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« Honorable Gentleman (Mr. Canning). His fears
that head, were not Protestant fears, but Catholic fears. He stated that fact in conformity with the wishes of the Catholics them
selves, » Then too it was, that you fervently exclaimed in the House, that « if there were any
crime, of which you could be justly accused in « reference to the great measure, that crime was « consistency.
This, Sir John, was the last commanding attitude I endeavoured to represent, in the portrait taken of you
from the life, whilst acting in the Catholic cause, which came before the public in February 1814; at which, though you appear to be offended, yet you perseveringly assume it on every occasion; I am to presume, in proof of your consistency: My readers will judge of your feelings, upon what I have said in my Historical Letter to you, and more particularly in the latter part, from the notice you have chosen to take of it in Parliament, I wish much to be concise ; I wish more to be explicit. Were the subject merely personal, I could shape my course without difficulty: Without boasting of my powers, I avow an earest wish and endeavour to give the most minute resemblance, which can be spread upon canvass : I can not therefore pretend to give a bust, or even a kitcat, of so eminent a character. Whether I succeed, or fail in the execution, I shall endeavour to give your figure at full length, and to delineate with the industry of a Denner, if I cannot with the glow of a Titian, the action of every fibre, nerve, and sinew of so momentous a body, a vertice i apitis, usque ad plantam pedis.
If I plead ignorance of any publication of your's, or in your behalf, Sir John, since January 1813, (the date of
your two letters to Lord Fingal) which
I might, or ought to have known, my readers, I trust, will place it (some I hope with sympathy), to the evils of unvoluntary absence from the scene of action. I have had the opportunity of seeing only irregularly a broken series of the English newspapers, during the last twelve months. From those, which have accidentally come under my
inspection, I have found to my astonishment, that the freedom of debate in the House of Commons has, to judge from the printed reports, been used by you, Sir John, as a safe, free, and resistless engine for misrepresenting and decrying my literary productions, for mistating and censuring my opinions, and for distorting and reprobating my principles. I have, alas! studied the laws and constitution of my country to little purpose, if I be not correct in stating, that every Englishman may defend his character and property, with as much publicity as they have been assailed, and that his right and means of repelling falsehood and refuting obloquy, are at least commensurate with the malice, publicity, and occasions of violating truth and engendering calumny. I unquestionably wish to stand rectus in curid in the eyes of each of the 768 members of the House of Commons, who may have heard the censures, charges, and imputations repeatedly and expressly made against me within their privileged walls: but they form a very insignificant portion of the community at large, amongst whom the newspaper reports of the debates, are diffused, and from which alone they can adopt ideas, receive feelings, and exercise judgment upon what they read to have passed in debate. The effects produced in the minds of the readers of the reports are not regulated by the plus or the minus of the accuracy of the report. I comment not therefore upon your speeches in the House of
Commons, but upon the publications I find of them in the various columns of the Journalists. Thus am I fearless of trenching upon the privileges of the House. Nor do I lay myself open to a second imputation from you, of chusing to put verbal inaccuracies of expression into your mouth on the loose authority of some newspaper. I am perfectly free to say, that the disquisition I have given in my
first Historical Letter to you, concerning the mode of publishing the reports of the members' speeches in the London morning newspapers, and of members publishing their own speeches, or the substance of įheir speeches, or the draughts of their intended speeches, with additional observations upon them, may be read even by members of the Imperial Parliament, if not with interest and satisfaction, yet with profit and instruction.
Although mentioned in my first Historical Letter to you*, it becomes necessary here to refer to two leading facts, which occurred in the session of 1813, which had closed before I had finished the manuscript, in order to put the reader into complete possession of your consistency and zeal in the great measure.
« On the 11th of May (1813) you « moved for, and failed in establishing an ever
lasting select committee, to examine into, and « report the state of the laws affecting his Majesty's « Roman Catholic subjects: the condition and « number of the Catholic clergy, their religious « institutions, together with the nature and extent « of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction exercised by the « See of Rome : the state of the Catholics in our « colonies, and the intercourse, and the regula« tions established by foreign countries, and the
* Historical Letter to Sir J. C. Hippisley, p. 119.
« intercourse maintained by the Catholic clergy « in the British dominions with the Papal See.» And, it appears from the Parliamentary proceedings, that on the 22d of July 1813, you, Sir John, with your wonted indefatigability moved, « that there should be laid before the House ex« tracts from the dispatch of Sir George Prevost, « Governor of Canada, bearing date in October, « 1811, with respect to the state of the Catholic
religion in that country ; which were ordered.» We shall presently have occasion to return to these orders. Having traced the date and circumstances of your inoculation with Catholic fears of the Jesuits establishing themselves in this country, it is not unimportant to the public, to arrest their attention, to the punctilious fidelity, with which you seconded the wishes of those Catholics, who made you their mouthpiece to communicate their fears upon this head to the Protestant Legislature. In the late stupendous and rapid turn of events, no right judgment can be formed of the speeches or achievements of the actors in any of the important scenes, without close attention to the time, place, and circumstance of their having been uttered or performed. Whoever proceeds with this monitory caution, will be firmly convinced, that a word is not uttered in public, or even in private, by the actors in the great measure, a motion is not made, a measure is not devised, which is to be judged of, upon
its insulated merits; but must be considered as a main spring in the machinery, which was speedily to exhibit the denouement of a systematic intrigue of above twenty years hatching.
True to your commission, Sir John, you do the work of
your setters and pliers with indefatigable industry. On the 16th of May, 1814, you gave
notice*, that you « would on the morrow move,
that a paper, should be laid before the House, « which had been published, and which had cre* ated a great sensation in Ireland. We under« stood (says the Journalist), that the worthy « Baronet alluded to the letter of M. Quarantotti.» When on the next day, you made your promised motion for that, and some other papers to be printed, no small portion of your speech was dedicated, as the different London newspapers report it, to the mistatement and censure of my opinions upon the obligation of oaths, and upon my sentiments and feelings concerning that society which, as (1) the Catholic world had demanded it with unanimous voice, your old friend and correspondent has vouchsafed to re-establish throughout the entire Catholic world, but it seems, to your and your instructor's and deputer's sore annoyance, Whatever I said of them in my first Historical Letter to you, was written above twelve months before the bull was published, which you have since moved to have laid on the table of the House of Commons. Amongst other papers, which reported your strictures, censures, and imputations against me (faithfully and fairly I doubt not), was the Morning Chronicle : with the political sentiments of which I had long been in the habits of generally coinciding. I was anxious therefore of repelling the false and slanderous charges, which I read in the papers against me (as contained in their reports of your speech), in the columns of the Morning Chronicle. I fondly fancied, that the
* Morning Post for the 17th of May, 1814.
(1) Such are the words of the bull or constitution, which for the satisfaction of all the readers of this letter is given in English and Latin. Appendix No. l.