« ForrigeFortsett »
cession of the catholic claims, as a matter of right, declaring that nothing less would satisfy the catholics of Ireland, and threatening their enemies with the most exemplary vengeance. The Catholic Board, as this strange association is pleased to style itself, was even imprudent enough to avow, that these resolutions had been known in London before the vote was taken on Mr Canning's motion; and to boast, that the violence of an Irish convention had intimidated the House of Commons in the late memorable debate. These wild measures which were pursued by the demagogues in Dublin, and not disavowed by those whom they pretended to represent, had great influence on the British legislature; and when the Marquis Wellesley brought forward in the House of Lords, a motion precisely in the same terms with that which Mr Canning had carried in the House of Commons, it was negatived, although by a very small majority.— The temper of the legislature, and of the country at this period, might thus have ensured the triumph of the catholic cause, had the petitioners themselves behaved even with tolerable prudence; but they gave themselves up to the management of deperate men, and they found the legislature prepared to put down their daring pretensions. They were thus taught a lesson, which it is to be hoped they will long remember— that threats and violence will be of no service to their cause ; that it is their interest to disengage themselves from the unhappy connections which they have imprudently formed ; that it is their duty to disavow the lawless proceedings of their self-elected representatives, and that the British parliament has too much virtue ever to yield to the insolence of faction or the frenzy of rebellion. Thus were the fairest prospects of the catholics blasted by their own im
prudence, and their hopes of a speedy recovery of their o removed to a greater distance than before. They very soon became sensible of the errors which had been committed by the late aggregate meeting; and some of the more respectable members lost no time in calling an extraordi
.nary meeting, to rescind the resolu
tions which had given so much of. fence. This meeting was attended by some of the most respectable of the Irish catholic gentlemen, who regretted that they had been absent from the late aggregate meeting, and declared in : most pointed terms their disapprobation of the resolutions, and their apprehensions of the dangerous consequences which might result from an act of such consummate folly. The feelings of the protestants in England were strongly roused by the result of the discussion on 'Mr Canning’s motion; and threatening letters were sent to some members of opposition, on account of the facility with which they had conceded the catholic claims. It was thought that their exertions had contributed to the late result which was so much deprecated; that they had spared no pains to promote that object, and had semetimes condescended to make a question of general and serious interest, one of mere party politics.—There was no reason, indeed, to believe that the recent proceedings in the House of Commons were warmly approved by the people, since not a single petition had been presented from any county or corporate body in England in favour of the catholic claims. It was supposed, therefore, that if the question had taken the same turn in the House of Lords, which it did in the Commons, a very strong sensation would have been produced; and that although the people of Great Britain had remained passive so long as they imagined that they had no reason to
dread the concession of the catholic elaims, they might have been roused to very serious outrages, had the concessions been actually made.—An impression prevailed at this time, that the leaders of the different parties had found it convenient to enter into a kind of compromise on the subject; that they had agreed to barter away the constitution; that whatever was catholic, had been erroneously considered by them as liberal and tolerant, while the protestants had been unjustly described as mere bigots and persecutors. Many persons were disgusted with the conduct of the catholics themselves, who refused to receive concession as a favour, and claimed every thing as matter of right; who rejected all conditions with contempt, and imperiously dictated to the legislature in what was emphatically described as the genuine spirit of catholic arrogance and ambition. It was insinuated, that the late concession had been unfairly made; that the country had not been told the whole truth; that the question did not relate to the mere granting of a few privileges and places—that the catholic religion was to become the religion of the state in Ireland, and that the measures now pursued would be found to be mere preliminary steps to the dissolution of the union, and the separation of the two countries.—There can be no doubt, indeed, that such principles were avowed by some of the Irish demagogues; and not only was this circumstance strongly insisted on, but the whole acts and proceedings of the catholic committee were recapitulated, as affording decisive evidence, that their views must naturally and inevitably lead to the most disastrous results. It must, no doubt, be confessed, that the conduct of some demagogues, who had at least the indirect sanction of the catholics, was in the highost degree indiscreet and insulting.
So soon as the intelligence of the re: sult of Mr Canning's motion reached Ireland, they proclaimed not only that the resolutions of the aggregate meeting had influenced the vote of the House of Commons, but that the vote itself amounted to a pledge that the resolutions to their full extent would be carried into effect. “The House of Commons,” said they, “ stands pledged to the early consideration of the laws affecting the catholics; that Fo was given with a full knowedge of the resolutions at the last aggregate meeting in Fishamble-street; let the cabinet bring forward the somuch-talked-of securities; the catholics of Ireland have irrevocably determined not to give any security.” They added, that “they would not enter into any treaty ; that they would not stoop to any compromise;” and from such declarations, it was inferred, that the success of the catholic question was not what the leading agitators desired. They hoped that the legislature would insist on having securities; while the catholics might be prevailed upon to refuse them; and they fondly believed that animosity and disturbance, the dissolution of the union, and the separation of the two countries, might be the consequence. They recommended to the catholic freeholders to oppose any candidate, who should not pledge himself to support the catholic question, or who should have lent, or was likely to lend, his support to the administration; so that whatever measures were proposed by the ministers, were to be systematically resisted by men who designated the protestants as intolerant persecutors and bigots. By such proceedings the catholics failed to attain the object which they had so much at heart. Some
illustrious members of the House of
Lords, among whom was the Duke of Cumberland, expressly declared, that they voted against Lord Wellesley’s motion, on account of the disgust and alarm which had been excited by the conduct of the catholics; and an opportunity for the fair and deliberate discussion of this great subject, which may not soon recur, was thus thrown away by a combination of insolence and folly, which has seldom been paralleled. Mr Parnell, towards the close of the session, brought forward a motion, “That the House should early next session of parliament take into its most serious consideration, the state of the laws relating to tithes in Ireland, with a view to a legislative measure conducive to the relief of the lower orders of the people, and the more satisfactory provision of the clergy of the established church.” In support of this motion it was stated, that nine of the largest counties of Ireland had presented petitions, or had publicly declared, that some alteration in the present system was indispensable; that the same opinion prevailed very generally throughout Ireland, and that even the clergy themselves were desirous of relief. That the state of Ireland renders the levying of tithes in that country a much more intolerable burden, than the same exactions are in England; that one-tenth only of the Irish people belong to the established church ; that nine-tenths of them accordingly pay for two establishments; and that although the catholics had, from a sense of delicacy, declined interfering in this question, they were undoubtedly the chief sufferers in the present state of things: That the prac
tice of enforcing payment of tithes in
Ireland is but of modern date, a circumstance which very much increases the grievance ; that even down to the present time the clergy had not been able to enforce the payment of tithes on many articles on which they are due by the ecclesiastical interpretation of the law ; and that the lands in Ireland of
course are not sold and bought as in England, subject to a deduction of one-tenth of the produce to the church : That a great uncertainty thus arises as to what things are tithable, and what tithe is payable on them ; that new incumbents frequently alter the former charges, which is a source of great oppression to the land-holder; and that useless litigation thus ensues, , highly prejudicial not only to the character of the church, but to the comfort of the people : That the lower orders in Ireland are in general holders of land, which they keep in tillage, and which is of course liable to tithes; that the great farmers have almost all their lands in pasture, and are thus exempted; and that the burden of the tithes in Ireland of course falls chiefly on the poorer classes : That the clergy
are obliged to employ tithe-proctors and tithe-farmers to collect their
tithes, who proceed with the greatest rigour, and occasion the most serious discontent: That the great evils of which the Irish complain do not arise so much either from the absence of their gentry, or the character of the middlemen, as from the grievance now stated ; and although the laws protect most effectually the tenant in his dealing with his landlord, they place him with respect to tithes wholly at the mercy of the clergy. There is no reason to believe that some remedy for this evil may not easily be discovered, since it is well known that Mr Pitt had prepared a plan for the commutation of tithes in Ireland, which, if it had been carried into effect, must have been attended with the happiest consequences.—Mr Parnell then suggested that the evil might be remedied in various ways. First, by a valuation of tithes by commissioners, agreeably to the precedents of former acts of parliament. Secondly, by a certain tax on lands now subject to tithes equivalent to the value of the tithes
at present received. Thirdly, by a provision to protect the clergy against changes in the value of money, on the principle of 18th Elizabeth, chap. 6. for securing to the universities the value of their lands by making the price of corn the criterion of the rents received.—Mr Parnell, however, suggested that in the first instance a certain. tax should be imposed on each grower in lieu of the tithes, an arrangement being made at the same time by which lands should be purchased so soon as they could be procured, and granted to the church as the final equivalent for the tithes. He proposed that the tax should be paid to government as a return for the sums necessary to be advanced to purchase the lands; and maintained that this measure would contribute to the stability of the established church, which could never be safe, while the increaseofits income generated somuch discontent; that it would enable Ireland to extend her tillage, and supply England with the corn which she does not grow for her own consumption; and would promote the internal tranquillity of Ireland, conciliate the people, and extend the resources of the empire.—The difficulties, however, which
o themselves to the execution of any of these plans, and which were pointed out by Mr Wellesley Pole and other members, seemed to be nearly insurmountable. The clergy of Ireland enjoy, in point of fact, between a twentieth and a thirtieth part of the produce; in many cases not more than a thirtieth. But in a commutation, it would be impossible to proceed upon any other principle, than that of allowing the clergy what they are entitled to by law, viz. a tenth of the produce. If they should not receive this they would receive less than their right, and if they were allowed a tenth, the people of Ireland must pay more than the double of what they at present contribute. As no commutation, therefore, could be effected without increasing the burdens of the Irish people, it seemed highly inexpedient to urge any plan of this kind, at a moment when the supposed oppressions existing in this part of the empire had attracted so much notice and produced so much discontent.—Mr Parnell’s motion was therefore negatived; and the project of .# Ireland from an evil of acknowledge magnitude, and of difficult remedy, was for the present abandoned.
The Catholic Question. Arguments for and against the Claims of the Catholics, Reflections on the Subject, and on the future Prospects of that Body.
THE question of catholic emancipation has of late years occupied a very
rominent place in the deliberations of the legislature, and in the domestic politics of the country. The interest naturally excited by a discussion of great intrinsic importance, has been enhanced by the stormy violence with which the claims of the catholics have been pursued, and perpetuated by the bitter divisions in the state, of which the catholic question has become the badge. During the year 1812, the claims of the catholics were sustained and †. in parliament with an energy and enthusiasm, which have seldom been equalled; many conflicts took place in which the very highest talents of the country were drawn into vigorous operation; and some powerful and brilliant orations were pronounced, which would be altogether spoiled by abridgement. Such, besides, is the nature of the subject, that no attempt to abridge the pleadings could escape the imputation of partiality,+ a charge which might have a better foundation in justice than even the author had suspected. Yet how imperfect would any account of the trailsac
tions of this period be, which preser-
ved no vestige of the general state of public sentiment on a subject of such
magnitude; which entirely disregarded the new lights struck out in the collision of the most powerful minds, contending with ardour in a cause so momentous ; and neglected so fair an opportunity of commemorating, in some degree at least, the high endowments of those men, who, even in an age so often described as comparatively barren in great public characters, continued to shed a lustre round the British senate. It must also be recollected, . that the chief arguments on both sides of this great question have already met the public eye in so many shapes, that a mere abridgement would disgust as an useless repetition; but there is in the vigour and animation of a speech actually pronounced by a great orator on an interesting occasion, a virtue which will give #: even to stale arguments, and the highest possible relish to sentiments which have novelt as well as truth to recommend them, Among those who distinguished themselves in the course of the present year in support of the claims of the catholics, the Marquis Wellesley and Mr Canning stood pre-eminent, and, by the acknowledgement even of the old advocates of catholic emancipation, added new honour to their name. Their speeches will be read with interest and