Page images
PDF
EPUB

revolutionary storm more vehement than in England, where ancient rivalry, and national antipathy, swelled its force. A lordly boroughmonger, legislating for and taxing the people, by two, four, &c. proxies in one house, and personally in another, cried out against levellers, who, in their attempt to realize the theory of the British constitution, studied to guard against its practical imperfections and corruptions. Bishops, who, by the grace of God, fatten on the fat of the land: parsons, who live sumptuously on the tithes exacted from the farmer; and who can spare so little time from luxury, company and amusements, that their neglected flock stray after tub-preachers, cried out, unanimously, against the French revolution, saying: All the powers of Europe ought to join against the rascally French. They have destroyed the church!!! Yea, forsooth they have destroyed the church! What sympathy, what sorrow, for the losses of a church, usually stigmatized as popish, idolatrous, anticbristian; the very scarlet harlot, whore of Babylon, riding on the beast with seven heads and ten horns, quaffing the golden cup of abominations, and committing fornication with the kings of the earth! Now it is, alas! alas! Babylon the great is fallen! Bishops and parsons are reduced to a moderate income, not sufficient to place them above the discharge of their duty; and tithes abolished in a country accustomed to lead the fashion. Alas! alas! the example desired by most people may be imitated here to our own overthrow! Court, church and state, both houses, with the whole host of their satellites, retainers, parasites, advocates for things as they are, through all their gradations from the court to the revenue and excise, cried out, with a loud voice, Great is the British constitution, the admiration of the world! It is by its present state, consecrated by time, we gain our bread. French reform is against the good order of society, against religion: it is the war of the giants against heaven. They no longer pay tithes. Their bishops no longer enjoy the splendor, luxury and revenue of princes in stately palaces, nor display their former pomp and magnificence. These robbers have at once swept away the pension-list, sinecure places, secret-service money, perquisites, and all the goodies and douceurs, sweet to the palates of privileged classes, while they cost the people tears! War alone can save us from these, and many more evils. War, only, can save us from parliamentary reform, the greatest of all calamities, which would bring all other evils in its train. Away with the rotten boroughs, sinecure places, and pensions unmerited, or exorbitant church lands and church pluralities, tithes, &c. &c. All these fine things, these flowery blossoms of the best constitution in the world, would be sacrificed to ease the lower orders, born only to toil for their betters. The contagion of French principles is catching; already societies are forming, and publications sent abroad for disseminating them. War against French principles, still more than against French power, is become indispensable in our defence. ,

The friends of reform in both islands, were overpowered by the counter-revolutionary storm, that set in so furiously against French principles, jacobins, levellers, regicides. Two eminent orators, of Irish birth, sounded the tocsin at the command of Pitt, invited Europe to a new crusade, and the first coalition was formed. While the heaven-born minister was zealously employed in purchasing the veteran armies of Europe, for punishment of foreign delinquency, the suppression of infidelity, and the protection of the catholic church of France, he earnestly laboured to avert the bitter cup of reform at home. How indeed could it be expected, that that boon would be granted to Ireland? for, had reform been granted to the Irish, could it be refused to the people of England? There were further and serious objections against granting reform to Ireland. Besides setting a precedent that could not be evaded, for a fair representation in England, it must include catholic emancipation, as well as the extinction of boroughs; it could not be reformed, or even called an Irish parliament, without this. The late suicide parliament was called unjustly Irish; it was the parliament of the English protestant pale, successor to the parliament of the English catholic pale.

The first act of the triumphant party to stem the progress of reform was to bring in the conventionbill, which they falsely called a bill declaratory of what the law of the land had already been. It had a double object, to check the further progress of catholic emancipation, and prevent importunate applications for parliamentary reform. The castle had so contrived to divide the catholic body, that some noblemen and gentlemen, with lord Kenmare at their head, were inclined and persuaded to prepare a petition of their own, short of the wishes of the body at large. This variance encouraged government to reject the petition of the catholic committee, as not expressing the sentiments of the catholics, nor presented by people deputed by them. Then were they necessitated to have recourse to a convention. If the bill was only declaratory of what the law was before, then the convention was illegal: wby not punish, instead of rewarding by ample concessions?—The bill lied. There was no previous law against acting by delegation. The fraud, unconstitutionality, and despotic nature of this bill, now first brought into action, cannot be better explained than was done by Mr. Grattan in its progress through parliament.

I rely upon it, said he, that the declaratory part of this bill has not been, and cannot be supported bylaw, but that it is a gross and ignorant misrepresentation of the law of the land, which it affects to declare. It is not supported by law, and it is in the face of daily practices. What was the committee of commerce in this country, but such an assembly as is here pronounced illegal? What the delegates from the different counties in England, in 1780, to promote a reduction of the expences of the state? What the conventions in England, in 1782, for the purpose of the reform of parliament? What the delegates for the procuring the repeal of the test act? What the presbyterian synod? What the delegates of the quakers? What the convention in England, for the purpose of restoring Charles the second? What the convention in Ireland, for bringing about the revolution in 1668; a convention stiled a northern association and general council, to direct the operations of associated bodies, united for the purpose of religion and liberty? But I cannot omit one convention to which the present family owes its crown, and which, if this bill is law, was an actof rebellion: I mean that glorious and immortal assembly, purporting to represent the people of England, that placed the crown on the head of William and Mary: this assembly comes under every clause in this bill, descriptive of illegal assembly: had such a bill as this been the law of England, and been executed, lord Somers and the leaders in the revolution must have been apprehended. I have read much of the proceedings of the catholics at the time of the revolution, but I never before read their justification in the shape of an act of parliament; for if this declaratory bill be law, then the convention of 1668 was against law, and all its proceedings of course, and amongst others the settlement of the crown, illegal, and the resistance of the catholics to that settlement warrantable by law. Who would have thought that the catholics would have found in the defamer of their loyalty, an apologist for their rebellion? who would have thought to have found in a bill, professing to be a strong mea

« PreviousContinue »