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6 IRISH GRATITUDE.
GRATTAN. E. S. PERRY, (Speaker of the Irish House of Commons.)
In 1782, on the 31st of May, the Irish Parliament voted the sum of £50,000 for purchasing an estate, and erecting a mansion thereon, to be settled on Grattan, and his heirs, as a reward for his exertions in the cause of Irish independence.
The circumstances attending this Parliamentary grant to the Right Hon. Henry Grattan were so extraordinary and unprecedented in the annals of our history, that we shall give a rapid sketch of the events that preceded and produced it.
In the year 1780, the resources of Great Britain seemed nearly exhausted by the long and unsuccessful war with America and France. Spain and Holland had recently joined her enemies. To crown her embarrassments, the armed neutrality of the Northern Powers of Europe was announced, which was little less than war in disguise. The invasion of Ireland was menaced.
At this crisis was formed the celebrated body of Irish Volunteers, consisting of many of the nobility, persons of the largest landed property, merchants and tradesmen of Ireland. Their avowed object, at first, was to guard against the dangers of foreign invasion. It soon, however, became evident, that the Volunteers constituted an armed deliberative body, which it was almost impossible to control, and dangerous to disband. The peril was greatly increased by their invitations to all parts of the country to reinforce them with delegates. Even Ulster, the loyal and peaceable Ulster, furnished its quota. Lord Charlemont might be considered the organiser and director of the military movements, and Mr. Grattan the suggester and framer of their political demands. The Volunteers now declared their intention to confine their efforts to two points: the defence of the empire, and the restoration of the Constitution.
But in 1781, they assumed a bolder tone, and declared that nothing could or ought to satisfy Ireland, but complete legislative independence and the solemn renunciation of Great Britain of any claim to legislative control. The most exciting language was used. Mr. Grattan declared he would not accept even Magna Charts itself, if it were the gift of Great Britain. Mr. Flood exhorted them to secure their liberties " They had the Constitution in their hands, they had the Constitution in their arms."
The House of Commons voted an address to the King stating "No power on earth can bind them, but the King, Lords and Commons of Ireland, and they would not part with their liberties but with their lives." Even the Earl of Carlisle, the Lord Lieutenant, privately informed the English Ministers he could not answer for the safety of Ireland if some considerable concessions were not made to the people. The Ministers, however, seemed infatuated, and the British House of Commons was prorogued without any redress of Irish grievances. An explosion might now be reasonably expected, and a civil war might have taken place, when fortunately, early in 1782, Lord North's Administration was removed, and the Rockingham Administration succeeded. Without loss of time, the Duke of Portland was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The Marquis of Rockingham wrote a private letter to Lord Charlemont, assuring him that the Duke had received the most ample instructions on the part of his Majesty to make a complete renunciation of the Legislative authority of Great Britain, and to confirm the Legislative independence of Ireland. He conjured him by their ancient friendship, and still more by the patriotic love of his country to tranquillize Ireland, now all their grievances would be redressed. Mr. Fox wrote to Mr. Grattan to the same effect. The answers to each letter were firm, but most courteous and conciliatory.
On the 14th of April the Duke of Portland arrived in Dublin. On the 27th of May he opened both Houses with a speech from the Throne. The first paragraph will long be remembered in the history of Great Britain and Ireland.
On the return of the Commons to their own House, a tumult of joy was displayed and the utmost delight was expressed by every section of the Assembly.
Mr. Grattan rose to move the address. In the course of his speech, he observed, "The great magnanimity in the conduct of Britain is that every thing is given up unconditionally. This must for evermore remove suspicion. We have now recovered a Constitution, and our business is not to advance, but maintain it."
Mr. Flood said, "Nothing appeared to him, at present, that could disturb the general harmony."
The Address was carried, with only two dissentient voices.
No sooner was the Address declared to be carried than Mr. Bagenal, without the slightest communication with any party, rose, and testifying his great joy at the triumphant establishment of the Legislative Independence of Ireland, asked, "But to whom does the Empire owe all this? To a man who has resolved to take no reward from Government. Shall every body have what they ought except him alone, to whom every individual is so much indebted, and by whose example every individual in the universe may be so much benefited? He has saved the Empire from an iron age, and restored an unequivocal golden one." " I believe there is no one, who would not blush to think that a Grattan's child might point to a statue or monument, and say, that was my father, your benefactor's only reward."
He then gave notice that on the next day, he would move for a Committee to state what sum we should grant for the purchase of an estate, and building a suitable mansion for our illustrious benefactor.
On May 30, Mr. Bagenal moved in the Committee, "that £100,000. be granted to purchase an estate, and building a mansion for Henry Grattan, Esq. and the heirs of his body."
Sir Henry Cavendish said, "the nation could not bear such a sum, nor would Mr. Grattan's own delicacy permit him to accept it. Half the money moved for would purchase £2000 per annum, and £10,000 would be amply sufficient to erect a house, and provide a proper equipage."
Sir Boyle Roche observed, "England rewarded the Duke of Marlborough, and she rewarded the Earl of Chatham, but we have more abundant cause to reward our great patriot, and if yesterday it was right to vote £100,000 to England for restoring our rights, surely this day it is right to vote the same sum to him who caused the restoration."
Mr. Bagenal then rose and said, "When he made the motion, he could not for the dignity of the nation think of a less sum, but as gentlemen differed from him, and as it came from Mr. Grattan's particular friends, he should alter his motion to £50,000."
Mr. Conolly was happy to inform the House, "that the Lord Lieutenant did most perfectly coincide in their generous intentions, so congenial to his own feelings, and that the memory of such great events might be perpetuated, he wished to relinquish to the nation's esteem that house in the park, which Parliament has lately purchased for the country residence of his Majesty's representative."
Rt. Hon. Col. Fitzpatrick, (Secretary for Ireland) said, "The power of rewarding merit was one of the noblest branches of the Royal prerogative of the Crown. He could wish to have seen it come from the Royal hand. But as the merit of the man was unprecedented, he hoped that the present reward would not be admitted as a precedent in future."
On the following day, May 31, the House agreed to the report from the Committee, "that an humble address be presented to his Grace the Lord Lieutenant, praying him to lay before his Majesty their address, that he would be pleased to order £50,000. to be issued and granted to the Rt Hon. Henry Grattan, &c. &c. and that the House would make good the same."
Thus terminated this remarkable affair, in which the House of Commons, and the Lord Lieutenant seemed to compete with eachother in securing popularity, by the recognition of the services of Mr. Grattan, and their propositions for heaping honours on him. But Grattan would not accept any donative, which did not emanate from the people, or their representatives in Parliament.
We shall conclude our account with the following excellent observation, extracted from Hardy's "Life of Lord Charlemont." Hume says "that the Revolution of 1688, was accomplished by the first persons in the country, in rank and intellect, leading the people. Hence it ended in liberty, not in confusion. The Revolution in Ireland in 1782, was formed in a similar manner." Vol. i. p. 387.
The Corporation of Dublin requested Mr. Grattan to sit for his portrait to adorn their Council Chamber.
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British Museum Description by M. Dorothy George (More ...)
6003 IRISH GRATITUDE.
Henry Grattan stands (c.) in profile to the r. facing a deputation of Irish notables who are making the presentation of the money voted to him in the Irish Parliament for his services in securing Irish independence. At the head of the deputation is a short man, the Irish Speaker, E. S. Pery, in his Speaker's wig and robes. He holds out a paper inscribed, Grant of the Sum of £100000 to H. Grattan Esq' and saying, To you 5' as the deliverer of our Country & the establisher of our Peace; the Senate & People of Ireland dedicate this Small token of their Gratitude. Behind the Speaker are two men, arm-in-arm, both wearing ribbons, others crowd behind them. A prominent figure in profile to the l., very lean, resembles caricatures of Flood.
Behind Grattan (l.) is a larger crowd of the Dublin populace, all kneeling, with hands held together as if in prayer. They are headed by a monk, behind him are a man in broad-trimmed hat and beard, probably a Jew, and a dissenting minister with lank hair and clerical bands. Other conspicuous figures are a little chimney-sweep in ragged clothes, his brush under his arm, a stout woman with a basket (? of oysters) on her head, a barber with his shaving-dish under his arm, a watchman with staff and lantern, a soldier, a tailor with scissors under his arm. Behind are buildings.
The sum first moved (on 30 May) was £100,000, but this was reduced to £5o,ooo.
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