[Sir] Lawrence Parsons

Quotations

Life
1758-1841 [2nd earl of Rosse; son of namesake, q.v.]; ed. TCD; MP Dublin University 1782; disclaimed party politics but opposed Act of Union; inherited title, 1807). Port. included in engraving of House of Commons of 1790, now preserved in Bank of Ireland (College Green). ODNB

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Quotations
House of Commons Speech (1790) - answering Henry Grattan: ‘Boast of the prosperity of your country as you may, and after all I ask: what is it but a secondary kingdom? An inferior member of a great Empire without any movement or orbit of its own. ... We may pride ourselves that we are a great kingdom, but the fact is that we are barely known beyond the boundaries of our shores. Who out of Ireland ever hears of Ireland? Who respects us? Where are our ambassadors? What treaties do we enter into? With what nation do we make peace or war? Are we not a mere cipher in all these, and are not these what give a nation consequence and fame? All these are sacrificed to the connection with England. ... A suburb to England we are sunk in her shade. True we are an independent kingdom; we have an imperial Crown distinct from England; but it is a metaphysical distinction, a mere sport for speculative men. ... It is asked why, after all the acquisitions of 1782, there should be discontent? To this I say that when the country is well-governed the people ought to be satisfied but not before. ... It has been the object of English ministers ever since to countervail what we obtained at that period, and substitute a surreptitious and clandestine influence for the open power which the English legislature was then obliged to relinquish ...’ [Cont.]

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House of Commons Speech (1790) - cont.: ‘Those concessions on the part of the English Parliament I grant were as ample as they well could be for they were everything short of separation. Let ministers then beware of what conclusions they may teach the people if they teach them this, that the attainment of everything short of separation will not attain for them the good government. . . . Where, or when, or how is all this to end? Is the Minister of England himself sure that he sees the end? Can he be sure that this system, which has been forming for the coercion of Ireland, may not ultimately cause the dissolution of the Empire?’ (Quoted in Robert Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1972, p.37, citing W. E. H. Lecky, History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, Vol. III, p.7.) Note that Kee remarks on the ‘bleaker frankness’ of Parsons, who as ‘emotionally as loyal to the principle of the connection as Grattan himself’ [p.37], and speaks of his latter remarks as ‘prophetic clarity’ while calling Theobald Wolfe Tone, ‘a young Protestant middle-class lawyer, already showing a slightly erratic interest in politics’, a ‘friend’ of Parson.

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To his diary: ‘The whole nation in a few years was thus arrayed. That is, every Protestant capable of bearing arms ... But their spirit rose with their armament and discipline. And, beginning only to assure themselves, and proceeding to protect the country against France, they concluded by vindicating their constitution and liberty against the aspiration of England.’ (Quoted in Thomas Flanagan, The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (Columbia UP 1959), p.19, citing an unpublished diary quoted in Stephen Gwynn Henry Grattan and His Times, p.59.)

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