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DIGNITARIES And BRETHREN
OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS ORDER OF
The MONKS Of St. PATRICK.*
Reverend Fathers, and illustrious Brethren,
1 HE purport of the work which I have the honour to dedicate to your or-. der, is to cement the bands of society -t to secure the safety of our country, by union and mutual confidence; to render the subject's allegiance firm, and at the fame time reasonable, by establishing it on its proper grounds; to dispel the mists of long-reigning prejudice; after disarming Infidelity, which strikes at the foundation of religion, and the dignity of our nature, to induce the Christians of every denomination to lay aside the destructive weapons which frenzy has so often put into their hands; and, under their peculiar modes of worship, to inspire them A 3 with
* A society of Nobles and Gentlemen, composed of the greatest orators and writers in Ireland; who, unfold licited, have done the author the honour of adopting gQ • him as one of their members.
with that benevolence and charity enforced by the first principles of the Law of Nature, and confirmed by the sacred Oracles which they all revere.
In my fugitive pieces, to which the circumstances of the times have given rife, you discovered the sincerity of my designs, in attempting to diffuse to the community at large, the influence of benignity. My feeble efforts have attracted your attention, and procured me the honour of your esteem. With regard to the rights of society, and protection due to the man who does not forfeit them by his misconduct, the learned, the virtuous, the liberal-minded of all denominations, make no distinction ; but, with every respect due to religion, leave fanaticism, the noxious vermin that nestles in its wool, to prey upon the ulcerl&reads of the bfg^ts. Hence, neither my character of a Catholic Clergyman, which, in these Kingdoms, the prepossession of ignorance has rendered so odious, nor the discountenance of the laws, which doom me to transportation, with the common malefactor, nor the disagreeable circumstances
of of a profession still exposed to the wanton lash of every religious persecutor, were deemed a sufficient plea for exclusion from a society composed of so many great and shining men.
Robertson's religion has proved no obstacle to his admission among the Spanish academicians. You, my brethren, have set the brilliant example of philanthropy in this kingdom; and soared far above the sphere of contracted minds. Happy for the world had the gentle voice of Nature been always listened to, and his religion forgotten in the man!
The calamities, of which a contrary conduct has been productive, are slightly glanced at in my treatise on toleration. In the two neighbouring kingdoms, the scenes which have been exhibited last year, are melancholy proofs, that a tolerating spirit, the fair offspring, of can'dour and benevolence, confers happiness on individuals, and gives nations a bloom and vigour which intolerance blasts and enervates. In consequence of the happy change in the dispositions of
struction; a kingdom on the eve os being plunged into the calamities of civil war; the sword taking the place of the robe, and dictating to the violators of the law; and the stern hand of justice succeeding, in its turn, to the sword, and sweeping from the face of the earth, the gleanings of military execution. Such the poisonous fruits of misguided zeal, and religious intolerance! The feeds of such disasters have been sown in distanr.^-^— times, when barbarity, or the composition' cjt-taru of princes, contending for the throne, contributed to divide the people; and, from a mistaken policy, sovereigns themselves, in opposition to the maxims of legislation and wisdom, thought it more eligible to become heads of the half, than the fathers of all their subjects.
Such measures weakened their arms abroad, and will ever prove destructive at home. In every plain the English generals met with their fellow subjects, disputing the laurel, under the banners of kings who gave them encouragement.
The Catholic and Protestant powers on the Continent, by adopting a different