But Ministers were too sensible of the unconstitutional character of their deeds to rest satisfied with the mere justification of an accepted report. A Bill of Indemnity was introduced to cover "all persons who had in 1817 taken any part in apprehending, imprisoning, or detaining in custody persons suspected of high treason, or treasonable practices, and in the suppression of tumultuous and unlawful assemblies." Thus Ministers were shielded under general terms, and to avoid all appearance of personal movement in this matter by those in the Cabinet the most immediately active, the Bill was introduced by the Duke of Montrose, the Master of the Horse.
HERRENHAUSEN CASTLE, HANOVER. This was no idle threat; the guards at Dublin castle and at the several barracks were doubled; Alborough House, commanding the road to Clontarf, was garrisoned; the streets on the north side of the city were patrolled by parties of soldiers during the night. Three war steamers were placed in the Liffey, with their guns run out, commanding the ground where the meeting was to be held; while the guns at the Pigeon House fort at the mouth of the river, right opposite Clontarf, were so placed as to sweep the road to it. The village was occupied by the 5th Dragoon Guards, the 60th Rifles, the 11th Hussars, the 54th Regiment of Infantry, and a brigade of Royal Horse Artillery; the infantry being commanded by Colonel Fane, the cavalry by Lord Cardigan, and the artillery by Colonel Higgins. The men and horses were provisioned for twenty-four hours, and each soldier was furnished with sixty rounds of ball cartridge. A crisis had now come; a collision between the troops and O'Connell's army of teetotallers was imminent, and even he could have no doubt of the issue. He seemed to stand appalled on the edge of the precipice to which he had brought his deluded followers, and shrinking from the consequences, he made all possible haste to save them. As soon as the proclamation was issued, he called a special meeting of the Repeal Association, and announced that in consequence of the measures taken by the Government, which he denounced as "the most base and imbecile step ever taken," there would be no meeting at Clontarf the next day. He submitted a counter-proclamation, which was adopted and posted up that evening throughout the city beside the Government proclamation. It was also sent by special messengers to the neighbouring towns and villages. The preventive measures taken on both sides were completely successful. No mounted Repealers came in from the country, and though vast multitudes went out from Dublin to view the military demonstrations, their meeting with the Queen's forces was quite amicable. They were allowed to see the spectacle, but they were compelled to move on along the high road, which they did very good-humouredly.
Parliament was prorogued on the 18th of April, and the king soon after set out for his German dominions, taking Stanhope along with him, and his mistress, the Duchess of Kendal. In appointing the Regency to administer affairs in the king's absence, the Prince of Wales was entirely passed over, to his great indignation; nor were he and the Princess allowed to hold levees, that duty being assigned to the young princesses, to the great scandal of the public, and further exposure of the discord raging in the Royal family. Even during the session the ministers had brought in a Bill to "settle and limit the Peerage in such a manner that the number of English peers should not be enlarged beyond six of the present number (178), which, upon failure of male issue, might be supplied by new creations; that, instead of the sixteen elective peers of Scotland, twenty-five should be made hereditary on the part of that kingdom; and that this number, upon failure of heirs male, should be supplied from the other members of the Scottish Peerage." Both the king and ministers flattered themselves that they should carry this Bill, and thus fetter the Prince of Wales when he came to the throne. The king was desirous to do this out of sheer jealousy and hatred of his own son, and the ministers, Sunderland in particular, out of dread of his vengeance in that case; for, if he created a dozen peers at a time, as Anne had done, he could easily swamp the Whigs and put the present ministers in peril of impeachment. But though the Whigs had been clamorous against the act of Anne, some of them now, Cowper and Townshend at their head, as vehemently denounced this measure as a gross infringement of the royal prerogative. The debate became very bitter, and many friendships were broken up by it, amongst others that of Addison and Steele, who took different sides; but the Bill was finally dropped, through the vigorous opposition offered to it by Walpole.
This scheme was to take Ticonderoga, and then to advance upon Albany. Whilst the army was marching to this point, the fleet, carrying another strong force, was to ascend the Hudson, and there meet Burgoyne, by which means the British could then command the Hudson through its whole extent; and New England, the head of the rebellion, would be entirely cut off from the middle and southern countries. The plan was excellent in itself, but demanded for its successful accomplishment not only commanders familiar with the country, but the most ardent spirit in them, and the most careful co-operation.