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Act, their whole body is excluded from civil and military offices.
How injurious these Acts are, both to the public and to the individuals on whom they operate, appeared in 1795; in which year, during the then great national alarm of invasion, Lord Petre, the grandfather of the present Lord, having, with the express leave and encouragement of Government, raised, equipped, and trained, at his own expense, a corps of 250 men for His Majesty's service, requested that his son might be appointed to the command of them. His son's religion was objected, his appointment was refused, and another person was appointed to the command of the corps. You cannot but feel how such a conduct tended to discourage the Catholics from exertions of zeal and loyalty. But the noble family had too much real love of their country to recede from her service, even under these circumstances. His Lordship delivered over the corps, completely equipped and com. pletely trained, into the hands of Government, and his son served in the ranks. Surely you cannot think that laws, which thus tend to alienate the hearts, and paralyze the exertions of those who, in the hour of danger, thus wished to serve their country, are either just or wise.
3d. By the 7th and 8th of William 3d, ch. 27. Roman Catholics are liable to be prevented from voting at clections.
4th. By the 30th Car. 2d. s. 2. c. 1. Roman Catholic Peers are prevented from filling their hereditary seats in Parliament.
5th. By the same Statute, Roman Catholics are prevented from sitting in the House of Commons.
6th. By several Statutes, Roman Catholics are disabled from presenting to advowsons, a legal incident of property, which the law allows even to the Jew.
7th. Though a considerable proportion of His Majesty's fleets and armies is Roman Catholic, not only no provision is made for the religious comforts and duties of Roman Catholic soldiers and sailors, but, by the Articles of War, they are liable to the very heaviest pains and penalties for refusing to join in those acts of outward conformity to the religious rites of the Established Church, which a Roman Catholic considers to amount to a dereliction of his faith. By the Articles of War, sect. 1. a soldier absenting himself from divine service and sermon, is liable, for the first offence, to forfeit one shilling; and for the second, and every other offence, to forfeit one shilling, and to be put in irons. By the same Articles, sect. 2. art. 5. “ If he shall disobey any lawful command of his superior” (and, of course, if he shall disobey any lawful commands of his superior Officer to attend divine service and sermon)
" he shall suffer death, or such other punishment as by · a General Court-Martial shall be awarded.”
In the last Parliament, it was shown, that a meritorious private, for refusing (which he did in the most respectful manner) to attend divine service and sermon according to the rites of the Established Church, was confined nine days in a dungeon on bread and water.
The Roman Catholics acknowledge, with gratitude, the virtual suspension of these laws, in consequence of the Orders recently issued by His Royal Highness the present Commander in Chief, and the facilities which they afford for enabling the Roman Catholic soldiers to attend their own religious worship; but they beg leave to observe, that these humane regulations still want the firm sanction of law, and therefore, to a certain extent, are still precarious: and are not always attended to.
8th. In common with the rest of His Majesty's Subjects, the Roman Catholics contribute to the religious establishment of the country; they have also to support their own religious functionaries; and thus have a double religious establishment to defray. Of this, however, they do not complain; but they think it a serious grievance that their own religious endowments are not legalized like those of the Protestant Dissenters. - In hospitals, workhouses, and other public institutions, the attendance of the Ministers of their own communion is sometimes denied to the poor of the Roman Catholic Religion, and the children of the Roman Catholic poor are sometimes forced into Protestant schools under the eyes of their parents.
H. . . . , Such, fellow subjects, is the particular operation of the principal laws still remaining in force against your English Catholic brethren.—The general effect of them is, to depress every member of the body below his legitimate level in society.' .
Even in the very lowest order of the community, some situations conferring comfort, emolument, or distinction, are open to the individuals of that class, and in proportion as the several classes of society rise into importance, these situations are multiplied. From all of them, the law excludes the English Catholic. This effectually places him below his Protestant brethren of the same class, and makes the whole body, in the estimation of the community, a depressed and insulated cast.
This, the Roman Catholics severely feel; but it is not by its substantial effects alone that they feel their depression. Some avenues of wealth are still open to them none to honors or distinctions. Thus, thousands of those possibilities, the prospect and hope of which constitute a large proportion of the general stock of human happi
ness, are peremptorily denied to the Roman Catholics. No hope of provision, of preferment, of honors, or dignity, cheers their souls or excites their exertions. A Roman Catholic scarce steps into life when he is made to feel that nothing which confers them is open to him; and however successful his career may have been, it seldom happens that his success has not been, on more than one occasion, either lessened or retarded by the circumstance of his having been a Roman Catholic.
Here then, our Protéstant countrymen are called upon to place themselves in our situation, and to reflect, what their own feelings would be, if, from a conscientious adherence to their religious principles, they belonged to a class thus legally degraded. How often would they substantially feel the effects of this degradation? How many of their hopes would it destroy? How many of their projects would it ruin? Surely, a Petition to the Legislature from any portion of His Majesty's subjects, for the removal of such a woe, is entitled to the sympathy and aid of every other portion of the community.
We are sometimes told, that however the repeal of the laws complained of by the Roman Catholics would benefit them, it would confer no real benefit on the State ; and that, as no alteration of law should take place, unless it promotes the general welfare of the State, the laws complained of should remain in force. ..
But we beg leave to submit to the consideration of our countrymen, that the whole kingdom would be essentially served by the repeal of the penal laws remaining in force against His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. On this head, the writer of these pages requests your particular attention. Voy, I., No. II.
· Two-thirds of the population of Ireland, and no inconsiderable proportion of the population of England, is composed of Roman Catholics. It is obvious that the feelings of this large proportion of the community are wounded, in the highest degree, by the penal and disabling laws to which they are subject; and that they consider themselves highly injured, insulted, and degraded by them. Now, must it not be beneficial to the State, that this extensive feeling of insult, injury, and degradation, should be healed? Do not wisdom and sound policy make it the interest of the State, that every circumstance which leads this injured, insulted, and degraded, but numerous, portion of the community, to think that any new order of things must end their injury, insult, and degradation, and is, therefore, desirable, should be removed as soon as possible? Surely the removal of it must be as advantageous to the State, as it will be advantageous and gratifying to the persons individually benefited by it.
But this is not the only circumstance, which would make the repeal of the penal laws a general benefit to the State. Again we request you to consider the immense number of His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, and the great proportion which it bears to the rest of the community. What a proportion of genius, of talent, of energy, of every thing else, by which individuals are enabled to distinguish themselves, and benefit and elevate their country, must fall to their share !--But all this, for the present, is lost to you, in consequence of the penal codes. Is the subtraction of this prodigious mass of probable genius, talent, and wisdom, from the general stock, no detriment to the State ? Surely it is a national loss. Thus, while the penal code harasses the individual object of its infliction, it contracts and paralyzes, to an amazing degree, the strength, powers, and energies of the whole community.