Page images

dence by the legislature. If they had not been pointed out to vulgar prejudice and malignity by legal exclufions and difabilities, they would never have been diftinguifhed from their fellow fubjects except by their individual character; and, indeed, it is evi dently impoffible that they should long be regarded as objects either of hatred or of fcorn, if they were feen in the Senate or on the Bench-at the head of the law or the army,—if their nobles appeared adorned with badges of honour in the prefence of their Sovereign-and their merchants and country gentlemen took their places in corporations and local magiftracies.

There are, indeed, certain other evils from which the peafantry of Ireland have long fuffered, independent of the laws relating to Popery; and, without fome redress of which, it is scarcely to be expected that either Proteftant or Catholic will be quite profperous or contented. One is, the nonrefidence of the landed proprietors, and the occafional oppreflions of the middlemen; the other is, the nonrefidence of the clergy, and the prevailing practice of farming out the tithes to certain middlemen of another defcription; who again let them out, in fmaller portions, to more rigid exactors; and in this way draw from the poor farmer, in some instances, more than double of what is actually paid to the clergyman. This oppreffive practice is the fource of great difcontent to the whole agricultural population, whether Catholic or Proteftant; but the load falls no doubt much heavier on the former, from whom this great contribution is extorted for the fupport of an establishment in which he has no intereft, and who has his own priesthood to maintain into the bargain. It is with great pleasure that we have obferved, in the public papers, fome recent proceedings of the Irith proprietors themselves, with a view to remedy this great evil; and we earneftly hope that their fuggeftions will meet with fuch countenance from the Legiflature as their importance and equity fo evidently deferve.

In the mean time, we conceive we may fafely affume the fecond part of our original propofition, that the repeal of the remaining difabilities of the Catholic body would unquestionably regain the affections, and fecure the loyalty of that great body,render unneceffary the great military establishment which is now required to keep them in fubjection,-and deliver the nation at large from the dangers and apprehenfions which must conftantly refult from their depreffion. We do not say that this effect would follow immediately on the palling of the law. Some little time must be allowed for the fubfidence of the waves, and the purification of the waters; but if the winds be once fhut up in their caverns, the fubfidence and purification will inftantly begin; and no long period will be required for the complete restoration of tranquillity. The heartburnings and jealoufies,-the fears and refentments

VOL. XI. NO, 21.


refentments which now divide the Catholic and Proteftant popu lation, would be gradually and even speedily composed, if they were left to fubfift merely upon the remembrance of past exceffes,-if they were not perpetually fostered by the feeling of actual degradation, and the temptation to new oppreflions, which is derived from the prefent ftate of the law. Of the two parties, the Proteftants would be the laft to lay afide their animofities,-if it be true that they are always the floweft to forgive, who have been guilty of the greatest injustice.

The cafe of Scotland affords a remarkable illuftration of the very obvious truths on which we have now been infifting. During the reign of Charles II. and of his fucceffor, the Presbyterians of this country, forming the great majority of the inhabitants, were not only faddled with an Epifcopal eftablishment, but subjected to the most barbarous perfecution on account of their nonconformity. The confequence was, that the country, though attached by ancient and hereditary prejudices to the ruling family, was in a ftate of perpetual ferment and conftant infurrection. The wretched peafants were hunted and fhot at their conventicles; and, in revenge, the military were maffacred in ambufcades, and the mitre itfelf proved no defence against the rage of an opprefsed and exafperated multitude. A civil war, in thort, of the most odious defcription, was carried on with little intermiffion, in the moft civilized parts of the country; and the discontents, originating in religious intolerance, had rifen to fuch an height, as leaves little room to doubt that the country would have been lost for ever to the Crown of England, if the revolution, with its healing fyltem of toleration, had not come to restore the allegiance of the nation, by redreffing its grievances. The effects of this liberal policy are, if poflible, ftill more ftriking than thofe of the intoler ance which it came to remedy. The Prefbyterian fpirit has been commonly supposed to have in it something of a refractory and republican character; nor was there any want of plaufibility in the arguments of those who maintained in their day, that no indulgence. could fafely be shown to a system, which was evidently hostile to mo narchy in all its principles, forms, and proceedings. The refult has been, however, that the Prefbyterians were no fooner delivered from perfecution, and fet free from difabilities, than they became the most loyal of all fubjects. The inhabitants of this part of the ifland, at least, have not, for the last century, given any very turbulent proofs of their diflike of kingly power, or of difpofitions pe culiarly untractable to the views of an Epifcopal ministry. So far, on the contrary, has the ftiffness of their original Calvinifm been foftened down by the indulgence with which they have been treated, that Scotchmen are not only to be found among


the most zealous partizans of Government, but the General Affembly of their church has recently expreffed their gratitude to his Majefty, for his vigilance in watching over thofe bulwarks of the rival establishment, which were originally erected for their exclufion, and have thus exhibited to the Chriftian world a most edifying spectacle of charitableness and moderation. The army and the navy are filled with ftaunch Presbyterians; and the fons of those very men, who rofe in arms against a government which made their religion a ground of perfecution and contempt, are, now that they are refcued from infult and oppreffion, the most devoted of its defenders.

Let any man contraft the present ftate of Scotland, as to loyalty, tranquillity and fecurity, with what it was in the reign of Charles the Second, or during the whole time when the prevailing religion was discountenanced; and then let him afk himself, in what condition he conceives it would have stood at this moment, if the eftablishment of Epifcopacy had been upheld in that country by the fame means that Proteftantifm has been upheld in Ireland, and if Prefbyterians had been subjected to all the difqualifications, and expofed to all the infults and injuries which are now the lot of Catholics in the neighbouring island? Is there any one who does not fee, that, instead of a pattern of loyalty, and a nurfery for our foldiers and failors, it would have been a centre of fedition and difcontent, and required the controul of more forces than it now fupplies;-that, inftead of adding to the strength of the empire, it would have been a fource of weaknefs and apprehenfion; and would have been, in one word, like Ireland, the feat of rebellion, and the point of attack for every power with which we were at enmity?

In what we have hitherto been faying, we have confidered the queftion of policy in a general and abftract point of view, and without any reference to the actual circumftances of the empire. The advantage which we have now held out as the reward of Catholic emancipation, is the restoration of allegiance, and of tranquillity in general, and the deliverance of the country at large, from the fear and the danger of infurrection, which we have concluded to be attainable in no other way. Even on this view of the matter, the advantage is of fuch magnitude as to make its attainment the first duty of the statefman, and the leading object of every wellwisher to his country. It is not doing justice, how ever, to the argument, to confider it only in this general and limited point of view; and the ftrongeft and moft irrefiftible ground of policy on which the Catholics can now claim their emancipation is fuppreffed, if we overlook the actual condition of the country.

[ocr errors]

It is needless to remind any of our readers of the prefent fituation of Europe, or of the dangers which menace this country. We live in a most melancholy and momentous crisis of every thing that relates to the public; nor is it poffible for any rational being to take into computation the refources, the ambition and animofity of the enemy, without feeling that there is room for great apprehenfion as to the refult of this arduous conteft. We may be fuccefsfully invaded by a foreign power, and our whole boafted and cherifhed fyftem of government, religion and commerce, may be overwhelmed in an inftant. This is the great and tremendous evil, within the peril of which we now stand. There are other miferies, and even other cataftrophes, with which we are threatened by the continuance of the war; but this is the giant hazard which fhrinks all the reft into infignificance. The failure of our finances,—the deftruction of our trrde,-the corruption of our conftitution, are all diftant and refiftible evils. That we may be conquered by France, is the prefent and tranfcendent danger; and it is to avert it, that all our efforts must now be directed.

Now, is there a single individual who has ever shaped to himself the form of this tremendous hazard, without thinking instantly of Ireland as the point of danger and attack? In England, every one takes it for granted, that an invading army would meet with none but indignant and united opponents. In Ireland, every one takes it for granted that it would meet with guides and allies. What is the reason of this difference? And by what means is it to be effaced? All candid men, we think, must answer, that it is produced by the depression of the Catholic population of Ireland; and that it may be removed by their emancipation. Both positions, however, have been cavilled at; and it is necessary to say a word or two in their defence.

The fundamental fact, we suppose, will be readily conceded. Every one knows, that Ireland is less secure than England. The late rebellions-the great military establishment-the insurrection bill-the armament of Hoche and the progress of Humbert, demonstrate it. It is only as to the cause of this insecurity that opinions can possibly be divided. The enemies of the Catholics are ready enough to admit that it is owing to that body. It is the Catholics themselves, that, for the most part, deny this allegation. It becomes them, perhaps, as petitioners, to say so; and, so far as regards the respectable and intelligent individuals to whom the prosecution of their claims has been entrusted, we have no doubt that they say true. But with regard to the great body of the Catholic peasantry, we find it difficult to believe them; and think there is sufficient evidence, in exist ing facts and recent circumstances, to ascertain that the insecurity

of Ireland is mainly owing to the discontent of its Catholic population. It is scarcely denied now, that all the late rebellions originated, and were chiefly fomented, by this discontent. The agitators and recruiting officers of the rebel army, were the Catholic priests. Now, whatever principle will make men rebel, will almost infallibly induce them to join a foreign enemy against the government whose oppressions had provoked their rebellion. We cannot enter into the romantic distinction between avenging yourself with your own hand and with that of an ally. When a civil war has once broke out, the opposed party is, to all intents. and purposes, a public enemy; and the very same principles which induce a belligerent to seck for allies among his neighbours, seem to justify the recurrence of either to foreign assistance. If it be admitted, therefore, that many of the Catholics are disposed to rebel against England, there seems little room to doubt that they would join a French army against her. They might, indeed, be disposed to stipulate that their foreign auxiliaries should not be in such numbers as to be able to domineer over both parties; but there seems to be no intelligible reason for doubting, that they would much more readily take part against that power from whom they had already hazarded a revolt, than against those who came to attack it, with professions of zeal for their deliverance. The matter, however, seems to be pretty clearly settled by the fact, that the desperate standard of Humbert was joined by several thousands of Catholics,-by the public admission of the existence of a French party in Ireland,-by the assemblage of Catholic rebels and refugees at Paris,—by the language of some of the Catholic body at their general meeting at Dublin in February last,-and by the pious concern manifested by the French bishops for their oppressed brethren in our islands.. We have stated already, that we argue this whole question on grounds of expediency alone. The fact, therefore, is all with which we have any concern; it is no part of our present business to determine, whether the Catholics would act prudently or virtuously in making such an election; our opinion certainly is, that they would not. Open rebellon and violence commonly ends in the establishment of military despotism; and even where it is excited by real and intolerable grievances, usually does no more than purchases a different form of oppression, at a price which would be too high for one generation to pay for effectual redress. In the present case, we think the hazard greater than usual, and the prospect of amelioration much more dubious and feeble. If the Irish throw off the dominion of England by the assistance of France, the probability is, that both Ireland and England will fall under the dominion of France; and, grievous as the Catholics now conceive their

I 3


« PreviousContinue »