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burgess, or at the election of any magistrate for any city os other town corporate ; any law, statute or usage notwithstanding." : For sixty-six years this statute, remained in full force, without any alteration or limitation whatever. At length in 1793, it was enacted in substance, “ That every Catholic should be qualified to vote at such elections. Upon his producing to the returning officer a certificate of his having taken and subscribed certain oaths and declarations required by that act."*
Under this statute no period of qualifying being mentioned, it was justly held that catholics might qualify at any time. A subsequent statute, however, passed in 1797, and usually called the Election Act, directs that catholics, who qualify previous to the test of the writ of election, shall be deemed qualified within the meaning of those statutes of 1793 and 1797, in order to entitle them to vote at such elections. From these enactments, a question has arisen, relative to the time for qualifying, which imposes new difficulties upon the catholic franchise, and as opposite decisions are frequently made upon it. by the returning officers, a vast number of catholics have in consequence been disfranchised.. "
Moreover, besides this general impediment in the way of the elective franchise, peculiar restraints are imposed upon catholics in cities and towns corporate. For, though catholics are entitled to the freedom of corporations by birth or service, they are rarely admitted in them. And it may be added, as an additional circumstance operating to the exclusion of catholics to vote for representatives, that they are liable to rejection for the smallest inaccuracy or alleged error in their certificate of qualification, arising either from the date or wording of the certificate, place or time of qualification, or other ground of technical objection to the peculiar form of their qualification..
!! The exclusion of catholics from all corporate offices was first effected in the year 1667, during the reign of Charles II. In that year certain rules, orders and directions were pro:
mulgated by the then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with the advice of his privy council, purporting to regulate the corporations of Ireland, and the election of corporate officers: these were soon after adopted and confirmed by the Irish legislature, and of course received the authority of laws. They direct in substance, « That no person shall be mayor, sovereign, portreef or burgomaster, bailiff, alderman, recorder, treasurer, sheriff, town-clerk, common-councilman, master or warden of any guild, corporation or fraternity, or hold any such or the like offices in any city, walled town or corporation in Ireland. Unless he shall have taken the oath of supremacy, established by act of Parliament,* and certain other oaths specified by those rules, (such persons only „ercepted, with whose taking the said oaths of supremacy, the Lord Lieutenant, or other chief governor of Ireland for the time being, shall think fit, by writing under his hand and seal to dispense.)”+ .
i r .. Such are the statutable regulations by which catholics are excluded from the enjoyment of all corporate offices whatsoever. The dispensing power vested in the Lord Lieutenant has not mitigated the proscription, as it does not appear to have been exercised even in one instance. Indeed, it is a question of extreme doubt whether he now possesses it, for by a statute enacted in 1704, the oath prescribed by the former act, has been replaced by a new oath of supremacy, and also by a declaration against transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, and invocation of saints. The same are required to be taken and subscribed by those persons to whom the former oath was prescribed, and upon the like occasion, and the like manner, without any mention of a dispensing power existing in the person of the Lord Lieutenant.
Further it may be observed, that as the Irish statute of 1782 already mentioned has introduced by one sweeping
. 9 Elizabeth. .t 17 and 18 Ch. II. ch. 2. 82. - % Anne, ch. 14. sec. 2. which is the Irish Test Act. $ 21 and 22 Geo. III. ch. 48. sec. 3. : . i
enactment, alt clauses in all English statutes relative to taking oaths and subscribing declarations, &c., the test and corporation acts of England are of course equally binding on Ireland, and it may be presumed are enforced with no less zeal and rigour in the later country than in the former. Nor ought I to omit to mention, that the act of 1793 has carefully confirmed and re-enacted all previous restrictions upon this point, by declaring, “ That nothing therein contained shall enable any person to hold, exercise, or enjoy any office contrary to the rules, orders, or direction, made and established by the Lord Lieutenant and council, in pursuance of the act passed in the 17th and 18th years of the reign of King Charles II., entitled, “ An Act for the explaining of some doubts arising upon an Act, entitled, “An Act for the better execution of His Majesty's gracious declaration for the settlement of the kingdom of Ireland ;' unless he shall have taken the oaths and performed the several requisites, which by the law heretofore made, and now of force, are required to enable any person to hold, exercise, and enjoy the said offices respectively.”
From the existence of these laws, relative to manicipal towns in Ireland, arise a thousand miseries and oppressions against the catholics. The number of municipal offices alone, from which they are expressly or consequentially excluded, ate stated in the pamphlet already referred to at 4748. But this forms only a small part of the grievance of which catho lics are entitled to complain in relation to this subject. They are of course continually exposed to the tyranny and caprice of municipal rulers, who following the rigorous spirit of the anti-catholic system, depress them by partial imposts, by undue preferences, by a local inquisition, by an uncertain and unequal measure of justice ; by fraud and favouritism daily and openly practised to their prejudice. The catholic gentleman, whose misfortune it may be to reside in or near any of these cities or towns, is hourly exposed to all the slights and annoyances that a petty sectarian oligarchy may think proper to inflict. The professional man risks continual infliction of personal hamiliation. The farmer brings the produce of bis lands to market under beanie tolls. In
short, every species of catholic industry and skill iş checked and rendered precarious, wbile on the other hand protestant indolence is cherished and maintained. Hence arises the peculiar misery of Irish corporate towns, the low state of the mechanical arts; the irrational combinations of the trades. men; their abject poverty and debased condition.* . **
Again, in curporate towns, catholics, whatever be their wealth, talents, or services, are uniformly refused a place upon grand juries, and even upon petty juries, unless when the duty is extremely arduous and unconnected with party interests; and in the latter ease they are usually selected. Having no share in the local government, they are completely at the mercy of rulers, who imagine it to be their interest to discourage and oppress them, and who indeed are gene. rally preferred in proportion to the hostility they evince: Moreover, though not prevented by law from becoming free: men, they seldom are able to obtain that privilege; and this circumstance, independently of other bars, forms a strong obstacle to their chance of being permitted to vote at the elections of members for Parliament. The catholic, even when really entitled to his privileges as a freeman, and otherwise qualified to vote, finds his admission generally obstructed. For when his petition is presented, it is the common practice to adjourn the consideration of it sine die. This is termed “ cushioning a petition.”+
These laws and regulations must be felt peculiarly insulting by catholics, when they consider that every other denomination of religionists, and even deists and atheists, are admitted to all the privileges of corporate towns with the ut. most facility.
Catholics are excluded either by the express letter of the law, or the consequential operation of the anti-catholic system, from almost every office connected with the profession
. * In Dublin the number of freemen is abont 2,400, of whom not above 100 are cathplics ; and even there, though free of their respective gnilds, are incapable of nating at elections, throngh the uniforin praca tice of cushioning their petitions to be made free of the city at large.
+ See, by all means, Mr. Wakefield's Account of Ireland, Yol. ii, Chap. 27, passim,
and administration of the laws. Those from which they are
• 20 Sub-Sheriffs
By the consequential operation of the anti-catholic code, Catholics are likewise excluded in practice, almost without a single exception, from being commissioners of bankruptcy, assistant barristers or chairmen of county sessions.t The public notaries, amounting to 56 in number, are under a like proscription. In short, every office, either of honour or emolument, both in the higher and inferior courts may be regarded as wholly interdicted to catholics, for though apparently open to them, they are never able to obtain them, and never will, so long as the present penal code has existence.
• The statutes which enact the exclusion of catholics from these of: fices are, 2 Eliz. ch. 1, sec. 7, &c. 2 Anne, ch. 6, sec. 15, 16. 10 Will, 3. c. 13, 21. 22 Geo. 3. ch. 48. 31 Geo, 3. c. 31. 33 Geo. 3, c. 21, &c. &c.
+ There are 25 commissioners and 31 assistant barristers.