British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

7
PAPER ON THE GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND, 1971-21

...The want of apparent responsibility in administration will also naturally occasion discontent. The responsibility of the servants of the State is the acknowledged principle of the British Government, nor can it be expected that the Irish, who are repeatedly told that, in point of constitutional liberty and security, they are now upon the same footing as the people of England, will be deprived of so important a right as that of calling Ministers to account, when they have betrayed their public duties. To convince them that every member of the domestic administration of their country is as truly and legally responsible as persons in similar situations in England, is an object of such material consequence, that it should always be kept in sight. The personal responsibility of Ministers is one of the great securities of the monarchy in England; and the personal responsibility of Ministers in Ireland is the only ground upon which British supremacy can be firmly built. The idea that the responsibility of the Government is in the Lord Lieutenant is false and unconstitutional. He represents the executive magistracy of England, the sovereign of Ireland, between whom and the people no difference can be properly supposed to arise. He is not sheltered by the accidental circumstance of his having no property in the kingdom he governs, nor a residence but merely temporary; but by the principles of the British Constitution, which, for the wisest ends, has made responsible not the sovereign who commands, but the Minister who executes. The King's pleasure cannot be pleaded in justification by his servants. They are bound, at their peril, to examine before they act in consequence whether that pleasure is in conformity with the law, and the essential interest of the nation. The Lord Lieutenant, who represents the King, is equally freed from responsibility. Those in official departments under him are properly answerable for the measures which, without them, cannot be carried into execution. But directly in contradiction to these principles has been the system pursued. Everything has been done to take away all appearance of responsibility in the Irish Administration, and to throw everything upon the Lord Lieutenant and his Secretary. To such an absurd extreme has the jealousy of a revival of the old oligarchical tyranny been carried by Government, that all patronage has been taken from every Department, and the Lord Lieutenant is to name, and be personally solicited for, the appointment

____________________
1
Printed in Dropmore Papers (H.M.C. 1899), vol. iii, pp. 55-61. Submitted to Lord Grenville and probably written by Richard Wellesley, Earl of Mornington, who had been a member of the Irish House of Peers and was a great admirer of Henry Grattan, the Irish patriot and leader in the struggle for her legislative independence.

-183-

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