§ Mr. Brownlow
said :—I rise on this important question at a crisis as eventful, as any which has ever yet balanced the fate of Ireland, with, I hope the feelings of seriousness that should attend a man presuming to bear a part in so momentous a discussion, and with an anxiety, as far as it is possible for an Irishman to feel it, to treat this subject on its own peculiar merits, 22 divested of past recollections, and the soreness resulting from them which must be common not only to me, but to all of both parties who have ever engaged in this painful conflict. It is a sentiment which I hear almost universally expressed in private, and which I trust I shall not hear this evening less strongly marked on responsibility in public—that circumstanced as we are in Ireland, we cannot remain—that life is miserable in that country—that the two great parties are little removed from a state of actual conflict—that no effect can be given to the opening prospects of improvement for Ireland—that according to the natural growth and tendency of things, few Irishmen can pronounce the connexion of their country with England to be secure, and few Englishmen I fear can pronounce it to be desirable—therefore something or other must be done. What will you do? Will you go back? Will you re-enact the penal code? there is one short answer to this which is as good as a thousand— you cannot do it since therefore, you cannot go back, and since to remain as you are, no man in his senses is content; what remains but to go forward fully and speedily on the principle of concession?—all are worn out with this unprofitable conflict; victory has brought with it no cessation of hostilities—the baffled party still presses forward, and triumph in its turn comes to all but to the country; therefore, I say, give us some comprehensive settlement—some measure of tranquillity for that distracted country, whose destinies are now collected within the compass of the evening on which we have entered. If I am asked, did I now appear clad in that old hostility, which has hitherto marked me for good or bad towards six millions of my countrymen, I answer cheerfully—and I feel the lighter for the confession—by no means—quite the contrary, the grounds on which I formerly professed to stand are gone— many of the arguments which I have been in the habit of using and hearing used on this occasion, are taken away—those that remain are weakened—and in common sense, justice and consistency, what remains of a man whose arguments are gone but to reconsider his conclusions—and what atonement more reasonable or more due, than finding he has adopted an erroneous opinion to say so and to abjure it. I know how much a change of opinion affords ground of ridicule, and ground of 23 suspicion, and almost every ground but a charitable presumption in favor of sincerity —and therefore I do not rise so much in the hope of explaining myself, as for the purpose of earnestly praying—that many who like myself have looked at this subject apart from inquiry, and apart from dispassionate examination, misled by old alarms, and old prejudices—and I must say somewhat misled by the warning notes of the Catholics themselves—may, on coming to contend with the facts, be overcome by them—may, on examining the evidence, yield their understandings to it—I do hope that both parties when brought fairly into the clear view of each other, and to a clear apprehension of each other's opinions, may be seized with the compunction of brethren who have too long stood aloof, more on imaginary differences than substantial separation, and for the sake of their common country, its present peace and future welfare, may, with a common impulse, be prepared to give up the causes of its past embitterment. The Roman Catholic religion I will not presume to speak of as a form of belief, or mode of worship between man and his Maker. Judge not lest ye be judged; this is a great and a wise principle between differing religious communities, as well as between the members composing these communities; the Roman Catholic religion in the only view in which we are concerned with it, in its practical consequences as affecting the discharge of social duties,—as invalidating the duty of man to man,—as detracting from the allegiance which subjects owe to their king—as weakening the authority which governors should exercise over those beneath them.—The Roman Catholic religion in all these points is now free from objection; it is so because it has freed itself from the corruptions of the Roman Curia. The Roman Catholics of Ireland consider the pope the chief pastor of their church; they consider him the successor of St. Peter; but as such, they recognize in him a pure spiritual supremacy only, and nothing more. That power which sported with crowns—which placed kingdoms under interdict, which compelled emperors and kings to bend in slavish submission before it; that power, in Ireland as in the other countries of Europe, has been reduced to comparative insignificance.
Time has laid its hand on this institution, as well as on every other. The 24 growing spirit of information throughout the world has found its way within the lofty ramparts of the church of Rome, and the colossal power which threatened minds and oppressed consciences, and scared mighty princes—no longer possesses the slightest temporal influence save within its own limited territory. This is not apart from the question. If it were true that British subjects gave only a divided allegiance to their king, if it were true that the king did not enjoy the full, perfect, and undivided allegiance of his subjects, as far as he is entitled to it in consequence of either his legal, civil, or political rights, then would I say that such subjects were still fit objects for exclusion, and, acknowledging a sovereignty superior to the sovereignty of the realm, that they could not complain of the law of that realm which refused to treat them as good and loyal subjects. But how stands this matter? If the information we have lately obtained be good for any thing, and if not, let us boldly say so, and give up the farce of inquiry, and admit that into the mystery of Irish affairs no light can ever penetrate. If high-minded, intellectual men, have not come over here to fill the ear and delude the understanding, and to lead us, through ignorance and error, into irretrievable ruin; or, in other words, and here I must make common cause with my countrymen —if Irishmen have not come over here to lie on a great and devilish scale—if the evidence of pious men be admissible—if the solemn oaths of Christian bishops be not regarded as a thing of nought—then is this part of the question up, and any man talking of the divided allegiance of Catholics in this country must be looked upon as wilfully ignorant, or incurably blind. I will read to the House an extract from the examination of Dr. Doyle:—"Question: If the pope were to intermeddle with the rights of the king, or with the allegiance which Catholics owe to the king, what would be the consequence so far as the Catholic clergy were concerned?—Answer: The consequence would be, that we should oppose him by every means in our power, even by the exercise of our spiritual authority.— Quetion: In what manner would you exercise that spiritual authority?—Answer: By preaching to the people that their duty to God as Catholics required of them to oppose every person who would interfere in any way with that right 25 which the law of nature, and the positive law of God, established in their prince, a prince whom we, as subjects, were bound to support. We should therefore exercise our spiritual authority by preaching the gospel to the people, and by teaching them to oppose the pope if he interfered with the temporal rights of our king." Dr. Doyle would teach the people to oppose the pope. Surely there is not much of the papist here. What says Dr. Murray? The pope's authority is wholly confined to a spiritual authority, according to the words of our Saviour, "My kingdom is not of this world." So say several other prelates who have been examined upon the subject. All agree in protesting against the authority of the pope to interfere with the Independence of this or any other state evils!
Has the pope a dispensing power? Why do I dwell on these grounds?—because they are still occupied as the strong holds of resistance to the Catholic petition. Has the pope a dispensing power? How is this ascertained? The question is put to Dr. Doyle, what authority has Gother amongst Roman Catholics? Dr. Doyle answers,—Gother is esteemed by us a very venerable writer, and perfectly orthodox in all that he has written. It is then read from Gother. "Cursed is he that believes there is authority in the pope, or any other, that can give leave to commit sins; or that can forgive him his sins for a sum of money." I affirm that doctrine, says Dr. Doyle: the other is a frightful and impious position, and most accursed is he that holds it.
Do the Roman Catholics seek to recover the confiscated property? I beg the House to observe how such an attempt would operate. The Catholics are persons very much engaged in commerce; they have also, within the last thirty years, entered very much into professions. They make money in commerce and professions. That money settles into land, and thus the landed interest of the Roman Catholics is increasing to a great extent. To the extent of the interest the Catholics have in the land, they are of course equally interested in preserving property with the Protestants: all lawyers consider, that no title is so good for the purchaser of a property, whether the person be Catholic or Protestant, as the title to confiscated property, for then the title is traced to a lawful origin; after the usurpation, all those who 26 obtained forfeited property, took out patents for it, the patent is easily found, and a lawyer directs searches merely for the subsequent period.
Why, then, the case stands thus:— Roman Catholics are possessed of large confiscated estates—Roman Catholics have long and valuable leases on confiscated estates—Roman Catholics have lent considerable sums on mortgages of confiscated estates—and yet some people have the madness to say, that Roman Catholics will be parties to an attempt to restore these estates to the nameless and generally unknown descendants of the old proprietors. The thing is utterly impossible: no man in his senses can seriously think otherwise. Is faith not to be kept with heretics? Certainly the Catholics do hold that faith is not to be held with heretics—but in what sense? Why, Dr. Murray tells us, that the Roman Catholic code of faith is not the same as the Protestant code of faith; that is, that the Roman Catholics do not hold spiritual communion with us any more than we with them. In this sense only is faith not to be kept with heretics; but if by faith is understood fidelity to engagements —then are Roman Catholics bound to observe their oaths, their pledges, their contracts, as much with persons differing from them in religion as with persons agreeing with them in religion; and in the last sense Roman Catholics reject and detest as an unchristian and impious principle, that faith is not to be kept with heretics. The Rev. Mr. Burnett, a Protestant dissenting clergyman, thinks that some persons still imputes the doctrine to pure Catholics in its odious sense—but on being asked what was the most modern act of their not keeping faith with heretics, he could recollect no act of the kind subsequent to the persecution of the Waldenses, and the case of Huss. Why, then, the Roman Catholics hold no divided allegiance—they reject as impious and unchristian the doctrine that faith is not to be kept with heretics—they seek not the confiscated estates—they deny that the pope, or any one else, can give a power for the commission of sin. They have, therefore, in my mind, a fair claim to come into the enjoyment of civil privileges—you can state no bar against them—and if you cannot, they have a right to complain—and they will complain, as long as the law shall refuse to treat them on the footing of good subject—things tem- 27 poral with them are easily divisible from things spiritual—the man least in the habit of splitting differences may make the distinction—the coarsest understanding may perceive it—and no man but the most timid can be alarmed at the possibility of their confusion. That is the sum and substance of the whole dispute.
Do you object to Roman Catholics on the ground of their seven sacraments—their confession and transubstantiation—Such never was the policy of the law. We never have desired, under pain of penalties, to force the Catholics to abjure their religion and embrace our own, as superior to it; for, as the law now stands, provided a man will deny transubstantiation, he may be an Atheist, he may be a Deist, he may deny the atonement, he may worship the signs of the heavens or the creeping things of the earth, and yet he may come into participation with the legislature, and into offices of the highest trust in the kingdom; but the Catholic, your brother, your Christian brother, bought with the same price, acknowledging the same Saviour, bending before the same Creator, is branded with exclusion from all offices of trust and honour in the state—and yet you wonder that he is intemperate.
I will vote for the second reading of the bill. I by no means think it the best possible settlement of the affairs of Ireland. Taken alone, it appears to me to lack two measures, which all parties and persons consider proper parts of the arrangement. I mean a provision from the state for the Roman Catholic clergy, and an increased qualification for the exercise of the elective franchise in Ireland. No man has ever said that these two measures can go forward without Catholic emancipation. Any attempt at their enactment, unaccompanied by that great and righteous measure which must be the foundation of all other measures, would put Ireland in a flame; but accompanying emancipation, they will give satisfaction to every reflecting man in Ireland. In the hope, then, that Catholic emancipation will draw after it these two other measures, my hearty support shall be given to the hon. baronet's proposition, whilst I reserve to myself the full privilege of dealing with this bill on the third reading as may appear to me most meet on the occurrences in the interim. I will by no means support a provision for the Roman Catholic priesthood as a debt of gratitude due from the state to these. 28 meritorious conservators of the peace. Quite otherwise, for I cannot help thinking, that, considering the intimacy of the priesthood with their flocks, and the influence they exercise over their minds—less they could not well have done, and much more very easily for the good of the country they might have done; but if I understand the meaning of emancipation, it is this: to bring all classes of his majesty's subjects, without reference to their religion, into an intimate incorporation with the state. Why then will you exclude the clergy? Are they of less importance in your judgment than the laity, less influential, less educated, less regarded? Every man who knows Ireland knows the contrary, and therefore the poorest policy and meanest economy in this incorporation of the Irish people with the state, will be to leave the Catholic clergy excluded, possessed of undoubted influence to lead the people in any way they like, but possessed of no interest to lead them in the way they should go—in the way of allegiance and dutiful affection for the laws and the country. Give them a reasonable provision. Studiously beware of interfering with the independance of their religion. They will thank you for your consideration, and yield a becoming gratitude to the state which yields to them increased comfort and increased respect in the eyes of their people; and the people, for the substantial relief which by such a measure you will bring home to their doors—to the door of the poorest man in the country, will thank you and bless you, and serve you with fidelity so long as Irish gratitude shall be proverbial.
With respect to the elective franchise, my view is shortly this, and I will give more weight to my opinions by stating that I hold them in common with Mr. Blake, to whom so much is due for his admirable exposition of this subject. In 1793 you went wrong. A formidable species of political power, the elective franchise, was given to the Roman Catholics, subject to so small a qualification as to vest it in the very lowest orders, whilst at the same time that political power which is exercised through seats in parliament, was withheld from Roman Catholics of property and intelligence, and in whose exercise of power most confidence may be placed. Therefore, emancipation would not for the first time give political power to the Roman Catholics; they possess it, and who can say they do net exercise it; 29 but emancipation, accompanied with a higher qualification for the exercise of the franchise, will change the nature the power intrusted to them. It will take away the power of electing from a dependant multitude, and it will give the capacity of being elected to station and to property. Who can say such a change is not desirable for Ireland? Let it not here be said that violence will be done to the freeholders of Ireland. They are not freeholders, but hold in right of vassalage. They act under the lash of the aristocrat, and under dread of the priest—whichever triumphs, the freedom of election sinks—whichever triumphs, the freeholder suffers; for either the landlord punishes him in time, or the priest threatens him with eternity. Amend this system then—and if such an amendment follows in the train of emancipation, increased tenfold in value will be this measure of justice, and policy, and expediency. Here, then, is your measure indicated to you, after long inquiry, by persons of the most conflicting opinions. Now is your time: how admirable is the state of Ireland for the introduction of it. The voice of party is quiet—scarcely has an individual opinion been breathed against it—nothing is heard but the stillness of suspense and anxiety to submit to the wisdom of parliament. Oh! seize these golden moments—neglect not such great salvation as now presents itself, and so at length will you give repose to Ireland, and increased stability to the whole empire.
said, that, objectionable as the measure was in its original state, it was ten time, more so when accompanied by the two measures which had been just alluded to. The disfranchising the forty-shilling freeholders would be a most tyrannical exercise of power. From what fund was the provision for the clergy to be drawn? Ireland was not able to pay the interest of her own debt; it was therefore out of the revenues of Great Britain that these large stipends for the Catholic clergy were be paid. And, while all the odium of the tithes would be thrown upon the Protestant clergy, the Catholic would be paid by the state. Allowing 600l. or 800l. a-year for each parish, as one priest was in general unequal to the duty, and there being 2,500 parishes, a little multiplication would show, that there would be a pretty large draft upon the consolidated fund. But the expense would not step here. Mr. O'Connell had 30 stated, that the priests ought to be paid twice or three times as much as they now received. Then they should have glebes and glebe-houses, and their seminaries should be more amply provided for. He trusted that parliament would not enter blindly upon such an expensive project. It was impossible that the people of this country could long bear the burthen which the payment of the Catholic clergy would impose upon them; and then it would be found necessary to have recourse to the tithes of the Protestant church in Ireland. As he thought, therefore, that nothing was likely to arise from the concession but anarchy and confusion, he would move as an amendment, "That the bill be read a second time on that day six months."
§ Mr. William Peel
rose, to second the amendment. It had been urged, he said, that there was a change in the public mind on this question; but, if he might be allowed to judge of that fact from the opinions held in Staffordshire, the county with which he was more immediately connected, he should say, that the people of that county were as decidedly against granting further concessions to the Roman Catholics as ever they were. For himself, after listening to the arguments that had been adduced in its favour by men of the most splendid and most eloquent talents, he had no hesitation in saying that, so far from being converted, the longer he lived the more danger he saw in granting to the Catholics emancipation. But, even if he had been generally friendly to the cause of Catholic emancipation, he should consider the present time a most unfit one for carrying the question. It would really be putting too high a premium upon faction and violence, to let it be supposed that the late proceedings of the Catholic Association had tended to promote any thing in the way of concession from parliament or the country. God forbid that the British legislature should be intimidated in the performance of its duty by the violence of that or of any other Association. He granted that it was not just to make the many suffer for the errors of the few, but the Catholics of Ireland had, in fact, recognised the Association as the public organ of its proceedings and opinions, and they had, therefore, made themselves a party to all that might be done by that Association; they had adopted the leaders of that body as their chiefs, and made themselves parties to 31 their opinions and proceedings. He believed it was an exaggeration to say that the cause of Catholic emancipation was the cause of six million of people in Ireland; but the fact mattered little, for the greater their number the greater was the danger of granting what they desired. It was only necessary to observe the influence that the Catholic priests had over the minds of their flocks, to look forward with terror to the time when Catholic members should be admitted to take their seats within the walls of that House. He was not one who thought that the political consequences would be trifling of carrying the present measure. If parliament once was thrown open to the Catholics, a decided change could not fail to take place in the state of the Irish representation. A large body of Catholics would soon he found sitting in that House, to legislate upon matters connected with Protestant interests and Protestant supremacy. If these were good Catholics, they would most certainly endeavour to exalt their own establishment at the expense of the rival faith; and therefore, taking them to be zealous followers of their own system, he would never consent to intrust them with political power. The grant proposed to the Catholic clergy by the present measure, in his view, only rendered it additionally objectionable. He was opposed to the principle of such a grant rather than to the mere pecuniary expense; because, if once it was carried, what was to hinder every other sect opposed to the established church from claiming a similar provision? That the grant of what was called Catholic emancipation would end the miseries of Ireland, it would be ridiculous to expect; he personally, was not of opinion that it would in any way decrease them. The evils which afflicted Ireland were the want of a resident gentry, the want of capital, the want of commerce, and of moral and religious education. These were difficulties not to be got over—not to be touched—by a measure which, to him, seemed pregnant with danger to the community; and certainly, so long as he continued to think the religion in which he had been educated the best religion on the face of the earth, so long should he feel it his duty to oppose any extension of the political privileges of the Catholics.
§ Colonel Bagwell
supported the bill. He trusted that, by a seasonable concession of the just claims of the Catholics, 32 all painful recollections on both sides would be buried in oblivion; and with respect to any security against the Catholics, he was satisfied that the best security would be found in consulting the interests of every portion of his majesty's subjects, without reference to religious distinctions.
§ Mr. Dawson
said;— Often as the subject has been discussed, and tired as the public attention might be supposed to be from repeated debates, yet, strange to say, the Catholic Question seems to acquire a new interest every day. In England, from the peace and prosperity of the country, from the unvarying success which has pursued all public measures adopted by the present Parliament, it is viewed as the only question which portends a doubtful result, and it is considered and discussed by all classes with that caution and judgment which is so peculiarly national; it seems, however, to be the great political question of the day; all parties have their opinions, differing in character and discordant as to the result, but all agreeing the great importance and the vast changes which the alteration of the present law must introduce into the constitution of the country. In Ireland the interest created by this question is intense beyond description the ordinary business of life is suspended in order to give an undivided attention to this great question; every individual becomes a politician, and before the question is settled, there will be found to be as many opinions as there are individuals. In cities, in towns, in villages, the interest is equally intense; the press is exclusively devoted to it; orators are found without number to inflame, both in public and private, the passions of the people, to work upon those passions at the expense of their judgment, and to unite the people into one great mass of discontent, for objects, the attainment of which will neither confer universal good, nor relieve individual suffering. The clergy of all persuasions, of the Established Church, Presbyterian and Catholic, are equally zealous in propagating and supporting their own opinions; in short, no class of persons is neuter, and the whole of conversation in private life, and or discussion in public meetings, is engrossed in this one great and overwhelming subject. Nor is the interest confined to these islands; throughout Europe a general expectation prevails upon the subject; and both the friends and enemies of England are look- 33 ing to the discussion of this great question as involving in it the most serious consequences to this mighty empire, and conferring, according to the wishes of the friend or foe, the principles of increased strength or of certain disorganization.
It is not surprising, therefore, that any man should approach this question with feelings of the greatest alarm; it is not surprising that he should almost shrink from the responsibility of deciding upon the fate of millions; as for himself, he could truly state that he was haunted with the apprehensions of what may be the consequences, whichever way the question may be decided. In no point of view could he contemplate a result which is safe for the country, honourable for the legislature, or satisfactory to the parties interested. On the one side, he feared to perpetuate a system, which is called by some, and is felt by a great body, as a system of injustice against millions of fellow-countrymen; on the other, he feared to introduce a change, which has been regarded by the best and wisest men of England as fatal to the constitution and liberties of this great empire. On the one side, he feared to impede a prosperity which after centuries of misery and bloodshed, is predicted for Ireland, by the adoption of a new system; on the other hand, that the upsetting of every thing established in that country, will lead to consequences by no means calculated to promote its welfare. On the one side, he dreaded to have a question unsettled, stimulating all the passions of the multitude, provoking them to acts of outrage and bloodshed, disturbing the tranquillity, and leaving the people a prey to any mischievous agitators who may work upon their passions for their own selfish purposes; on the other hand, he dreaded the introduction of a system which will consolidate the strength of a party in Ireland, adverse to all the established institutions, hostile to the established religion, full of rancour for past triumphs, and ready to take advantage of the first opportunity to mark their vengance, and to enjoy their triumphs in return. When such conflicting consequences, arising from the nature of the Catholic Question, are poised and balanced in the state, it is no pleasant duty to have the decision imposed upon you; most willingly would he avoid the performance of the duty, for in truth the responsibility, is most awful and alarming; and, without affectation, he could assure the House, that it had cost 34 him many hours of uneasiness and anxiety. Were he convinced that the advantages outweighed the disadvantages; were he convinced that peace and tranquillity, that the oblivion of ancient struggles, that subordination to the laws, that respect for the established institutions of the country, that industry, and in consequence wealth and prosperity, were probable or even possible by concession to the Catholic Claims, he would willingly abandon all the notions which he had so long entertained upon the subject, would expose himself to all the obloquy and all the unpopularity of a change of opinion, and seek for comfort in the prospect of these new advantages for Ireland.
But, Sir, I own that I am not so convinced; whatever doubts I entertained before, when relying upon my own weak judgment, and imperfect opportunities of observation, as to the effect produced by the discussion of the Catholic Question upon the people of Ireland, those doubts are confirmed by the evidence and experience of others, much better able to form an opinion upon the subject, whose evidence is now upon the table of the House, and which ought to be read with eagerness by every man interested for the welfare of Ireland. It is, he conceived, a most fortunate circumstance, that the evidence from the committee appointed to inquire into the state of Ireland, is laid before the public at this particular time; it contains a volume of information respecting the condition of the people, their habits and circumstances; respecting the operations of the laws, both local and general; respecting the nature and effect of every institution both public and private, such as never up to this time has been condensed together. In this evidence, an impartial mind will discover, without difficulty, the condition of every class, Church-of-England man, Presbyterians and Catholics, pourtrayed by those most qualified to give a description, from constant intercourse; it will lead you into the cabin of the peasant in every part of the country; into the house of the landlord; into the mysterious recesses of the land agent and the tithe proctor; into the halls of justice, whether at assize, quarter sessions, petty sessions, or manor courts; it will lead you into the Protestant church, the Presbyterian meeting-house, and the Catholic chapel; it presents a view of the population in their domestic habits, as labourers, mechanics, and tenants; and details the obstacles 35 against their improvement arising not more from their own habits, than from the administration of the laws; it presents a view of the population as part of a political body, influenced by the disabilities which the law has imposed upon a great portion of the people; and it presents a view of the characteristic marks of distinction which the profession of different creeds has stamped respectively upon Protestant and Catholic.
With this mass of information, it will not be difficult to discover the exact effect which the Catholic disabilities produce upon the Catholic population; and he was greatly surprised to hear from such competent witnesses as Mr. O'Connell, Dr. Doyle and Dr. Kelly, how very little the great body of the people was affected by the disqualifying laws. That the greatest wretchedness exists among them, is beyond doubt; that poverty, that want of employment, insubordination, distrusts in all the established institutions of the country; fraud, perjury and immorality, arising from that distrust, exist to a frightful extent, is beyond all doubt; but that Catholic Emancipation is the cure for these evils, or one which is regarded by the peasantry in any other light than the gratification of religious bigotry, is what these gentlemen have not ventured to assert. Let us for a moment consider the picture which Mr. O'Connell has drawn of the Catholic population in the counties of Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Clare. It is to be remarked first, that he describes the effect of the disqualifying laws of the Catholics to be among the upper classes, discontent at being excluded from certain offices in the state, which lead to honour and profit, and among the lower classes, a soreness and irritation on account of the spirit of domination and superiority exhibited by the Protestants; let us contemplate for an instant the picture which he has given of the population in those four great counties, and see, according to his own statement, how insignificant the operation of such feelings must be, and how perfectly hopeless the repeal of all the disqualifying laws would be, in improving the condition of the people. We must recollect that he describes the Catholic population in the counties of Limerick, Clare and Kerry, compared with the Protestants, as 100 to one; he says, the protestants are universally in favour of Catholic Emancipation; it is evident, therefore, that in that part 36 of the country there can be no insolence or domination on the one side, no soreness nor irritation on the other; it is in fact, a Catholic population, the habits and pursuits of the people are all Catholic, the common business of life is carried on according to Catholic maxims and Catholic regulations, and unless Mr. O'Connell periodically came down to tell them that they were the most oppressed people in the world, because he could not become a member of Parliament or a judge, they would not trouble their heads about Catholic Emancipation, as long as they found the causes of their misery and degradation so much more tangible, so much more intelligible to them, so much more felt in the every-day intercourse of life. But what is the condition of the people? Mr. O'Connell says, that the condition of the labouring classes is so bad, that it is astonishing how they preserve health, there is a total privation of every thing like comfort, and their existence is such, that the inferior animals of this country would not endure it. Their houses or cabins, than which it would be impossible to hue any thing worse, are built of mud, covered partly with thatch, and partly what are called scraws, and but miserably defended. against the winds and rains of heaven; that they have no furniture, not a box, nor a dresser, nor a plate, and indeed scarcely any utensil except a cast metal pot to boil their potatoes in; that their bedding consists in general of straw; that a blanket is a rarity, that they are without bedsteads; and whole families, both male and female, sleep in the same apartment; that they have but one suit of clothes or more properly rags; no change in case of wet or accident, and that their food throughout the greatest part of the year consists of potatoes and water; during the rest of the year, of potatoes and sour milk; that there is no regular employment for the people, and that the rate of wages when they are employed, varies from sixpence to four-pence a day; that money is an article hardly known by the Irish peasant, and yet notwithstanding the scarcity of this commodity, that the land-jobbers set their land according to the conacre system, at the enormous rent of eight or ten pounds an acre. The consequence of these enormous rents, and the great avidity of the Irish peasant to possess land, which in fact, for want of employment, is necessary for his subsistence, the consequence is an extraordinary increase in the number of sub- 37 lettings,so it happens not unfrequently, that there are six or seven persons between the proprietor in fee and the actual occupier.
But, how does Mr. O'Connell describe the state of society, in which such a state of things is suffered to exist? how does he describe the effect of the law passed to check these evils, and the conduct of the people towards each other, in the daily intercourse of life? In consequence of these sublettings, the spirit of litigation is increased, their dealings with one another are frequently complicated, and they are invariably harsh and unfeeling towards each other in pecuniary matters. These appeals to courts of law are numerous, and on the most trivial occasions; but when they do appear the most frightful immorality is exhibited. The obligation of an oath is disregarded; the flippant and distinct swearer is always successful; to have a conscience is an inconvenience, and parents employ their children, at the earliest age, to be their witnesses in courts of justice; to get rid, as soon as possible, of the ties of conscience, and to think falsehood and perjury the only means of successful litigation.
then proceeds to describe the effect which the laws have had in checking the evil habits of the peasantry in these counties; and no wonder that he is much disappointed in their result. Laws are made to regulate and guide society, to guard against the frailty of human nature, to protect the weak against the strong, and to give a practical evidence of the advantages of order and regularity over force and lawlessness; but, in order to be useful, laws must be kindly administered, and unless there are agents to carry them into execution, it would be just as well to have no laws at all. Such is the unfortunate condition of this part of the country; the material for executing the laws is so bad, that justice is a total stranger to these districts; the laws which have been found good in more favoured parts, are here the very cause of tyranny and oppression. The unfortunate people seem to labour under a political curse; the order of nature is reversed, and the vine-tree is made to produce the thorn, and the fig-tree to bear the thistle. Mr. O'Connell says, that every act of Parliament passed since the peace, has had the effect of depressing the people, and rendering their condition worse; nor does he confine himself to the laws passed since the peace; he seems totally to forget that it is the 38 administration of the laws by the Catholics themselves, and not the laws, which is the cause of the depraved condition of the people. How else could a law be found useful in Ulster and injurious in Munster?
But, it is right to mention some at least of the laws which he condemns, and which have wrought such different results in different parts of the country. In 1817, a law was passed to regulate the dealings between landlord and tenant; the effect of this law was to give the landlord a certain and expeditious process of getting possession of his land from a tenant under the yearly rent of 50l. who did not pay his rent, and also to give the occupying tenant a cheap and speedy remedy against the middleman, who had allowed the head landlord to distrain the occupying tenant for rent due by the middleman. Now, that law is described by Mr. O'Connell as leading to murder and insurrection in the south, whilst it is described by his honourable friend, the member for Louth, as the most important and the most useful law to the landed interest in the north, which has ever passed the legislature. In another part of his evidence, Mr. O'Connell says, "in his conscience he is thoroughly convinced, that if a society were instituted to discourage virtue, and to countenance vice, it would be ingenious indeed if it had discovered such a system as the Assistant Barristers Court;" but, in other parts of the country, in the north, and in the counties of Leinster, the most honourable testimony is given in favour of this court, and the administration of justice in it is described to be satisfactory to the people who bring their cases before it, honourable to the magistrates presiding, and creditable to the juries who are engaged in it. How different to Mr. O'Connell's statement! the barristers are incompetent, the juries corrupt, the witnesses and litigants perjured. Even tithes, the grand cause of discontent in other parts, assume a different complexion in these ill-fated regions. The Protestant clergyman, the owner and proprietor of the tithe, ceases to be an object of hatred, as in other places; but the proctor, who is invariably a Catholic, is merciless and unrelenting, and encounters the double portion of hatred, and often of vengeance, which is due to his Protestant master and to his own exactions.
Such is a small, a very small portion of the evils described by Mr. O'Connell as pervading the counties of Kerry, Cork, 39 Limerick and Clare. He had not mentioned a tenth part of the practical misery detailed in his evidence, as a matter of every day occurrence, but it must strike every body, that in a country so circumstanced, the Catholic disabilities are evils of the very least consequence; indeed, it is not quite clear whether Catholic Emancipation would not follow the fate of all the other laws intended for their advantage, and become an evil instead of a benefit. But, Sir, who will undertake to say, that Catholic Emancipation will tranquillize a country so circumstanced; what men will be bold enough to send their capital into such districts; to employ the population, and teach them habits of industry and peace? What a reformation must take place, totally independent of the Catholic question, before order and regularity will be introduced; before confidence is inspired; before the reciprocal duties of man towards man are understood; before morality is considered as a matter of duty, and not of speculation, and before the rights of property are understood and protected! Who will undertake to say, that Catholic Emancipation, the payment of the Catholic priesthood, and the qualification of the elective franchise, will render one soldier less necessary, one policeman less indispensable, in a state of society such as is described by Mr. O'Connell to exist in the counties of Clare, Kerry, Cork and Limerick? The country may secure his attachment by opening parliament and the bench to his ambition, but the great body of the people will be left in the same state of nakedness and misery, and England will still be called upon to supply her arms and her gold, to keep the mass of the people in subjection to those laws, which are as much calculated for their protection now, as if they had been enacted by Mr. O'Connell himself in propriâ personâ.
But, though he was doubtful of the benefits which the removal of the disqualifying laws against the Catholics would confer upon Ireland, he was by no means doubtful of the evil consequences which would arise from it. It is said that Catholic Emancipation would unite the Protestant and the Catholic; that it would confer upon the Catholic all the advantages to which a just ambition might aspire, and that it would take away from the Protestant nothing but his prejudices and his fears. If he was convinced that such would be the case, he should be ashamed to continue an 40 opposition to their claims. But, when he considered the position of the two parties; when he considered the declarations which, have been made, and the sign which have been given, he could never expect that the two parties will amalgamate together. The Protestants are in possession of all that is valuable in Ireland; their estates, no matter whether rightly or wrongfully, have been wrested from the Catholics. The establishments of the country, conferring emolument and honour, are all Protestant; the Church conferring a splendid. provision upon its ministers and the corporations giving station and power and influence to its members, are all Protestants, and have all, at no distant period, been in possession of Catholics. Is it possible therefore to think, that all the solid advantages can be on the on a side, without exciting a hope of enjoyment on the other? Can Protestants and Catholics really unite together when such tempting objects are open to the Catholics, and when a public clamour has already been begun against the Protestants? Will the Catholic be satisfied to see every Protestant institution rolling in wealth and splendor, whilst his own are in poverty and distress? Will he submit to have his churches, his convents, his schools, his colleges, supported by alms, whilst his Protestant rival revels in the enjoyment of Catholic possessions? Human nature forbids us to think so; and he must do the Catholics the justice to say, that they have been no hypocrites on this occasion, but have proclaimed boldly and naturally their expectations. If power be given to the Catholics, it was his firm conviction, that a struggle for ascendancy will take place: it will no longer be a question of equal rights and equal privileges, but it will be a question whether Ireland shall be a Catholic country, with Catholic institutions, Catholic establishments, and Catholic supremacy. If power be given to the Catholics, it is in vain to think that the two establishments can be coexistent. The wealth and influence of the Protestants are too great to be viewed with passive indifference; and the ambition and overbearing disposition of the Catholic hierarchy and Catholic laity are too notorious to be satisfied with the empty sounds of equal rights. Their gentry and nobility are ambitious; their priesthood is overbearing, arrogant and intolerant; and their people, on account of their physical misery and degradation, will be- 41 come their ready tools for any change, and will make their grievances, no matter whether arising from rents, tithes, or taxes, as much a cause of complaint against their ruler, in order to bring on Catholic Supremacy, as they have already done to bring on Catholic Emancipation. The Catholic people of Ireland will never think that Ireland can be prosperous under a Protestant government. The Catholic institutions must clash with the spirit of Protestant liberality, and unless the greatest encouragement be given to those institutions, the people will become proportionably discontented. Will any man undertake to say, that the order of the Jesuits ought to be encouraged, or even tolerated, by a Protestant government; an order which has been proscribed by almost every state in Europe, and which is the more dangerous on account of the ability and unpretending ambition of its leaders: and yet such an institution is in perfect activity in Ireland. Notwithstanding the positive contradiction of his hon. friend the member for the Queen's County (sir H. Parnell), and his contradiction, in his opinion, proves the suspicion in which the establishment regards its own friends, yet notwithstanding his contradiction, Mr. O'Connell has allowed that the Jesuits are in full activity in Ireland. Will a Protestant government encourage the Jesuits? If it does not, the Jesuits will soon rouse the people against such a government. Will a Protestant government allow an unlimited endowment of monasteries, abbeys, and convents? Will it relax the laws of mortmain in favour of Catholic establishment, and exempt the bequests of pious Catholics from the same degree of jealousy and scrutiny, which they have adopted with respect to Protestant institutions? And yet, if there is any jealousy on the subject, what a clamour will be raised by the Catholic party! Already the laws are considered unjust, inquisitorial, and partial, which subject these bequests to any limitation; but if Catholicism shall become a part and parcel of the constitution, what denunciations we shall hear against any minister who shall dare to interfere with the disposition of private property for such pious purposes! With respect to schools and colleges, the same clashing principles will prevail. If the Catholics be admitted to power, will not their laity and their priesthood be naturally anxious to procure pecuniary assistance for their schools and colleges? 42 And yet, let any man read the evidence of Mr. O'Connell respecting the college of Maynooth, and ask himself, if a parliament would be justified in encouraging such a system of education in a free country? He describes it to be carried on according to the most rigid principles of monastic discipline; to be the abode of gloom, secresy, and retirement, to teach nothing but theology, and that too the theology of the Jesuits, and to deaden the hearts of its youthful inhabitants by shutting them out from all intercourse with the world, their friends and relations. Under any circumstances, is it not the duty of a government to superintend such an establishment; but, if increased funds were added to it, and if Catholicism were to be incorporated in our constitution, would a Protestant government be justified in exempting it from the same jurisdiction which the French government extends over the colleges and seminaries in that country, in order to protect them from the introduction of principles subversive of the rights of the Gallican church?—And yet, we know enough of the Catholic disposition in Ireland to be assured, that if any scrutiny, much more a scrutiny of the jealous character of the French government, was exercised over Maynooth college, the whole Catholic body, clergy and laity, would be in arms against such unjust interference.
But, Sir, it is unnecessary to go on detailing how Catholic objects and Protestant principles must clash together; let any man refer to the evidence on the table, and in every page he will see, not only how incompatible the two establishments are to exist together, but how decided and certain are the expectations of the Catholics to make their religion ascendant in Ireland. And here, be would make one or two observations with respect to the prominent characters who have given evidence, and to warn the House against their tone and manner. Like many others he was greatly struck with the manner and moderation of several of those gentlemen; it was impossible not to admire the information and the abilities displayed by Mr. Blake and Mr. O'Connell; it was impossible also not to admire the demeanour of the Catholic bishops, Dr. Murray and Dr. Doyle, and particularly the eloquence, learning and zeal displayed by those two prelates; but, he was obliged to say, though his admiration of their talents still continues, his confidence in their testimony 43 is very much abated; it is impossible on any rational grounds to reconcile the turbulence and vehemence of Mr. O'Connell in Ireland with his moderation and forbearance before the committee; it is impossible to reconcile the exaggerated statements of his speeches in Ireland with the palliations and admissions of his evidence; it is impossible to reconcile his advice and counsel to his countrymen with the picture which he has drawn in his evidence of the history and condition of Ireland; it is impossible to reconcile his political principles with his political remedies, and I know not how the same man can be the friend of Cobbett and the hon. member for Westminster, of universal suffrage and the disqualification of the Irish freeholders; I am reduced, therefore, to the disagreeable necessity of viewing all his testimony with considerable diffidence, and as tending to show more the strength of his wishes than of his conviction.
But, he was still more astonished at the evidence of Dr. Doyle. There is the greatest inconsistency between his evidence as a political writer and a parliamentary witness; it is impossible to believe that both should come from the brain of the same man; and in whatever manner it is viewed, whether in the meekness exhibited before the committee, or in the hatred and rancour pervading his political writings, it must excite the most lively apprehensions respecting the truth and justice of a cause, which is advocated by a man of his abilities, and his station in this double character. It is quite notorious, that during the last two years Dr. Doyle has sent into the world several political pamphlets, or rather books, under the signature of J. K. L.; there is no doubt that he is the author of these works, as an address was voted to him by name, Dr. Doyle, by the Catholic Association, conveying the thanks of that body for his works, which address he accepted; these pamphlets, together with twelve letters on the state of Ireland, published a few weeks since, contain the grossest attacks upon every Protestant institution in Ireland, and must excite the fears of every man attached to the church and the Protestant Establishment. In every page, whether as a legislator, as a divine, or as a citizen of the world, he breathes the most rancorous spirit against the laws, against the church establishment, against the Protestant population; as a legislator he teaches the people to despise the laws, and to regard 44 them as formed much more for their depression and degradation than for their improvement; as a divine he cannot conceal his fury against the Protestant church; at the bare mention of the name of Protestant church he is thrown into agonies, in which he gives vent to the most undignified reproaches, and to the most unfounded calumnies against all its members: he reviles its ceremonies, condemns its principles, and abuses all the ministers of its church in the most unmeasured terms. In speaking of his own church, he is arrogant and intolerant, and presents one of the truest pictures of an obedient son to the see of Rome which these countries ever produced. If Dr. Doyle had power, Popes Gregory or Boniface could not desire a more able or willing instrument to lay Ireland in shackles at the feet of their Holinesses. Such are his sentiments, such are his principles, when he appears before the world as a political writer; but, when he appears before the Parliamentary Committee he changes his character altogether; he is moderate in his views, measured in his language, liberal in his principles; he is an admirer of the British constitution; he is an admirer of its laws; he abjures the power of the Pope except in matters purely spiritual, and he is as sturdy as any old covenanter in refusing him any power except the institutions of bishops; he has his answers ready for every question, and those answers always happen to be precisely the answers which the warmest friend of Catholic Emancipation would desire to get; they are copious, learned and eloquent. But, take him on doubtful or forbidden ground, and his whole manner changes; ask him about the letters of J. K. L.; ask him about the principles contained in those letters, his answers are short and pithy. "Have you seen a late publication, entitled, Letters on the State of Ireland by J. K. L.?—I have seen them. Do you hold the same opinions with the author of those letters?—I dare say I do. Do you hold the same opinions with respect to the forty-shilling freeholders?" here was the touchstone; he saw he was getting upon dangerous ground; his letters had been written and published before he was let into the secret of the compromise of effecting Catholic Emancipation at the expense of the Catholic freeholders; like a good general, but like an indifferent ecclesiastic, he determined to parry the question; he appealed therefore to the kindness and cour- 45 tesy of the committee to spare him an examination upon that subject; his appeal prevailed, and he was allowed to escape from the dilemma to which he must inevitably have been exposed by further examination; the artifice, however, cannot succeed; his books are published, his evidence is published, and every reflecting mind ought to compare them together, before implicit credence can be given to the evidence of Dr. Doyle.
Now, Sir, the mischiefs of this double dealing are incalculable, and render the settlement of this question almost impossible. In Ireland, the public opinion, among the Catholics, is governed entirely by the opinions of Dr. Doyle and Mr. O'Connell. Dr. Doyle undertakes the management of the ecclesiastical, Mr. O'Connell the management of the lay part of the population. The former teaches the Catholic clergy to consider the Protestant church as heretical, intrusive, tyrannical and useless; he points to its wealth as wrested from the Catholic church; its places of worship as insulting to the Catholic population, and its ministers as spoliators and scorpions. He is believed in Ireland by the Catholic clergy, and he is dreaded by the Protestant clergy. Mr. O'Connell pursues the same system in alienating the minds of the lay population from every thing which is established and Protestant; the consequence is, that there is scarcely a Protestant in Ireland who does not dread some great convulsion from concession to the Roman Catholic Claims, and scarcely a Catholic who does not expect to gain something more than eligibility to either. But in this country they both adopt a different language, and mould their opinions according to those of their auditory. The result of this artifice is, that the protestants in Ireland have a well-grounded alarm that the British Parliament is deceived; they think their own cause abandoned, and they attribute this defection to the hollow, deceitful and dangerous tone adopted by the Catholic leaders in this country; they compare this moderation, and the effect it has had upon the English mind, with the fury and violence which is practised in Ireland; and they anticipate nothing but ruin and desolation to the Protestant cause. To expect a union of sentiment, to expect an oblivion of ancient struggles, to expect the tranquillization of present fears, and to anticipate a brighter prospect in future, is, under such circumstances, impossible; 46 nay, the Catholics themselves take good care that the Protestants in England shall not be deceived upon the subject. Already they see their prey within their grasp; already they have sent forth their manifestos, and have begun to sing their songs of triumph. If the Protestants look to the proceedings of the Catholic body in the present day; if they look to their speeches and resolutions; if they look to the records of history to contemplate what their future condition must be, when the Catholics have succeeded in obtaining power, they can find nothing consolatory, nothing but the ruin and overthrow of their own establishments. The menaces and the intentions of the Catholics are too manifest, and the examples of history are too convincing to leave any doubt upon the subject.
And here he should beg to call the attention of the House to a most curious historical coincidence which cannot fail to prove that the objects of the Catholics in Ireland are unchanged and unchangeable. On the 31st of May 1824, a petition was presented to this House by the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea, from the Catholic Association. The petition itself was long and comprehensive, and so general was its censure of every thing established in Ireland, that it called forth the reprobation of even the hon. and learned member himself, who declined to found any measure upon it, from the certain conviction, that the House would mark its indignation of the matter contained in it. The petition, however, concluded with this prayer:—"The petitioners therefore pray, that the House will cause a thorough reform to be made in the temporalities of the Established Church; that the House will render Orangemen ineligible to serve as magistrates or jurors; that the House will disfranchise the corporations, and that the House will pass an Act to emancipate the Roman Catholics of Ireland." Now, in order to know what the Catholics mean by a reform in the temporalities of the Established Church, he must refer to the works of J. K. L. and there he will find, that a reform in the temporalities means, to strip the Protestant church of all its property, and to give its ministers a stipend proportioned to their duties; to take away the churches, in order to restore them to the Catholics; and to put the schools, colleges, and endowments of the Protestant establishment upon a new footing. The disfranchisement of the 47 corporations, and disqualification of Protestants to serve as judges or jurors, is clear enough. Now, it is a curious coincidence, that every one of these objects, which are so fervently sought for by the Catholics in 1824, were actually carried into execution in 1687 and 1688, when the Catholics had unrestrained power in Ireland; and with the permission of the House he should mention how this was effected, and its consequences. In the year 1687, when lord Tyrconnel was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland, and when it was determined in king James's cabinet to root out the Protestant establishment in Ireland, the first act of his administration, in order to secure this object, was to remove every Protestant from the administration of justice. The Protestant judges were accordingly removed from the bench, Protestant magistrates from the commission of the peace, Papists were put into their places; every office of justice, from a sheriff to a constable, was filled by a Papist.
Having succeeded in getting complete power over the lives and properties of the Protestants by the appointment of Catholic ministers of justice, the next object of attack was against the corporations. Accordingly, to use the language of the Catholic petition, the corporations were all disfranchised; their charters were taken away, and new charters given, by which the king reserved to himself the power of displacing any mayor, alderman or burgess. The corporations, therefore, became the slaves of the king's will, and by displacing all the Protestant members, and filling up their places with Papists, he in fact secured to himself a complete and uncontrollable power over the legislature, and commanded the corporations to return such men to parliament as best suited his purposes. Having settled these preliminaries, the next step was, to summon a parliament, in order to have the colour of law for the great and comprehensive scheme of destroying the Protestant religion. In 1689 a parliament met in Dublin; and from the precautions taken by the government to give orders to the sheriffs to return none but Papists from the counties, and from the complete possession of the corporations by the Catholics, it was just such a parliament as the most sanguine Catholic could desire. The House of Commons consisted of 228 members, eight of whom only were Protestants; the House of Lords consisted 48 of forty-six members, of whom only eight or nine were Protestants. Behold, therefore, the Catholics in full power, and what was the use which they made of it? Their first act was to repeal the Act of Settlement, an act which had been passed in the reign of king Charles 2nd, for confirming the titles of the forfeited estates, and which then, as it does now, formed the title by which more than two-thirds of the Protestant proprietary of Ireland held their lands. This act was repealed, and more than twelve millions of acres left at the disposal of the crown for repaying the fidelity of its Catholic subjects. In vain some Papists who had purchased estates under the Act of Settlement and explanation, remonstrated against being deprived of their possessions. Their remonstrances were useless; they were told they must suffer for the general good; and he begged to submit this proceeding for the consideration of those gentlemen who think they can find a security against any attempt on the part of the Catholics to recover the forfeited estates, in the argument that Catholics themselves have become purchasers. The next act, in order to give a more fatal blow to the Protestants, and to make their extirpation complete, was an Act of attainder, by which all Protestants, of all ranks and degrees, and of all sexes, were attainted of high treason, on the pretence that they were out of the kingdom at the passing of the act. According to archbishop King, 2,600 were included in this proscription, and the manner of their condemnation was no less unjust than the motive, for sir R. Nagle, on presenting the act to the king for his assent, informed him, that many in the act were condemned upon such evidence as satisfied the House; the rest upon common fame.
But, sweeping and comprehensive as these measures were for the extirpation of the Protestant religion, they were not enough to satisfy the Catholics. The parliament of 1689 proceeds in the spirit of the Catholic Association of 1824, to reform the temporalities of the church: and we have the definition of Dr. Doyle's reform carried into complete execution by the votes of the Catholic legislature. In the first place, all the diocesan and parish schools, which had been formed for the encouragement of the Protestant religion, were taken away from the Protestant schoolmasters, and their places were filled up by Catholics. The king exercised his 49 right of regulating the statutes of the university by dispensing with the oaths, and sending a mandamus to the fellows to elect whomsoever he should nominate; he accordingly filled up several fellowships with Papists, and appointed a Popish priest as provost. An act passed this parliament whereby all tithes payable by the Catholics to the Protestant clergy, were taken away and given to Popish priests; and it order to make the recovery of them more easy, and to save the trouble and expense a suing under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the priest might bring his action at common law. The appropriate tithes belonging also to bishops and other dignitaries of the church were wrested from them and given to the Papists, and the revenues of the vacant bishopricks were also expended in maintaining the Catholic clergy. But, it was not enough to deprive the Protestant clergy of the means of maintenance, the Jurisdiction o the church was also destroyed by an act of this same parliament, and all dissenters were declared free from the punishments, cognizable in the ecclesiastical courts; but as the finishing stroke to the Protestant religion, and the most effectual specimen of the reform, which Dr. Doyle has so much at heart, an act of this same parliament deprived the Protestants of their churches and the cathedral of Christ Church, in Dublin, with 26 churches in that diocese, were immediately seized by the Catholics; orders were sent to the provinces for the same purposes, and no doubt every church in Ireland would have been in their possession, if the career of this Catholic Parliament had not been stopped by the battle of the Boyne.
But, why did he mention these events? It may be said, that the revival of these circumstances serves only to rip open old wounds, and to perpetuate the unfortunate causes of irritation which have so long agitated Ireland. He had no such intention; he wished they could, but they will not be forgotten; and when his right hon. and learned friend the attorney-general for Ireland appeals to history, and in his forcible diction says, that it is nothing better than an old almanack, unless we take warning from its illustrations and examples, he was forced, unwillingly forced, to draw his inference of Catholic principles from Catholic precedents, and to confess that he could view the Catholic petition of 1824 as nothing but the corrol- 50 lary of the acts of the Catholic parliament of 1689.
Upon the whole, he would not give his vote in support of the present bill; he was not convinced that the Catholic disabilities are the causes of the moral and physical degradation of the people of Ireland; no doubt they form a strong ingredient in the national discontent, but the concession of power to the Catholics would only change the sources of discontent, it would leave the struggle for power more formidable, more bitter than it is at present, and it would finally end in the overthrow of the Protestant establishment. In his opinion, he had only to make a choice between two evils; he preferred the Protestant establishment, because it had led to the glory and prosperity of England, because it had conferred blessings upon Ireland wherever it had been fostered, and because it comprehends now the soundest, the most industrious, the most loyal portion of the kingdom, he dreaded Catholicism because it was hostile to the spirit of the British constitution, and he thought it his duty to raise his voice to warn the House against encouraging for a third or fourth time the introduction of a political and religious system which the wisdom of our forefathers considered fatal to the liberties of the country. The monster now, like the Trojan horse, threatened to introduce danger and destruction into the very vitals of the constitution, and he trusted that he would not have occasion to exclaim, in the words of the Roman poet,—Quater ipso in limine portæ Substitit, atque utero sonitum quater arma dedere. Instamus tamen immemores, cæcique furore, Et monstrum infelix, sacratâ sistimus arce.
§ Lord Milton
said, that the desire which he felt for the accomplishment of this great question was in no wise diminished by the speech of the hon. member who had just sat down, and he felt great pleasure in having, in support of his view of the subject, the authority of the hon. member for Armagh, who had very properly expressed a hope, that we should forget past times and look only to the future. He did not stand there as the apologist of the Catholic church, the Catholic prelates, or the Catholic advocates. He had nothing to do with reconciling the opinions of J. K. L. with the evidence of the bishop of Kildare, or to explain away the differences between the sentiments of Mr. O'Connell in Ireland, and Mr. O'Connell before the committee. 51 Their consistency was in their own keeping, and it was not his business, nor that of any member of that House, to reconcile any variations in their conduct or opinions. He could trace, in the speech of the hon. member who spoke last, many of the causes of the opinions which he entertained. In the early part of his speech he had endeavoured, with great ability, to recommend to the attention of the House those inconsistencies which he thought he perceived in the evidence, with a view to raise an alarm, upon the supposition that the Catholic ascendancy in Ireland was contemplated—a disposition to do which he inferred by a reference to the Catholic parliament of king James in Ireland; the proceedings of which parliament he could no more be astonished at, than at the counteracting measures by which those proceedings were followed up. The hon. member had only looked at half of the case; but he prayed the attention of the House to the whole of it. Let the House not forget, that king James was at that period in Ireland, struggling for the crown of England, and struggling, too, by the co-operation of the party who had endeavoured to overthrow the liberties of the country. Could any thing then have been more natural, than that he should endeavour to put down those Protestant establishments by which he had been resisted? Those were the men who were the partisans of James—the partisans of tyranny both here and there. But he would ask the hon. member, where was the king James now to alarm and frighten us? He trusted the hon. member did not mean even to insinuate that the family now upon the throne could contemplate the nefarious project of destroying the liberties of the country by foreign interference. For his own part, he was far from entertaining any such suspicion, or that even if such an attempt could be entertained, recourse would be had to Catholic instruments. The hon. member had referred to the statement of his right hon. friend, the Attorney-general for Ireland, that if men did not profit by experience, history was no better than an old almanack. He certainly was not surprised at the reference; for he had never known history to have been used more like an old almanack, than by the hon. member. Nobody could have been surprised at the subsequent measures of revenge which were adopted at that period towards the Roman Catho- 52 lics. He felt no astonishment at them; nor could he go the length of saying that those measures were wholly unjustifiable. The Protestants had suffered under the tyranny of James and the Catholic parliament; and, in the re-establishment of their power, they enacted laws which, whether they were wise or unwise, were at least consistent. Their object was to reduce the power of their adversaries, and for that purpose they endeavoured to reduce the population to a state of barbarism. In this they unfortunately succeeded; but those times were now gone by. From that state the great mass of the Irish people had long been released. They had now acquired wealth, and with that wealth, political influence. Of that influence it was impossible to deprive them. We could not now, as had been observed by the hon. member for Armagh, re-enact the penal code; and it was impossible to stand still. We should, therefore, if we sought for the tranquillity of Ireland, go on, and grant that emancipation willingly, which might hereafter be wrung from us by necessity. With respect to the influence of the proposed measure on the established church, he thought that any measure which would tent,—as he had no doubt this would—to the tranquillity of Ireland, would also afford increased security to the Protestant religion in that country.
§ Mr. North
said, he did not rise in the vain hope of being able to add any thing to the persuasive eloquence, which, on various occasions, had been displayed on this important question. Feeling as he did, most strongly, that Catholic concessions were essential to the security of the empire, no less than to the tranquillity of Ireland, it was impossible he could content himself with a silent vote. Entertaining those opinions, he could not express the lively feelings of satisfaction and delight with which he had heard the speech of the hon. member for Armagh. He rejoiced to witness in that speech the power of truth obtaining triumphant victory over error of the most pure and honourable kind. And at the same time, while he admired the perfect candour and manliness of that statement, he was also prepared to give his entire assent and acquiescence to all his arguments. He confessed it was to him a matter of surprise, that his hon. friend (Mr. Dawson) should by the same eloquence, which was so satisfactory to the hon. member for 53 Armagh, have been conducted to a conclusion so completely different. His hon. friend had quoted the same evidence which had led to the conversion of the hon. member for Armagh, on this momentous question, as the strongest argument against it. He apprehended he stated the argument of his hon. friend correctly, when he stated, that he traced the inconsistency between the conduct and the evidence of the same persons before the committee to insincerity. He said, that the violence and turbulence of Mr. O'Connell, and other leaders of the Catholic body, while in Ireland, were inconsistent with the calm and moderate tone which the same persons assumed before the committee. But, could his hon. friend find no means of accounting for this difference of feeling? Let him only consider the different circumstances of the two periods which he brought into juxta-position, and in the comparison he would find a satisfactory solution. In one light, they appeared as oppressed and injured men; in another, as men to whom we held out the hand of conciliation, "I hold," said Mr. Burke, "one sort of language to a kind and conciliating friend; another to the proud and insolent foe." In Ireland, these gentlemen, smarting under disappointment and injustice, spoke the language of passion and disappointment; but, the moment a change of conduct was adopted towards them, and they were called to discuss with you calmly in a committee, those measures which might lead to an adjustment of the grievances of Ireland, that moment their sentiments and feelings were changed, and their expressions were changed along with them. So totally did he differ from his hon. friend, that he looked upon this moderate tone as a foretaste of that conciliation and contentment which would follow this measure, if carried into execution. If we found those persons so changed when the smallest gleam of hope shone upon their minds, must we not reasonably infer, that that satisfaction would go on increasing as the dawn went on changing to perfect day? He, therefore, dissented totally from the interference of his hon. Friend, and declared, that if he had not previously to the appointment of a committee, had his mind made up on this important question, he should derive from the evidence the same conviction which the hon. member for Armagh had so justly drawn, and so powerfully 54 and manfully avowed. He could not help auguring most favourably for the great undertaking in which they were engaged, from the arguments of its opponents, and more especially from those of the hon. member for Corfe Castle. It was most remarkable, that when this question was brought forward, it should be met, not on the grounds of Catholic emancipation, but that we should be called upon to discuss, not the merits of this particular question, but of some collateral topics with which it was connected. However, he should not follow this example; but would endeavour to confine himself to the bill before the House. The most important, leading, and, if satisfactory, most conclusive argument made use of by the hon. member on the floor was this—that the grievances said to be sustained by the Catholics of Ireland were altogether imaginary and unreal. The best way, perhaps, of replying to that argument, and of showing the real existence of some grievances, would be to apply the laws as they now were to any particular individual or profession in Ireland, and then ask the hon. member to place his hand upon his breast, and say that the case made out was not a grievance. Let the law be taken as it affected the Catholic country gentleman, and the Catholic professional man. He would take the country gentleman—supposing him a man of considerable influence in the country, distinguishing himself upon grand juries, and in all his undertakings, by calm good sense and sound discretion, and enjoying the esteem and confidence of all the gentlemen in his county. He is to derive from all those distinctions, what privilege? what advantage? Nothing more than the poorest forty-shilling freeholder in the county. Let us next take the professional man; take, for instance, the case of a gentleman who has been so often alluded to in these discussions. You allow him to enter into an ambitious profession—you urge him on to spend the best years of his life in the tedious studies of that profession—and when at length he has surmounted the difficulties, and begun to acquire for himself the esteem of the public, and to enjoy the advantages which attend it; when, flushed with success and burning to go on, he is impeded by your law in his honourable career, and held fast, whilst his Protestant competitor passes over him to distinction. This, surely, was a grievance, harassing, vexatious, and gall- 55 ing; such as no man of spirit could bear without complaint, and, so long as such a system continued, the country must remain discontented. Was he to be told that men of great talents, high consideration, and vast intellectual acquirements, would toil on all their lives in a profitless struggle, placed as it were amongst the money-changers in the porch, whilst the holier and diviner places were reserved for the more favoured? Could such things be, and discontent not follow? These were the grievances of the whole community: the country had a right—the Crown had a right—to the services of all its subjects; and it was a national grievance when the country was deprived of them.—But, it had been said, that, admitting the grievances to be real, still there was something in the constitution which required their continuance. The constitution had been described as exclusive. He denied it. He believed the aim and scope of those who framed our constitution was, that all the members of the state should enjoy as much political power as could be conferred, consistently with the security of the state. He knew no other definition of the constitution; and in no part of it could he find that exclusive spirit. But, had the Catholic, indeed, no power at present? If you place him at the head of an association in Ireland, has he there no power? Can you prevent him from enjoying the confidence of millions of his countrymen in Ireland? Can you deprive him of the power of alternately agitating and tranquillizing the country, or making a drawn battle with the government; and, would you tell him that this was no power? In Ireland, such a man might easily become a giant; whereas, here, he might very possibly become a pigmy. Whether you confer it or not, power he will possess; and it was for the House to consider what direction they would give it; whether they would make it their own, or continue it in hostility. Six centuries had elapsed since the English power had been established in Ireland; and during that period, what changes had taken place —a new world had been discovered; the Reformation had been brought about; but the Irish remained the same, resisting the assaults of time. Did gentlemen believe, that, during that long period, the Catholic religion had remained unaltered; and that it was now professed with the same zeal, and in the same blindness as then? 56 There was but one thing immutable, and that was human nature. If the policy of the state were based on its principles, it would be permanent as the rock on which it was fixed. Feelings of gratitude and affection would be called forth by kindness; and resentment would always be excited by insult and injury. Let the House choose this basis for their proceedings; and whatever theologians or doctors might say—whatever they might urge of professions not changing, the House might rely, that the Catholics would receive kindness with gratitude, and favour with augmented loyalty. Could any man believe that the religion which had been professed and adorned by a Pascal and a Fenelon, those lights and ornaments of their age—could any man believe that the religion of our own ancestors rendered the Catholic ungrateful or deceitful? No man practically held such a belief, neither in public nor private life; for the state contracted treaties with Catholics, and individual Protestants intermarried with Catholics, and found them as just and as honourable in their dealings as other men. It had been rightly stated, that it was no longer a question whether the claims of the Catholics were ever to be granted, but whether they should now be conceded, or how long they should be postponed. Until what period, he would ask, of embarrassment and danger was concession to be delayed? For what misfortunes, and for what critical situations, were the legislature ta wait? The Catholics had acquired property, and were still increasing in wealth; and measures were now taking to give them education. Would the House wait until multiplied numbers added wealth, and increased knowledge united and concentrated their strength, and enabled them to overwhelm every opposing barrier? Concession would then lose every characteristic of beneficence; it would come without grace, and be received without gratitude. The dangers apprehended from concession were remote and imaginary: while those which resulted from denying the claims of the Catholics were near and imminent. Was it wise, he would ask, to add to the discontent of six-millions of men; to look only to remote and barely possible dangers and exclude from our view present disasters? Was it prudent to direct the political telescope towards the clouds, and shut the senses to the dangers lying in our paths? Some 57 boldness was consistent with true wisdom; some inconvenience must be encountered; some dangers must be met; and he thought it was better to meet the dangers which were seen, than to legislate for those which could not be known. There was no principle that he knew, on which the claims of the Catholics could now be resisted. The Catholics were judges, and sat in judgment both on life and property. A judge sat in the court of Exchequer, who was a Catholic, and universally respected; and another judge presided in Clare. Would any person say, that those who were fit to administer justice in that county, were unfit to administer it in Dublin? Were those who presided in the court of Exchequer unworthy to sit in the King's-bench? Either the legislature had gone too far in the concessions already made to the Catholics, or, in now withholding further concessions, not far enough. Having remitted part of the penal laws, it was necessary either to remit the whole, or re-enact them all. In his opinion, the House should adopt that measure of conciliation which had been recommended by the wisest end most eloquent statesmen. That measure, he was persuaded, would restore peace to Ireland, and give safety and security to the empire.
§ Colonel Forde
addressed the House, in a very low tone of voice. We understood him to say, that, like the hon. member for Armagh, he had been lately made a convert to this cause, but that he now earnestly supported it. He felt the whole force of all that had been said by that hon. member. Some alterations were necessary; for the penal laws could not remain as they were.
said, that he intended to vote against the second reading of this bill. He had voted in favour of the motion for going into a committee on this subject, in the hope that some arrangement might have been devised in it, which would have been satisfactory to all parties. No such arrangement was visible in the present bill. If, however, when it went into the committee, clauses should be introduced, providing for the Catholic clergy and regulating the elective franchise, he should have no objection to vote in favour of the third reading.
§ Mr. James Daly
expressed great surprise at the inconsistent conduct of his noble friend who had just sat down. His noble friend ought to vote for the second 58 reading of the bill, in order to give the House an opportunity of introducing into it the clauses which he recommended; after which, if they were not introduced, he might consistently withhold his support from the third reading. He should vote in favour of the present measure, because he considered it one of the very first importance. The system of liberality on which it was founded was calculated to put an end to the party animosities of Ireland for ever. The Catholics had of late years advanced in numbers, in property, in education, and in liberality of feeling. Was it extraordinary that, under such circumstances, they should ask for a remission of the laws under which they smarted, and should claim an equality of rights with the rest of their fellow-countrymen? One hon. member had opposed this measure, because part of it tended to disfranchise the freeholders of Ireland. He knew nothing as yet of such a measure, and should therefore consider this bill entirely upon its own merits. He was persuaded that the different parties in Ireland were kept alive by these persecuting laws. Mr. O'Connell, though he possessed great talents, owed his importance to the laws which kept up the distinction between Catholics and Protestants. It was said that if the claims of the Catholics were granted, they would not be contented, and would be ready to ask for something more. But, was their ingratitude, or discontent, supposing it to exist, a reason why the legislature should commit injustice? The Catholics had not decreased in loyalty by the acquisition of property. They had now, for many years both in our Army and Navy, given conspicuous proofs of loyalty; and, was it to be credited, that further concessions would make them disloyal? He thought the present time a very critical one for Ireland. The calm which existed in that country was not the calm of apathy; it was the solemn stillness of intense interest and expectation, and would be interrupted as soon as the Catholics heard that their just claims had been denied. He could not contemplate without dismay, the prospect of so many discontented men as would be roused into activity, should this measure be rejected. They were now obedient from hope: they had submitted at the first word, from the expectation that their grievances would be redressed; but, let the House not flatter 59 themselves, if they threw out this bill, that the calm of Ireland would be preserved, and its tranquillity remain uninterrupted. Complaints had been made of the influence of the Catholic Association, but its influence had been as nothing to what it would be, if this bill were to be lost. It would then unite, which it had not before done, all Ireland in its support. It would find some means of meeting in spite of the law; and uniting all hearts in Ireland in its favour, all the Catholics of England, and many of the Protestants; it would go on gathering strength, until it was in a condition to take by force what was not granted by fair means. He did not mean to say, that with arms in their hands, they would conquer from the Protestants of England their just rights; but, they would bring the whole empire into danger. He felt himself bound to state his opinions freely. He had a deep stake in the country, and was persuaded, if this measure were lost, that property in Ireland would lose half its value. If the House should now dash the cup of hope from the lips of the Catholics, he would answer neither for the safety nor security of property in Ireland. Before he sat down he must state, in opposition to the hon. member for Armagh, that he had seen the Catholic clergy give very efficacious assistance in a season of distress: had seen them pointed at by the people like the Protestant clergy; and had known them receive the thanks of the magistrates for their conduct. He gave his warm and cordial support to the motion.
§ Sir N. Colthurst
said, he should vote in favour of the measure, because he conceived it unjust to exclude any class of men from the benefits of the constitution, without the existence of an adequate necessity, or of some great danger being fully proved. Now, he thought that a necessity was proved for their admission into the pale of the constitution; and that great danger would arise if they were any longer excluded from it. He would also vote in favour of this measure, because he was convinced that by so doing, he should diminish the number of Catholics, and consequently increase the stability of the established church. Things could not remain long in the situation in which they were at present. The question must be settled in some way or other; and in no other way could it be safely settled, than by conceding to the Catholics the rights 60 they demanded. Until such concessions were made to them, the prosperity of Ireland must inevitably be retarded.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that if he could be induced to believe, that by acceding to the present bill, the House would produce general conciliation and tranquillity in Ireland, he should have no hesitation in following the honest and manly course of the hon. member for Armagh, and in giving to it his decided approbation. He could not, however, bring himself to entertain such a belief; and he must therefore repeat the objections which he had formerly urged against this measure. He could not agree in the sentiments expressed by the hon. member for the county of Galway. To tell him that the Catholics of Ireland demanded these concessions, and that if they were refused, they would take them by force, was not an argument to which he could listen. He was willing to yield to the voice of reason, but he would be the last man to give way to any thing like a threat on a question of this nature. He had been hostile to this measure on former occasions, on the very same grounds that he was now. He held it to be inconsistent with the British constitution, which was indissolubly united with the church establishment; he held it to be inconsistent with the first principles of that constitution, to admit those within its pale, who were actuated by religious feelings of the most bitter hostility to the church of England. He agreed with the hon. member for Corfe-castle in thinking, that if they should give their sanction to this bill, they would depart from the ancient recognized principle of the constitution. The constitution was built upon this principle— to exclude every thing that was dangerous to its existence, and to guard against any evil which it foresaw, by checking its operation. Now they were told to neglect that principle, and to trust to the securities which had been formed to neutralize the effects of the evil apprehended in the present instance. He was not disposed to take that advice; but felt inclined to adhere to the old principle, and not to desert it for the new. His hon. and learned friend behind him (Mr. North), in one part of his speech, had doubted whether any danger could arise from granting these concessions to the Catholics; and yet, in another part of his speech had admitted, that he did behold some danger, but a danger that was remote in its operation. 61 He left his hon. and learned friend to reconcile this inconsistency as he could. He should merely remark, that the bill itself admitted that there was some danger. If there were not, why should it contain so many precautions? Why should it contain a special certificate as to the loyalty of the bishops? [Loud cries of question!] The securities which the bill gave against the apprehended danger were of three kinds—the first was the declarations in the preamble; the second the oaths in the bill itself; and the third, the commission formed to control the intercourse of the bishops with the see of Rome?—The right hon. gentleman was proceeding to show, that they were all inefficient, when the increasing noise in the House, and the cries of "adjourn," compelled him to desist.
§ Mr. Peel
complained of the interruption which was given to his right hon. friend. His right hon. friend had had no opportunity of declaring his sentiments upon this question, and had been anxious to declare them on the present evening. If it should be the opinion of the House that the time was now come at which they ought to adjourn, he had no objection to it, provided it was understood, that his right hon. friend was in possession of the House on the next evening.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that from the manner in which hon. members were leaving the House, it was evident that it would be very inconvenient to proceed further at that moment. He believed that no disrespect was intended to the right hon. secretary, but that gentlemen were leaving the House because they were aware that their votes would not be wanted on the present evening. He fully concurred with Mr. Peel, that the right hon. gentle man should be considered in possession of the House, when the debate should be resumed on a future evening.
The debate was then adjourned till Thursday.