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    [474]The literature of this period is more distinguished for learning and cleverness than for genius. There are a few names that rise above the smartness and mere accomplishment of the time into the regions of pure genius; but, with very few exceptions, even they bear the stamp of the period. We have here no Milton, no Shakespeare, no Herbert, no Herrick even, to produce; but De Foe, Addison, Steele, Thomson, and Pope, if they do not lift us to the highest creative plane, give us glimpses and traits of what is found there. For the rest, however full of power, there hangs a tone of "town," of a vicious and sordid era, about them, of an artificial and by no means refined life, a flavour of the grovelling of the politics which distinguished the period, and of the low views and feelings which occupied and surrounded the throne during the greater portion of this term.[See larger version]The first day of 1839 was marked in Ireland by an atrocious crime. The Earl of Norbury, an amiable nobleman, regarded as one of the most exemplary of his class, both as a man and a landlord, was shot by an assassin in the open day near his own house at Kilbeggan, and in presence of his steward. The murderer escaped. This event deserves special mention, because it was, during the year, the subject of frequent reference in Parliament. There was a meeting of magistrates at Tullamore, at which Lord Oxmantown presided, at which the Earl of Charleville took occasion to animadvert very strongly upon an expression in a letter, in answer to a memorial lately presented by the magistrates of Tipperary, in which Mr. Drummond, the Under-Secretary, uttered the celebrated maxim, that "property had its duties as well as its rights." This, in the circumstances of the country, he felt to be little less than a deliberate and unfeeling insult. He did not hesitate to say that the employment of those terms had given a fresh impulse to feelings which had found their legitimate issue in the late assassination. In the course of the meeting resolutions were proposed and carried to the following effect:"That the answer to the Tipperary magistrates by Mr. Under-Secretary Drummond has had the effect of increasing the animosities entertained against the[459] owners of the soil, and has emboldened the disturbers of the public peace. That there being little hope for a successful appeal to the Irish executive, they felt it their duty to apply to the people of England, the Legislature, and the Throne for protection."

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    This speech, which was regarded as the manifesto of the Reform party, called forth a reply from the Duke of Wellington, which was pregnant with revolution, and which precipitated the[321] downfall of his Administration. He said:"The noble Earl has recommended us not only to put down these disturbances, but to put the country in a state to meet and overthrow the dangers which are likely to arise from the late transactions in France, by the adoption of something like Parliamentary Reform. The noble earl has stated that he is not prepared himself to come forward with any measure of the kind; and I will tell him farther, neither is the Government.... Nay, I will go yet farther, and say that if at this moment I had to form a legislature for any country, particularly for one like this, in the possession of great property of various descriptions, although perhaps I should not form one precisely such as we have, I would endeavour to produce something which would give the same result; namely, a representation of the people containing a large body of the property of the country, and in which the great landed proprietors have a preponderating influence. Further still, I beg to state that not only is the Government not prepared to bring forward any measure of this description, but, in so far as I am concerned, while I have the honour to hold the situation which I now do among his Majesty's counsellors, I shall always feel it my duty to oppose any such measures when brought forward by others." When he sat down the hum of criticism was so loud that he asked a colleagueprobably Lord Lyndhurstthe cause. The answer was, "You have announced the fall of your Government, that is all."
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    On the 28th of March the Ministry, as completed, was announced in the House, and the writs for the re-elections having been issued, the House adjourned for the Easter holidays, and on the 8th of April met for business. The first affairs which engaged the attention of the new Administration were those of Ireland. We have already seen that, in 1778, the Irish, encouraged by the events in North America, and by Lord North's conciliatory proposals to Congress, appealed to the British Government for the removal of unjust restrictions from themselves, and how free trade was granted them in 1780. These concessions were received in Ireland with testimonies of loud approbation and professions of loyalty; but they only encouraged the patriot party to fresh demands. These were for the repeal of the two obnoxious Acts which conferred the legislative supremacy regarding Irish affairs on England. These Acts werefirst, Poynings' Act, so called from Sir Edward Poynings, and passed in the reign of Henry VII., which gave to the English Privy Council the right to see, alter, or suppress any Bill before the Irish Parliament, money Bills excepted; the second was an Act of George I., which asserted in the strongest terms the right of the king, Lords, and Commons of England to legislate for Ireland.
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