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ters, your consciences, that you have also the character, perhaps the ultimate destiny, of your country in your hands. In that awful name I do conjure you to have mercy upon your country and upon yourselves, and so to judge now as you will hereafter be judged; and I do now submit the fate of my client, and of that country which we yet have in common to your disposal. THE RIGHTS OF THE IRISH PEOPLE
Grattan was a sturdy and tireless soldier in the cause of Ireland against England in the Irish and English legislatures; and the earnestness of his purpose, and the loftiness of his patriotism, combined with the native skill and felicity of the Celt to make him one of the notable orators of his day. He could not be named in the same category with his mighty countrymen, Burke, Sheridan, or even O'Connell; but he did effective and lasting work, and Ireland had no more faithful son.
He was born in 1746, in Dublin, and lived into his seventy-fifth year, dying in London in 1820. His career was divided between the Irish and the English Parliaments; but the work he did in both was devoted to the same general ends. After taking his degree at Trinity College, Dublin, he studied law in the Middle Temple at London, and was admitted to the Irish bar in 1772; but three years later he joined the opposition in the Irish Parliament. This body was not at that time independent, owing to the effect of the Statute of Drogheda, also known as Poynings's Law, passed in 1494. This provided that all English laws should have force in Ireland; that no Irish Parliament should sit without permission of the English King; and that any laws it might enact should not go into effect until they had been approved by England. By the exertions and eloquence of Grattan, this law was repealed, and the Irish Parliament became independent for the first time in nearly three centuries. After more than twenty years' service, he retired; but reappeared once more in 1800 in order to throw his influence against the proposed union of the Irish with the English legislature. is impassioned appeals were again successful.
He might now reasonably look forward to passing the rest of his days in retirement; but his countrymen could not spare him, and he was elected to the imperial Parliament in 1806, when he was sixty years of age. He retained his seat there until his death. The chief work to which he addressed himself during these years was the advocacy of the emancipation of the Roman Catholics, who were at that period laboring under severe disabilities. The Bill of Toleration, passed for their relief in 1778, had led to the Gordon Riots in 1780; and the dread of the papal influence had become a sort of bogey in England. Grattan's speeches on this theme are full of fire and cogency; nothing that he did reflects upon the whole more credit upon his character and his abilities. Learning, philosophy, argument, and passion, are fused together in these addresses, and even the reading of them stirs the sympathies and rouses indignation against persecution and prejudice. It was a noble theme, worthily handled by a master of his art. The speech entitled “The Rights of the Irish People,” was delivered during the discussion of Poynings's Law.
THE RIGHTS OF THE IRISH PEOPLE
Delivered, April 19, 1780, in the Irish House of Commons in moving a Declaration of Irish Rights”
HAVE entreated an attendance on this day, that you might, in the most public manner, deny the claim of the British Parliament to make law for Ireland, and with one voice life up your hands against it. If I had lived when the ninth of William took away the woollen manufacture, or when the sixth of George I took away your constitution, I should have made a covenant with my own conscience, to seize the first reasonable moment of rescuing my country from the ignominy of such acts of power; or, if I had a son, I should have administered to him an oath that he would consider himself as a person separate and set apart for the discharge of so important a duty. Upon the same principle am I now come to move a Declaration of Right, the first moment occurring in my time in which such a declaration could be made with any chance of success, and without an aggravation of oppression. Sir, it must appear to every person that, notwithstanding the import of sugar, and export of woollens, the people of this country are not satisfied; something remains—the greater work is behind—the public heart is not well at ease. To promulgate our satisfaction, to stop the throats of millions with the votes of Parliament, to preach homilies to the Volunteers, to utter invectives against the people under the pretence of affectionate advice, is an attempt, weak, suspicious, and inflammatory. You cannot dictate to those whose sense you are instructed to represent. Your ancestors, who sat within these walls, lost to Ireland trade and liberty. You, by the assistance of the people, have recovered trade. You owe the kingdom a constitution; she calls upon you to restore it. The ground of public discontent seems to be, “We have gotten commerce, but not freedom.” The same power which took away the export of woollen and the export of glass, may take them away again. The repeal is partial, and the ground of repeal is a principle of expediency. Sir, expedient is a word of appropriated and tyrannical import—expedient is a word selected to express the reservation of authority, while the exercise is mitigated—expedient is the ill-omened expression in the repeal of the American Stamp Act. England thought it “expedient” to repeal that law. Happy had it been for mankind if, when she withdrew the exercise, she had not reserved the right. To that reservation she owes the loss of her American empire, at the expense of millions; and America the seeking of liberty through a scene of bloodshed. The repeal of the Woollen Act, similarly circumstanced, pointed against the principle of our liberty, may be a subject for illuminations to a populace, or a pretence for apostacy to a courtier, but cannot be a subject of settled satisfaction to a free-born, an intelligent, and an injured community. It is, therefore, they [the people of Ireland] consider the free trade as a trade de facto, not de jure—a license to trade under the Parliament of England, not a free trade under the charter of Ireland—a tribute to her strength, to maintain which she must continue in a state of armed preparation, dreading the approach of a general peace, and attributing all she holds dear to the calamitous condition of the British interest in every quarter of the globe. This dissatisfaction, founded upon a consideration of the liberty we have lost, is increased when they consider the opportunity they are losing; for, if this nation, after the deathwound given to her freedom, had fallen on her knees in anguish, and besought the Almighty to frame an occasion in which a weak
* [Ireland had been treated by the English, for three centuries, like a conquered nation. A Parliament had indeed been granted her, but by a well-known statute, called Poynings's Act, the English ernment had power to prevent the Irish Parliament from ever assembling, except for purposes which the King saw reason to approve. Under such an administration, the commercial and manufacturing interests of Ireland were wholly sacrificed to those of the English; the exportation of woollen goods . of most other articles of English manufacture, and also the direct import of
foreign articles, being denied the Irish. These restrictions had been removed in part, on the ground of "expediency,” by an act of the British Parliament, passed December #. 1779, under the terror of the Irish Volunteers, and Mr. Grattan, with the same instrument of compulsion in his hands, now moved the Irish Parliament to a Declaration of Right, which should deny the authority of England to make laws for Ireland—an authority asserted an act of the British Parliament, passed in the sixth year of George I.-Editor.]