In Newry an attempt was made to put up an anti-Unionist candidate, but the Roman Catholic Bishop, Dr. Lennan, met and repulsed the intruder in militant fashion. “Mr. Bell,” he reports to Archbishop Troy, “declined the poll, and surrendered yesterday. The Catholics stuck together like the Macedonian phalanx, and with ease were able to turn the scale in favour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”
To the Irish Catholic at the time of the Union, the Dublin legislature was, indeed, in the words of Mr. Denys Scully, a leading Catholic layman, “not our Parliament, for we had no share in it, but their Club-house.”
The summing up of the whole matter is perhaps best expressed in the measured judgment of Mr. John Morley in his study of the life of Edmund Burke. Burke, in an evil moment for himself and for Ireland, had lent himself in 1785 to what Mr. Morley called the “factious” and “detestable” course of Fox and the English Whig leaders in destroying Pitt’s Commercial Propositions.
“Had it not been for what he himself called the delirium of the preceding session” (writes Burke’s biographer) “he would have seen that Pitt was in truth taking his first measures for the emancipation of Ireland from an unjust and oppressive subordination and for her installation as a corporate member of the Empire—the only position permanently possible for her.... A substantial boon was sacrificed amid bonfires and candles to the phantom of Irish Legislative Independence. The result must have convinced Pitt more firmly than ever that his great master, Adam Smith, was right in predicting that nothing short of the Union of the two countries would deliver Ireland out of the hands of her fatuous chiefs and of their too worthy followers.”
What would Mr. John Morley, the historian who wrote those words in the prime of his intellectual strength and judgment, have said if any one had told him that in his old age Lord Morley, the politician, would have been actively engaged in assisting another generation of “fatuous chiefs” and still more worthy followers to sacrifice the true interests of Ireland in the pursuit of “the phantom of Irish Legislative Independence”?
That the Union to some extent failed in the beneficent effects which it was calculated to produce in Ireland is only another instance of the working of the “curse of mis-chance” which has so often, before and since, interposed to thwart the intentions of statesmen in their dealings with the two countries. Pitt, Castlereagh, and Cornwallis, the three men chiefly concerned in planning the change, were all agreed in explaining that the Union was not a policy complete in itself, but was only the necessary foundation upon which a true remedial policy was to be based. As Lord Cornwallis said at the time, “the word ‘Union’ will not cure the ills of this wretched country. It is a necessary preliminary,