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A Foreign and Domestic View of the Catholic Question

Henry Gally Knight; 1828


[1] THE best manner in which a traveller can expiate a long absence from his own country, is to bring back, on his return, something that may be useful to the land which gave him birth.

It is under this impression that I am anxious to make an offering of whatever harvest I may have reaped in the course of extensive rambles; and, as one question appears to me to be more vital to the best interests of England than any other, so is it my particular wish to bear testimony to what I have seen with reference to that particular question — I mean the expediency of making the Catholics as ourselves, or of perpetuating the separation. — And I am the more anxious to exhibit a sketch of what has been done, and is doing, in other lands, with regard to this question, because it is to be doubted whether many of my countrymen do not confine their judgment, on this subject, to more narrow limits than would otherwise [2] be the case, by not sufficiently extending their views — by looking down, instead of looking up and around — by not sufficiently adverting to other countries and other times, and drawing conclusions from examples which are before our eyes, and might afford the most striking illustrations — in short, by forgetting that there is any country in the world besides England — that there is any continental Europe — any Scotland — any Ireland.

How singular, how inexplicable, must it appear, that the great achievement, in the accomplishment of which you leave a neighbouring country rejoicing, should be declared impracticable in your own! How unintelligible that a few miles should make so great a difference! — You have seen the general gladness, you have partaken in the general exultation — you return to your own country in the fond imagination that the tidings of which you are the bearer will make you the more welcome; and, when you arrive, you find, to your astonishment, that every face lengthens at the very mention of the happy event — you are scoffed at as an enthusiast, or censured as a dangerous innovator, an enemy of the church, a disturber of public peace. Amazed and perplexed, you revolve the matter in your mind, and on seeking for an explanation of the mystery, you only find it in causes which increase your dejection. — [3] Such is a faithful picture of the feelings it was my fate to experience on my return last autumn from Belgium to England.

In Belgium the great measure of the pacification of the Church (involving that of the State) had just been carried into effect. All the country hailed this important event as the restoration of general peace, as the pledge of domestic tranquillity. Some thought that better terms might have been obtained had the measure been adopted sooner; some thought that too much, and others that too little had been done — but all agreed in thanking God that the measure was at last in my own country, I find the door perseveringly closed. — How can this be? Is there any so wide a difference in the forms of government, in the habits, in the disposition of the two nations, as to make that desirable in the one which would be dangerous in the other? Is the one a free, the other a despotic, country — the one under the controul [sic] of an absolute prince, the other at the disposition of an unrestrained people? Is the one enlightened, the other in darkness? — the one passive, the other volcanic? Let us inquire how this matter really stands, and observe the result. The country I left is one that has struggled for free institutions — that has successfully resisted a Catholic despot — that has risen into consequence from having secured the blessings of freedom, and [4] pushed the resources of naval and commercial power. The older provinces of the kingdom are chiefly Protestant, but with an admixture of Catholics. — The recently united states are almost exclusively Catholics. — The government is vested in a limited monarch, who is a Protestant,* and in two houses of parliament. Is this a contrast or a parallel? I left no Protestant populace in disorder, terrified with the renewed danger of faggot and flame, though the memory of Alva in that country might be supposed to have the full as much influence as that of Queen Mary in this. — I left no reformed church anticipating immediate destruction — no parliament expecting to be exclusively governed by the Catholics who form a part of its body. — It was not anticipated that the Pope's bulls would supersede the law of the land, or that Leo XII. would excommunicate William I., and take possession of his kingdom until he should return to the bosom of the church. — And yet it cannot be said— at least, it cannot be said with truth — that there the case is widely different.

But it may be objected, that the kingdom of the Netherlands is not the scene of remarkable

* Though the new Constitution of 1815, formed for the new kingdom, is silent on the subject of the religion of the monarch, yet there are various reasons, both personal and political, which make it next to certain that the King of the Netherlands, and his successors, will always remain Protestants.

[5] harmony — that the Dutch and the Belgians do not amalgamate. It is, however, believed that the principal cause of discontent has been removed by attending to the claims of the Catholics; and, should a want of unanimity remain, we must look for the seeds of discord not in the religion (for in Holland, where Catholics* and Protestants are intermixed, there is perfect agreement), but in the different habits and character of two nations. The aristocratic Belgian despises the commercial Dutchman — with what justice may be determined, when we remember that the Dutch won and maintained their liberties, whilst the Belgians lost theirs. On the other hand, the Dutchman despises the Belgian for considering high descent as an all-sufficient qualification. Each exaggerates the other's peculiarities. — The nature of the two countries prescribes a totally different way of life. — The two nations dwell almost entirely apart — nor have they long had a common country as a common cause. These are the true reasons of any want of unanimity that may unhappily endure.

Neither is Belgium brought forward as an instance of the practical effects of religious equalization. Time is necessary to complete what enlightened legislation begins; — but Belgium may fairly be adduced as a proof that, in a country very similar to our own it has been

*There are about 700,000 Catholics in the old United Provinces

[6] considered expedient to carry the question, and the mere act of equalization has, of itself, produced quiet in the land.

But is this the only country which has outstripped us in the race of justice — which has done what we say is impossible? Alas! we are less advanced than Switzerland — less advanced than the whole of Germany — less liberal than Catholic Austria, or Catholic France.

Perhaps we shall be told that Switzerland is an exception of quite another form of government — that hated thing, a Republic — an anomaly in Europe, and only permitted to exist by reason of its insignificance. But Switzerland, at least, affords the proof that Catholics are not necessarily the enemies of freedom — that Catholics are not always directing their eyes to Rome, to the prejudice of the state of which they form a part; that Catholics are not a set of restless enthusiasts, eternally disturbing the public repose; that they can be happy without pulling down the Protestant churches in their neighbourhood: in a word, that Protestants and Catholics can, with advantage, compose the same community; and that churches of all sorts can flourish side by side, and combine to support the government by which they are protected.

From Switzerland, let us turn our eyes to Germany — a vast and instructive field, containing [7] an empire, five kingdoms, several grand duchies, independent principalities and free towns; all sorts of interests, every form of religion, every modification of government. Nor can any case be more completely in point than the religious progress of Germany, from the beginning to the end — from the Reformation to the present hour. It is a country to which the eyes of Protestants will readily be directed, because it was there that the Reformation began. No country has been more the scene of religious warfare, or for a longer period. In no country have religious fervor, dissension, and confliction, been carried to a greater length; and no where might the mutual distrust and alarm, which arise from religious animosities, have been expected to endure for at longer period.

A large portion of Europe, and three centuries of experience, compose the volume which lies open for our inspection; and what does this volume contain? In its earlier pages, I fear, we find the proof, that the fires of persecution are not alone lighted by Catholic hands;* that conscientious Catholics could be driven from their homes and obliged to seek refuge in

*The last victims of persecution, in England, suffered at the command of the Protestant King, James I., in the ninth year of whose reign two Arians were burnt. The Act de comburendo Heretico was not abolished in Ireland till the 7th of William III.

[8] foreign lands, to escape the fury of merciless Reformers — that each sect alike considered that they had a right to extirpate error by force — that Luther and Calvin, and their adherents, inflicted, as far as they had the power, the same measure of punishment that was denounced against their own followers by the Church of Rome. Shall we not then admit, that it is better to bury the chapter of persecution in eternal oblivion? None of us can throw the first stone; and none of us can fear the recurrence of the danger, because it is only in times of darkness and violence that such atrocities have taken place. They are foreign to the genius of the nineteenth century.

We need not dwell on the pages which are written in characters of blood, longer than to observe what a sum of human misery arises from the indulgence of human passion. We are taught, however, that after such convulsions, much time is required before men can be cool enough to give their judgment fair play. It is long before they discover that they have mistaken the dictates of passion for those of reason — and that the fears which they still entertain, apply to circumstances which have long ceased to exist. The advocates for liberal measures should, on these grounds, be indulgent to those who have not kept pace with themselves — because the continuation of fear, [9] after all danger is past, is only the customary temper of the human mind: but the late sleepers should be awakened at last, when reminded that the night is really past, and the sun already high in the heavens.

Having gone through the stages of violence and heat, the breaking up of elements, and the operation of central fire, we at length come to the blessed period when the waters of destruction begin to subside: but this was, as it could only be, a gradual process. After repeated hostilities, prosecuted with various fortune, equal rancour, and reciprocal devastation, the followers of each persuasion were taught the necessity of mutual concession; the pretensions of either party were equitably adjusted, and the peace of Westphalia gave comparative tranquillity to Germany. But recent contention prolonged hostile feelings, and it was long before liberality was adopted as a system. Enlightened princes became illustrious innovators in the states within their own jurisdiction. The reforms introduced by Joseph II. established the doctrine of equal rights in the empire of Austria; but it was not till the congress of Vienna (1815) that the work of emancipation was completed for the whole of Germany: it was then that tranquillity was bestowed upon thirty-eight different states with a stroke of the pen. Two lines secured the [10] peace and happiness of millions. We find these lines in the Federative Constitution of Germany, as agreed upon by the envoys and deputies of all the German states, at the general congress. Of that constitution, the following is the sixteenth article:

"The different Christian sects in the countries and territories of the Germanic Confederation, shall not experience any difference in the enjoyment of civil and political rights".

A sentence which deserves to be written in letters of gold; a sentence which does eternal honour to those who framed it. This is the glorious end of the history of the religious vicissitudes of Germany. Thus was the seal affixed to the Magna Charta of religion! Thus were the followers of every sect relieved from all distinctions, and thus were all equally admitted to the privileges enjoyed in their respective countries. Protestants are thus at ease in Catholic Austria;* Catholics thus emancipated in Protestant Prussia: nor can the argument here be admitted of the greater facility of the measure in one form of government than another; for, amongst the states and towns of Germany, we find every variety of government, and the [11] concession

* The celebration of the Jubilee, in memorial of the Reformation, was permitted (in 1817) at Vienna, as in other parts of Germany.

[11] is made to all, without reference to those varieties.*

How can we fail to be struck by the example of so many countries — how can we longer believe that what is actually accomplished in Holland, in Prussia, in Austria, in Bavaria, in Wurtemburg, in Hanover — in a word, in the whole of Germany — would not be safe in England? Is it not mortifying to be obliged to acknowledge that England is the most illiberal of all civilized countries? — we might wish to be the first, we are the last. Shall we continue to remain so melancholy an exception?

What has been done in Catholic France? In what manner have these dreaded and cruel Catholics conducted themselves with regard to their Protestant brethren? The most complete equality of civil rights has long been established. The Catholic and Protestant clergy are equally provided for by the State; and the allowance to the Protestant clergy is greater than that to the Catholic, because they marry. Protestants are admissible to the highest offices; and it was but the other day that this Catholic country, jealous of the possibility of Papal influence, took the education of youth out of the hands of

* Nearly half of Germany is representative: Bavaria, Nuremberg, Hanover, Weimar, &c. Prussia has already instituted provincial assemblies, and acknowledges the force of public opinion.

[12] the Jesuits, and appointed a minister whose peculiar province it the Jesuits, and appointed a minister whose peculiar province it is to superintend the education of all persuasions.

Shall we be less liberal than those whom we charge with a narrow disposition of mind? Is it in England alone that we will not perceive that the hour of danger is past — that the circumstances of Europe are changed — that the world is more enlightened than it was — that the thunders of Rome are become innocuous as those of the theatre — and that it is time for the belligerents of every persuasion to throw down their arms?

But if any visionary fears pursue us still with the image of the slumbering lion of the Vatican; if we think that he has only to shake the terrors of his mane, and make the world tremble again, let us turn for a moment from the contemplation of other countries to that of other times, and observe whether the retrospect of history ought not to supply us with arguments of confidence for the future. Surely it ought; for history teaches us,

1st. That the baneful influence of Papal power was confined to an age of barbarism and ignorance. 2d. That Catholic nations are equally jealous with ourselves of Papal interference in temporal matters. 3d. That the character of religion mainly depends upon that of the government.

[13] During the first centuries of Christianity the successor of St. Peter was only considered the first bishop of the Christian world.* It took ten centuries to raise the Papal power to a formidable height. It was not till the eleventh century that Gregory VII. succeeded in enforcing the celibacy of the clergy, and in establishing the supremacy of Rome. For three centuries, ages of violence and ignorance, public opinion sided with Papal power, and enabled the Bishops of Rome to maintain their universal empire. But, even during this period, the Emperor Barbarossa entered Rome in triumph; the Ghibelline faction was constantly at work in the Italian states; Innocent IV. was compelled to fly to France, and the Generals of Philip the Fair were able to treat Boniface VIII. as a prisoner. In the latter part of the 14th, and the beginning of the 15th century, the arrogance and exactions of the Popes, the effects of the councils, and the dawn of returning knowledge, gave a new direction to public opinion. The vices of Alexander Borgia, and the expences of Leo X. (leading to measures which Europe would no longer endure),

* The Piedmontese dissenters assert that theirs is the primitive Catholic church, undisfigured by the superstructures of Papal invention, and please themselves with pointing out the resemblance of their mode of worship with that of the Anglican church.

[14] hastened the decline of Papal power, and gave rise to the bold resistance of Luther. It is worthy of remark, that the spiritual power of the Popes diminished in proportion as their territorial power increased. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the power of Rome was on the decline, not only where the reformation was in progress, but in all Catholic countries. Foreign states ceased to send tribute to Rome — the ban and the interdict had lost their effect — the Papal bull was no longer received as a law — resistance was the order of the day. During the whole of the 18th century the Popes were losing ground — the pernicious Order of the Jesuits was abolished, and the Catholic sovereigns continued to repress the usurpations of the Holy See. If a striking instance is wanting to show the altered state of Papal power, what can afford a more convincing proof than the humiliating journey of Pius VI. to Vienna, or the long captivity of Pius VII.? Empires have their end; and the empire of opinion is a spell which, once broken, never resumes its sway. As reasonably might we expect imperial Rome to be again the mistress of the world, as spiritual Rome to be again the terror of nations.

From this hasty sketch of the fortunes of the Holy See, may be deduced, that Papal power is no longer formidable. What intelligent man [15] apprehends the return of those ages of ignorance during which alone that power was triumphant? So soon as knowledge began to revive, we see the Catholic sovereigns and states, backed by their Catholic subjects, oppose the most successful resistance to the successors of St. Peter, in all matters of aggression — in all matters that concerned the temporal welfare of the state.

At all times, the martial and independent spirit of Germany resisted the inroads of Papal interference; and the German Emperors of the West, the Othos and the Henrys, were engaged in continual conflicts with the See of Rome, till Charles V., whose armies had once entered Rome in triumph, took alarm at the spirit of freedom that breathed in the doctrines of Luther, and espoused the cause of the Pope, to promote that of arbitrary power. His successors pursued the same policy, till Joseph II. broke loose from the trammels of superstition, and set Rome at defiance.

In France, from the beginning of the 14th century, the church, as well as the parliaments, assisted their kings in resisting the Pope. Louis XIV., however inimical to the Protestants, humbled the pride of Rome, and in his time the Gallican church made their famous declaration, that " Kings and princes, in temporals, are not subject to any ecclesiastical power, nor can their subjects be [16] subject to any ecclesiastical power, nor can their subjects be exempted from their oath of allegiance" In the reign of Louis XV. the people took up the cause, and in the long dispute of the Bull Unigenitus, the parliaments opposed the Papal decree, though sanctioned by the King, and finally triumphed over the Pope and the Jesuits.

Even in Spain, at the time that bigotry was encouraged within the kingdom, we find that Papal interference was firmly checked. When Paul IV., on the death of King Sebastian, wished to dispose of the crown of Portugal, the Spanish divines, assembled by Philip II., decreed, "that the Pope had no authority to interfere, because it was a secular business."

Venice herself, in the immediate neighbourhood of the Holy See, systematically resisted the encroachments of the Pope, and all interference of the spiritual authority in whatever related to temporals; and in 1605 the Venetian prelates, as well as the Senate, completely defeated the attempts of Paul V.

In later times we see all the Catholic sovereigns of Europe expelling the Jesuits from their kingdoms, and uniting to require the Pope to dissolve his favourite Order.

Political independence has been asserted and preserved by every Catholic country. There is [17] now no Catholic prince who does not appoint the Bishops of his realm,* or who permits a Papal bull to be circulated in his territories, unless previously made valid by his own exequatur. Do not these examples acquit the Catholics of any dangerous subjection to the See of Rome? Shall we continue to take exception at their spiritual obedience to another power? Have they not shewn as much jealousy of the Pope as the welfare of the state required?

Let me now proceed to touch upon the character of the religion itself — and I assert, without fear of contradiction, that the character of religion mainly depends upon that of the government. In what other way shall we account for the widely different character of the Catholics of different countries? What can be more dissimilar than the Catholics of Spain and of France, of Germany and of Ireland? — and why they are so, it may be worth the while to inquire.

* Pithou, the French jurist, thus defines the Right of Nomination: — " The right of appointing to Prelatures is an essential appendage to the Crown — Kings appoint because they are Kings. The instant the Church acquired a civil existence, its dignitaries became real magistracies, the disposal of which necessarily belongs to the Sovereign, as they are a delegated portion of the Supreme power, and protected by the laws, and by the arms of the State."
Reglés de l'Eglise Gallicana

[18] The Spanish Catholic is, confessedly, the most bigoted of all the Catholics in the world, and his superstition is darkened with a gloom peculiar to itself. This may partly be attributed to the long duration of the religious wars between the Spaniards and the Moors, identifying in every man's mind the triumph of the Catholic religion, and the liberation of a subjugated country. But the worst and darkest features of Spanish bigotry must be attributed to the detestable policy of Philip II. — who, with reference to his own authority, and not for the good either of his country, or even of the church, armed the religion of Spain with peculiar terrors, in order to prostrate the human mind beneath the double weight of despotism and the inquisition. It was the tyrant, not the Pope, who established the reign of terror in Spain — who, deliberately and systematically, delivered over his people to ignorance and the monks, and laid the foundation of a far darker superstition than was ever attempted at Rome. The result has been the gradual transition of one of the most powerful of the monarchies of Europe, into one of the weakest — an awful lesson even to kings — and, at the same time, a complete explanation of the peculiar bigotry of that unhappy country. If the monks and the inquisition are popular in Spain, it is because the grandee may tremble, but the peasant escapes — and because the [19] government has so long commanded its subjects to give implicit obedience to the church, that, by this time, the church has acquired a supremacy inconvenient even to the monarch. — The machinations of a narrow policy thus recoil upon itself — but the whole has been effected, not by the successor of St. Peter, but by the government.

How different are the Catholics of France! not that the annals of France are unstained by the sanguinary acts of bigoted sovereigns, but that superstition has never been forced upon the people as a system. The spirit of the people has never been crushed, and education never discouraged. — The dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew did not affect the national character, because Henry IV. succeeded to the crown soon enough to prevent the triumph of bigotry. If Louis XIV. for ever tarnished his fame by the revocation of the Edict of Nantz, on the other hand he menaced the Pope, and vindicated the independence of the Gallican church. The French people never were taught to tremble in the presence of the monks— their minds were elevated, not depressed. At one time the nation was kept awake by military enterprizes — at another the people came forward to resist the pretensions of Rome — whilst the early encouragement of letters and the arts secured freedom of thought and expansion of [20] intellect. In the manner in which the two countries have been governed, we find the explanation of the different character of the same religion. — Less oppression and more education have rendered the French Catholic so superior to the Spanish bigot.

Look at the Catholics of Germany — you find them a mild, sober-minded, trustworthy, industrious people, strong in faith, but abounding in good works and kindly feelings. And why are they such? Because the genius of freedom mixed with all the old German institutions. The mind never was subjected. — Each individual government was temperate in its administration, and the Emperor was never powerful enough to oppress the whole body. — At the same time, learning was early cultivated in Germany, nor were the people left without information. Even in Austria, where the Catholic doctrines are so firmly established, the reforms of Joseph II. purified the religion, and promoted instruction. — The march of Joseph II was too rapid for the times in which he lived; but the effect of his measures has not passed away. — After having forbidden the bishops to carry any bull into execution, unless confirmed by the government, he proceeded to suppress the greater part of the monasteries in his dominions, and all the nunneries, except two, reserved as places of education. — He lessened the revenues [21] of the largest bishopricks — he suppressed some, and altered others.— He forbade pilgrimages, processions, and the extravagant ornament of churches.— He established national schools, and enjoined his subjects to read the Bible. Finally, ( in 1781,) he published an Act of Toleration, which imparted to all Non-Catholics, (as they are termed,) equal rights with the Catholics themselves. As the power of the emperors of Austria is absolute, the temper of the government greatly depends upon the disposition of the reigning monarch— and, since the early death of Joseph II., Austria has certainly lost ground — but the Catholicism of Austria retains the greater simplicity which Joseph sought to introduce — and the devotion of the people is pot the less sincere because it is less ostentatious.

In those parts of Germany which consist of a mixed population of Catholics and Protestants, the two sects, living under the same institutions, have become so assimilated, that, in the common intercourse of life, you would scarcely distinguish the one from the other.

If, therefore, good or bad government has perpetuated differences so essential, in the countries which I have attempted to describe, what would the character of the Catholic religion eventually become in these islands? If the mitigated despotism of France, and the milder [22] governments of Germany, have taught the Catholic religion to assume so mild a form, what must be the necessary effect of the free institutions of England, and of education generally diffused?

Is it asserted, that the habit of mental prostration, supposed to be acquired in the Catholic Church, unfits the professors of its tenets for the defence of national rights? Let us remember that Philip II. was resisted in the provinces of Holland as much by Catholics as by Protestants — let us remember the resistance of the French parliaments in the reign of Louis XV. — let us remember the Catholic cantons of Switzerland — above all, let us remember that it is to Catholics that England is indebted for the great palladium of her rights — for Magna Charta itself!

Is it apprehended that Catholics are less likely to be the loyal subjects of a Protestant prince? Let us remember with what zeal the Catholics of England, though smarting with recent injury, came forward to assist Elizabeth against the menaced invasion of Philip, which would have restored their ascendancy. Let us remember that the Irish Catholics, though goaded by repeated oppressions, never assisted either Pretender, whilst the Scotch Presbyterians armed in their cause. Let us remember that, in more recent times, the Catholics [23] of Prussia rushed forth against the common enemy of their country, with a zeal, an alacrity, and a devotion, no wise inferior to that of their Protestant brethren.

Do we apprehend a rapid increase of Catholics from the spirit of proselytism imputed to the Catholic Church? Let us be comforted by the example of Saxony, where a Catholic court remains, to this day, absolutely insulated in the midst of an exclusively Protestant people.

Does the Church of England entertain apprehensions of her own security? If I could see the slightest ground for real apprehension, I should be the last man to counsel her to divest herself of a single safeguard: but I will ask her to cast a glance over the countries which I have offered to her inspection— to look at Prussia, at Hanover, at Holland. In all these countries the Reformed Church of the sovereign and of the majority, maintains its ascendancy. No attempt has been made by the one church to assail, or undermine the other; and such is the harmony and good feeling which prevails between the two, that, in many parts of Germany and Switzerland, the same church is frequented at the one hour by Catholics, and at another, by Protestants.

There is another country, nearer home, the recollection of which might induce the Church of England to dismiss anxiety. In Scotland, [24] the Anglican Church is not dominant; has England suffered from the contagion? Is our church endangered by the vicinity? — and yet the character of the Presbyterian Church is infinitely more opposite to the Church of England than is that of the Church of Rome. Secure in her own merits, and in the greatly superior number of her adherents, what has the Church of England to apprehend?

Having endeavoured to bring forward the illustrations afforded by the Continent, and collected the evidence of history applicable to the case before us — having considered the question generally, let us now proceed to the consideration of it according to the particular complexion which it wears in our own country. If Papal power is no longer formidable; if the character of the Catholic religion is regulated by that of the government; if all other Protestant countries have preceded us in the work of emancipation, without prejudice to themselves, what are the particular obstacles only to be found in these islands, which would dissuade us from adopting a course so much to be desired?

It seems to be agreed on all hands, that the question should be considered as one of a purely political nature, and principally with reference to Ireland. It seems to be admitted that, were England alone in question, there could be no [25] room for hesitation. In England, the proportion of Catholics is so inconsiderable, when compared with the population in general, and English Catholics are so entirely on a par with ourselves as to information and liberality of feeling, that neither church nor state could wish to prolong unnecessary distinctions and useless disabilities — particularly when we remember that Catholics continued to sit in the English Parliament long after the Reformation — so late as the reign of Charles II. — and were then only excluded in consequence of the supposed existence of a plot, which has since been acknowledged to be a shameless imposture. In England, we should only have the pleasing task of raising the depressed without any risk to ourselves, and of restoring a few illustrious families— the Howards, and the Talbots, and the Cliffords — historic names, of which England has reason to be proud — to the full enjoyment of rights, from which they have only been excluded by inflexible adherence to principle.

But Ireland is the real scene of the question — if there is risk any where, the risk is there; if extensive good can be effected any where, it is in Ireland that it will be effected.

The first obstacles which are constantly brought forward, are the peculiar character of the Irish people, and the peculiar character of [26] their Catholicism. It cannot be denied that the Irish people are not so amenable to law as the English, and that their religion is more bigoted than that of almost any other country: but why are they lawless, and why are they bigoted? Are these inherent defects, which we cannot expect to disappear, to which no remedy can be applied? or are they the necessary results of circumstances which admit of change, and, if changed, would remove the objection? The Irish people are what they are, and could be no other, in consequence of the manner in which they have been governed. Centuries of ill usage have formed the character of the people, and of their religion.

This ground has often been gone over, and I only recur to it now, because it accounts for the present, and, therefore, gives hopes for the future. It is impossible for an Englishman not to blush when he looks back upon the treatment which Ireland has experienced at the hands of England. The heads of this chapter, from the days of Henry II. to those of George III., are — subjugation — oppression — confiscation — persecution. During four centuries, after the first conquest by Henry II., the Irish were abandoned to the rapacity and cruelty of military adventurers. They were actually driven into woods and caves, and hunted like the beasts of the forest. Helpless [27] and hopeless, they sunk into the sloth of savage life, into the inaction of despair; and the only sentiment which remained alive in their bosoms, with all the strength and fury of a master passion, was — as it might well be — hatred of England. Such was the condition of the Irish till the reign of Elizabeth, when an attempt at insurrection led the way to more complete subjection. Oppression and cruelty prevented the success of the attempt to extend the Reformation to Ireland. It was natural for the Irish to abhor whatever was offered them by England, and to cling to the faith of their fathers, as the only consolation which was left them, either in this world or the next. The more pacific James sought to ameliorate the condition of Ireland by the introduction of the laws of England, and a system of civilization; but confiscation, at the same time, was abroad, and the churches and ecclesiastical endowments were transferred to those whom the Irish considered heretics. These new vexations fomented the secret flame, which broke out in a rebellion, and tremendous massacre, in the reign of Charles I.; but Ireland, in the end, took the side of that monarch in his adversity, and the consequence was, a third subjugation by Cromwell, and another confiscation. The native Irish were driven back into Connaught and the province of Clare, [28] and colonies of Scotch Presbyterians, and English settlers, were invited to people a desert, and complete the plantation (as it was called), which was begun by James I. After the Restoration, to tranquillize the continual disturbances which arose out of a completely disjointed state of society, an Act of Settlement was passed, which restored a part of the confiscated property, and secured the remainder to its new owners. On the abdication of James II., Ireland, adhering to his fortunes, again experienced the horrors of war, and again had to yield. But, on this occasion, Ireland obtained the Treaty of Limerick, as the condition of surrender; a treaty which was only half fulfilled, and eluded in all the points most important to the welfare of that unhappy country.

Up to this time, Ireland had suffered the persecution of the sword: she had now to become acquainted with the persecution of law. She had now to learn that the pen can be sharper than steel. Horror of popery was natural to the newly reformed; and James II. had identified popery and despotism. This explains the dread of popery which existed in England after the accession of William III., and during succeeding reigns. The times were yet unsettled, and the Pretender kept alive the fears of Protestants, and of men resolved to be free. But these sentiments, natural in [29] themselves, were vented in acts of violence and injustice on Catholic Ireland. The true persecution of the Irish, according to law, was begun under William III., completed under the reign of Anne, and maintained, with additions, till the reign of George III. At the very time that England was securing to herself the blessings of freedom, was resplendent with the rays of victory and the glories of talent, Ireland received the death-blow to her peace in the shape of the Penal Law. The cup of her misery was now filled to the brim.

The enactments of this inhuman code are too well known to make it necessary to repeat the revolting catalogue; but never did the wit of man devise a more perfect system of ingenious persecution. These laws, after rendering their victims defenceless, and branding them with the mark of degradation, sought to deprive them of all property, endeavoured to reduce them to the state of brutes, denied them the comforts of religion, and pursued them even to the grave.

Another infliction was added in the reign of George II., when, under pretence of erecting seminaries for education, schools were endowed to which Catholic children were to be inveigled and brought up as Protestants* — an humble

* The charter schools have cost more than a million and a half of money, of which above £1,200,000 has been advanced by this country; and the inutility of the schools is so completely admitted, that they are now in the course of being restricted to their own vested funds.

[30] imitation of the conduct of the Turks to the children of their Christian captives, and a proof that the spirit of proselytism is not peculiar to the Catholic Church.

Whoever impartially considers this faint outline, must be ready, to acknowledge that the Irish people have become more bigoted than the Catholics of other countries, and more lawless than ourselves, from the manner in which they hare been governed. They hated the law, and they rejected the reformed religion, because both were imposed by their oppressors. They clung to their faith, because nothing else was left them. We doomed them to ignorance, and the consequences of ignorance have taken place. We separated them from ourselves, and it is difficult to fill up the trench. But as the peculiar evils have evidently arisen out of a peculiar system, so is there every reason to believe that these evils might gradually be counteracted by a system of an opposite description.

George III. was too much the friend of justice to be disposed to leave Ireland in the wretched condition in which he found her. Under his benignant influence all the more hideous pictures of the penal laws were softened [31] away; and, of later years, a maxim in which there is as much good sense as good feeling — the maxim of conciliation — has been introduced into the councils of the castle.

But the character of the Irish people, which is the effect of centuries, cannot be changed by the first indications of lenity, by half concessions, and half liberation; and one remarkable feature in the delineation of Ireland, has not yet been added, which is necessary to complete the portrait: an evil which is the peculiar consequence of religious persecution, and which neutralizes all the beneficial effects of English repentance.

When confiscation and extermination were no longer the order of the day, a more silent mode of oppression, (but one more hateful than violence,) was adopted, which has sown the seeds of disorder and vice, and which influences the character of the people up to this present hour. The continual presence of a large coercive force, of itself a bar to all community of feeling, was necessary to preserve any thing like tranquillity in a discontented country. But, to the support of force, two auxiliaries were added, corruption and a dominant party. The* corruption which

* Every one who knows any thing of the interior of the castle, must be aware of the partiality for jobs which still exists on the banks of the Liffy— but the tempter is to blame more than seduced. With what justice could we reproach the Africans for their addiction to spirituous liquors?

Besides the septennial bargains which were notoriously made to secure majorities in the Irish Parliament — besides the usual traffic of peerages, places, and pensions, there existed the perpetual jobs of the Charter Schools, and the Linen Board, which provided for the friends of ascendancy in an humbler way.

The fate of the Charter Schools has been already related. The Linen Board, which cost this country about £20,000 a-year, is now done away with, as unnecessary and prejudicial to the interests it professed to encourage. There remains the Foundling Hospital of Dublin, at the expense of above £30,000 a-year, and which is highly objectionable in every respect.

The last year's grant to the Society for the purpose of education, was above £28,888, and if this expense is incurred to promote any but education in common (Catholic and protestant children together) it will be worse than unprofitable.

[32] was long employed to secure the ends of government, has lowered the standard of public honour and private morality: whilst the insulting attitude of Protestant ascendancy has perpetuated the narrowness of bigotry, and the rancour of irritation. The nation is divided into two great factions, in a constant state of animosity, and ready to break out into open violence at any moment; nor is it more easy for government to deal with the dominant than with the oppressed: for the dominant have so long been accustomed to consider all things as their own, that they now cannot bear any the slightest participation with those upon whose necks they have so long set their heel. If the Catholics of Ireland are [33] accused of violence, England ought to know, that at least as much violence (and in a more objectionable form, because in that of oppression) exists on the side of the Orange party. It is this uninterrupted state of mutual animosity which prolongs the disquiet of Ireland, and counteracts the relaxation of the laws; which shows itself at all times, and in all places; in the capital, and in the country; on all public occasions, and in the transactions of ordinary life.* The dominant party still keep the Catholics down, and prevent their enjoying half the advantages which the legislature has long since placed within their reach. Protestant ascendancy, however, is a part of our own crooked policy — Ribbonmen and Orangemen are beings of our own creation — the blessed effects of perpetuating differences and distinctions amongst the inhabitants of the same country.

It is obvious that England owes a long arrear of atonement to Ireland; but, in reply to this suggestion of conscience, it is frequently observed — "We have done enough ; you allow that all the more grinding enactments of the Penal Laws are repealed. The Catholics ought

* There; is but too much truth in the ravings of ultra-Orangemen, when, inveighing against conciliation, they speak of themselves as the true old British interest. They were so, as long as we governed Ireland ill.

[34] to be satisfied." We shall never have done enough till we have effaced all the traces of our former cruelty. We shall never really conciliate estranged affection, place the priesthood on our side, and effect a real change in the character of the people, till every shadow of distinction is removed. The Irish Catholics will never be satisfied till the career of honourable ambition is as fairly open to them as it is to their Protestant brethren. The very cotter in his cabin takes part in the advancement, as he does, in the humiliation, of his lord, and of those who are in more prosperous circumstances than himself, yet belong to the same fraternity. Our feelings have much to do with our happiness, and if those feelings did not awake of themselves (as they certainly do in the breast of the Irish peasant), the priest will never desist from exciting them till the point of emancipation is gained; and the peasant would derive positive advantage from the change, because Ireland would be more prosperous, and the poorest would share in the general prosperity.

As to those who would really come within the reach of advancement and distinction, can we deliberately say that these men ought to be satisfied? Every generous mind will acknowledge, that the desire of honourable distinction is the property, as it is the proof, of a noble and improved nature: it is to this feeling that we [35] owe the services of the best men in the country; the feeling itself is a proof that the candidate is worthy of liberty, and may safely be set free — for men are ambitious of distinction and power, in proportion as their minds are enlightened, and if the mind is enlightened, there will be nothing to fear from the influence of bigotry.

The only way to assimilate the people of Ireland with the people of England, to establish mutual cordiality, to give to the two nations one character, one mind, and one heart — is to follow up the partial repeal of the Penal Laws, by the removal of all remaining disabilities. Equal rights to Christians of every persuasion, is justice every where; but, in the present case, it is justice, and expiation, and policy.

Why should we hesitate? What is our situation now? What would be our situation, were the question actually carried? What are the grounds of mistrust, and those of confidence?

We have done too little, or we have done too much. Either we should have kept the Irish in the degraded and impotent condition to which they were subjected; either we should revive the Penal Laws in their most depressing extent, and debasing aptitude, or we should concede the whole. We have raised the Catholics up to the point of being dangerous — if we stop there, we have only committed an act of [36] signal folly — we should proceed, and make them our friends.

What has prosecution produced? Six millions of Catholics. — We may wish with all our hearts that these Catholics were Protestants —we may execrate Cromwell as much as we please for not having exterminated the whole, instead of a part — but there they are — Catholics upon whom you have tried centuries of oppression, assisted by a numerous hierarchy, and an apparatus of Charter Schools, without advancing a step in the path of conversion — six millions of Catholics, of whom you cannot get rid — will it not be prudent, at last, to have recourse to the experiment of kindness?

What do we apprehend from the Catholics when emancipated, that we do not experience at present? Do we fear the influence of Rome? Let us remember, that at this moment there is a direct and constant communication kept up between the Catholics of Ireland and the See of Rome — an intercourse which, if ever dangerous, must be most dangerous when unavowed, and therefore subject neither to superintendence nor control. The Congregation for the Propagation of the Catholic faith established at Rome, has at this moment the spiritual government of Ireland in its own hands. — The thirty Catholic bishops and archbishops of Ireland, with an army of coadjutors, are regularly [37] nominated under the immediate eye of the Pope, and without the privity either of the English or Irish government. Convents and monasteries rise unregarded — thirteen nunneries already exist — monks and friars — "black, white, and grey, with all their trumpery" — Jesuits and Dominicans, are becoming more numerous every year; — would there be more danger in acknowledging the Catholic Church, and thereby obtaining the means of introducing wise regulations, than in this underhand and irregular, but complete domination of the Roman See?

Do we apprehend entrusting the Catholics with power? What further power to do us harm would they have, than they exercise at present? All dangerous power they have, and they are perfectly acquainted with the secret of their own strength.— The power, now, is left in the hands of the democracy — the priests influence the democracy, and the democracy influence the priests. — There is a constant action and reaction of power of the most dangerous kind — and that power is now uniformly exerted against us. Emancipation would add power only to the enlightened and better informed, who would see that their own interest and that of the state, is one and the same; we should not, therefore, give power where it would be dangerous to give it, and that power which is [38] dangerous, which already exists, and which is uniformly exerted against us, would then become a part of the general strength of the empire.

Could there be a state of things worse than that which actually exists? Is not the Continent crowded with absentees, who fear to live at home? Is not the English capitalist deterred from establishing himself in Ireland, because there is no security? Are not the Catholics affiliated, and sworn from one end of the island to the other? Is there not a self-constituted assembly whom you cannot put down, who never suffer, and never will suffer, the irritation of the public mind to subside? Is not Ireland alone prevented from breaking forth into open rebellion by the presence of a large military force? Can we change the situation of things for the worse?

Should it happen (an event that, at any time, might happen) that a continental war were added to the embarrassments of England, would not the state of Ireland considerably add to our perplexities? Are the continental powers ignorant of this? Are they not perfectly aware that Ireland is a source of anxiety and weakness to England? Most perfectly aware are they of this self-evident truth; and wherever a traveller goes, and whenever he converses with foreigners of any information — [39] whether Catholic or Protestant — on the subject of Ireland, they cannot conceal their amazement at the pertinacity with which England treasures up a source of weakness, which she might, at any moment, convert into a source of strength.

And in this course we persist — not rather than have Catholic bishops, for there they are already — not rather than admit Papal influence, for the Pope reigns supreme — but rather than admit about twenty Catholic gentlemen into the House of Commons, and about ten Catholic noblemen into the House of Peers — as if it would make any difference if, of the sixty-eight Irish members who now regularly vote for the Catholic Question, twenty of them happened to be real Catholics.

And here I might ask (the inquiry has less to do with Ireland, but will, perhaps, be equally appreciated by public men), is not the conduct of every friend of the Catholics — his estimation — his very designation — exactly the same as if he were, in fact, a Catholic? Is not every man who supports the Catholic Question called a Catholic? And does he not act and vote as if he really were so? Is not even this branch of the subject a most serious inconvenience? Does it not make the great difficulty in the formation of every administration? On the appointment to every office? One man cannot be Chancellor of Ireland — and another man cannot [40] be Lord-Lieutenant — this man cannot be Attorney-General — that man cannot be Chancellor of the Exchequer — because he is a Catholic — that is, a supporter of the Catholic Question — and thus the government is deprived of the materials requisite for its strength — the cabinet remains divided — and the country is debarred of the services of those who might be of the greatest assistance at a time of the greatest difficulty.

Such is our situation — on the other hand, what would be our situation?

I am not sanguine enough to expect that Catholic Emancipation would be a complete panacea for all the ills of Ireland, much less that so desirable an object as the complete restoration of Ireland could be effected at once. But of this I am persuaded, that no real good will be done in any other way till the boon is conceded. To use an homely metaphor, it is like the draining of land — until you have taken out the bitter waters, no good will result from either cultivation or enrichment. Reconciled Ireland would be in a state to be ameliorated. Neither can conciliation produce its effect, or obtain its due reward; nor can the dominant party be taught the necessity of a less offensive and less uncharitable demeanour, till the question of emancipation is carried. Time alone can effect that perfect fusion of parties which alone can restore Ireland to the perfection of health, but [41] the source of constant irritation would be removed. The Catholic Association, which is now an object of apprehension, would vanish with the cause of its existence. Daily troubles and nightly fears would be at an end; there would be security in the land; and the warm hearts of a now alienated majority would repay the generosity of England with the full flow of returning affection and grateful cordiality.

Peace would bring her attendant blessings — England would be relieved from the heavy expenditure* which the amount of the force necessary to restrain Ireland annually entails. The absentees would return to a country in which it would be safe to live — English capital would seek a legitimate source of profitable enterprise — Ireland would be occupied and enriched — and the English peasantry would no longer be driven out of the field of their own industry by the swarms of starving Irishmen who now flock annually to England for want of employment at home.

We should be in the right instead of being in the wrong — we should divide the discontented from the factious. Conscious and acknowledged rectitude would enable us to meet and overpower any disturbances that bad and restless spirits might still endeavour to excite;

* The Irish Rebellion, in 1798, cost the country eleven millions of money over and above the usual revenue of Ireland.

[42] and, in case of future war with foreign powers, our enemies would no longer be able at once to make for our assailable point.

The progressive improvement of Ireland would begin, and might then be assisted by wise laws and useful regulations, which would then be thankfully accepted, but are now tendered in vain; and if Orangemen could be persuaded no longer to bristle at the sight of a Catholic— if the zealous in the cause of religion, whether Catholic or Protestant, would desist, were it only for a time, from attempts at conversion,* and if education, in common (obtained at whatever present sacrifice), were generally encouraged, the moral progress of Ireland would correspond with the wishes of those who desire it most.

Such is the promise that may fairly be held out: but may we venture to trust Catholics? Can we give them our confidence? Will they be loyal subjects? Will they not use their freedom to rush upon the Church of England, and endeavour to work her destruction? Will not the ragged descendants of Irish kings rise out of their bogs, and come down from their

* If it is decreed on High that the Reformed Religion shall be generally diffused, it will prevail, and the emancipation of the Catholics will not prevent it. But no human interference is so likely to prolong the continuance of error as the harassing, however well meant, endeavours of proselytism.

[43] mountains, armed with old deeds and musty parchments, and establish their title to Protestant property?

The evidence adduced in my former pages all bears upon the point of confidence generally. In addition to which, we have the solemn, deliberate testimony of the best informed and most deeply concerned, with regard to all the points which excite any anxiety.

It is, however, a singular fact, that when important evidence on these subjects is obtained, it appears to produce very little effect. The utmost pains are taken, with the utmost sincerity, to arrive at the truth; and when results that ought to be satisfactory, and declarations that ought to be overwhelming, are laid before the public, they fail to make a just impression. The Catholics remove our fears with the most solemn assurances, yet we assert that our fears are exactly the same.

It might have been expected that the answers received by Mr. Pitt, so long ago as 1789, from six of the most celebrated Catholic universities of Europe, would have allayed our alarm on the score of divided allegiance. They are within every man's reach; but I quote one of them, as they all appear to have been put out of sight as soon as received, and never consulted again.

"The Faculty of Divinity, at Louvain, is struck [44] with astonishment that such questions should, at the end of the eighteenth century, be proposed to any learned body, by inhabitants of a kingdom that glories in the talent and discernment of its natives — and declares that no men, or assembly of men, however eminent in dignity and power, nor even the whole body of the Catholic Church, though assembled in general council, can, upon any ground or pretence whatsoever, weaken the bond of union between the sovereign and the people; still less can they absolve or free subjects from the oath of allegiance."

To this let me add the testimony of an Irish Catholic, in reply to the following question: —

Is there any difference, according to the Roman Catholic tenets, between the allegiance which a Roman Catholic owes to a Protestant sovereign, and the allegiance which he owes to a Catholic prince?

"Not the least — they are precisely the same: unqualified as to all things, temporal and civil, whether directly or indirectly. — D. O'CONNELL, Esq. in his examination before the Lords' Committee, 1825.

Perhaps it may be worth while to add the testimony of the Pope himself.

[45] In a letter addressed to the President of the United [45] In a letter addressed to the President of the United States of Mexico, dated January 29, 1825, Leo XII., declining to interfere in their disputes with the mother country, uses these expressions:

"Our peculiar character, and the dignity to which, without the least merit, we are raised, exact of us that we interfere not in any thing unconnected with the Church".

Again, in his encyclical letter to the prelates of Christendom, in 1824, he says, — "On civil matters we do not treat".

These various testimonies, connected with the circumstantial evidence afforded by the conduct of various countries, might satisfy the scruples of the most timid on the score of the doubtful loyalty of Catholic allegiance, and the degree of obedience at this day required by the spiritual prince.


The body of evidence accumulated in the examinations before the committees of either House of Parliament in 1825, affords the strongest proof of the necessity of Catholic emancipation, and the most satisfactory exposition of the nature of the opinion of Catholics with [46] regard to the points under consideration. From this storehouse of information I collect the following testimony with regard to the objects of apprehension to the Church of England.

Can a conscientious Roman Catholic solemnly pledge himself to support a Protestant ecclesiastical establishment?

"I think he might; — speaking as a Roman Catholic, having, I hope, a conscience, I should say, I would. The Roman Catholic clergy would state that they would not disturb the Protestant establishment." — A. R. BLAKE, Esq.

"I am quite certain that there is no provision which the legislature thought fit to make by law, to prevent the danger of Catholic ascendancy, which would not be most cheerfully and readily acceded to by the Irish Catholics." — D. O'CONNELL, Esq.

What is the reply of the Catholic clergy, on this particular? What is the reply of a titular bishop of the greatest authority with the Irish Catholic Church?

How could the Catholic clergy feel justified in supporting a Protestant establishment?

"Roman Catholics would support a Protestant establishment, because the state in which we live has pleased, in its wisdom, to establish a certain mode of worship, and we should support the establishment as an integral part of the [47] should support the establishment as an integral part of the state."* — DR. DOYLE, before the Lords' Committee.

"We are jealous of the established clergy because they invariably oppose our claims. —If those claims were granted, the country would settle down into habits of quiet, and we should then view the established clergy, as brethren labouring in the same vineyard with ourselves, seeking to promote the interests of our common country." — DR. DOYLE.

Let me add the declaration of the thirty Roman Catholic bishops of Ireland: —

"We disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure, any intention to subvert the present church establishment, for the purpose of substituting a Catholic establishment in its stead. And further, we swear that we will not exercise any privilege to which we are, or may be, entitled, to disturb the Protestant religion and Protestant government of Ireland."


What is the nature of the evidence with regard to the ancient claims on the forfeited lands in Ireland?

The following questions were proposed to A. R. Blake, Esq., Chief Remembrancer of the

* No Scotch Presbyterian, or Protestant Dissenter of any denomination, could answer otherwise.

[48]  Exchequer in Ireland, in the Lords' Committee, 1825.

"Has it fallen in your way, in the high office you hold, to know whether any objection is made by Roman Catholics to invest their acquirements in land on Protestant titles?"

"Quite the contrary; — the great object in making out title in Ireland is to trace it to a patent from the Crown, and most patents were consequent on forfeiture."

"Are you to be understood that the general mass of Catholics so purchasing, do now hold under Protestant titles?"


The testimony of Mr. O'Connell in the same Committee, is to the same effect.

"I know that there is not the least danger of the re-assumption of forfeited land. I know that in practice, the more recent forfeitures, which would of course be most exposed to the danger of re-assumption, are now considered the best titles; all the estates that have been purchased by the Catholics are forfeited estates. I know that there is now an impossibility of tracing out the persons who, if there were a re-assumption, could have what would be considered a legitimate title. Almost all my own property, and that of my two brothers, is forfeited land." — D. O'CONNELL, Esq.

Such is the nature of the evidence on the [49]  three great points of loyalty, the security of property, and the security of the established church — but let us go a step further, and, without entering too deeply into subjects that should only be approached with awe and reverence, endeavour to ascertain how far the religious tenets of the Catholics would be likely to interfere with the relations of private life? Whether there is any thing in their articles of faith which would render it difficult for Protestants and Catholics to dwell together in harmony?

Into theological disquisitions it is not my intention to enter. Dark and doubtful passages are expounded different ways. From these I pass to the certain light of the gospel, and find the specific injunction, "Beloved, love one another." On this precept I ground the opinion that it is not the duty of Protestants to set out with a pious abhorrence of all Catholics, or to consider themselves bound to use their utmost endeavours to extirpate them from the face of the earth.

The Catholic tenets, into which it is my present object to inquire, are those which might be supposed to influence the principles of their moral conduct. But such is the state of Protestant opinions on these subjects, that the Catholic cannot be permitted to make his simple declaration as an innocent man. He is [50] already an accused person, and can only reply as already an accused person, and can only reply as a criminal on his trial. Let us see, however, in what manner he does reply to the charges so triumphantly brought against him, of suspected faith with heretics, the easy manner in which he escapes the future punishment of sin, and the arrogance of his pretensions to an exclusive heaven.

The following is the reply of the College of Douay to the question: — Does a Catholic consider it to be his duty to keep faith with heretics?

"We positively and unequivocally declare that there is not, and never has been, amongst Catholics, or in the doctrines of the Church of Rome, any law or principle which makes it lawful for Catholics to break their faith with heretics, or others of a different persuasion with themselves in matters of religion, either in public or private concerns."

The Roman Catholic bishops of Ireland equally declare, upon oath, that "they detest, as unchristian and impious, the principle that no faith is to be kept with heretics; and they further declare their belief that no act in itself unjust, immoral, or wicked, can ever be justified, or excused, by, or under, pretence, or colour, that it was done for the good of the church, or in obedience to any ecclesiastical power whatever."

[51] Does a Catholic consider that the absolution of the priest can release him from the spiritual consequences of sin, without repentance on his own part?

"No actual sin can be forgiven, at the will of any pope or any priest — or of any person whatsoever, without a sincere sorrow for having offended God — and a firm resolution to avoid future guilt, and to atone for past transgressions. Any person who receives absolution without these necessary conditions, far from obtaining the remission of his sins, incurs the additional guilt of violating a sacrament." — Declaration of the thirty Bishops.

Does a Catholic believe that a Protestant can be saved?

The Catholic tenets, on this subject, are thus expounded in a publication called, Charity and Truth, a work of the greatest authority amongst Catholics, and recently republished under the sanction of the prelates of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

  1st. That whatever be the religious belief of the parents of a person who is baptized, and whatever the faith of the person who baptizes him, he becomes, on the instant of his baptism, a member of the Catholic Church, mentioned in the Apostles' Creed.
  2d. That he receives, on his baptism, justifying grace and justifying faith.
[52] 3d. That he loses the former by the commission of any mortal sin.
  4th. That he loses the latter by the commission of a mortal sin against faith, but does not lose it by the commission of a mortal sin of another kind.
  5th. That without such wilful ignorance or wilful error as amounts to a crime in the eye of God, a mortal sin against faith cannot be committed.
  6th. That, except in an extreme case, no individual is justified in imputing this criminal error to any other individual.

These are the Catholic tenets — and, acting upon these, who would venture to impute such criminal error to his neighbour? Dr. Doyle, in his essay on the Catholic claims, utterly rejects the idea of peculiar exclusiveness in the doctrines of the Church of Rome, and, in his address to the Irish Catholics, thus expounds the doctrine, " Take heed of the words of the Apostle — who art thou that judgest a foreign servant? He will stand, or fall, to his Master — but he will stand — for God is powerful enough to raise him up !"

These are the Catholic tenets — and their effect is to impress all enlightened Catholics (and all might be enlightened if we pleased) with the belief (I speak from the best Catholic authority) that salvation is open to all good men, whether Catholic or Protestant.

[53] Are not these explanations upon which a candid Protestant may repose with satisfaction — especially when he remembers that the church to which he belongs is not remarkably tolerant of other doctrines than her own, and sums up the articles of her faith with the somewhat ambiguous anathema, "This is the Catholic faith, which, except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved." Passages, however, are found in statutes and canons which startle the ear, but are grown obsolete to the mind; and if Catholics and Protestants practically believe that the holders of both persuasions may meet in heaven, it is all that has to do with their happiness on earth.

We call the Catholics idolaters — but what do they teach their children in the catechism which is in general use? That images may be reverenced as memorials — but are not to be addressed in prayer, "for they have no life nor sense to help us!" — We assert that the Catholics stop short of the Divinity, and offer an almost exclusive worship to saints.* What is their own

* In the oath of allegiance taken by the Catholic clergy of Prussia, on entering upon any preferment, the person, amongst other adjurations, swore by the Virgin Mary and the Saints — but one of their bishops made a declaration to the government that so to swear was blasphemy — since there is nothing divine in their nature, and that, however much they are the objects of profound respect, they are nowise objects of adoration to Roman Catholics, who, if orthodox in their faith, could not possibly take an oath conceived in such terms — and the government consented o their being expunged. — Dispatch from G. H. Ross, Esq. Envoy at the Court of Berlin, 1817.

[54] precept? That we are not forbidden to pay to saints and angels an inferior honour, as the faithful servants and special friends of God — but that supreme and divine honour belongs to God alone.

Must we not confess that we have done the Catholics wrong? That we have imputed to them opinions which they do not in fact entertain? I have unshrinkingly probed all those peculiar tenets which might be supposed to interfere with the ordinary transactions of life, and either we must allow that there is nothing in the creed of Catholics to prevent them from proving good subjects, good citizens, and good neighbours — or we must put an end to all further discussion, by boldly declaring that we neither do, nor ever will, believe one syllable that a Catholic utters.

I am ready to confess that I prefer the church of which I am a member — I honour her for her dignity and her simplicity — I honour her both for what she has rejected and what she has kept — for her form of worship, in which, more than in any other, the people join in prayer with the priest — for her very language, which adds a charm to the sacred precepts which it conveys. — But, if I prefer the one, am I to hate the other, or any other? On the [55] contrary, my own church teaches me, that "all our doings without charity are nothing worth." The more I wish the Church of England to prosper, the more I wish her to trust to the beauty of holiness, rather than the frown of authority, and to be reassured by her own precept that "Charity never faileth."

When the separation of the two churches first took place, mutual irritation provoked a natural hostility — spiritual weapons, as well as the arm of the flesh, were resorted to — and either church hurled her anathemas at the other — but it is time for anger to cool, and warfare to cease — let us rather be indulgent to each other, than seek to widen the breach — let us remember, what many appear to forget, that all who bow to the name of Christ are — Christians.*

If this impartial inquiry into the real principles of Catholics, if either the arguments or the evidence which I have been able to adduce, if a sense of justice, if the consideration of the present state of Ireland, should in any way diminish the reluctance to concede the Catholic

* In the Polish Diet, where a single negative prevented the passing of a law, and where all the Catholic bishops sat as magnates or peers, it was enacted in 1568, that "not only those who adhere to the Catholic Church, but all, be they who they will, to they be but Christians, shall enjoy, and for ever retain, equal privileges, rights and liberties. No individual, so he be a Christian, shall be excluded."— Klaproth's Poland.

[56] claims, is there not every reason for setting this matter at rest without further delay? In the words of the highly gifted man who is now at the head of affairs, and of whose many and great qualities good sense forms so prominent a feature — "If there be one point on which all the country will agree, it is that a question of importance should be settled as soon as possible, one way or the other." Of the other way no hope can be entertained. — Does not every man in fact feel a conviction in his own mind, that the concession must be made at no distant time? Would it not, then, be infinitely better to concede it without delay? It is certain that the irritation of Ireland has increased to an anxious degree every time that the question has been refused. — Shall we continue to goad an already irritated people, till despair has recourse to its usual acts? Shall we make the concession whilst it would still be received as a boon, or wait till the evil hour when it may be extorted from our necessities, and only redound to our disgrace? This is the language of caution — not of intimidation. We fill our minds with chimeras; we perplex our imaginations with the spectre of Queen Mary and the ghost of the Pretender; and, in our alarm at visions which have long ceased to have a corporeal form, we overlook the danger which really exists; or, if we' regard it at all, it is only to declare that it is unworthy of England to be [57] influenced by apprehension. — The sentiment indeed is noble —— but it is to be doubted, whether mankind would extol the general, who, because he will not hear of precaution, waits till his troops are surrounded, and then has to lay down his arms.

An argument has been raised against further concession, on the ground of the supposed unpopularity of the measure in England: but is this the serious, deliberate, well-grounded opinion of the English people (then, indeed, to be regarded), or is it an opinion founded in error, recent in existence, and got up for a purpose? If we choose to reflect, we cannot but remember, that, at the time that the question was more expected to be carried than at any other ( in 1825), the people of England showed the most marked indifference on the subject. They appeared to be prepared for the event: there was no clamour in the land — no ominous writing on the walls; and the opponents of the Catholics loudly expressed their surprise and dissatisfaction at what they called the apathy of the people. The dissolution of parliament was at hand, and it happened that the dissolution did not take place by several months so soon as had been expected. It was during this interval that the No Popery cry was got up as an instrument for the approaching elections. The excitement which always prevails in the country, [58] at such a moment, facilitated the attempts of interested men; and the most absurd and improbable grounds of alarm were instilled into the ears of those who knew, and, before, cared very little about the matter. They were taught to believe, that further concession to Irish Catholics would instantly bring back the days of bloody Queen Mary: and they seemed to imagine that the Pope was already at Calais, and only waited for the passing of the bill before he landed at Dover to take possession. Such is the real history of the case; and can this be called, and brought forward, as the real, deliberate opinion of the people of England? Is an election cry to stand in the way of a great act of justice? Tell the people of England the truth, and they will cease to be alarmed. Tell them that Ireland would be saved, and that England would experience no other effect than the beneficial one, resulting to herself from the tranquillity, good-will, and prosperity of Ireland. Their fears would rapidly subside, or at any rate, those fears would come to an end when the question was passed; and the people of England found (as they would find) that, at first, it made no difference to themselves, and that, afterwards, they became richer.

England will never enjoy domestic peace till the concession is made. — It is only our enemies [59] who rejoice in a delay which cripples us in the face of all Europe.

If, however, we at length come to the opinion, that it would be better to set this question at rest, let us consider, and most seriously, in what way it had better be done: — that it should be done not hastily, but deliberately — and not solely with reference to the particular interests of Catholics, but, generally, with reference to the interests of the whole community, their future, as well as their present, advantage — every true patriot will admit. If I am the advocate of the Catholics, I am no less a Protestant: if I raise up my voice in behalf of Ireland, I am no less an Englishman. Let us consult together for the public good; let us merge all sectarian feelings, whether religious or political; all invidious distinctions and narrow views, in the comprehensive pursuit of the general happiness of all, and the real welfare of the state.

I am willing to confess that the only manner in which, as it appears to me, this great question can be advantageously dealt with, is that which has been uniformly adopted in other Protestant countries — by direct communication with the court of Rome. We waste our time in endless and indecorous consultations between the government and its subjects: we give to [60] subordinate authorities the plenitude of absolute power — we perplex ourselves with difficulties which arise from ignorance of the subject in both the contracting parties — whilst, all the time, there exist the means of cutting the knot at once. Nearly two centuries have elapsed since the palace of the English ambassador at Rome has stood vacant, since it was made all but capital to acknowledge the very existence of the Pope; and from the long disuse incidental to this state of prohibition, our ideas on all subjects connected with Rome, are antiquated and incorrect. We have forgotten the language of intercourse — we know nothing of the customary arrangements which are mere routine in all other countries. Let us go to the fountain head — let us enter the presence-chamber, instead of waiting in the hall: let us negociate with the power whom, in spiritual and ecclesiastical affairs, Catholics acknowledge and obey. At the court of Rome, the subject in question, as it is matter of habitual consideration, so is it perfectly well understood: and even at Rome, whatever we may think to the contrary, the temper of the times is observed, and a spirit of moderation is adopted.

This is the path which Hanover, and Prussia, and Belgium have trod before us; the negociations have been concluded without any peculiar [61] difficulty; the result has, in every case proved Satisfactory; Protestants, as well as Catholics, have equally approved.

In these transactions the court of Rome has invariably acted with the most perfect good faith — and is entirely free from the imputation of underhand machinations in the countries concerned, either pending the treaty, or afterwards.

The terms which these countries have obtained will be found to be satisfactory; and England would undoubtedly be entitled to expect terms equally favourable.

In common parlance agreements of this nature have been called Concordats — which, however, is not the proper designation, as the concordat is restricted to the more limited sense of an agreement between Rome and a Catholic country. A papal bull, regulating the future arrangements of the several matters at issue, is what has been granted at the request of other Protestant countries, and all that is requisite.

Prussia was the first Protestant country that brought the Catholic question to a final conclusion, by direct communication with the See of Rome.

The Catholics in Prussia are numerous. Besides the Catholics who are scattered in the older provinces, the whole of Silesia is Catholic, and the whole of the Rhenish provinces. Frederick [62] the Great refused to communicate with Rome. His power was despotic and military, and his absolute will controlled church and state alike. On the conquest of Silesia, he adopted, for the government of the Catholic Church, the Concordat which had already been negociated between Austria and Rome; but, both in Silesia, and other parts of Prussia, he introduced alterations which have since become established customs. By the Austrian Concordat, he was entitled to the nomination of the bishops, and their coadjutors.* Thus fortified, Frederick admitted all persons, holding the Christian faith, to an equal capability of filling all offices, civil and military. All persons, on accepting office, were required to take an oath of allegiance, which was the same for persons of every religious persuasion, and could be conscientiously taken by all. On the conquest of Silesia, Frederick suppressed almost all the monasteries, and appropriated their lands to the state. Such has been the fortunate condition of Catholics in Prussia since the days of Frederick

* In Prussia, upon a Catholic see becoming vacant, a commissary is sent to the chapter, bearing a letter from his Prussian majesty, by which the chapter is directed to proceed canonically to the election of a new bishop, and the name of the person is stated who will be agreeable to the king. This recommendation is uniformly obeyed. The pope confirms the election.

[63] the Great, which, in Prussia, affords us the opportunity of beholding what are the practical effects of complete emancipation. We have seldom the opportunity of judging how laws will work before they pass — but, on the present occasion, we have this opportunity.

Some difficulties, however, must be supposed to have arisen from this state of entire rupture with Rome; and the acquisition of the extensive Catholic dominions which Prussia has recently obtained, increased the expediency of arranging the affairs of the Catholic Church, on a lasting basis, by the intervention of the holy see. In consequence the Prussian government entered into negociations with the pope, and the results of this treaty were a bull and a brief, both issued in 1821.

The bull principally concerns the demarcation of diocesan boundaries; but it confirms the state of the Catholic Church as already arranged, both with regard to the secularized ecclesiastical lands, and the mode of election; in return for which concessions, the bull requires rather the continuation, than the establishment, of a certain number of Catholic bishopricks, so disposed as best to suit the convenience of the Catholic population; as also that the Catholic bishops should be provided with suitable salaries by the state. In case of infirmity, the bishops may have coadjutors, but these must be approved [64] and salaried by the king. The bull concludes with denouncing the wrath of God, and of his holy apostles, Peter and Paul, upon all such Catholics as shall withhold obedience to the papal ordinance.

The brief is a separate instrument, particularly designed for the new Prussian possessions. It is addressed to the chapters of Cologne, Breslaw, Treves, Munster, and Paderborn; and directs them invariably to elect for their bishops persons acceptable to the king.

The manner in which the royal sanction of the papal bull is expressed, may serve as an encouraging precedent.

"I give this my royal approbation and sanction to the papal bull, in virtue of my rights, and without prejudice to those rights, or the rights of my evangelical subjects, and of the evangelical church, established in these realms. ( Signed) " FREDERICK WILLIAM."

In order to give a clearer view of the posture of the Catholic Church in Prussia, it will be necessary to give a short account of the regulations which the state had already enacted, as coming within the province of government, and which the bull of 1821 leaves undisturbed.

[65] No legate, nuncio, or minister of Rome, is permitted to enter the Prussian territories.

No communication either with Rome, or from Rome, on any pretext, or for any purpose, is permitted, except through the organs of government.

At Berlin there is a minister for ecclesiastical affairs, and at Rome there is a Prussian resident minister. These are the channels through which every thing secular or ecclesiastical, relating to Catholics, transmitted to Rome, or coming from Rome, must invariably pass. No other mode of correspondence is legal.

The minister of ecclesiastical affairs is usually of the reformed church, but he is assisted by a board indiscriminately composed of reformed and Catholics.

No papal bull has the validity of law, unless transmitted through the proper channel, and sanctioned by the royal exequatur.

The minister of ecclesiastical affairs is also at the head of all public education, and in this capacity, though the instruction of the youth destined for the Catholic Church is always entrusted to Catholics, the minister of government has a general superintendence of the nature and manner of their education.

In Prussia it is a maxim to educate Catholics and Protestants, as much as possible together — those who are, and those who are not, [66] destined for the church — the sons of the first families, as well as the poor children — whether at school or at college. Every convenience is afforded for the religious instruction of either persuasion; no attempt is made to divert either the one or the other from the creed of his fathers; and education in common, conducted on these principles, is found, not to effect any change in religious opinions, but to remove prejudices, assimilate character, and promote good-will, in the rising generation, both Catholic and Protestant.

Proselytism is discouraged both in the members of the established church, and in the Catholic.

Catholics, as has been stated, are eligible to every employment, civil or military. No contribution is required from the Catholics towards the maintenance of the established church, whether in the shape of tithes, rates, or for the building or repairs of churches.

Almost all monasteries have been suppressed, and no persons are, hereafter, to be allowed to take the vows, with the exception of two orders, male and female, who devote themselves to the service of the hospitals; and the Ursuline nuns, who are solely occupied in education.

No Jesuit has been permitted to enter the Prussian territory; which prohibition is the more easily maintained, as the bull which revives the [67] Order, only permits Jesuits lo return to such countries as may be disposed to receive them.

The articles of faith of the Catholic Church, in Prussia, remain unaltered, and are the same with those held by Catholics of all other countries.

Such is the arrangement with regard to the Catholics of Prussia, the details of which have always been regulated, and continue to be regulated by the Prussian government, in virtue of the rights of royalty, "circa sacra ."

It will be seen, by the foregoing statement, that the question in agitation here is no longer a question in Prussia; and Prussia affords a proof that the greatest liberality is productive of the greatest good — for nowhere are Protestants and Catholics seen dwelling together in more perfect harmony. They marry and intermarry, frequent the same society, are mixed in all pursuits and all professions, consider the welfare of the country as their common cause, are good subjects and good neighbours, and are entirely free from any distinguishing shades of character. We here behold what Catholics are when well governed and well informed.


The Catholics of the kingdom of Hanover are in the same happy situation with those of [68] Prussia, and equally eligible to all offices and employments.

The management of the Catholic ecclesiastical affairs is substantially conducted in the same manner.

In order to close the door against future discussion, to prevent questions that might arise on the subject of ecclesiastical lands, to fix the number of Catholic bishops, the mode of their election, their endowment, and to describe the boundaries of their dioceses, a negociation was entered into with the See of Rome: and, in 1824, the bull, which established the final arrangement, was issued by the Pope, and received the royal sanction.

The first passage in the bull affords a remarkable proof of the altered spirit of the Roman See.

"Leo XII. the servant of the servants of God, &c.

"Considering the total change which has taken place, we well see that we must not a little depart from the rigour of the canons of the Church, and make allowance for the condition of places, times, persons, and other peculiar circumstances."

The Pope then stipulates for the restoration of the two Catholic bishopricks of Hildesheim [69] and Osnaburg, which owe their foundation to Charles the Great, and are now within the kingdom of Hanover.

These churches are to consist, for the future, of a bishop, a dean, six canons, and four vicars or prebendaries.

The bishop is to enjoy a revenue of four thousand dollars, with a suitable revenue, and to have an allowance for his table.

The dean has 1500 dollars,* two senior canons 1400 dollars each, the next two canons 1000 dollars each, the two junior canons 800 dollars each, the prebendaries 400 dollars each.

The dean, the canons, and two senior prebendaries, are all provided with houses.

A seminary, endowed by government, is to be attached to each bishoprick.

The election of a new Bishop is regulated as follows: —

The chapter sends in to the ministry, within a month after the vacancy takes place, a list of candidates, who may be selected from the whole body of the clergy, so long as they shall have attained the age of thirty — be well born, distinguished for their knowledge of theology and canon law— have exercised the cure of souls, or filled a professor's chair with credit — excelled in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs — enjoy the best reputation, and be without reproach

* An Hanoverian dollar is rather less than 3s. 6d.

[70] either as to learning or morals — and if any of the candidates are less acceptable to government, ministers are at liberty to strike out the names, so long as there remain the means of coming to an election. The chapter then proceed to elect according to the forms of canon law, and the Pope confirms the election.

The bishop and chapter, in turns, elect the other dignitaries of the church, sending in a list in the same manner to the ministry, and effacing the names of persons either disapproved or suspected.

The bull then describes the limits of each diocese, and concludes with the same condemnation of all who presume to arraign its decrees.

The ecclesiastical affairs are conducted by a minister resident at Rome, and a mixed consistory court at Hanover.

No convents are allowed.


The negociation between the King of the Netherlands and the See of Rome was only concluded in the autumn of 1827. The subject had been much and long discussed, and great discontent prevailed amongst the Catholics of the Netherlands, till the agreement was brought to a conclusion.

The bull requires that there should be eight Catholic bishopricks for a population of nearly [71] four millions of Catholics. The Sees are those of Mechlin, Liege, Namur, Tournay, Ghent, Bruges, Bois le Due, and Amsterdam.

The mode of election is the same as in Hanover.

The bishops, and the rest of the Catholic clergy, are to be provided for by the state; the amount of the salaries is left to the King.

The new bishop takes the following oath of allegiance: —

"I swear and promise, before God and the holy gospels, obedience and fidelity to his majesty the King of the Netherlands, my lawful sovereign. I promise, also, to hold no correspondence, to assist at no consultation, to enter into no league, whether without or within the kingdom, which may be against the public peace — and if I learn that, either in my diocese or any where else, any machinations are taking place against the good of the state, I will make it known to the King."

The youth destined for the Catholic Church are to be educated at Catholic seminaries, but are to be instructed in the liberal sciences as well as in theology. The seminaries are to be paid by the state.

The bull annuls all former bulls, and concludes with the same anathema.

All offices and employments, civil and military, are alike open to Catholics and Protestants in Belgium.

[72] Catholics sit in both houses of parliament, and Catholic bishops are admissible to the upper house, by permission of the king, without having a right to sit there except by royal appointment.

The publication of the bull had the immediate effect of quieting the discontents.


These are the models which England would do well to copy; here is a path chalked out which we might at any moment pursue. We have not to vex our thoughts, and tax our patience, to discover the remedy for an acknowledged evil; — all is prepared to our hands — all is plain, straight-forward, and easy.

In comparing the different agreements, it will be observed that Prussia possesses absolute control over the nomination of bishops — but the provisions conceded to Hanover and Belgium, make it next to impossible that an objectionable person should be forced on the King; and in fact, such a dilemma neither has occurred, or is apprehended.

The spirit, as well as the letter, of the agreements is calculated to inspire confidence, and it is apparent that, in all ecclesiastical arrangements, except those of primary importance, the Pope takes little concern, and leaves them, as [73] secular affairs, to the disposition of government.

The treaties are of so recent a date, that we may be told it cannot be predicted how they will operate; but the existence of the treaties affords the proof that all the Protestant kingdoms of the continent have found it best to negociate; and, let it be remembered that, if the treaties be recent, still the principles of Catholic emancipation have long been established, and show their results. The state that postponed the reconciliation the longest, had the greatest difficulties to encounter.

Should England at last resolve to adopt this mode of proceeding, it will be necessary, as a preliminary measure, to begin by repealing so much of the statute of premunire as renders it penal to hold any intercourse with Rome.

This statute is very ancient. It was passed in the reign of Richard II., and is a proof of itself that Catholics are sufficiently jealous of all undue interference of the Pope; for England was, at that time, Catholic— and the object of this statute was, to put a stop to the direct introduction of papal bulls, at a time that the pretensions of Rome were exorbitant. The purport of the statute goes to warn all his majesty's subjects not to divide with Rome that obedience which they constitutionally owe to [74] their sovereign. The Catholic king and his Catholic barons would not hear of the introduction of foreign influence into these realms. It is safe to repeal the statute now, because the situation of things is changed; but the statute itself is an argument for confidence in Catholics.

The statute* remained a simple interdict of papal bulls till the Reformation, when Henry VIII. and Elizabeth greatly enlarged its provisions; and, since that time, other offences, little connected with those against which the law was first directed, have been made subject to its penalties.

The penalties are abundantly severe: — forfeiture of property — loss of all civil rights— and imprisonment during the King's pleasure.

So much of the statute would have to be repealed as might enable the ministers of the crown, or such as they might appoint or commission, safely to hold correspondence or intercourse with the See of Rome.

This step accomplished, nothing would stand in the way of the negociation.

The treaty with Rome would embrace those objects which have uniformly been included in the treaties negociated by the other Protestant

* The name of the statute is a corruption of the first words of the writ — præmoneri facias.

[75] countries; and we see that, to the consideration of these objects, the Pope has always brought a spirit of moderation and fairness.

At the same time it would be necessary to make preparation at home — it would be necessary to provide. all such securities as might be thought expedient for the complete protection of the established church, to introduce regulations for the conduct of all such Catholic ecclesiastical affairs as come within the provinces of every state, and to bring forward such measures as might be most important to the prosperity of Ireland. The relief of the Catholics and the prosperity of Ireland, are the great objects which we have in view, and nothing that related to either could be irrelevant. The combined movement should be brought to bear at the same instant of time, in order to give the merits of emancipation a fair trial.

When all these important objects were finally adjusted, and a complete understanding existed that the different bills should be passed together, as forming parts of the same system, then might the door be thrown open, and the edict at last be proclaimed — Equal rights to all Christians.*

* The objection will doubtless be made: can you hope, by such a course as you recommend, to satisfy those whom it is your object to conciliate? To which I answer — that it is not my object to crown the wishes of any particular set. The cause is not to be tried in Ireland, but in the United Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. Parliament must select the arrangement which is best for the whole empire; and, if the plan adopted fairly consults the interests of all parties, though none might triumph, all would finally acquiesce.

[76] Who would not envy the minister under whose auspices the glorious task was completed — who accomplished the great measure that Pitt, and Fox, and Canning equally desired — and who associated his own immortality with the restoration of Ireland?

It is no mean part of a statesman's province, to study the temper of the times in which he lives, to suit his actions to the times, and to seize the happy moment. The temper of the times is a powerful stream, which, by early attention, he may direct into proper channels, and teach it to visit the earth with fertilizing waters — but if he resolve only to oppose its progress, it becomes at last a swelling, angry flood, breaks down the feeble barriers with which he may attempt to check its advance, and surmounts, and overwhelms, and destroys.

The times are on the side of emancipation.

If the genius of the age and the progress of events have imparted a new complexion to the great question before us, and made that appear desirable, which we once thought impracticable, let not those who once saw the subject in a different point of view, conceive that there is [77] more glory in adhering to former opinions than in acting upon a late, but honest conviction. There is no greater proof of courage than to admit we have been in the wrong, and, when the interests of the country demand a change of system, where is the boast of consistency?

I invoke the Senate, upon whose motions the world is intent, upon whose decrees the fortune of Ireland depends, to bring back the cup of promise, and send forth the fiat of justice.

I invoke the Patricians of the state to wash out the speck from their ermine, and shake off the dust from their robes. Will the Peers of England remain an exception in Europe? the regret and wonder of the age? the only assembly over which time has had no softening influence — the only court in which the cause of liberality .has not been allowed to triumph? or will they place themselves on a level with the great and wise of other lands, and dispense the boon of happiness to millions?

I call upon the Fathers of the Church to clothe themselves in the vesture of mercy, and put on the mantle of charity; to be strong in meekness, and mighty in loving-kindness — to save the children of light from the reproach of warfare and strife, and to rest the foundations of the temple upon the rock of the spirit of peace?

Lastly, were I permitted to approach the highest personage of the state, I should [78] presume to address him in the following words: —

Your Majesty has enjoyed a reign of unexampled splendour. Your navies have ruled the waves; your armies have triumphed by laud — and you have seen England arrive at the zenith of honour and power. But there remains one source of unhappiness which afflicts a part of the empire — a single blot to obscure the annals of illustrious times. Peace has its victories as well as war. The civic wreath is precious as the laurel crown. Let your Majesty complete the glories of your reign with the pacific triumph of the restoration of Ireland. Your own. eyes have witnessed the loyalty of the Irish nation. Your own heart is alive to the voice of benevolence and generosity. Let your Majesty remember the example of the most beloved, and most amiable monarch that ever graced the throne; and, as Henry IV. of France gave the edict of Nantz to Protestants, so let George IV. of England grant emancipation to Catholics"




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