« ForrigeFortsett »
sessed by the community, is in itself a positive evil; an evil which can wisely or justly be endured, so long only as the probable danger to be apprehended from its removal, shall evidently exceed the certain mischief of its continuance. “The restraint now existing upon the Roman catholics is, therefore, in itself a positive evil; an imperfection in the frame of the empire ; the question is, whether this special and particular imperfection, which separates one great branch of the people from the common benefits of the general constitution, is a necessary evil, which must be sustained for the universal safety of the whole empire. “No community can be warranted by justice or policy, in extending such restraints beyond the strict limits of necessity ; o real danger requires this sacrifice of the impartial and parental spirit of any state towards all its subjects, that state, however reluctantly, must hold to such restraints, as the necessary means of public security. “How does this reasoning apply to the claim of the Roman catholics of Ireland * What justification remains for continuing the restraint of which they complain : Is no mischief felt from its continuance What danger is dreaded from its removal 2 What is the probable balance of peril between its continuance and its removal 2 “The noble marquis declared, that in his judgment, the mischief of continuing this system of restraint greatly overbalanced any danger which could be apprehended from reverting to the more liberal, more mild, more benignant, and auspicious policy, which had adorned the earlier periods of his majesty’s reign. The original severity of the penal laws was directed against the Roman catholics rather as the known instruments and abettors of the system of arbitrary power at that era, than as the sectaries of a peculiar re
ligious faith. The papist succession to the British throne was dreaded, as the certain destruction of our liberties and laws, as well as of the independence and freedom of Europe; our ecclesiastical establishment was inseparably blended with the foundations of our limited monarchy, and of our civil rights; and a bulwark was formed by the admirable connection of the whole fabric of our constitution, which has proved impregnable to every assault of domestic or foreign foes. The long lapse of time, the gradual and progressive change of circumstances, have removed the alarm of a papist successor to the crown, or of a papist combination for the introduction of arbitrary power. “The Roman catholics of Ireland have not been viewed by the legislature, as the ready instruments of ruin to our established constitution. Why have they been admitted to the benefits which they now enjoy Why were they relieved from the ignominy of disherison 2 Admitted to the rights of property, to the elective franchise, to the bar, to the army, to various other advantages 2 Has the benevolence of the state rashly opened to them the portals of a constitution, of which they are believed to be the sworn foes? Have they been permitted to approach so closely to the throne and altar, under conviction of a traitorous conspiracy to destroy both 2 “Their lordships must remember what has been already granted to the Roman catholics, before a just estimate can be formed of the effect, either of withholding or of conceding what remains under restraint. “Do the Roman catholics of Ireland now possess no political power No person acquainted with that country would deny that they possess a large, almost a predominant share of political power in Ireland.
“This factafforded matter of deep reflection; it must be the policy of every wise state, to connect all descriptions of persons, possessing political powers, with the general frame of the community, to mix and blend their individual pursuits with the common interests of the state, and to attach them by the
powerful ties of honourable ambition .
and honest gain to the established order of the government. “A body, possessing great political power, but separated from the state by special exclusions and restraints; individual ambition extinguished; individual interest abridged; uninfluenced by the government; exercising an influence, which the government can neither extend nor diminish ; dissociated from all the establishments, civil, military, and religious, but yet holding an intrinsic weight, which occasionally presses upon every establishment—what must be the operation of such a body upon the frame of any state It must be prejudicial to public order and tranquillity, because its action is not coincident with the ordinary movement of the state, not regulated by the same principles, nor touched and moved by the same means, nor directed to the same ends. “It would appear to be wisdom in any state to endeavour to associate such a body with the ordinary operations of the established government, by infusing the same principles of connection, which unite and harmonise all the parts of the community, and which form the peculiar strength and beauty of the British constitution. It was not so much a question whether additional political power should be given to the Roman catholics of Ireland, as whether they should now be refused those appendages to their present political power, which would identify its exercise with the interests of the state, and would constitute the bonds and
pledges of attachment to the government, and the ties of union with the commonwealth. The action and force of our happy constitution depend upon a similar principle, which combines individual interests in the general preservation of order, and mixes and blends each part in the harmony of the whole. It is a wild theory to suppose, that the balance of the British constitution is maintained merely by the mutual check and collision of the great branches of political power, of which it is composed. The result of such a scheme must be either perpetual discord and disorder, or the total stagnation of the vital powers of the government, and the inaction and final decay of the whole system. But this conflict is prevented by the intervention of individual interests ; without injuring the principles of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, which constitute the foundations of the government, the mildness of our laws, and the character of our nation, have tempered these apparently discordant materials into a system of the most regular and uniform action. “ The House of Lords is connect. ed with the House of Commons, with the people, and with the crown, by many ties of common interest, mitigating the theoretical notion of aristocracy, which has been described as the sole constituent principle of this assembly. In the constitution of the House of Commons, the same temperature may be observed; and even the imperial crown of these realms is intimately blended with the interests of the nobility, of the gentry, and of the people. The great principles of the constitution are, in fact, to be traced in the frame of each branch of the legislature, as well as in the combination of the whole; and the happy intermixture of individual interests, the common right of the whole people to a participation in all the honours and
advantages of the state, are the vital energies, the soul and spirit of the British constitution. The present condition of the Roman catholics of Ireland is anomalous in this constitution, and repugnant to the policy of any wise state. The restraint which still exists, cements and embodies discontent, without impairing the force or activity of political power. Perhaps the restraint itself tends to increase the power of the body on which it acts, by concentrating its entire energy in a narrow space, and by precluding the interposition of any collateral interest or influence. The Ro, man catholics of Ireland are now bound together by these impolitic restraints, in a distinct community, naturally adverse to the establishment * which excludes them. Remove this restraint, and you dissolve the ties of discontent; you disperse the sentiments of disaffection ; and you introduce the powerful motives of individual interest, to counteract any combination against an establishment, which offers so many immediate ad* Wantages of emolument and honour. The danger to the protestantestablishment in Ireland is now considerable, and must increase with the natural augmentation of the power and wealth of the Roman catholics, and with the necessary augmentation of their discontent, under the protracted continuance of this invidious system of exclusion. “Their increasing property in land and commercial wealth, their increa*ing numbers in the army and at the bar, their increasing influence of every description, while they shall remain an alienated and distinct community, must be formidable to the establishment which perseveres in rejecting their solicitations for admission into its bosom. “Their compacted strength must be directed against the protestant
establishment, until a better policy shall incorporate the Roman catholic interests with the protestant power, by removing the odious obstacles which now preclude the koman catholics from pursuing those objects of ambition and interest, which are open to other subjects of the crown. “The noble marquis insisted that the removal of the restraints of which the Roman catholics of Ireland complained, could not be dangerous to the protestant establishment in Ireland. He asserted, that this liberal and salutary measure was indispensably necessary for the security of the protestant establishment in Ireland, which could never be safe while such a force of discontent was arrayed against it; that force would be disarmed most effectually, by abolishing the causes of dissatisfaction, and the barriers of exclusion. “It has been suggested, that no hope could be entertained of appeasing the Roman catholics of Ireland; that their demands had increased with the concessions already made to them;
and that their ambition, lust of power,
of emolument, and dominion, were inordinate, boundless, and insatiable. What was the proof? They had been admitted to the right of property, and to the elective franchise, and they were so insatiate as to aspire to the capacity of representing in parliament the property which they possessed. They had been admitted to the bar, and they wished to serve the crown; to be of the king’s counsel; to become judges and chancellors;–and these extravagant desires were deemed certain proofs of hostility against the state. Because they wished to serve the crown, they must intend to destroy it ; they could not desire to reach the seals for any other purpose than to overthrow the throne. They were permitted to hold commissions in the army; they had served with valour and glory ; shed their blood in the
cause of their king and country; beheld the inspiring example of their own native countrymen, leading British armies against the common enemy, and arresting the progress of France in the full career of her fury; and they were infected with the criminal ambition of desiring to emulate the illustrious sons of Ireland, under whom they had fought, and bled, and conquered; of hoping, ultimately, to direct the armies in which they had so gloriously served ; and to devote to their country, in the command of her troops, those attainments, which they had laboriously acquired in the subaltern branches of her service. “ Were these unreasonable or inordinate desires 2 Was this criminal ambition ? “These wishes were the most substantial proofs that the Roman catholics entertained a true estimate of the value of the concessions which had already been made to them, and a just sense of the constitutional use of those advantages. Was it to be argued, that because the Roman catholics were sensible to the same emotions of honourable ambition and public glory, which similar causes, and similar situations, had raised in all other breasts, they must have conspired the usurpation of the government of their country. The legislature itself had excited these sentiments, which were the natural fruits of former concessions. Because the legislature had halted in its course, and had not pursued with steadiness the progressive policy of generosity to the catholics, in which it had advanced so far, was it just to reprove them for the necessary effect of a powerful cause, which they had not originated, and which they could not controul ? “Lord Wellesley, therefore, could not censure the solicitude of the Roman catholics to obtain those addi
tional advantages, which naturally grew out of past concessions, and which were almost the necessary result of former gifts. From this disposi. tion, he inferred no defect of gratitude or excess of expectation. The senti. ment thus displayed by the Roman catholics was implanted in the human heart, and congenial to the spirit of every free constitution. “The noble earl would thus perceive, that Lord Wellesley's opinions on the condition and claims of the catholics were substantially the same as his lordship's. He trusted thath: should not be accused of a spirit of procrastination or delusion, if he now objected to enter into the committee for the purpose of instantaneously abolishing the restraints under which the Roman catholics of Ireland k. boured. “The claim of that body now p. pears under circumstances of pecular disfavour; clad in the terrific armour of right, accompanied by a defiance of the legal authority of the state, by premeditated outrage upon the law of the land, and by the most insulting and contumelious spirit of intemperato menace, “To a claim of such an aspeth parliament cannot yield, even wo justice to the claimants; it would prove a perilous gift to them, to co, cede any portion of the dignity and honour of parliament, which must be sacrificed, if, in the present momen', their lordships should submit to the temper and tone, in which these do: mands had been urged in Ireland, and to the violence with which they had been supported in open resistance” legitimate government. “The trials of the offenders against the law were still in progress in Ire. land; and the course of justice seen. ed to have suspended for a season. " that country, the active solicitation. of those who had hitherto conduct"