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THE DEGRADED PEERAGE.
digesting their solitary meal, until the "whipper in" has aroused them to the only purpose for which their existence is recognised; or in the House itself, verifying the prophetic description of Curran, by "sleeping in their collars under the manger of the British minister."
The case is still worse with the anomalous nobility of the Irish Peer.* There is a sorry mockery in the title, which is almost a badge, as it is a product, of his disgrace. He bears it as the snail does the painted shell elaborated from its slime. His family are scarcely admitted among the aristocracy, and, when admitted, it is only to be scorned. It requires-the nicest exercise of subtle stratagem, and the suppression of every feeling of pride, on the part of an Irish lady, to effect her way into the great patrician coteries. The scene which Miss Edgeworth has so admirably described at the saloon of the operahouse, in which the Irish countess solicits the haughty recog nition of the English duchess, is of nightly recurrence. Even great talents are not exempted from this spirit of national depreciation. Mr. Grattan himself never enjoyed the full dignity which ought, in every country, to have been an appanage to his genius. As to Lord Clare, he died of a broken heart. The Duke of Bedford crushed the plebeian peer with a single tread. What, then, must be the case with the inferior class of Irish senators; and how must they repine at the sui
By the Act of Union, it was arranged that the Irish Peers should be represented in the Imperial Parliament by twenty-eight, chosen from the whole body, to sit for life. But many of the Irish Peers also have seats in Parliament as possessors of English titles. Thus the Irish Marquis of Downshire has his seat in the Imperial Parliament by virtue of his English earldom of Hillsborough, and the Earl of Bessborough sits for his English barony. No Irish Peer can represent an Irish county or borough, but the restriction does not apply. out of Ireland. Thus Viscount Palmerston, an Irish Peer, sits in the House of Commons for the English borough of Tiverton. — M.
† Lord Clare, the first Irishman who ever held the Great Seal of Ireland, was virtual ruler of that country for years. He exhibited his hauteur to the Viceroy, the Duke of Bedford, who-with all the pride of the Russell blood—could not believe, at first, that any man could so insult the representative of royalty. When assured that it was Lord Clare's wonted manner, the Duke turned his back on him, before the Privy Council, and let business proceed as if Lord Clare had never existed.—M.
cidal act with which, in their madness, they were tempted to annihilate their existence !
I have dwelt upon the results of the Union, as it affected individual importance, because Mr. Saurin appears to have been sensible of them, and to have acted upon that sense. He has never since that event set his foot upon the English shore. He was well aware that he should disappear in the modern Babylon; and with the worldly sagacity by which he is characterized, when his country lost her national importance, he preferred to the lacqueying of the English aristocracy the enjoyment of such provincial influence as may be still obtained in Ireland. Mr. Plunket resigned the situation of AttorneyGeneral in 1807. It was offered to Mr. Saurin, who accepted it.
This office is, perhaps, the most powerful in Ireland: it is attended with great patronage, emolument, and authority. The Attorney-General appoints the judges of the land, and nominates to those multitudinous places with which the government has succeeded in subduing the naturally democratic tendencies of the bar. Every measure in any way connected with the administration of justice originates with him. In England the Attorney-General is consulted upon the law. In Ireland he is almost the law itself: he not only approves, but he directs. The personal character of Mr. Saurin gave him an additional sway. He gained a great individual ascendency over the mind of the Lord Chancellor. In the Castlef Cabinet he was almost supreme; and his authority was the more readily submitted to, as it was exercised without being displayed. He was speedily furnished with much melancholy occasion to put his power into action.
The Catholic Board assumed a burlesque attitude of defiance; the press became every day more violent; the newspapers were tissues of libels, in the legal sense of the word,
* By a flattering, national self-delusion, London is called "Modern Babylon,” and Edinburgh the "Modern Athens."- M.
In Ireland, "the Castle" of Dublin is the seat of government, as the Palace of St. James is (or was) of England. It is the town-residence of the Lord-Lieutenant, where his Privy Council meet, where he holds his levees and drawing-rooms, where he gives his State-balls, and where the departmental officers of the Executive carry on the business of the state.-M.
HIS POLITICAL INCONSISTENCY.
for they were envenomed with the most deleterious truth. Prosecutions were instituted and conducted by Mr. Saurin: an ebullition of popular resentment was the result, and reciprocal animosity was engendered out of mutual recrimination. The orators were furious upon one hand, and Mr. Saurin became enraged upon the other. His real character was disclosed in the collision. He was abused, I admit, and vilified. The foulest accusations were emptied, from their aerial abodes, by pamphleteers, upon his head. The authors of the garret discharged their vituperations upon him. It was natural that he should get into bad odor; but wedded as he was to the public interests, he should have borne these aspersions of the popular anger with a more Socratic temper. Unhappily, however, he was infected by this shrewish spirit, and took to scolding. In his public speeches a weak virulence and spite were man ifested, which, in such a man, was deeply to be deplored.
Much of the blame ought, perhaps, to attach to those who baited him into fury; and it is not greatly to be regretted, that many of them were gored and tossed in this ferocious contest. The original charges brought against him were unjust; but the vehemence with which they were retorted, as well as repelled, divested them, in some degree, of their calumnious quality, and exemplified their truth. Mr. Saurin should have recollected, that he had at one time given utterance to language nearly as intemperate himself, and had laid down the same principles with a view to a distinct application. He had harangued upon the will of the majority, and he forgot that it was constituted by the Papists. On a sudden he was converted, from a previous neutrality, into the most violent opponent of Roman Catholic Emancipation. I entertain little doubt that his hostility was fully as personal as it was constitutional. There appears to be a great inconsistency between his horror of the Union and of the Catholics. They are as seven to one in the immense population of Ireland; and when they are debased by political disqualification, it can only be justified upon the ground that it promotes the interests of the Empire.
But Mr. Saurin discarded the idea of making a sacrifice
of Ireland to Imperial considerations, when the benefits of the Union were pointed out. I fear, also, that he wants magnanimity, and that his antipathies are influenced in part by his domestic recollections. His ancestors were persecuted in France; but his gratitude to the country in which they found. a refuge, should have suppressed any inclination to retaliate upon the religion of the majority of its people. I shall not expatiate upon the various incidents which distinguished this period of forensic turmoil. Suffice it to say, that Mr. Saurin obtained verdicts of condemnation. But his high character and his peace of mind were affected by his ignominious success. He grew into an object of national distaste. His own personal dispositions, which are naturally kind and good, were materially deteriorated. Every man at the bar with liberal opinions on the Catholic question, was regarded by him with dislike. A single popular sentiment was a disqualification for place.
But let me turn from the less favorable points of his character. This censure should be qualified by large commendation. His patronage was confined to his party, but it was honorably exercised. Those whom he advanced were able and honest men. The sources of justice were never vitiated by any unworthy preferences upon his part. Neither did he lavish emolument on his own family. In the list of pensioners the name of Saurin does not often bear attestation to his power. I should add to his other merits his unaffected modesty. He has always been easy, accessible, and simple. He had none of the "morgue aristocratique," nor the least touch of official superciliousness on his brow.
Mr. Saurin, as Attorney-General, may be said to have governed Ireland for fifteen years ;* but, at the moment when he seemed to have taken the firmest stand upon the height of his authority, he was precipitated to the ground. The Grenvilles joined the minister. It was stipulated that Plunket should
be restored to his former office. Mr. Saurin was offered the place of Chief-Justice of the King's Bench, which in a fit of splenetic vexation he had the folly to refuse. The new local
* From 1807 until January, 1822, when Mr. Plunket replaced him.-M.
government did not give him a moment for repentance, and he was thrown at once from the summit of his power.
not a single intervening circumstance to break his precipitous descent, and he was stunned, if not shattered, in the fall. might, however, have expected it; he had no political connections to sustain him. He is married, indeed, to a sister of the Marquis of Thomond; but that alliance was a feeble obstacle to the movement of a great party.
His official friends immolated him to exigency, but they would have sacrificed him to convenience. The only man in power, perhaps, who personally lamented his ill usage, was Lord Manners; and even his Lordship was aware, for six months before, of the intended change, and never disclosed it to him in their diurnal walks to the Hall of the Four Courts. This suppression Mr. Saurin afterward resented; but, upon a declaration from his friend that he was influenced by a regard for his feelings, they were reconciled. He did not choose to warn him, at the banquet, of the sword that he saw suspended over his head.
He is now  plain Mr. Saurin again, and he bears this reverse with a great deal of apparent, and some real, fortitude. When he was first deprived of his office, I watched him in the Hall. The public eye was upon him; and the consciousness of general observation in calamity inflicts peculiar pain. The joyous alacrity of Plunket was less a matter of comment than the resigned demeanor of his fallen rival. Richard was as much gazed at as Bolingbroke.* It was said by most of those who saw him, that he looked as cheerful as ever. In fact, be looked more cheerful, and that appeared to me to give evidence of the constraint which he put upon himself. There was a forced hilarity about him-he wore an alertness and vivacity, which were not made for his temperament. His genuine smile is flexible and easy; but upon this occasion it lingered with a mechanical procrastination upon the lips, which showed that it did not take its origin at the heart.
* See Shakspere's Richard II., Act 5, Scene 2, for the description of the contrast between the reception of the unfortunate and unpopular Richard, and that of his successful rival Bolingbroke.-M.