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Misconception it was that could ever have brought any de. scription of the people of Ulster under the disgraceful charge of bigotry and intolerance. The gloomy cloud of superstition, which lately enveloped the greater part of Europe in all the horrors of religious dissention, of cruel and relentless persecution, was already dissipated by the increased and increasing light of philosophy and reason, even in those countries where it was most dense, and its influence most mischievous. It was not to be supposed that any vestige of it remained in a country like that so long exercised in contemplating the rights of men and nations, for much less attention to abstract politics than Ireland had in. dulged in, would have shewn, that persecution for religious opinions was-incompatible with the law of nature, of society, and of God. The Armagh resolutions might possibly contain some incautious expressions, but the expressions of men of known fidelity to the cause of civil and religious freedom, and to the general interests of the kingdom, inseparably connected with the concord of its inhabitants, candour would interpret with indul. gence; nor would she wrest an unguarded phrase into proof incontrovertible of treason against the rights of Irishmen. Certainly the men of Armagh might have laboured for the restoration of peace in their county, which, beyond doubt, was their only object, without resorting to expressions, which seemed to asperse a general denomination of loyal subjects. To adopt such expressions was imprudent in them, and probably an inadvertent error: they would, no doubt have magnanimity enough to come forward and disavow the principles. As for a spirit of intolerance among the Protestants of Uister, it was purely ideal, and those who were acquainted with the state of political and religious sentiment in that province knew it to be so. The common enemies of both Protestants and Catholics, who wished to depress the power of each by playing off one against another, were those who alone endeavoured to persuade the people of Ireland of its existence, and who would fain give it being, and call it into action, to serve as an instrument of oppression. The people of Ireland were warned to be on their guard against the deep artifice; a spirit of brotherly forbearance could alone frustrate the design of the common enemy: nor could their country derive any good but from the unanimity of all denominations of its people.
The year 1792 opened scenes peculiarly important to the fate of Ireland. Some years had past without any parliamentary proceeding relative to the bulk of the nation, which never ceased to feel and latterly to express their suffering under the existing code of penal laws, affecting persons professing the Catholic religion. In consequence of some of the warmest advocates for the Catholic claims having resorted to general and abstract reasoning they greatly suffered in the eyes of government and the majority of parliament. it was at this time difficult to suggest a general ground of civil freedom, without being suspected of being tainted with Gallic licentiousness. The whole Catholic body, on some ground or other, was now worked up to an absolute expectation of relief. The addressers superadded to the equitable grounds of their claims, the submissiveness and respect of their application, and their confidence in the humanity and generosity of government. The petitioners relied more on the irresistible force of truth and equity, than on the liberality or justice of government. Prudence however taught them, that some atten. tion was to be paid to appearances and prejudices. It has been observed, that the great political change in the public mind had been produced by the writings of Messrs. Burke and Paine : between these two extremes, no middle post was tenable. In order, therefore, to purge themselves in the eyes of government of any of that sort of levelling democracy, which was so pecu. liarly obnoxious to government, the Catholic committee chose for their council and agent the son of Mr. Burke, conceiving that he would give no advice, concur in no measure, abet no step, without the privity, direction and approbation of his father: and it was no unfair conclusion on the part of the generality of the Catholic body, that whatever was backed and supported by Mr. Burke, * could not be urged or claimed upon French principles.
* It had been concerted, and it was soon after well known, that Mr. Burke's particular friend, Sir Hercules Langrishe, was to bring forth the Roman Caiholic bill. Mr. Burke on the occasion wrote a very able letter or rather a most constitutional essay on the subject to his friend. This letter is of very material importance to the history of the progress of Catholic emancipation. Sir Hercules Langrishe was the man fixed upon by government to bring forward the subject of their claims. He had always been favourably disposed to them: but his sentiments had been latterly altered by the fashionable cry against all popular claims, and the fear he was under of shewing any degree of opposition to the system of the Castle, which ever had been the polar star of his political navigation. Mr. Burke therefore tells him, that he wished his ideas had been more his own. In consenting to stand forward on this occa. sion, the baronet appears to have acted with extraordinary caution: he communicated both his own and all other persons objections against the claims of the Catholics: he furnished him with all the letters and publications written upon the subject by Catholics and others, and in a letter of the 10th December, 1791, most pointedly urged him to deliver his opinions upon the whole case before him. Mr. Burke on the 3d of January, 1792, gave him that learned and liberal opinion upon the subject of elective franchise, which probably reconciled the British minister to the propriety, justice, and necessity of acceding to their demands. It was avowedly written to meet every species of objection: political, legal, constitutional, moral, local, permanent and provisional. It was calculated to remove the prejudices of the church of England, and every species of Protestant Dissenter, and above all supereminently demon. strative of the compatibility of Catholic emancipation, with the coronation oath, With the full objection to the democracy of some few of the Catholics before his eyes : he thus spoko. “ It becomes an object of very serious consideration,
It appears to have been well understood between the British and Irish cabinets, that the opinions and countenance of Mr. Burke, at this period the triumphant and unrivalled champion of church and state throughout Great Britain, should be permitted to have
a whether, because wicked men of various descriptions are engaged in seditious “ courses, the rational, sober, and valuable part of one description should not be “ indulged their sober and rational expectations! You who have looked deeply * into the spirit of the Popery laws, must be perfectly sensible, that a great “ part of the present mischief which we abhor in common, has arisen from " them. If the absurd persons you mention, find no way of providing for liber" ty, but by overturning this happy constitution, and introducing a frantic de“mocracy, let us take care how we prevent better people from any rational ex“pectations of partaking in the benefits of that constitution as it stands. The “ maxims you establish cut the matter short. They have no sort of connexion “ with the good or ill behaviour of the persons who seek relief, or with the “ proper or improper means by which they seek it. They form a perpetual “ bar to all pleas and all expectations.
“ There is another way of taking an objection to this concession, which I “ admit to be something more plausible, and worthy of a more attentive ex“ amination. It is that this numerous class of people is mutinous, disorderly, " prone to sedition, and easy to be wrought upon by the insidious arts of wick. « ed and designing men; that conscious of this, the sober, rational, and “ wealthy part of that body, who are totally of another character, do by no “ means desire any participation for themselves, or for any one else of their “ description, in the franchises of the British constitution.
“ I have great doubt of the exactness of any part of this observation. But " let us admit, that the body of the Catholics are prone to sedition (of which, " as I have said, I entertain much doubt), is it possible, that any fair observer “ or fair reasoner, can think of confining this description to them only? I de"lieve it to be possible for men to be mutinous and seditious who feel no “ grievance : but I believe no man will assert seriously, that when people are “ of a turbulent spirit, the best way to keep them in order, is to furnish them “ with something substantial to complain of
“ The popular meeting from which apprehensions have been entertained, " has assembled. I have accidentally had conversation with two friends of “ mine, who knew something of the gentleman who was put into the chair “ upon that occasion ; one of them has had money transactions with him, the * other, from curiosity, has been to see his concerns: they both tell me he is “ a man of some property ; but you must be the best judge of this, who by “ your office, are likely to know his transactions Many of the others are cer. “ tainly persons of fortune ; and all, or most, fathers of families, men in re" sectable ways of life; and some of them far from contemptible, either for " their information, or for the abilities which they have shewn in the discussion “ of their interests. What such men think it for their advantage to acquire, “ought not, prima facie, to be considered as rash or heady, or incompatible “ with the public safety or welfare.
“ You have sent me several papers, some in print, some in manuscript. I " think I had seen all of them except the formula of association. I confess “ they appear to me to contain matter mischievous, and capable of giving “ alarm, if the spirit in which they are written should be found to make any “ considerable progress. But I am at a loss to know how to apply them, as is objections to the case now before us. When I find that the general com“ mittoe which acts for the Roman Catholics in Dublin, prefers the associa"* tion proposed in the written draft you have sent me, to a respectful applica“tion in parliament, I shall think the persons who sign such a paper, to be " unworthy of any privilege, which may be thought fit to be granted; and that
such me ought, by name, to be excepted from any benefit under the con
currency and support also through the kingdom of Ireland. The great object of political attention throughout Ireland in the year 1792, was the question of opening some constitutional rights to the Catholics. The transactions of this year have generally been
“ stitution to which they offer this violence. But I do not find that this form “ of a se litious league has been signed by any person whatsoever, either on (s the part of the supposed projectors, or on the part of those whom it is calculat. " ed to seduce. I do not find, on inquiry, that such a thing was mentioned, or " even remotely alluded to, in the general meeting of the Catholics, from “ which so much violence was apprehended. I have considered the other “ publications, signed by individuals, on the part of certain societies ; I may « mistake, for I have not the honour of knowing them personally, but I take " Mr. Butler and Mr. Tandy not to be Catholics, but members of the estab. " lished church. Not one that I recollect of these publications, which you and “ I equally dislike, appears to be written by persons of that persuasion. Now, “ if, whilst a man is dutifully soliciting a favour from parliament, any person " should chuse, in an improper manner, to shew his inclination towards the " cause depending; and if that must destroy the cause of the petitioner, then, " not only the petitioner, but the legislature itself is in the power of any weak “ friend or artful enemy, that the supplicant, or that the parliament may have. “ A man must be judged by his own actions only. Certain Protestant Dissent. * ers make seditious propositions to the Catholics, which it does not appear “ that they have yet accepted. It would be strange that the tempter should “ escape all punishment, and that he who, under circumstances full of seduc“tion and full of provocation, has resisted the temptation, should incur the • penalty. You know, that, with regard to the Dissenters, who are stated to " be the chief movers in this vile scheme of altering the principles of election “ to a right of voting by the head, you are not able (if you ought even to wish “ such a thing) to deprive them of any part of the franchises and privileges * which they hold on a footing of perfect equality with yourselves. They may “ do what they please with constitutional impunity; but the others cannot “ even listen with civility to an invitation from then to an ill-judged scheme of “ liberty, without forfeiting, for ever, all hopes of any of those liberties which “ we admit to be sober and rational. It is know, I believe, that the greater, 's as well as the sounder part of our exclude l countrymen, have not adopted “ the wild ideas, and wilder engagements, which have been held out to them; “ but have rather chosen to hope small and safe concessions from the legal « power, than boundless objects from trouble and confusion. This mode of " action seems to me to mark men of sobriety, and to distinguish them from " those who are intemperate, from circumstance or from nature.
“ Such, my dear Sir, is the plain nature of the argument drawn from the re. « volution maximns, enforced by a supposed disposition in the Catholics to unite “ with the Dissenters. Such it is, though it were clothed in never such bland “ and civil forms, and wrapped up, as a poet says, in a thousand “ artful folds “ of sacred lawn.” For my own part, I do know in what manner to shape “ such arguments, so as to obtain admission for them into a rational under“ standing. Every thing of this kind is to be reduced, at last, to threats of “ power, I cannot say væ victis, and then throw the sword into the scale. I " have no sword; and if I had, in this case most certainly I would not use it “ as a make-weight, in political reasoning.
“ Observe on these principles, the difference between the procedure of the “ parliament and the Dissenters, towards the people in question. One employs " courtship, the other force. The Dissenters offer bribes, the parliament no. “ thing but the front negative of a stern and forbidding authority. A man may “ be very wrong in his ideas of what is good for him. But no man affronts me, “ nor can therefore justify my affronting him, by offering to make me as happy " as lumself, according to his own ideas of happiness. This the Dissenters to
represented as differently, by the different persons who have un. dertaken to rehearse them, as if they had retailed the acts and deeds of distinct centuries and distinct people. Although it be a matter of undoubted notoriety, that no member of opposition did bring forward or move any thing on behalf of the Catholics during the session, (except the presentation of petitions) and
" to the Catholics. You are on the different extremes. The Dissenters offer, *6 with regard to constitutional rights and civil advantages of all sorts, every " thing: you refuse every thing. With them, there is boundless, though not ** very assured hope ; with you, a very sure and very unqualified despair. The * terms of alliance, from the Dissenters, offer a representation of the commons, “chosen out of the people by the head. This is absurdly and dangerously “ large, in my opinion, and that scheme of election is known to have been, at " all times, perfectly odious to me. But I cannot think it right of course, to ** punish the Irish Roman Catholics by an universal exclusion, because others, " whom you would not punishi at all, propose an universal admission. I can"s not dissemble, to myself, that in this very kingdom, many persons who are "s not in the situation of the Irish Catholics, but who on the contrary, enjoy the “ full benefit of the constitution as it stands, and some of whom, from the ef“ fcct of their fortunes, enjoy it in a large measure, had some years ago “ associated to procure great and undefined changes (they considered them “ as reforms) in the popular part of the constitution. Our friend, the late Mr. “ Flood (no slight man) proposed in his place, and in my bearing, a representa“ tion not much less extensive than this, for England; in which every house was “ to be inhabited by a voter, in addition to all the actual votes by other titles, all “ those (some of the corporate) which we know do not require a house, or a " shed. Can I forget that a person of the very highest rank, of very large « fortune, and of the very first class of ability, brought a bill into the House of
Lords, in the head quarters of aristocracy, containing identically the same " project, for the supposed adoption of which, by a club or two, it is thought “ right to extinguish all hopes in the Roman Catholics of Ireland ? I cannot say s it was very eagerly embraced, or very warmly pursued. But the lords * neither did disavow the bill, nor treat it with any disregard, nor express any " sort of disapprobation of its noble author, who has never lost, with king or “ people, the least degree of the respect and consideration which so justly be. «Iongs to him.
“ Several are in dread of the manæuvres of certain persons among the Dis. 6 senters, who turn this ill humour to their own ill purposes. You know bet" ter than I can, how much these proceedings of certain characters among the “ Dissenters are to be feared. You are to weigh, with the temper which is s natural to you, whether it may be for the safety of our establishment, that “ the Catholics should be ultimately persuaded, that they have no hope to enter “ into the constitution, but through the Dissenters.
“ Think, whether this be the way to prevent, or dissolve factious combina" tions against the church or the state. Reflect seriously on the possible conse" quences of keeping, in the heart of your country, a bank of discontent, every “hour accumulating, upon which every description of seditious men may “ draw at pleasure. They, whose principles of faction would dispose them to " the establishment of an arbitrary monarchy, will find a nation of men who have “ no sort of interest in fieedom; but who will have an interest in that equality " of justice or favour, with which a wise despot must view all his subjects who “ do not attack the foundations of his power. Love of liberty itself mav, in such "men, become the means of establishing an arb trary domination On the other “ hand, they wlio wish for a democratic republic, will find a set of men who "hare no choice between civil servitude, and the entire ruin of a mixed con. * stitution.”