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superior talents manifested by Mr. Grattan. He was the early, the steady, and the indefatigable friend of Catholic emancipation. The splendor of his talents reflected a light upon their cause in the darkest moments of its depression. To that great object lie bent the undivided powers of his mind, and did not scruple to hazard his popularity by a manly declaration in their favor, at a time when the tide of popular clamor ran most strongly against them, and when his own constituents were foremost in the cry. He saw that clamor subside at his feet; the voice of truth and reason prevailed over the storm, and the same man had the rare and unexampled good fortune to be foremost in restoring a people to the constitution, as he had been in restoring a constitution to the people.
A copy of the bill is subjoined. By one comprehensive clause all penalties, forfeitures, disabilities, and incapacities, are removed ; the property of the Catholic is completely discharged from the restraints and limitations of the penal laws, and their liberty, in a great measure, restored, by the restoration of the right of elective franchise, so long withheld, so ardently pursued. The right of self defence is established by the restor. ation of the privilege to carry arms, subject to a restraint, which does not seem unreasonable, as excluding none but the very lowest orders. The unjust and unreasonable distinctions affecting Catholics, as to service on grand and petty juries, are done away; the army, navy, and all offices and places of trust are opened to them, subject to exceptions hereafter mentioned. Catholics may be masters or fellows of any college hereafter to be founded, subject to two conditions, that such college be a member of the University, and that it be not founded exclu. sively for the education of Catholics. They may be members of any lay body corporate, except Trinity college, any law, statute, or by-law, of such corporation to the contrary, notwithstanding. They may obtain degrees in the University of Dublin. These, and some lesser immunities and privileges, constitute the grant of the bill, the value of which will be best ascertained by referring to the petition. From comparison, it will appear, that every complaint recited has been attended to; every grievance specified has been removed. Yet, the prayer of the petition was for general relief. The bill is not coextensive with the prayer. The measure of redresa must,
however, be estimated by the extent of the previous suffering and degradation of the Catholics set forth by themselves, and, in this point of view, the bill will undoubtedly justify those who admitted that it afforded solid and substantial relief.
But, though many and most important privileges were now secured to the Catholics, it will appear that much has been withheld, and withheld in the manner most offensive to their feelings, because the bill admitting the lower orders of the Catholic people to all the advantages of the constitution which they are competent to enjoy, excludes the whole body of their gentry from those functions, which they are naturally entitled to fill. A strange inconsistency! During the whole progress of the Catholic question, a favorite and plausible topic with their enemies, was the ignorance and bigotry of the multitude, which rendered them incompetent to exercise the functions of free. men. That ignorance and bigotry are now admitted into the bosom of the constitution, whilst all the learning and liberality, the rank and the fortune, the pride and pre-eminence, of the Catholics, are degraded from their station, and stigmatized by act of Parliament.
“ A Catholic may not be"-(See act of 9th April, 1793, from page 23, line 4, to page 26, line 1.)
of this bead roll of disqualifications, many are unnecessary, doing that by act of Parliament, which his Majesty is already competent to do by his royal discretion. The exclusion is the more invidious, from the utter improbability of any Irish Catholic being called to fill the stations of Lord Lieutenant, Lord Deputy, Lord High Chancellor, which are formally excepted in the bill, merely, as it should seem, to affix on them a mark of distrust and inferiority. But these are exceptions, offensive only to the pride; there are others directly trenching on their interests,
By their exclusion from the two houses of Parliament, the whole body of the Catholic gentry of Ireland, a high spirited race of men, are insalted and disgraced, thrown down from the level of their fortune and their talents, and branded with a mark of subjugation, the last relic of interested bigotry. This is the radical defect of the bill. If the Catholics deserved what has been granted, they deserved what has been withheld ; if they did not deserve what has been withheld, what has been
granted should have been refused. There is an inconsistency not to be explained on any principle of reason or justice, in admitting the alleged ignorance and bigotry and numbers of the Catholics into the pale of the constitution, and excluding all the birth, rank, property and talents. By granting the franchise, and withholding seats in Parliament, the Catholic gentry are at once compelled and enabled to act with effect as a dis. tinct body, and a separate interest. They receive a benefit with one hand, and a blow with the other, and their rising gratitude is checked by their just resentment; a resentment which in the same moment they obtain the means and the provocation to justify. If it was not intended to emancipate them also, they should have been debarred of all share of political power. Will they not say that they have received just so much liberty as will enable them to serve the interests of others ? to be useful freeholders and convenient voters, artificers of the greatness and power in which they must not share, subaltern instruments in the elevation of those who their honest pride tells them are in no respect better than themselves ? A morti. fying state of degradation to men of ardent spirit and generous feelings! As the law now stands, a Catholic gentleman of the first rank and fortune is, in a political point of view, inferior to the meanest of his tenants ; combining their situation and their feelings, they are fully emancipated, he drags along an unseemly and galling link of his ancient chain.
An attempt was made to do justice to the Catholics, to préserve the consistency of Parliament, and to carry into execution his Majesty's paternal wish for the complete union of all his subjects in support of the established constitution. On the day of the committal of the bill in the House of Commons, the Hon. George Knox, member for Dungannon, moved that the committee be empowered to receive a clause to make it lawful for Catholics to sit and vote in Parliament. The justice and magnanimity of the principle were supported by the spirit and ability of the mover, who, in a strain of eloquence, unanswered, because upanswerable, enforced the wisdom of the measure and the claims of the Catholics by arguments, drawn, not merely from local or temporary topics, but from the principles of good government, and the feelings and nature of man. What, said he, is the object of this bill? To admit the Catholics to
some degree of civil liberty. On what principle then, with what object have you singled out that portion, which you are about to concede ? (Vide Hibernian Journal, March 18th, 1793, 2d col. 2d paragraph.) It will not much impeach the abilities of the opposers of the motion to say, that to these arguments they were unable to reply. It does not, however, always happen that the weight of argument concurs with the weight of members. Notwithstanding the powerful exertions of the friends to Catholic emancipation, and the talents they are known to possess, and which were never displayed in greater lustre, the motion was lost by a very large majority, seventy-one members voting in the affirmative, and no less than one hundred and sixty-five in the negative. Yet, even this defeat, compared with the last session of Parliament, was a victory. But men could then be found to vote for receiving a petition which, in effect, asked for nothing ; now seventy-one members, constituting a great portion of the character, the property, and, above all, the talents of the house, voted for the complete admission of the Catholics to the privileges of the constitution.
The denial of the right to sit and vote in Parliament is row, undoubtedly, the chief grievance of the Catholics of Ireland. Another function, from which they are excluded, is of material import. They may not be high sheriffs nor sub-sheriffs ; an exception which diminishes extremely the value of the concessions whereby they are admitted to serve on grand juries.When it is considered that the office is never conferred but on gentlemen of property and figure, it is not easy to see any good reason for the exclusion of a man, in all other respects unexceptionable, merely because he is a Catholic. Every argument which can be used for their admission to Parliament, applies with much greater force to their filling the office of sheriff; and the danger, if danger can be apprehended, ought surely to vanish in the reflection, that the appointment to that office appertains to the crown, whose discretion and whose advisers may, in this prerogative, be safely trusted. Excluding Catholics by law, therefore, is, at best, an unnecessary precaution, and every such precaution, as springing from a principle of distrust and suspicion, is for so much an insult, and an insult solely on the men of family, property, and education.
From another function, and of considerable importance, Catholics are yet excluded in fact, though not in express terms. By the bill, “they may be members of any lay body corporate, any rule or by-law to the contrary, notwithstanding.” But this is, in effect, a nugatory license. There are but three ways of obtaining freedom of corporations, by birth, by service, or by special grace. From the first, Catholics are excluded, for their fathers, for generations back, have been slaves. From the second, they are excluded, because it has been hitherto a part of the oath of a freeman, that he would take as an apprentice no bondman's son, a clause which effectually shuts out the Catholics. The third door may be opened by the liberality of Protestant corporators; but, in this instance, our laws have outrun our manners. In the metropolis, the vigilant bigotry of the corporation of the city has been successfully exerted to effect, and, as far as in them lay, to perpetuate the exclusion of Catholics, and this unworthy spirit has been manifested in the refusal of their freedom to some who have passed through the ordeal of their respective guilds, among whom are men of character and respectability, equal to any, not merely in the corporation, but in the community. The unbounded influence which administration is known to possess in that body, renders this conduct, in this instance, the more paradoxical, and it certainly wears a great appearance of insincerity, to grant the Catholics a valuable privilege, and, in the very same moment, to render them incapable to avail themselves of its benefits.
It is not my wish to aggravate discontent, by dwelling on those parts of the bill which have disappointed the Catholic hope. Some of them are above, and some of them below, the general contemplation. Those parts which I have selected are, in form, offensive to the feelings, and, in substance, subversive of the interests of the Catholic body. But, the radical and fundamental defect of the bill is, that it still tends to perpetuate distinctions, and, by consequence, disunion amongst the people. While a single fibre of the old penal code, that cancer in the bosom of the country, is permitted to exist, the mischief is but suspended, not removed, the principle of contamination remains behind and propagates itself. Palliatives may, for a while, keep the disease at bay, but a sound and firm constitution can only be restored by its total extirpation.