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than they are to mine; in that case, however few, these catholic factions, who are united with factious protestants, may be ; (and very few they are now, whatever shortly they may become) on their account the whole body is considered as of suscted fidelity to the crown, and as wholly undeserving of its favour. But if, on the contrary, in those districts of the kingdom where their numbers are the greatest, where they make in a manner the whole body of the people, (as, out of cities, in three-fourths of the kingdom they do) these catholics show every mark of loyalty and zeal in support of the government, which at best looks on them with an evil eye; then their very loyalty is turned against their claims. They are represented as a contented and happy people; and that it is unnecessary to do any thing more in their favour. Thus the factious disposition of a few among the catholics, and the loyalty of the whole mass, are equally assigned as reasons for not putting them on a par with those protestants, who are asserted by the government itself, which frowns upon papists, to be in a state of nothing short of actual rebellion, and in a strong disposition to make common cause with the worst foreign enemy, that these countries have ever had to deal with. What in the end can come of all this? As to the Irish catholic clergy, their condition is likewise most critical: if they endeavour by their influence to keep a dissatisfied laity in quiet, they are in danger of losing the little credit they possess, by being considered as the instruments of a government adverse to the civil interests of their flock. If they let things take their course, they will be represented as : colluding with sedition, or at least tacitly encouraging it. If they remonstrate against persecution, they propagate rebellion. Whilst government publicly avows hostility to that people, as a part of a regular system, there is no road they can take which does not lead to their ruin. If nothing can be done on your side of the water, I promise you that nothing will be done here. Whether in reality or only in appearance, I cannot positively determine; but you will be left to yourselves by the ruling powers here. It is thus ostensibly and above board; and in part, I believe, the disposition is real. As to the people at large in this country, I am sure they have no disposition to intermeddle in your affairs. They mean you no ill whatever; and they are too ignorant of the state of your affairs to be able to do you any good. Whatever opinion they have on your subject is very faint and indistinct; and if there is any thing like a formed notion, even that amounts to no more than a sort of humming that remains on
their ears of the burthen of the old song about popery. Poor souls, they are to be pitied, who think of nothing but dangers long past by, and but little of the perils that actually surround them. I have been long, but it is almost a necessary consequence of dictating, and that by snatches, as a relief from pain gives me the means of expressing my sentiments. They can have little weight as coming from me; and I have not power enough of mind or body to bring them out with their natural force. But I do not wish to have it concealed, that I am of the same opinion to my last breath, which I entertained when my faculties were at the best; and I have not held back from men in power in this kingdom, to whom I have very good wishes, any part of my sentiments on this melancholy subject, so long as I had means of access to persons of their consideration.
I have the honour to be, &c.
.*, DURING the period of Mr. Burke's parliamentary labours, some alterations in the acts of uniformity, and the repeal of the test and corporation acts, were agitated at various times in the house of commons. It appears, from the state of his MS. papers, that he had designed to publish some of the SPEEches, which he delivered in those discussions, and with that view had preserved the following FRAGMENTs and detached Notes; which are now given to the public, with as much order and connection as their imperfect condition renders them capable of receiving. The speeches on the Middlesex election, on shortening the duration of parliaments, on the reform of the representation in parliament, on the bill for explaining the power of juries in prosecutions for libels, and on the repeal of the marriage act, were found in the same imperfect state.
On the petition which was presented to the house of commons, from certain clergyman of the church of England, and from certion of the two professions of civil lan' and physic, and others; praying to be relieved from subscription to the thirty-nine articles, as required by the acts of uniformity.*
I should not trouble the house upon this question, if I could at all acquiesce in many of the arguments, or justify the vote I shall give upon several of the reasons which have been urged in favour of it. I should indeed be very much concerned, if I were thought to be influenced to that vote by those arguments.
In particular, I do most exceedingly condemn all such arguments as involve any kind of reflection on the personal character of the gentlemen, who have brought in a petition so decent in the style of it, and so constitutional in the mode. Beside the unimpeachable integrity and piety of many of the promoters of this petition, which render those aspersions as idle as they are unjust, such a way of treating the subject can have no other effect than to turn the attention of the house from the merits of the petition, the only thing properly before us, and which we are sufficiently competent to decide upon, to the motives of the petitioners, which belong exclusively to the great searcher of hearts.
We all know that those who loll at their ease in high dignities, whether of the church or of the state, are commonly averse to all reformation. It is hard to persuade them that there can be any thing amiss in establishments, which by feeling experience they find to be so very comfortable. It is as true that from the same selfish motives, those who are struggling upwards are apt to find every thing wrong and out of order. These are truths upon one side and on the other; and neither on the one side or the other, in argument, are they worth a single farthing. I wish therefore so much had not been
* The persons associated for this purpose were distinguished at the time by the name of “ The Feathers Tavern Association,” from the place were their meetings were usually held. Their petition was presented on the 6th of February 1772; and on a motion that it should be brought up, the same was negatived ow a division, in which Mr. Burke voted in the majority, by 217 agaiust 71. Vol. v. 34