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A LETTER, &c.
MY DEAR SIR,
our remembrance of me, with fentiments of fo much kindness, has given me the most sincere fatisfaction. It perfectly agrees with the friendly and hofpitable reception which my fon and I received from you, fome time fince, when after an absence of twenty-two years, I had the happiness of embracing you, among my few furviving friends.
I really imagined that I fhould not again interest my? felf in any public business. I had, to the best of my moderate faculties, paid my club to the fociety, which I was born in fome way or other to ferve; and I thought I had a right to put on my nightgown and flippers, and wish a cheerful evening to the good company I must leave behind. But if our refolutions of vigour and exertion are so often broken or procrastinated in the execution, I think we may be excused, if we are not very punctual in fulfilling our engagements to indolence and inactivity. I have indeed no power of action; and am almost a cripple, even with regard to thinking; but you defcend with force into the ftagnant pool; and you caufe fuch a fermentation, as to cure at least one impotent creature of his lameness, though it cannot enable him either to run or to wrestle.
You fee by the paper I take † that I am likely to be long, with malice prepenfe. You have brought under my view a fubject, always difficult, at present critical. It has filled my thoughts, which I wish to lay open to you with the clearness and fimplicity which your friendship demands from me. I
The letter is written on folio sheets.
thank you for the communication of your ideas. I fhould be still more pleafed if they had been more your own. What you hint, I believe to be the cafe that if you had not deferred to the judgment of others, our opinions would not differ more materially at this day, than they did when we used to confer on the fame fubject, fo many years ago. If I ftill persevere in my old opinions, it is no small comfort to me, that it is not with regard to doctrines properly yours, that I discover my indocility.
The cafe upon which your letter of the roth of December turns, is hardly before me with precifion enough, to enable me to form any very certain judgment upon it. It feems to be fome plan of further indulgence propofed for Catholics of Ireland. You obferve, that your "general principles are not changed, but that times and circumstances are altered.” I perfectly agree with you, that times and circumftances, confidered with reference to the public, ought very much to govern our conduct;, though I am far from fighting, when applied with difcretion to those circumftances, general principles and maxims of policy. I cannot help obferving, however, that you have faid rather lefs upon the inapplicability of your own old principles to the circumftances that are likely to influence your conduct against these principles, than of the general maxims of ftate, which I can very readily believe not to have great weight with you perfonally.
In my prefent ftate of imperfect information, you will pardon the errors into which I may eafily fall. The principles you lay down are, that the "Roman Catholics fhould enjoy every thing under the "ftate, but fhould not be the fate itfelf." And you add, "that when you exclude them from being
part of the fate, you rather conform to the spirit "of the age, than to any abftract doctrine," but you confider the conftitution as already eftablished-that
our ftate is protestant.
As to the plan to which thefe maxims are applied, I cannot fpeak, as I told you, pofitively about it. Because, neither from your letter, nor from any information I have been able to collect, do I find any thing fettled, either on the part of the Roman Catholics themselves, or on that of any perfons who may wish to conduct their affairs in parliament. But if I have leave to conjecture, fomething is in agitation towards admitting them, under certain qualifications, to have fome share in the election of members of parliament. This I understand is the fcheme of thofe who are entitled to come within your defcription of perfons of confideration, property, and character: and firmly attached to the king and conftitution as by law established, with a grateful fenfe of your "former conceffions, and a patient reliance on the benignity of parliament, for the further mitigation "of the laws that ftill affect them."-As to the low, thoughtlefs, wild and profligate, who have joined themselves with thofe of other profeffions, but of the fame character; you are not to imagine, that, for a moment, I can fuppofe them to be met, with any thing else than the manly and enlightened energy of a firm government, fupported by the united efforts of all virtuous men, if ever their proceedings fhould become fo confiderable as
+ A finall errour of fact as to the abjuration oath; but of no im portance in the argument,
to demand its notice. I really think that fuch affociations fhould be crufhed in their very com
Setting, therefore, this cafe out of the question, it becomes an object of very ferious confideration, whether, because wicked men of various defcriptions are engaged in feditious courfes, the rational, fober, and valuable part of one description should not be indulged in their fober and rational expectations? You, who have looked deeply into the fpirit of the popery laws, must be perfectly fenfible, that a great part of the prefent mischief, which we abhor in common (if it at all exifts) has arifen from them. Their declared object was to reduce the Catholics of Ireland to a miferable populace, without property, without eftimation, without education. The profeffed object was to deprive the few men who, in spite of those laws, might hold or obtain any property amongst them, of all fort of influence or authority over the reft. They divided the nation into two diftinct bodies, without common intereft, fympathy, or connexion. One of thefe bodies was to poffefs all the franchifes, all the property, all the education; the other was to be composed of drawers of water and cutters of turf for them. Are we to be aftonifhed, when, by the efforts of fo much violence in conqueft, and fo much policy in regulation, continued without intermiffion for near an hundred years, we had reduced them to a mob; that whenever they came to act at all, many of them would act exactly like a mob, without temper, measure, or forefight? Surely it might be just now a matter of temperate difcuffion, whether you ought not apply a remedy to the real cause of the evil. If the diforder you speak of be real and confiderable, you ought to raife an ariftocratic intereft; that is, an intereft of property and education amongst them: and to ftrengthen by every prudent means, the authority and influence of men of
of that description. It will deferve your best thoughts, to examine whether this can be done without giving fuch perfons the means of demonftrating to the reft, that fomething more is to be got by their temperate conduct, than can be expected from the wild and fenfelefs projects of thofe, who do not belong to their body, who have no intereft in their well being, and only wish to make them the dupes of their turbulent ambition.
If the abfurd perfons you mention find no way of providing for liberty, but by overturning this happy conftitution, and introducing a frantic democracy, let us take care how we prevent better people from any rational expectations of partaking in the benefits of that conftitution as it ftands. The maxims you establish cut the matter fhort. They have no fort of connexion with the good or the ill behaviour of the perfons who seek relief, or with the proper or improper means by which they feek it. They form a perpetual bar to all pleas and to all expec
You begin by afferting, that "the Catholics ought to enjoy all things under the ftate, but that they "ought not to be the ftate." A pofition which, I believe, in the latter part of it, and in the latitude there expreffed, no man of common fenfe has ever thought proper to difpute: because the contrary implies, that the ftate ought to be in then exclufively. But before you have finished the line, you expreis yourself as if the other member of your propofition, namely, that "they ought not to be a part of the ftate," were neceffarily included in your firft-Whereas I conceive it to be as different, as a part is from the whole; that is juft as different as poffible. I know indeed, that it is common with thofe who talk very differently from you, that is with heat and animosity, to confound those things, and to argue the admillion of the Catholics into any, however minute and fubor