John Foster [Baron Oriel]

Life
1740-1828; Middle Temple and Irish bar; opposed Catholic Relief and made able speeches against the Union; Last Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. See also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 4. ODNB DIB

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Quotations
The Commercial System of Ireland reviewed and the question of union discussed in an address to the merchants, manufacturers and coutnry gentlemen of Ireland [2nd edn.] (Dublin 1799): ‘The consideration of the great subject of unioin is fitter for a volume than a letter’ (p.4); ‘The readers wishes cannot exceed my own anxiety to get over this retrospective view of our national occurrences, but I do assure him, that a knowledged of past occurrences will be a necessary shelf against the canting hypocrisy and plusible treachery of a minister.’ (p.20); ‘When republics and republicans are described as iolating every principle of moral retitude, it behoves kings, and the respresentatives of kings, to secure the admiration of the world by magnanimity and moderation.’ (p.96); ‘Every respecting man must recognise, in the deplorable extent of religious animosity, the true and extact features of a short-lived enthusiasm, operatin gon minds deparabed by superstition the most unworthy and intolerant. And I defy any many to point out, in the luminous pages of GIBBON, VOLTAIRE, ROBINSON, and HUME, a single instance where a Civil War has not had the effect of giving a country a more determined aspect, and more dreaded character - look at Rome under Marius - Sylla - Pompey - Caesar - Anthony - Augustus - and look likewise at modern France - and the scholar, the statesman, and the philosopher, will see the force and weight of this observation’ (p.98-99; all quoted in Claire Connolly, ‘Writing the Union’, in Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, eds., Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001, pp.176-79; 182.)

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Commentary
Thomas Bartlett, ‘Britishness, Irishness and the Act of Union’, in Dáire Keogh & Kevin Whelan, eds., Acts of Union: The Causes, Contexts and Consequences of the Act of Union, Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001), writes: ‘The speaker, John Foster, the main opponent of union, regarded an Irish parliament as an essential badge of protestant nationhood (for him, protestant nationalism meant little more than protestant ascendancy) and he urged his fellow Irish MPs not to vote for a move from “an independent kingdom to an abject colony”. Like Grattan’s pan-nationalist sentiments, Foster’s, too were given short shrift. Edward Cooke, under-secretary at Dublin Castle and closely involved in monitoring anti-unionist speeches, reports that Foster’ s arguneet were easily rebutted “except the obvious and irrefutable objection per se of removing parliament to a distance.”’ (p.247.)

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References
Belfast Public Library holds Collectanea Genealogica [n.d.]; Reports of the Debate on the Regency Bill (1799); Speech of the Rt. Hon John Foster, Speaker of the House of Commons of Ireland (1800)

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