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Whoever attempts to give an account of public transactions should be above the reach and power of hope and fear, and all kinds of interest; that he may always dare to speak truth, and write of all without prejudice, religiously observing never to abuse the public faith, but to guard against the bias and affections of those who would endeavour to impose on him by false or exaggerated reports. He should not confine himself to a bare recital of the actions of men, but to lay open the motives and principles from which they took their rise, and upon which they proceeded to their final issues. When in public transactions in which all parties are concerned, some persons make themselves more conspicuous than others, it is not barely sufficient to mention their names. The hearts of such actors must be laid open. The reader must be let into their most important motives and designs, and favoured with a sight of those secret springs which moved them with enterprise whether it succeeded or miscarried. He should be disinterested himself, and attribute no bad motive to persons whose actions could bear a favourable construction f^when he is convinced that they had no interest in interfering in those scenes of disorder and tumult which he chooses for the subject of his narrative.
Upon those principles Doctor Woodward should have proceeded when he introduces me on the stage after his account of the disturbances in the south of Ireland; disturbances which disgraced the nation, by the manner in which they were heightened in the foreign prints, painting us in a state of barbarism and rebellion, and which however unjusti. liable, yet borrow (in the county of Cork at least) their im. portance more from the colourings of exaggerating writer than from any signal or singular event which would suit the dignity of the historian's pencil, whose office it is to pronounce the destiny of the great ones of the earth; to fix their character with posterity, to do justice to virtue and worth, nnd to admit no figures into his historical group but the figures of the great and illustrious. It is true that public transactions should be recorded, though the characters which appeared on the scene are far from being illustrious. The Roman historians have transmitted to posterity the war of the slaves. And the Right Reverend Bishop of Cloyne has favoured the public with a general account of the operations of the Munster rabble. But he differs widely from the patterns after whom he should have copied: for however unworthy of the historian's pen the exploits of shabby heroes may ap-. pear, yet when he hands their achievement down to posterity, he should paint them in their proper colours, and range them under their respective banners. When Tacitus describes the revolt of the Pannonian legions^ incited to sedition by Persennius, a common soldier, and the Captain Right of his time, he informs his readers of that incendiary's profession. But when the Bishop of Cloyne promises, in his titlepage, * A general Account of the Insurrections of the South J of Ireland, with their rise and progress,' he leads all his warriors into the field in the same uniform. They are all a Popish mob disarming Protestants to overthrow the established religion. In this assertion I shall take the liberty of differing in opinion from the Bishop, with the same freedom that Lesley, a dissenting minister, contradicted Archbishop King, when that prelate wrote his History of the State of the Protestants in Ireland under James the Second; and as Beverly Higgins, a gentleman of the established religion, differed widely in opinion from Bishop Burnet, when he wrote the history of his own times.
Happy! if I could discover nothing reprehensible in the Bishop of Cloyne's pamphlet, but historical inaccuracy! It would affect me no more than some of the stories of Heredotus, who was so liable to misinformation. For a mob is a mob, whether they be Protestants or Papists. A Popish mob may crop horses and burn ricks of corn in Ireland: and a Protestant mob may burn houses and attempt to plunder the t
bank;in London. It is the crime, not the religion of the criminal, which disturbs the peace of society, and is punished by the judge.
But when in the Bishop's pamphlet I see myself personally attacked, and (what concerns me more than any personal injury) my religion glanced at as inconsistent with the security of the state. When I see Catholic prelates, who are an ornament to the age, wounded by an intimation that their allegiance to their king in temporals is a prevarication of their obedience to their supreme pastor in spirituals. For here, according to Doctor Woodward's inuendo, perjury must be the alternative: if they swear allegiance to the Pope, they cannot swear allegiance to the king: if they swear allegiance to the king, they cannot swear allegiance to the Pope—still they swear allegiance to both; perjury then is inevitable. A dreadful dilemma arising from a consecration oath, translated into English for the purpose of perplexing the ignorant, and left unexplained for the pur
f)ose of rendering venerable prelates obnoxious to the pubic. When 1 see Doctor Woodward one of the pilots of the vessels of the established religion hanging out the signal of distress, and crying aloud on the deck, 'The Church of Ire'land is at this present moment in imminent danger of sub* version.' From whom? From the dissenters ready to pull down an ecclesiastical establishment, and the Catholics ready to set up their own. That is to say, from two classes of subjects more interested in improving thirty-nine acres of ground for the support of their families, than in abolishing the thirty-nine articles of Bishop Woodward's profession of faith, which, (however founded in the Scriptures) thousands of Protestant divines all over Europe would not subscribe. When lnow see the three great classes of High-churchmen, Dissenters and Catholics, whom I have formerly seen to drown their religious distinctions in the noise of the alarm drum, and march under the same banners to protect the beds of their wives, and the cradles of their children against the common foe.—When I see them now disunited, (if they were mad enough to be disunited by the croaking of controversy, and in speculative points which puzzle the mind, to forget social friendship which cheers and warms the heart.)* When I see them disunited, or on the eve of a rupture in consequence of this alarming proclamation, truths, which at other times should be kept in silence for the preservation of harmony, must now be brought to public notice, 1 am at a loss what to say. By such a declaration the Bishop acknowledges that his pamphlet is not calculated to preserve harmony, otherwise he would have been silent; or his words are a riddle which must be unravelled by a greater CEdipus than Mr. O'Leary.
However, as the unhappy disturbances in the South of Ireland have afforded a pretext for the dissolution of this harmony which reigned amongst the natives of this kingdom a few years before; And as the Catholics in general, as well as Mr. O'Leary in particular, have been misrepresented, the following defence, in which the insurrections are mentioned, is humbly submitted to the judgment of the public. If Mr. O'Leary speaks of himself, it is because he is personally attacked. Every man who is put on his defence, must do the same. In the course of his defence he will hold up the historical mirror.
If it reflects any specks on the feces of some who may behold it, let them attribute their deformity to themselves. Truths shall guide my pen, and the historian must be impartial.
If I enter more deeply into the subject than I first intended, it is in order to shew by every proof which moral evidence can afford, that the Catholics of this kingdom could not form any design against either church or state, as has been maliciously insinuated in several pamphlets. The Bishop of Cloyne has given the profile; I shall draw the face in full.
* Mr. O'Leary hopes that none will cavil at these words, as if tittered by a latitudinarian. He fis a steadfast Catholic; bat is no more inclined to quarrel with any person on account of his rcligioa, than to quarrel with him en account of the colour of
his clothes. , ■