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Lord Clare


Mr˙ Townshend then moved, That a Committee be appointed to inquire into the matter of the said complaint, and to report the same, as it shall appear to them, to the House.

Sir George Yonge seconded the motion.

Lord Clare said the right honourable gentleman who made the motion had been lavish of his encomiums on Ireland, but did not offer a syllable in behalf of poor Britain. Ireland retained a proper sense of freedom; she would not admit foreigners, even with the consent of Parliament; her principles were sound; her manners pure; her Councils uncontaminated; while poor, degenerate Britain, was fallen from her former greatness, and was sunk into the lowest extreme of corruption, folly, and want of spirit. Yet while he was proud to hear his country so highly extolled, he could not help lamenting that fallen Britain had not one friend to stand forth in her defence. His Lordship, having continued his vein of irony and humour for a while, commented upon the two propositions. The offer of sending foreigners, and of defraying the expense, signified nothing; no such offer or promise was intended; it was all the idle reveries of a gentleman whom, for the familiarity of expression, he would call by the name of Mr˙ Edmund Sexton Perry. He knew Mr˙ Perry very well, and he knew him to be a good sort of a considerate, honest, sensible man: but however sensible Mr˙ Perry might be, the House was not bound by his interpretations. The honourable mover said that Mr˙ Perry went to the bar of the House of Lords, and delivered a certain speech, and that the Lord-Lieutenant acquiesced in that interpretation of the message, because he did not contradict it. Would he have Lord Harcourt rise and come to Mr˙ Perry to the bar, and contradict him by telling him he never meant any such thing? I dare say he would hardly be so unreasonable. I have, indeed, heard it asserted by some of my countrymen, that they spoke better English than the people of this country. It may be so, but it is the first time I ever heard it asserted that they understand it better. I presume that Mr˙ Perry thought he understood the message; but I will not allow that either Lord Harcourt or this House are bound to abide by his interpretation; neither can I be persuaded that the House of Commons of Ireland are any more bound than we are by his conceptions. For, what does the whole amount to? Mr˙ Perry, in his individual capacity, says so and so. What is that to the House of Commons? He is Speaker, it is true, but what he does out of the House, when he is not instructed, is no more the act of that House than if it had been done by any other person.

Mr˙ Conolly said that he was an Irishman as well as the noble Lord, and as Ireland was to be the subject of that day, in the cocking phrase, he was ready to pit himself against him. He was not surprised that the noble Lord was in such extreme good humour with Ministers on both sides of the water, as his Lordship and three others who enjoyed sinecure employments had a present made them in one day of fourteen thousand pounds, (meaning the arrangement of the Vice-Treasurers, and the Clerk of the Pells;) and lest a possibility should arise of any defalcation of their salaries, Parliament was so good-humoured, while they increased the salary, to take upon themselves to provide payment out of the publick purse for deputies, who were to do the duty. It was, therefore, no wonder that his Lordship and his colleagues should be merry, while Ireland continued to be sad, to see the salaries of sinecure places raised, while she was mortgaging her funds, laying on new duties, and providing for deficiencies of grants. He gave a picture of Ireland: an exhausted treasury, ruined trade, starving manufacturers, accumulating pensions, new created places, State oppressions, daily executions, a ruined, mouldering army, increasing debts, castle jobs, bands of lawless ruffians in defiance of law, and beyond the power of punishment; in short, every publick evil and private mischief that ever was on earth to curse and debase mankind. He did not rise to the question simply stated, Whether the message was really a breach of the privileges of the Commons of England, but principally to give an account of what passed in the Irish House of Commons when Sir John Blaquiere brought the message from the Lord-Lieutenant. That House refused the offer upon two principles: first, because they thought the introduction of foreign troops an unconstitutional and dangerous measure; and secondly, because it was thought that the Ministry had no mind that they should have them,


for Sir John himself voted against them. He said Ireland was quite defenceless, that the twelve thousand nominal men was only ten thousand eight hundred, out of which four thousand were to be sent away; that the White-boys were governours of all the South of Ireland, where four-fifths of the people were Catholicks; that no private gentleman could be sure of his life, sitting there in his own house, for one half hour; that more troops were really wanting, instead of taking those away they had already; that men had their ears sawn off, and others were buried alive, to the disgrace of Government, that could not or would not protect the people; that the peasantry were in such a state of poverty that no revolution or change of situation could possibly be to them for the worse.

Mr˙ Welbore Ellis said the meaning of the message had been mistaken; that taking the expressions in any light, no breach of privilege could be deduced from them. He called to the remembrance of the House, that in 1769, when the Irish establishment was raised from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand men, his Majesty passed a royal personal promise to the Irish Parliament that there never should be less than twelve thousand men in Ireland, except in case of actual invasion or rebellion in Great Britain. Now the Earl of Harcourt' s message, he contended, had reference to this promise. As the present want of troops was not within those exceptions, it certainly was his Majesty' s first business to be absolved from that promise by the parties to whom it was made; but if he had applied first to the Commons of Great Britain, it must have been for their approbation of a measure in direct breach of his promise to Ireland. He compared it to the King' s proposing military establishments to the House; the King does the whole by his prerogative, and leaves nothing to the House of Commons but to vote the money. Is not this engaging for the consent of Parliament? Yet all the world knows that the House may object to them, and, consequently, that they cannot be effective without their consent.

Mr˙ Gordon thought the first part of the message was agreeable to the sense now put on it by the honourable gentleman who spoke last; but the other part seemed a little obscure at first sight: yet it might be concluded that, as a measure of Government, it could never be in the idea of the Minister to make such an attempt, in express contradiction to the Disbanding Act of King William. It was, in his opinion, a fair inference to say that the expression "enabled so to do" meant the previous consent of the British Parliament. If he thought Administration had any other intention in view, no man would be more ready to join in a vote of disapprobation and censure. He condemned the conduct of the Minister respecting the Indemnity Bill, and disapproved of introducing foreigners into the dominions of Great Britain without the consent of Parliament.

Mr˙ Powys had little doubt that the message under consideration meant more than it expressed, and was intended as an experiment to try if the Irish Parliament would consent to receive foreign troops, in order to establish a precedent which might be afterwards employed to other purposes.

Viscount Middleton said he had a fortune in both kingdoms, but had no predilection for either in a political light, because he looked upon their interests to be mutual; but whatever other gentlemen might think of the message, of the true import of which it was impossible there could be a second opinion, he had not a doubt but it aimed at one fixed object, that was, to habituate both countries to certain notions which must, in the end, reduce the Parliament of each to be the mere instrument of the Crown, without the least degree of will or independence whatever. It was a scheme, however deep, formed, nevertheless, on very simple principles, and went directly to vest in the Crown the virtual power of taxing, as opportunity might serve, both Great Britain and Ireland. In Ireland, the Minister was taught to ask some favour; then England was to be pledged. In England, again, when circumstances recurred, or made it impracticable, Ireland was to be taxed in order to maintain the supremacy of the British Legislature.

Mr˙ Dunning divided the message into two parts. On the first, he observed that it contained no condition implied or expressed. It was his Majesty' s intention as immediately proceeding from his own mind, declared in the most positive terms the English language is capable of conveying, to pay for the


four thousand men if the Irish House of Commons should choose to consent or accept of the terms. It was impossible, in the nature of things, that any man possessed of anything he could properly call his own, or binding himself to the execution of any act within his power, could promise in terms more clear, positive, or unequivocal, than those in which this part of the message was conceived. To get clear of this, he said, two modes had been adopted, both with equal bad success. One of those was a naked contradiction to the obvious sense of the words; but such an unsupported denial was abandoned in the very instant it was urged; for the noble Lord [Clare] and the honourable gentleman [Mr˙ Ellis] who asserted at random, being conscious that it was but a random assertion, endeavoured to explain it by saying that the affair was conducted precisely in the manner of a subsidiary treaty. This, he said, was still worse, for no argument was better than a had one. It was well known that the King, when treating with foreigners, represented the State, which never could be the case when treating with one part of his subjects, and engaging for another; besides, the consequences, had the offer been accepted by the Irish Parliament, would have clearly shown the difference, and established the distinction beyond all question. The troops, if the season of the year had permitted, might be now in America; the foreigners might be landed in Ireland; Great Britain was pledged; the cause in which the troops were to be employed, and the necessary arrangements by which the measure was to be brought about, is a favourite one; so that the whole business might be effected by his Majesty' s bare intention, as completely without as with the consent of the British Parliament. The second part of the message, he insisted, was clear and explicit. The offer was to replace the four thousand troops by an equal number of foreign Protestants, "if it be the desire of Parliament." Here, again, was clear intention, and offer expressed, with the condition annexed, that was, "if it be the desire," &c. By every rule of legal construction or common sense, if there be an undertaking accompanied by a condition, if the condition be accepted by the party to whom it is proposed, the bargain is from that instant complete, and mutually binding on both parties. If, then, the proposition was a positive one, and it had been accepted, it only remained to discover whether or not it was the Commons of Great Britain whose word was thus pledged without being consulted. This, he presumed, would require very little proof. No man would say that Hanover was to bear the burden. He could less think that any of his Majesty' s new allies were to do so, however zealous they might be for chastising his rebellious subjects in America. The civil list, he suspected, was still less equal to afford so heavy a disbursement. Where, then, could the necessary means of paying so large a body of men be obtained, but from the British Parliament? He understood this famous message had been disavowed by the Minister and his friends on this side of the water. He presumed the Minister on the other side did not venture to do it entirely on his own judgment. This excited his curiosity to know where it originated. It would be a sufficient answer if the Minister either here or in Ireland owned it. If neither did, and the advice came from another quarter, he should be glad to know, because in such an event, more particularly, it would be the duty, as it ought to be the wish, of this House to sift the matter to the bottom, in order to come at the real author or authors.

Lord North gave a narrative of the increase of the establishment, which took place in Ireland, in 1769, and of his Majesty' s promise to his Irish Parliament, that twelve thousand men should always remain within that kingdom, except in the event of a rebellion in this. He said the royal promise, though binding on his Majesty, was not law; therefore sending the troops out of the kingdom to the amount of any number was perfectly legal. His Lordship said he would not answer the general question put to him by the last honourable gentleman; not choosing to gratify mere curiosity at the expense of betraying the secrets of the Cabinet. He avowed the having co-operated with the rest of the King' s servants in giving general instructions; but would not charge his memory with having any immediate hand in drawing up the particular letter or paper on which the present measure was supposed to be taken. He thought it was perfectly justifiable, and was willing to share in the consequences. Yet he could not see how it was fair in


argument to charge Administration here with specifick measures taken in Ireland; nor could he conceive, either positively or by implication, that he or his colleagues in office were bound in any manner by what passed in another kingdom. To some allusions made by Mr˙ Dunning and Mr˙ Gordon relative to the Hanoverians being sent to Gibraltar and Minorca, and the fate of the Indemnity Bill, he replied, he thought the measure perfectly legal, and was ready to meet his adversaries on that ground whenever they thought fit. He gave a history of the Indemnity Bill, and, in a humorous way, proved that it was thrown out by a noble Marquis [of Rockingham] in the other House.

Lord John Cavendish rose to give his attestation of the personal worth of Lord Harcourt. He observed that his Lordship had been little acquainted with publick business till his late appointment; therefore, if it was his own measure, he was much the more excusable; but he believed it was not. However, if it was not, as the Irish nation had been too wise and too spirited to accept of one part of the proposal, and as Ministers, whatever they might affect to the contrary, had not dared to send a single man out of Ireland on such an authority, the matter hardly deserved the time and attention some gentlemen seemed willing to bestow on it. The people of Ireland had already done half the business, by refusing the offer; the Ministry had, in fact, done the other half from their own fear; so that, on the whole, he did not desire to send the matter to a Committee, but wished to come to some decisive resolution which would condemn the whole transaction, without any particular reference or application to those who might be supposed to have first planned, or endeavoured to carry it into execution.

Lord George Germaine contended that whatever might have been the sense of the message, his Majesty' s servants could not be supposed to be strictly answerable for its contents. He said that Lord Harcourt might have mistaken, or exceeded his instructions. But whether he did or did not, the first part of the message only proposed a matter to the consideration of the Irish Parliament, clearly and legally within the constitutional exercise of the regal power. If his Majesty had not given his royal promise to keep twelve thousand men within the kingdom, he might have ordered the whole of the troops on that establishment to any part of the British dominions he pleased, without applying to the Parliament of either kingdom. He had heard a great deal of what passed in debate in the House of Commons of Ireland, but he could not perceive what direct relation it bore to what was now under consideration. The efficient Minister, as he was called, was likewise much spoken of Sir John Blaquiere said this, and Sir John Blaquiere said that; but, for his part, what Sir John Blaquiere said one way or the other was of no great consequence. He knew a Sir John Blaquiere, and had been in conversation with him, but in what way what he said could be made a ground of censure on a British Ministry was more than he could reconcile to the relation they really stood in to each other, if they stood in any. He confessed the measure of paying for eight thousand men when we were to have the service of but four thousand was extremely uneconomical and improper; yet if four thousand men could be had upon no better terms, and it was supposed it might be more proper to send natives than foreigners to America, the measure on that account, and that alone, might be defended.

Lord Irnham. As I am just returned from Ireland, where I have attended closely to the proceedings of that Parliament, it may be expected from me to say something on the present question. I shall therefore endeavour to show the House whether the honourable gentleman, [Mr˙ Conolly,] a member of that Parliament as well as of this, has given you a true account of the conduct of Government there relative to the matter now before you; or whether the representation of it by the gentlemen who oppose the motion ought most to be relied on. The doubt to be cleared up is, What was really the meaning of Government there in the message sent to both Houses? The words of the message have been already read to you, and it has been very ingeniously, though somewhat variously explained by the gentlemen of the Treasury Bench; but the Lord-Lieutenant' s Secretary (who is always considered as the Minister in the Irish House of Commons) clearly expressed and interpreted the meaning of it; which was, that the Irish Parliament should consent to the introducing into that country four thousand foreign


Protestants, (Hessians and Brunswickers.) to be paid by Great Britain; in consideration of which, they should assure his Majesty of their readiness to spare four thousand men of the troops on the Irish establishment for the service in America, to be likewise paid by Great Britain; and it was expatiated upon by him, and all those who spoke on the side of Government, how advantageous such an offer must be, which provided equally for the safety of Ireland as if their own troops had remained in it, and would, moreover, bring eighty thousand pounds into that kingdom. The speech was answered by addresses from both Houses, returning thanks for the offer, but refusing the introduction of foreign troops; proving that they chose to defend their country, even in its present precarious situation, by the exertion of their own efforts, rather than adopt so unconstitutional a measure; but at the same time they consented, by address, to send to America the four thousand additional troops requested of them; both Houses understanding, however, that an act should be passed to legalize the terms of the said address, as the Crown had precluded itself, by act of Parliament, from the power of sending more than about three thousand one hundred men out of that kingdom, which number it had already exceeded. A bill was accordingly brought in, wherein were inserted two clauses calculated to effect that purpose; but, to the astonishment of the publick, those clauses were thrown out in England, and an act was again passed barring the Crown from the power of sending any more troops abroad than would leave twelve thousand men on that establishment for the defence of Ireland, and, consequently, the effect of the addresses of both Houses was thereby destroyed, whilst at that very time Government declared its resolution to send those four thousand men to America, in conformity to the addresses of both Houses, and signified that they did not consider the Crown as bound by the act to which the Royal assent had just been given to keep twelve thousand men in that kingdom, under pretence of its not being in the enacting part, though in the preamble of the act; but whoever reads it will find that compact not only in the preamble, but also so strictly tied to that part of the act which grants the subsidy, (being about four hundred and fifty thousand pounds,) that, if the Crown is not bound thereby, above two-thirds of the concessions from the Crown to the subject by act of Parliament since Magna Charta will fall to the ground, and the Crown has forfeited its right to those subsidies. I remember, upon this being hinted at by some members of the Irish Parliament, too sanguine for Government, the law servants of the Crown (men of the greatest abilities) avoided standing on that ground. As to the present Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, of whom many handsome things have been said by gentlemen on both sides of the House; those qualities mentioned are, I apprehend, relative only to his private character, which, merely as such, has, I think, good ingredients in it. But we do not sit here to discuss private characters; his ministerial and publick one is what we are to consider, and I will speak out: the talents and abilities of that Minister of the Crown are by no means equal to his station. Two millions and a half of people is a trust of too great weight for him to sustain; and he has sufficiently avowed his incapacity to govern them, by delegating all his power to his Secretary.

To conclude: the measures pursuing there, being illegal, must displease the best and soundest part of his Majesty' s subjects; and though, for certain purposes, the Ministry have this day spoken very advantageously of Ireland, should they go on acting as they do, they will meet with the united efforts of that country in opposition to their attempts; and then, instead of panegyrick, they will call out to this House for restraining and incapacitating bills to punish that kingdom as they have done America. Let me, therefore, recommend to the noble Lord now at the helm to attend, whilst it is time, to that alarmed part of his Majesty' s most affectionate subjects, and to forgive me if I heartily entreat him to apply his utmost care to rectify the errors of Government in that kingdom. In the case now before us, the conduct of Administration relative to the message from Lord Harcourt to the Irish Parliament has been unconstitutional and highly blameable. I therefore thank the right honourable gentleman for the motion, and express my hearty concurrence in it.

Mr˙ Fox observed, as the Administrations of both kingdoms were totally unconnected, so was every individual who


composed them. No two of the confidential servants of the Crown who spoke, agreed in a single sentiment. Some allowed the message to import what was stated in the complaint; others acceded to a part; while a third was so modest as to contend, in defiance of every rule of rational and obvious construction, that the message meant the reverse of what, in the very face of it, it manifestly intended. But in this diversity of opinion, there was one thing too curious to pass unnoticed, that was the language used by two or three members of Administration, which was, describing the Minister of the House of Commons in Ireland and the Speaker, under the undefined terms of one Edmund Sexton Ferry, and one Sir John Blaquiere.

Mr˙ Attorney-General said, the motion was a party squib, not worth attending to; and that the preamble to an Irish act of Parliament did not bind the Parliament of Great Britain.

Governour Johnstone said, the Ministers here threw all the blame upon the Ministers in Ireland.

Lord North passed a great encomium on the Administration of Ireland since the appointment of the present Lord- Lieutenant; observing, that no better proof could be given of it, than that it was attended with uncommon success.

Mr˙ Conolly observed, it was no wonder the Government of that kingdom should be attended with success, when two hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds had been raised on a ruined impoverished country. [Here he was proceeding to show how unable the Irish were to bear such a burden; and to give a detail of the pensions that had been lately granted, the places newly created, and the various means employed to influence and corrupt the representatives of the people; when he was interrupted by Lord North, as applying to matters not at all relating to the subject of the present debate.]

Mr˙ Fox insisted, that the matter stated by his honourable relation was perfectly within order; that it grew directly out of the subject of debate; and that if his Lordship appealed to the success of Administration in Ireland, as a proof of the wisdom or mildness of the Government there, it was no less fair in argument than consonant to order, to show the true causes of this boasted success.

The question being put for a Committee, the House divided:

Tellers for the yeas,
Mr˙ Thomas Townshend,
Mr˙ Conolly,

Tellers for the noes,
Lord Stanley,
Sir Grey Cooper,

So it passed in the negative.

Mr˙ Townshend also moved, That the Votes of the House of Commons of Ireland, printed by the order of the Speaker of that House, of the dates of the 23d, 28th, and 29th of November, and the 25th of December last, be delivered in at the table, and read.

It passed in the negative.

Mr˙ Townshend then moved, That it is highly derogatory to the honour, and a violent breach of the privileges of this House, and a dangerous infringement of the Constitution, for any person whatever to presume to pledge his Majesty' s Royal word to the House of Commons of the Parliament of Ireland, "that any part of the Troops upon the establishment of that kingdom shall, upon their being sent out of that kingdom, become a charge upon Great Britain" without the consent of this House; or for any person to presume to offer to the House of Commons of the Parliament of Ireland, without the consent of this House, "that such national Troops, so sent out of Ireland, shall be replaced by foreign Troops, at the expense of Great Britain."

And the previous question being put, That that question be now put,

It passed in the negative.