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Answer of Dr Curtis to the Duke of Wellington

The following report is taken from the Edinburgh Review of December 1828; the Review reproduced reports from other newspapers.

Drogheda, Dec. 19, 1828

My Lord Duke, — I have never been more agreeably surprised in my life than by the unexpected honour of receiving your Grace's very kind and even friendly letter of the 11th instant, which, coming from so high a quarter, I should naturally wish to reserve, if possible; but as it was franked by yourself, the news of its arrival was known all over this town (as might be expected from a provincial post-office) before the letter reached my hands; so that I was obliged , in your Graces' defence, and my own, to communicate its contents to a few chosen friends, for the satisfaction of the multitude, who might otherwise fabricate, in its stead, some foolish, or perhaps mischievous nonsense of their own. But fortunately, your Grace's letter contained only such liberal and benevolent sentiments as all parties much eulogise, and none could possibly malign. Besides, it very reasonably strengthens the testimony, that I, as a faithful witness, have on all occasions given of your generous, upright and impartial disposition.

It would be somewhat worse than ridiculous in me, to offer any thing in the shape of political advice to a consummate statesman, at the head of the first cabinet in or out of Europe; but as your Grace has so humanely condescended to mention some of the difficulties tending to paralyse your efforts to settle the Roman Catholic question, I beg leave to submit to your superior judgment a few reflections, made to me by some well-informed and unbiased friends, as well Protestants as Catholics, who certainly understand the subject much better than I can pretend to do. They have read, with great pleasure and gratitude, the noble declaration, in which your grace so strongly expresses your sincere anxiety to witness the settlement of the Roman Catholic question; which, you are convinced, would, by benefiting the state, confer a benefit on every individual of society; and you regret that you see no prospect of such a settlement, because violent party feelings are mixed up with that question, and pervade every discussion of it, to such a degree, as to preclude the possibility of prevailing upon men to consider it dispassionately. But that, if it could be buried in oblivion for a short time, and if that time were diligently employed in the consideration of the question, you would not despair of seeing a satisfactory remedy.

These human and statesman-like sentiments (as far as they go) do great honour to your grace's head and heart, and might appear sufficient, if you were a private nobleman, but not in your present exalted station, with power to wield, when necessary, all the resources of government; for it would be a slur on the unrivalled and far-famed British constitution, to assert that, even when well administered, it does not possess or supply means for establishing any thing known to be essential for the peace, welfare, and tranquility of the empire at large, and for pulling down or removing any intrigue or party spirit that might wantonly attempt to oppose so great a blessing.

My friends allow that such momentous exertions may be sometimes unsuccessful, when Government is conducted by weak or unsupported heads or hands, and that they require such a Prime Minister as the nation has now, and I hope will long have, the happiness to enjoy; who, after an uninterrupted series of the greatest victories, and a successful arrangement of the most important interests that perhaps very yet occurred, has been placed at the head of Government by the entire and well-earned confidence of our most gracious Sovereign, and with the universal applause of the whole empire, and indeed of all other nations. Under such a chief, exerting his legitimate prerogative, they say that no party would dare to oppose the general good; and that if your Grace would intimate your serious resolution to settle the Roman Catholic question, its opponents would instantly fly, and appear no more; and if the settlement were once carried, it would, in a few days, be no more spoken or thought of, than the concessions now are that were lately made to the Dissenters; for the enemies of such arrangement are not half so angry in reality as they now appear to be, in order by that bugbear to carry their point. But my friends have no hesitation in declaring, that the project mentioned by your Grace, of burying the Catholic question in oblivion, for the purpose of considering it more at leisure, is totally inadmissible, and would exasperate in the highest degree those who are already too much excited, and would only consider that measure as a repetition of the same old pretext, so often employed to elude and disappoint their hopes of redress; but that, if it even were adopted, it could only serve to augment the difficulties, by allowing the contending parties, and particularly the enemies of all concession, the opportunities they seek for preparing their means for resistance and violence, which they have latterly carried to the most alarming lengths, — which they have avowed and publicly announced in atrocious and sanguinary terms, — to which, however, I should not here allude; for I never whish to be an accuser, but that I am certain your Grace must have read those horrible threats, often repeated in the Brunswick and Orange prints; and to this latter subject at least I must beg leave to call your Grace's attention, and to implore your powerful protection, — humbly praying that you will not suffer public peace and concord to be violated or disturbed under any pretext whatever. An effectual remedy would cost your Grace but one word. I do not, however, thereby mean to meddle in temporal affairs; but I consider it my bounden duty to labour incessantly, in concurrence with all my venerable compeers, to impress upon the minds and hearts of all those committed to our spiritual care, sentiments of true Christian charity, moderation, and kind forbearance, towards all men without exception.

I beg your Grace well excuse the length of this letter, and vouchsafe to consider it as a proof of my unfeigned regard, and of the sincere respect with which I have the honour to remain, my Lord Duke, your Grace's most obedient and most humble servant.

P Curtis

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