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[See larger version] It was the lot of the Earl of Clarendon to govern Ireland during the most trying period of her history. It was a trying crisis, affording great opportunity to a statesman of pre-eminent ability to lay broad and solid foundations for a better state of society. But though a painstaking and active administrator, Clarendon was not a great statesman; he had no originating power to organise a new state of things, nor prescience to forecast the future; but he left no means untried by which he could overcome present difficulties. The population had been thinned with fearful rapidity; large numbers of the gentry had been reduced from affluence to destitution; property was changing hands on all sides; the Government had immense funds placed at its command; a vast machinery and an enormous host of officials operating upon society when it was in the most plastic and unresisting state, a high order of statesmanship could have made an impress upon it that would have endured for ages. But Lord Clarendon's government, instead of putting forth the power that should have guided those mighty resources to beneficial and permanent results, allowed them to be agencies of deterioration. The truth is, he was frightened by a contemptible organisation, existing openly under his eyes in Dublin, for the avowed purpose of exciting rebellion and effecting revolution. The conspirators might have been promptly dealt with and extinguished in a summary way; but instead of dealing with it in this manner, Clarendon watched over its growth, and allowed it to come to maturity, and then brought to bear upon it a great military force and all the imposing machinery of State trials; the only good result of which was a display of forensic eloquence worthy of the days of Flood and Grattan.

Nothing could exceed the indignation of the public at the attempt that was being made by the Court, in league with an intriguing faction, to resist the national will. All classes, high and low, rich and poor, nobles and commoners, Churchmen and Dissenters, were roused into a state of wild excitement and fierce determination. Indignation meetings were everywhere held and threatening resolutions passed. The House of Commons was called upon to stop the supplies; placards were put up in the windows of shops expressing the determination of the inhabitants to pay no taxes. This determination was not confined to the middle classes; men of the highest rank and largest property, such as Lord Milton, told the tax-collector not to call again. A complete and active organisation existed in London for the purpose of stimulating and directing public[351] feeling in the provinces, and obtaining from the people vehement petitions, which poured in to both Houses rapidly, especially to the House of Commons. The political unions were everywhere preparing for actual insurrection. In London meetings were held by day and by night, at which the most violent language was used even by persons of property and rank. The Common Council of London met, and passed resolutions denouncing those who had advised the king not to create peers as enemies of their Sovereign, who had put to imminent hazard the stability of the Throne and the security of the country. A standing committee was appointed to watch the course of events. The feeling excited by these extraordinary proceedings proved, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the whole mercantile and trading classes in the metropolis were prepared to adopt revolutionary measures, if such were necessary, for the attainment of the Reform Bill. Immense numbers of persons who had hitherto considered the proceedings of the National Political union in London too violent, were now, says the Times of the 11th of May, at their own solicitation, admitted members. Similar excitement prevailed throughout the provinces. The storm was appeased only by Lord North's condescending to explain his measure in such a manner as deprived it of every particle of generous feeling, and reduced it to the lowest Machiavellian level. He said the real object of the resolution was to divide the Americans, to satisfy the moderate part of them, and oppose them to the immoderate, to separate the wheat from the chaff; that he never expected his proposal to be generally acceptable. On this, Colonel Barr and Burke assaulted him fiercely. Barr branded the whole scheme as founded on that low, shameful, abominable maxim, "Divide et impera." Burke declared that the proposition was at variance with every former principle of Parliament, directly so with the restrictive measures now in progress; that it was mean without being conciliatory. But the resolution passed by two hundred and seventy-four votes against eighteen. In the valley of Glen Tronian, on the 19th of August, they proceeded to erect the standard. The Marquis of Tullibardine, as highest in rank, though feeble and tottering with age, was appointed to unfurl the banner, supported on each hand by a stout Highlander. The colours were of blue and red silk, with a white centre, on which, some weeks later, the words Tandem triumphans were embroidered. Tullibardine held the staff till the manifesto of James, dated Rome, 1743, appointing his son Regent, was read; and as the banner floated in the breeze the multitude shouted lustily, and the hurrahs were boisterously renewed when Charles made them a short address in English, which few of the common class understood.

But this was not the only chastisement which the Americans had received. On the 27th Captain Gordon, of the Seahorse, accompanied by other vessels, attacked Alexandria, situated lower on the Potomac. They found no resistance from Fort Washington, built to protect the river at that point; and the authorities of Alexandria delivered up all public property, on condition that the private property should be spared. The British carried off the naval and ordnance stores, as well as twenty-one vessels, of different freights. On the 12th of September General Ross made an[111] assault on the city of Baltimore. This was a strongly fortified place, and the Americans can always fight well under cover; and, on that account, the attempt should have been made with due military approaches. But General Ross had so readily dispersed the army that defended Washington, and another which had been drawn up in front of Baltimore, that he made a rash endeavour to carry the place at once, but was killed in the attempt, as well as a considerable number of his men. He had inflicted a loss of six or eight hundred men, in killed and wounded, on the Americans; but this was little satisfaction for his own loss. In the meantime rumours were in circulation, said to have emanated from Dublin Castle, to the effect that a conspiracy existed to massacre the members of the Government and the loyal citizens. However these rumours may have originated, they spread a panic through the city. People expected that when they woke some morning they would find the barricades up in the leading streets, and behold an imitation of the bloody scenes lately enacted in Paris. The Government seemed to share the alarm. Strong bodies of soldiers were posted in different parts of the city. Trinity College, the buildings of the Royal Dublin Society, the Linen Hall, and the Custom House were occupied as temporary barracks. The Bank of Ireland was put in a state of defence, and cannon were placed on the roof in such a way as to command the streets. Bullet-proof shutters were furnished for the front of Trinity College. The Viceroy evidently apprehended some serious work, for he ordered the troops in all these extemporised fortresses to be furnished with rations for several[566] days. These preparations for a siege continued throughout the months of March and April. For more than three months the chambers of the College were turned into barracks; the troops were paraded in the quadrangles every morning. In all the fortified positions the soldiers were kept under arms at unreasonable hours. In fact the whole community was in a state of painful suspense, hourly anticipating the attacks of an imaginary enemy. During all this time there was not a single dep?t of arms seized nor a single rebellious leader arrested. The clubs, indeed, were meeting and plotting, and the Government spies were amongst them, but they had made no preparations for insurrection that should have excited alarm. There was much talk of the manufacture of pikes, but the only instance made public was one in which a blacksmith had been asked to make one by a detective policeman.

[See larger version] The folly of Ripperda, however, had ruined his credit with his own sovereigns and the nation even more than with foreign Powers. His swaggering and inflated language, in which he imagined that he was enacting Alberoni, had destroyed all faith in him. But his final blow came from his own false representations to each other of the preparations for war made by Austria and Spain. Count K?nigseck was most indignant when he discovered the miserable resources of the Spanish monarchy in comparison with the pompous descriptions made of them by Ripperda at Vienna; and the Spanish Court was equally disappointed by a discovery of the real military status of Austria. Ripperda was suddenly and ignominiously dismissed on the 14th of May.

But there was another topic started in this first Imperial Parliament which was as odious to George III. as the perfidious conduct of his late Russian ally. As one means of bringing about the union with Ireland, Pitt held out to the Irish Catholics the argument that by having Irishmen in the united Parliament they would be most likely to obtain a repeal of the Catholic disabilities. Both he and Lord Cornwallis had sent circulars to this effect, anonymous, it is true, but with a secret avowal of their authorship, amongst the leading Catholics, which had a great effect in procuring their assent to the union. Lord Castlereagh, who as Secretary of State for Ireland had helped to carry the union, claimed the redemption of this pledge. The matter was talked over in the Cabinet during the autumn of 1799, and again in September, 1800. Pitt introduced the subject about the middle of January in the Privy Council. But in the interval the Chancellor, Lord Loughborough, had betrayed the plan to the king, and in conjunction with Lord Auckland had convinced his Majesty that it would involve a violation of the Coronation Oath. George was indignant, and almost furious. At the levee on the 28th of January, when Lord Castlereagh was presented, he said to Dundas, "What is this which this young lord [Castlereagh] has brought over to fling at my head?" He alluded to a plan for Catholic emancipation, and added, "I shall reckon every man my personal enemy who proposes any such measure! This is the most jacobinical thing I ever heard of." Dundas replied that his Majesty would find amongst those friendly to the measure some whom he had never supposed to be his enemies. On the 31st of January Pitt wrote to the king, assuring him that the union with Ireland would render it absolutely necessary that important questions regarding the Catholics and Dissenters should be discussed; but, as he found how extremely such[479] topics were disliked by his Majesty, and yet how just it was that Catholics should be admitted to Parliament as well as Protestant Dissenters, who were already admitted, he begged to be permitted to resign. At the same time, not to inconvenience his Majesty, he was willing to hold office till his Majesty had reconstructed a Cabinet wholly to his mind. George replied, the very next day, that Mr. Pitt's letter had occasioned him the liveliest concern; that, so far from exposing him to the agitation of this question, he had flattered himself that the union, by uniting the Protestants of both kingdoms, would for ever have excluded the question of Catholic emancipation. He expressed his ardent wish that Pitt should continue to be his Minister as long as he lived; and he only required, as a condition, that he should stave off this question. Pitt replied, on the 3rd of February, that his Majesty's determined tone on the subject of Catholic emancipation left him no alternative but to resign, in compliance with his duty; and that, as his Majesty's resolve was taken, it would certainly be best for the country that his retirement should be as early as possible. On the 5th the king wrote, accepting Pitt's resignation, though with expressions of deep regret.