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designs, in attempting to diffuse to the community at large, the influence of benignity. My feeble efforts have attracted your attention, and pr^cjiicd me the honour of your esteem, With regard to the rights of society, ajjthprotection due. to? the man who does not forfeit them by his misconduct, the learned, the virtuous, the liberal-minded of all denominations, make ho distinction; but, with every respect due t(* religion, leave fanaticism, the noxious vermin that nestles in its wool, to prey upon the ulcerated heads of the bigots. Hence, neither my character of a Catholic Clergyman, which, in these kingdoms, the prepossession of ignorance has rendered so odious, nor the discountenance of the laws, which doom me to transportation, with the common malefactor, nor the disagreeable circumstances of a profession still exposed to the wanton lash of every religious persecutor, were deemed a sufficient plea for exclusion from a society composed of so many great and shining men.
Robertson's religion has proved no obstacle to his admission among the Spanish academicians. You, my brethren, have set the brilliant example of philanthropy in this kingdom; and soared far above the sphere of contracted minds. Happy for the world had the gentle voice of Nature been always listened to, and his religion forgotten in the man!
The calamities, of which a contrary conduct has been productive, are slightly glanced at in my treatise on toleration. In the two neighbouring kingdoms, the scenes which have been exhibited last year, are melancholy proofs, that a tolerating spirit, the fair offspring of candour and benevolence, confers happiness on individuals, and gives nations a bloom and vigour which intolerance blasts and enervates. In consequence of the happy change in the dispositions of the people, Ireland has seen her peaceful natives employed in the useful labours of life; her citizens, confident in each other, improving trade and commerce, under a variety of difficulties; her judges respected on their tribunals; and the pleasing scenes of harmony and union spread through every province. Such the result of benevolence! Such the fruits of toleration! Such was our situation, when in Great Britain nothing could be seen but the course of public justice suspended, and martial law proclaimed; the law and the legislature trampled in their awful sanctuary; the torn canonicals of bishops, the lacerated robes of temporal peers, the streets ensanguined with the streaming blood of deluded victims; sumptuous edifices changed into blazing piles; the conflagration of Rome renewed by the torch of religious frenzy; the houses of inoffensive citizens chalked out for destruction; a city given up to plunder; assassins and malefactors let loose from their chains, and invited, by the hollow voice of fanaticism, to share the spoils; a king on the verge of destruction; a kingdom on the eve of being plunged into the calamities of civil war; the sword taking the place of the robe, and dictating to the violaters of the law; and the stern hand of justice succeeding, in its turn, to the sword, and sweeping from the face of the earth, the gleanings of military execution. Such the poisonous fruits of misguided zeal, and religious intolerance! The seeds of such disasters have been sown in distant times, when barbarity, or the competition of princes, contending for the throne, contributed to divide the people; and, from a mistaken policy, sovereigns themselves, in opposition to the maxims of legislation and wisdom, thought ■ it more eligible to become heads of the half, than the fathers of all their subjects.
Such measures weakened their arms abroad, and will ever prove destructive at home. In every plain the English generals met with their fellow subjects, disputing the laurel, under the banners of kings who gave them encouragement.
The Catholic and Protestant powers on the Continent, by adopting a different plan, and uniting their subjects of every denomination in the ties of one common interest, strengthened their respective states against the encroachments of each other, and prevented their dominions from / being changed a second time, into extensive fields of battle, covered with bodies, fallen by the sword of religious madness; or desolate wastes similar to those from whence restraints and distress have banished the human species; the present Emperor's mother restored her Christian subjects of every denomination, to the freedom and rights of citizens. The son has opened his calm bosom to the Jew, and is become the father of the man who blasphemes the Saviour whom his Sovereign adores. Ireland! Ireland, where the Protestant gentleman gives alms to the pilgrim without enquiring into his religion, and where the Catholic peasant presses his distressed fellow creature to take share of a handful of vegetables, scarce sufficient to support his own wretched existence: Ireland, whose generous sons have more compassion and feelings for the stranger, than their neighbours for the hrothers of their blood—Ireland, where some strokes given by a peer of the realm, to a poor inoffensive priest in the last stage of a decay, which in a few days rescued him from the miseries of this life, "the "law's delay, and the proud man's contumely."—Ireland, where this scene raised such indignation in the generous breast of every Protestant, that a lawyer,* who to the
* Counsellor Curraa.
powers, of the orator joins the courage of the hero, without fee or reward, pleaded for obscurity against eminence, for weakness against power, and, after asserting the rights of humanity at the bar, went to encounter death in the field for a helpless client, in the last struggles of the agony. Ireland, so famous for the generous sentiments of her inhabitants, is the devoted spot, where out of a million and half of subjects, not one can become a coal measurer, a 'common soldier, an excise-man, nor have more than two apprentices at a time! Their dissenting brethren, so humane in their private characters, and the professors of whose religion are so tolerant in Holland and Switzerland, consider their Catholic neighbours as so many slaves ready to cut their throats, at the first signal given by their royal masters, without whose concurrence the chain could never have been fastened to their bodies. The kings of England, on the other hand, whose treasury would be better supplied by opulent subjects than by a million of naked and famished objects, are obliged, at an enormous expense, to hira foreign mercenaries of every religion, with their respective chaplains, whilst their dauntless subject, are forced to throw themselves into the arms of those sovereigns who pay them for fighting, and permit them to pray as they think fit.
Thus government is distressed on one hand, and the kingdom is deprived of its strength and internal resources on the other. The Catholics, between their fellow subjects and the throne, are like the forlorn hope between two armies. They are doomed to civil destruction between both.
Europe will soon bear a different aspect: and the examples set by those princes, who, for the aggrandizement of their states, are doing away all religious distinctions, are so many warnings to copy after them. The Gauls, the Romans, the Carthaginians, thought themselves once invincible. Their divisions precipitated their downfal. No oracle has as yet declared that foreign candidates for glory and conquest will be deterred from attempting to become our masters. The power to resist becomes greater in proportion to the number of the subjects; in proportion to the stake they have to defend, their attachment to their country, their attachment to each other. A small state, rich, populous, and well united, is preferable to a large but divided kingdom. Let religious distinctions, then, be laid aside. It is equal to the Israelite, released from bondage, whether his temple be built by Solomon or Cyrus; provided he has liberty to pray unmolested, and to sleep under his vine and fig-tree. Diseases, sickness, death, which mows down the young and old, emigrations, the waste of war, countries, now unknown, which will be hereafter discovered, colonies that ever and always depopulate the parent state, rising empires, and princes inviting strangers to settle in their dominions, will leave land enough in Ireland, to the end of time, for ten times the number of its inhabitants.
The world is in a continual change. New monarchs sway the sceptre. New ministers direct their councils. New characters are daily mounting the stage of life, to become the object of applause, derision, or censure of mankind. Every new generation is a new world, raised on the ruins of the former, aiming at their present advantages, without any retrospect to past transactions, in which they are no ways concerned. We frequently change our bodies. Reason on its travels from age to age, acquires a new mode of thinking.