CHAPTER IV. REIGN OF GEORGE II. (CONCLUDED) - MALONE'S LEADERSHIP.
The Earl of Harrington, afterwards Duke of Devonshire, succeeded Lord Chesterfield in the government, in 1746. He was provided with a prime minister in the person of the new Archbishop of Armagh, Dr. George Stone, whose character, if he was not exceedingly calumniated by his cotemporaries, might be compared to that of the worst politicians of the worst ages of Europe. Originally, the son of the jailer of Winchester, he had risen by dint of talents, and audacity, to receive from the hands of his sovereign, the illustrious dignity of Primate of Ireland. But even in this exalted office, the abominable vices of his youth accompanied him. His house at Leixlip, was at once a tavern and a brothel, and crimes, which are nameless, were said to be habitual under his roof. "May the importation of Ganymedes into Ireland, be soon discontinued," was the public toast, which disguised under the transparent gauze of a mythological allusion, the infamies of which he was believed to be the patron. The prurient page of Churchill was not quite so scrupulous, and the readers of the satire entitled "The Times," will need no further key to the horrible charges commonly received on both sides of the channel, against Primate Stone.
The viceroyalty of Ireland, which had become an object of ambition to the first men in the empire, was warmly contested by the Earl of Harrington and the Duke of Dorset. The former, through his Stanhope influence and connections, prevailed over his rival, and arrived in Ireland, warmly recommended by the popular Chesterfield. During his administration, Primate Stone, proceeding from one extreme to another, first put forward the dangerous theory, that all surplus revenue belonged of right to the crown, and might be paid over by the Vice-Treasurers, to his majesty's order, without authority of Parliament. At this period, notwithstanding the vicious system of her land tenures, and her recent losses by emigration, Ireland found herself in possession of a considerable surplus revenue.
Like wounds and bruises in a healthy body, the sufferings and deprivations of the population rapidly disappeared under the appearance even of improvement in the government. The observant Chesterfield, who continued through life warmly attached to the country in which his name was remembered with so much affection, expresses to his friend, Chevenix, Bishop of Waterford, in 1751, his satisfaction at hearing "that Ireland improves daily, and that a spirit of industry spreads itself, to the great increase of trade and manufactures." This new-born prosperity the Primate and politicians of his school would have met by an annual depletion of the treasury, instead of assisting its march by the reduction of taxes, and the promotion of necessary public works. The surplus was naturally regarded, by the Patriot party, in the light of so much national capital; they looked upon it as an improvement fund, for the construction of canals, highways, and breakwaters, for the encouragement of the linen and other manufactures, and for the adornment of the capital with edifices worthy of the chief city of a flourishing kingdom.
The leader of the Patriot party, Anthony Malone, was compared at this period, by an excellent authority, to "a great sea in a calm." He was considered, even by the fastidious Lord Shelburne, the equal, in oratory, of Chatham and Mansfield. He seems to have at all times, however, sunk the mere orator in the statesman, and to have used his great powers of argument even more in Council than in the arena. His position at the bar, as Prime Sergeant, by which he took precedence even of the Attorney-General, gave great weight to his opinions on all questions of constitutional law. The roystering country gentlemen, who troubled their heads but little with anything besides dogs and horses, pistols and claret, felt secure in their new-fledged patriotism, under the broad aegis of the law extended over them by the most eminent lawyer of his age. The Speaker of the Commons, Henry Boyle, aided and assisted Malone, and when left free to combat on the floor, his high spirit and great fortune gave additional force to his example and confidence to his followers. Both were men too cautious to allow their adversaries any parliamentary advantage over them, but not so their intrepid coadjutor out of doors, Apothecary Lucas. He, like Swift, rising from local and municipal grievances to questions affecting the constitution of Parliament itself, was in 1749, against all the efforts of his friends in the House of Commons, declared by the majority of that House to be "an enemy to his country," and a reward was accordingly issued for his apprehension. For a time he was compelled to retire to England; but he returned, to celebrate in his Freeman's Journal the humiliation of the primate, and the defeat of the policy both of Lord Harrington, and his successor, the Duke of Dorset.
This nobleman, resolved to cast his predecessor into the shade by the brilliancy of his success, proceeded to take vigorous measures against the patriots. In his first speech to Parliament in 1751, he informed them his Majesty "consented" to the appropriation of the surplus revenue, by the House of Commons, and a clause was added to the annual supply bill in the English Council, containing the same obnoxious word, "consent." On this occasion, not feeling themselves strong enough to throw out the bill, and there being no alternative but rejection or acceptance, the Patriots permitted it to pass under protest. But the next session, when a similar addition was made, the Commons rejected the supply bill altogether, by a majority of 122 to 117. This was a measure of almost revolutionary consequence, since it left every branch of the public service unprovided for, for the ensuing twelve months.