Page images
PDF
EPUB

fteady adtniniftration: that the kind or degree of independence, which fate and circumftances feem to have allotted to this ifland, does not fo fupport the external dignity of Ireland, as to become a legitimate object of pride; and, as it operates internally, that it is, what I have already termed it, "a great domeftic caufe * of irritation." I know not whether the prefent be the proper time and temper for the difcuffion of the fubject. The care and felection of fuch circumftances belong to perfons in an elevated place of public function. I treat ab> ftractedly and in general, of a judicious change of conftitution, and my private opinion is not to be affected by collateral confederations.

Perhaps it is true, that I recommend my doctrine by. its negative merits; or, as you call it, by " a fhart catalogue of evils to be removed, without any perfuafive obfervations, grounded on advantages to be conferred J." Your objection indeed is whimfical; fhall not a man pull a thorn from his own fide without a recompence? Muft we, Irifttmen, be induced by fugar plumbs to do what is good for us? I do not diftinctly comprehend the difference between the removal of evil and an advantage. If you mean that I have not entered into comprehenfive details on the head of Commerce, I muft candidly fay, that I think this queftion is to be decided upon considerations of an higher nature. If our conftitution be found, and if the operation of it be beneficial, I would not be reafoned out of it by cold calculations of ftiipping and tonnage; I would not be induced by all the wool and cotton, and all the tea and fugar in the world, to forfake it. If its defects

militate

* Memoire, page r.

i See Letter, .byMr. Hamilton,

i

militate againft human happlnefs, I want no other i'mpulfe to defire its correction. No doubt, fhould a treaty of union proceed, there will be found a proper feafon for commercial regulations, aud the concern will be important; but the fettlement of the country ftands uppermoft in my mind; profperity and affluence come of courfe when your ftate is well regulated- The extinction of our feuds would be of itfelf a fortune to Ireland; to pacify them fhould be the beginning, the end, aud the object of all our endeavours. I can difcufs no queftion but the means of drawing the people into ^mity with each other, and with the government; and of rooting out, on either hand, the feeds of jealoufy. Your conftitution riaay be as brilliant as theory can make it; unlefs you can procure this temper, it is a fplendid deception; and the utmoft range of commercial oppoituni. ties is nugatory.

But this fhort catalogue of evils, of which you appear to make fo light account, comprizes whatever has kept the people of Ireland at variance with' its government: The fadlions of the high; the difcontents of the low; poverty and turbu. lence, each as in a circle promoting the other, and the inaccurate application of authority the caufe of both,- It comprizes the monopoly of political power and patronage in a few hands, and the means that were employed to fortify that monopoly. A principal engine was the divifion of the nation into diftinflt cafts, by the contrivance for each, of a totally different code of laws and of immunities. The force of this fyftem is weakened; but the hoftile difpofitions, that were formed under it are preferved, with more heat perhaps, and pertinacity and addrefs, becaule the parties who relied upon this as a bulwark, perceived the fecurity begin to fail them.

1 concluded

[ocr errors]

I concluded that Parliament was not qualified t© remedy the diforders of the ftate, became the root of the mifchief lies in the conftitution of our Houfe of Commons, and in the oppofition of particular to national interefls, which is not any where fo predominant, as within the circle of Parliament itfelf. I feel that it is incumbent on me to enforce my opinion, by a detailed explanation of the reafoning that produced it. I have endeavoured to clear the ground for the admiffion of argument, by fubftan dating what every Irifhman ought clearly to feel before he aflents to an incorporation of Legiflatures, that the meafure does not involve the fettled dignity of his country. 1 have alfo endeavoured to fubftantiate, that our prefent form of conftitution has not a&ed kindly or beneficially for the fubjefts. It was not formed upon a fcheme of general concern for the entire people, and of courfe it only promoted exclufive advantages. I fhall proceed with my analifis, having, as I hope, afcertained the point of honor, and made fome progrefs in the confideration of expediency.

Let me firft complete the outline of what I conceive to be the intereft of the Catholics in the prefent queftion. This alfo is no unimportant preliminary. The fituation of that part ©f the people may be thus defcribed: A /lender ariftocracy, an extenfive middle order, an immenfe clafs of labouring and induftrious. Obvioufly it is more cflential to a people thus circumftanced, to be placed under the protection of a ftrong government, than to be' admitted to a participation of power in a feeble Itate, from any efficient ftiare in which their fituation muft generally exclude them.

There is not the leaft probability that the factions of" Proteftant and Catholic will fubfide under' der our prefent conftitution*. Admitting therntq fubfift, this alternative remains for confideration, whether would few or many of the latter be introduced into Parliament by an emancipation? In the former cafe, thefe few would obtain the uiual parliamentary confideration; they would aft like other men in the fame place, and there the matter would end without any alteration in the general management of the country. If many got accefs to Parliament, they would form a Catholic oppofed to a Proteftant faction, precifely as in the laft century, when the parties ran at length into civil wars, in which one was reduced to a pitiable fubjugation.

The grievance which mod materially affe&s the Catholics is a difpofition, ungracioufly and for unkind purpofes, to difcriminate them from their fellow-fubje&s. A comparifon of the effects of the refpeftive meafures of union or emancipation upon this temper, mould form the ground of their decifion. They are excluded by law from certain high polls and from Parliament. If the incapacities by ftatute were removed, there would (till remain a natural difability in their general inferiority of rank, fo that in a great degree they could not profit of the concefiion.' When the tell laws are abrogated, little more is done than an adt of juftice to certain individuals, and the abolition of a ftigma which produces difcontent, by offending the feelings of a large portion of the people. Thefe, to be fure, are moft meritorious confiderations; but they do not go to the extent of the inconvenience; no reftraint is thereby placed up

? on.

* There is not a line in this argument which does not apply equally to the Diffenters, and indeed to a!l defcriptioms of pe:~ ions who ate without the pale of the 01;garchy.

[ocr errors]

<sn the untoward difpofition I have mentioned. The remedy is, of courfe, not fo fubftantial as this other, which makes the Government ftrong againft that temper, and which removes the motives and powers that fupport it. On the moft favourable calculation, not above twelve could procure thernfelves to be returned 10 Parliament, fix fuppofe by purcbafe, and as many upon the landed intereft and that of open towns. The occafional elevation of a dozen men, is not tq be compared in point of national advantage to a meafure, which either equalizes all parties, or at leaft reduces them to a ftate of reciprocal inoffenfivenefs. The Brjtifh government protects the Catholics of France, Portugal and Italy, and if it were not under fome impediment, why fhould it pot equally protect its own fubjecls of Ireland?

Of two Parliaments, neither of which they can materially influence, it is more the intereft of the Catholics to live under the ju'rifdiclion of that, which has not been educated with any indifpofition to them. Now the majority of the Irifti • Parliament has upon all, or moft occafions, difplayed ftrong marks of rooted difinclinatibn to that people. Nay it is a fafhion with many perfons of high confideration here, to difiike a man for being a Catholic This is certainly not the cafe? jn England. Proteftant and Cathoiic, not having been known there, as political parties, for above a century, the diftin&ion became pbfolete. The liberal and continued intercourfe of the fafhionable, the diplomatic, and the commetcial claffes, with Catholic countries, contributed alfo to obliterate the prejudices, which formerly arofe from the difference of religion. Except through the interpofition of the Crown, which is the Britifh branch ofour Government,theliifhLegifiaturehas never been diOinguifhed for coudefcenfioa to its Catholic fubjecls. Befides, the proper'y of the

individuals,

« PreviousContinue »