An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800 eBook

Mary Frances Cusack
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 946 pages of information about An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800.

[A.D. 1783-1800.]

Parliament was dissolved on the 15th of July, 1783, and summoned to meet in October.  The Volunteers now began to agitate on the important question of parliamentary reform, which, indeed, was necessary, for there were few members who really represented the nation.  The close boroughs were bought and sold openly and shamelessly, and many members who were returned for counties were not proof against place or bribes.  But the Volunteers had committed the fatal mistake of not obtaining the exercise of the elective franchise for their Catholic fellow-subjects:  hence the Irish Parliament obtained only a nominal freedom, as its acts were entirely in the hands of the Government through the venality of the members.  On the 10th of November, one hundred and sixty delegates assembled at the Royal Exchange, Dublin.  They were headed by Lord Charlemont, and marched in procession to the Rotundo.  The Earl of Bristol, an eccentric, but kind and warm-hearted character, who was also the Protestant Bishop of Derry, took a leading part in the deliberations.  Sir Boyle Roche, an equally eccentric gentleman, brought a message from Lord Kenmare to the meeting, assuring them that the Catholics were satisfied with what had been granted to them.  He had acted under a misapprehension; and the Bishop of Derry, who was in fact the only really liberal member of the corps, informed the delegates that the Catholics had held a meeting, with Sir Patrick Bellew in the chair, in which they repudiated this assertion.  Several plans of reform were now proposed; and a Bill was introduced into the House by Mr. Flood, on the 29th of November, and warmly opposed by Mr. Yelverton, who was now Attorney-General, and had formerly been a Volunteer.  A stormy scene ensued, but bribery and corruption prevailed.  The fate of the Volunteers was sealed.  Through motives of prudence or of policy, Lord Charlemont adjourned the convention sine die; and the flame, which had shot up with sudden brilliancy, died out even more rapidly than it had been kindled.  The Volunteers were now deserted by their leaders, and assumed the infinitely dangerous form of a democratic movement.  Such a movement can rarely succeed, and seldom ends without inflicting worse injuries on the nation than those which it has sought to avert.

The delegates were again convened in Dublin, by Flood and Napper Tandy.  They met in October, 1784, and their discussions were carried on in secret.  Everywhere the men began to arm themselves, and to train others to military exercises.  But the Government had gained a victory over them in the withdrawal of their leaders, and the Attorney-General attempted to intimidate them still further by a prosecution.  In 1785 a Bill was introduced for removing some of the commercial restraints of the Irish nation; it passed the Irish House, but, to satisfy popular clamours in England, it was returned with such additions as effectually marred its usefulness.  Grattan now

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An Illustrated History of Ireland from AD 400 to 1800 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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