« PreviousContinue »
Emmet. There are undoubtedly some old men and some young lads among them; but I am sure I speak within bounds when I say the number of fighting men in the Union cannot be less than three hundred thousand.
Speaker. I understand, according to you, the views of thT\ * United Irish went to a republic and separation from England; but they would probably have compounded for a reform in parliament. Am I not rigfit, however, in understanding that the object next their hearts was a separation and a republic I
Emmet. Pardon me, the object next their hearts was a redress of their grievances; two modes of accomplishing that object presented themselves to their view; one was a reform by peaceable means,.the other was a revolution and republic. I have no doubt but that if they could have flattered themselves that the object next their hearts would be accomplished peaceably, by a . reform, they would prefer it infinitely to a revolution and republic, which must be more bloody in their operation; but I am also convinced, when they saw they could not accomplish the object next their hearts, a redress of their grievances, by a reform, they determined in despair to procure it by a revolution, . which I am persuaded is inevitable, unless a reform be granted,
Speaker. You say that a revolution is inevitable, unless a rt-\ form be granted: what would be the consequence of such a reform in redressing what you call the grievances of the people?
Emmet. In the first place, I look to the abolition of tythe*. I think such a reformed legislature would also produce an amelioration of the state of the poor, and a diminution of the rents of lands, would establish a system of national education, would j regulate the commercial intercourse between Great Britain and
Ireland, on the footing of perfect equality, and correct the bloody nature of your criminal code.
Speaker. You speak of the abolition of tythes; do you include in that the destruction of the establishment i
Emmtt. I have rcysclf no doubt of the establishment's being injurious, and I look to its destruction; but I cannot undertake to say how far the whole of that measure is contemplated by the body of the people, because I have frequently heard an acreable jtax proposed as a substitute, which necessarily supposes the preservation of the establishment.
Speeder. Don't you think the catholics peculiarly object to tythes i
Emmet. They certainly have the best reason to complain, but I rather think tVy object as tenants more than as catholics, and in common with the rest of the tenantry of the kingdom; and if any other way of paying even a protestant establishment, which did not bear so sensibly on their industry, were to take place, I believe it would go a great way to content them; though I confess it would not content me; but I must add, that I would (and I am sure so would many others who think of establishments like me) consent to give the present incumbents equivalent pensions.
Lord Castlercagh. Don't you think the catholics look to
accomplishing the destruction of the establishment? - >
Emmet. From the declaration they made in 1792, or 1793, I am sure they did not then; I cannot say how far their opinions may have altered since, but from many among them proposing a substitute for tythes, I am led to believe they may not yet be gone so far.
Lord Caslkreagh. But don't you think they will look to its destruction? , s
Emmet. I cannot pay so bad a compliment to the reasons which have convinced myself, as not to suppose they will convince others. As the human mind grows philosophic, it will, I think, wish for the destruction of all religious establishments, and therefore, in proportion as the catholic mind becomes philosophic, it will of course entertain the same wishes—but I consider that as the result of its philosophy, and not of its religion.
Lord Castlcreagh. Don't you think the catholics would wish to set up a catholic establishment, in lieu of the protestant one?
Emmet, Indeed I don't, even at the present day; perhaps some old priests, who have long groaned under the penal laws, might wish for a retributipn to themselves—but I don't think the young priests wish for it, and I am convinced the laity would not submit to it, and that the objections to it will be every day gaining strength.
Spealter. You also mention that a reform would diminish ths rents of lands; how do you think that would be done?
Emmet. I am convinced rack rents can only take place in a country otherwise essentially oppressed; if the value of the people was raised in the state, their importance would influence the landlords to consult their interests, and therefore to better their condition. Thus I think it would take place, even without any law bearing upon the matter. ,
Mr. Alexander. Mr. Emmet, you have gone circuit for many years; now have you not observed that the condition of the people has been gradually bettering?
I i Emmet.
Emmet. Admitting that the face of the country has assumed a better appearance; if you attribute it to the operation of any laws you have passed, I must only declare my opinion, it is post hoe ted non ex hoe. As far as the situation of the lower orders has been bettered in Ireland, it results from the encreased knowledge, commerce, and intercourse of the different states of Europe with one another, and is enjoyed in this country only in common with the rest of civilized Europe and America. I believe the lower orders in all those countries have been improved in their condition within these twenty years, but I doubt whether the poor of this kingdom have been bettered in a greater portion than the poor in the despotic states of Germany.
Speaker. You mention an improved system of national education"; are there not as many schools in Ireland as in England »
Emmet. I believe there are, and that there is in proportion as great a fund in Ireland as in England, if it were fairly applied; but there is this great difference, the schools are protestant schools, which answer very well in England, but do little good among the catholic peasantry in Ireland.—Another thing to be considered is, that stronger measures are necessary for educating the Irish people than are necessary in England: in the latter country, no steps were taken to counteract the progress of knowledge; it had fair play, and was gradually advancing; but in Ireland you have brutalized the vulgar mind, by long continued operation of the popery laws, which, though they are repealed, have left an effect that will not cease these fifty years. It is incumbent then on you to counteract that effect by measures which are not equally necessary in England.
Speaker. You mentioned the criminal code; in what does that differ from the English?
Emtntt. It seems to me, that it would be more adviseable, in reviewing our criminal law, to compare the crime with the punishment, than the Irish code with the English; there is, however, one difference that occurs to me on the instant—administering unlawful oaths is in Ireland punished with death.
Lord Castlereagh. That is a law connected with the security of the state.
Emmet. If it is intended to keep up the ferment of the public mind, such laws may be necessary; but if it be intended to allay the ferment, they are perfectly useless.
Speaker. Would putting the commercial intercourse on the footing of equality, satisfy the people i
Emmet.' I think that equality of situations would go nearer satisfying the people than any of the other equalities that have been alluded to,
Speaker. Then your opinion is that we cannot avoid a revo. lution unless we abandon the English constitution, and the English system in our establishment, education and criminal laws?
Emmet. I have already touched on the latter subjects ; as to the English constitution, I cannot conceive how a reform in pari liament can be said to destroy that.
Speaker. Why, in what does the representation differ in Ireland from that in England; are there not in England close boroughs, and is not the right of suffrage there confined to 40s. freeholders?