Legislative Independence (1782-1783)

Patrick Weston Joyce

826. In England lord North's ministry fell in 1782, and he was succeeded by the marquess of Rockingham; after which lord Carlisle retired from Ireland and the duke of Portland came over as lord lieutenant. The Irish parliament met on the 16th of April 1782, with the new viceroy present. The citizens of Dublin, knowing what was coming, were all abroad; and among them the volunteers were conspicuous with their bands, banners, and bright uniforms.

827. The usual address was moved, to which Grattan moved an amendment comprising all the chief demands of the Irish people; ending with the declaration that the king and Irish parliament alone had the right to make laws for Ireland. These were merely a repetition of the Dungannon resolutions, with the exception of Catholic emancipation which was not expressly mentioned. The amendment was unanimously agreed to. The next part of the proceedings was in the English parliament. On the 17th of May, a resolution for the repeal of the Sixth of George I (721) was proposed in the house of lords by the earl of Shelburne, and in the commons by Charles James Fox; to which both houses agreed.

828. This concession, known as the "Act of Repeal," was communicated by the viceroy to the Irish parliament at its meeting of the 27th of May. It was interpreted to mean that England gave Ireland an independent parliament over which it renounced all authority, annulled Poynings' law, restored to the Irish lords the right to hear appeals, abolished the right of appeal to the English lords, and in general yielded all the demands of Grattan's amendments.

829. This was Grattan's interpretation of the repeal of the 6th of George I. But Flood differed: he wished that England should be called on to go further by passing a formal act renouncing for ever the right to make laws for Ireland. Grattan's opinion prevailed in the house; and immediately the Irish parliament passed bills embodying all the above points. The news was received in Ireland with a tremendous outburst of joy, both in the house and outside among the people; and as an evidence of gratitude, the parliament voted 20,000 men and £100,000 to the British navy.

830. It was felt and acknowledged that this consummation was mainly due to Grattan; and parliament voted him a grant of £100,000. But he accepted only £50,000, and even that after much persuasion. With this he bought an estate in Queen's County; and took up his permanent residence in a beautiful spot that he loved: Tinnehinch, near Enniskerry in Wicklow, twelve miles from Dublin.

831. But although the parliament went with Grattan, Flood's view prevailed outside, both among the volunteers and among the people. As confirming his opinion, the English parliament, in January of the following year—1783—when lord Shelburne was prime minister, actually passed the "Act of Renunciation" declaring that Ireland's right to be bound only by the laws made by the king and the Irish parliament was "established for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable."

832. Lord Rockingham died in July 1782, to whom succeeded as prime minister the earl of Shelburne; and in September earl Temple succeeded the duke of Portland in Ireland as lord lieutenant.

833. At the instance of the English government lord Temple established in 1783, a new order of knights, which was to be peculiarly Irish, the Knights of the Illustrious Order of St. Patrick, which still subsists. The new members, who are chiefly selected from among the Irish aristocracy, are installed with great ceremony on the 17th of March, St. Patrick's day. The Irish parliament was dissolved in July, 1783, and a new parliament was formed which was to meet in October.