Irish House of Lords—Commons

Citation Information: “Irish House of Lords—Commons,” The London Chronicle, From THURSDAY, February 13, to SATURDAY, February 15, 1800, Vol. 87.


Friday, Feb. 7.

The Lord Chancellor delivered a Message from the Throne, respecting the Union, similar to that which had been delivered in the House of Commons, and moved that it should be taken into consideration on Monday.—Ordered.—Adjourned.


Wednesday, Feb. 5.

Sir Lawrence Parson stated to the House an act which he considered of the greatest enormity, a high infringement of the privileges of Parliament, and a violation of the liberties of the subject. He said, he had it from a most respectable authority, which he named; that some time ago, Major Rogers, who commands at Birr, having been told that there was an intention of assembling the freeholders and inhabitants, to deliberate on the propriety of petitioning against a Legislative Union, the Major replied, he would disperse them by force, if they attempted any such thing; that the Major however applied to Government for direction as to his conduct, and the kind of direction he received could only be judged by that conduct itself.—Sunday last several Magistrates and respectable inhabitants assembled in the Session House, when the High Sheriff (Mr. Darby) went to them and ordered them to disperse, or he would compel them; they were about to depart when a Gentleman came and told them the army was approaching—the Assembly had but just time to vote the Resolutions, but not to sign them; they broke up, and as they went out of the Session House, they saw moving towards it a column of troops, with four pieces of cannon in front, matches lighted, and every disposition for an attack upon the Session House, a building so constructed, that if the cannon had been fired it must have fallen upon the Magistrates and people, and buried them in its ruins. A Gentleman spoke to Major Rogers on the subject of his approaching in that hostile manner; his answer was, that he waited but for one word from the Sheriff, that he might blow them to atoms!—There were the dreadful measures, Sir Laurence said, by which Government endeavoured to force the Union upon the people of Ireland, by stifling their sentiments, and dragooning them into submission. He proposed two Resolutions to the House to the following effect:

1st. “That to prevent, by military force, the freeholders of any county from meeting to petition Parliament, is a gross violation of the privileges of this House, and a subversion of the Constitution.

2d. “That Verney Darby, Esq. And Major Rogers, do attend at the bar of this House on Wednesday next.

Mr. Bowes Daly seconded the motion. He reprobated such violent conduct, and hoped Country Gentlemen would make a common cause of it, and not suffer the constitutional right of Parliament and of the people to be thus trampled upon.

Lord Castlereagh said that he had never before, either in his official or parliamentary capacity, heard a syllable of the matter now stated to the House. The Hon. Baronet who brought it forward ought to be certain of the truth, before he stated a charge of such high importance; he ought to have come prepared with proofs of the fact alleged; but his manner seemed more calculated to inflame than to inform. He had assumed as facts, perhaps upon very slight authority, an outrage which every man must condemn, if true; and he had thought proper to impute to Government the odium of this outrage.—As to the first resolution, his Lordship said, it would be derogatory to the dignity of Parliament to vote an acknowledged truism. No man, he trusted, would ever be found to deny the right of the subject to petition Parliament. If, indeed, the Hon. Baronet really believed the story, and wished to exhibit the truth to the House, the second resolution would perfectly answer that purpose—but the first was one of the many inflammatory tricks which had of late been frequently played off, and, if now adopted, would seem to admit the fact alleged, by unnecessarily declaring a principle always and universally admitted.

Sir F. Parnel; Mr. Ogle, and Mr. F. C. Beresford, spoke against the enormity of the alleged offence; but they all agreed that the parties accused should be heard at the bar—and, upon the suggestion of these gentlemen, Sir L. Parsons withdrew his first resolution; and the second being put, passed unanimously.


Lord Castlereagh then delivered to the House a Message from his Excellency, acquainting the House,

“That his Excellency had it in command from his Majesty to lay before them the Resolutions of the British Parliament upon the subject of a more intimate Union of the two countries, and to express his Majesty’s earnest recommendation that his faithful Commons would take those Resolutions into their serious consideration; and to communicate the satisfaction his Majesty felt in observing that sentiments in favour of such a measure prevailed so very generally amongst his faithful subjects of Ireland, and gave such hopes of an early completion of that measure, to which his Majesty looks with the utmost earnestness as the only means by which the interests of all his people can be indissolubly united; and that his Majesty therefore, relying upon the wisdom of his Parliament and the loyalty of his people for the completion of such a system as shall give to both countries a full and unreserved participation in their mutual advantages of Commerce and Constitution, doubts not that it will establish the freedom and power of the Empire on such a foundation as will not be shaken by either foreign or domestic enemies.”

His Lordship proceeded, in a speech of considerable length, to explain the nature and operations of the proposition, or articles, intended to form the general basis of an Union. He said, the great body of the landed property of Ireland was friendly to the principle, and the two Houses of Parliament particularly; three-fourths of the landed property were amongst its supporters; nineteen counties, five-sevenths of Ireland in superficial extent, had come forward in its support. He did not say these counties were unanimous in approving the measure; complete unanimity was not to be hoped upon any great political question; but he would say a very great majority of those counties favoured the measure; all the great commercial towns in the kingdom, save Dublin and Drogheda, had declared in favour of it; and in speaking of the city of Dublin, he begged to be understood as speaking of it with that high respect which the zeal and loyalty of its inhabitants, displayed in the great and trying circumstances of the rebellion, commanded. He could not help observing, that the Citizens of Dublin were affected with the same alarm that those of the metropolis of Scotland felt on the Scottish Union; but he trusted that they would live to change their fears to satisfaction, and, like the Citizens of Edinburgh, have cause to be grateful to Providence, for the accomplishment of an Union with Great Britain. His Lordship said, that he felt no surprise at observing in some counties an hostile disposition to this measure; they were counties in which he had expected such opposition, inasmuch as they were known to be under the influence of some of the Gentlemen on the other side of the House, but he could not help observing, since the last debate in that House, a political phenomenon new to this country; a part of the minority withdrawing themselves from Parliament, and, not satisfied with exercising their deliberative powers within these walls, assembling in another place, and empowering certain persons to send letters missive through the country, calling upon persons in the different counties to become their agents to bring the mass of the people of Ireland to the bar of that House, as advocates against the measure of Union. In one place in the North, it was given out that this Union was a project of Mr. Pitt, to lay a tax of five shillings on every wheel, and ten shillings of every loom. In another place the tenantry were told that an Union was to break all their leases. Such were the deceptions resorted to by those who solicited petitions against the measure. As to the general principle of the question of Union, his Lordship felt it unnecessary at that time to enter into the discussion of it; it had been most freely investigated both in speaking and writing. He should therefore move to have the subject, and the papers relating to it, referred to a Committee of the whole House, by which means every Member would have the fullest latitude of discussion, and the House would have in particular the benefit of the advice and assistance of the Rt. Hon. Speaker whom he addressed, an advantage which could not fail to be highly useful to the interests of the country. To this Committee, his Lordship said, he should move certain Resolutions, founded upon the principles of those voted by the British Parliament, but going more into detail so as to form, when agreed upon, so many articles of the proposed Union. The case of our proceeding would then amount to this—Great Britain proposed to hold certain principles on which to found an Union; Ireland admits those principles, and proposes articles founded on them; on which articles, if the British Parliament shall agree, the articles of Union shall be founded, and formed by the agreement of both Legislatures with a solemn Legislative Act. It had been often and justly complained in that House, that the Ministers of this country, acting as they did under a British Cabinet, were not responsible to the Irish Parliament, from the moment they should withdraw from the kingdom, unless by a derogation of our independence we were to impeach at the bar of the English Legislature those who had offended against the Irish Constitution. But it had been said, that this measure would reduce Ireland to the state of a Colony: Was it by making her a part of the greatest and most powerful Empire in the world? If, said his Lordship, I were called upon to describe a colony, I would describe it as something very like the present state of this country, enjoying indeed a local Legislature, but without any power entrusted to that Legislature, with respect to regulating the succession of the Crown. I would describe it as having an Executive, administered by the orders of the Minister of another country, not in any way responsible to the colony for his acts or his advice. Can an Act of the Irish Lords and Commons pass into a law, unless the Great Seal of England, in the keeping of a Minister not responsible to Ireland, be affixed to it? Another objection very usually urged was, that an Imperial Parliament could not have such an intimate knowledge of the country as would avail to keep the kingdom in tranquility. He would ask, what reason did there exist to prevent one hundred Representatives carrying as much local knowledge for the necessary purposes of Parliament, and find as ready an adoption of their sentiments upon local subjects, as the Imperial Parliament in a local situation? The immediate effect of the principle he would offer would be, that Ireland would, in case of an Union, be taxed considerably less than if she remained separate. In retrospect to past expences, Ireland was to have no concern whatever with the debt of Great Britain; but henceforth the two countries were to unite, as to future expences, on a strict measure of relative ability. The best criterion of ability, as embracing all kinds of possession and expence, was an Income Tax; this was not a criterion to be found in Ireland, nor was it likely that for some time our local circumstances could permit its operation; so that some other must be sought. The next best test of ability would be found in examining the relative commercial wealth of both countries, and the relative expences of both in articles of luxury; and if it should be found that these two proportions very nearly coincided with each other, it ought to be fairly pronounced that the best means of judging of the relative abilities of the countries had been discovered. Taking then the Exports and Imports for the last three years, those of Ireland would be found to be 10,925,000L. Great Britain, 73,961,000L. In the proportion of seven to one. The next part of the proportion was to be found in excised articles of consumption, such as malt, beer spirits, wine, tea, tobacco, &c. The average of these for the last three years has been Ireland, 5,954,000L. Great Britain, 46,891,000L being in the proportion of seven seven-eighths to one. As the results of these two proportions came so very close to each other, he would assume them as just, and take seven and a half to one, as the just ratio of the ability of Great Britain to that of Ireland. He would propose that the revenues of Ireland should form a consolidated fund, on which the interest of her own debt should be charged, and of which the remainder should go to her share of the Imperial contribution. It would be proposed that no article should at any time be subject in Ireland to a higher tax than the same article paid in Great Britain. The next provision would be, that any supplies which should remain of this consolidated fund, might be applied to local circumstances of improvement, or to accumulate to form a fund for war contributions. Here his Lordship stated a difference between the situation of Great Britain and Ireland, which required some consideration. Great Britain raised a great proportion of the war expences within the year; this island had not ability to do so; the consequences of which was, that Ireland must, if the continued separate, or united with Great Britain, get into debt much faster in proportion than Great Britain. To shew the operation of the proportion of seven one-half to one, (the ratio of British and Irish contributions), his Lordship stated that the peace establishment of Great Britain (exclusive of interest for debt) was 5, 800,000, that of Ireland 1, 012,000; in a proportion of 5 3-4ths to 1. The war establishment of Great Britain 27,000,000; of Ireland 3, 076,000, almost nine to one. Taking a mean between these proportions, it was 8 1-8th to 1. The proportion of years of peace to those of war, during the present century, had been six years peace to one of war, which produced a further mean of 7 3-4ths to 1. Nearly this was the proportion now proposed, 7 a-half to 1. Having stated the financial part, his Lordship proceeded to the commercial part of the system, which, he said, was not materially different from that so ably supported by the Speaker in 1785, excepting that it went beyond it in some points of advantage to Ireland; The circumstances of the two countries at this period did not admit of a complete incorporation of commercial interests, because some of our manufactures were not sufficiently advanced to proceed without protecting duties; and the unequal burdens borne by the British manufacturers, from their greater share of taxation, rendered it impractical to adjust this part of the system on any of the principle than that of perfect freedom of export between the two countries. With respect to the Church Establishment of Ireland, as long as it continued separate from that of Great Britain, it could never hope to defend itself against the perpetual attacks made upon it upon local grounds, and against the popular argument of physical force; there appeared to him no possibility of giving it security in any other way, than by a complete incorporation with that of Great Britain. The Protestant would thus feel himself supported on the broad basis of an Imperial establishment, where his property would have due weight, and the mass of population would include him. The cause of distrust being removed, the claims of the Catholic might be temperately heard, and calmly discussed before an impartial Tribunal, an Imperial Parliament, which would decide on the question, divested of those local circumstances which served to irritate and inflame.—As to the Representation, he observed, that the population of Ireland was called four millions, that of Great Britain ten millions, more than two to one. Two to one population—five and a half to one contribution, gives a medium of about five to one; so that to the British House of Commons of 558, it was proposed to add 100 Irish Members. To the Peers in the proportion of 32, viz.4 Bishops and 28 Temporal Peers; but as by the Scots Union there were already 16 elective Peers, determinable on each Parliament, it was proposed, as more consonant to the Constitution of the Peerage, to make the 32 Irish Peers, when elected, Peers of Parliament for life. Those English Commoners who had accepted Irish titles, were to be permitted to continue to sit as Commoners, on waving their privilege as Peers of Ireland. It must occur to the House, that, for the great number of boroughs to be disfranchised, it would be necessary to adopt a measure of compensation to those individuals who should be injured by this arrangement. By this plan, he trusted, a great question, which had long agitated this country, that of Parliamentary Reform, would be set quietly at rest for ever. The removal of the appellant jurisdiction would form a necessary consequence of the removal of the House of Peers. Having gone through the outline of the plan, his Lordship moved the Resolutions to the following effect:—

The first Article states, that on the 7th day of January, which shall be in the year 1801, and for ever after, the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland shall be united into one Kingdom, by the name of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and that the Royal style and titles appertaining to the Imperial Crown, and also the ensigns armorial, shall be such as his Majesty shall be pleased to appoint.

The 2d article, that the succession to the Imperial Crown of the said United Kingdom, &c. shall continue limited and settle as it now stands.

Art. 3. That the United Kingdom be represented by the same Parliament, to be styled the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Art. 4. Proposes, that of the Peers of Ireland at the time of the Union, four Spiritual Lords by rotation of sessions, and twenty-eight Temporal Peers for life, shall be the number to sit and vote in the House of Lords; and one hundred Commoners, viz, two for each county of Ireland, two for the city of Dublin, two for the city of Cork, and one for each of the 32 most considerable towns and boroughs, be the number of Representatives of Ireland in the House of Commons. That it shall be lawful for his Majesty to create Peers of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland, and to make promotions in the Peerage thereof after the Union, provided the number of Peers shall not, by such creation, at any time be increased beyond the number existing on the said 1st day of January 1801.— Peers may be returned as English Representatives to serve in the House of Commons, but in such case they will not be eligible to be returned to the House of Peers.

The 5th Article states, that the Churches of England and Ireland shall be united into one Church, subject to the same regulations as are at present by law established.

The 6th Article states, that after the 1st day of January 1801, his majesty’s subjects of Great Britain and Ireland shall be entitled to the same privileges, and be on the same footing, in regard to encouragements, bounties, &c.—That after the said 1st of January, all prohibitions and bounties, on articles the growth of either country, shall cease; and that the said articles be thenceforth exported from one country to another, without duty or bounty on such export.—That all articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of either kingdom (not hereinafter enumerated as subject to specific duties) shall from henceforth be imported into each country from the other free from duty, other than such countervailing duty as is specified in the Schedule, No. 1, annexed to this article; and that the articles hereinafter enumerated shall be subject, for the period of twenty years from the Union, on importation into each country from the other, to the duties specified in the Schedule, No. 2, annexed to this article, viz. apparel, wrought brass, cabinet ware, coaches, wrought copper, cotton, glass, haberdashery, hats, hardware, gold and silver lace, millinery, stained paper, pottery, sadlery, silk manufacture, steel, stockings. And that the woollen manufacturers shall pay on importation into each country, the duties now payable on importation into Ireland. Salt and hops, on importation into Ireland; the duties which are now paid in Ireland; and coals, on importation, be subject to the same burdens to which they are now subject.—That any articles of the growth, produce, or manufacture of either country, which are or may be subject to internal duty, or to duty on the materials of which they are composed, may be made subject on their importation into each country respectively, from the other, to such countervailing duty as shall appear to be just and reasonable in respect to such internal duty or duty on materials; and that for the said purposes the articles specified in the said Schedule, No. 1, should, upon importation into Ireland, be subject to the duty set forth therein, liable to be taken off; diminished or increased, in the manner herein specified; and upon the like export of the like articles from each country to the other respectively, a drawback shall be given equal in amount to the countervailing duty payable on the articles herein before specified on the import into the same country from the other; and that in like manner in future, it shall be competent to the United Parliament to impose any new or additional or countervailing duties, or to take off or diminish such existing countervailing duties as may appear, on like principles, to be just and reasonable in respect of any future or additional internal duty on any article of the growth, produce or manufacture of either country; or if any new or additional duty on any materials of which such article may be composed, or of any abatement of the same; and that when any such new or additional countervailing duty shall be so imposed on the import on any article into either country from the other, a drawback, equal in amount to such countervailing duty, shall be given in like manner on the export of every such article respectively from the same country. That all articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of either kingdom, when exported through the other, shall, in all cases, be exported subject to the same charges as if they had been exported directly from the country of which they were the growth, produce, or manufacture. That all duty charged on the import of foreign or colonial goods into either country, shall on their export to the other be drawn back, or the amount if any be retained, shall be placed to the credit of the country to which they shall be exported, so long as the general expences of the empire shall be defrayed by proportional contributions; provided nothing herein shall extend to take away any duty, bounty, or prohibition which exists with respect to corn, meal, malt, flour, and biscuit, but that the same may be regulated, varied, or repealed from time to time, as the United Parliament shall deem expedient.

Art. 7. That for the space of 20 years after the Union shall take place, the contributions of Great Britain and Ireland respectively, towards the expenditure of the United Kingdom in each year, shall be defrayed in the proportion of fifteen parts for Great Britain and two for Ireland; and that at the expiration of the said 20 years, the future expenditure of the United Kingdoms other than he interest and charges of the debt incurred before the Union, shall be defrayed in such proportion as the United Parliament shall deem just and reasonable, upon a comparison of the real value of the exports and imports of the respective countries, &c.

Schedule, No. 1. Of the articles to be charged with countervailing duties, upon importation into Great Britain and Ireland respectively, according to the 6th article of Union, to which this schedule is annexed.

Articles to be charged with countervailing duty in Great Britain—Beer, bricks and tiles, candles, soap, cordage, printed cottons, cider, glass, leather, stained paper, silk, spirits, starch, refined sugar, sweets, tobacco.

Articles to be charged with countervailing duty in Ireland—Beer, glass, leather, stained paper, silk, spirits, refined sugar, sweets, tobacco.

Schedule No. 2. Of the articles to be charged with the duties specified upon importation into Great Britain and Ireland respectively, according to the sixth article of Union to which this schedule is annexed—apparel, wrought brass, cabinet ware, coaches, wrought copper, cotton, glass, haberdashery, hats, hardware, gold and silver lace, millinery, stained paper, pottery, sadlery, and other manufactures, steel stockings, ten percent on the true value.

His Lordship then said, it was his intention to move to have the papers which he had laid before the House printed and circulated.

Mr. George Ponsonby insisted that the sense of the country was decidedly against the Union. The Noble Lord had advanced as a matter of charge against some Gentlemen, that they had constituted themselves into a body, and had sent round the country letters missive, calling upon the people of the country to come forward against the Union. Taking the fact as the Noble Lord stated it, he saw nothing in it that called for any animadversion . After such a rebellion as this country had experienced; after the Habeas Corpus Act had been suspended; after martial law had been proclaimed; it was necessary that Gentlemen of character and property in the county should come forward, in order to shew the people they might with safety speak their sentiments. The first general ground upon which the Noble Lord had contended for the necessity of an Union, was upon the danger that, under the present Constitution, the Executive Power in the two countries might not be lodged in the same person; and in support of his argument he had alluded to the case of the Regency. If the Noble Lord seriously apprehended any danger on that ground, it was very singular that when a Right Hon. Gentleman brought in a Bill for the purpose of enacting that a Regent chosen by England should be the Regent of Ireland, it did not meet with the Noble Lord’s approbation; and the reason was obvious, because it would deprive him of one of his arguments in favour of an Union. But if there really existed such a degree of danger as the Noble Lord seemed to apprehend, it was singular that it had never before occurred to the Ministers of Ireland, that it had never occurred to the Ministers of England in the space of ten years, from the year 1789 to the present period. The next argument which the Noble Lord urged was, that if a Union should take place, the expences of Ireland would be considerable reduced, and that England would bear a considerable part of her burthens. This was certainly a curious argument, and one which Mr. Pitt would undoubtedly use to the people of England to induce them to agree to the Union. He would say to them, your present burthens are but light, you pay but few taxes, your debt only amounts to between four and five hundred millions, the interest of which is not more than 18 millions a year, and your annual expences are not above 10 millions; it will therefore be highly advantageous to you to pay in addition all the expences of the Government of Ireland. Did the Noble Lord sincerely believe Mr. Pitt could hold such language? Or did the Noble Lord suppose that such an argument could have any effect upon any rational man in Ireland? It appeared by the articles stated by the Noble Lord, that for the period of twenty years Ireland was to defray one-seventh of the general expenditure of the empire, but at the expiration of that time the proportion of Ireland might be increased to any amount, for she was then to be taxed at the discretion of the United Parliament. All the advantage that Ireland could possibly gain by the adoption of this measure, would be the saving of about 900,000L. a year in war, and 400,000L. a year in peace; and the question for the House to decide was, whether they would give up the independence and Constitution of Ireland for a pecuniary benefit? The next topic which the Noble Lord had advanced was the commercial advantages which Ireland would derive from a Union. He had talked much of the encouragement given by England to the linen trade of Ireland. England, it was true, taxed foreign lines very heavily; but that was more for the purpose of serving her own linen manufacture than of assisting Ireland. An insinuation had been thrown out, that if the Union was not accepted by Ireland, she would be deprived of the commercial advantages she derived from her trade with England, but he despised such an insinuation. England, derived at least as much benefit from her trade with Ireland as Ireland did from her trade with England. Ireland, it was true, took coals from England, but what could England do without the provisions she got from Ireland? But one very singular argument in favour of the Union was, that it would entitle Ireland to 2-17ths of the territorial revenue of Great Britain. Now he knew of no territorial revenue possessed by Great Britain except that which the East India Company had promised to pay, but had never paid. Mr. Ponsonby then adverted tot he articles respecting the Church Establishments, and the Representation, which he argued at considerable length, and contended that they were highly disadvantageous to Ireland.