Изображения страниц

establishment, to the unfupportable mortification of afking his neighbours, who have a different opinion concerning the elements in the facrament, for their votes.

I believe, nay, I am fure, that the people of Great Britain, with or without an union, might be depended upon, in cafes of any real danger, to aid the go. vernment of Ireland, with the fame cordiality as they would fupport their own, against any wicked attempts to shake the fecurity of the happy conftitution in church and state. But before Great Britain engages in any quarrel, the cause of the dif pute would certainly be a part of her confideration. If confufions fhould arife in that kingdom, from too fteady an attachment to a profcriptive monopolizing system, and from the refolution of regarding the franchife, and, in it the security of the fubject, as belonging rather to religious opinions than to civil qualification and civil conduct, I doubt whether you might quite certainly reckon on obtaining an aid of force from hence, for the fupport of that fyftem. We might extend your diftractions to this country, by taking part in them. England will be indifpofed, I fufpect, to fend an army for the conquest of Ireland. What was done in 1782 is a decifive proof of her fentiments of juftice and moderation. She will not be fond of making another American war in Ireland. The principles of fuch a war would but too much refemble the former The well-difpofed and the ill-difpofed in England, would (for different reafons perhaps) be equally averse to such an enterprize. The confifcations, the public auctions, the private grants, the plantations, the tranfplantations, which formerly animated fo many adventurers, even among fober citizens, to fuch Irifh expeditions, and which poffibly might have animated fome of them to the American, can have no existence in the cafe that we fuppofe



Let us form a fuppofition (no foolish or ungrounded fuppofition) that in an age, when men are infinitely more difpofed to heat themfelves with political than religious controverfies, the former fhould entirely prevail, as we fee that in fome places they have prevailed, over the latter: and that the Catholics of Ireland, from the courtship paid them on the one hand, and the high tone of refusal on the other, fhould, in order to enter into all the rights of subjects, all become Proteftant Diffenters; and as the others do, take all your oaths. They would all obtain their civil objects; and the change, for any thing I know to the contrary, (in the dark as I am about the Proteftant Diffenting tenets) might be of ufe to the health of their fouls. But, what fecurity our conftitution, in church or ftate, could derive from that event, I cannot poffibly difcern. Depend upon it, it is as true as nature is true, that if you force them out of the religion of habit, education, or opinion, it is not to yours they will ever go. Shaken in their minds, they will go to that where the dogmas are feweft; where they are the moft uncertain: where they lead them the leaft to a confideration of what they have abandoned. They will go to that uniformly democratic fyftem, to whofe firft movements they owed their emancipation. I recommend you feriously to turn this in your mind. Believe that it requires your beft and matureft thoughts. Take what courfe you pleafe-union or no union; whether the people remain Catholics, or become Proteftant Diffenters, fure it is, that the present ftate of monopoly cannot continue.

[ocr errors]

If England were animated, as I think fhe is not, with her former fpirit of domination, and with the ftrong theological hatred which fhe once cherished for that defcription of her fellow-chriftians and fellow-fubjects; I am yet convinced, that, after the fulleft fuccefs in a ruinous ftruggle, you would


[ocr errors]

would be obliged finally to abandon that monopoly. We were obliged to do this, even whenevery thing promised fuccefs in the American business. If you fhould make this experiment at laft, under the preffure of any neceflity, you never can do it well. But if, inftead of falling into a paffion, the leading gentlemen of the country themselves should undertake the bufinefs cheerfully, and with hearty affection towards it, great advantages would follow. What is forced, cannot be modified; but here, you may measure your conceflions.

It is a confideration of great moment, that you may make the defired admiffion, without altering the fyftem of your reprefentation in the fmalleft degree, or in any part. You may leave that deliberation of a parliamentary change or reform, if ever you fhould think fit to engage in it, uncomplicated and unembarraffed with the other question. queftion. Whereas, if they are mixed and confounded, as fome people attempt to mix and confound them, no one can anfwer for the effects on the conftitution itself.

There is another advantage in taking up this bufinefs, fingly and by an arrangement for the fingle object. It is, that you may proceed by degrees. We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its confervation. All we can do, and that human wisdom can do, is to provide that the change fhall proceed by infenfible degrees. This has all the benefits which may be in change, without any of the inconveniences of mutation. Every thing is provided for as it arrives. This mode will, on the one hand, prevent the unfixing old interests at once; a thing which is apt to breed a black and fullen difcontent, in those who are at once difpoffefledof all their influence and confideration. This gradual courfe, on the other fide, will prevent men, long


[ocr errors]

under depression, from being intoxicated with a large draught of new power, which they always abuse with a licentious infolence. But, wifhing, as I do, the change to be gradual and cautious, I would, in my first steps, lean rather to the fide of enlargement than reftriction.

It is one excellence of our conftitution, that all our rights of provincial election regard rather property than perfon. It is another, that the rights which approach more nearly to the perfonal, are most of them corporate, and fuppofe a reftrained and ftrict education of feven years in fome ufeful occupation. In both cafes the practice may have flid from the principle. The standard of qualification in both cafes may be fo low, or not fo judicioufly chofen, as in fome degree to fruftrate the end. But all this is for your prudence in the cafe before you. You may rife, a step or two, the qualification of the Catholic voters. But if you were, to-morrow, to put the Catholic freeholder on the footing of the most favoured forty-fhilling Proteftant Diffenter, you know that, fuch is the actual ftate of Ireland, this would not make a fenfible alteration in almoft any one election in the kingdom. The effect in their favour, even defenfively, would be infinitely flow. But it would be healing, it would be fatisfactory and protecting. The ftigma would be removed. By admitting fettled permanent fubftance in lieu of the numbers, you would avoid the great danger of our time, that of fetting up number against property. The numbers ought never to be neglected; because (befides what is due to them as men) collectively, though not individually, they have great property : they ought to have therefore protection; they ought to have even confideration; but they ought not to predominate.

My dear Sir, I have nearly done; I meant to write you a long letter, I have written a long differtation. I might


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

have done it earlier and better. I might have been more forcible and more clear, if I had not been interrupted as I have been; and this obliges me not to write to you in my own hand. Though my hand but figns it, my heart goes with what I have written. Since I could think at all, thofe have been my thoughts. You know that thirty two years ago they were as fully matured in my mind as they are now. A letter of mine to Lord Kenmare, though not by my defire, and full of leffer miftakes, has been printed in Dublin. It was written ten or twelve years ago, at the time when I began the employment, which I have not yet finifhed, in favour of another diftreffed people, injured by thofe who have vanquifhed them, or ftolen a dominion over them. It contained my fentiments then; you will fee how far they accord with my fentirents now. Time has more and more confirmed me in them all. The prefent circumftances fix them deeper in my mind.

I voted laft feffion, if a particular vote could be diftinguished in unanimity, for an establishment of the church of England conjointly with the establishment which was made fome years before by act of parliament, of the Roman Catholic, in the French conquered country of Canada. At the time of making this English ecclefiaftical establishment, we did not think it neceffary for its fafety, to deftroy the former Gallican church fettlement. In our first act we fettled a government altogether monarchical, or nearly fo. In that fyftem, the Canadian Catholics were far from being deprived of the advantages or diftinctions, of any kind, which they enjoyed under their former monarchy. It is true, that fome people, and amongst them one eminent divine, predicted at that time, that by this ftep we fhould lofe our dominions in America. He foretold that the Pope would fend his indulgences thither; that the Canadians


[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »