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petition to his Majesty, setting forth the disabilities under which his Irish Catholic subjects laboured; praying that he would recommend to his parliament of Ireland to take into consideration the whole of their situation; and expressing their wish to be restored to the rights and privileges of the constitution of their country. The next question was, how it should be forwarded to England. Some were for transmitting it in the ordinary mode, through the viceroy; and this government itself seemed very solicitous to procure. The measure was expressly solicited by lord Donoughmore, who, with his family, had always espoused the Catholic cause; and who was likewise among the most steady supporters of administration. He waited outside the hall, where the convention met, to know their determination; he was informed by order of the meeting, that if the lord lieutenant would promise to forward the petition, with a recommendation in its favour, it should be intrusted to him. Lord Donoughmore having carried this communication to the castle, returned with an answer, that his excellency could not, in his official situation, pledge himself to the required recommendation; a remembrance of the hostile denunciations during the preceding summer—a suspicion of the manner in which they were excited, prevailed; and it was determined that the petition should be presented to the king himself, by deputies of their own appointment. These were Messrs. Edward Byrne, John Keogh, James Edward Devereux, Christopher Bellew, and Sir Thomas French, Bart. They were accompanied by Mr. T. W. Tone, who, though a protestant, had, in consequence of his very uncommon talents and exertions in the Catholic cause, been appointed one of the secretaries to the committee, and the secretary to the delegation.
That the friendly dispositions of their Protestant brethren might be manifested, the delegation chose to pass through the North. They were received at Belfast with the most marked affection; some of the^most respectable gentlemen waited upon them at the Donegal Arms, and on their departure,their carriages weredrawn through the streets, by a presbyterian populace, amidst the liveliest shouts of joy and wishes for their success. The delegates returned these expressions of affection and sympathy, by the most grateful acknowledgments, and assurances of their determination to maintain that union, which formed the strength of Ireland. On the 2d of January, 1793, the delegates were introduced to his Majesty, by the secretary of state for the home department, Mr. Dundas, and presented the petition, which the king was pleased graciously to receive.
TO THE KING'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY.
The humble Petition of the undersigned Catholics, on behalf of themselves and the rest of his Catholic Subjects of the Kingdom of Ireland.
Most gracious Sovereign,
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects of your kingdom of Ireland, professing the Catholic religion, presume to approach your Majesty, who are the common father of all your people, and humbly to submit to your con. sideration the manifold incapacities and oppressive disqualifications under which we labour.
For, may it please your Majesty, after a century of uninterrupted loyalty, in which time five foreign wars and two domestic rebellions have occurred, after having taken every oath of allegiance and fidelity to your Majesty, and given, and being still ready to give, every pledge, which can be de. vised for their peaceable demeanour and unconditional submission to the laws, the Catholics of Ireland stand obnoxious to a long catalogue of statutes, inflicting on dutiful and meritorious subjects pains and penalties of an extent and severity, which scarce any degree of delinquency can warrant, and prolonged to a period, when no necessity can be alleged to justify their continuance.
In the first place, we beg leave with all humility to represent to your Majesty, that notwithstanding the lowest de. partments in your Majesty's fleets and armies are largely supplied by our numbers, and your revenue in this country to a great degree supported by our contributions, we are disabled from serving your Majesty in any office of trust and emolument whatsoever, civil or military—a proscription, which disregards capacity or merit, admits of neither qualification nor degree, and rests as an universal stigma of distrust upon the whole body of your Catholic subjects.
We are interdicted from all municipal stations, and the franchise of all guilds and corporations; and our exclusion from the benefits annexed to those situations is not an evil terminating in itself; for, by giving an advantage over us to those, in whom they are exclusively vested, they establish throughout the kingdom a species of qualified monopoly, uniformly operating in our disfavour, contrary to the spirit, and highly detrimental to the freedom of trade.
We may not found nor endow any university, college, or school, for the education of our children; and we are interdicted from obtaining degrees in the University of Dublin, by the several statutes and charters now in force therein.
We are totally prohibited from keeping or using weapons for the defence of our houses, families, or persons, whereby we are exposed to the violence of burglary, robbery, and assassination; and to enforce this prohibition, contravening that great original law of nature, which enjoins us to self
defence, a variety of statutes exist, not less grievous and oppressive in their provisions, than unjust in their object; by oite of which, enacted so lately as within these sixteen years, every of your Majesty's Catholic subjects, of whatever rank or degree, peer or peasant, is compellable by any magistrate to come forward and convict himself of what may be thought a singular offence in a country professing to be free—keeping arms for his defence; or, if he shall refuse so to do, may incur not only fine and imprisonment, but the .lie and ignominious punishments of the pillory and whipping;— penalties appropriated to the most infamous malefactors, and more terrible to a liberal mind than death itself.
No Catholic whatsoever, as we apprehend, has his personal property secure. The law allows and encourages the disobedient and unnatural child to conform and deprive him of it: the unhappy father does not, even by the surrender of his all, purchase his repose; he may be attacked by new bills, if his future industry be successful, and again be plun. dered by due process of law.
We are excluded, or may be excluded, from all Petit Juries, in civil actions, where one of the parties is a Protestant; and we are further excluded from all Petit Juries in trials by information or indictment founded on any of the Popery laws; by which law we most humbly submit to your Majesty, that your loyal subjects, the Catholics of Ireland, arc in this, their native land, in a worse situation than that of aliens, for they may demand an equitable privilege denied to us, of having half their jury aliens like themselves.
We may not serve on grand juries, unless, which it is scarcely possible can ever happen, there should not be found a sufficiency of Protestauts to complete the panuel; contrary to that humane and equitable principle of the law, which says, that no man shall convicted of any capital offence, unless by the concurring verdicts of two juries of his neighbours and equals; whereby, and to this we humbly presume more particularly to implore your royal attention, we are de. prived of the great palladium of the constitution, Trial by our Peers, independent of the manifest injustice of our pro. perty being taxed in assessments by a body, from which w« are formally excluded.
We avoid a further enumeration of iuferior grievances; but may it please your Majesty, there remains one incapacity, which your loyal subjects, the Catholics of Ireland, feel with most poignant anguish of mind, as being the badge of unmerited disgrace and ignominy, and the cause and bitter aggravation of all our other calamities; we are deprived of the elective franchise, to the manifest perversion of the spirit of the constitution, inasmuch as your faithful subjects are thereby taxed where they are not represented, actually or virtually, and bound by laws, in the framing of which they have no power to give or withhold their assent; and we most humbly implore your Majesty to believe, that this our prime and heavy grievance is not an evil merely speculative, but is attended with great distress to all ranks, and in many in. stances, with the total ruin and destruction of the lower orders of your Majesty's faithful and loyal subjects, the Catholics of Ireland; for may it please your Majesty, not to mention the infinite variety of advantages in point of protection and otherwise, which the enjoyment of the elective franchise gives to those who possess it, nor the consequent inconveniences, to which those who are deprived thereof are liable; not to mention the disgrace to three.fourths of your loyal subjects of Ireland, of living the only body of men in. capable of franchise, in a nation possessing a free consitu. tion, it continually happens, and of necessity from the ma. lignant nature of the law must happen, that multitudes of the Catholic tenantry in divers counties in this kingdom are, at the expiration of their leases, expelled from their tenements and farms to make room for Protestant freeholders, who, by their votes, may contribute to the weight and importance of their landlords; a circumstance, which renders the recurrence of a general election, that period which is the boast and laudable triumph of our Protestant brethren—a visitation and heavy curse to us, your Majesty's dutiful and loyal subjects. And may it please your Majesty, this uncertainty of possession to your Majesty's Catholic subjects, operates as a perpetual restraint and discouragement on industry and the spirit of cultivation, whereby it happens, that this your Majesty's kingdom of Ireland, possessing many and great national advantages of soil and climate, so as to be exceeded therein by few, if any countries on the earth, is yet prevented from availing herself thereof so fully