« PreviousContinue »
as she otherwise might, to the furtherance of your Majesty's honour, and the more effectual support of your service.
And, may it please your Majesty, the evil does not even rest here; for many of your Majesty's Catholic subjects, to preserve their families from total destruction, submit to a nominal conformity against their conviction and their con. science; and, preferring perjury to famine, take oaths which they utterly disbelieve, a circumstance, which, we doubt not, will shock your Majesty's well known and exemplary piety, not less than the misery which drives those unhappy wretches to so desperate a measure, must distress and wound your royal clemency and commiseration.
And, may it please your Majesty, though we might here rest our case on its own merits, justice, and expediency, yet we further presume humbly to submit to your Majesty, that the right of franchise was, with divers other rights, enjoyed by the Catholics of this kingdom, from the first adoption of the English Constitution by our forefathers, was secured to at least a great part of our body by the treaty of Limerick, in 1691, guaranteed by your Majesty's royal predecessors, King William and Queen Mary, and finally confirmed and ratified by parliament; notwithstanding which, and in direct breach of the public faith of the nation thus solemnly pledged, for which our ancestors paid a valuhble consideration, in the surrender of their arms, and a great part of this kingdom, and notwithstanding the most scrupulous adherence, on our part, to the terms of the said treaty, and our unremitting loyalty from that day to the present, the said right ofelective franchise was finally and universally taken away from the Catholics of Ireland, so lately as the first year of his Majesty King George the Second.
And when we thus presume to submit this infraction of the treaty of Limerick to your Majesty's royal notice, it is not that we ourselves consider it to be the strong part of our case; for though our rights were recognized, they were by no means created by that treaty; and we do with all humility conceive, that if no such event as the treaty had ever taken place, your Majesty's Catholic subjects, from their unvarying loyalty, and dutiful submission to the laws, and from the great support afforded by them to your Majesty's government in this country, as well as in their personal ser. rice, in your Majesty's fleets and armies, as from the taxes and revenues levied on their property, are fully competent, and justly entitled to participate and enjoy the blessings of the Constitution of their country.
And now that we have, with all humility, submitted our grievances to your Majesty, permit us, most gracious Sovereign, again to represent our sincere attachment to the Con. stitution, as established in three estates of King, Lords, and Commons, our uninterrupted loyalty, peaceable demeanour, and submission to the laws for one hundred years; and our determination to persevere in the same dutiful conduct, which has, under your Majesty's happy auspices, procured us those relaxations of the penal statutes, which the wisdom of the legislature has from time to time thought proper to grant j we humbly presume to hope, that your Majesty, in your paternal goodness and affection towards a numerous and oppressed body of your loyal subjects, may be graciously pleased to recommend to ybur parliament of Ireland, to take into their consideration the whole of our situation, our num. bers, our merits, and our sufferings; aud as we do not give place to any of your Majesty's subjects, in loyalty and at. tachment to your Majesty's sacred person, we cannot suppress our wishes of being restored to the rights and privileges of the Constitution of our country, and thereby becoming more worthy, as well as more capable, of rendering your Majesty that service which it is not less our duty than our inclination to afford.
So may your Majesty transmit to your latest posterity, a crown secured by public advantage and public affection; and so may your Royal Person become, if possible, more dear to your grateful people.
To this was affixed the signatures of the Most Reverend Dr. Troy and the Right Reverend Dr. Moylan, on behalf of themselves and the Roman Catholic prelates and clergy of Ireland, and by the delegates for th'e different districts which they severally represented,
The United Irishmen were not less actively employed. Immediately after their declaration announced their existence, the United Irishmen issued a circular letter, recommending the speedy formation of similar societies throughout the island. Soon after they published A Digest of the Popery laws, which exhibited the whole of that oppressive code, divested of its technical garh, made a reference to its detailed enormities easy, and effected more in bringing the system and its authors into abhorrence, than had been ever done by any other publication. This report classed the Popery laws under the general headi of Education, Guardianship, Marriage, Selfdefence, Exercise of Religion, Enjoyment and Disposition of Property, Acquisition of Property and Franchises. To enable a reader, not habituated to the intricacies of statute reading, to form a judgment of the spirit of the whole system, the following simple view of the actual state of the then existing popery laws, was prefixed to a second edition of this digest.
EDUCATION.—In every well regulated community, the education of youth has been an object of the greatest notice.
The Irish popery laws have not been inoperative on this point.
Those who are acquainted with the constitution of our university need not be informed, that none, except those who conform to the established church, can be admitted to study there, and that none can obtain the degrees therein, who have not previously taken all the tests, oaths and declarations; so that papists are entirely excluded from education in the authorized establishment for learning in their own country.
No popish university or college can be erected or endowed.
No popish school can be endowed. vOL. Iv. 2 Y
But, if we truly conceive the sense of the legislature, (which from the obscurity of its language in this as in other instances, is not easy,) a papist, on taking the oath of allegiance, and subscribing the declaration prescribed by the 13th and 14th Geo. 3. c. 35. does thereby qualify himself to instruct in learning, publicly and privately, youth of his own persuasion; but lest he should educate any protectants, and thereby have opportunity of making proselytes, the law has provided, that he shall not receive into his school any protestant, or become an usher, under-master or assistant to a protestant schoolmaster.
Protestants and converts from popery, educating or per. mitting their children (not already papists, and above fourteen years of age) to be educated papists, shall be subject to such disabilities as papists are.
Any convert, if a justice of peace, who educates any of his children under sixteen years of age in the popish religion, shall, on conviction of acting as such, suffer one year's imprisonment, forfeit .£100, and be incapable of being an executor, administrator or guardian.
The children of papists are deemed papists until they conform, except such as from the age of twelve years have been constantly bred up in the protestant religion, and received the sacrament according to the church of Ireland, who shall be reputed protestants, unless they at any time after the age of eighteen years declare themselves of the communion of the church of Rome, or be present at matins or vespers according to the practice of that church, in which case they shall be subject to all the penalties affecting converts relapsing to popery.
Upon this view of the law concerning education, the nation may judge of the liberal indulgence afforded to the Roman catholics by admitting them to the benefits of education.
G UARDiANSHIP.—The law concerning guardianship stands simply thus:—Papists, other thau ecclesiastics, taking the oath of allegiance, and subscribing the declaration pre. scribed by the 13th and 14th Geo. 3. ch. 35, are thereby qua. lined to be guardians of their own children or of the child of a papist, but not of the child of a protestant.
MARRIAGE.—As to the law concerning marriage, it is extremely simple in its severity, as it consists of but one re(Illation for every marriage celebrated by a popish priest, between two protestants, or between a papist and any person who has been or has professed him or herself to be a protes. tant at any time within twelve months before such marriage, shall be null and void without any process, judgment or sentence of law whatsoever; and nevertheless, the popish priest who celebrates such marriage shall on conviction be guilty of felony without benefit of clergy or of the statute, and suffer death accordingly: for, says the lawyer, the celebration, and not the marriage, constitutes his offence.—In order to obtain evidence of the fact, two justices of the peace are em. powered to summon any persons whom they suspect to have been present at any marriage, which they suspect to have been made contrary to this law, as well as the parties suspected to be married, and such suspected persons and suspected witnesses declining to appear, or refusing to declare upon oath their knowledge of the facts, or refusing after declaration of the facts to enter into recognizance to prosecute, shall be imprisoned for three years.
It must be admitted, that the legislature haslately declared, that it shall and may be lawful to and for protestants and persons professing the popish religion to intermarry, provided the marriage be celebrated by a clergyman of the established church; but when it is considered, that, in the Roman catholic persuasion, marriage is a sacrament, and ought to be celebrated according to the rites and ceremonies of that church, it will be readily granted, that by establishing the legality of inter-marriages no very liberal indulgence was offered to the Roman catholics, the more especially as there is a saving in favour of the law that enacts, " that a protestant married to a papist, or a convert married since his conformity to a papist, shall not be entitled to vote at any election of members to serve in parliament, in right of being a freeholder or pro. testant inhabitant of a borough."
SELF-DEFENCE.—There is another head upon which the legislature has thought proper to change the course of the common law: it is the right of self-defence, which is com. plicated with the use of arms. Now this right, though one of the laws of nature, and indeed the first of them, is yet so liable to so many dangerous abuses, that wise communities have found it necessary to set several restrictions upon it,