Finally, it must also be remembered that at a time when the chances seemed fairly even, as between William and England on the one hand, and James and France on the other, the Prince of Orange, accustomed to the German way of settling such differences, had made formal offer to Tyrconnel of a working compromise—the free exercise of their religion to the Irish Catholics: half the Churches of the Kingdom: half the employments, civil and military, if they pleased, and even the moiety of their ancient properties. “These proposals,” says the Chevalier Wogan, Tyrconnel’s nephew and confidant, who is our informant, “though they were to have had an English Act of Parliament for their sanction, were refused with universal contempt.” In other words, the party which with the assistance of France still hoped to obtain all, refused to be content with half. It is true that Wogan, in the letter from which we have quoted, after stating that the exiles, “in the midst of their hard usage abroad, could not be brought to repent of their obstinacy,” justifies their refusal by the way in which the Articles of Limerick were afterwards disregarded by the Irish Parliament. But this is evidently an argument of retrospective invention, and it may fairly be argued that the position would have been very different if peace on equal terms had been made on the direct authority of the King before Aughrim rather than by his deputies after Limerick.
And if the separatist theory has involved, as we have seen, such external dangers to the Empire, the case for the old Irish Parliament from the point of the “vital interests” of Ireland itself is even weaker. By it the bulk of the Irish people were treated for a century in a fashion described by an Irish Chief Secretary as “ingrafting absurdity on the wisdom of England and tyranny on the religion that professes humanity.” It was conspicuous for its corruption even in a corrupt age, and, as was inevitable, it involved Ireland in constant conflicts with England, conflicts that were vexatious and injurious to both countries. Swift, who, amongst those who have not read his works, passes for an Irish patriot, is at his savagest when inveighing against this sham Parliament.
Its members are, he says—
“...three hundred brutes
All involved in wild disputes,
Roaring till their lungs are spent
Privilege of Parliament’!”
And if only the Devil were some day to come “with poker fiery red,” and—
“When the den of thieves
Quite destroy the harpies’ nest,
How might then our Isle be blest!”
Capable observers, from Swift to Arthur Young, bear continuous testimony to the systematic and habitual corruption of the Irish Parliament. Offices were multiplied and were distributed among clamorous applicants on the ground of family or personal influence, or political support—never by any chance on the ground of merit or capacity. Public money was squandered for private purposes. Sir George Macartney, himself an Irishman and a Member of Parliament, in his “Account of Ireland,” speaking of the year 1745, says—