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Boterie bad been busy in their small way, meeting, speechifying to each other, resolving and labouring with infinite pains to show the minister how anxious they were to subscrve his hostility to Irish ecclesiastical independence, if he would only renew and carry ca Ws attacks with his pristine activity
The following notification from them appeared in the Dublin papers, at the end of Jacute ary :
** It is the intention of the gentlernen who have called the meeting of the 4th of February est, while they adhere strictly to the principles contained in their petitioa of last year
i. e. the seceders' petition entrusted to Mr. Grattan), to evince, by the measure which they intend to propose to the meeting, a desire that the general feeling of the Roman Catholic body may, as far as possible, be attended to ! in any arrangements that may eventually ecc mpany a bill of relief to the Catholics of Ireland.'"
lu is amusing to note the coolness with which this little knot of trimmers announce their gracious desire to have some consideration for the opinions of the rest of Ireland.
The meeting was advertised for the day above stated, and to be held at No.:50, Ecclesstreet. Mr. O'Connell and the leading gentlemen of the popular movement deterinined that it should not be one of a hole and corner description; and accordingly he, with several of his colleagues, attended at the time and place named. They were stopped in the hall by a servant buy, who showed them a resolution signed by Lord Southwell and Sir Edward Bellew, to the effect that the meeting was confined to those who had been parties to sending a Catholic petition to Mr. Grattan in the preceding year. But, as the public advertisement had announced no such reservation, they refused to be bound by this private arrangement, and accordingly proceeded up stairs.
Nicholas Mahon opened the battery on the astounded vetoists assembled in scanty num. bers up stairs. He said he attended in the assertion of his right as a Catholic, to attend to what was his individual concern, as well as that of the budy at large, and thereforo would remain.
Lord Southwell referred to the terms of the notice in the hall, and “ hoped gentlemen would withdraw."
Mr. O'Connell said, he for one would certainly not do so. He entirely denied the right of any portion of the Catholic body to form themaclves into a privileged class, or an Orange lodge, ont of which they could exclude any other Catholic looking for emancipation.
Besides, he said, he had come there that day in the perfect spirit of conciliation, and to make propositions that might tend to combine the entire Catholic body in one great exer. tion. The propositions were so reasonable that nothing could resist them, but a determination to dissension, or for the veto.
There was a long consultation between Lord Southwell, Sir E. Bellew, and his brother, Counsellor Bellew. At last Lord Southwell being moved to the chair,
Sir Edward Bellew, disclaiming personal disrespect, moved to adjourn, as persons not summoned were present. Mr. O'Connell opposed the motion, and after some time, succeeded in getting the motion withdrawıı.
Sir Edward next moved two resolutions drawn up by his brother : the one calling on Mr. Grattan to move on their petition of the last year, and the other expressly recognizing the right of the legislature to make a law controlling the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church, but praying of them not to infringe either.
These resolutions were seconded by Randall M'Donnell, Esq., and opposed in strong terms.
Mr. O'Connell next spoke. The following is the newspaper extract, given by authom rity :
"He first pointed out the weakness and imbecility of the Catholic cause .ast year, whick he traced to division and dissension in the Catholic body. This was freely and fully admitted.
“He then adverted to the reasons' by which the seceders' had last year justfied their division. First, 'intemperance. He asserted that there was now not a shadow of intem perance. This, too, was admitted on all hands.
“Secondly—the introduction of exiraneous topics.' He asserted that all extraneous topics had then been abandoned ; and this also was admitted.
"Thirdly, taking away the petition from BIr. Gractan.' This point he offered to come cede. It could easily be done without interfering with the petitiou in Sir ilcnry Parnellis hands. Another petition may be instantly prepared to be given to Ur. Gratlan, and that jpetition Mr. O'Connell offered to sign, if it excluded the veto
“Fourthly--the want of any offer of conciliation, cr arrangement in thc pelilions of the people.' Even this had been obviated. The people this year had adopted a petition already signed by Lord Fingal and Lord Southwell, Sir Edward Bellew, and others. And they had actually given up the point of simple Repeal, by acceding to the arrangenient which was short of the veto--domestic nomination
These were all the alleged causes of dissension and division. The popular party bad conceded all, or were ready to concede all of them-and Mr. O'Connell further offered :v silake any other concession which could produce unanimity-anything connected with an expressed or implied assent to any vetoistical measure always excepted.
“ He then called on the seceders to say, whether they would do anything, or take any cne step for unanimity; and to this question, though put repeatedly, he could get no reply.
" He lastly showed, that before this meeting, there was perfect unanimity; and if the seceders did not, by now corning forward, take away from the Catholic cause the strength, which unanimity would otherwise give it, there was, in the present state of affairs, this greatest likelihood of success, unless the cause was retarded and embarrassed by conflict. ing petitions, and discordant petitioners.
He concluded by entreating, at all events, further deliberation, and an adjournment for tliee or four days, with the appointment of a committee, to consist of Sir E. Bellex, Randal M'Donnell, James Connolly, and Nicholas Mahon, Esqrs., who could mcet in the meantime from day to day, and consider whether there were any means of reconciling all parties in the Catholic body, and procuring unanimity.
“Mr. James Conww.ly proposed, and Counsellor Howley seconded an adjournment accordingly, and Mr. R. M'Donnell assented to it, saying that the meeting would certainly bo inexcusab'e with the country, if it did not, at least, make an attempt at conciliation.
“The proposition, however, was rejected by fourteen to four. Mr. O'Connell, Mr. Mahon, Mr. M'Laughlin (Cornelius), Mr. O'Kelly, and the other popular Catholics, were excluded from the vote by the Chairman, on the ground of their not being parties summoned. The minority were Messrs. M'Donnell, Connolly, Howley, and Phelan. The majority are described as seven barristers, (or 'counsellors'), of whom two were pensioners, viz., Bellev and Lynch (Sir Edward Bellew), two persons totally unknown, and three very young men equally unknown; and thus (continues the report we have extracted from) was totally rejected all affectation of wishing to strengthen the Catholic cause by unanimity, or of concealing any longer the ardent desire for a vetc,'
“Mr. O'Connell then rose and said, that he had done his duty. He had exerted trery faculty of his mind, and every good feeling of his heart, to promote unanimity. He bad taken away all pretext-all colour or shadow of excuse from the few who had set them.. selves up in opposition to the Catholic body, and had made them, by their own act, demonstrate that they only sought for dissension and distraction, and that they had no other ultimate object but to increase the corrupt influence of the ministry, at the expense of the religion and liberty of Ireland !
“He would no longer consent to remain among them; but he would annour.ce to them this undoubted truth, that their puny efforts for a veto were poor and impotent, and would be blasted by the voice of the Catholic clergy and people of Ireland, whose zealous, honest, and onscientious opposition to that measure, only accumulated as the attempt to betray them appeared more manifest. It was ridiculous to expect success for i hat measura, how such miserable support, against the universal voice of Ireland.
“Mr. O'Connell and the other gentlemen of the popular party then withdrew. A separate statement of this affair was a few days afterwards, put forward by Mr. Bellew,
chiefly giving his owa speeches on the occasion in fuller detail, and varying in some rnim. portant particulars from the preceding. There was, however, no impeachment of the main facts as already given.
Notwithstanding the refusal of the "seceders" to do their part in the work of conciliation, a "conciliating comınittee” of Catholics was formed, to endeavour to keep matters in the right channel, and at the same time suggest any concessions comratible with preserving Catholic independence.
This body issued a circular, inviting the co-operation of cvery Catholic. It was drawn jp in the spirit of Mr. O'Connell's remarks to the Eceles-street coterie; repudiating the veto, securities, &c., &c., as matters against which the nation had pronounced; and suggecting as follows:
“There is an arrangement which would take away all pretext of argument for our enemies, and which has already been sanctioned by our prelates, and received the full appro. bation of the people--it is that of domestic nomination."
Under this title was meant the system prevailing at the present day, when the Catholia bishops of Ireland are selected by the Pope out of a list or lists forwarded to him from the prelates of the province and the clergy of the vacant diocese. It had come practically into operation in the recent election of as excellent a bishop, and as true a patriot as ever lived -the late Right Rev. Dr. Kernan, Bishop of Clogher.
A short speech of Mr. O'Connell's, at one of the first meetings of the Conciliating Committee," gives a striking view of the difficulties and perils besetting the Catholics dt tilis time:
“MR. O'CONNELL said he rose for the purpose of moving to postpone the aggregate meeting from Friday next (the 28th February, 1817), to a future day.
There were many reasons which rendered this postponement expedient, perhaps necessary ; the principal one was the threatened suspension of the habeas corpus act. It was not yet known whether Ireland was or was not included, or to be included within the effect of such suspension ; if it were, then it appeared to him that the best course to pursue would be to withdraw the Catholic petition altogether, and to abandon all claims for legislative relief, until the constitutional protection from unjust imprisonment should again be available. There was no pusillanimity in this advice, and the only credit he claimed with his oppressed countrymen was, that of being capable of giving them advice of such a tendency.
If it were deemed right to offer up a victim to that rancorous and malignant hatred which the bigots in Ireland cherished against those who had exerted themselves for Catholic freedom, hc for one was perfectly ready to be that victim; but at present it struck him, that one example of unjust suffering by a Catholic, would only encourage the bigots amongst their enemies, and the venal amongst themselves, and, perhaps, prevent many honest but more cautious persons from ever coming forward.
Besides the suspension of the habeas corpus act, which would leave the personal liberty of every individual in the land at tho
meroy of the minister of the day, whoever he may be, appeared to bin an eril of such tremendous magnitude that all lesser evils should give place to it; and, in the contemplation of so monstrous a calamity, they should forget their individual grievances. As long, therefore, as that vital part of the constitution should remain suspended, he, for one, would most earnestly recommend the suspension of all meetings, petitions, and applications to the legislature.
There was another point of view in which he deemed this relaxation from petition necessary.' When the habeas corpus
act shall be suspended, the minister might take up
his threatened veto bill, under the name of an emancipation bill. He might seek to enlarge his own influence upon the ruins of the Catholic Church in Ireland, under the name of emancipation. If any man dared to call the people together to remonstrate against the veto—if any attempt were made to resist it by the expression of public indignation, would it not be competent for persons.in power to interrupt the organs of the public sentiment, and to immure them in prison for as long as they might think fit. Thus, while the opponents of the veto were silenced by the hand of authority, and sent, perhaps, into solitary confinement, to expiate in the long and heavy hours of seclusion, their criminal fidelity to the ancient faith of Ireland, the veto might be enacted ; as if in pursuance of their own petition. To obviate those fearful possibilities, it would be best to withdraw the petition, and officially to inform the legislature that all we desired for the present was, to be left in a state of oblivion !
He concluded by saying he would move a postponement until Tuesday next; hy which day it would be known whether the present protection of the law would remain, or be taken away. That result would enable the Catholics to determine on their course of proceedings.
What a state of things! A whole people likely to have to petition, not for a positive boon-not for an act of relief, but to be let alone! And yet the only thing at all novel in the circumstances would have been, that any attention should be given to their humble sapplications !
The next post relieved the Catholics of this fear; Lord Sidmouth expressly declaring in the House of Lords, when moving the first reading of the h beas corpus suspension act, that there were no circumstances requiring that its operation should be extended to Ireland.
But, out of one trouble or difficulty, the Catholics were a long way from being at ease or in safety. The Irish vetoists were as hard at work, or harder than ever. Both Mr. Grattan and Sir Henry Parnell declared openly and unreservedly for the veto ; and at the same moment an alarining letter from the Rev. Richard Hayes, agent for the anti-vetoists at Rome, was received, detailing intrigues in support of the measure which threatened to be successful with the authorities tbere,
The following is an abstract of this long and deeply-interesting letter :
It commencés with stating that the hopes of the vetoistical party at Rome, with Cardinal Gonsalvi at their head, had been revived by the coming of “young Wyse, late of Waterford, and a Counsellor Ball;" that “these youths had repeated to the cardinal, to the Pope, to Cardinal Litta, and other officials, that all the property, education, and respectability of the Catholics of Ireland were favourable to the veto; that the clergy were secretly inclined to it, but were overruled by the mob,' &c., &c.
It is true that Cardinal Litta now abhors the veto more, if possible, than any CathoJic in Ireland; and the Pupe is resolved to take no step without his advice; yet you may jadge of the intrigue, when the miserable farce of these silly boys is given the importance of a regular diplomatic mission."
The letter then went on to complain of the stoppage and interruption of his correspondence with Ireland, in its passage throngh different countries: --" What a combination of misfortunes, Italian villany, French tyranny, British corruption, vetoistical calumny, and, more than all, apparent Irish neglect, have conspired to throw your affairs into the utmost difficulty and danger. Now or never a more powerful effort should be made in Ireland, or the infernal veto, with all its tribe of evils, religious and political, will sink the wretched country of our birth and dearest affections, lower than she has been even in the periods of bloody persecution !"
The writer concluded by requesting to have two coaajutors sent to him: Dr. Dramgoole and the Rev. Mr. M'Auley.
Mr. O'Connell postponed the consideration of this important document until after the approaching aggregate meeting.
On Thursday, March the 6th, this meeting took place. The following were the resolutions adopted:
“RESOLVED—That we duly appreciate the value of unanimity amongst the Catholics, and approve of the measures lately resorted to, in order to produce that desirable result. But we cannot recognize any basis for such unanimity, save such as shall exclude any species of vetoistical arrangement whatever.
“ RESOLVED-- That the people of Ireland, in former times, sustained the loss not only of civil liberty, but of their properties, and many of them their lives, rather than relinquish the faith and discipline of the ancient Catholic Church of Ireland ; and that we, their descendants, are equally attached to that faith and discipline, and equally determined to adhere thereto, notwithstanding any temporal disadvantages penalties, pains, or privations.
“ RESOLVED-That the Catholic prelates of Ireland, assembled in solemn synod, did unanimously enter into the following resolution• That it is our decided and conscientious conviction, that any power granted to the Crown of Great Britain, of interfering directly or indirectly in the appointment of bishops for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, must essentially injure, and may eventually subvert, the Roman Catholic religion in this country.”” Upon the following resolution being read :
“ RESOLVED_That we should not receive, as a boon, any portion of civil liberty, accompanied by that which the Catholic prelates and people of Ireland have condcmned as essentially injurious, and probably destructive to our religion ; and we do solemnly declare, that we intinitely prefer our present situation in the state, to any emancipation which may be directly or indirectly co!!pled with the veto;"