PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
A rich collection of correspondence providing an exceptional insight into the concerns, policies and personalities of Ireland's governing class in the eighteenth century. Lionel Cranfield Sackville, First Duke of Dorset (1688-1765), the scion of a great Whig aristocratic family, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by Walpole in 1730. The correspondence from the 1730s gives a strong indication of the factional tensions within Irish parliamentary politics and wider body politic at that time. Overwhelming Parliamentary opposition to the repeal of the Test Clause provided him with an early lesson in the distrust between the Church of Ireland Ascendancy and Ulster Presbyterians, and many of the letters dwell on his difficulties with the Irish Parliament and warnings about political moves against him in England. This was also a period of great intellectual activity in Dublin, and in addition to Wilmington's letter about George Berkeley, one of the letters to Dorset by his son George Sackville after Dorset's departure from Ireland includes a reference to Jonathan Swift in his last years ("...the Dean before all the company talked against lowring the gold, and told the Primate that if it had not been for him he would have been torn to pieces by the mob, and that if he held up his finger he could make them do it that instant...", 6 October 1737). For letters by Swift to Dorset written during this period see lot 54.
Dorset was re-appointed Lord Lieutenant in April 1750, and served for another five years, employing his son George Sackville as his chief secretary. This portion of the correspondence contains letters addressed to both men. This was a period dominated by the major political and constitutional crisis known as the Money Bill dispute, which was a crucial moment in the development of an Irish Patriot party. At its heart was the rivalry between George Stone, Archbishop of Armagh, who had first come to Ireland as Dorset's secretary in 1730, and Henry Boyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, who had been appointed to this position during Dorset's first Lieutenancy. Stone's aim, as he explained in a letter of 26 May 1752 outlining the politics of Ireland, was that "the administrations would be brought back to the Castle":
"...Business here has been usually done by undertakers, and the Dispute has been who should be the man. It was thus in the Duke of Dorset's former government. In the next the Rivals for this Power after many Altercations (as It is said) agreed to divide. But in each case, the Law was given to and not from the Castle: However, the King's Business, as it was called, was carried on, that is, the Money Bills were passed, and the Chief Governor gave wine to the Men, and Fiddles to the women, as usual..."
Stone's letters, most of which are written to Lord George Sackville, provide a lively and vivid account of these tumultuous years, from his welcome to Dorset warning about the dreadful wine at Dublin Castle, to a calm letter written after the complete collapse of his political fortunes. Recurring subjects include important changes to the Irish coinage; Parliamentary difficulties, especially over the money bill; the fate of Nathaniel Clements, teller of the exchequer, which became emblematic of the struggle between Stone and Boyle; the vicious public campaign against Stone ("...Papers are printed of the worst Tendency and the Object is the Administration of England - Sir R. Walpole was never worse used by the Writers in London than H.M.'s present Ministers are by Those here...", 1 August 1754); and the increased use of the rhetoric of Irish patriotism by Boyle and his party:
"...I do not think, They are mad enough to entertain Thoughts of separating (in the strict sense of the Word) from England; so that when They declare Their Abhorrence of setting up an independent Interest, They may, in that acceptation of the Word, be believed. But if they deny that their Interest in Parliament, and in the country is called the Irish Interest, in Contra-distinction to English, that They say there is a necessity of keeping up such an interest in opposition to English Governours who are always Their Enemies; If They deny this, they disclaim what is Their constant Language..." (25 July 1752)
The third volume of papers dates from the tenure of George Sackville (now George Sackville Germain) as Secretary of State for the American Colonies during the period of the Revolutionary Wars, and its highlight is a long series of detailed letters on matters of state by John Hobart, Second Earl of Buckinghamshire, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1776 to 1780. Given Germain's preoccupation with the American situation, it is unsurprising that many of the letters express an anxiety about "the favourable spirit towards the Americans so generaly prevailing amongst a particular Sect in this Kingdom" (31 October 1777). Support for the Revolutionaries in America was particularly strong among the Ulster Presbyterians and amongst Patriots in Parliament ("...the Prime Serjeants [Walter Hussey Burgh, who had recently left the government benches for the opposition] last speech was of a more seditious cast than any ever made by Mr. Hancock, Adams, or other Patriots previous to the American Rebellion...", 29 November 1779). These letters and papers range much more widely over Irish affairs, however, which is not surprising given Germain's long involvement with Irish affairs, and discuss such matters as the sectarian divisions of the country, its politics and politicians, the Mutiny Bill, military affairs, and the lawlessness of large parts of the country:
"...That part of the country round Tipperary is inhabited by a set of miscreants called White Boys; there, even the common operations of justice cannot be carried into execution, such as to recover rents, or to eject a defaulter from a farm; it has been tried; the trial ended in the murder of the officers of justice and imunity to the offenders..." (James Callander to Germain, 18 November 1779)
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