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, and to place all Ireland under military law. To ask for less would be ridiculous; because the act against unlawful assemblies had failed, and on account of its helplessness was suffered to expire. Now would Parliament grant such extensive powers to any government, merely that the government might be enabled to debar his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects a little longer from enjoying equal political privileges with Protestants? The issue was very doubtful, perhaps it was not doubtful at all; Parliament would never grant such powers. But assuming that the powers were given, what must follow? A general insurrection, to be put down after much bloodshed and suffering, and then a return to that state of sullen discontent which would render Ireland ten times more than she had ever been, a millstone round the neck of Great Britain. And by and by, when military law ceased, and the same measure of personal liberty was granted to Irishmen which the natives of England and Scotland enjoyed, a renewal of agitation, only in a more hostile spirit, and the necessity of either reverting again and again to measures of coercion, or of yielding at last, what, upon every principle of humanity and common sense, ought not to have been thus far withheld. But the minister, if the existing Parliament refused to give the powers which he asked, might dissolve, and go to the country with a strong Protestant cry; and this cry might serve his purpose in England and Scotland. Doubtless; but what would occur in Ireland? The return of Roman Catholic members in the [436] proportion of four to one over Protestants, and the virtual disfranchisement thereby of four-fifths of the Irish people. Would Ireland submit quietly to any law carried against herself, in a House of Commons so constituted? Was it not much more probable, that a dissolution would only lead to the same results which had been shown to be inevitable in the event of the existing Parliament acquiescing in the minister's views? And was there not, at all events, a chance that the electors even of England and Scotland, might refuse to abet a policy so pregnant with danger to themselves and to the commonwealth?

But why move at all? Mr. O'Connell had been elected by the priests and rabble of Clare to represent them in Parliament. Let him retain this empty honour, or better still, let him be summoned by a call of the House to the bar; and on his refusal to take the oaths, issue a new writ, and go to a new election. In the first place, Mr. O'Connell could not be forced to attend to a call of the House, such call being obligatory only on members chosen at a general election; and in the next, if he did attend, what then? As soon as the new writ was issued, he would take the field again as a candidate, and again be elected, and so the game would continue to be played, till a dissolution occurred, when all those consequences of which we have elsewhere spoken, would inevitably come to pass. *

It is quite certain that both the Duke and Mr. Peel weighed these various contingencies, with an anxious desire of discovering some way of escape out of the difficulty, some good reason why they should continue their opposition to the admission of Roman Catholics into Parliament. Their correspondence with the members of the Irish Government, and with the Irish law officers of the crown, clearly proves this.† Every conceivable expedient was suggested — short of provoking the rebellion, which it was their earnest desire to avert — and failed. Not Mr. Fitzgerald only, but Lord Anglesey, Mr. Lamb, Mr. Gregory, Major Warburton, all indeed whom they consulted, both soldiers and civilians, agreed that Ireland was kept down only by the presence of the army; and even this restraint, should things long remain as they were, might fail to serve its purpose. We may smile when we read of doubts expressed as to the motives which, at such a juncture, carried Marshal Macdonald from Paris to Dublin. Marshal Macdonald, there is good reason now to believe, never entertained a thought of mixing himself up in Irish politics. And of the secret fabrication

* The substance of a paper in the Duke's handwriting, as yet unpublished.
† See Mr. Peel's Narrative, edited by Lord Stanhope and Mr. Cardwell.

[437] of pikes, and the midnight drillings which went on, we may think as lightly as we have learned to do of the Chartist irruption into London in 1848. But taken in connection with well-known facts, such as the bold attitude assumed by the Roman Catholic clergy, and the entire abandonment of the Irish landlords by their tenants at the hustings, and that too, in a case where the landlord's candidate had, throughout his public life, been the consistent advocate of the repeal of the very laws against which the Irish people were banded, taken in connection with such facts as these, even the rumour of French sympathy, and of secret and armed organisations, was not without its weight in turning the balance of opinion in thoughtful minds towards a policy of concession.

On the other hand, all the claims of party, all the ties of private friendship and public consistency, were against concession. The supporters of the present government, in both Houses of Parliament, did not conceal the fact, that they gave up their prejudices on many other points, because of the faith which they reposed in the Duke and Mr. Peel, as staunch supporters of the constitution of 1688. The great body of the people, both in England and Scotland, regarded the Pope as Antichrist, and looked upon the point in dispute rather as a religious than as a political question. The King's objections to a repeal of the obnoxious laws were as strong as ever. Could these difficulties be overcome?

Two courses presented themselves to the Duke at this juncture. He might go to the sovereign and explain, that he found himself unable to carry on the government, with a cabinet divided on so important a question, and with a growing party in favour of repeal in both houses. The King would in this case be obliged to make his choice; either to form a government, if he could, united in its opposition to the Roman Catholic claims, or to call to his councils men who should agree to bring in a bill for the repeal of the disabling laws. But the experiment to form a cabinet united against the Roman Catholics had already been tried: while a new cabinet united in favour of repeal, which must consist almost exclusively of the leaders of the Whig party, would certainly be defeated and overthrown on this, or some other question in anticipation of this, by the Tories. Not only, therefore, would the hindrances to good government not be removed, but they would be rendered more serious than ever through the failure of the attempt made by an administration too weak to remove them.

This, then, was the first and most obvious of the two courses which presented themselves to the Duke: namely, to resign himself and to dissolve the present administration, leaving it to his successor, Lord Grey or Lord Lansdowne, to settle the Catholic [438] question as he best might. The Duke knew, however, that neither Lord Grey, nor Lansdowne, nor any other Whig statesman, could settle the Catholic question, even if he and Mr. Peel were to support it out of office. But being convinced that the time had come when it ought to be settled, he examined the second course that was open to him, and embraced it. It was this: that postponing all other considerations to what he believed to be a great public duty, he should himself as prime minister endeavour to carry repeal and to do so in such a manner as might as little as possible affect injuriously the established institutions of the country, and especially the Established Church.

Having arrived at this conclusion, the Duke set himself at once to consider the line of action which it would be proper to adopt. On more than one previous occasion, the heads of the Roman Catholic party, including prelates and other dignitaries of the church, had themselves proposed securities. They had offered to allow to the crown a veto in the nomination of their bishops. They had professed themselves willing that their clergy should be paid by the State. They were prepared for exclusion from certain high offices, and ready to give any pledge which might be required that they would not use their influence to injure the Established Church in its rights and property. Mr. O'Connell, speaking for them, had even consented to the disfranchisement of the forty-shilling freeholders. So far, therefore, the Duke had a base on which to rest his operations. But there were grave constitutional objections to bringing the King of England into direct relation with the Pope; and a measure so strong as the unconditional disfranchisement of the Irish forty-shilling freeholders was pretty sure, when it came to the point, to be rejected in Parliament. Moreover his Majesty's settled dislike to deviate on the Roman Catholic question from the policy of his father was well known; and the policy which the late Duke of York had with so much energy enunciated in the House of Lords, besides being supported by one at least of his royal brothers, was in great favour with the bulk of the English people out of doors. How were these difficulties to be overcome?

It was evident that till the King should be so far moved, as to induce him to examine dispassionately the whole condition of Ireland, no attempt to deal with the question of Roman Catholic Emancipation could be made with any hope of success. The Duke resolved therefore to open that subject to his Majesty in the first instance, and so to approach it, that the feelings by which his Majesty was known to be swayed should as little as possible be outraged. This was the more necessary, as the King's health had [439] become of late very infirm. Dropsy in an aggravated form, which had long threatened, seemed to be gaining ground upon him; and dropsy, as need scarcely be observed, not only enfeebles the body, but unfits the mind for exertion. Accordingly the Duke, after having prepared an elaborate memorandum, with the view of submitting it to his colleagues, sent it on the 2nd of August to the King, and accompanied it with a letter, in which his reasons for taking this step were set forth in detail. It would be drawing too much upon the patience of the reader, were we to transcribe the Duke's memorandum at length. But of its contents some notice must be taken, in order to convey a tolerably accurate idea of the chain of thought which led the Duke to the conclusions at which he had now arrived.

The memorandum, after assigning the reasons which had induced the writer to compile it, proceeds to point out that the influence and the power of government in Ireland were no longer in the hands of its officers, but had been usurped by the demagogues of the Catholic Association, who, acting through the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy, directed the country as they thought proper. Up to that moment it might be doubted whether anything had been done in violation of the law. Mr. O'Connell's election, though inconsistent with the law, was not a breach of it. But everything had been done to manifest the influence and power of the demagogues of the Association, and of their agents the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church,— their contempt for the legislature, their enmity to the British government and its establishments, and their determination to overthrow the authority of that government in Ireland whenever an opportunity should offer. For this purpose, and with these views, Ireland had been completely organised. This appeared in various recent events, but most particularly in the late election for the county of Clare. It was useless to enter into the details of that transaction; but it was certain that the whole of the lower orders of the population (with the exception of a few Protestants) moved in regular military order, those of each parish under the direction of their priests, to the election town: that they there remained under the same influence and direction till it came to the turn of those qualified to vote; that they bivouacked in an open space near the town, or were cantoned in the houses in the neighbourhood on various nights; that they paid for their lodgings; that no violence, disorder, or even insult was committed; and that they returned after the triumph of the successful election was over, in the same order as that in which they had come to Ennis.

The Duke then goes on to call attention to the results of the [440] election, to the amount of subscriptions raised for carrying it on, to the rejoicings in the southern and western districts, and to the absence of such rejoicings in Dublin and the north. From these premises he draws the conclusion that Ireland is thoroughly organised; that the Roman Catholic clergy are the instruments of this organisation; that its management is in the hands of the demagogues of the Association; and that the organisation of 1828 is so far superior to that of 1798, that the managers, by means of the Catholic rent, command considerable pecuniary resources which they have it in their power, by the use of the same influence over the people, to increase to a very large amount. It might fairly be assumed, then, that the demagogues of the Roman Catholic Association held in their hands, at that moment, the political power and the fate of Ireland. Upon them depended whether the people should rise in rebellion, or should remain quiet; to what degree they should obey the law and the legally constituted authorities of the country, and whether they should submit themselves to the influence which rank and property possess in every well-constituted locality.

Accordingly, we find the influence of these demagogues paralysing the royal authority itself. The king cannot confer the honour of the peerage upon an Irish gentleman, a member of Parliament for an Irish county, because the government cannot, in prudence, incur the risk of exposing the public peace to the dangers which were avoided in Clare only by the prudence or fears of the demagogues of the Roman Catholic Association. His Majesty cannot appoint a member for an Irish county to an office, and still less can he dissolve his Parliament. The Lord-Lieutenant had been insulted in his court, by the appearance there of one of these leaders decorated with the insignia of the pretended liberators, that is, of rebels; and the Roman Catholic Association had continued, up to that time, to meet, in contempt of the declared intention of Parliament, if not contrary to the positive enactments of the law. Pursuing this line of argument, the Duke points out, that every day in which these evils continued, brought law and authority more and more into contempt; that there were no means of putting a stop to them, unless some act of open violence were committed; that the demagogues were too wily, prematurely to commit such acts; and that with them, therefore, rested the power either of putting off a rebellion indefinitely, or of beginning it, on the morrow.

His next object is to show, how useless it would be to think of combating such evils in detail. If Parliament refused to adopt half measures, such as disfranchising forty-shilling freeholders, [ 441] the influence of the crown would be weakened. If parliament assented to that proposal, the masses would still be under the influence of the priests, and probably an outbreak would be precipitated. He then touches upon the inevitable results of such an outbreak — a civil war, in which the King's reputation must suffer; which would not be approved by a majority in the House of Commons; and which, end as it might, must certainly be followed by concessions quite as extensive, probably more so, than any which could now be proposed. He, therefore, suggests the propriety of resorting to concession, as one of the means of pacifying Ireland; and ends thus:­

"It may be very doubtful whether the concession of Roman Catholic Emancipation, with any guards or securities, or in any form, would pacify the country, or save it from the civil contest hanging over it. But whatever the King and his ministers might think of the chances of pacification which Roman Catholic Emancipation would afford, it had become the duty of all to look these difficulties in the face, and to lay the ground for getting the better of them. It would be necessary to conciliate Parliament, if possible, and the public, to whatever measures might be prepared, in order that if we should be involved in this contest we might enter into it with the support of Parliament and of the people of England."

The letter which enclosed the memorandum, of which we have here given the substance, expressed no more than the anxious desire of the writer, that his Majesty would carefully consider it. He had not shown it to any of his colleagues; and the object of it was to obtain his Majesty's permission to take into consideration the whole case, with a view to the adoption of some measure to be proposed to Parliament for the pacification of Ireland.

What the Duke desired was, that his Majesty would be pleased to permit him to consider this question in communication with the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Peel; that he might be allowed to bring under his Majesty's review the result of such consideration; and that afterwards, with his Majesty's approbation, he should proceed to such ulterior measures as his Majesty might think proper, with a view to ascertain the sentiments of others before he should finally submit that result to his colleagues in the cabinet. According to this mode of proceeding his Majesty would have the control over this subject in his own hands till the last moment; at the same time that he would have done his government and the country the justice to have considered it fairly.*

* The substance of the Duke's letter, as nearly as possible in his own words.

[442] There lies before us a memorandum in the Duke's handwriting, dated March 30th, 1828, which was evidently drawn up for his own guidance, should circumstances impose upon him the necessity at any future time of vindicating the course which he took on that occasion. We do not feel at liberty to transcribe that document; but its argument, clearly laid down, and ably sustained, runs thus.

Shortly after the 2nd of April, accounts were received in England of the speech made by Mr. Dawson at a meeting at Londonderry. This speech, proceeding from such a person, created the greatest suspicions of the intentions of the King's ministers. Brunswick clubs were established in Ireland. Lord Kenyon and the Duke of Newcastle published their letters in England; and everything indicated that the public mind was not in a state to receive and consider with calmness any proposition for the settlement of Ireland. What was passing did not fail to have its effect on the King's mind; and this circumstance, and his Majesty's indisposition, induced the Duke to postpone the communication to his Majesty of anything further upon the subject.

The Duke attended the King at Windsor early in October, when his Majesty expressed himself as strongly affected on account of the state of affairs. He was anxious to dissolve his Parliament; to encourage the formation of Brunswick clubs throughout the country; and to take advantage of the feeling which occasioned the formation of these clubs, to go to a general election. The King's state of health at that time prevented the Duke from holding much conversation with his Majesty. He therefore wrote him a letter, of which No. 3 is the extract. At length, on the 16th of November, finding that his Majesty was better in health, the Duke sent his Majesty the letter and paper, marked No. 4 and 5, to which he received the answer marked No. 6.

The letter here alluded to, as marked No. 3, puts forth in detail the Duke's reasons why a dissolution of Parliament, under the circumstances of the times, ought not to be thought of. It explains that the evils of which he had spoken in his first memorandum could not be remedied, that they would scarcely be temporarily alleviated, by the excitement throughout the country of a spirit of hostility in Protestants towards Roman Catholics; and by the encouragement thereby given to exact pledges from candidates against all further concessions to the latter body. He shows that the government, as then constituted, could not encourage the growth of such a spirit, and that it would be impossible for any minister to give encouragement to it, and yet carry on the affairs of government to the satisfaction of the nation at large. He then points out that the resistance to the law in Ireland was passive, not active; [443] and that without some overt breach of the law, not even military force could overcome such resistance.

He next proceeds to observe, that he is suggesting no impossible hypothesis by assuming that the Roman Catholic tenantry of the country might refuse to pay tithes or rents. No doubt the clergy and the landlords had it in their power to appeal to the law; but how could the law be enforced? How could they distrain for rents or tithes upon millions of tenantry?

This measure, as it would probably be the first of resistance and rebellion in Ireland, so it would occasion the ruin of all his Majesty's loyal subjects residing in that country, and of many in England. And it was necessary to observe that it would give the rebellion a vast revenue in money, of which his Majesty's loyal subjects would have been deprived. The Duke then proceeds to say, that expecting this measure of resistance and rebellion to be adopted, he was very averse to involve those who might be its victims in political discussions connected with the state of Ireland, which, after all, must be decided in Parliament. He did not object to their associating together, for the protection of their own lives and properties; but looking to the state of society in Ireland, and to the opinions entertained respecting the causes of it, he was of opinion that they would do well to leave political questions to be settled in Parliament.

It is worthy of remark, that this dread of associating out of Parliament for political purposes constituted a sort of passion with the Duke. He would never listen to any proposal of the kind, no matter from what source proceeding, or for what object intended; and in principle he was right. Even during the heats and confusion of the Reform agitation he refused to sanction the formation of constitutional societies; and of Brunswick clubs he entertained almost as great a horror as of the Catholic Association itself. What was to be done with society, thus rapidly breaking up into its elements? The law must clearly be vindicated; and, inasmuch as in its existing state it appeared to have lost all hold on the respect of those to whom it applied, it must be modified, so as to meet the altered state of things which had arisen.




HAVING arrived at these conclusions, and in some measure prepared the king's mind to consider dispassionately whatever scheme of relief might ultimately be proposed to him, the Duke set himself to arrange his own thoughts on the subject, and threw them into the shape of an elaborate memorandum, which he submitted first to his Majesty, and afterwards to his colleagues, with a view to its receiving from them individually their best attention, before it should be taken up and discussed in the cabinet. He prefaced that memorandum with a letter to the King, in which the state of Ireland is described with a degree of painful accuracy which is quite appalling. It was becoming, he observed, day by day more intolerable. In the south, every evil which could afflict a country, short of actual rebellion, prevailed. Combinations had been entered into to resist the payment of rents and tithes to members of Brunswick clubs, under which title was included every member of the Church of England resident in the country. The Roman Catholics had bound themselves not to have any dealings, commercial or social, with members of these clubs. A case was reported to the Secretary of State of a gentleman, a member of a Brunswick club, whose lands happened to be let to Roman Catholic tenants. They had all thrown up their farms. There were instances of Roman Catholic labourers refusing to work for their employers, because they were members of Brunswick clubs. The consequence of this was, that the agricultural property of these gentlemen lay exposed, at that critical period of the year, to the weather, and, of course, to ruin. It had been reported from various quarters that Protestants could not venture to move a hundred yards from their own houses; and the Duke was able, of his own knowledge, to assert, that respectable persons, such as retired officers of the army, and officers on half-pay, were quitting Ireland because they looked upon it as a country not in a state of civilisation; and all these evils were of such a nature, that none of them could be remedied by the positive enactment of law.

[445]On the other hand, nearly all the speakers at the Brunswick clubs in England, as well as in Ireland, not less than the public in general, looked for some arrangement of the Roman Catholic question to be proposed by government. Even Lord Winchelsea had written to say that be would agree to such an arrangement; while in Ireland many Protestants were prepared to go as far in the way of concession as the Roman Catholics themselves could desire. Knowing all this, the writer was perfectly satisfied that no minister could advise his Majesty not to take into consideration the state of Ireland.

The questions which arose were therefore these:— Could that subject be taken into consideration? Could any measures be proposed with the faintest prospect of success, from which a consideration of the Roman Catholic question should be excluded? And must not the concession to Roman Catholics of seats in Parliament be among the measures proposed for the settlement of the Roman Catholic question?

Finally, the Duke implored the King to look dispassionately at these matters, and carefully to weigh the plan which he took the liberty of enclosing for his Majesty's consideration. For he submitted it with the firm conviction on his mind, that, if what was therein proposed could be carried, the Roman Catholic affairs of the empire would be placed upon a better footing than at any time since the Reformation. Indeed, the State would acquire strength from the arrangement, because it might be attended by any others which the preservation of the peace of the country seemed to render necessary.

Not satisfied with this strong appeal to the good sense and judgment of the sovereign, the Duke sought permission, before his Majesty should determine against taking his plan into consideration, to lay it before the heads of the church, particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London, Durham, Winchester, Lincoln, Chester, and Oxford. He could not pretend to foretell the consequences of the determination to do nothing, to his Majesty's government, to the peace of the country, or to the interests, particularly of his Majesty's loyal subjects in Ireland. But this fact he must submit: the King had still the matter in his own hands. If seats in Parliament were conceded, his Majesty could attach to such concession any conditions or arrangements that his Majesty might think proper; but no human being could answer for the consequences of delay.

The Duke's plan, drawn up and settled on the 7th of August, 1828, embraced eight separate points.

The first provided for throwing open, with certain specified [446] exceptions, all offices under the crown to Roman Catholics, on condition of their taking certain oaths, as prescribed for others of his Majesty's subjects.

The second proposed to suspend, for one year, or during the current session of Parliament, the acts requiring members of the United Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland to take the oath of supremacy, and subscribe a declaration against the doctrine of transubstantiation.

The third limited the right of voting in Ireland to freeholders who should pay to the parish, barony, or county cess, or to the whole of them, five pounds sterling or upwards per annum. The fourth stipulated for the means (£300,000 a year) of taking the Roman Catholic clergy into the pay of the State.

The fifth stipulated, that the Roman Catholic clergy should receive licences from the Crown, countersigned by a Secretary of State, or from the Lord-Lieutenant, countersigned by the Chief Secretary, without which it should not be lawful for them to perform any clerical function in Ireland.

The seventh declared that persons officiating without such licence should be deemed guilty of misdemeanour and punished: for the first offence by fine; for the second by fine and imprisonment; for the third by being sent out of his Majesty's dominions.

The eighth and last, provided that no convent or monastery, or establishment of regular clergy or of Jesuits, should, except by his Majesty's licence, be formed within the realm.

There was great boldness, as well as originality, in this scheme; at a final settlement of which, the Duke did not arrive without consultation with men better read than himself in the canon law, and in the customs of the universal church. As long as points purely political came to be considered, the Duke was a safe guide for himself; and in case he might distrust his own judgment, he had the Lord Chancellor and other eminent constitutional lawyers to consult. In matters directly or indirectly affecting the spiritual rights of the Church of Rome, he was compelled to seek for information elsewhere, and he found it. And here, without undervaluing the assistance rendered by others, we must be permitted to particularise one correspondent, to whom he made frequent references, and from whom he never failed to receive the clearest and most satisfactory answers. Dr. Philpotts, then Dean of Chester, and Rector of Great Stanhope, seems to have mastered the whole subject, complicated as it was. To every question proposed by the Duke, he replied by referring to admitted precedents, now in the authoritative works of Romish jurisprudents, now in the acts, by Concordat or otherwise, of continental sovereigns; and the result [447] was such an accumulation of evidence as left the Duke no reason to distrust the course of legislation on which he proposed to enter. We do not feel at liberty to transcribe the bishop's letters; but sooner or later, they will probably see the light; and when they do, it will be found, that no man ever less merited the obloquy which was heaped upon him, or more earnestly or wisely strove, at a critical moment, to guard from hurt the Protestant Church of England, than the learned and venerable Bishop of Exeter.

The arguments with which the Duke supported his plan, when submitting it to the consideration, first of the King, and afterwards of his colleagues, were able, and to our mind conclusive. He justified the exclusion of Roman Catholics from certain high offices of State, such as that of Lord Chancellor, First Lord of the Treasury, Secretary of State for the Home Department, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, because all were, to a greater or less degree, connected with the distribution of church patronage. No honest Roman Catholic could, or would, undertake to present to benefices, far less to appoint to bishoprics in a Protestant church. And for the same reason, because Roman Catholics could not educate for the Protestant ministry, it was just that the law should prevent their becoming chancellors of any of the universities, heads of houses, provosts, or fellows of colleges, or even masters of schools of royal foundation. With respect to the suspension, in the first instance, of existing laws, as an experiment, and an attempt to limit the number of seats to be filled by Roman Catholics in either House of Parliament, his mind seems not to have been quite made up. He was favourable, rather than otherwise, to the former scheme; he was averse to adopt the latter. But he entertained no doubt at all in regard to the expediency of adding a property qualification to the right of voting then exercised by forty-shilling freeholders in Ireland. Nor was he at all scrupulous about taking the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland into the pay and under the surveillance of the Crown. Two bodies of Protestant Dissenters, in Ireland, already received subsidies from the State. The arrangement, founded on political considerations, had produced the best effects. There was no reason why the principle thus established should not, for political reasons, be extended further. And in regard to the licensing system, there was, in his opinion, everything to recommend; nothing, as it bore either on the liberty of the subject, or the rights of the Crown, to be urged against it. It would be unfair towards his memory were we to state his views on this point, except in his own words.

" The Sovereign of Great Britain, at his coronation, — every member of either House of Parliament, on first taking his seat, — every [448] magistrate, and other individual in authority, has sworn that the Pope neither has, nor ought to have any authority, pre-eminence, or superiority, in any cause, ecclesiastical or secular, within this realm. The Acts of Parliament requiring these oaths affirm the same thing; yet, within the realm, there are some millions of persons who hold opinions the reverse of those asserted by the law. Whether is it better to alter the laws, of which the vast majority approve, in order to satisfy the scruples of the minority, and give them a status which they have not, or, preserving the old laws, to make such arrangements as shall enable the minority to retain their religious opinions, and to celebrate their religious rites, subject to the general control of the government under which they live? It is not to be forgotten, that though fallen practically into disuse, the laws which prohibit the performance of mass in Ireland, and subject to fine and imprisonment priests so officiating, are still on the statute-book. Whatever freedom of action the Irish Roman Catholic clergy exercise in that respect, they therefore exercise at their peril. For the power rests with the government, should circumstances ever compel them to make use of it, of carrying into effect laws which have never been repealed, and of the existence of which every priest is aware.

"On former occasions, when schemes for Catholic Emancipation were entertained, the safeguard for the established church on the one hand, and for the consciences of Romanists on the other, had been the arrangement of a Concordat between the Crown and the Pope; whereby the former should exercise a veto upon all appointments made by the latter to the episcopate. Such a Concordat could not however be entered into without admitting that the Pope possessed a power which the coronation oath and the oath of supremacy deny, and which is declared by various acts of the legislature, to have no existence.

"But an admission of this sort can only be obtained by the repeal of laws which are intermingled with the very core of the English constitution; and the objections to this repeal are as obvious as they are weighty.

" Again, the King of England cannot, of his own authority, nominate to Roman Catholic bishoprics: first, because the act would be antagonistic to the relations in which the Crown stands towards the Established Church of England and Ireland; and next, because such nomination would be resisted by the whole body of His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects.

" Nor is the force of these objections lessened by reference to the relations in which the Court of Rome stands towards Continental States, of which the sovereigns do not profess the Roman Catholic [449] faith. In Prussia, for example, the King, though a Protestant, appoints to bishoprics, as they fall vacant, in the Roman Catholic portions of his dominions. But he does so in virtue of concordats, entered into between the Pope and his Majesty's Roman Catholic predecessors; in Silesia, according to an old arrangement, between the Pope and the sovereigns of the House of Austria; in the territories on the right bank of the Rhine, according to concordats, between the former sovereigns of these countries and the Pope; in the territories on the left bank of the Rhine, according to a concordat settled between the Pope and Napoleon.

"Again, in Holland, where, till very lately, no concordats existed, neither bishop nor priest of the Romish Church can officiate, except by license from the civil magistrate; while in Sweden a Vicar Apostolic, and only one, receives the royal license to discharge the functions of his office. In Russia alone, Catherine the Great, it appears, has established, by her own authority, a Roman Catholic archbishop at Mohelow, and the archbishop appointed to the diocese ordains bishops and priests to act under him. But besides that, it might be doubted whether the Roman Catholics of the archdiocese of Mohelow were ever very orthodox, the Pope, it seems, ultimately gave way, and by recognising, confirmed the appointments.

"The King of England cannot, however, for reasons already assigned, follow such a precedent."

It was by such a process of reasoning as this, that the Duke arrived at the conclusion, "that the King of England could enter into no diplomatic relations with the Pope; that a concordat, which implies that the Pope has something within the realm to concede, could never be concluded between him and a sovereign who, in his coronation oath, and by repeated Acts of Parliament, affirms, that no foreign prince, prelate, or potentate, hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, or authority within these realms. Such concordats as have force in Prussia can  never be entered into here: because, except in North America, the King of England has acquired no territory by conquest or cession from any Roman Catholic sovereigns; and if concluded, it would be impossible to carry them into effect. It would be equally useless to consider the arrangements which other Roman Catholic, or anti-Roman Catholic sovereigns might have wade for accomplishing a similar purpose. They all rest upon the same assumption, that the Pope has something in each country to concede; a principle which cannot be admitted as long as the laws in England continue what they are.

"The clear sequence from all this is, that till some, or all of [450] the Acts of Parliament which form the basis and establishment of the Protestant religion in this country are repealed, it will be impossible to assimilate the form of securities for the State in its relations with his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects to those which exist elsewhere.

"But it appears to me that a system of license from the Crown to Roman Catholic priests will meet all the difficulties of the case. For such licenses, if made liable to be withdrawn at the pleasure of the Crown, and supported by a law which should prohibit the performance of ecclesiastical functions without them,— particularly if the law extended the prohibitions, as well as the penalties on disobedience to priests, whom the Crown might deprive of their stipends, — would operate quite as effectually as a veto upon the nomination of bishops by the Pope, or as the establishment of the principle of nomination itself by the Crown.

"It is worthy of attention, that the whole system proposed is the creation of the English law, and will be carried into execution by virtue of legal enactment. Popery is of foreign growth, and it is more consistent with the dignity of his Majesty's crown that his Majesty should license the dependents of the See of Rome to exercise their ecclesiastical functions within his dominions, than that he should accept from the Pope any pretended authority of nomination, or any check upon such nomination, by the Pope himself. We shall thus establish the greatest possible extension of toleration of the Roman Catholic religion, with the best security for the State by the power of the State itself."

After noticing and getting rid of other possible objections, as that the licensing system would be subversive of the principle of toleration, and that it would place the priesthood too much under the influence of the Crown, the Duke proceeds to argue against the renewal of direct political relations with Rome. He doubts whether the Roman Catholics themselves would desire the establishment of such relations, accompanied as it must be by increased watchfulness on the part of the government; and he is satisfied that without this increase of vigilance, no Protestant parliament would consent to establish them. Finally he comes to the following conclusions: That whatever titles the Roman Catholic dignitaries might receive from their own people, they should receive only within the walls of their places of worship; that measures should be adopted not only to discourage the growth of religious houses, but to settle the terms on which admission might be obtained to those already in existence; and that payment out of the Consolidated Fund to the Roman Catholic clergy in England and Scotland would not, under existing circumstances, be necessary.

[451] It does not appear that the reception awarded by his Majesty to this scheme for settling the Roman Catholic difficulty, however gracious it might be, was very cordial. The permission asked, to bring the subject under the notice of others, was not, indeed, withheld; but it was accompanied by a prohibition to mix up the King's name in any manner with the proceeding; and by an assurance that his Majesty continued to be, on principle, as much opposed as ever to concession in any shape, or to any extent. Under these circumstances, the Duke could proceed in the matter only as with an arrangement purely hypothetical. How his plan, with its accompanying explanation, was handled by Sir Robert Peel, the posthumous volume, for which we are indebted to Earl Stanhope and Mr. Cardwell, explains. Sir Robert supported the Duke's doubts in regard to the policy of suspending any portion of the law as it stood; which, indeed, could not, according to his view, be done, unless the principle were adopted in regard to that proceeding which, while the Test and Corporation Acts continued in force, had dictated the passing of an annual bill of indemnity. He was opposed, likewise, but more decidedly, to the substitution of a 5l. franchise for the 40s. freehold, on the ground that the criterion must be imperfect at the best, and that by good or bad management of the local expenditure votes could either be created or destroyed, as suited the convenience of those most deeply interested in electioneering movements. Strange to say, however, he expressed himself in favour of some scheme for limiting the number of Roman Catholic members, comparing it to the arrangements which had twice before been entered into, first, at the union of Scotland with England, and next, at the parliamentary union between Great Britain and Ireland. Yet this will appear to men of ordinary powers of mind to have been by far the weakest part in the whole of the Duke's plan; for, in addition to the objections which he himself urges, it lay open, when brought side by side with the cases quoted in support of it, to one insuperable difficulty. The old settlements were made by parliaments which, as they represented distinct nationalities, were competent to give and take, in order to effect the amalgamation of which the nations represented by them were desirous. Whereas an act passed in 1828, or 1829, to declare that only a certain number of persons, professing a certain form of Christianity, should be eligible to seats in the Houses of Lords and Commons, would be an encroachment upon the rights of the Crown, and the constitutional privileges of all the electors in all parts of the United Kingdom.

There seems to have been little difference of opinion between [452] Sir Robert and the Duke in regard to the good policy of bringing the Irish priests, by some arrangement or other, under the control of the civil power. But Sir Robert, more prone than his illustrious colleague to foresee, perhaps to imagine, difficulties, expressed himself apprehensive of determined opposition to the proposal of paying the priests. His grounds of fear were threefold. First, he apprehended that by taking into its pay the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, the Government would be charged with seeking to set up two religious establishments. But this, which he brought forward as a constitutional difficulty, was surely no difficulty at all. The mere payment by the Government of the clergy of any particular Church does not elevate that Church into the rank of an establishment; otherwise, in France, where the clergy of many denominations are so paid, there must be many establishments. And in Ireland, the Government already paid two dissenting bodies, neither of which ever set up a claim to be treated as an establishment. Indeed the difference between the established and other churches in Ireland and in England, is this: that while the latter are open to receive pay from the Government, the former neither claim, nor can well receive such pay; Government doing for the established clergy exactly what it does for other corporate or private proprietors, by insuring to them the continued enjoyment of property, which had been made over to their predecessors ages ago, sometimes by sovereigns, sometimes by private persons. The United Church of England and Ireland is, indeed, a State church, because all its members acknowledge the king's supremacy; and its bishops, sitting in the House of Lords, constitute the third estate the lords spiritual which is referred to as passing or advising every act of Parliament. But the State of England does not pay the Church any more than it pays the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or the several colleges connected with these Universities. On the other hand, a bill for the payment of the Roman Catholic or any other clergy out of the Consolidated Fund, must affect the clergy of the Church of England, as it affects all tax-paying members of the community. They will be called upon to contribute their share towards the general amount, and they will do it.

But apart from this, there were other objections to the arrangement. Would the Roman Catholic priests consent to receive payment from the Government on such terms? And if they did, would the Protestant people of England be willing to pay for the performance of a species of worship which they regarded as idolatry?

There was reason to expect that opposition to the receipt of [453] state pay, if it came at all, would not come from the priests. On more than one previous occasion, the representatives of that body had expressed themselves willing to receive Government pay. And though the necessity of receiving licenses also from the Crown might now offend the more ardent among them, it was probable that, putting the substantial gain against the unsubstantial loss, the arrangement would not be generally refused. But if it were, what then? Only pass the bill, and having law on its side, the Government would find little difficulty in compelling the priests to receive licenses; more especially since it would be accompanied by a boon to the importance of which the curates could scarcely prove insensible. But would the bill be passed? Would the Protestant spirit of the nation allow it to pass?

Here lay the great stumbling-block of all; and in the hope of removing it the Duke and Mr. Peel entered into communication with the leading prelates of the Church of England. Lloyd, Bishop of Oxford, seems to have been Peel's chief confident. Besides Dr. Phillpotts, the Duke corresponded and held personal conferences with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London, Durham, Winchester, and Chester. It would little interest the general reader to be told into what channels these discussions fell, and by what arguments each of the contending parties supported his own opinions. Suffice it to state that the Duke found the prelates pliant, where he might have expected them to be obdurate; and obdurate on the very points which he held to be most conducive to the well-being of the Church and of the realm. The consequence was that all the most valuable arrangements in his proposed bill, the clauses which provided for the paying and licensing of priests, and such like, were struck out; and that nothing was left in the form of security for the rights of the Church except an oath, which, though taken in the letter, has never been in substance observed, and which is liable at any moment, when the humour of Parliament shall so run, to be abolished altogether.




ALL this while the condition of Ireland continued to be lamentable in the extreme. Agitation, indeed, seems to have reached the utmost extent of violence which it could attain, when that incident befell of which the Duke, in a memorandum elsewhere referred to, made mention. Mr. George Robert Dawson, one of the Lords of the Treasury, and still more a man of mark in consequence of his connection by marriage with Sir Robert Peel, delivered a speech at a public dinner in Derry, which fell with ominous sound on the ears of all who listened to it, and was soon taken up and quoted at every public meeting throughout the United Kingdom. He made allusions in it to the hopelessness of endeavouring to govern Ireland while parties stood so far apart; and hinted at the wisdom, not less than the duty, of striving to meet on common ground, after mutual concessions. Instantly the Orangemen took fire. Their motto was, "No surrender!" If the chiefs in whom they had heretofore trusted were about to abandon them, they would stand the more firmly, shoulder to shoulder, and put down popery, or perish in the attempt. The Catholic Association, on the other hand, accepting the speech as a feeler, became more arrogant and threatening than before. They would not concede one iota. Mr. O'Connell, who in 1825 had himself proposed the disfranchisement of the forty-shilling freeholders, now denounced the scheme as treason against the people. The honest voter, however poor, had the same right to his political privileges as the king had to his crown, and if any attempt were made to deprive him of these privileges, Mr. O'Connell would be the first to draw the sword, and to die, if necessary, on the scaffold or in the field.

Whether Mr. Dawson took his own line on the present occasion, or acted on the suggestion of others, was a doubtful point at the time, and we are not now in a position to settle it. But his [455] proceeding was promptly disavowed by the Cabinet, Mr. Dawson himself being deprived at the same time of his office. Meanwhile, Lord Anglesey wrote continually to say that repeal must be conceded; that the times were peculiarly favourable for concession, because the Roman Catholic bishops had become jealous of Mr. O'Connell and the Association, and would therefore accept any terms which the Government might propose. And, finally, that though as yet the country was quiet, he would not be answerable for the consequences, if, after the meeting of Parliament, Government should do nothing; for, as he more than hinted, the soldiers were tampered with, and could not in several regiments be depended upon. We believe now, as the Duke believed at the moment, that so far as the troops were concerned, Lord Anglesey was deceiving himself or was deceived by others. But the Duke believed, also, that affairs were in a very unsatisfactory state, and that it would be impossible to go on much longer without applying a remedy to existing evils.

It was at this anxious moment that the Duke of Clarence, under circumstances of a somewhat delicate nature, ceased to be Lord High Admiral of England; and that Lord Melville, removing from the Board of Control, took his place as First Lord of the Admiralty. He was succeeded in Cannon Row by Lord Ellenborough; but the office of Privy Seal, which thereby became vacant, the Duke did not immediately fill up. The fact is, that he was a good deal perplexed, and rendered anxious by the indecision of Mr. Peel. Though convinced so long ago as 1827 that the battle of Anti-Catholicism could not be maintained for ever, — though entering freely into the Duke's views, and sending through him to the King an able paper in support of these views, Mr. Peel was naturally desirous to escape the painful and humiliating task of proposing a measure which, both in and out of office, he had throughout his public life consistently opposed. He again and again expressed his anxiety to resign, not with a view to resist emancipation, but to plead for it as an independent member of Parliament, in which capacity he believed he should be able to promote the Duke's views far more effectually than by continuing in the administration. The Duke, on the other hand, was satisfied that Mr. Peel's resignation would render the passing of an emancipation act impossible for him; and if impossible for him, still more so, admitting that there could be degrees of impossibility, for any other statesman. He explained his reasons for this belief very fully to his colleague, yet left him free to decide upon his own course of action. "I propose to keep the Privy Seal vacant," he wrote, "because I am under the necessity of looking forward to [456] future misfortunes. I consider you not pledged to anything; but I cannot but look forward to the not impossible case of your finding yourself obliged to leave us to ourselves. In this case I must have the command of all the means possible to carry on the Kings service, and I would keep other offices vacant if I could."

We have alluded to the excitement, which was caused among the Protestants and Roman Catholics of Ireland by Mr. Dawson's speech at Derry. At first it appeared as if the long-expected collision was about to take place, for the Catholic Association assumed at once a threatening attitude, and the Brunswick clubs met them with characteristic alacrity. Some blood, indeed, was shed; but either because they shrank from an appeal to arms, or because they had received secret information respecting the disposition of the Government in their favour, the heads of the Association met in Dublin, and issued an order not to break the peace. It was promptly obeyed. No more meetings were held, no more inflammatory harangues delivered; and then, and not till then, came out a proclamation from the Lord-Lieutenant, denouncing as illegal proceedings which a power superior to his had already suppressed. All this at once irritated and confounded the Protestant party in both kingdoms. They were unable to comprehend what the objects of the Government could be in first tolerating agitation so long as it went forward, and then declaring it to be illegal as soon as it had subsided of its own accord. Yet hoping, and perhaps believing, that the Government wavered only because it stood in need of increased moral support, they resolved to give such support, and to give it effectually. The men of Kent set the example. Pennenden Heath, near Maidstone, became the scene of a monster meeting, at which the Earl of Winchelsea and Sir Edward Knatchbull, one of the county members, took a leading part; and from which there went forth, not only a petition against the admission of Roman Catholics to power, but an assurance that the sovereign would be supported in his endeavours to restore tranquillity in Ireland, to the utmost extent of their means, by his loyal Protestant subject. This was on the 24th of October; and the example so set, was promptly and vigorously followed in other places. Indeed, the English Roman Catholics themselves began to exhibit symptoms of alienation from their Irish co-religionists. They disapproved of the violent language of Mr. O'Connell and his fellow-agitators; they were prepared to give the securities which Mr. O'Connell and the Association refused; in a word, they not only believed the course which the Association was following to be disloyal, but they were persuaded that its effect would be to throw insurmountable obstacles in the way of a satisfactory settlement of the Catholic question.

[457] Such was the general aspect of affairs, when the Duke of Wellington received a letter from Dr. Curtis, the titular primate Ireland, setting forth the miserable condition of the country, and pointing out that a prolonged adherence to a policy of indecision must lead to very serious consequences. Dr. Curtis wrote with the greater freedom, that he and his illustrious correspondent had been acquainted many years. When the British army was in Spain, Dr. Curtis was head of one of the colleges in Salamanca and found means, through his position and from the influence which it gave him, to supply the British general with a great deal of useful information. His services at that time were not forgotten either by the Duke or by the English Government. Interest was made for him at Rome, and the Pope, grateful for the part which England had taken in reinstating him in his sovereignty, sent Dr. Curtis to Ireland as Roman Catholic primate. Under such circumstances the doctor's letter was received in the same spirit of candour with which it appeared to have been written; and in the course of a day or two the Duke addressed to him the following reply

London, December 11th, 1828


" I have received your letter of the 4th, and I assure you that you do me justice in believing that I am sincerely anxious to witness the settlement of the Roman Catholic question, which, by benefiting the state, would confer a benefit on every individual belonging to it. But I confess that I see no prospect of such settlement. Party has been mixed up with the consideration of the question to such a degree, and such violence pervades every discussion of it, that it is impossible to expect to prevail upon men to consider it dispassionately. If we could bury it in oblivion for a short time, and employ that time diligently in the consideration of its difficulties on all sides (for they are very great), I should not despair of seeing a satisfactory remedy."

Though the letter was marked " private and confidential," the Duke could scarcely expect that his correspondent would keep the contents of it entirely to himself. On the contrary, he must have anticipated that Dr. Curtis would make them known among his friends; and if he ventured to hope that men of influence might thereby be induced to exert themselves in the cause of order and tranquillity, who will blame him for so writing? But he never imagined for a moment that an old friend would use as an instrument of offence what had been put into his hands in a spirit of conciliation. Such, however, was the course which Dr. Curtis thought fit to pursue. He sent the Duke's letter to Mr. O'Connell. It was read, and publicly commented upon, amid vociferous cheering, at a meeting of the Association; and Dr. Curtis was [458] commissioned to make the Duke aware, that agitation not only would not cease, but that it would grow day by day more bitter, till a full and unconditional measure of emancipation was granted to his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects.

Not satisfied with this, Dr. Curtis transmitted a copy of the Duke's letter to Lord Anglesey; and received, by return of post, an answer as unwise in its object as it was ill-advised in its expressions. Like the Duke, Lord Anglesey had marked his communication "private and confidential." But in an evil hour, when smarting under a rebuke which for other reasons had fallen upon him, he suggested that his letter might be made public; and the Association, too happy to damage the Government, printed it in the Dublin newspapers This was on the 1st of January, 1829, the very day after Lord Anglesey had been warned by the Duke of Wellington that he might expect shortly to be recalled. It was impossible to overlook so flagrant a breach of official etiquette, and the recall, which the Duke had threatened on the 31st of December, instantly took place.

So passed day after day, and week after week. The Duke had borne the mortification of seeing his measure shorn of its best features. He had laboured to bring the King to a sense of the real state of the question, and had succeeded only in part. He was now doomed to suffer no slight measure of anxiety in his communications with Mr. Peel. That gentleman, on the 12th of January, transmitted to him a paper, which took exactly the none view of the condition of Ireland as the Duke had already taken, with a request that he would show it to the King. He did show it; and saw, without surprise, that his Majesty, though moved, was not persuaded by it. But that which distressed him most was a repetition of the desire, which on more than one occasion had been expressed by Mr. Peel, that the Duke would consent to his retirement, for a time at least, from the Cabinet. The following letter will show both how he received this application, and what his views of the future at that moment were:—

"London, 17th January, 1829.


"I entirely concur in the sentiments and opinions contained in the paper on the existing state of questions respecting Ireland, which, by your desire, I have given to the King; and I am equally of opinion with you that the only chance we have of getting the better of all the evils of the position in which the country is placed, is, that we should consider in Cabinet the whole situation of Ireland, and propose to Parliament the measures which may be the result of that consideration. You have been informed of what has passed between the King and me, and certain of the [459] bishops and me, upon this subject, and you must see the difficulties with which we shall be surrounded in taking this course.

" I tell you fairly, that I do not see the smallest chance of getting the better of these difficulties if you should not continue in office. Even if I should be able to obtain the King's consent to enter upon the course which it will probably be found the wisest to adopt, which it is almost certain I shall not, if I should not have your assistance in office, the difficulties in Parliament will be augmented ten-fold in consequence of your secession, while the means of getting the better of them will be diminished in the same proportion.

" I entreat you, then, to consider the subject, and to give us and the country the benefit of your advice and assistance in this most difficult and important crisis."

It would be hard to condemn Sir Robert Peel, because at such a crisis he exhibited less firmness of purpose than the great man with whom he was associated. The measure which he had assisted, if not to frame, at all events to criticise, had been cut down by unskilful hands, till it seemed to him to have lost its proportions. He still believed that, mutilated as it was, it would suffice to place things in a position of less entanglement than then prevailed: but the extent of positive good to be expected from it was now doubtful, and his own share in accomplishing that good must be small. And this small amount of self-approval he was invited to purchase by the loss of all the ties of political, and perhaps of social friendship, which had surrounded him through life. Instead, therefore, of blaming him for repeating his desire to withdraw from the administration, which he should still support as a private member of Parliament, he seems to deserve our praise for the self-denial which he exercised, and the readiness with which at last he consented to stand by the Duke, and share with him the perils of the coming struggle. Be this, however, as it may, the negotiation went on. The King yielded, or appeared to yield, a reluctant assent to the wishes of his ministers: and so, when Parliament met, which it did on the 4th of February, the speech from the throne was found to contain the following among other announcements:—" His Majesty laments that in that part of the United Kingdom (Ireland), an association still exists which is dangerous to the public peace, and inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution, which keeps alive discord and ill-will among his Majesty's subjects, and which must, if permitted to continue, effectually obstruct every effort permanently to improve the condition of Ireland. His Majesty confidently relies on the wisdom and on the support of his parliament; and he feels assured that you will commit to him such powers as may enable his Majesty to maintain his just authority. His Majesty recommends that when this essential object shall have [460] been accomplished, you should take into your deliberate consideration the whole condition of Ireland, and that you should review the laws which impose disabilities on his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. You will consider whether the removal of these disabilities can be effected consistently with the full and permanent security of our establishments in Church and State, with the maintenance of the reformed religion established by law, and of the rights and privileges of the bishops and of the clergy of this nation, and of the churches committed to their charge."

It is impossible to describe the effect produced, both upon Parliament and upon the country at large, by the latter of these clauses in the King's speech. Though there had certainly got abroad a sort of indistinct suspicion that a change of policy towards Ireland was contemplated, so frank an avowal of the purpose of the Government to abandon the ground on which it previously stood, took all parties by surprise. The Tories, believing that their leaders had betrayed them, gave vent to their indignation in the most unmeasured terms. The Whigs, rejoicing in the near prospect of office which thus suddenly opened upon them, cheered the Government forward, half in triumph, half in mockery. The King was miserable; but the ministers held their course. On the 17th of February Mr. Peel brought in his bill for the suppression of the Catholic Association, which met with no opposition in either House. On the 20th he resigned his seat for the University of Oxford; and being defeated by Sir Robert Inglis, after an attempt on the part of his friends to reinstate him, he was returned, not without a struggle, for Westbury. On the 3rd of March he gave notice, that he would draw the attention of the House on the 8th to that clause in his Majesty's speech which related to the Roman Catholic disabilities. Louder and louder the cry of dissatisfaction arose; and whether moved by that, or acting on the suggestions of his own mind, the King sent the same evening to desire that the Duke, the Lord Chancellor, and Mr. Peel, should wait upon him next day. It was a very remarkable interview, but it was the only one which took place between his Majesty and his ministers till after the Emancipation Act became law. And it is the more necessary to note this: because stories were circulated at the time, on what appeared to be good authority, of repeated conferences, and extreme harshness and arrogance by the Prime Minister. For these there was not a shadow of foundation in truth. The Duke saw the King more than once, while yet the expediency of adopting a particular line of policy was under consideration. His Majesty and he discussed it together, in all its bearings, and his Majesty never concealed the reluctance with which he consented to follow [461] the advice of his ministers. But after the measure was arranged, the Duke never saw the King, except on the morning of the 4th of March, till the bill had passed through both Houses. All the stories told, therefore, of tears on the one side, and threats and rudeness on the other, were the mere inventions of malice or disappointed ambition.

Mr. Peel, in the posthumous vindication of his own good name, has given a very correct account, as far as it goes, of all that passed on the occasion to which we now allude. The King received his three ministers, when they presented themselves at the palace, kindly but gravely. He looked anxious and embarrassed while he requested them to make him acquainted with the details of their bill. It was explained to him that the bill would relieve Roman Catholics from the necessity of making a declaration against the doctrine of transubstantiation; while it so far modified, in their case, the oath of supremacy, as to omit all notice of the King’s authority in things spiritual. "What!" exclaimed the King, “do you mean to alter the ancient law of supremacy? " It was to no purpose that his Majesty was shown that the proposed alteration could apply only to one class of his subjects; that Protestants of every denomination would still continue to swear as their fathers bad done before them; and that only Roman Catholics would be excused from asserting on oath what in their consciences they were unable to believe. The King could not see the matter in the same light light with his ministers. He appealed to his own coronation oath, which now for the first time he perceived to be directly at variance with the course which they wished him to follow; and assured them that he would rather abandon the throne than incur the guilt of perjury. What could the Duke or his colleagues say? The King was condescending in the extreme. He seemed deeply grieved at the dilemma to which they had been brought. He acknowledged that possibly he had gone too far on former occasions; though he had acted entirely through misapprehension. But now he trusted they would see, with him, that it had become a point of conscience, and that there was no alternative left him except to withdraw his assent. In the most respectful manner they acquiesced in his Majesty's determination, allowing without a murmur that he had a perfect right to act as he proposed. But when he went on to ask further what they intended to do, the Duke's answer was explicit; they must retire from his Majesty's service, and explain to Parliament that unexpected obstacles had arisen to the accomplishment of the policy which they were engaged to pursue. To this Mr. Peel added, that as the bill for the suppression of the Catholic Association had been carried on [462] the understanding that other and more comprehensive measures would follow, it would be necessary to make Parliament generally aware of the causes which operated to prevent the bringing forward of those measures.

The King heard all this to an end without attempting to interrupt or to argue with his ministers. He admitted, on the contrary, that it was impossible for them to take any other course, and then bade them farewell, kiss each of them separately on both cheeks. They set off from Windsor immediately, and arriving at Lord Bathurst's, where their colleagues were waiting dinner for them, they made a full report of all that had occurred, and announced that the Government was at an end.

The party broke up, believing themselves to be out of office; but early next morning, before any decisive steps had been taken, a special messenger arrived at Apsley House, with a letter from the King. It was guardedly expressed, for it went no further than to state, that his Majesty had found greater difficulties than be expected in forming a new Cabinet, and was therefore desirous that the present administration should go on. The moment was critical, and the position of the Government delicate, and in come sense insecure. No doubt his Majesty's letter might be read an implying an abandonment of the objections which he had taken to the policy of his ministers over-night; but it was certainly capable of a different interpretation. It appeared therefore to the Duke, that before proceeding further it would be necessary to come to a clear understanding with the King as to his Majesty's real intentions; and Mr. Peel concurring in this opinion, the Duke was requested to write to the King upon the subject. He did so with all the candour and loyalty which were natural to him; and the result was an unequivocal declaration from the sovereign, that be would accept the measures of his ministers as his own. Accordingly, on the 8th of March, Mr. Peel brought into Parliament the bill of which he had given notice on the 3rd, delivering at the same time a speech to which the House listened with profound attention. But at its close a storm burst forth, which for violence of invective on the one side, and triumphant self-gratulation on the other, has seldom been equalled.

Nor was the feeling which produced this outbreak confined within the walls of Parliament. The Duke and his colleagues fell at once from the pinnacle of popularity on which they had heretofore stood. Every Protestant newspaper in the three kingdoms covered them with abuse; every Protestant speaker in townhall or tavern vilified them; and the very pulpits were in many instance converted into tribunes, from which to denounce them and their [463] treason. But worse remains to be told. The Earl of Winchelsea, one of the leaders of the Anti-Catholic party, a man of strong passions and ardent temperament, published in the " Standard " newspaper a violent attack on the personal character of the Duke. The Duke, after obtaining from Lord Winchelsea an avowal of the authorship of this attack, wrote a letter of mild yet firm remonstrance, inviting the Earl to retract his charges and apologise for them. Lord Winchelsea declined to do either, and the matter being referred to friends, a hostile meeting was agreed upon. It is a curious feature in this somewhat unfortunate occurrence, that, when the moment for action arrived, it was found that the Duke did not possess a pair of duelling pistols. Considering the length of time which he had spent in the army, and the habits of military society towards the close of last century, that fact bore incontestable evidence to the conciliatory temper and great discretion of the Duke. Sir Henry Hardinge, therefore, who acted as the Duke's friend, was forced to look for pistols elsewhere; and borrowed them at last, he himself being as unprovided as his principal, from Dr. Hume, the medical man who accompanied them to the ground.

The details of this remarkable duel are well known. The combatants met in Battersea Fields, now converted into Battersea Park — the Duke attended by Sir Henry Hardinge, Lord Winchelsea by the Earl of Falmouth, — and Lord Winchelsea, having received the Duke's fire, discharged his pistol in the air. A written explanation was then produced by Lord Winchelsea's second, which the Duke declined to receive unless the term "apology" were introduced into it, and the point being yielded, they separated, as they had met, with cold civility. Long after the events themselves had ceased to occupy public attention, the writer of this history took advantage of the Duke's great kindness to refer to them in one of those confidential conversations with which he was occasionally honoured. The Duke's opinion respecting the propriety, indeed the necessity, of the course which he followed on the occasion, had undergone no change. "You speak as a moralist," he observed, smiling, "and I assure you that I am no advocate of duelling under ordinary circumstances; but my difference with Lord Winchelsea, considering the cause in which it originated, and the critical position of affairs at the moment, can scarcely be regarded as a private quarrel. He refused to me, being the King's minister, what every man in or out of office may fairly claim, the right to change his views under a change of circumstances on a great public question. He did his best to establish the principle, that a man in my situation must be a traitor, unless he adhere [464] through thick and thin to a policy once advocated. His attack upon me was part of a plan to render the conduct of public affairs impossible to the King's servants. I did my best to make him understand the nature of his mistake, and showed him how he might escape from it. He rejected my advice, and there remained for me only one means of extorting from him an acknowledgment that he was wrong."

" But he behaved well on the ground, at all events; he refused to fire at you."

"Certainly he did not fire at me; and seeing that such was his intention, I turned my pistol aside, and fired wide of him; but that did not make amends for the outrageous charge brought against me in his letter. It was only the admission that the charge was outrageous which at all atoned for that; and it would have been more creditable to him had he made it, when first requested to do so, than at last. He behaved, however, with great coolness, and was, and I am sure continues to be, very sorry that he allowed his temper to run away with him."

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