Page images
PDF
EPUB

groundir to which nce alone

when I make this request, you see, my brethren, how much I have your interest at heart, and with what sincerity I wish to prevent the effusion of your blood.

The same motives induced a Protestant Gentleman, an acquaintance of mine, to address six letters to you, in a style adapted to your anderstanding, under the signature of a Dublin Shopkeeper. He had no motive whatever but your welfare, as his property is not in the county. His humanity and benevolence alone induced him to point out the danger to which you were exposed, the imaginary and groundless prospects you figured to yourselves, and which you will soon see vanish as smoke: the various delusions to which the unthinking multitude are liable to fall victims, and the caution you should take against those misfortunes in which a eonduct similar to yours has involved so many others, several of whom were really innocent. To deprive his letters of the effect they should have on you, you were made to believe that they were written by some Clergyman, interested in the preservation of tithes, or if a Roman Catholic, in the collection of his dues. I'declare upon my conscience; that they were written by a Protestant Layman, and that I myself did not know the author, until after the publication of the first letter. Tbey deserve your attention the more as they come from such a disinterested hand, and, as I am equally unconcerned in threse matters, only as far as they regard your own safety, and the peace of the public. : .

I hope that this Address will deserve your attention, as it gives the sanction of religion to the maxims of prædence, laid down in that Gentleman's writings. I am confident that many of you have been misled by your ignorance of the laws, and that as these disturbances originated in the dues of the clergy, you did not forsee the consequences to yourselves. That Gentleman's letters deserve your most serious attention, as he explains all the laws which hang over you. On the other hand, it is a standing maxim, that it is better to prevent erimes than to punish them. It would be an act of humanity in the Associations, composed of Noblemen and Gentlemen, for the suppression of tumults in the county of Cork, to get numbers of that Gentleman's letters dispersed gratis through the country. It is the opinion of a great and humane writer, * that every Member of Society should know when he is criminal, and when innocent. This cannot be done without a knowledge of the laws which affect the lives and liberties of the subjects. This knowledge is never sufficiently communicated in this kingdom to the multitude at large, few of whom can purchase the ordinary vehi. cles of information, the Acts; and even Newspapers, are prohibited from even inserting abstracts under the penalty of a prosecution from the King's Printer. In foreign countries when new laws, affecting the lives of the people, are enacted, they are posted up on the gates of the Churches in all the Parishes, and their non-pro.. mulgation is pleaded in justification of the fact. This before-mentioned conduct corresponds with Beccaria's wishes, who says, that every citizen should have the code of laws which affect his life; and that the conduct of Censors and Magistrates who punish the ignorant, is a kind of tyranny which surrounds the confines of political liberty. If the laws are made for the people, they should know them, and laws which affect the lives of the multitude, should not be confined to the Lawyer's library. I am confident that not one out of ten thousand of the country people, knows one clause of the Whiteboy Act. This is the time to make it as public as possible in a county hitherto the most peaceable in the kingdom. But to return froin this digression to you, my brethren, if you have any room to claim of the extortions of any of your Clergy, why have you not made application to your Bishops previous to those tumultuary meetings? Would Lord Dunboyne, as distinguished for his tenderness, kis charity, the sweetness and amiableness of his manners, as he is by his high birth and exalted station; or would the pious and edifying Doctor M'Kenna permit the oppression of the poor under pretence of religion? They, who are more inclined to relieve your wants than to add

* Beccaria,

to them? There is some exaggeration in your written notice, insiаuating that your Pastors require more than you can afford, and that some of them are niore attentive to your substance than your souls. Sure, my brethren, a Roman Catholic Clergyman, who in times of prosecution would be bound not to abandon you, but to share your sufferings, and undergo every hardship for the sake of your salvation; bound to appear as the public deputy of the people, at the foot of the altar, erected to a God, who died naked on the cross, and to wean your affections from the perishable goods and fleeting pleasures of this short and distracted life, to fix them on Heavenly goods ; sure, no Roman Catholic Clergyman would make a traffic of the Sacrarnents, in extorting from an unhappy object, who has but fourpence a day to support a wife and a number of children, with a handful of vegetables and a draught of water. We are rather bound to sell the sacred vases of the temple, if we had any to dispose of, sooner than slay the victim, already fleeced by oppressive rack-rents. It cannot be conceived that a Roman Catholic Clergyman, who pays the least regard to the dignity and decency of his character, would sit down in a barn or cabin, at the expense of the labouring man, and by intemperance, efface in the evening those impressions of piety which he imparted to him in the morning. No, there is no such thing. But there is the mistake you have committed in the oath already mentioned. You have bound by the oath the opulent farmer, who is able and willing to give to your Pastors wherewithal to support them, and to afford yourselves some assistance in your wants. You have bound him in like manner not to give any more than a crown, &c. and this is an injustice under the solemnity of an oath. For, whatever á poor man may do with a trifle scarce competent to support himself, he has no right to controul the pockets of, or to prescribe laws to the rich. If there had been scandalous extortions of the kind, you should have preferred complaints to the Bishops, and these venerable Prelates would have ordered their Clergy to cry out from their Altars, with the Prophet Jonas, if it be on my account that this storm is raised throw me overboard. The oppression of the poor, and the love of sordid gain, are inconsistent with the character of persons whose min. istry is the condemnation of avarice, the contempt of riches, and the recommendation of charity. They are not disposed to bruise the reed already broken, nor to change the tender and inviting voice of fathers and pas. tors into the harsh language of griping tax-gatherers. Has not Mr. O'Kelly, have not others declared from the altars, that they require no more from you than what you are willing to give? Let not then the sacred ministry be a pretext for the public disturbances, which in the end must prove destructive to yourselves. Let your griev. ances be redressed by the wisdom and humanity of your superiors in Church and State. Let public tranquil. lity be restored, and let yourselves enjoy the fruits and sweets of a peaceable conduct and innocent conscience, which alone can recommend you to, and procure you the protection of God and your rulers. No person can wish you every happiness more than your affectionate servant,

A. O'LEARY. Cork, Feb. 21, 1786.

Rev. Mr. O'Leary's Third Address to the Whiteboys, par

. ticularly those of the County of Cork.

COUNTRYMEN, To such of you as still persist in setting the laws of your country at defiance, in opposition to the dictates of prudence, which suggests to man not to hazard rashly his life, nor the interest of his family, but rather to bear patiently with a slighter inconvenience to avoid a greater; to such of you as still pursue a line of conduct (misconduct I should have said) so destructive to yourselves, and subversive of peace and good order, I address myself at this critical juncture. For I shall not confound those who first engaged in your cause, either from error or licentiousness, and are now reclaimed to their duty, with those who still march on in a road which, from sad experience, they will find to end in a precipice. At

the first breaking out of these unbappy disturbances, you got every caution which religion, reason, and humanity could prompt men of compassion and feelings to give a multitude easily misled, and, according to the common course of human affairs, incapable of drawing the delicate line to which common sense points out, and of which it says, thus far you shall go and no farther. The dangers to which you were exposed from a disorderly conduct, the imaginary and groundless prospects you figured to yourselves, and which you now behold vanishing as smoke, the various delusions to which the unthinking multitude are liable to fall victims, the precaution you should take against the misfortune in which a conduct similar to yours had involved so many before. Every thing, in short, was explained to you. The maxims of hunian prudence were strengthened, and enforced by the great principles of religion: and we had every room to expect, that in case religion had lost its influence over you as christians, at least your own preservation, as men, founded upon the first principles of nature, would induce you to expose your bodies to the rod of justice, or to the executioner's hand. When you imagined your: selves secure in your numbers, an anticipated list was made out of so many Whiteboys whipped, so many shot by the army, so many Whiteboys' widows and orphans

reduced to beggary, from the misconduct of their former · husbands and fathers. There was no inspiration requi

site, in order to foretel such future events: foresight and sense uttered a prophesy which you see now fulfilled, and the accomplishment whereof you can readon the mangled backs of the companions of your former excursions. If you are wise then, return peaceably and without delay to your occupation and duty, and do not swell the catalogue of suffering offenders: it is the advice of one who has your welfare at heart; who, whilst he reprobates your disorders, pities your weakness, and who, in acknowledging the justice of the punishment inflicted for the crime, commiserates the man in the criminal.

But what will my pity arail, if you do not pity yourselves? How, or by what arguments to reclaim you, I am at a loss. I shall however pay this last tribute to humani.

« PreviousContinue »