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and day. I labored in Parliament; I labored out of Parliament. If, therefore, the resolution of the House of Commons, refusing to commit this act of unmatched turpitude, be a crime, I am guilty among the foremost. But, indeed, whatever the faults of that House may have been, no one member was found hardy enough to propose so infamous a thing; and on full debate we passed the resolution against the petitions with as much unanimity as we had formerly passed the law of which these petitions demanded the repeal.
There was a circumstance (justice will not suffer me to pass it over) which, if anything could enforce the reasons I have given, would fully justify the act of relief, and render a repeal, or anything like a repeal, unnatural, impossible. It was the behavior of the persecuted Roman Catholics under the acts of violence and brutal insolence which they suffered. I suppose there are not in London less than four or five thousand of that persuasion from my country, who do a great deal of the most laborious works in the metropolis ; and they chiefly inhabit those quarters which were the principal theatre of the fury of the bigoted multitude. They are known to be men of strong arms and quick feelings, and more remarkable for a determined resolution than clear ideas or much foresight. But, though provoked by everything that can stir the blood of men, their houses and chapels in flames, and with the most atrocious profanations of everything which they hold sacred before their eyes, not a hand was moved to retaliate, or even to defend. Had a conflict once begun, the rage of their persecutors would have redoubled. Thus fury increasing by the reverberation of outrages, house being fired for house, and church for chapel, I am
convinced that no power under heaven could have prevented a general conflagration, and at this day London would have been a tale. But I am well informed, and the thing speaks it, that their clergy exerted their whole influence to keep their people in such-a state of forbearance and quiet, as, when I look back, fills me with astonishment, — but not with astonishment only. Their merits on that occasion ought not to be forgotten; nor will they, when Englishmen come to recollect themselves. I am sure it were far more proper to have called them forth, and given them the thanks of both Houses of Parliament, than to have suffered those worthy clergymen and excellent citizens to be hunted into holes and corners, whilst we are making low-minded inquisitions into the number of their people ; as if a tolerating principle was never to prevail, unless we were very sure that only a few could possibly take advantage of it. But, indeed, we are not yet well recovered of our fright. Our reason, I trust, will return with our security, and this unfortunate temper will pass over like a cloud.
Gentlemen, I have now laid before you a few of the reasons for taking away the penalties of the act of 1699, and for refusing to establish them on the riotous requisition of 1780. Because I would not suffer anything which may be for your satisfaction to escape, permit me just to touch on the objections urged against our act and our resolves, and intended as a justification of the violence offered to both Houses. “Parliament," they assert, " was too hasty, and they ought, in so essential and alarming a change, to have proceeded with a far greater degree of deliberation." The direct contrary. Parliament was too slow. They took fourscore years to deliberate on the repeal of an
act which ought not to have survived a second session. When at length, after a procrastination of near a century, the business was taken up, it proceeded in the most public manner, by the ordinary stages, and as slowly as a law so evidently right as to be resisted by none would naturally advance. Had it been read three times in one day, we should have shown only a becoming readiness to recognize, by protection, the undoubted dutiful behavior of those whom we had but too long punished for offences of presumption or conjecture. But for what end was that bill to linger beyond the usual period of an unopposed measure ? Was it to be delayed until a rabble in Edinburgh should dictate to the Church of England what measure of persecution was fitting for her safety? Was it to be adjourned until a fanatical force could be collected in London, sufficient to frighten us out of all our ideas of policy and justice? Were we to wait for the profound lectures on the reason of state, ecclesiastical and political, which the Protestant Association have since condescended to read to us? Or were we, seven hundred peers and commoners, the only persons ignorant of the ribald invectives which occupy the place of argument in those remonstrances, which every man of common observation had heard a thiousand times over, and a thousand times over had despised ? All men had before heard what they have to say, and all men at this day know what they dare to do; and I trust all honest men are equally influenced by the one and by the other.
But they tell us, that those our fellow-citizens whose chains we have a little relaxed are enemies to liberty and our free Constitution. — Not enemies, I presume, to their own liberty. And as to the
Constitution, until we give them some share in it, I do not know on what pretence we can examine into their opinions about a business in which they have no interest or concern. But, after all, are we equally sure that they are adverse to our Constitution as that our statutes are hostile and destructive to them ? For my part, I have reason to believe their opinions and inclinations in that respect are various, exactly like those of other men; and if they lean more to the crown than I and than many of you think we ought, we must remember that he who aims at another's life is not to be surprised, if he flies into any sanctuary that will receive him. The tenderness of the executive power is the natural asylum of those upon whom the laws have declared war; and to complain that men are inclined to favor the means of their own safety is so absurd, that one forgets the injustice in the ridicule.
I must fairly tell you, that so far as my principles are concerned, (principles that I hope will only depart with my last breath,) that I have no idea of a liberty unconnected with honesty and justice. Nor do I believe that any good constitutions of government, or of freedom, can find it necessary for their security to doom any part of the people to a permanent slavery. Such a constitution of freedom, if such can be, is in effect no more than another name for the tyranny of the strongest faction ; and factions in republics have been, and are, full as capable as monarchs of the most cruel oppression and injustice. It is but too true, that the love, and even the very idea, of genuine liberty is extremely rare. It is but too true that there are many whose whole scheme of freedom is made up of pride,
, perverseness, and insolence. They feel themselves in
a state of thraldom, they imagine that their souls are cooped and cabined in, unless they have some man or some body of men dependent on their mercy. This desire of having some one below them descends to those who are the very lowest of all; and a Protestant cobbler, debased by his poverty, but exalted by his share of the ruling church, feels a pride in knowing it is by his generosity alone that the peer whose footman's instep he measures is able to keep his chaplain from a jail. This disposition is the true source of the passion which many men in very humble life have taken to the American war. Our subjects in America ; our colonies; our dependants. This lust of party power is the liberty they hunger and thirst for; and this Siren song of ambition has charmed ears that one would have thought were never organized to that sort of music.
This way of proscribing the citizens by denominations and general descriptions, dignified by the name of reason of state, and security for constitutions and commonwealths, is nothing better at bottom than the miserable invention of an ungenerous ambition which would fain hold the sacred trust of power, without any of tho virtues or any of the energies that give a title to it, - a receipt of policy, made up of a detestable compound of malice, cowardice, and sloth. They would govern men against their will ; but in that government they would be discharged from the exercise of vigilance, providence, and fortitude ; and therefore, that they may sleep on their watch, they consent to take some one division of the society into partnership of the tyranny over the rest. But let government, in what form it may be, comprehend the whole in its justice, and restrain the suspicious