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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:05:37
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There had been for some time a smouldering feud between the secretary and the Recorder of Dublin. The learned gentleman had seized the occasion which the present state of parties afforded, and in the course of the recent debate on the second reading of the Corn Bill, had declared that the asserted famine in Ireland was, on the part of the government, ‘a great exaggeration.’ The secretary had addressed himself particularly to this observation in his speech on the 27th, the night of the division, and had noticed it in a tone of acerbity. He had even intimated that it might have been used by one who was a disappointed solicitor for high office, and whom the government had declined to assist in an unwarrantable arrangement of the duties and salary of the judicial post he at present occupied. The learned Recorder, justly indignant at this depreciating innuendo, resolved to make an opportunity on the following Monday for his vindication and retort. He rose, therefore, immediately after the skilful and winning appeal of the secretary, and pronounced an invective against the right honourable gentleman which was neither ill-conceived nor ill-delivered. It revived the passions that for a moment seemed inclined to lull, and the Protectionists, who on this occasion were going to support the government, forgot the common point of union, while the secretary was described as ‘the evil genius of the cabinet.’

‘The duchy of Lancaster is to be put in commission, Lord * * * * to be one of the commissioners, but unpaid. He has begun, I presume, to overcome the false delicacy which prevented his acceptance of office under the Whigs in July. S * * * * thought G * * * * was to be another of the Board, but that turns out a mistake, but Lord H * * * * is to be.

It was in vain, in order to assist in removing these scruples, that it was represented to him by others that endowment of a priesthood by the state was a notion somewhat old-fashioned, and opposed to the spirit of the age which associated true religious freedom with the full development of the voluntary principle. He listened to these suggestions with distrust, and even with a little contempt. Mr. Canning had been in favour of the endowment of the Irish priesthood—that was sufficient for that particular; and as for the voluntary principle, he looked upon it as priestcraft in disguise; his idea of religious liberty being that all religions should be controlled by the state.

Perceiving that the House began to be wearied with the details of the silk trade, which he had investigated with extraordinary zeal, he postponed until the specific vote in committee his objections to the reduction of the timber duties. The fact is, he had so thoroughly mastered all these topics, that his observations on each of them would have themselves formed a speech of sufficient length and interest. But he successfully checked any interruption by what may be fairly styled his dignified diffidence.

On the 21 st of September, after breakfasting with his family, he retired to his room, where he employed himself With some papers, and then wrote three letters, one to Lord Enfield, another to the Duke of Richmond, and the third to the writer of these pages. That letter is now at hand; it is of considerable length, consisting of seven sheets of note-paper, full of interesting details of men and things, and written not only in a cheerful but even a merry mood. Then, when his letters were sealed, about four o’clock he took his staff and went forth to walk to Thoresby, the seat of Lord Manvers, distant between five and six miles from Welbeck, where Lord George was to make a visit of two days. In consequence of this his valet drove over to Thoresby at the same time to meet his master. But the master never came. Hours passed on and the master never came. At length the anxious servant returned to Welbeck, and called up the groom who had driven him over to Thoresby and who was in bed, and inquired whether he had seen anything of Lord George on the way back, as his lord had never reached Thoresby. The groom got up, and accompanied by the valet and two others took lanthorns, and followed the footpath which they had seen Lord George pursuing as they themselves went to Thoresby.

‘I am glad to read your opinion in opposition to Lord Ashburton’s, that railways keep the gold in the country, and do not send it out. Glyn gave strong evidence last year to this effect before the railway committee.’

As there are very few Englishmen of what is commonly called the Jewish faith, and as therefore it was supposed that political considerations could not enter into the question, it was hoped by many of the followers of Lord George Bentinck that he would not separate himself from his party on this subject, and very earnest requests and representations were made to him with that view. He was not insensible to them; he gave them prolonged and painful consideration; they greatly disquieted him. In his confidential correspondence he often recurs to the distress and anxiety which this question and its consequences as regarded his position with those friends to whom he was much attached occasioned him. It must not, therefore, be supposed that, in the line he ultimately took with reference to this question, he was influenced, as some have unkindly and unwarrantably fancied, by a self-willed, inexorable, and imperious spirit. He was no doubt, by nature, a proud man, inclined even to arrogance, and naturally impatient of contradiction; but two severe campaigns in the House of Commons had already mitigated these characteristics: he understood human nature, he was fond of his party, and, irrespective of other considerations, it pained his ardent and generous heart to mortify his comrades. It was therefore not in any degree from temper, but from principle,—from as pure, as high, and as noble a sense of duty as ever actuated a man in public life,—that Lord George Bentinck ultimately resolved that it was impossible for him to refuse to vote for the removal of what are commonly called Jewish disabilities. He had voted in this particular cause shortly after his entrance into public life; it was in accordance with that general principle of religious liberty to which he was an uncompromising adherent; it was in complete agreement with the understanding which subsisted between himself and the Protectionist party, when at their urgent request he unwillingly assumed the helm. He was entreated not to vote at all; to stay away, which the severe indisposition under which he was then labouring warranted. He did not rudely repulse these latter representations, as has been circulated. On the contrary, he listened to them with kindness, and was not uninfluenced by them. Enfeebled by illness, he had nearly brought himself to a compliance with a request urged with affectionate importunity, but from which his reason and sense of duty held him aloof. After long and deep and painful pondering, when the hour arrived, he rose from his bed of sickness, walked into the House of Commons, and not only voted, but spoke in favour of his convictions. His speech remains, one of the best ever delivered on the subject, not only full of weighty argument, but touched with a high and even tender vein of sentiment.

Was there any reason why a proportionate application of the same remedy to Ireland should not proportionately produce a similar result? Was there anything wild or unauthorized in the suggestion? On the contrary: ten years before (1836), the subject had engaged the attention of her Majesty’s government, and a royal commission had been issued to inquire into the expediency of establishing railway communication in Ireland. The commissioners, men of great eminence, recommended that a system of railways should be established in Ireland, and by the pecuniary assistance of government. They rested their recommendation mainly on the abundant evidence existing of the vast benefits which easy communication had accomplished in Ireland, and of the complete success which had attended every Parliamentary grant for improving roads in that country.


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