Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 46.djvu/297

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himself may be exonerated from regarding such occurrences as the battle of the Diamond with anything but anger and alarm, it is impossible to say so much for other members of the government on whose advice he relied. His colleagues in England yielded to his demand for further measures of repression, and when the Irish parliament met in 1796, its first and principal business was to pass a bill for the more effectual suppression of disorder in the country. But this drastic measure failed to stem the rising spirit of rebellion, and in August Camden recommended the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the formation of yeomanry corps, a step to which he had hitherto been averse. Parliament reassembled in October. The air was full of rumours of an impending French invasion, and, as a measure of precaution, the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act was carried by 137 to seven.

The expedition of General Hoche missed its object; but the country was not pacified, and in January and February 1797 Camden found it necessary to proclaim several counties of Ulster under the Insurrection Act. In March the whole of Ulster was placed under martial law. Camden took the entire responsibility for this step upon himself; and to Portland, who suggested the desirability of conciliating public opinion by conceding parliamentary reform and catholic emancipation, he replied by threatening to resign. There were, he frankly admitted, objections to the constitution of Ireland as it existed, ‘but,’ he added, ‘as long as Ireland remains under circumstances to be useful to England, my opinion is that she must be governed by an English party … and, illiberal as the opinion may be construed to be, I am convinced it would be very dangerous to attempt to govern Ireland in a more popular manner than the present.’ He appears to have been ignorant of any intention on the part of Pitt to utilise the situation to effect a legislative union between the two countries; but not being a military man, and feeling that affairs had reached a point when physical force could alone avail anything, he offered in May to resign in favour of Lord Cornwallis. Cornwallis, who viewed the policy of the Irish government with apprehension, declined to cross the Channel except in case of imminent invasion, and in November Sir Ralph Abercromby [q. v.] was appointed commander-in-chief. There can be no doubt that Camden regarded his appointment with satisfaction, but the ill-concealed contempt of Abercromby for the incapacity of the Irish government, and his zealous but imprudent efforts to restore discipline and efficiency to the army, aroused such a strong feeling of hostility against him on the part of Lord Clare and Speaker Foster that he was compelled to tender his resignation, and Camden reluctantly accepted it.

It is difficult to say how far Camden was personally responsible for forcing the rebellion to a head. For he had fallen so completely under the influence of Lord Clare and the castle clique as to be little more than the mouthpiece of their policy; and it is extremely doubtful whether he was really aware of the atrocities committed in his name. When the rebellion actually broke out in May 1798, he believed that the force at his disposal, amounting to eighty thousand men, was insufficient to cope with the rebels, and wrote frantically to Portland for reinforcements. In the meantime he preserved an attitude more or less defensive. His conduct was much censured, and an ultra-loyal pamphlet, entitled ‘Considerations on the Situation to which Ireland is reduced,’ published in this year, of which six editions were almost immediately exhausted, blamed him severely for his dilatoriness in not attacking the rebels at once. The collapse of the rebellion can hardly be ascribed to the energy of the government; as for Camden, he added to the panic by sending his wife and family to England for safety. At last, in answer to his entreaties to be superseded by a military man, Lord Cornwallis arrived in Dublin on 20 June. But by that time the rebellion was practically at an end. ‘The public,’ sarcastically remarked the author of the pamphlet already referred to, ‘were congratulated by all his excellency's friends on his good fortune in having been able to terminate the rebellion without the horrid necessity of subduing the rebels. His excellency having thus left scarcely anything to be done, but to treat and to conciliate, descended to the water edge in a splendour of military triumph, which Marius, after he had overcome the Cimbri, would have looked at with envy, leaving Lord Cornwallis to enjoy, if he could earn it, the secondary honours of an ovation’ (Considerations on the Situation, p. 21).

Nevertheless, Camden was not without admirers. He was strongly in favour of the union, and there were those, notably Lord Clare and under-secretary Cooke (Auckland Corresp. iv. 83), who imagined that he would have been a better person to carry it into effect than Cornwallis. Though hitherto strongly opposed to catholic emancipation, he thought it might safely (with certain reservations) have been conceded at the time of the union, and some of his notes relative to Pitt's plan are extant in the