Item of the Day: Almon’s Anecdotes (1797)

Full Title:

Biographical, Literary, and Political Anecdotes of Several of the Most Eminent Persons of the Present Age.  Never Before Printed.  With an Appendix; Consisting of Original, Explanatory, and Scarce Papers.  By the Author of Anecdotes of the Late Earl of Chatham.  In Three Volumes.  Volume I.  London: Printed for T. N. Longman, and L. B. Seeley.  In Pater-Noster-Row.  1797. 

CHAPTER XI.

Secret and True History of the Irish Octennial Bill.

Irish Electors instruct their Representatives to bring in a Septennial Bill.  Extraordinary Preamble to it, with a View to Defeat it.  Sent to England.  Delayed.  Remarks.  Altered.  Returned to Ireland.  People of Dublin assemble in immense Numbers, and compel their Representative to pass the Bill. Further Remarks.  Management of the Parliament of Ireland, and of the last Parliament of Scotland.  Anecdote of Lord William Gordon. 

Before the year 1768, when this bill passed, the Parliament of Ireland was only determined by the King’s life; but now (according to this law) the Parliament of that kingdom is to be chosen once in eight years.  A short history of this extraordinary event cannot be underserving the reader’s attention.  No blame attached to the Lord Lieutentant in this affair; but a great deal of something worse attaches to the secret cabinet at St. James’s, whose design was to have defeated the measure, and to have transferred the odium of that defeat upon those, who, for other purposes, they had encouraged to demand it. 

In the month of August, 1767, Lord Townshend was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.  During the preceding year, a considerable majority of the electors of Ireland instructed their representatives on the subject, or, as they termed it, on the necessity of bringing in, and passing, a bill, to limit the duration of Parliament to seven years; in like manner, as the Parliament of Great Britain is limited; and so warm and so numerous were the electors, particularly all the lower class, in support of this measure, that there was scarcely a town or country throughout the kingdom which did not instruct or insist upon their representatives voting for such bill; and the electors of some places carried their enthusiasm so far, as to compel their Members to make oath they would vote for it.  Accordingly, when the Irish Parliament met in the month of November, 1767, the heads of a bill for limiting the duration of Parliaments to seven years were brought into the House of Commons, and immediately passed.  But, agreeable to the mode of enacting laws at that time in Ireland, these heads of the bill were transmitted to England, for the approbabtion of the King and Council, that being the next stage of progress.  And here it must be observed, that the reason of the Commons passing the bill, was not the positive commands of their Constituents, but the sanguine hopes which the Irish Patriots themselves entertained, that it would, without a doubt, be rejected in England.  And therefore, in order to make this wished-fo rejection as certain as possible, the preamble of the bill stated, that, “Whereas it it the undoubted right of the people of Ireland to a more frequent choice of their representatives, &c.” They they changed the request of a boon into a demand of a right; which was certainly neither a respectful nor a proper mode of soliciting the resignation of a power that had been exercised by the Crown during a long period of years; for it implied, that the right had been withheld from the subject all that time […] 

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Filed under 1760's, 1790's, Ireland, Politics, Posted by Matthew Williams

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