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cast around it by a monarch, as justly venerated for his unaffected piety as his inflexible integrity ; it resumes its true character, as the effusion of some officious, if indeed a well-intending, adviser; whose crude suggescions unfortunately prevailed, against the soundest legal opinions, in perverting the judgment of an upright prince, by alarming his conscience. For if we may judge by the effect which this counsel produced in the royal breast, it is difficult to acquit its author of a premeditated attempt to pollute the source and fountain of mercy. How otherwise are we to account for the conclusion in which the King was brought to acquiesce ? that the projected measure was “an attempt to abolish all distinction in Religion in Ireland,” and that it was proposed among other objects, to pass “ a Bill for giving the Pope a correspondent ecclesiastical jurisdiction with the King.” Such having been the impression conveyed by this secret conspirator against the best interests of the crown; is it matter of wonder, that the King should have remained inflexible in his hostility to these measures, as feeling, that the concession of such demands would be a virtual breach of his coronation engagements ?
In the counsel delivered by an adviser, who, it will be admitted, yielded to this anonymous prelạte, neither in his devotion to the throne, nor profound knowledge of the constitution, this subject assumes a very different aspect. The great Minister, who projected the measure before us, and, as appears from his correspondence with the King, sacrificed to the attainment of it the highest object of laudable ambition;) was so far from considering it pregnant with evil, that he conceived the greatest good would result from its adoption. Among the beneficial ends which it would secure, he prise
posed some measures, by which he declared, " the general interests of the Established Church, and the security ofthe Constitution and Government might be effectually strengthened.” By the light which is thus shed on the subject, it is brought to a different issue. An obligation being conceived incumbent on the King, “ to the utmost of his power, to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion ;” the point which submits itself for his determination is precisely the reverse of that on which the decision is generally formed. The question regarded in this view is not,—How far is he tied up by his cor‘onation engagements, from conceding the R. Ca*tholic claims, as endangering the Established • Church ?' but—How far may we presume he is • bound by them, “to strengthen its interests” by
obtaining it those securities which will necessarily * result from concession ?
Independent, therefore, of the value of the late King's Correspondence, in tracing his Majesty's scruples to their true source, in the advice of some officious divine, who felt an itch to dabble in law; its great importance consists in the powerful light which it throws on those opposite views of the subject. It clearly evinces, on the authority of the ablest legal and political advisers of the crown, that no valid objection in law is opposed to the R. Catholic claims, but that the very strongest considerations in policy recommend their being conceded. Of consequence, that the Parliament having once decided on the expediency of the measure; the moral obligation incumbent on the King leaves him no alternative, but induces his unhesitating assent to the wisdom of their decision.
1. That we may keep the coronation engagements of the King fully in view, in shewing how
far they are inconsistent with the measure of civil: concession to the R. Catholic claims, it seems expedient to set them entirely before the reader.*
“This coronation oath is conceived in the following terms :
“The archbishop or bishop shall say, Will you solemn“ly promise and swear to govern the people of this “kingdom of England, and the dominions thereto be“longing, according to the statutes in parliament agreed “ on, and the laws and customs of the same? The “king or queen shall say, I solemnly promise so to do
“Archbishop or bishop. Will you to your power® “cause law and justice, in mercy, to be executed in all, “your judgments ?— King or queen. I will.
“Archbishop or bishop. Will you to the utmost of “ your power maintain the laws of God, the true pro“ fession of the gospel, and the protestant reformed “religion established by the law ? And will you preserve “ unto the bishops and clergy of the realm, and to the “ churches committed to their charge, all such rights and “ privileges as by law do or shall appertain unto them, “or any of them ? --King or queen. All this I promise “ to do.
“ After this the king or queen, laying his or her hand rs upon the holy gospels, shall say, The things which I « have here before promised I will perform and keep : • so help me God. And then shall kiss the book.”
It may be deemed of small importance, by the objectors, whose sagacity discovers in these engagements an insuperable bar to concession, that the great advocates of the measure were so strangely blind to the force of the objection, that they have expressly or implicitly denied that they are in the least incompatible. It will be, therefore, more satisfactory to examine, how far the subject of the oath, internally considered, is corroborative of the
great authorities, which stand thus opposed to so unwarrantable an assumption.*
Of the three pledges distinctly given in these engagements, the two first are wholly beside the purpose of this controversy. No sense can be fixed upon the first, to prove it intended to preclude the abrogation of the penal laws, that will not equally apply to the repeal of any statute, which was in force, when His Majesty entered into those engagements : in the uniform usage of the legislature, which revises, amends, and reverses -- the laws and customs of the kingdom,”at pleasure, such an interpretation is practically refuted. The second as expressly applicable to the executive power of the King, and intended merely to provide against the chance of a mistaken tenderness, or unreasonable severity, impeding the course of the law, has obviously no bearing, direct, or indirect, upon the question.
In the last clause, in which the King pledges himself, “ to the utmost of his power to maintain the Laws of God, and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law,” the objection to concession in favour of the R. Catholic claims must be virtually supposed to exist. For it cannot be for a moment pretended, that it is not possible, in perfect consistency with such concession, “ to preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of these Realms, and the Churches committed to their charge, all
+ I will, however, add the opinion of a statesman, upon this subject, who cannot be justly accused of laxity, in his religious or political prinicples. Burke Let. to Sir H. Langr. Works, Vol. VI. p. 321.“ Here are the coronation engagements of he King. In them I do not find one word. to preclude his Majesty from consenting to any arrangement which parliament may make with regard to the civil privileges of any part of his subjects.”
such Rights and Privileges as by law do or shall appertain unto them.” On regarding the objection as confined to that one point, and considering the engagements as pledged to maintain religious rights on the one hand, while the claims require merely civil concession on the other ; I am really perplexed, (as Mr Pitt and Mr Burke appear to have been at a loss, ) to find a relative point, on which the notion of inconsistency can be founded. If indeed we imagine with his late Majesty's ecclesiastical adviser, that the object of concession was “ to abolish all religious distinctions ; ” to pass “ a Bill for giving the Pope a concurrent ecclesiastical jurisdiction with the King ; ” the obligation to maintain, to the utmost, the Protestant Reformed Religion,” would be directly and palpably violated. But if, on the contrary, it is expressly proposed, to draw from the R. Catholics, in return for certain rights and immunities, a solemn pledge, that they will maintain the Protestant succession of the crown, and inviolably respect the Established Religion ; so far would the coronation engagements be from suffering a violation, that they would be carried most fully into effect, by a concession, upon such terms, of those rights and immunities.
2. Though the preceding difficultie ase removed, others of a more formidable characterare conceived likely to arise, from the repeal of those laws, which operate not less for the securty of Protestantism, than the suppression of Popery.-With him who may indulge the charitable idea, that the interests of the Reformed Religion will be best maintained, by the immutable, unmitigated operation of a penal code, for the extirpation of " the Papists” from these realms, I take leave to state-I enter into no contest. If the delusion prevail, uncorrected by