Page images
PDF
EPUB

454 APPENDIX.

ment, every civil trust, every corporate right. We are excluded from the navy, from the army, from the magistrature, from the professions. We are excluded from the palladium of life, liberty, and property, the juries and inquests of our country.—From what are we not excluded ? We are excluded from the constitution. We stand a strange anomaly in the law; not acknowledged, not disavowed; not slaves, not freemen; an exception to the principles of jurisprudence; a prodigy in the system of civil institution. We incur no small part of the penalties of a general outlawry, and a general excommunication. Disability meets us at every hour, and in every walk of life. It cramps our industry, it shackles our property, it depresses our genius, it debilitates our minds. Why are we disfranchised, and why are we degraded? Or rather, why do these evils afflict our country, of which we are no inconsiderable part 2 We most humbly and earnestly supplicate and implore Parliament, to call this law of universal exclusion to a severe account, and now at last to demand of it, upon what principle it stands, of equity, of morality, of justice, or of policy. And while we request this scrutiny into the law, we demand also the severest scrutiny into our principles, our actions, our words, and our thoughts. Wherein have we failed as loyal and affectionate subjects to the best of Sovereigns, or as sober, peaceable, and useful members of society 7 Where is that people who can offer the testimony of a hundred years' patient submission to a code of laws, of which no man living is now an advocate— without sedition, without murmur, without complaint’ Our loyalty has undergone a century of severe persecution, for the sake of our religion, and we come out of the ordeal, with our religion, and with our loyalty. Why then are we still left under the ban of our country? We differ, it is true, from the national church in some points of doctrinal faith. Whether it is our blessing or our misfortune, HE only knows to whom all things are known. For this our religion we offer no apology. After ages of learned and critical discussion, we cannot expect to throw farther light upon it. We have only to say, that it is founded on revelation as well as the religion established by law. Both you and we are regenerated in the same baptism, and profess our belief in the same Christ; you according to the Church of England, we according to the Church of Rome. We do not exercise an abject or obscure superstition. If we err, our errors have been, and still are, sanctioned by the example of many flourishing, learned, and civilized nations. We do not enter, we disdain to enter into the cavils of antiquated sophistry, and to insult the understanding of Parliament, by supposing it necessary to prove, that a religion is not incompatible with civil government, which

APPENDIX. 455

has subsisted for so many hundred years under every possible form of government, in some tolerated, in some established, even to this day. With regard to our civil principles, we are unalterably, deeply, and zealously attached to his Majesty's person and Government. Good and loyal subjects we are, and we are declared by law to be. With regard to the constitution of the state, we are as much attached to it as it is possible for men to be attached to a constitution by which they are not avowed. With regard to the constitution of the Church we are, indeed, inviolably attached to our own : First, because we believe it to be true; and next, because beyond belief, we know that its principles are calculated to make us, and have made us good men and good citizens. But as we find it answers to us individually all the useful ends of religion, we solemnly and conscientiously declare, that we are satisfied with the present condition of our ecclesiastical policy. With satisfaction we acquiesce in the establishment of the national church; we neither repine at its possessions, nor envy its dignities; we are ready, upon this point, to give every assurance that is binding upon man. With regard to every other subject, and to every other calumny, we have no disavowal, we have no declarations to make : conscious of the innocence of our lives, and the purity of our intentions, we are justified in asking what reason of state exists, and we deny that any does exist, for leaving us still in the bondage of the law, and under the protracted restriction of penal statutes? Penalties suppose, if not crimes, at least a cause of reasonable suspicion. Criminal imputations like those, (for to be adequate to the effect, they must be great indeed) are to a generous mind, more grievous than the penalties themselves. They incontrovertibly imply, that we are considered by the legislature as standing in a doubtful light of fidelity or loyalty to the King, or to the constitution of our country, and perhaps to both. While on these unjust suspicions we are deprived of the common rights and privileges of British and of Irish subjects, it is impossible for us to say we are contented while we endure a relentless civil proscription, for which no cause is alleged, and for which no reason can be assigned. Because we now come with a clear, open, and manly voice, to insist upon the grievances under which we still labour, it is not to be inferred, that we have forgot the benignant justice of Parliament, which has relieved us from the more oppressive, but not the most extensive part of the penal system. In those days of affliction, when we lay prostrate under the iron rod, and as it were, intranced in a gulf of persecution, it was necessary for Parliament to go the whole way, and to stretch out a saving hand to relieve us. We had not the courage to look up with 456 APPENDIX.

hope, to know our condition, or even to conceive a remedy. It is because the former relaxations were not thrown away upon us; it is because we begin to feel the influence of somewhat more equal laws, and to revive from our former inanition, that we now presume to stand erect before you : conceiving that Parliament has a right to expect, as a test of our gratitude, that we should no longer lie a dead weight upon our country, but come forward in our turn to assist with our voice, our exertions, and our councils, in a work, to which the wisdom and power of Parliament is incompetent without our co-operation—the application of a policy, wholly new, to the pressing wants, and to the intimate necessities of a people long forgotten, out of the sight and out of the knowledge of a superintending legislature. Accordingly we are come, and we claim no small merit that we have found our way to the door of Parliament. It has not been made easy for us. Every art and industry has been exerted to obstruct us: attempts have been made to divide us into factions, and to throw us into confusion. We have stood firm and united. We have received hints and cautions; obscure intimations and public warnings to guard our supplications against intimidation. We have resisted that species of disguised and artful threat. We have been traduced, calumniated, and libelled. We have witnessed sinister endeavours again to blow the flame of religious animosity, and awake the slumbering spirit of popular terror and popular fury. But we have remained unmoved. We are, indeed, accustomed to this tumid agitation and ferment in the public mind. In former times it was the constant precursor of more intense persecution, but it has also attended every later and happy return of legislative mercy. But whether it betokens us evil or good, to Parliament we come, to seek, at that shrine, a safeguard from impending danger, or a communication of new benefits. What then do we ask of Parliament 2 To be thoroughly united and made one with the rest of our fellow subjects : That, alas ! would be our first, our dearest wish. But if that is

denied us, if sacrifices are to be made, if by an example of rare

moderation, we do not aspire to the condition of a fair equality, we are not at a loss to find in the range of social benefits (which is nearly that of our present exclusion) an object which is, and ought to be the scope and resting place of our wishes and our hopes, that which if we do not ask, we are not worthy to obtain. We knock that it may be opened unto us. We have learned by tradition from our ancestors, we have heard by fame in foreign lands, where we have been driven to seek education in youth, and bread in manhood, and by the contemplation of our own minds, we are filled with a deep and unalterable opinion, that the Irish, formed upon the model of the British constitu

APPENDIX. 457

tion, is a blessing of inestimable value: that it contributes, and is even essentially necessary for national and individual happiness. Of this constitution, we feel ourselves worthy; and though not practically, we know the benefits of its franchises. Nor can we without a criminal dissimulation conceal from Parliament the painful inquietude which is felt by our whole persuasion, and the dangers to which we do not cease to be exposed, by this our total and unmerited exclusion from the common rights, privileges, and franchises conceded by our Kings for the protection of the subject. This exclusion is indeed the root of every evil. It is that which makes property insecure, and industry precarious. It pollutes the stream of justice. It is the cause of daily humiliation. It is the insurmountable barrier, the impassable line of separation which divides the nation, and which keeping animosity alive, prevents the entire and cordial intermixture of the people. And therefore inevitably it is, that some share, some portion, some participation in the liberties and franchises of our country, becomes the primary and essential object of our ardent and common solicitation. It is a blessing for which there is no price, and can be no compensation. With it, every evil is tolerable; without it, no advantage is desirable. In this, as in all things, we submit ourselves to the paramount authority of Parliament; and we shall acquiesce in what is given, as we do in what is taken away. But this is the boon we ask, We hunger, and we thirst for the constitution of our country. If it shall be deemed otherwise, and shall be determined that we are qualified perhaps for the base and lucrative tenures of professional occupation, but unworthy to perform the free and noble services of the constitution, we submit, indeed, but we solemnly protest against that distinction for ourselves and for our children. It is no act of ours. Whatever judgment may await our merits or our failings, we cannot conclude ourselves, by recognizing, for a consideration, the principle of servility and perpetual degradation. These are the sentiments which we feel to the bottom of our hearts, and we disclose them to the free Parliament of a Monarch, whose glory it is to reign over a free people. To you we commit our supplications and our cause. . We have, indeed, little to apprehend in this benigner age, from the malignant aspersions of former times, and not from the obsolete calumnies of controversial strife; although we see them endeavouring again to collect the remnant of their exhausted venom, before they die for ever, in a last and feeble effort to traduce our religion and our principles. But, as oppression is ever fertile in pretexts, we find other objections started against us more dangerous, because they are new, or new at least in the novelty of a shameless avowal. They are principally three;—first, it is con458 APPENDIX.

tended, that we are a people originally and fundamentally different from yourselves, and that our interests are for ever irreconcileable, because some hundred years ago our ancestors were conquered by yours. We deny the conclusion; we deny the fact; it is false. In addressing ourselves to you, we speak to the children of our ancestors, as we also are the children of your forefathers; nature has triumphed over law; we are now mixed in blood; we are blended in connexion; we all are Irishmen. * * * We desire to partake in the constitution, and therefore we do not desire to destroy it. Parliament is now in possession of our case—our grievances—our sorrows—our obstructions—our solicitudes—our hopes. We have told you the desire of our hearts. We do not ask to be relieved from this or that incapacity; not the abolition of this or that odious distinction; not even, perhaps, to be, in the fullness of time, and in the accomplishment of the great comprehensive scheme of Legislation, finally incorporated with you in the enjoyment of the same constitution. Even beyond that mark, we have an ultimate, and if possible an object of more intense desire. We look for an union of affections; a gradual, and, therefore, a total obliteration of all the animosities, (on our part they are long extinct) and all the prejudices which have kept us disjoined. We come to you, a great accession to the Protestant interest, with hearts and minds suitable to such an end. We do not come as jealous and suspicious rivals, to gavel the constitution, but with fraternal minds to participate in the great incorporate inheritance of freedom, to be held according to the laws and customs of the realm, and by our immediate fealty and allegiance to the King. And so may you receive us, And we shall ever pray.

IV. September, 13th, 1792. AT A MEETING OF THE SUB. COMMITTEE OF THE CATHOLICS, RANDAL M*DoNNELL, Esq. in the Chair,

The Sub-commiteee having seen, with great concern, a variety of publications, censuring the Circular Letter lately issued by them, said to be signed Edward Byrne, and erroneously stated to be illegal and unconstitutional, have thought it their duty to submit that letter to the inspection of the Hon. Simon Butler, and Beresford Burston, Esq., two gentlemen of the first eminence in the profession, and who have the honour to be of his Majesty's council.

The case and opinions of those Gentlemen, which follow, will

« PreviousContinue »