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*** Notwithstanding VindEx's opinion respecting the gentlemen of the Derry Grand Jury, and his doubts of their being sincere in their professions of regard for the Catholics of Ireland, we will venture to say, they have gone farther in favor of that oppressed body, than any society or class of citizens have yet attempted. They solemnly declare, that they will devote
THEIR LIVES AND FORTUNES” in support of the Constitution, as established at the Revolution of 1688; now, how did the Catholics stand after this Revolution? They enjoyed the ELECTIVE FRANCHISE, and TRIAL BY JURY, the very rights they are now in pursuit of; nor were they deprived of either until long after the death of our great deliverer; so that the twenty-three gentlemen, who have affixed their signatures to the Derry resolutions, stand pledged to the Catholics, and to their country, that they will sacrifice their lives and fortunes, rather than have their brethren, whom they so much love, disappointed in their pursuit; nothing but an overflowing love for the Catholics could have excused this declaration in the gentlemen of Derry; for the fact is, that our Constitution, such as it is, was not established in 1688; there was not an act passed at that period, either favorable to us as a people, or as an independent nation; it was in 1782 that we obtained, or recovered, what is called our Constitution.
Reply to a pamphlet, entitled “ The Protestant Interest in Ireland
ascertained.” Written by T. W. Tone, but never published.
The present question, with regard to the extension of franchise to the Catholics of Ireland, is of such infinite magnitude and importance, that no man need to apologize for publishing his sentiments. I shall, therefore, take the liberty to submit, without further preface, a few remarks on a late publication, entitled “The Protestant Interest in Ireland ascertained.”
Before I proceed to particulars, I must remark, and with great satisfaction, the very different manner in which the author of that work has treated his subject, from those who have embarked on the same side with him. It is no compliment to say that he far exceeds them all in ability and in temper; he writes like a scholar and a gentleman; he neither belies nor abuses the bo
dy of men whose claims he investigates ;-neither does he bluster and call upon the Secretary to use the wholesome discipline of the axe and the gibbet on all who differ in opinion from him. He seems to know that, at least in this stage of the business, argument is the only means to coerce opinions; and, indeed, it is a weapon which he exercises with uncommon dexterity; perhaps with more dexterity than a sincere inquirer after truth would wish to exert. He is, for a polemic, in disputes like the present, to a certain degree candid and reasonable ; but it will be my task to show that he is far from being as much so as justice to the claims of the Catholics should exact, from one who was not a partizan. Nevertheless, he is an adversary of no vulgar note, and I heartily regret that such acuteness, ingenuity, and eloquence, as he displays, are not employed in a cause more worthy of his talents, the cause of humanity and justice.
I shall follow his own order of argument, for I am not able to devise a better, with such references as will enable our readers to compare and weigh what is said on both sides.
In the very commencement of his work he seems a steady admirer, not merely of established forms, which no wise man will entirely overlook, more than he will invariably adhere to them, but of the state trick and artifice and mystery of Government. He is apprehensive that “universal, unrestricted liberty, toleration, and the rights of man," the short vocabulary of modern political tuition, should shortly be made a part of the common school education, to be learned by our sons with their “As in præsenti.” I mention this, not as matter of argument, for it certainly proves nothing, but as a sample of a prejudice against recent opinions, which have, however, received some approbation. In all sciences, the more uncompounded are the elements, the more certain is the process to demonstration. That of Government must have its axioms, and its evidence will not suffer by their being either few or simple. It might, therefore, be doubted, whether a very short and intelligible code of principles of legislation, would be such an innovation on the present institution of our youth, as an honest and careful father would violently dread. But this point I leave to parents and tutors to settle, and hasten to what is more grave and important.
The case of the Catholics is a hard one in many respects, but in none more than in this : that whether they are definite in
their applications or not, they are equally certain of censure and opposition. If they leave their claims open and undefined, then the cry is “ What can we offer or grant to men, who will not tell us what they would be at?" If, on the contrary, they are specific, then it is, “What, will you dictate to the legislature the measures which they should adopt ? No! had you left it to our benevolence and wisdom, something might have been done, but as it is, you shall have nothing, or what is next to nothing." Thus is that unfortunate sect eternally caught on one or the other horn of the dilemma. It is for the convenience of their present opponent, to take the first; he censures them for the indefinite generality of their claims, and one great object of his book is to collect what he chooses to think the real wishes of the Catholics of Ireland.
Some of them, he remarks, have come forward with an explicit and moderate statement of their views, but these, meaning Lord Kenmare and his adherents, have been disavowed by the majority (not however the most respectable part) of their community, who have declared themselves of principles much less moderate. This dissension, the author insinuates, is nearly conclusive against them ; but, nevertheless, he is content to argue the question on its merits ; certainly no very great effort of candor, in one who argues so acutely.
It is, however, necessary to remove the impression which the authority, if any, of the names of that noble Lord and his associates may have made, before we proceed farther; and a very few facts will suffice for that purpose. Lord Kenmare, from the first establishment of the General Committee of the Catholies, in 1773, was, until the year 1783, in which Lord Mountjoy made his famous motion to recommend the blessings of peace to the volunteers, paramount in that body. Unluckily, however, for his Lordship's influence, many of the Committee were admitted into various corps throughout the kingdom, and when, under his auspices and engagements to the Castle, a gentleman was found to make a motion that the Catholics should withdraw themselves from their Protestant fellow soldiers and citizens, and ground those arms so gloriously worn, so lately restored after a deprivation of 90 years; the body spurned the idea, and to the great astonishment of that noble Lord, as well as of his employers, he was found, for the first time, after making every
possible exertion, in a minority. This was the commencement of the feud between his Lordship and the Committee ; which, after a variety of bickerings, for now ten years, has at length become irreconcileable, and let that country which owes so much to their exertions, judge whether such a commencement is an impeachment of the spirit, wisdom, or temper of that commit tee. From that day, his Lordship's enmity to those whom he considers, and naturally, as the destroyers of the aristocratic superiority he held so long, and used, I will not say so honorably, has been decided and unremitting. It is not my wish to go at large into a defence of the Committee, as to their dissent from Lord Kenmare, or, to speak more correctly, of his dissent from them. Every man who has seen, as I believe most men have, two papers, (dated 14th, 15th Jan. 1792,) signed Ed. Byrne, and Rd. M.Cormick, published and dispersed by that body, and authenticated by signatures as respectable, though untitled, as his Lordship's, can have no doubt remaining on the propriety of their conduct, and how little attention is to be paid to the dissent of the seceders, whose 6 rank and fortune” appear almost a decisive conclusion against their cause.
In the very threshold of his work, the author of the “Protestant Interest in Ireland ascertained," is directly convicted, either of gross ignorance, which is his best excuse, or such wilful misrepresentation as must at once destroy his credit. He states that the sentiments of the bulk of the people are, as he understands, deposited in the breasts of certain delegates, deputed by the body at large, and forming a kind of club, under the title of the Catholic Society.” This being the only body apparently constituted by authority from them, is the only one of wbose proceedings we were warranted to take cognizance. The sentiments of this society are to be found in a declaration published by them, and signed by their Secretary, whom he choses to call, in tlie cant of his party, “one Theobald M.Kenna.”
Now, if it were not for the attention which the author pays to the laws of civility, and the general, or at least the apparent air of candor which runs through his work, I should very shortly inform him what I thought of that statement. As it is, I shall only say that whoever was his informant grossly misled him. The Catholic Society is not deputed by the body of the Catholics, nor by any other body; they have no manner of au
thority from them, nor has the declaration alluded to any other weight than that which truth and justice, when held forth by superior talents, will at all times command.
But, as I am very willing to believe that the author was misled, as I know other honest men have been, I am glad to have an opportunity of explaining to them and the public how the fact really stands, as to this Society and their declaration, which appears to have given such alarm.
The Catholic Society is a voluntary association of gentlemen, which has had existence for about six months. It contains many names of lrigh rank for wealth and ability in that communion, and was founded for the express purpose of removing religious prejudice, and holding forth to their Protestant brethren such information as might tend to obliterate the memory of past dissensions. They are neither deputed nor delegated, nor do they represent any body or description of men whatsoever; they are invested with no powers; they form no part of the Catholic Constitution, if I may so express myself, but are, to all intents and purposes, a mere private club; who, nevertheless, have, like all other clubs, a right to publish their opinions, if they choose to do so, and to be at the expense of it.
But there is another, and a very different body, whom some men, from ignorance, and many more from much worse motives, choose to confound with this club. I mean the General Committee of the Catholics of Ireland, established for twenty years, a body consisting of their Peers, their Prelates, their landed Gentry, and their Burgesses, who are returned by the body of the people. This is the representative of the will of the Catholics, and for its acts only are they responsible. This is the body which is now humbly and dutifully applying to the Legislature for relief. They are not the authors of the declaration, signed Theobald M'Kenna, with which they have no more concern than any other body of men in the kingdom. In a word, the Catholic Society is no more the General Committee, than the Whig Club is the House of Commons of Ireland, though it may appear that some individuals are members of both societies; and it would be just as reasonable and equitable to make the corresponding bodies mutually responsible in the one case as in the other.