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“ Many of the most obnoxious and absurd principles of the “Catholic religion have, I know, fallen into disuse with the “ most rational part of their community, but who can tell how “ far the spirit of it may yet exist?" (page 38.) Again: "Who " can tell what difference the possession of power might make?" (page 39.) “ It is impossible the majority of any description of * men can be of high honor and extended liberality. What se“ curity have we for them then?" (page 38.) These are the invidious and artful queries, with which the author seeks to work on the ignorance, the passions, and fears of the multitude. I answer to them all, no man can ensure him satisfaction, because no man can have positive knowledge. In all the great business of life, we must direct our conduct by high probabilities. For the future good conduct of the Catholics, we have the past, we have their words, their oaths, and, I will add, slight as it may appear to him, their properties. Surely the man who can resist all these pledges, without suggesting any other mode by which security may be obtained, cannot expect to be believed in the following assertion. “I should be one of the last who would wish to “withhold from the Catholics any natural rights or privileges 66 which the welfare of our Government would allow to be ex"tended to them; and I declare, if the wisdom of the Legisla"ture shall think fit to grant any or whatever indulgences to 6. them, consistently with the general good, I, as an individual, “shall rejoice," (page 55.)
The Catholics are charged, early in his work, with being vague and indefinite in their demands. May they not, with more truth, retort the charge upon his helpless queries and affected terrors, and impossible suspicions ? “I know,” says Edmund Burke, “and I am sure that such ideas as no man will “distinctly produce to another, or hardly venture to bring in any
plain shape to his own mind, he will utter in obscure, ill explainsed doubts, jealousies, surmises, fears, and apprehensions, and that, “in such a fog, they will appear to have a good deal of size, and “ will make an impression, when, if they were clearly brought “ forth and defined, they would meet with nothing but scorn 6 and dcrision."
«Should the Roman Catholics, who compose a considerable “ majority of the nation, aim at equal privileges, and, of course, " at the Legislature, it is clear that obedience to the constitution
só will then be obedience to their will. For the will of the majority is the will of the whole,” (page 4.) I answer, if they had equal privileges, it would not follow, though it be artfully slid in here as a thing of course, that they would have the Legislature. In the first place, they could not have the crown; in the next, they could not have the House of Lords; nor, lastly, could they have the House of Commons. The two first steps need no proofs. For the last, it is idle to say, whilst property continues, as it ever must continue, to have its weight in society, that the Protestants can ever be outnumbered in the House, though every Catholic in Ireland should have a vote. Who are the great landed interest of the country? Are they Protestants ? Has a landlord any influence over his tenantry? Do Catholic landlords influence their Protestant tenants ? and, if so, will the rule be false when reversed? But all this applies only to county elections. The county members are about seventy. Supposing them all, which is impossible, Catholics, what becomes of the two hundred and thirty members returned for boroughs, every one in the hands of Protestant patrons ? Will not these patrons, for the sake of that weak tie, their property in their boroughs, take care to prevent the possibility of a Catholic majority in the House of Commons, lest reform should be the inevitable consequence? I have argued all this as if a Catholic majority were a thing to be dreaded; which, however, yet remains to be proved. Whether it be possible for the whole House of Commons ever to become Catholic or not, which, after what has been said, may appear at least not very probable, it is very certain that the Legislature, in all its parts, can never become so, and consequently all inference from the supposition of such an event, must fall to the ground.
At length we have arrived at the weighty part of the argument: all hitherto has been, as it were, matter of inducement. The author asserts at once, (page 46,) that extending the elective franchise and capacity for office to the Catholics, goes at once to an entire subversion of our established constitution. “Do not the laws by which they are excluded from the profes* sions and employments I have enumerated, aggrieve them as “ Roman Catholics ? Undoubtedly. They are bound, therefore, “to promote the repeal of them. Does not the law which pro
hibits them from voting at elections equally with Protestants,
“aggrieve them as Roman Catholics ? Certainly. Does not the " law which prohibits them from being elected members of the House of Commons aggrieve them as Roman Catholics? It “cannot be denied. Does not the law which prohibits them from "sitting and voting in the House of Peers, equally aggrieve 6 them as Roman Catholics? It does. Does not even the law “ which settles the Crown in a Protestant succession, remotely “aggrieve them as Roman Catholics? It does, or it may do so. “Do not, in fine, the various laws by which they are obliged to “contribute to all the establishments of Church and State, from “ which they are excluded, aggrieve them as Roman Catholics? “ It cannot be denied that they do. Of all these, therefore, by “their own declaration, they are bound to procure the repeal. “Now these, comprehending the whole of our established con“stitution, it follows, strictly, that the whole of our established “constitution is within the scope of their intended abolition.”
The whole of this argument depends on this : that it is impossible for the two sects to co-exist in a state other than that of tyrant and slave, and that all alteration is subversion. It contains, likewise, one very subtle fallacy, that the law is the constitution. To assert that they are things widely different, may, at first, startle some people, yet I only beg a patient hearing and I hope to be able to prove it.
If the law be the constitution, then it follows that there can be no such thing as an unconstitutional law, for that would be a contradiction in terms. But we know that it is possible such laws may be, I do not say have been, enacted. Suppose an act were passed empowering the Lord Chancellor to order one of the suitors of his court from the bar, on written evidence, and without the benefit of cross examination, to be hanged up at the front of the Four Courts. There can be little doubt but this would be an unconstitutional law. If it be admitted that there can be an unconstitutional law, then I say the laws which aggrieve the Catholics, as such, are the most abominable system that ever was devised, and contravene, in a thousand places, every known principle of our constitution. And I say further, that the law depriving them of the elective franchise, is, of that black code, the most unconstitutional, because it strikes not at the forms, but at the essence of liberty. The robbing them, the people, of their due control over their representatives, was
such a high invasion of privilege and subversion of all principle of legislation, as it may well be questioned whether it was not a breach of the original contract, and at once a dissolution of the Government. The Protestant religion is not of the essence of our constitution, for that was ascertained before the other had existence. The indefeasible liberty of the subject, and of that, the animating soul and spirit, the elective franchise, is co-existent with the constitution; it is a vital and inseparable part of it; it is the substance of liberty-religion but the accident. Freedom may be found where Protestantism is not; but shew me where it exists without the elective franchise. I say, in disfranchising the Catholics, the Parliament which did so were guilty of a subversion of the constitution, and not the descendants of those Catholics, who now, after a patient suffering of one hundred years, come humbly to demand a remnant of a remnant of their birth right.
When we talk of the constitution, does it never occur, that it contains certain immutable principles? “No man shall be bound by laws to which he does not consent by himself or his representatives.” Is that the constitution ? 6. No man shall be taxed where he is not represented.” Is that the constitution ? And if it be, what is the constitution to the Catholics of Ireland ? May they not say with the children of Israel, “Your fathers made our yoke grievous ; now ease ye somewhat of the grievous servitude of your fathers, and the heavy yoke that they put upon us, and we will serve you." But if, like Rehoboam, we are determined to harden our hearts and to refuse their just, humble, and moderate demand, shall they not say, “What portion have we in David ? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse. Every man to your tents, O Israel, and now David see to thine own house.” 2 Chronicles, chap. 10.
I have done. And let it be remembered that this is not intended for a general view of the question. There is little advanced on behalf of the Catholics; for my object was merely to obviate, as far as lay in my power the mischief that might result from a publication of arguments so able, artful, and ingenious, as those I have attempted to review. If my work be, as I know it is, very imperfect, let it only be read on the same system with which it has been written, as an answer to one book, and not as a comprehensive view of the whole controversy.
T. W. T.
of the Circular of the Catholic Sub-committee, in reply to the
Resolutions of the Grand Juries.—1792.
We, the General Committee of the Catholics of Ireland, fcel it incumbent on us to submit to our country the following reply to the charges brought against our principles and conduct in the late resolutions of several Grand Juries, and other bodies of our fellow-subjects. Satisfied as we are of the justice of our cause, and the moderation of our measures, we do not shrink from inquiry, however minute, or investigation, however severe.
In the first place we avow, as our act, the circular letter of the Sub-committee, which has been of late the subject of so much unmerited censure.
The Catholics of Ireland feel in their case the subversion of two great principles of the Constitution, which form the grand criterion between the freeman and the slave; they are taxed without being represented, and bound by laws, in the framing of which, they have no power to give or withhold their assent; they will, therefore, persist in their endeavors to remove this political incapacity, by any means not expressly forbidden by the law; and as the most dutiful, peaceable, and constitutional mode, they will petition their Sovereign and the Legislature.
We do admit and avow one charge which has been alleged against us, so far as it asserts that this Committee is intended to meet in the capital, and to speak and act in the name, and on the behalf, of the Catholics of Ireland. We trust that our intention of thus meeting in the capital, under the immediate observation of the Government of the country, is a sufficient indication of the moderation which we have prescribed as the invariable rule of our conduct; and we refer to the circular letter itself for the object of our meeting. It is merely for the purpose of " dutifully, humbly, and constitutionally representing to our “Sovereign, and to Parliament, the many serere laws which “oppress us; and to implore, as essential to our protection, and “ for the securing an impartial distribution of justice in our fa“vor, that we be restored to the elective franchise, and an equal "participation in the benefits of the trial by jury.”
If our endeavors constitutionally to obtain these two great objects, have given offence to any among our Protestant bre