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It was about the same time early in June (as appears by the Memoir, p. 127.) that the first communications on the subject occurred between the Duke and Peel, on which occasion the Home Secretary intimated to his Grace that, in existing circumstances, his retirement from office could not long be delayed; but when he expressed his earnest desire that the Duke would say nothing in the approaching debate to preclude himself from taking the state of Ireland into consideration during the recess, he found that the Duke's sentiments did not differ from his own as to the necessity of maturely considering it.
Immediately after the close of the session of 1828, it was settled that the Duke and Peel should interchange their respective views on the state of Ireland and on the Catholic question; and accordingly, on the 9th of August, the Duke conveyed to his colleague a memorandum and accompanying letter which he had sent to the King, his Majesty's answer, and a further memorandum, all which documents were unfortunately returned, uncopied, to the Duke, and consequently find no place in this Memoir. In Peel's reply (August 11.) he says:
'I have uniformly opposed what is called Catholic Emancipation and have rested my opposition upon broad and uncompromising grounds.
'I wish I could say that my views upon the question were materially changed, and that I now believed that full concessions to the Roman Catholics could be made, either exempt from the dangers which I have apprehended from them, or productive of the full advantages which their advocates anticipate from the grant of them.
'But, whatever may be my opinion upon these points, I cannot deny that the state of Ireland under existing circumstances is most unsatisfactory; that it becomes necessary to make your choice between different kinds and different degrees of evil to compare the actual danger resulting from the union and organisation of the Roman Catholic body, and the incessant agitation in Ireland, with prospective and apprehended dangers to the constitution or religion of the country; and maturely to consider whether it may not be better to encounter every eventual risk of concession than to submit to the certain continuance, or rather perhaps the certain aggravation, of existing evils.
Take what view we may of the Catholic question, we must admit that we labour under this extreme and overwhelming embarrassment with reference to the present condition of Ireland: that the Protestant mind is divided and very nearly balanced upon the most important question relating to Ireland.
"We cannot escape from the discussion of that question, and we cannot meet it without being in a minority in one branch of the Legislature.
In the House of Commons in 1827 there was a majority of four against concession; in 1828 there was a majority of six in its favour.
'The change certainly was not effected by any other cause than the progress of uninfluenced opinion. The actual number therefore in the House of Commons in favour of the measure is on the increase. The House of Commons of the last Parliament, and the House of Commons of this Parliament, have each decided in favour of the principle of concession. The majority of the House of Lords against the principle, looking at the constitution of that majority, is far from satisfactory; but if it were much greater, the evil of permanent disunion on such a question between the two branches of the Legislature would be extreme, and the parties that would gain dangerous strength from its continuance would be those in whose favour the House of Commons have decided.
'Whatever be the ultimate result of concession, there would be an advantage in the sincere and honest attempt to settle the question on just principles, which it is difficult to rate too highly in the present state of affairs.
'The Protestant mind would be united, not at first, for the party opposed to concession would probably under any circumstances be a powerful one. If, however, concession should tranquillise Ireland and produce the effects predicted by its advocates, that party would gradually and rapidly acquiesce in it. If concession on just principles were rejected by the Roman Catholics—or if it were abused— if they were put clearly and undeniably in the wrong-then the Protestants of all shades of opinion would be united into one firm and compact body, and would ultimately overbear all opposition.
The present state of affairs in Ireland is such, the danger is so menacing, that it is an object of great importance to lay the foundation of cordial union and co-operation among the Protestants of the empire supposing you should fail in establishing the more general and more desirable union among all classes of the King's subjects. 'I have thus written to you without reserve upon the first and great question of all-the policy of seriously considering this longagitated question with a view to its adjustment. I have proved to you, I trust, that no false delicacy in respect to past declarations of opinion no fear of the imputation of inconsistency will prevent me from taking that part which present dangers and a new position of affairs may require. I am ready, at the hazard of any sacrifice, to maintain the opinion which I now deliberately give-that there is upon the whole less of evil in making a decided effort to settle the Catholic question than in leaving it, as it has been left, an open question the Government being undecided with respect to it, and paralysed in consequence of that indecision upon many occasions peculiarly requiring promptitude and energy of action.' (Memoir, p. 181.)
The rest of this letter, and the memorandum annexed to it, are worthy of all praise, and its author might very justly say, that on reading it over, after the lapse of twenty years, he does 80 with the testimony of his heart and conscience to the sincerity of the advice he then gave, and the declarations he made; with the same testimony, also, that that letter was written with
a clear foresight of the penalties to which the course he resolved to take would expose him.
From the deep interest I have 'My judgment may be erroneous. in the result (though now only so far as future fame is concerned), it cannot be impartial; yet surely I do not err in believing that when the various circumstances on which my decision was taken are calmly and dispassionately considered the state of political parties the recent discussions in Parliament-the result of the Clare election, and the prospects which it opened-the earnest representations and emphatic warnings of the chief Governor of Ireland - the evil, rapidly increasing, of divided councils in the Cabinet, and of conflicting decisions in the two Houses of Parliament-the necessity for some systematic and vigorous course of policy in respect to Ireland-the impossibility, even if it were wise, that that policy should be one of coercion - surely I do not err in believing that I shall not hereafter be condemned for having needlessly and precipitately, still less for having dishonestly and treacherously, counselled the attempt to adjust the long litigated question that had for so many years precluded the cordial co-operation of public men, and had left Ireland the arena for fierce political conflicts, annually renewed without the means of authoritative interposition on the part of the Crown.' (P. 188.)
He was too well acquainted with the animus of his party to be mistaken as to the manner in which they would receive the announcement of his conversion; and it is only to be regretted that he was not equally clear-sighted as to the consequences of that protracted resistance which was at last overcome by successful agitation in a manner so discreditable to the character, and so injurious to the interests of the country.
The Duke and Peel having come to an agreement to concede Catholic Emancipation, the Duke undertook to procure the assent of the King, which proved a more difficult task than either of them contemplated. His Majesty, who had once been a very strenuous friend of the Catholics, was now one of the bitterest and most bigoted of their opponents. He had flattered himself that the formation of the Wellington Government would extinguish, during his reign at least, all their chances of success, and great was his annoyance and vexation when the Duke informed His Majesty of the resolution which he and Peel had simultaneously but independently taken, and asked for the Royal consent to their announcing it in the speech from the throne. From the middle of August, 1828, to the middle of January, 1829, the Duke was engaged in earnest, but for a long time fruitless, endeavours to reconcile the King's mind to a measure he so much abhorred; during this period it was agreed that the Chancellor alone should be apprised of what was passing,
nor was it till the end of the year that the secret was imparted to the other Ministers, and their concurrence required to the contemplated measures, which they unanimously consented to give. The Government soon found itself in a very false and inconvenient position. The King and his Ministers had agreed in preserving a mysterious silence as to their real intentions: the King, from motives purely selfish, in order to save himself from being importuned by the Duke of Cumberland, and disturbed by the remonstrances of the exasperated Brunswickers;' the Ministers, to prevent any fresh agitation, which they thought would mar their schemes. This system of mystery proved, however, very mischievous; it carried with it the appearance of a plot, and many of their friends, who, having been kept in the dark, had continued to commit themselves by AntiCatholic declarations, were sorely perplexed at being reduced to the alternative of abandoning the Duke, or of acting in direct contradiction to their most recent professions; and they did not, therefore, make up their minds to support his measures without deep mortification and resentment at the part they were made to play. As early as in January, 1828, however, suspicions began to be more seriously entertained, and Lord Eldon wrote to his daughter (January 30th), Nobody can read the last speeches of Lord Palmerston and Vesey Fitzgerald, without apprehending that most dangerous concessions are about to be made to the Catholics.' The speeches of the Duke of Wellington and the Chancellor in the House of Lords, June, 1828, had been universally considered indicative of a change in the opinions and intentions of the Government; and in August it was strongly reported that Peel was going to resign, and that the Duke meant to concede the Catholic question. On the 18th of August, the report of Mr. Dawson's speech at Derry, created prodigious surprise and all sorts of surmises. The rage and indignation of the Orangemen, and the violent language of their press, were boundless; and the King was exceedingly incensed, because he thought the secret had not been kept as the Ministers had engaged it should be, and that Mr. Dawson would not have made his declaration if he had not known of their intentions.
The Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland wrote letter after letter entreating the Government to settle the question,' and insisting that every hour of delay would increase the difficulty of adjustment. All this time he was ignorant of what was passing in the Cabinet, and as they did not choose to confide in him, Lord Anglesey was placed in the mortifying and unfair position of governing Ireland without knowing in what manner the Ministers meant to deal with the great question which absorbed
all others in that country; this want of confidence led to a breach between the Government and the Lord-Lieutenant. The King, wanting to vent his ill-humour on somebody, insisted on Lord Anglesey's removal. The Duke wrote reproachful letters to him, which his high spirit would not endure, and he was suddenly recalled, to the great consternation of the Roman Catholics. It is not a little remarkable that the confidential correspondence between Lord Anglesey and Peel went on without interruption till within a few days of the Lord-Lieutenant's recall: nor is there a trace in it of any difference between them, still less of any hint as to the probability of the Irish Government being transferred to other hands.
By the beginning of February the intentions of the Government ceased to be a secret, and the storm of opposition began to gather rapidly. From the first moment of Peel's communication with the Duke, he had earnestly urged the expediency of his own retirement from office, and as the meeting of Parliament drew near, he again pressed it in a letter to the Duke of Wellington, which was accompanied by a memorandum drawn up for the purpose of aiding the Duke in his endeavours to induce the King to permit his confidential servants to take the condition ' of Ireland, without restriction, into their immediate consideration.' This paper was communicated to the King, immediately after which the Duke wrote to Peel, 'You have been informed of what has passed between the King and me, and certain of the bishops and me, on this subject, and you must see the 'difficulties with which we shall be surrounded in taking this course. I tell you fairly I do not see the smallest chance of 'getting the better of these difficulties if you should not continue in office.' He was almost certain, he said, the King would not consent unless Peel would give them his assistance in office; upon which Peel at once replied that he would not press his retirement, but would remain in office, and propose (with the King's consent) the measures contemplated for the settlement of the Catholic question. The day after the King had received the above-named memorandum, all the other Ministers who had uniformly voted against the Catholics had separate audiences to announce their concurrence with the Duke and Peel. After these interviews the King consented that the state of Ireland should be considered by the Cabinet, and the result of their deliberations be submitted to His Majesty, but still he did not pledge himself to adopt the views of his Government.
The following memorandum is amusing and characteristic :'I fear from the accompanying note from Lord Bathurst, that His