Sayfadaki görseller

“ Catholic illiberality! Why, the man who should use that argụment would now be laughed to scorn. He would be told that the first, last, and best examples of religious freedom have been given by Catholic states-Maryland, Hungary, and Bavaria would be triumphantly cited. In short, in every Catholie country in the world, possessing any share of popular government, liberty of conscience is already established.

“ Even in Spain, the Cortes, of whom two-thirds were priests proclaimed the liberty of the press, and abolished the Inquisition. We therefore can well afford to make a present to the bigots, of the petticoat-making tyrant of Spain, and of our other worthy ally of Portugal or Brazil; but we can proudly and confidently claim for Catholics the palm of liberality.

“ No man can now state as a reason for rejecting our claims, . the hostility of the people of England. It was a favourite topic with the bigoted part of the present administration. They admitted that emancipation would conciliate Ireland, but then they said that any advantages to be derived from such conciliation would be more than counterbalanced by the irritation and permanent discontent which, they alleged, any concession to the Catholics, would create in England.

“Oh, how egregiously they calumniated the intelligent, rational, and honest people of England! What a powerful refu. tation have the English people given to this calumny? In the voice of assembed myriads, they have proclaimed the utter falsehood of the base imputation. Seven centuries of oppression are already forgiven ; and the English 'name, which we seldom pronounced with complacency, begins to sound sweetly in the ears of our children. May their rulers imitate the good sense of the English people, and speak to the heart of the Irish nation a language which she has never yet heard from an imperial legislature ! But whether this useful lesson shall be thrown away on the English parliament or not, this much at least is certain that no apprehension can be entertained of irritating the people of England by conceding to us our rights. It will gratify their generosity as much as it will propitiate our affections and ensure our gratitude.

“ There remained one other pretext to colour the resistance to our claims-it was Irish turbulence; and where no facts of aggression would be adduced, we were then accused of being turhulent in words. And this was an argument to resist emancipation! Oh, most sapient legislators! Oh, most profound and enlightened statesmen of England ! A nation was to continne



in slavery because some half dozen of demagogues or agitators, as you were pleased to call us, spoke with bitterness of their op pressions, and taunted with ridicule their oppressors !

“But even this poor and paltry pretence is gore by. Not a word, not a breath has escaped us for the last three years which could be found fault with by the most fastidious delicacy; and as to the conduct of the Irish people, it has been and it is exemplary-the most perfect calm reigns around

"Nor leaf is stirred, nor wave is d-iven." Not one sound disturbs our

“Death-like silence and our drear repose. All AU is tranquillity, quietness, and peace. The enemies of every liberty, civil as well as religious, say that the English people are seeking a revolution. For my part, I utterly disbelieve the assertion ; but I have the right to beg of our enemies to be consistent, and to admit that the people of Ireland show not the least symptom of a revolutionary tendency.

“ No! all we desire-and, indeed, in common candour, it ought now to be acknowledged-is to be admitted into the pale of the constitution, and by pouring in fresh strength and young blood, to invigorate and to perpetuate genuine constitutional liberty, and to secure that constitution, and the throne on which it rests, as its surest and best basis from all attacks whatsoever.

“ In order duly to appreciate the recent and present tranquilnity of Ireland, its causes should be calmly and dispassionately investigated. He knows nothing of Ireland who imagines that ours is the quiet of content or of happiness. Alas! the sun does not shine on so wretched a country as Ireland. It is not my present purpose to discuss the causes of such misery, and stiil less to excite any angry passions against the authors of our present afflictions. I merely state a fact which he who ventures to deny does not need refutation. He would deny the daylight at noon. I am quite safe in not attributing our tranquillity to the absence of wretchedness, poverty, and misery. To what, then, is it to be attributed ? I believe the answer is easy.

The Irish have been so long disciplined in the school of misfortune, that they have acquired an experience which may in time instruct their teachers. There is an instinctive sensibility about them which almost by intuition leads them into the path of gratitude and of prudence. In the present instance they have demonstrated to the world that they possess those qualities to a degree which their enemies could not have believed, and


their friends did not perhaps expect. They have hitherto pursued the strict line of gratitude and of prudence ; and if we do but continuo in the same track, we shall either obtain emar cipation, or learn a new lesson, and adopt, with equal kindness of feeling, a more decided, and, I think, a more salutary course.

“ There are three distinct causes for the existence of that gratitude in the minds of the Irish Catholics.

“ The first is the manner in which our claims were received in the last sessions by the parliament, and especially by the House of Commons. The majority against us was merely nominal, and wore the appearance of accident. When any measure is supported by such a minority as voted for emancipation, it ought not to be difficult to foresee its approaching success. Accordingly, the postponement of our hopes was received by us with some disappointment, but without any irritation; and to those who brought us so near success our feelings of thankfulness were lively and powerful. We are still under the impression of these feelings.

“The second source of our gratitude is to be found in the conduct of the present government of Ireland, especially that of the secretary. We are all aware that the Irish governors are the mere servants of their lords and masters in the cabinet of England. They have but little in their power of active service. They cannot do much active good, but they can do, and the

present governors have done, much passive service. They have maintained an honourable and just neutrality ; they have carefully abstained from fanning the flame of bigotry ; they have given no countenance, no protection to the exciters of discord—to the promoters of religious rancour. In truth, bigotry is an exotic in Ireland, and requires the hot-bed of Castle corruption and Castle influence in order to rear it into poisonous maturity. Take from it that corrupt influence, and it withers at once, as it has now done, before the native and unadulterated breath of Irish kindliness. The neutrality of the Castle has accordingly put an end to a fertile source of dissension and irritation, and for that neutrality the members of the Irish government deserve, and have obtained, our sincere thanks.

“But the third and best cause of our gratitude remains to be told. It is to be found in the conduct of the Protestants of [reand; all that Ireland can boast of Protestant rank, fortune, talent and independence, came forward to assert on our behalf the great principle of religious liberty. Amongst the glorious constellation of names, friends to liberality, stands pre-emiocut

that of the late lord mayor of Dublin, Alderman M' Kenny. For the first time in Irish history, a lord mayor of Dublin presided at a meeting intended and calculated to promote genuine loyalty and cordial conciliation.

"] confess the recollection of the efforts made by the highest Protestant worth in Ireland to procure our emancipation, fills my mind with the most powerful sensations of gratitude ; but there is, after all, something more exquisitely soothing in the exertions of a more humble class—I mean the Protestant inhabitants of Dublin, many of them in the lowest situations in life, who, at their parish meetings, either followed or helped to lead the efforts of the superior ranks of society. It is to those parish meetings, it is to this domestic exhibition of Protestant kindness and genuine liberality of sentiment, that I look with the fondest affection. Here were found my Protestant countrymen, in the gratification of their unadulterated hearts, showing the true spirit of Christianity, by doing to others what they would desire to have done to themselves. I honestly believe that the extinction of religious feuds throughout nine-tenths of the land, which we have witnessed for the last nine or ten months, has been principally owing to the certainty of reconciliation which the Protestant parish meetings held out.

“ I do not mean to detract from the merits of the Duke of Leinster and the lord mayor, and the other noblemen and gentlemen who evinced their patriotic liberality;

Their conduct was above all praise ; but the good feeling exhibited itself still in a more useful channel amongst those classes of life who know not how to disguise, and who .cannot mitigate their sentiments. It was, indeed, the first blossom of Irish unanimity, and has borne good fruit, in the extinction of ancient animosities, and in the production of a disposition towards tranquillity, peace, and good will.

“The Irish people have hitherto acted from these impulses. Whilst England has been agitated to her centre, Ireland has remained perfectly tranquil. Let our conduct not be mistaken. Let it not be imagined that we are insensible to the blessings of universal liberty, or careless of the unjust state of parliamentary representation--quite the reverse ; bnt we deemed it right in gratitude to our l'rotestant neighbours-in duty to ourselves and our children, to abstain from any conduct which might endanger the advantages of our present situation. We have taken away all pretexts from our enemies. Let us continue the same line of conduct until our fate is decided in this session. I say, our fate-because if we are now rejected, who can ever hope again ? * WoW Tallare the Protestants of Ireland for us ; now we have the people of England for us; now we have the multitudinous examples of Catholic liberality for us; now we are, in our conduct without reproach -in our tranquillity exemplary. In what way can our petition be rejected ? It can be rejected only by reason of future misconduct ; it can be rejected only by our own fault or our own folly. This is my firm and decided opinion ; perhaps I am mistaken; but it surely is worth while to try the experiment.

“ The session of parliament commences in one short month. There is not one moment to be lost. Perhaps it would be wise immediately to address the Prince Regent; that I submit to your consideration. At all events, it is obviously our policy to press forward our question at the earliest possible period next session.

“Let us, then, my countrymen, meet ; let us prepare our petitions ; let those petitions be numerous ; let them be unanimous, and confined to the single object of emancipation. We shall, probably, succeed; but if we do not, at least we shall have deprved to succeed ; and we shall have the farther advantage, that of ascertaining the hopelessness of again petitioning for emancipation.

“ You will be told that you should despise emancipation as a minor and unworthy consideration, and join the almost universal cry of reform.

Do not be carried away by any such incitement. No man is more decidedly a friend to reform than I am.

In theory I admit the right to universal suffrage ; and I admit that

; curtailing the duration of parliament would be likely to add to its honesty. Nay, I am ready to go to the fullest possible practical length to obtain parliamentary reform. But we have a previous duty to perform ; a favourable opportunity now presents itself to add to the general stock of liberty, by obtaining our emancipation ; and the man would, in my judgment, be a false patriot, who, for the chance of uncertain reform, would fling away the present most propitious moment to realize a most important and almost certain advantage.

"Such, my countrymen, are the honest opinions-such is the conscientious advice of one of yourselves. I may be mistaken ; but I feel certain that you will admit the purity of the motives which actuate me.

“Should, indeer, our present petition be rejected-should we be again causelessly and capriciously scouted by the present pariament, why, then, I, for one, shall certainly be the last to advise you further to pursue what will then be demonstrated to be a

« ÖncekiDevam »