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Roman Catholic Bill of 1792, proposed by Sir Hercules Langrishe,
supported by Mr. Hobart the secretary-Catholic resolutions—Mr. Richard Burke-His petition, and character-Conduct towards Mr. Egan-Protestant petitions in favour of the Catholics—Mr. Grattan's description of Protestant ascendancy-Mr. Latouche moves the rejection of the Protestant and Catholic petition-The Bill passesViolent debates—Mr. Napper Tandy's quarrel with Mr. TolerQuestion of privilege – Mr. Tandy's trial and acquittal - Speaker Foster's speech-Prosperous state of the country-Declaration of the Catholics—Circular letter of Coinmittee-Corporation and Grand Jury instigated to address against the Catholics-Opinion of lawyers on the legality of the Convention-Meeting at Mr. Forbes's—Mr. Grattan's letters to Mr. M‘Can and Mr. Berwick-His interview with the Prince of Wales and Mr. Pitt-Their opinion of the Catholics— Convention meet and send their petition to the King by their own delegates—Their correspondence with the Minister Character of
Mr. Keogh~Opinion of Edmund Burke. The year 1792 opened auspiciously for the Roman Catholics. The advice that the Opposition had given them not to make their case a party question, was attended with good consequences, inasmuch as the Minister came forward in their support; and when Sir Hercules Langrishe, on the 25th of January, moved for leave to bring in a bill to remove certain restraints and disabilities under which they laboured, Mr. Hobart, the Secretary, got up and seconded his motion.
This was a great point gained by the Catholics, and which probably ensured their success.
Sir Hercules recapitulated the measures passed in their favour. The first (rather singular in its nature) was in 1774, when the Legislature gratified the Roman Catholics by giving them an opportunity to testify their allegiance* by framing an oath for them. In 1778 they granted them some substantial concessions as to the purchase of property. In 1782, further concessions were made ; a liberal policy then gained the ascendant; the system of severity which before was considered prudent, was then looked on as unjust, and they directly acquired the power of purchasing land, which in 1778 had been granted imperfectly: they obtained the rights of property, and a free exercise of their religion.
* Though the legislature imposed the oaths, such was the neglect at the office in keeping them, that the greatest delay and difficulty occurred when the Catholics afterwards were obliged to prove their qualification. Dublin, 4th February, 1792. * General Committee of Roman Catholics, Edward Byrne, Esq., in the
Sir Hercules expressed his regret at the conduct pursued at their public meetings, and the exhortations not to be satisfied until everything was conceded, which he considered would alienate their friends and not advance their cause. They had, however, come forward* to vindicate themCHAP. III.] CATHOLIC RESOLUTIONS.
Chair. Resolved, that this committee having been informed, that reports have been circulated that the application of the Catholics for relief go to unlimited and total emancipation; and that attempts have been made wickedly and falsely to instil into the minds of the Protestants of this kingdom an opinion that our applications were preferred in a tone of menace; that as it appears that several Protestant gentlemen have expressed great satisfaction on being individually informed of the real extent of our applications, and our respectful manner of applying for relief; have assured us, that nothing could have excited jealousy, or apparent opposition to us, from our Protestant countrymen, but the above mentioned misapprehensions.
That we therefore deem it necessary to declare, that the whole of our late applications, whether to his Majesty's Ministers, to men in power, or to private members of the legislature, as well as our intended petition, neither did nor does contain anything, or extend further, either in substance or in principle, than the four following objects.
1st. Admission to the profession and practice of the law. 2d. Capacity to serve in county magistracies. 3d. A right to be summoned and to serve on grand and petty juries.
4th. The right of voting in counties only, for Protestant members of Parliament; in such a manner, however, as that a Roman Catholic freeholder should not vote unless he either rented and cultivated a farm of 201. per annum, in addition to his forty shillings freehold, or else possessed a freehold to the amount of twenty pounds a-year.
That, our opinion, the applications not extending to any other objects than the above, are moderate and absolutely necessary for our general alleviation, and more particularly for the protection of the
55 selves from misrepresentation, and disclaimed every thing that tended to interrupt public tranquillity, and expressed confidence in the liberality of Parliament. He stated that this was a subject he had taken up in his youth, and that he would not cast off in his old
He wished that Catholic and Protestant should become one people, wbich they would do in time, unless intemperance retarded their progress, and revived the prejudices which so long kept them asunder.
The Bill opened to them the profession of the law as far as the rank of King's Counsel, on their taking the oath of the 13th and 14th of the King ; it allowed their intermarriage with Protestants; repealing the Act of William the Third, and Second of Anne; it removed the obstructions to art and manufactures from limiting the number of apprentices, and it restored to them education, repealing the seventh of William III., and permitting teaching schools without asking leave of the ordinary of the diocese.
Sir Hercules Langrishe deserved the highest praise for his conduct on this occasion, but he did not receive justice, nor was he thanked as he merited. He attempted the most difficult thing in politics; he opposed the court, and he opposed the Catholic farmers and the peasantry of Ireland; and that they do not, in any degree, endanger either Church or State, or endanger the security of the Protestant ascendancy.
That we never had an idea or thought so extravagant as that of menacing or intimidating our Protestant brethren, much less the legislature; and that we disclaim the violent and turbulent intentions imputed to us in some of the public prints, and circulated in private conversation.
That we refer to the known disposition of the Roman Catholics of this kingdom, to our dutiful behaviour during a long series of years, and particularly to the whole tenor of our late proceedings for a full refutation of every charge of sedition and disloyalty.
That for the more ample and detailed exposure of all the evil reports and calumnies circulated against us, an Address to our Protestant fellow subjects, and to the Public in general, be printed by the order, and in the name of, the general committee.
country, and he did both with success. Situated as Ireland was, the object he gained was of great importance.
Nevertheless, limited as the relief was, and inadequate as a national measure to meet the wants and wishes of the people, there was a strong party in the House opposed to the question; for it was very easy to excite angry passions and kindle the spirit of discord in an assembly among whose members the old leaven of Protestant ascendancy had not yet subsided. Accordingly, Mr. Cuffe, member for Mayo, expressed his determination to defend the establishment in Church and State, and to uphold the principles of the Revolution. He praised the conduct of Lord Kenmare, and the sixty-eight individuals who had signed the petition addressed to the Lord Lieutenant; he censured the Catholics who had appointed delegates to attend the committee; he censured their English agent, (Mr. Burke,) and stated that House should not be intimidated by either.
This seemed to be the signal to the high church party, and was an index of their intention. Mr. O'Hara then presented a petition on behalf of the Catholics, which had been prepared by Mr. Richard Burke; and with a view perhaps of complimenting this individual or his composition, he represented it as his petition rather than that of the Catholics, of which advantage was immediately taken, the proceeding being quite unparliamentary; and the petition was accordingly withdrawn.*
Mr. Richard Burke, who was behind the Speaker's chair, now came forward into the body of the House, on which a cry arose of “Take him into
* Mr. Gifford, in his Life of Pitt, states, that the petition was so improper, and couched in such offensive language, that it would not be received. He is quite in error here, as in many other of his invidious allusions to Ireland.
CHAP. III.] MR. RICHARD BURKE.
57 custody!" He got off, however, and avoided the Sergeant-at-Arms; on which Mr. Toler humorously observed, " that he had read in the English papers of some foolish petitioners who had flocked to St. James's with a statement of their grievances, and that a most violent petition was presented to the House of Commons, but it luckily missed fire, and the villains made off.”
Another circumstance connected with this petition was rather humorous :-Mr. Richard Burke had acted as agent to the Catholic committee during the year 1791 and to July 1792. For these services it was stated that he received upwards of 2,000 guineas from the Catholics. His father's name and advice, and the influence he had in England, were the son's best recommendations. He had been spoiled by Mr. Burke, who greatly overrated his abilities; for he was vain and conceited, and wanted temper and modesty. It was said that he governed his father most despotically, a singular circumstance, but which happens sometimes where men of talent are found to give way to feelings of relationship, and sacrifice to weaker understandings. He used to attend the meetings of the Opposition at Leinster House, and one evening, coming in late, and rather flushed after dinner, he gave the party a long string of resolutions, which he did not take the trouble of reading to the meeting, but in an authoritative manner desired, that they should be presented to the House; but he had only one request to make, which was that Mr. Egan might not be allowed to open his lips on the subject, or interfere at all in the business. Mr. Egan was present; he was a good natured, honest, warm-hearted man,-rough in manner and grotesque in appearance; a courageous character, very hot, and full of anger. His brains (so to speak) lay in his veins. He loved even the man