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If the former supposition be adopted, then there is an end of the question; for, the relief which is now claimed by the Catholics is a legislative relief; and the laws by which they are set free from their present disabilities, will then be the laws according to which his Majesty has sworn to govern his people, and to maintain his church. If, on the other hand, it be alleged, that the laws referred to in the oath were the laws then in existence, and that the intention of that obligation was to restrain the Sovereign from consenting to any measure by which the rights and privileges of his people, referable to religion, might even indirectly be varied, then it follows, that in order to implement and render effectual that provision, the Catholic petition should instantly be granted, and the whole privileges, to which they there lay claim, instantly confirmed to them by the legislature. For it is a fact which has been studiously kept out of view by the enemies of this claim, that at the time when the present coronation oath was framed, and taken by King William, Catholics sate in both Houses of Parliament in Ireland, and were eligible to all offices, civil and militury. The oath was framed in the first year of William and Mary; and Catholics were only deprived of the rights which they are now seeking to regain, by the acts of the 3d and 4th of those Sovereigns, and by the 1st and 2d of Queen Anne. This dilemma, it is humbly conceived, brings the whole question to a very short issue, and seems to render any further discussion superAuous.
We may remark, however, in the last place, that the question seems to have been practically settled, in the course of the present reign, in a way that makes it difficult to imagine upon what ground it can now be supposed attended with any difficulty. The objection is, that to admit Catholics to civil rights and privileges, from which they were formerly excluded, is, in an indirect manner, to attack and expose the Protestant establishment; and that the King, therefore, cannot admit them to such privileges without a violation of his coronation oath. Now, if this were the first time that such privileges had been claimed or granted, we can understand, that some of the foregoing considerations might have been necessary, to obviate the scruples in which this objection has its foundation. But it is perfectly well known, that, in the course of the last thirty years, the Catholic subjects of the King have been admitted to a great variety of privileges from which they were formerly excluded; and that the remaining disabilities, of which they now pray the removal, are infinitely fewer in number, and more insignificant in degree, than those for which they are already indebted to the goodness of his Majesty, and the wisdom of his advisers. If the coronation oath
did not restrain the King from consenting to the repeal of the great mass of the penal and disqualifying statutes in 1778, 1782, and 1793, by what casuistry can it be shown, that it should now restrain him from repealing the miserable remnant of that disgraceful code, and, instead of a system fantastically compounded of fair sketches of liberality, and fragments of decayed oppression, ruling all his people by one consistent code of indulgence and justice?
With these few observations, we leave the subject of the coronation oath to the candid consideration of our readers; and regret to find, that the length to which we have already extended this article, will oblige us to bestow even less room on the remaining topics of discussion. We are glad, indeed, to be excused, on any terms, from the disgusting task of exposing the wretched bigotry, or pitiful drivelling, of those who have endeavoured to terrify us with the prospect of the rekindling of the fires of Smithfield,— the downfall of the Established Church, and the reimposition of St Peter's pence, as the necessary consequences of admitting our Catholic fellow-subjects to a fair participation of our civil privileges. It may be observed, however, in general, that all those alarmists proceed upon one very extraordinary supposition, viz. that if Catholics were once admitted to an equality of civil rights, they would speedily succeed in converting the greater part of our Protestant population to their own faith. The Catholics are not at present so much as a fifth part of the whole population; and certainly they do not possess, even in proportion to their numbers, a greater share of wealth, talent or authority, than their Protestant brethren. Unless, therefore, it be supposed that they are to multiply to such an extent as to constitute the absolute majority of the nation, it is evidently quite inconceivable that they should ever be able, either to subvert our church establishment, or in any other way to infringe on the bulwarks of our constitution. The whole basis of the argument, therefore, on the part of those who profess to see danger in their emancipation, obviously rests on the supposition, that, if once emancipated, they will be enabled to convert the rest of the people to their own absurd faith. Now this, it must be admitted, is rather a humiliating supposition, on the part of those who boast of the superior reasonableness of their own system: nor was it to be expected, that the posterity of those great divines, who so triumphantly exposed the errors of Popery in the days of its greatest power and reputation, should now admit that its advocates, if put on a level with them in respect of temporals, would certainly reason back the greater part of their flocks to those exploded and discredited errors. The truth is, however, that the apprehen
sion is altogether groundless, and, we are half inclined to suspect, in a great majority of cases, affected. It is only when sects are persecuted that they make converts. Those who are protected in the exercise of their religion, always grow comparatively cool in its cause; and, strange and improbable as it may at first sight appear, the history of the world has demonstrated, that men are never so zealous in the propagation of their faith, as when it exposes them to suffering and reproach; and that proselytes are never made in such abundance as when they and their instructors have a fair prospect of becoming martyrs. If civil privileges and worldly honours gave men any advantage in religious disputes, the whole Catholics of Ireland must have been converted by their Protestant clergy half a century ago; but if it be true that that great and opulent establishment, backed by the penal laws of former and of present times, has not been able to make one convert since the first days of its formation, we may easily calculate on the additional progress that Popery is likely to make among us, by removing from the lay part of that communion some of the civil disabilities under which they now labour. So far, indeed, from thinking that the emancipation of the Catholics will have any tendency to multiply their numbers, we are perfectly convinced that it will have the very opposite effect. Men never love the objects of their love so dearly as when they are exposed to insult or danger. When left to their undisturbed enjoyment, they usually subside into indifference or neglect; and, if actually compelled by law to manifest their devotion and attachment, are very frequently beset with weariness and disgust. Paradoxical as it may probably appear, we are fully convinced that if the Catholic religion had been formally established in Ireland, at the time when the Presbyterian religion was established in Scotland, the majority of the inhabitants would, before this time, have adopted the tenets of the Protestants, and effected a reformation of their own, after the example of their brethren in this island. The oscitancy and languor of all established churches, assisted by the corruptions and abuses to which the Romish establishment is peculiarly liable, would, in all probability, have alienated the greater part of the people from a system already discredited by the secession of the greater part of their fellow-subjects; while the mining of the different Protestant sectaries, would have gradually unsettled the foundation of the fabric; and the fair fare and pure example of the English establishment, tarnished and eclipsed it in the eves of every candid observer.
In a controversy where the object of one party was to excite popular and vulgar proindices against their antagonists, it was to be expected, that the old antiquated charges of the mental reser
vations of Papists,-of their not keeping faith with heretics,-and of the pope's power to grant licenses for killing and deposing heretic sovereigns, should be brought into notice by the lower agents of the party. The pretence, of their not being bound by oaths, is of all others the most impudent. It is by their regard for an oath alone, that they are excluded from any of the situations to which they are now aspiring. It is from their dread of an apparent or constructive disavowal of their tenets, that they refuse to take the benefit of the annual act of indemnity, under the cover of which so many dissenters from the Established church enjoy all the sweets of office. With regard to the other points, the answer of the six Catholic Universities in 1793, is final and conclusive. These learned bodies, selected as the avowed depositaries of all that is orthodox and learned in catholic theology, answered unanimously, that it was no tenet of their church, that the pope, or even a general council, could absolve the subjects of Great Britain from their oath of allegiance, or dispense with their obligation; and that the force and obligation of any engagement, is neither shaken nor diminished by the circumstance of the person to whom it is made entertaining erroneous opinions as to religion. If this were not sufficient to establish the fact against Mr Le Mesurier and his antiquated authorities, gleaned from Foulis and Fox, we are happy to be able to refer, for a confirmation of the same doctrine, to a quarter, which all Catholics, at least, must admit to be decisive on such a subject. The Pope himself, in a rescript to the Irish prelates, dated in June 1791, has solemnly and distinctly disavowed the whole of those doctrines on account of which the Catholics are still subjected to illiberal imputations. In that instrument his Holiness declares, that the sec ' of Rome never taught, that faith is not to be kept with the heterodox; or that an oath to kings separated from the Ca'tholic communion can be violated; or that it is lawful for the 'bishop of Rome to invade their temporal rights and dominions." He adds; we too consider an attempt or design against the life. of kings and princes, even under the pretext of religion, as ' a horrid and detestable crime.?
We must make an end of this now. The advantages to be gained by the emancipation of the Catholics, are nothing lefs than the actual multiplication of our higher and more valued population, the deliverance of the whole nation from the fear and the danger of perpetual tumults and infurrections, and, in all human probability, the falvation of the country from the most tremendous of all calamities-the conqueft of a foreign foe. Of the difadvantages which have been foretold as likely to refult from the measure, there is but one, we will confefs, to which we are dif
pofed to pay any degree of attention, and that is the diffatisfaction which it will certainly occafion to the violent Orange party in Ireland, and their followers and imitators on this fide of the water. It is certainly very greatly to be lamented, that a thing which is fo obviously juft in itself, and fo neceffary for the fecurity and peace of the nation at large, fhould be likely, at fuch a crifis as the prefent, to produce any degree of difaffection or alienation on the part of any clafs of our countrymen. It is a confolation, however, to reflect, that the numbers of those whom such a measure can alienate is daily diminishing, and that the influence they poffefs must always be founded on circumstances adverfe to the general profperity. Though exafperated, and mortified too, they will never be abfolutely loft to the country ;-they will neither join with France, nor rife up in open rebellion against the government. We have been informed, indeed, that many of the most confiderable of those who belonged to the Orange party have, of late, been fo much truck with the dangers to which the country was expofed by the difcontents of the Catholics, that, out of a regard to the fecurity of their own property, they have openly espoused rhe caufe of emancipation, and declared that nothing elfe could fave the country from deftruction. Thofe who have been the tools and the inftigators of oppreffion, muft fuffer, no doubt, when oppreffion ceases; and, as all fufferers do naturally complain, so it is not wonderful that their complaints fhould, for a time, be among the loudest. This, however, will pafs away; and the ministry that has the courage to do this great act of policy and juftice, will be speedily and amply repaid for the clamours and temporary embarrailments they may encounter, by the grateful fervices of thofe to whom they will have reftored the fweets of concord and the feeling of fecurity. Thofe who have an intereft in the continuance of abuses, certainly will not be perfuaded that they ought to be redrefled; but there are many misled by paffion or example, or by hafty and inaccurate views, to whom conviction may be brought by clear statements and difpaffionate reafoning. We trust this will not be neglected;-and are perfuaded that, if an example of genuine liberality, unconnected with party or temporary views, were once fet by perfons of weight and authority in the country, men would foon be moulded, by the gravitation of a common intereft, into that harmonious union, for which there is now fo great a neceflity, and would look back with wonder on the exceffes into which they had been hurried.