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I do call upon you, by the laws of the land and their violation, by the instruction of eighteen centuries, by the arms, inspiration and providence of the present moment, tell us the rule by which we shall go; assert the law of Ireland; declare the liberty of the land. I will not be answered by a public lie in the shape of an amendment; neither, speaking for the subject's freedom, am I to hear of faction. I wish for nothing but to breathe, in this our island, in common with my fellow-subjects, the air of liberty. I have no ambition, unless it be the ambition to break your chain, and contemplate your glory. I never will be satisfied so long as the meanest cottager in Ireland has a link of the British chain clanking to his rags. He may be naked,- he shall not be in iron. And I do see the time is at hand, the spirit is gone forth, the declaration is planted; and though great men should apostatize, yet the cause will live; and though the public speaker should die, yet the immortal fire shall outlast the organ which conveyed it, and the breath of liberty, like the word of the holy man, will not die with the prophet, but survive him.
65. REPLY TO MR. FLOOD, 1783. — Henry Grattan.
At the time of this speech in the Irish Parliament, Flood and Grattan, although previously friends, stood before the British public as rival leaders. A bitter animosity had arisen between them; and Grattan having unfortunately led the way in personality, by speaking of his opponent's "affectation of infirmity," Flood replied with great asperity, denouncing Grattan as "a mendicant patriot," who, "bought by his country for a sum of money, then sold his country for prompt payment." He also sneered at Grattan's "aping the style of Lord Chatham." To these taunts Grattan replied in a speech, an abridgment of which we here give. An arrangement for a hostile meeting between the parties was the consequence of this speech; but Flood was arrested, and the crime of a duel was not added to the offence of vindictive personality, of which both had been guilty. Grattan lived to regret his harshness, and speak in generous terms of his rival.
Ir is not the slander of an evil tongue that can defame me. I maintain my reputation in public and in private life. No man, who has not a bad character, can ever say that I deceived. No country can call me a cheat. But I will suppose such a public character. I will suppose such a man to have existence. I will begin with his character in his political cradle, and I will follow him to the last stage of political dissolution. I will suppose him, in the first stage of his life, to have been intemperate; in the second, to have been corrupt; and in the last, seditious; — that, after an envenomed attack on the persons and measures of a succession of viceroys, and after much declamation against their illegalities and their profusion, he took office, and became a supporter of Government, when the profusion of ministers had greatly increased, and their crimes multiplied beyond example.
With regard to the liberties of America, which were inseparable from ours, I will suppose this gentleman to have been an enemy decided and unreserved; that he voted against her liberty, and voted, moreover, for an address to send four thousand Irish troops to cut the throats of the Americans; that he called these butchers "armed negotiators," and stood with a metaphor in his mouth and a bribe in his pocket, a champion against the rights of America, of America, the only hope of Ireland, and the only refuge of the liberties of mankind
Thus defective in every relationship, whether to constitution, commerce, and toleration, I will suppose this man to have added much private improbity to public crimes; that his probity was like his patriotism, and his honor on a level with his oath. He loves to deliver panegyrics on himself. I will interrupt him, and say:
Sir, you are much mistaken if you think that your talents have been as great as your life has been reprehensible. You began your parliamentary career with an acrimony and personality which could have been justified only by a supposition of virtue; after a rank and clamorous opposition, you became, on a sudden, silent; you were silent for seven years; you were silent on the greatest questions, and you were silent for money! You supported the unparalleled profusion and jobbing of Lord Harcourt's scandalous ministry. You, Sir, who manufacture stage thunder against Mr. Eden for his anti-American principles, — you, Sir, whom it pleases to chant a hymn to the immortal Hampden; -- you, Sir, approved of the tyranny exercised against America, - and you, Sir, voted four thousand Irish troops to cut the throats of the Americans fighting for their freedom, fighting for your freedom, fighting for the great principle, liberty! But you found, at last, that the Court had bought, but would not trust you. Mortified at the discovery, you try the sorry game of a trimmer in your progress to the acts of an incendiary; and observing, with regard to Prince and People, the most impartial treachery and desertion, you justify the suspicion of your Sovereign by betraying the Government, as you had sold the People. Such has been your conduct, and at such conduct every order of your fellow-subjects have a right to exclaim! The merchant may say to you, the constitutionalist may say to you, the American may say to you, and I, I now say, and say to your beard, Sir, you are not an honest man!
66. NATIONAL GRATITUDE, 1780.— Henry Grattan.
I SHALL hear of ingratitude. I name the argument to despise it, and the men who make use of it. I know the men who use it are not grateful they are insatiate; they are public extortioners, who would stop the tide of public prosperity, and turn it to the channel of their own emolument. I know of no species of gratitude which should prevent my country from being free; no gratitude which should oblige Ireland to be the slave of England. In cases of robbery and usurpation, nothing is an object of gratitude except the thing stolen, the charter spoliated. A Nation's liberty cannot, like her treasure, be meted and parcelled out in gratitude. No man can be grateful or liberal of his conscience, nor woman of her honor, nor Nation of her liberty. There are certain unimpartable, inherent, invaluable properties, not to be alienated from the person, whether body politic or body natural. With the same contempt do I treat that charge which says that Ireland is insatiable; saying that Ireland asks nothing but that which Great Britain has robbed her of, her rights and privileges. To say
that Ireland will not be satisfied with liberty, because she is not satisfied with slavery, is folly. I laugh at that man who supposes that Ireland will not be content with a free trade and a free Constitution; and would any man advise her to be content with less?
67. DISQUALIFICATION OF ROMAN CATHOLICS, 1793. — Henry Grattan.
You are struggling with difficulties, you imagine; you are mistaken, you are struggling with impossibilities. In making laws on the subject of religion, legislators forget mankind, until their own distraction admonishes them of two truths;— the one, that there is a God; the other, that there is a People! Never was it permitted to any Nation, they may perplex their understandings with various apologies, but never was it long permitted to exclude from essential,from what they themselves have pronounced essential blessings, -a great portion of themselves for a period of time; and for no reason, or, what is worse, for such reasons as you have advanced.
Conquerors, or tyrants proceeding from conquerors, have scarcely ever for any length of time governed by those partial disabilities; but a People so to govern itself, or, rather, under the name of Government, so to exclude itself, the industrious, the opulent, the useful, — that part that feeds you with its industry, and supplies you with its taxes, weaves that you may wear, and ploughs that you may eat, - to exclude a body so useful, so numerous, and that forever!-and, in the mean time, to tax them ad libitum, and occasionally to pledge their lives and fortunes! for what? for their disfranchisement! - it cannot be done! Continue it, and you expect from your laws what it were blasphemy to ask of your Maker. Such a policy always turns on the inventor, and bruises him under the stroke of the sceptre or the sword, or sinks him under accumulations of debt and loss of dominion. Need I go to instances? What was the case of Ireland, enslaved for a century, and withered and blasted with her Protestant ascendency, like a shattered oak scathed on its hill by the fires of its own intolerance? What lost England America, but such a policy? An attempt to bind men by a Parliament, wherein they are not represented! Such an attempt as some would now continue to practise on the Catholics! Has your pity traversed leagues of sea to sit down by the black boy on the coast of Guinea, — and have you forgot the man at home by your side, your brother?
68. HEAVEN FIGHTS ON THE SIDE OF A GREAT PRINCIPLE. -Grattan.
THE Kingdom of Ireland, with her imperial crown, stands at your Bar. She applies for the civil liberty of three-fourths of her children. Will you dismiss her without a hearing? You cannot do it! I say you cannot finally do it! The interest of your country would not support you; the feelings of your country would not support you: it is
a proceeding that cannot long be persisted in. No courtier so devoted, no politician so hardened, no conscience so capacious! I am not afraid of occasional majorities. A majority cannot overlay a great principle. God will guard His own cause against rank majorities. In vain shall men appeal to a church-cry, or to a mock-thunder; the proprietor of the bolt is on the side of the People.
It was the expectation of the repeal of Catholic disability which carried the Union. Should you wish to support the minister of the crown against the People of Ireland, retain the Union, and perpetuate the disqualification, the consequence must be something more than alienation. When you finally decide against the Catholic question, you abandon the idea of governing Ireland by affection, and you adopt the idea of coercion in its place. You are pronouncing the doom of England. If you ask how the People of Ireland feel towards you, ask yourselves how you would feel towards us, if we disqualified threefourths of the People of England forever. The day you finally ascertain the disqualification of the Catholic, you pronounce the doom of Great Britain. It is just it should be so. The King who takes away the liberty of his subjects loses his Crown; the People who take away the liberty of their fellow-subjects lose their empire. The scales of your own destinies are in your own hands; and if you throw out the civil liberty of the Irish Catholic, depend on it, Old England will be weighed in the balance, and found wanting: you will then have dug your own grave, and you may write your own epitaph thus: "ENGLAND DIED, BECAUSE SHE TAXED AMERICA, AND DISQUALIFIED IRELAND."
69. INVECTIVE AGAINST MR. CORRY, 1800. - Henry Grattan.
A duel, in which Mr. Corry was wounded in the arm, was the sequel to this speech. The immediate provocation of the speech was a remark from Corry, that Grattan, instead of having a voice in the councils of his country, should have been standing as a culprit at her Bar.
HAS the gentleman done? Has he completely done? He was unparliamentary from the beginning to the end of his speech. There was scarce a word that he uttered that was not a violation of the privileges of the House. But I did not call him to order. Why? Because the limited talents of some men render it impossible for them to be severe without being unparliamentary. But before I sit down I shall show him how to be severe and parliamentary at the same time. On any other occasion, I should think myself justifiable in treating with silent contempt anything which might fall from that honorable member; but there are times when the insignificance of the accuser is lost in the magnitude of the accusation. I know the difficulty the honorable gentleman labored under when he attacked me, conscious that, on a comparative view of our characters, public and private, there is nothing he could say which would injure me. The public would not believe the charge. I despise the falsehood. If such a charge were made by an honest man, I would answer it in the manner I shall do before I sit down. But I shall first reply to it when not made by an honest man.
The right honorable gentleman has called me "an unimpeached traitor." I ask, why not "traitor," unqualified by any epithet? I will tell him; it was because he dare not! It was the act of a coward, who raises his arm to strike, but has not courage to give the blow! I will not call him villain, because it would be unparliamentary, and he is a privy councillor. I will not call him fool, because he happens to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I say he is one who has abused the privilege of Parliament and freedom of debate, to the uttering language, which, if spoken out of the House, I should answer only with a blow! I care not how high his situation, how low his character, how contemptible his speech; whether a privy councillor or a parasite, my answer would be a blow! He has charged me with being connected with the rebels. The charge is utterly, totally, and meanly false! Does the honorable gentleman rely on the report of the House of Lords for the foundation of his assertion? If he does, I can prove to the committee there was a physical impossibility of that report being true. But I scorn to answer any man for my conduct, whether he be a political coxcomb, or whether he brought himself into power by a false glare of courage or not.
I have returned, not, as the right honorable member has said, to raise another storm, I have returned to discharge an honorable debt of gratitude to my country, that conferred a great reward for past services, which, I am proud to say, was not greater than my desert. I have returned to protect that Constitution, of which I was the parent and the founder, from the assassination of such men as the honorable gentleman and his unworthy associates. They are corrupt — they are seditious and they, at this very moment, are in a conspiracy against their country! I have returned to refute a libel, as false as it is malicious, given to the public under the appellation of a report of the committee of the Lords. Here I stand for impeachment or trial! I' dare accusation! I defy the honorable gentleman! I defy the Government! I defy their whole phalanx!- let them come forth! I tell the ministers I shall neither give them quarter nor take it! I am here to lay the shattered remains of my constitution on the floor of this House, in defence of the liberties of my country.
70. UNION WITH GREAT BRITAIN, 1800.- Henry Grattan.
THE minister misrepresents the sentiments of the People, as he has before traduced their reputation. He asserts, that after a calm and mature consideration, they have pronounced their judgment in favor of an Union. Of this assertion not one syllable has any existence in fact, or in the appearance of fact. I appeal to the petitions of twentyone counties in evidence. To affirm that the judgment of a Nation against is for; to assert that she has said ay when she has pronounced no; to make the falsification of her sentiments the foundation of her ruin, and the ground of the Union; to affirm that her Parliament,