« PreviousContinue »
[The Witness was informed that the Committee would abstain
from proposing any Questions on that subject.] Had you any opportunity of ascertaining to what degree the labouring class of the people was employed ?-During the period I last referred to, the autumn of 1824, it appeared to me that the lower orders of the people were very generally employed, and I thought I observed habits of industry growing up amongst them.
In what part of Ireland did you observe that?-I was through the whole of Connaught in such a way as to enable me to form some opinion, because I dwelt a little in the different counties ; I was also in parts of Leinster and in part of Munster.
Had you any opportunity of ascertaining to what extent any feeling of discontent or disturbance prevailed amongst them, in any parts ?-So far as I could form an opinion from the outward appearance of things, I should conceive that there was not any disposition to disturbance existing at that time; with respect to discontent, any opinion that I may have upon that subject is formed more upon information than observation, so far as relates to that particular tour ; I had conversations with the clergy of both denominations, (Protestants and Ro. man Catholic,) and with the gentry of all descriptions ; I have thus learned the state of the public mind through the interior of Ireland, and I am sorry to say that discontent, to a very alarming degree, prevails amongst the Roman Catholics, and that the most painful and lamentable dissensions exist, and are hourly increasing between them and the Protestants.
Is that discontent general among them ?-I think there is a general feeling of discontent amongst the Roman Catholics, at the state of the laws respecting them; I think at the same time that there is a general degree of satisfaction at the course pursued by the present government of Ireland towards them ; I am satisfied that this is the general feeling, from conversations which I have had, particularly with the Roman Catholic clergy.
In what manner was this discontent described to you to exist, and with respect to what particular parts of the law?I should not say that it existed so far as my information went, or the impression which I received, with reference to any particular part of that general code which creates disabilities in respect of the Roman Catholics ; there is a discontent prevailing universally amongst theñ at the general spirit and tenor of those statutes, by which the whole body is depressed and placed below the Protestants, without reference to rank, character, property or information,
Did you discover that there was a general acquaintance
amongst the Catholic body, with the nature and extent of the existing penal disabilities ?-There is a general knowledge amongst the Catholics, that Catholics as Catholics are put below Protestants ; they know that the powers of the state, executive, legislative, and judicial, are by law required to be administered by persons who, as their qualification for administering them, must forswear the Roman Catholic religion; this produces continual irritation : I speak from conversations with the Roman Catholic clergy and the Roman Catholic gentry as to the feelings of the lower orders; from personal observation as to those of the middling and higher orders.
Has the information you have received induced you to form a belief, that the lower orders take much interest in the present state of the penal laws ?-Certainly; I think, from what I have collected, that they feel that interest in two ways ; in the first place, their pride (and there is a sense of pride among the lower orders as well as among the higher) is wounded by the sense that they belong to a degraded class ; in the second place, there is a feeling amongst them, a feeling, however, which I am persuaded is a mistaken one as applied to the Judges of Ireland, that they have not an equal chance of an equal administration of justice with the Protestants ; they do not consider that a Protestant and a Roman Catholic stand upon equal ground, wherever questions arise between them which are to be disposed of by authorities exclusively Protestant; they all consider that there is in the law a feeling of hostility towards the Roman Catholic religion, which is likely to pass from the law to those who administer the law, and to extend from the Roman Catholic religion to those who profess that religion. · Did it happen to you to have any conversation with any of the lower class upon the subject of those laws ?-Not during my last tour; I do not think I had much conversation with the lower orders upon that occasion. I did not wish to speak to them upon political questions, while engaged in the duties upon which I then was; at other times I have. · Did you find, in conversation, that they were sensible of their political condition? Certainly ; it is impossible to speak, at least I have found it so, to a Roman Catholic upon the state of the law, without perceiving that it creates a sense of hardship and grievance in his mind. • Do they feel much interest in the various proceedings that take place, with a view of altering the law ? I cannot speak to that from personal knowledge, so far as relates to the lower orders; but I understand from others, that they manifest the utmost anxiety to learn what the newspapers contain, what Parliament is doing, and so forth, whenever a question relating to the Roman Catholics is under discussion.
Can you state to the Committee the precise disabilities under which the Catholics now labour ?-For that purpose I should beg, with great deference, to refer to the Act of 1793, which the Committee, I presume, are aware, is an act of general qualification, subject to particular exceptions. The Act of 1793 repealed all disabilities to which the Roman Catholics were liable, subject to particular exceptions.
Can you mention any particular disability which excites dissatisfaction ?-Where there is a general code of disability, it is difficult to point out the particular parts of that general code which create most dissatisfaction; the exclusion of Roman Catholics from that general range of office to which men of superior talent, property, and education aspire, necessarily produces amongst them a degree of irritation proportioned to their wealth and intelligence, and which must therefore go on increasing in proportion as their wealth and intelligence increase; thus the powers of property and knowledge, which, honoured and directed by the State, are calculated to promote public happiness and peace, are so dealt with by the laws of exclusion, as naturally to produce discontent and disorder. The exclusions which go most home to the general feelings of the people, are those which apply to Parliament and the Bench. Parliament makes, the Bench administers, the laws of the empire; the Roman Catholics are excluded from both. This, it is said, is essential to the security of the Protestants ; then, what becomes of the Catholics ? If Protestants would feel insecure, were Catholics mixed with Protestants in Parliament or upon the Bench, what must Catholics feel, when both are filled by Protestants exclusively ? The fact is, that they consider these exclusions as rendering Parliament and the Bench hostile to them, and therefore they place confidence in neither..
Did you ever find it a matter of complaint that they were obliged to take what are called the Qualifying Oaths, in all matters concerning the purchase and devising of landed property ?-I have not heard that made much matter of complaint; but it must be matter of disgust to any Roman Catholic; and I really should think it must be to any educated Protestant, to stand in a court of justice and hear the oaths or declaration which are administered to Protestants, as qualifications for office. I would state to the Committee, if they would allow me to do so, what happened to me, when in the course of the year before last I was appointed to the office I
now hold in Ireland ; I had some appointments to make to offices under me; the persons I appointed were Protestants; they went to qualify with me; I had to qualify first, because out of my right theirs was derived; I qualified, by taking an oath, which commenced with a declaration that I professed the Roman Catholic religion; I abjured all those doctrines which have been erroneously imputed to that religion ; and having concluded, the persons who acted under my authority, who derived their offices from my grant, who existed as officers at my will, were obliged to swear that I was an idolater; were obliged to commence their qualification by declaring that the religion professed by the person from whom they derived their appointments was superstitious and idolatrous. These tests are calculated to excite very unfortunate feelings; they pro. duce in those who take them a feeling of contempt for those who are called idolaters, and a feeling in those who are called idolaters, that they are unjustly and cruelly treated.
Is it not a matter of complaint, the tenets that Catholics are obliged to abjure in the oaths they take ? I have heard it complained of; but candour obliges me to say, that there is in history proof that among some Roman Catholics some very obnoxious tenets were formerly held ; such as the deposing power; and in my humble judgment, a Roman Catholic ought not to feel offended, if he be called upon to disclaim doctrines or positions which strike at the civil independence of the state; and which, though they never formed any part of the Roman Catholic faith, were yet at one time taught by authorities in the Roman Catholic church; but these doctrines are now universally exploded in these countries; and I should certainly wish to see one simple oath of allegiance established for all the King's subjects, Protestant and Roman Catholic. I must add, that I never heard a Roman Catholic object to that part of the oath prescribed by the Act of 1793, by which the Roman Catholic pledges himself to support the Protestant government, and solemnly disclaims any intention of attempting to substitute a Catholic for the Protestant establishment.
Do not Catholics experience great inconvenience, and have they not sometimes experienced serious injury, from the manner in which they are required to take those oaths, and from the difficulty of preserving the evidence of having taken them? - I have heard that stated as matter of complaint, but I am not aware of any practical injury arising from the state of the law in that respect.
Are they not obliged to take them at sessions or courts of justice ?-You are obliged, when you are appointed to office, to take the qualifying oaths within a certain time before certain courts.
The affidavits are made matter of record ? The oaths which you take are not affidavits, they are tests which you subscribe, and which remain on record.
Are not those records kept, particularly in the country, in a very negligent manner? I cannot state that; I am not aware of the care given to those records.
Can you give the Committee any information with regard to the proportion which the Catholic population bears to the Protestant ?-I cannot of my own knowledge ; any opinion which I may have upon that subject is formed, in some degree, with reference to the returns lately made to the Commissioners of Education; returns, however, which do not afford any thing like certain data, with respect to the proportion which the uneducated part of the Roman Catholic population bears to the educated.
In general, from the information you have acquired, do you feel any reason to doubt the accuracy of the common mode of assuming the proportion that the Catholics bear to Protestants, to be in the ratio of six to one ?-I must confess I am rather disposed to doubt that; I should think not six, perhaps five; but I speak very loosely. The Committee would, I suppose, wish to have opinions entitled to carry some degree of authority with them, which mine really are not, upon that subject.
Have you turned your attention to the circumstances which exist with regard to the management of landed property in Ireland !--My duties as Chief Remembrancer of Ireland require me in some degree, in rather an extensive degree, to attend to the management of landed property; all the estates which are under the control of the court of exchequer through receivers, are under my immediate direction ; all sales which take place, take place under my direction ; in that way I have some opportunities of seeing what the state of landed property is, the value of it, how managed, how rents are collected, and so forth.
What appears to you to be the case, with regard to the rate of rent that has been required, as to its being a proper rate or an excessive rate ?---Perhaps I should answer that question best, by stating one or two facts; since my appointment to office in Ireland, I have anxiously attended to the state of the receiver's accounts; I found when I was appointed those accounts very much in arrear, and when I got in the accounts I found the rents very much in arrear; upon inquiry it appeared