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thren, we most sincerely and heartily regret it; but we cannot in justice to ourselves, or to our children, desist from claims, founded in the very first principles, not only of universal equity, but more particularly of that Constitution, into which it is the summit of our ambition to be re-admitted.
We are charged with an intention of overawing the Legislature. We deny the charge. When our humble petition was presented in the last session of Parliament, it was rejected with circumstances of unprecedented disgrace, under the pretence that we did not speak the sense of the Catholics of Ireland. To prevent the possibility of such a charge being repeated, we proposed the present plan, and what is the consequence? We are charged with framing what is invidiously called a Popish Congress, to overawe the Legislature. We submit to the candor and good sense of our Protestant countrymen, whether this argument does not go totally to deprive the Catholics of the right to petition. Three millions of them cannot, and if they could, ought not to meet, for the purpose of stating their grievances and suing for redress; they must, therefore, either acquiesce without effort, or act by delegation, a mode not forbidden to any of his Majesty's subjects, and more emphatically allowable to the Catholics, inasmuch as they hav no representatives in Parliament to whom they may apply. If this mode be forbidden them, they have no other by which they can act with effect, and the obvious and certain consequence is, that the Catholics of Ireland are in fact debarred from the common birthright of every subject, the great, unalienable, indefeasible privilege, inherent in the vitals of the Constitution, THE RIGHT TO PETITION THE LEGISLATURE FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.
We have been called turbulent, dangerous, and factious men, and the circular letter denominated a false, scandalous, and seditious libel. To such extreme violence of language, we make no retort, but appeal to the candor of our Protestant brethren, whether our conduct has been such as to call down such epithets; and whether there can be a stronger proof of the unprotected state of the Catholics of Ireland, resulting from their being deprived of representation in Parliament, than that their conduct in preparing an humble address, in the only mode from which, in their situation, success could be expected, and one sanctioned by the law of the land, stating their grievances to their Sovereign and the Legislature, and praying relief, should be spoken
of in terms of such extreme severity. On that language, we forbear to make any comment, for we earnestly wish to avoid any expressions which can look like animosity on our part; it is our most ardent desire, as it is our first duty, to live in a mutual intercourse of affection and good offices with our Protestant brethren; political controversy, in its own nature sufficiently grievous, we will not aggravate by unnecessary asperity of language.
We see, with great concern, several among our Protestant brethren, at the same time that they condemn the manner of our intended application to Parliament, declare that, in no possible contingency, are we to expect a participation in the elective franchise. If such determination were to be executed in strictness, we submit whether it would not follow that no length of time, no degree of suffering, can wipe away the political sins, falsely imputed to our ancestors by the malice of their enemies, but, that slaves as we are, so slaves we shall remain, FOREVER! It is an awful sentence—whether the Catholics of Ireland as. semble in 'gross, or by delegation, whether they petition, or are silent, whether they resist or submit, the doom of eternal, irrevocable slavery, is pronounced on them and their posterity, through all generations. It should seem from this unqualified condemnation of our hopes, that the opposition is directed against the principle, not the mode; that the Popish Congress is but the nominal, the elective franchise the real ground of objection.
Those who oppose our emancipation, appear to argue upon two principles, which, we conceive, are radically erroneous: 1st, That Catholic freedom is incompatible with Protestant liberty, so that, whatever one party gains, the other must, necessarily, lose in the same proportion; and, secondly, that admitting us to the elective franchise, would immediately transfer into our hands the whole power of the state.
To the first we reply, that liberty, like light, is universal and inconsumable ; though millions may at once enjoy it, the blessing is equal to each, and the right of no man is abridged by participation with his neighbor; it is not of a nature subject to mathematical division; it expands without diminution, and strengthens itself by general communication. We cannot conceive freedom in that contracted sense, when the share of each individual is lessened by the number of partakers; we know there is liberty enough for us all, Protestants and Catholics; we know that the inore who enjoy its blessings, the more will
be interested in its preservation; we know that the prosperity of Ireland has uniformly and rapidly increased, as the baneful spirit of religious persecution has decayed, and that every remission of the penal code has been accompanied, inseparably, by an influx of wealth and of power into our country.
To the second, we humbly submit that no idea can be more erroneous, than that granting us the elective franchise would transfer into our hands the whole power of the state. In the first place, depressed as we are, the objects of so many existing penal statutes, without power and without privilege, it would be, perhaps, arrogant in us solemnly to protest against our holding such an idle notion; but, if we were so weak as for an instant to entertain it, we ask, with all deference, by what means are we to acquire this power? We will not now assert, what none has yet ventured directly to impeach, our loyalty to our Sovereign, or our attachment to the principles of the Constitution, as established in the three estates of the legislature. Of these, two, the Crown, and the House of Peers, created by the Crown, are unalterably Protestant. It is, therefore, only in the House of Commons, that this danger can be apprehended.
Situated as we are, it is little to say that power is not our object; it is protection, not power, that we desire; the means of defending the Catholic peasantry of Ireland from tyranny and oppression, and of securing to them equal access to leasehold property with their Protestant brethren; for we assert, and we disregard contradiction unsupported by facts, that wherever political power is an object, the Catholics are universally compelled, at the expiration of their leases, either to renounce that religion to which they are conscientiously attached, or to turn out from their farms.
Finally, we do hereby, in the name and on behalf of the Catholics of Ireland, solemnly disclaim and protest against all idea of force; and avail ourselves of this opportunity to declare to our Sovereign, to the legislature, and to our country, our determination, inflexibly, to persevere in every method which the laws allow and the Constitution warrants, to exercise the right of the subject to petition, and to obtain, through the benignity and wisdom of our Sovereign and the legislature, for the Catholics of Ireland, THE RIGHT OF ELECTIVE FRANCHISE, AND AN EQUAL PARTICIPATION IN THE BENEFITS OF THE TRIAL BY JURY.
Conduct and Principles of the Catholics of Ireland,
CHARGES MADE AGAINST THEM,
CERTAIN LATE GRAND JURIES,
AND OTHER INTERESTED BODIES IN THAT COUNTRY :
An Appendix of Authentic Documents.
Published by order of the General Committee of the Catholics of Ireland,
assembled at Dublin, on Monday, December 3, 1792.
TO WHICH IS ADDED,
A CORRECT COPY OF THE PETITION
PRESENTED TO HIS MAJESTY, JAN. 2, 1793.
TO WHICH IS ANNEXED,
NOTES, RECITING THE STATUTES
On which the Allegations of the Petition are grounded.