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except when on the shoulders of the Protestant government of England,—this unhappy old man was supported, an image of frail fortune and extinguished authority, until he was finally resigned to captivity and oblivion, the sole attendants on his state, without an effort to restore, or a partizan to console him, “ more formidable than ever,” exclaims the petition of Cambridge; and on this solid observation piously prays the legislature to impose on four millions of her fellow-subjects eternal disabilities. To this learned university how formidable then must the house of Bourbon appear. Like the Pope, that house has lost its dominions. How formidable Ferdinand of Spain ; like the Pope, he has lost his liberty, and is possessed of all the resources that proceed from captivity and deposition. How criminal must our Government appear, according to this reasoning, who pay above 20,000,000 to support in Spain and Portugal the respective governments in church, as well as state; and, of course, are contending to set up again the powers of France, in the person of the Pope, now represented to be more formidable than ever. See then how your right stands; of three objections, two are abandoned ; the third reduced to a spiritual, and that spiritual power now reduced to nothing.
You profess to tolerate religion; you do not tolerate religion when you punish it. Disability is punishment; it is a punishment in a very high degree. You cannot say, that an application to get rid of that punishment, is an application for power; it is an application for protection. Civil capacities are defence; they are necessary to protect the Catholic against the injustice of a partial trial; they are necessary to protect him against the hardship of being taxed, and bound by a body of which he constitutes no part: when the Catholics desire eligibility to the office of sheriff, they desire a protection against juries, exclusively Protestant, modelled by a party sheriff'; they desire that their lives and properties may not be tried exclusively by those who disqualify them. If this be ambition, it is the ambition of not being hanged by a party jury; the ambition of not being robbed by a party sheriff packing a party jury. On a question touching Catholic claims, the Roman Catholics have not now a fair trial in Ireland; ina case between Catholics and Protestants they have not the benefits even which foreigners possess. I do not say this applies to ordinary cases, but I do say that where there is a question touching their exertions to obtain their civil privileges, they have not a fair trial. How many Catholics were jurymen on the late trials for the violation of the convention act ? not one; they are not only deprived of the great executive offices of their country, but of the great protective principles by which their lives and properties should be defended. They are excluded from the office of sheriff by which juries are impännelled, and from that legislative body by which taxes are imposed.
Gentlemen call for security; we call for security; we call for security against a policy which would make the British name in Ireland odious; we call for security against a policy which would make the British faith in Ireland equivocal; we call for security against a policy which would disinherit, disqualify, and palsy a fourth part of the empire.
When gentlemen on the other side, call for security, let them state the danger : does the danger consist in the eucharist? or in the political consequence attending the real presence ? does the danger exist in the worship of the Virgin Mary? does the danger exist in an attachment to the House of Stuart? Let the opponents give us some serious reason ; let them afford us some apology to after-ages for inflicting on a fourth of our fellow-subjects political damnation to all eternity. They have but one danger to state; let us hear it; it is the Pope, and the influence of France upon that power. He has at present no power; France has no influence over him, and the Irish Catholic no communication: the danger, therefore, is prospective. What securities have they taken against it? domestic nomination. No, they have declared it to be impracticable and inadequate. You might have had the veto; you might have had it in 1801, when you had the Pope in your power; you might have had it 1805, when you rejected Mr. Fox's proposition; and I believe you might have had it in 1808; but you lost it, and their opponents are answerable to the public for the loss of it. Well, domestic nomination they say will not do; the veto, they say, will not do. Have they any other measure? Do they propose a plan for making proselytes? Do they propose to discontinue recruiting from the Catholic body? They have no plan but civil disabilities, that is to say, national disqualification; but national disqualification is the odium of the British name, and the hostility of the Irish people, and what is that but ultimate separation ? Separation in fact, or separation in disposition. They have talked much of the security of the church, much of the security of the state, and much of the necessity to fortify both, and the only security they propose for either is, virtual or actual separation. For this, the church has been expected to preach, and the people to petition. They tell you, that there is a great danger in the relative situation of the Pope with regard to France; they suggest to you, of course, that some remedy is necessary, and they produce a remedy which does not act upon the disease, but is of itself another disorder, that goes to the dissolution of the empire. For this has Oxford, for this has Cambridge, petitioned, with good intentions I must suppose; but they have petitioned for the dismemberment of the empire.
Sensible of this, the people have not crowded your table with applications against the Catholics; on the contrary, the property,
and the Protestant interest of Ireland, have petitioned for them; and, in addition to this, a number of leading characters in England have declared they cannot accept of office without taking measures for the relief of the Catholics. This is a great security; in this security, with other circumstances, I would advise the Catholics to place much confidence. Nothing could be more fatal to their cause than despair: they may be certain that their application must ultimately succeed, and that nothing can add to its natural strength more than the temper with which it is conducted.
I know the strength of the cause I support; it might appeal to all the quarters of the globe; and it will walk the earth and flourish, when dull declamation shall be silent, and the pert sophistry that opposed it shall be forgotten in the
grave. I cannot think that the civil capacities of millions coupled with the cause of this empire, which is involved in their fate, shall owe their downfall to folly and inanition. As well might I suppose the navy of England to be blown out of the ocean by a whirlwind raised by witches, or that your armies in Spain and Portugal should be laid prostrate by harlequin and his wooden sword, as that such interests as I now support should be overturned by a crew of quaint sophisters, or by ministers, with the aid of a few studious but unenlightened ecclesiastics, acting under the impulse of interest, and the mask of religion. The people, if left to themselves, and their good understanding, will agree; it is learned ignorance only that would sever the empire.
As the call of the House may have brought together many gentlemen who did not attend the former debates on the subject, I beg to apprize them of some further objections with which they must expect to be encountered. They will be told, that the people of Ireland are base and barbarous, and are not equal to the exercise of civil capacities; that is, that the first order of Catholic gentlemen in Ireland, who are to be affected by the repeal of these laws, are base and barbarous; that is to say, that in the course of 600 years, the British Government in Ireland has made the people of that country base and barbarous, or, in other words, that your government has been in Ireland a public calamity. They state, the Christian religion, as exercised in Ireland by the majority of the people, to be another cause of this evil, and thus they suggest as the only remedy the adoption of a measure which would banish from that island her government, and her religion. The folly, the indecency, and the insanity of these objections do not deserve an answer.
They will tell you, moreover, that the spirit of the act of settlement, which deposed the reigning prince for his attack on civil and religious liberty, commits the very crime it punishes, and goes to deprive of civil liberties one-fourth of your fellow-subjects for ever.
Desire those men who tell you so, to shew the clause in the act of settlement of such an import; and ask them, why they, in defiance of an express provision in the act, raise foreign Catholics to the highest rank in the army? ask them, why the eucharist, which overpowers the understanding, as they suppose, of Lord' Fingall or Sir Patrick Bellew, has no effect on these foreigners ? and why they abandon their prejudices in favour of strangers, and advance them only to proscribe the natives of their country? They will tell you, that the disqualifying oath is a fundamental part of the act of union. Desire them to read the act of union: they will there find the disqualifying oath is directly the contrary; that by the fourth article of the union, it is expressly declared to be provisionary, not fundamental; and you may add, that herein is a provision by act of parliament, declaring that the excluding oath, as prescribed at the revolution, is not a fundamental part of the constitution. The same declaration will be found in the Scotch union. Thus all the parliamients of these realms have repeatedly declared, that the disqualifying oath is not a fundamental part of the constitution; and, therefore, against the argument of the minister on this head, you may quote the two acts of union, and also the authority of those who voted for the Irish act of union, that is to say, some of the ministers themselves, and also of those who drew up the Irish act of union, who, I apprehend, were some of themselves.
Ask then, have they set forth in this act of parliament, that the disqualifying oath was provisionary, and, after obtaining the union, will they now belie their own law, and assert that the oath is fundamental ? They will tell you, that by the constitution of the country, the Parliament is Protestant. Ask them, are not the Commons a part of Parliament? and are not the Irish electors a part of the Commons ? and are not they in no small a proportion Catholic? The persons who argue with you thus against the Catholics, have sworn the oath at your table; desire them
to read it, and there they will find no profession of faith whatever ; that Christianity itself is no part of the qualification; that any man can take that vath except a Catholic.
Ask them, whether that exclusion was not on account of political combinations formerly existing in Europe ? ask them, whether they continue ? and, in answer to all their objections and jealousy, ask them, why they continue to fill their navy and army in such an immense proportion, with men whose race they affect to distrust, and therefore they presume to disqualify? Ask the generals and admirals how these men act in the fleet and in the field ? Read the lists of the killed and wounded, and see in what number these men have died in your service; read the Irish names of wounded officers; recollect that they cannot be generals, and see in their practical allegiance a complete answer to all objections. Tell them, they must extend their constitution to their empire, or limit their en pire to their church establishment. Or, if you wish for further information, do not apply to the court, but ask the country; ask the Protestant gentlemen of Ireland; ask the house of Leinster; ask the house of Ormond; ask the great landed proprietors of the country, men who must stand the brunt of the danger; ask their petition; and do not, in the face of their opinion, decide against the civil privileges of a fourth of your own people; do not hazard the name of England on such a principle; do not hazard the empire of England on such an experiment.
I appeal to the hospitals, who are thronged with the Irish who have been disabled in your cause, and to the fields of Spain and Portugal, yet drenched with their blood, and I turn from that policy which disgraces your empire, to the spirit of civil freedom that formed it; that is the charm by which your kings have been appointed, and in whose thunder you ride the waters of the deep. I call upon these principles, and upon you to guard your empire, in this perilous moment, from religious strife, and from that death-doing policy, which would teach one part of the empire to cut the ihroats of the other, in a metaphysical, ecclesiastical, unintelligible warfare.
I call upon you to guard your empire from such an unnatural calamity, and four millions of your fellow-subjects from a senseless, shameless, diabolic oppression. You come on the Call of the House to decide, as you suppose, a great question regarding the people of Ireland; you have to say to them, We are ruined; unless we stand by one another, we are ruined ; and they have to say to you, We require our liberties ; our lives are at your service.
He then moved, “ That it be referred to a committee to