Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

the battles of the "Currency-Doctors" the moment that Parliament should decide on inaking these debentures "marketable and negotiable securities"; to say nothing of the certain stimulus that would ensue, to all manner of jobbing speculation.

Other weighty objections suggest themselves; but with these we rest for the present, not considering, as we observed before, that the scheme is available at this time, if it even be capable of being ultimately made so for its professed objects.

have

In conclusion, there remains but to remark, that in the review of the various plans for amended Land Legislation which we have offered in this paper, we necessarily had to avow a certain preference; but a preference which is to be qualified in the minds of our readers by understanding it as only comparative. In a healthy state of things land-contracts ought not to be the subject of legislation at all, but should be left to free, mutual agreement. Undoubtedly, a healthy state of things cannot be said to prevail, or have prevailed in Ireland, and all parties are now beginning to agree that "something must be done." Our impression is, that it would be well if all parties first looked into the general condition of their country in all its relations and interests; and examined whether some large, all-reaching change in the management of her affairs, ought not to be sought for, rather than a particular interference and meddling with one interest alone. The cost of effort would not be greater in the general than in the particular case; and while amendment in the latter might, nay could, be only temporary as well as partial-(inasmuch as the unsatisfactory state of other relations and interests would invitably re-act, and soon diminish or destroy the improvement in one) a great general measure would tend to restore capital to the country, and cause it to circulate throughout all the ramifications of industry, and by giving vitality to the core of the body politic, invigorate its every limb, even to the utmost extremities.

The devising and application of such a measure would be indeed a work worthy of the study and attention of those who aspire to be the leaders and instructors of the people, in and out of Parliament, and would save us from the legislative labyrinth into which we at present seem fated, during the approaching Session, to be plunged in the research, certainly vexatious, and too probably fruitless, of a specific nostrum for a particular evil.

GRATTAN, FLOOD, CURRAN, BUSHE,-glorious names that in other days swayed the Irish multitude, and guided the policy of the National party,-all have passed away, and now the great spirit that lingered longest, connecting the Pigmies of the present with the Titans of the past, is gone-and the fame of PLUNKET is a memory of the dead.

There are men whose biography is but the history of their country; the events of their existence devoted to public affairs cannot be separated from the events of the Nation, and thus the recorded epochs in the lives of Cromwell, of Monk, of Hampden, of Somers, of Marlborough, of Walpole, of Pitt, of Fox, of Sheridan, of Grattan, of Wellington, of O'Connell, are the history of the country in their eras; and to this roll of men, who, for good or evil, have ruled the destinies of these Kingdoms, we may add that of William Conyngham Plunket.

He was the last great man of a period when to be champion in the public cause of Ireland was to prove one's claim to honesty, to eloquence, and to the most stainless patriotism. In that age Irish popular movements showed the ominous and determined resolves of a people; now these movements are but the idiot mouthings of a thoughtless rabble, with bucolic priests and Dublin newspaper adventurers for Tribunes,-then a Nation spoke, and its leaders were the truest, the ablest, and the wisest men of the country and of the period; of these leaders Plunket was amongst the foremost.

Commencing life a poor man, he became independent in purse through his own professional efforts. Loving Ireland more than his own interest, he spurned bribes the most seducing, and place and patronage the most fascinating in their golden splendor. With genius of the brightest order he combined all the graces of the rhetorician, and all the erudition of the scholar. To a perfect knowledge of men he added the readiest, the keenest, and the most polished satire. To a most exquisite and refined wit, he could draw aid, when occasion required, from à fund of broad, buoyant, national humor. In the Legislature he was, from the first, distinguished as a profound, and accurate, and eloquent orator; as a debater he was ready, well informed and dauntless; as a patriot, aud as a soldier of freedom, he was amongst the most distinguished of those who, word by word, contested the enactment of the Legislative

Union. Thus too he bore himself in the English Houses of Parliament; and whilst others, his fellow countrymen, forgot, in these assemblies, the older and the nobler principles they had professed in their native Legislature, Plunket was ever Irish in heart, Irish in deed, Irish always and in every thing.

When the Act of Union was carried he felt that all efforts to obtain its repeal, must, in that age at least, fail disgracefully,tending but to weaken the connection of the Kingdoms, and exposing the efforts of the Irish party to the suspicion of raising a factious opposition. United with the Grenville Administration, he became the advocate of the Irish people, and deserted none of those principles of his past life by which he had secured the honestly earned titles of patriot, and of true-souled Irishman.

From the first hour of his entrance into the world of politics to that day, when, amidst the regrets of all the Nation, he retired from the public service, he was ever the same. He relin

quished his post as Chancellor with regret,-it was the last which enabled him to serve his country, and it was the only tie that bound him to life, and reminded him of the fame and glory of the past by years. Although he was illustrious in the Legislature, yet to the Courts of Law we must follow him, if we would appreciate and observe the "coronam multiplicem, judicium erectum, crebras assensiones, multas admirationes, risum cum velit, cum velit fletum, in Scenâ Roscium."

About the year 1725, the Rev. Patrick Plunket was Minister of the Presbyterian Congregation of Glennan, in the County of Monaghan. His son Thomas was born in the year 1725, and educated at the University of Glasgow. This Thomas Plunket was licensed by the Presbytery of Monaghan in the year 1747, and was called unaminously to become the Minister of the Congregation of Inniskillen, on the 31st day of July, 1748.

Thomas Plunket had married a young lady of his own persuasion, a Miss Mary Conyngham, and in the year 1750, she bore him a son named Patrick, who was afterwards distinguished as a physician, and attended the illustrious Lord Charlemont in his last illness; and in the month of January, 1764, a second son was born, and baptised William Conyngham Plunket.

Thomas Plunket held the office of Minister, over the Inniskillen Congregation, until the year 1768. During these

twenty-years he received calls from various Congregations, but could not be induced to leave his old friends in Inniskillen, until he accepted, after many solicitations, the call of the Congregation of Strand-street, Dublin, which was dated the 23rd day of November, 1768, and he then became the colleague of the Rev. Doctor Moody.

He was a man of ability and learning, and was a humorist of the quaintest class; being, both in Inniskillen and in Dublin, the warm friend of that most erratic of churchmen, the Rev. Philip Skelton, the curate of "Premium" Madden, and rector of Fintona.*

The Rev. Thomas Plunket continued in the Ministership of the Strand-street Congregation during the ten succeeding years, and died in the year 1778, aged about fifty-three. From one who knew him well we learn, that "his eminent gifts as a Preacher, peculiar talent of wit, and conversational powers, added to his zeal in the cause of civil and religious liberty, and great political knowledge, obtained for him the friendship and intimate intercourse of the most distinguished persons in Ireland. His society was eagerly courted, and his opinon consulted, by the most eminent statesmen and Parliamentary leaders of that period. His character was a rare union of natural talents of the highest order, combined with the most winning gentleness of disposition, and truly christian kindness of heart."

The Rev. Mr. Plunket was not a fortunate man in life, and he died poor, leaving to his children as a heritage, but an honest name, and industry, and genius. The Congregation of Strand-street chapel saw that the family of their late Minister was not well off in worldly riches, and they enabled the children to commence life independently: with that honor which ever distinguished Plunket, he in after life repaid the sums thus advanced, and when debt pressed upon the public chapel fund of his old friends, he presented them with a sum of over £500, to enable them to discharge their liabilities.

In the year 1781, William Conyngham Plunket entered Trinity College, and amongst the most remarkable of his circle were Bushe, Doctor Miller, author of The Philosophy of History, Peter Burrowes, and the late William Magee, Archbishop of Dublin.

*For an interesting sketch of Skelton, see, IRISH QUARTERLY REVIEW, Vol. III. No. 11, pp. 708, 710.

Of the brilliant corps of distinguished men who first proved their ability in the College Historical Society, Plunket was amongst the most famous. Whilst Grattan, Baron Smith, Lord Wellesley, and other Irishmen had received, or were receiving education at either of the two great English Universities, Plunket was reared in our Irish institution; and if he were there exposed to the evils of exclusiveism, he was at the same time enabled to study the character of the Nation's mind, and to measure his mental strength with those who might afterwards be his opponents, his rivals, or his followers, in the forum or the senate.

His progress in the College course was not remarkable; having selected the Law as his profession, he entered Lincoln's Inn, about the year 1784, and was called to the Irish Bar in Hilary Term, 1787.

For some few years he worked quietly on; but the grave, deep, far-seeing spirit was neither slumbering nor quiescent. Plunket saw fools, and scoundrels mounting to the high places of the political world around him. The surging tide of the public indignation had heaved and roared, and the wild dreams of freedom,—à la Français, had disturbed the Irish people, and had begun to startle the government from that false security into which the easy seduction of the Volunteers had soothed them. But the Minister could not be blind or deaf to the fact, that the Volunteers had taught the Nation one great, plain, lesson, that a comprehensive and perfect measure of Parliamentary Reform was needed for the protection of Irish trade, and for the security of Irish independence.

In the year 1793 the Irish nation thought thus. The two great parties in the legislature, those who were the slaves of the Minister, and those who were called the Charlemont Whigs, that is, those who were for the free and independent action of Ireland, sought anxiously for recruits among the young, and intellectually able, of the out-door world. Lord Charlemont had ever been desirous of securing the new talent that, year by year, sprang up from College, and from the Bar. His borough-Charlemont-had ever been at the command of the national party; in the year 1775 Grattan had been returned as its parliamentary representative. Grattan had saved the country, had created its independence in 1782; and once more Lord Charlemont had another opportunity of rendering his borough remarkable. He saw that Plunket was a man made for

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »