HC Deb 06 February 1810 vol 15 cc320-2
General Mathew

presented a Petition from the Roman Catholics of the county of Tipperary, setting forth, "That the petitioners did, in the month of May 1808, humbly petition the House, praying the total abolition of those penal laws which aggrieve the Roman Catholics of these realms; and that they now feel themselves obliged, in justice to themselves, their families and their country, once more to solicit the attention of the House to the subject of their said Petition; and they state that the Roman Catholics constitute the most numerous and increasing portion of the inhabitants of Ireland, comprising an immense majority of the trading, agricultural, and manufacturing interests, and amounting to at least four-fifths of the Irish population; that they contribute largely to the exigencies of their country, civil and military; that they pay the greater part of the public and local taxes, and even defray the charges of building and repairing Protestant houses of worship, and of maintaining in affluence the ministers of the Protestant religion; that they supply the armies and navies of the Empire with upwards of one third part in number of the soldiers and sailors employed in the public service; and that notwithstanding heavy discouragements, they form the principal constituent part of the strength, wealth, and industry of Ireland; yet such is the grievous operation of those penal laws, of which they complain, that the Roman Catholics are thereby not only set apart from their fellow subjects as aliens in this their native land, but are ignominiously and rigorously proscribed from almost all situations of public trust, honour or emolument, including every public function and department from the houses of legislature down to the most petty corporations; and they state that wherever public duty, arduous and unprofitable, is to be exacted and enforced, the Catholic is sought out and selected for its performance; where honours or rewards are to be dispensed, he is neglected or contemned; where public burthens and taxes, of what kind soever, are to be imposed and levied, the Catholic is distinguished by the weight of impost; but where emolument or subsistence is to flow from those taxes, all clause of beneficial participation is closed against his hopes; when the military and naval strength of the empire is to be recruited, the Catholics are eagerly invited, nay compelled to bear at least their full share in the perils of warfare, and in the lowest ranks; but when preferment and promotion, the dear and legitimate prize of successful valour, are to be distributed as rewards of merit, no laurels are destined to grace a Catholic brow, or to fit the wearer for command;—the petitioners state thus, generally the condition of the Roman Catholics, occasioned solely by the fatal influence and operation of those penal laws; and, though they forbear to detail particular instances, yet they do not the less trust to the influence of reason and justice, which eventually must prevail for effecting in their favour a full and deliberate enquiry into their grievances and finally accomplishing their effectual relief; and that the petitioners do beg leave, however, most solemnly to press upon the attention of the House the imminent public dangers which necessarily result from so inverted an order of things and so vicious and unnatural a system of legislation, a system which has long been the reproach of these nations, and is unparalleled throughout modern Christendom; and they state it as their fixed opinion, that to impart to the Roman Catholics of these realms a full, equal, and unqualified participation in the benefits of the laws and constitution of England, and to withdraw all the privations, restrictions, and vexatious distinctions which oppress, injure, and afflict them in their country, is now become a measure not merely expedient but absolutely necessary, not only a debt of right due to a complaining people, but perhaps the last remaining resource of this empire; and therefore praying the House to take into their most serious consideration the nature, extent, and operation of the aforesaid penal laws, and by repealing the same altogether, to restore to the Roman Catholics of these, realms those liberties so long withheld, and their due share in that constitution which they in common with their fellow subjects of every other description, contribute, by taxes, arms, and industry, to sustain and defend."—Ordered to lie upon the table.