« ÖncekiDevam »
from the yoke, and make these states the freest country in the universe; until the fleet of England skulked away before that of France in the Channel, and an emancipating army might have been landed in Ireland as well as in America ; until the requisis tion of the Irish people, reinforced by these circumstances, was made for redress with arms; not a 'link was taken from the heavy chain of oppression that bound the freedom and prosperity of Ireland for ages. Then also, for the first time, the enormity of the popery laws appeared severe and impolitic to the British government.
During the interval of peace and strength between the close of the American war and the beginning of the French revolution, the wretchedness of the Irish was again forgotten. But these latter, rendered wise by experience, preferred their claims amidst the renewed embarrassments of their rulers ; once more concession was procured from fear; George the Third, disturbed by the triumphs of France and the enthusiasm of liberty, re. commended his Irish subjects to his Irish Parliament, and a reu luctant repeal of the greatest part of the abominable popery code was obtained on that occasion. An abstract of these laws is given in this publication, such as they existed at the be. ginning of the French revolution, that the admirers of the British government may read in them the measure of its advan. tages to four millions of subjects, and the mighty reasons these men had for being loyal. That the laws have since been mostly repealed, is due to the persevering zeal of the catholic committee, to the enlightened co-operation of the United Irishmen, and to the terrors of French invasion, enforcing concession on the alarmed policy of the British government. The repeal did not flow from justice for this had slept, until the army was to be removed from home to subdue the cause of liberty in Flanders, Nor was it yielded only to the spirit of the people ; for as soon as the French navy was ruined, the system of bigotry and exclusion returned, the popery code was once more part of the
constitution, the catholic bill and reform were scouted together from the precincts of parliament, the most vindictive persecution began against those who had extracted privilege from opportunity, the redress granted in law was rendered nugatory in prac. tice, and as the dread of France subsided, the usual persecuting policy of the British government revived. Let them judge of the importance of the cause by the magnitude of the effect, who see how much was obtained when that dread was pressing, and that nothing will be granted now that it is removed to a distance. The king's conscience could capitulate with his fears, but is too sanctified to yield to justice.
This best auxiliary to the cause of Ireland has been lately re. cognised as such in express terms by Lord Grenville, and other members of the British cabinet. · France, says his lordship, is become so much stronger by the destruction of the power of Prussia, that it is advisable to grant that redress of grievances this session, which ministers evaded the session before. Be. cause Ireland, he adds, is likely to become the theatre of war, it is expedient to conciliate that large portion of the population, which has been hitherto the most oppresseda
Thanks then to the enemies of England for every ameliora, tion of the condition of her Irish subjects. Her spontaneous dispensations to them are chains and taxes. She herself form. ed an alliance with the Turk and with the Pope, with every power however distant or however hated, in order to crush the naseent liberties of a rival; but she imputes it as a crime to another nation, that it seeks foreign aid for the recovery of its liberties. · Her dominion over the Irish is, and ever has been, unjust, ungenerous, and tyrannical. She has confiscated nearly the whole island three times in the space of 200 years. Her lordly adventurers habitually stirred up insurrection there for the express purpose of confiscation, as her nabobs create a famine in India for the sake of fortune. And what is to render
light light this yoke, the character of which was the same in times past, as it is in the times present ? “ But the imperfection of the Irish constitution is admitted, ** and to that must be added the complicated grievances of " the country at large, &c. --all producing in a proportionate " degree, misery in one extreme, and oppression in the other."*
When England suffered under the domestic despotism of James the Second, she could invite the Prince of Orange to her assistance with a Dutch army, and she calls that a glorious revo. lution ; but the benefit of her own example must not be pleaded against her own tyranny, and she and her partizans calls this justice. Her minions every where, the Orangeman at home, the tory in America, these persecutors of Ireland's faithful adherents, may nevertheless behold, with mortified envy, a nation in which six centuries of slavery have not destroyed the love of freedom, nor the desire of independence ; and let them read, in this high-minded perseverance, the sure carnest of emancipation. Though the United Irish do not now possess liberty, they evince by their conduct, that they deserve it: while that of their calumniators here proves how much they themselves are displaced, in being citizens of the only free country in the world.
• While the conclusions of history attest the necessity of independence, the partizans of English domination proposé conjecture as a remedy for the future, and would have Ireland be contented, because they predict a happier åra from the Union. But of the purpose for which this measure was carried, and of the tendency of its benefits, some idea may be formed by the following, among a thousand anecdotes :- Lenco May, collector of the port of Waterford, assembled his yeomen on the general parade in that city, and left it to their option whether they would sign in favour of the Union, or be shipped to Bon tany Bay. Driven to this alternative, they embraced England rather than transportation, and were numbered with the erm lightened advocates of the incorporation of both parliaments.
Judging of this last penal law, the act of Union, by all those that preceded, its effecting the ruin and degradation of: one
country will be no motive for its relinquishment by the other, until the return of new embarrassments, when the spirit of the people, and the dread of France, by overt force or extorted concession, shall cause its repeal. In the mean time, Ireland is as usefully represented as England would be after an Union with the great nation, in virtue of which she would be allowed to send in the proportion of one member to five to Bonaparte's conservative senate at Paris. What in reality can the Union prove to Ireland, but the means of giving immediately into the hands of England, the dominion which she exercised more cir. cuitously before : thus making that chain press closer, which was always galling. The conclusive evidence of history is, that every measure to the disadvantage of Ireland was uniformly introduced, and every thing in her favour as uniformly resisted, by the government party. Her dependence and subjection had already existed before the Union was enacted; they characterised the condition of Ireland during several centuries of degradation and calamity, as long as the British parliament could make laws to bind her. í
“ From the revolution,” said Mr. Pitt, while debating the Irish propositions in 1785, “ the system of England had been “ that of debarring Ireland from the enjoyment and use of her
own resources, of making the kingdom completely subservient “ to the interests and opulence of another, without suffering it “ to share in the bounties of nature, or profit by the industry of
its own citizens."
Such is the effect of the connexion with Britain, as truly depicted by the minister of that country. The constitution and legislature also, which the United Irishmen wished to rés form, receive the following character from the authority, unquestionable on this point, of the same minister and his col. leagues :
“ The course of events which for some years past have taken « place in Ireland, have firmly rivetted me in the opinion, that « there must be something radically wrong in the internal situa« tion of Ireland.”+
« I maintain that the disorders of Ireland have grown chiefly s out of the constitution of Ireland, established for near a cena « tury and a half ; and it is impossible that a government, agi. “ tated as that of the sister kingdom has been, a government « dislocated in every limb, could enjoy health, or long survive " these diseases, some slow, some acute, which make her sickly “ of aspect, and feeble of heart; but the seeds of the mischief
are in the constitution itself.”
« Does there, or does there not, exist a necessity for a change " in the system of the Irish government. I declare I never con. “ versed with any well informed man from Ireland, who did not
say that the present state of things, as they now exist in that “ country, could not continue, consistent with the general safety # of the empire."
« It is a melancholy, but I fear an incontestible truth, that “ the state of Ireland has at no period of its history, with which “ we are acquainted, been such as to afford satisfaction to any
* Speech of Mr. Pitt, debates on the Union. Vide Debret's Parliamentary Register.
f Lord Hawkesbury. Ibid. * Mr. Windham. Ibid. 9 Lord Grenville. Ibid.