Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

persecuting them in this world, but an endeavour to damn them in the next.

The amendment was supported by Colonel Dillon, Mr. Herbert, Mr. Whitbread, and Mr. Wynn, who complained of the late appointment of Dr. Duigenan to be a privy counsellor. This act and the refusal to permit Catholics to be eligible to the situation of directors of the bank of Ireland, shewed the temper and spirit by which ministers had been actuated towards the sister kingdom. The lesser grant was supported by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Perceval), and Mr. Ryder (Secretary). The amendment of Sir John Newport was negatived; and the vote for the lesser grant of 9,0001. was agreed to without a division.

ROMAN CATHOLICS.

MR. GRATTAN PRESENTS THE PROTESTANT PETITION FROM IRE

LAND, IN FAVOUR OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CLAIMS, AND MOVES FOR A COMMITTEE TO REVISE THE PENAL LAWS.

April 23. 1812. ON the 21st, Mr. Grattan presented the general petition of the

Roman Catholics of Ireland; also a petition of the Roman Catholics of the county of Monaghan. Mr. Ponsonby presented a petition from the Roman Catholics of the county of Down. Several Protestant petitions were also presented in favour of the Roman Catholics. The general petition from the Protestants of Ireland on their behalf, had been presented on the 20th ; and, the order of the day having been read for taking into consideration the state of the laws which affect His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects,

Mr. GRATTAN rose and said, Sir, I have changed the question, and instead of a committee to consider the petitions I propose to move for a committee to revise the laws. Thus, every person who thinks that redress should be administered, whether in a greater or a less degree, whether by applying to the executive power to take a leading part in the business, (as was the opinion of a right honourable gentleman, whose opinion deserves every consideration,) or by proceeding ourselves to administer relief, must, I say, concur in this motion. The present powers of England chiefly regard Ireland and America ; your efforts in other places must be chiefly influenced by fortune, but here you can arbitrate your own destinies ; here wisdom may save, or folly may undo: and if you err here, you loose deliberately, and by your own fault, your strength in the new world, and your anchor in the old.

The question I shall propose is a new one; it was hitherto debated upon the

circumstance, it is on the principle you are now to decide. The doom of Ireland lies before you; and if you finally decide against her petitions, you declare that threefourths of the Irish, and one-fourth of the empire, shall be disqualified for ever. When you say we will not accede to the wishes of Ireland now, and advance no reason, which must not always exist, you mean never, but you do not say never,” because

you cannot give to the tremendous sentence its proper denomination a sentence abominable, unutterable, unimaginable.

The sentence purports to disqualify for ever, three-fourths of the people of Ireland for adhering in their own country to the religion of their ancestors. Recollect that Ireland is their country, and that your power in that country is founded on her liberties. That religion is their right, and the gospel is their property. Revelation is the gift of God, given to man to be interpreted according to the best of that understanding which his Maker has bestowed. The Christian religion is the property of man, independent of the state. The

naked Irishman has a right to approach his God without a licence from his King ; in this consists his duty here, and his salvation hereafter. The state that punishes him for the discharge of that duty, violates her own, and offends against her God, and against his fellow-creature. You are the only civilized nation who disqualify on account of religion.

I allow that where religion is acconipanied with any circumstance that tends to disaffection, the state has a right to interfere; but in that case, it is not the religion that the state touches, but the disaffection, and here that circumstance does not exist, because here we have practical proofs of allegiance. You have read the public papers, you have seen the Gazette. With every repugnance to enquire into the state of the people of Ireland, there are some things which you must know. You know they are fighting and dying in your service, and in this knowledge you learn the falsehood of the calumnies which were once offered against their pretensions; and what is more, oh shame to relate it! admitted as evidence; their opponents said that no Irish Catholic could be loyal to a prince of the House of Hanover; they said that the Irish Catholic must ever hate an Englishman. They were not aware that they implied that the British government had made itself hated in Ireland, and had misgoverned our country from the beginning; they said that the Pope claimed in these realms a temporal power, that he claimed a deposing power, that he claimed a power to dispense with moral obligations; they said that oaths did not bind the Catholic, and that Protestants and Catholics could never amalgamate. Their charges were calumnies, the common calumnies of a scolding sect. They were received as evidence, notwithstanding they were answered by the impossibility of their truth. Had they been true, the Christian religion could not have existed an hour; had they been true, the Catholic states must have come long ago to moral and political dissolution. They were also answered (they need not have been answered,) by six Catholic universities, — Paris, Douay, Alcala, Valladolid, Louvain, Salamanca, the best authority upon the subject. I 'need not refer to the answers; they refuted their calumniators; to silence them was impossible ; they state that the Pope had no temporal power in these countries; they state that he has no deposing power; and, regarding the charge of no faith with heretics, they repel the imputation with horror and contempt. These charges are also refuted by the oaths of the Catholics, which the Protestant legislature had made the test of their loyalty. See the oath of 1793; and by another, by the best possible answer, by an answer that sets misinterpretation at defiance, and refutes false logic by sound fact, — by the practical allegiance of the Catholic. You have that evidence before

you; you see it in the dispatches which recite your battles; you yourselves, without knowing, have decided upon the fact. What are your votes of Parliament, returning thanks to the Catholics in the army and navy? what are they, but the verdict of the English Parliament in favour of their allegiance ? But those votes of Parliament that pronounce the Catholic to be innocent, pronounce the legislature that disqualifies them, to be guilty. Here stands on one side the Parliament with a penal sentence in its hand, and on the other, the Catholic with an acquittal by that very Parliament; thus, under your own authority is the Catholic acquitted, and the Parliament convicted.

With this practical evidence of their allegiance, and this your own seal and sanction, you have divers Protestant petitions in their favour;. these petitions are prayers for their privileges, and evidences for their character. And first, where are the petitions against them ? where is the petition from the city of London ? where are those instruments that were to have overlaid your table? Your countrymen have not come here to mock the calamities of the state, by petitions to defend England at this perilous moment against the Pope and his seven sacraments; they have not aggravated the calamities of

VOL. IV.

T

the state, by denouncing an eternal hostility to the civil privileges of three-fourths of the people of Ireland; they have not petitioned for the perpetual weakness of the empire, by demanding an everlasting separation of interest. The church too: I have not seen, in any great degree, its interference; I have not heard the ecclesiastical horn of discord and sedition. Where are the ministers of the gospel, who have left their God to follow the court, to damn their fellow-creatures for pay? Where are the numerous pulpits blasted by the flag of ecclesiastical prostitution ? Instead of one religion damning another for stipend and promotion, in the person of dull divines, instead of an ill-advised people coming down to Parliament with petitions against their fellow-subjects, in the character of mad metaphysicians, I see but three petitions against the Catholics.

I see, on the other hand, the address of the livery of London, with a clause expressing a desire that civil disabilities should be removed. I see the sense of this great capital favourable, or not adverse, to Irish liberty and English justice. I see wisdom and justice, truth and security, speaking in the voice of many thousand Englishmen, petitioning in their favour. I see a petition from the Protestants of Ireland, denominated a Protestant petition, and signed by the greater part of the Protestant proprietors in Ireland; that petition, unaccompanied by any counter petition, may be called the Protestant interest of Ireland. The first name is Mr. David Latouche; that gentleman had originally voted against the Catholics ; but seeing the changes of time, and weighing well the public exigency, he now comes forward in their favour: ever a foe to violence, and checking by turns the errors of the crowd, and the crimes of the court, independent equally of the King and the people, aloof from all party, and attached solely to the public good, he asserts to the last the integrity of his character, and gives the authority of his name and his house to the service of his country. You have, in addition to this, the names of the house of Leinster, of Ormond, Meath, &c. &c.

You have the Protestant merchants, the Presbyterians, and, coupled with the Catholics, this petition may be said to comprehend the property and population of Ireland; in fact, the petition of Ireland lies upon your table. I congratulate my Protestant brethren in Ireland; they have asserted the true principles of the gospel, they have asserted the principles of civil liberty, and they give a warning voice to the British empire. If any misfortune should happen, they must share the evil, but they avoid the dishonour.

Before you dismiss the petitions, let us see who is the petitioner. The kingdom of Ireland, with her imperial crown, stands at your bar; she applies for the civil liberty of threefourths of her children. She pays you in annual revenue about six millions; she pays you in interest of debt about three; in rent of absentees, about two; and in commerce, about ten. Above twenty million of money is comprehended in that denomination called Ireland ; besides the immeasurable supply of men and provisions, you quadruple her debt, you add three-fold to her taxes, you take away her Parliament, and send her from your bar without a hearing, and with three-fourths of her people disqualified for ever. You cannot do it; I say you cannot finally do it. The interest of your country would not support you; the feelings of your country would not support you : it is a proceeding that cannot long be persisted in. No courtier so devoted, no politician so hardened, no conscience so capacious. I am not afraid of occasional majorities; I remember in 1782, to have been opposed by a court majority, and to have beaten down that court majority. I remember, on a similar occasion, to have stood with twenty-five, opposed to a strong majority, and to have overcome that immense majority. Ă majority cannot overlay a great principle. God will guard his own cause against rank majorities. In vain shall men appeal to a churchcry, or to a mock-thunder: the proprietor of the bolt is on the side of the people.

Should you, however, finally resolve upon such a measure, such a penal sentence, recollect how much you will be embarrassed by engagements, recollect the barrier is removed that formerly stood against the measure I propose. However we may lament the cause, we must acknowledge the fact, and perceive, that the time is now come, in which the Catholics were to expect a gracious predilection. They were taught to expect that their wounds would be healed; and their disabilities were to cease; that a great deliverer was on his way, that would wipe the tears of the Irish, and cast upon the royal family a new ray of glory everlasting. They gave themselves up to a passion that was more than allegiance, and followed the leading light, that cheered their painful steps through the wilderness, until they came to the borders of the land of promise, when, behold! the vision of royal faith vanishes, and the curse which blasted their forefathers, is to be entailed upon their children. In addition to this immeasurable disappointment, you must consider another you may remember the Union.

Without enquiring whether the repeal of Catholic disability was actually promised, it was the expectation of that measure

[ocr errors]
« ÖncekiDevam »