Imágenes de páginas

Though very dry and thirsty, it will by no means unite with the fluid at first, but is sure, if rashly handled, to run into troublesome knots and masses, or to fly up in the eyes of the operator. By adding but a little of the water at a time, however, and carefully and patiently rubbing it up with the refractory pulvil, he may always be sure of. effectmg an incorporating union, and producing a smooth and indissoluble compound, of great virtue and efficacy.

We do not entertain the slightest doubt of the ultimate success of the catholics in their claim of emancipation, but we think it our duty to omit no opportunity of submitting it to public examination ; and shall persist, as long as pamphlets can be found on the subject, to urge on the sense and the conscience of the country, those strong reasons of justice and expediency by which it appears to be supported. Now that the cry of no popery has served its unworthy purpose,—that the elections are over, and the ministry settled in their seats,—there is room perhaps, to hope, that the advocates of this cause may obtain a more favourable hearing, and that the liberal part of the community may be able to distinguish them from the mere zealots of a party.

The question itself, like every other question relating to human affairs, may be considered under the double aspect of expediency and justice. The result, as usually happens also, will be the same upon both; but, for the sake of simplifying the discussion, and avoiding offence to a certain hardy race of politicians, we shall, for the present, drop all consideration of justice, and examine the case upon the principles of expediency alone. In matters of political arrangement, indeed, there is no other principle by which we can rationally expect men to be actuated. Every nation, we may depend upon it, will act in the way which it conceives to be most for its own advantage, and will only be observant of justice towards others, in so far as such a rule of conduct promises to contribute ultimately to its own security or advancement. We do not want a stricter rule of morality for the purposes of the present argument, and surely cannot be accused of any very romantic flight of morality, in proposing to have it tried by such a criterion. The natural order seems to be, to point out, in the first place, what would be the advantages of admitting catholics to a civil equality with their protestant fellowsubjects; and then to consider what may be the just amount and value of the disadvantages which have been anticipated from this proceeding. It is necessary, however, first of all, to clear the way for this equation by a short view of the origin and present state of the incapacities to which this order of men is subjected. Such a statement forms the basis of fact to which all our arguH3


ments must bear reference; and it is the more necessary to exhibit it at the outset, as we have frequently been astonished at the degree of ignorance which prevailed upon this subject even among the declaimers and pamphleteers who have come forward for the instruction of their countrymen.

From the time of the reformation to that of the revolution, popery seems to have been regarded by the legislature rather as a crime, for which individuals, regularly convicted of any overt act, were liable to punishment, than as a system of faith, the profession of which was to be repressed by permanent disqualifications. Celebrating mass, or attending its celebration, were indictable of fences : and every subject whatsoever, was made liable to a severe imposition, if he omitted to attend the established church at least once every Sunday. Catholics, however, were neither excluded from parliament, nor laid under any disabilities as to the enjoyment and transference of property,—the rights of self-defence, or the economy of their families. Those laws were administered with great mildness, on the whole, during the reign of Elizabeth; and, with regard to Ireland, were little more than a dead letter. In the time of James the I., when the protestants for the first time formed a majority in that parliament, they were enforced with occasional rigour; and under Charles, the severities which his necessities, rather than his disposition, led him to exercise, joined with the oppressions of Stratford and the permitted insolence of the English settlers, led to those scenes of misery and devastation in the rebellion 1641, of which no man, till lately, conceived that the repetition was possible. The soldiery of Cromwell settled theniselves in the lands from which they had expelled their opponents; and, after the restoration, the Act of Settlement confirmed the transference of eight millions of acres from Irish catholics to English protestants. It was most natural that the native proprietors should aim at recovering their possessions. They joined, accordingly, with James II.; and during the short period of his success, they rescinded the act of settlement. The arms of William overthrew the last remnant of catholic government or ascendancy in these kingdoms; and, by the articles of Limerick, which closed the scene of hostility in 1691, it was expressly stipulated, that • the Roman Catholics should enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion as are consistent with the laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of Charles II. ; and their majesties, as soon as they can summon a parliament in this kingdom, will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such further security in that particular as may preserve them from any disturbance on account of their religion.' This solemn instrument of pacification, granted in the moment of victory, was ratified and


published in letters patent under the great seal, in the fourth year of King William ; and in three years thereafter, was passed, in direct violation of it, the famous act for preventing the growth oi popery, the foundation and model of the many barbarous enacte, ments by which that race of men were opp ossed for little less than a century thereafter. The history of this act, as recorded by Burnet and other contemporary writers, is edilying, and deserves to be noticed..

The disposition of the King was known to be decidedly tolerant; and his ministers had, of course, adopted his principles, The recent troubles and contests, on the other hand, had excited a great popular prejudice against the Roman Catholics; and the party in opposition resolved to avail themselves of these circuit stances, to discredit, and, if possible, to displac“ the existing adini nistration. With this view they introduced a very severe and preposterous bill against the Catholics, not so much from any real fear or detestation of that body, which had been perfectly quiet and submissive, as in the hope that the court party would oppose it, and chereby subject themselves to the odium of protecting popery. The courtiers, however, were too cunning to be the dupes of this manæuvre; and unluckily attempted to defeat it by another, which succeeded still more unluckily. Instead of opposing the bill in the Lower House, they added to it a variety of cruel and absurd clauses; in consequence of which, they conceived that it would certainly be rejected by the House of Lord's, or, at least, sent back with considerable alterations; a measure that, in the , temper which then prevailed between the two Houses, would infallibly have caused it to be withdrawn). In this expectationi, however, they were unfortunately deceived. The dread of por pery, and still more the love of popularity, deterred the membcrs of the Upper House from rejecting the bill, or from taking any steps by which its rejection might have been produced ; and is was passed, contrary to the wishes and intentions of the greater part of those who had been engaged in its discussion. This, at least, is the history of the English aci, which was avowedly the model of that which was passed for Ireland. By this barbarous act, and the statutes by which it was followed up, Catholics were disabled from purchasing or inheriting land, from being guardis ans to their own children,---from having arms or horses,--from serving on grand juries,--from entering in the inns of court, from practising as barristers, solicitors, or physicians, &c. &c.

At ihe close of the reign of Queen Annc, in short, when the privileges and liberties of Englishmen stood on so triumphant a footing, liothing renained to two thirds of the inhabitants of Ireland, by which they could be distinguished from slazes or alicns, bur

the right of voting at elections. Of this, too, they were deprived under the succeeding sovereign; and the motives of that pris vation, as they are clearly to be traced in the histories of the time, deserve to be stated no less than those of the act of King William, for the benefit of those who are in the habit of extolling the steady policy or necessary severities of our ancestors.

The Catholics had'lain prostrate and unoffending from the hour of the capitulation of Limerick; they were benumbed and con founded by the shock which finally overthrew them; and had neither given any alarm or disturbance to their conquerors by tumults or insurrections, nor been detected in any such correspondence with the exiled monarch, as had unquestionably been maintained between him and the Protestant chieftains of Scotland, They had lain quiet during the rebellion which raged in that country; and there seemed to be no pretext, therefore, for aggravating the condition of their bondage, or for taking away the only privilege which connected them with the constitution of their country. The real key to the transaction, we believe to be the following. Ireland had hitherto been ruled entirely by an English faction ; but these foreign rulers came by degrees to be identified with the Protestant natives. The English,' as Mr Burke obseryes, ' as they began to be domiciliated, began also to recollect that they had a country-what was at first strictly an English interest, by faint and alinost insensible degrees, but at length openly and avowedly, became an independent Irish interest.' 'This new and independent power, however, was naturally viewed with great jealousy by the agents of the English government, and it seems to have been the great aim of the faction, of which Primate Boulter was the head, to counteract and depress it. Holding the greater part of the property, and being permanently connected with the internal prosperity of the island, there was reason to dread that this new Irish interest would seek to unite itself with the great body of the Catholic population, and, by their means, obtain a decisive superiority over the foreign agents and their dependants, who had hitherto governed at their discretion. The only resource, therefore, appeared to be to deprive the Catholics of all power and influence whatsoever, and thus to render them both more averse to coalesce with any Protestant interest, and incapable of making any addition of strength by their coalition. This was effected by taking away their elective franchise, and thus disconnecting them in every way from the constitution of the country, and annihilating them altogether in a political capacity. • It is needless to pursue any further the history of Catholic humiliation, or to trace with any minuteness the steps by which it has of late been in some measure retrieved. The question is


about the propriety of removing the existing restraints and disqualifications; and, after having given this short sketch of the origin and principles of the original system, it is only necessary to state precisely what parts of it remain. The Catholics of Ireland, then, are liable, by the subsisting laws, to the following disabilities. They cannot sit in either of the Houses, of Parlia ment. They cannot be appointed to any of the following offices Chief Governor or Governors of this kingdom, Chancellor, or Keeper or Commissioner of the Seal, Lord High Treasurer, Chief Justice of K. B. or C. P., Lord Chief Baron of Exchequer, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Judge in four Courts, or of Admiralty, Master of the Rolls, Secretary of State, Keeper of the Privy Seal, Vice-Treasurer, or his Deputy, Teller or Cashier of Exchequer, Auditor-General, Governor or Custos Rotulorum of Counties, Chief Governor's Secretary, Privy Councillor, King's Counsel, Sergeants, Attorney, or Solicitor-General, Master in Chancery, Provost or Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, Postmaster-General, Master and Lieutenant-General of Ordnance, Commander in Chief, Generals on the Staff, Sheriffs and SubSheriffs, nor to the office of Mayor, Bailiff, Recorder, Burgess, or any other office in a City or Corporation, unless the Lord Lieutenant shall grant a written dispensation to that purpose. No Catholic can be a guardian to a Protestant; and no Catholic priest can be a guardian at all. Catholics are only allowed to have arms under certain restrictions; and no Catholic can be employed as a fowler, or have for sale, or otherwise, any arms or warlike stores. No Catholic can present to an ecclesiastical liv, ing,-although dissenter3, and even Jews, have been found entitled to this privilege. The pecuniary qualification of Catholic jurors is made higher than that of Protestants ; and no relaxation of the ancient rigorous code is permitted, except to lose who shall take the oath and declaration prescribed by 13. and 14. Geo. III.

[ocr errors]

Such is the state of Catholics by law; and by practice and systemaatic usage, it is rendered still more grievous. There is scarcely an instance of the Lord Lieutenant having granted his license to admit them into corporations; and, in practice and efject, they are still as effectually excluded from serving on juries, as if that privilege had not been yielded to them. .

The great practical question that remains, therefore, is, whether those disabilities ought now to be removed or continued ? and this, again, depends evidently upon a comparative view of the advantages and disadvantages which are likely to be produced by their removal.

The advantages stand out in the sight of every one ; and scarce

« AnteriorContinuar »