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The ancestors, my Lords, of the Catholic clergy of Ireland, had the religion which the Christian world professed, and the estates and castles of their fathers, ages before Tudors or Stuarts had ascended the British throne. From the contemporary historians of their own and of other nations, and ancient monuments, daily rescued from ruins and watery wastes, their character must be drawn: not from Hnme, and similar historians, as unfaithful in their narratives with regard to Ireland,, as they are infidels with regard to Revelation.
Amidst the various changes that happened in Europe, the descendants of those Catholics preserved their religion, which persecution contributed to rivet deeper into their minds; as, the more the wind attempted to strip the traveller of his cloak, the closer he held it. But their estates and castles they lost, rather than renounce their duty to God, and their allegiance to their Icings; one of whom had the base ingratitude to confirm to Cromwell's soldiers, tinged with his royal father's blood, the lands of the nobility and gentry who had fought his father's battles and his own.*
In addition to our losses under the usurpation of Cromwell, and subsequent ones at the Revolution, our most invaluable privileges were swept away at a political game of hazard, played by Whigs and Tories, under the last of the Stuarts, without the slightest provocation on our part For the laws framed in Queen Anne's reign against the Catholics of Ireland, are of so horrid a complexion, that it was never the intention of those who devised them to have them enacted: their very cruelty was the only motive for inventing them.
Queen Anne, whose father had been a mendicant, supported by the generosity of a foreign king, was suspected of wishing^that her brother, a Catholic prince, should succeed her. The party, to whom her Ministers were obnoxious, intended to draw on them the odium of purposing to place the Pretender on the throne. With this view, they framed a code of laws, authorising the neighbour to plunder the neighbour, the brother to supplant the brother, and the pro
» The wills and deeds of numbers of these forfeitures are deposited in the British Museum.
fligatc son to strip the father of his estate and to make him tenant for life, oufy by taking an oath of abjuration; with a variety of other penal clauses equally cruel and unjust. The very severity of laws, clashing with those of God and nature, gave them every room to believe that they would be opposed by the court party, from principles of humanity and justice. And thus they flattered themselves with the success of an expedient, calculated to expose their opponents to the hatred entertained at the time against those who were deemed the friends of the Pope and the Pretender.
The shrewd courtiers, aware of the design of their antagonists, and, either willing to sacrifice justice and humanity to their personal interest, or flattering themselves that the laws would be but of short duration, in the event of the success of their plan, unexpectedly gave into the measure, to remove the suspicion of their design. It was too late for the other party to recede ; and thus, in the time of profound
fieace, in violation of a solemn compact, sanctioned by the aws of nations, the Catholics of Ireland, like balls in a tennis-court, struck with the rackets of both parties, were thrown over the walls of the constitution of their country, against the original intention of the state gamesters.
If rulers and statesmen, long since resolved into their original dust, have handed down to us restraints and disqualifications as a legal inheritance, it is their fault and our misfortune, but not a reason which authorises those to whom the destinies have been more propitious, to aggravate our calamities, by loading us with gross slander, and worse than degrading epithets, venders of murders, and purchasers of felonies! Neither is this an age for the triumph of overbearing contempt towards the descendants of the victims of the revolutions of former times, when Europe is threatened with a more extraordinary revolution than that which has reduced the Catholics of Ireland to thejr present situation.
Solomon said, in his time, nothing new under the Sun. A bout a century and a half ago, England's King was brought to the scaffold; her princes and nobles, and other loyalists, emigrants in France and other countries, where they were hospitably received, as the emigrants of those countries are
now in their turn generously received in England, and in derision of the peerage, draymen were placed by an usurper,, in that very house where your Lordships shine with such lustre.
Little it was expected, about a century ago, when a prince of the House of Orange was seated on the British Throne, after having placed a guard over James the Second, his fatherin-law, in the palace of Hampton Court, that his successor in the Stadtholdership of Holland, dethroned by his rebellious subjects, would be under the necessity of taking up his residence in the very same palace where a King of England had been a kind of prisoner before: an awful instance of the vicissitudes of human affairs; which should inspire princes themselves with humanity and compassion for the oppressed—when they not only know that they are doomed to die as other mortals, but moreover exposed, from the inconstancy of fortune, to survive their power. Go, said Marius, once the master of Rome, and conqueror of the Cimbri, go and tell the Governor of Africa, that you have seen Marius perishing with hunger on the ruins of Carthage, alluding to the instability of human grandeur, in the downfal of such a powerful state, and the change of his own fortune.
When we see kingdoms and empires fall, as it were, upon one another—when we see kings and queens, a few years back the idols of their subjects, eclipsing in splendour tlie pomp and magnificence of Oriental grandeur—when we see them bleeding on scaffolds, and their bodies deprived of those funeral rites which decency owes to humanity, we are convinced that uncertainty, inconstancy, and agitation, are the proper portions of all sublunary affairs; and the greatest abuse of power is to triumph and insult over oppressed innocence.
The Catholic clergy of Ireland should not then be singled out as objects of defamation and invective, for having fallen victims to those reverses of fortune to which crowned heads, princes and nobles are exposed. In their poverty they have birth and honour, which neither revolutions nor penal laws can affect: no immoral man is ever allowed to officiate at their altars: when their prelates, who are ever watchful over the inferior clergy, discover any who depart from the line of duty required by the sanction of their profession, they suspend or excommunicate them, and thus cut them off from the communion of the Catholic church.
The same laws that encouraged the son to disobey and strip the Catholic father of his property, encouraged the refractory clergyman to set the injunctions and admonitions of his bishops at defiance, by taking the oath of abjuration; for, as an encouragement to outward conformity, the laws of Ireland allow forty pounds a year to every priest who reads his recantation, whether he be a moral man or not.
In a word, nothing whatever is required to become an elect of the state, but the outward utterance of the oath of abjuration, whether it is believed by the person who takes it, or whether it belies his heart. All the punishments and legal disqualifications are reserved for the retainers of conscious integrity, who sacrifice all worldly interests rather than swear against the dictates of their conscience, and thus do not choose to perjure themselves, and impose on their neighbours. In the very supposition that they err, (which is the supposition of others, not theirs,) they err in their ho. nesty; for no road can be right to the man who walks in it against conviction. And this circumstance alone is more than an ample refutation of the impious and hell-invented charge of a Catholic priest selling absolutions for all sorts of crimes, felonies, ana murders: for if there were priests who had such commodities for sale, and Catholics to purchase them, long before now the Catholic noblemen would have been seated in the House of Peers with your Lordships in legislating for the lands. Every obstacle would be soon removed; one single oath would be the penacea which would cure all disorders: we see ourselves excluded from all the dignities and places of emolument in the state. In consequence of this exclusion we see ourselves abused by the very dregs and lees of the peasantry of our country; such as Doctor Duigninane,
the son of a peasant who had read his recantation to be schoolmaster to poor children in a charity school, now ranking with the senators in the land, and realizing in our days what Solomon complained of as one of the evils incident to human nature—Another evil I have seen under tlie sun, I have seen servants or beggars on horses, and princes tvalking on the earth, or on foot, Ecclesiastes 10. Not that I would reproach any man with the meanness of his birth, when I would see Apollo crown modest merit. But when a vulgar man, under the shield of penal laws, is continually insulting, in the grossest manner, the majority of an entire kingdom, as if they were a group of African slaves on a West India plantation, under the lash of a brutal driver— when, on the other hand, we are told in the most public manner, that we have dispensations and absolutions for the commission of all sorts of crimes, I feel such a conflict within myself, that I am obliged to summon up all my religion, lest I should yield to the temptation of hating a man I am bound to forgive. I am at a loss which to admire most of the two, either the power of conscience over the heart of man, or the unaccountable stupidity, the perverse and wilful blindness of any person who claims the slightest pretention to reason or good sense, and yet seriously thinks that unprincipled men, licenced by their religious principles, and authorized by their clergy to commit all sorts of crimes, could hesitate one instant to have recourse to so slight a remedy as an oath to remove every grievance, and silence every obloquy.
The feelings of honour, the pride of rank, the allurements of fortune and dignities, every impulse of the human heart, and all the motives that influence man as a member of society, call aloud on us to remove the disgraceful restraints that expose us to such humiliations and obloquy. And yet, with the remedy in our hands, the churches open, and this pretended stock of absolutions, which, according to the report of slander, would sanctify all sorts of crimes, we keep at a distance from the temple of fame, power, kand splendour.
When the Pagans accused the primitive Christians of