Lord Charlemont

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XXXV

But a list of the great men of the eighteenth century, however brief, would be certainly most imperfect if I omitted the name of the Earl of Charlemont, who, had his courage been equal to his honesty of purpose, might have been enrolled not merely as an ardent, but even as a successful patriot. He was one of the Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores, —one of those who came to plunder, and who learned to respect their victims, and to repent their oppressions. It is probable that the nine years which the young Earl spent in travelling on the Continent, contributed not a little to his mental enlargement.

On his return from countries where freedom exists with boasting, to a country where boasting exists without a corresponding amount of freedom, he was amazed and shocked at the first exhibition of its detestable tyranny of class. A grand procession of peers and peeresses was appointed to receive the unfortunate Princess Caroline; but, before the Princess landed, the Duchess of Bedford was commanded to inform the Irish peeresses that they were not to walk, or to take any part in the ceremonial.

The young Earl could not restrain his indignation at this utterly uncalled-for insult. He obtained a royal audience, and exerted himself with so much energy, that the obnoxious order was rescinded. The Earl's rank, as well as his patriotism, naturally placed him at the head of his party; and he resolutely opposed those laws which Burke had designated as a "disgrace to the statute-books of any nation, and so odious in their principles, that one might think they were passed in hell, and that demons were the legislators."

In 1766, his Lordship brought a bill into the House of Lords to enable a poor Catholic peasant to take a lease of a cabin and a potato-garden; but, at the third reading, the Lords rushed in tumultuously, voted Lord Charlemont out of the chair, and taunted him with being little better than a Papist. The failure and the taunt bewildered an intellect never very clear; and, perhaps, hopelessness quenched the spirit of patriotism, which had once, at least, burned brightly. In fear of being taunted as a Papist, like many a wiser man, he rushed into the extreme of Protestant loyalty, and joined in the contemptible outcry for Protestant ascendency.