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We are by no means convinced that the decorous silence recommended upon the Catholic question would be rewarded by those future concessions of which many persons appear to be so certain. We have a strange incredulity where persecution is to be abolished, and any class of men restored to their indisputable rights. When we see it done, we will believe it. Till it is done, we shall always consider it to be highly improbable--much too improbable-to justify the smallest relaxation in the Catholics themselves, or in those who are well-wishers to their cause. When the fanciful period at present assigned for the emancipation arrives, new scruples may arise-fresh forbearance be called for—and the operations of common sense be deferred for another generation. Toleration never had a present tense, nor taxation a future one. The answer which Paul received from Felix, he owed to the subject on which he spoke. When justice and righteousness were his theme, Felix told him to go away, and he would hear him some other time. All men who have spoken to courts upon such disagreeable topics have received the same answer. Felix, however, trembled when he gave it ; but his fear was ill directed. He trembled at the subject—he ought to have trembled at the delay.
Little or nothing is to be expected from the shame of deferring what it is so wicked and perilous to defer. Profligacy in taking office is so extreme, that we have no doubt public men may be found who, for half a century, would postpone all remedies for a pestilence, if the preservation of their places depended upon the propagation of the virus. To us such kind of conduct conveys no other action than that of sordid avaricious impudence :-it puts to sale the best interests of the country for some improvement in the wines and meats and carriages which a man uses and encourages a new political morality which may always postpone any other great measure, and every other great measure, as well as the emancipation of the Catholics.
We terminate this apologetical preamble with expressing the most earnest hope that the Catholics will not, from any notion that their cause is effectually carried, relax in any one constitutional effort necessary to their purpose. Their cause is the cause of common sense and justice :—the safety of England and of the world may depend upon it. It rests upon the soundest principles ; leads to the most important consequences; and therefore cannot be too frequently brought before the notice of the public. The book before us is written by Mr. Henry Parnell, the brother of Mr. William Parnell, author of the Historical Apology, reviewed in one of our late Numbers; and it contains a very well-written history of the penal laws enacted against the Irish Catholics, from the peace of Limerick, in the reign of King William, to the late Union. Of these we shall present a very short, and, we hope, even to loungers, a readable abstract.
The war carried on in Ireland against King William cannot deserve the name of a rebellion :-it was a struggle for their lawful Prince, whom they had sworn to maintain ; and whose zeal for the Catholic religion, whatever effect it might have produced in England, could not by them be considered as a crime. This war was terminated by the surrender of Limerick, upon conditions by which the Catholics hoped, and very rationally hoped, to secure to themselves the free enjoyment of their religion in future, and an exemption from all those civil penalties and incapacities which the reigning creed is so fond of heaping upon its subjugated rivals.
By the various articles of this treaty, they are to enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion as they did enjoy in the time of Charles II. : and the King promises, upon the meeting of Parliament, “to endeavour to procure for them such further security in that particular as may preserve them from
any disturbance on account of their said religion.” They are to be restored to their estates, privileges, and immunities, as they enjoyed them in the time of Charles II. The gentlemen are to be allowed to carry arms; and no other path is to be tendered to the Catholics who submit to King William than the nath of allegiance. These and other articles King William ratifies for him. self, his heirs and successors, as far as in him lies ; and confirms the same, and every other clause and matter therein contained.
These articles were signed by the English general on the 3rd of October, 1691 ; and diffused comfort, confidence, and tranquillity among the Catholics. On the 22nd of October the English Parliament excluded Catholics from the Irish Houses of Lords and Commons, by compelling them to take the oaths of supremacy before admission.
In 1695, the Catholics were deprived of all means of educating their children, at home or abroad, and of the privilege of being guardians to their own or to other persons' children. Then all the Catholics were disarmedand then all the priests banished. After this (probably by way of joke) an act was passed to confirm the treaty of Limerick,-the great and glorious King William totally forgetting the contract he had entered into, of recommending the religious liberties of the Catholics to the attention of Parliament.
On the 4th of March, 1704, it was enacted that any son of a Catholic, who would turn Protestant, should succeed to the family estate, which from that moment could no longer be sold, or charged with debt and legacy. On the same day Popish fathers were debarred, by a penalty of £500, from being guardians to their own children. If the child, however young, declared himself a Protestant, he was to be delivered immediately to the custody of some Protestant relation.---No Protestant to marry a Papist. --No Papist to 'purchase land, or take a lease of land for more than thirty-one years. If the profits of the lands so leased by the Catholic amounted to above a certain rate settled by the act,--farm to belong to the first Protestant who made the discovery.- No Papist to be in a line of entail ; but the estate to pass on to the next Protestant heir, as if the Papist were dead. If a Papist dies intestate, and no Protestant heir can be found, property to be equally divided among all the sons; or, if he has none, among all the daughters. By the 16th clause of this bill, no Papist to hold any office, civil or military.-Not to dwell in Limerick or Galway, except on certain conditions.--Not to vote at elections.-Not to hold advowsons.
In 1709, Papists were prevented from holding an annuity for life. If any son of a Papist chose to turn Protestant, and enrol the certificate of his conversion in the Court of Chancery, that court is empowered to compel his father to state the value of his property upon oath, and to make out of that property a competent allowance to the son, at their own discretion, not only for his present maintenance, but for his future portion after the death of his father. An increase of jointure to be enjoyed by Papist wives upon their conversion.--Papists keeping schools to be prosecuted as convicts. -Popish priests who are converted to receive £30 per annum.
Rewards are given by the same act for the discovery of Popish clergy ;£50 for discovering a Popish bishop; £20 for a common Popish clergyman; Lio for a Popish usher ! Two justices of the peace can compel any Papist above 18 years of age to disclose every particular which has come to his knowledge respecting Popish priests, celebration of mass, or Papist schools. Imprisonment for a year if he refuses to answer.-Nobody can hold property in trust for a Catholic.-Juries, in all trials growing out of these statutes, to be Protestants. -No Papist to take more than two apprentices, except in the linen trade.-All the Catholic clergy to give in their names and places of abode at the quarter-sessions, and to keep no curates.-Catholics not to serve on grand juries.-In any trial upon statutes for strengthening the Protestant interest, a Papist juror may be peremptorily challenged.
In the next reign Popish horses were attacked, and allowed to be seized for the militia.- Papists cannot be either high or petty constables. —No Papist to vote at elections. —Papists in towns to provide Protestant watchmen; and not to vote at vestries.
In the reign of George II. Papists were prohibited from being barristers. Barristers and solicitors marrying Papists, considered to be Papists, and subjected to all penalties as such. Persons robbed by privateers during a 'war with a Popish prince, to be indemnified by grand jury presentments, and the money to be levied on the Catholics only. No Papist to marry a Protestant ;
any priest celebrating such a marriage to be hanged.
In 1715 and 1745, while Scotland and the North of England were up in arms, not a man stirred in Ireland ; yet the spirit of persecution against the Catholics continued till the 18th of his present Majesty; and then gradually gave way to the increase of knowledge, the humanity of our Sovereign, the abilities of Mr. Grattan, the weakness of England struggling in America, and the dread inspired by the French revolution.
Such is the rapid outline of a code of laws which reflects indelible disgrace upon the English character, and explains but too clearly the cause of that hatred in which the English name has been so long held in Ireland. It would require centuries to efface such an impression : and yet, when we find it fresh, and operating at the end of a few years, we explain the fact by every cause which can degrade the Irish, and by none which can remind us of our own scandalous policy. With the folly and the horror of such a code before our eyes, with the conviction of recent and domestic history that mankind are not to be lashed and chained out of their faith-we are striving to teaze and worry them into a better theology. Heavy oppression is removed ; light insults and provocations are retained ; the scourge does not fall upon their shoulders, but it sounds in their ears. And this is the conduct we are pursuing, when it is still a great doubt whether this country alone may not be opposed to the united efforts of the whole of Europe. It is really difficult to ascertain which is the most utterly destitute of common sense—the capricious and arbitrary stop we have made in our concessions to the Catholics, or the precise period we have chosen for this grand effort of obstinate folly.
In whatsoever manner the contest now in agitation on the continent may terminate, its relation to the emancipation of the Catholics will be very striking. If the Spaniards succeed in establishing their own liberties, and in rescuing Europe from the tyranny under which it at present labours, it will still be contended, within the walls of our own Parliament, that the Catholics cannot fulfil the duties of social life. Venal politicians will still argue that the time has not yet come. Sacred and lay sycophants will still lavish upon the Catholic faith their well-paid abuse, and England still passively submit to such a disgraceful spectacle of ingratitude and injustice. If, on the contrary (as may probably be the case), the Spaniards fall before the numbers and military skill of the French, then are we left alone in the world, without another ray of hope ; and compelled to employ against internal disaffection that force which, exalted to its utmost energy, would in all probability prove but barely equal to the external danger by which we should be surrounded. Whence comes it that these things are universally admitted to be true, but looked upon in servile silence by a country hitherto accustomed to make great efforts for its prosperity, safety, and independence?
PROCEEDINGS OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE SUPPRESSION
OF VICE. (E. REVIEW, January, 1809.) . Statement of the Proceedings of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, from July 9 to
November 12, read at their General Meeting, held November 12, 1804. With an Ap
pendix, containing the Plan of the Society, &c. &c. &c. London. 1804. An Address to the Public from the Society for the Suppression of Vice, instituted in London
1802. Part the Second Containing an Account of the Proceedings of the Society
from its original Institution. London. 1804. A Society that holds out as its object the suppression of vice, must at first sight conciliate the favour of every respectable person; and he who objects to an institution calculated apparently to do so much good, is bound to give very clear and satisfactory reasons for his dissent from so popular an opinion. We certainly have, for a long time, had doubts of its utility, and now think our. selves called upon to state the grounds of our distrust.
Though it were clear that individual informers are useful auxiliaries to the administration of the laws, it would by no means follow that these informers should be allowed to combine-to form themselves into a body—to make a public purse—and to prosecute under a common name. An informer, whether he is paid by the week, like the agents of this society—or by the crime, as in common cases— is, in general, a man of a very indifferent character. So much fraud and deception are necessary for carrying on his trade—it is so odious to his fellow subjects—that no man of respectability will ever undertake it. It is evidently impossible to make such a character otherwise than odious. A man who receives weekly pay for prying into the transgressions of mankind, and bringing them to consequent punishment, will always be hated by man. kind; and the office must fall to the lot of some man of desperate fortunes and ambiguous character. The multiplication, therefore, of such officers, and the extensive patronage of such characters, may, by the management of large and opulent societies, become an evil nearly as great as the evils they would suppress. The alarm which a private and disguised accuser occasions in a neighbourhood is known to be prodigious, not only to the guilty, but to those who may be at once innocent and ignorant and timid. The destruction of social confidence is another evil, the consequence of information. An informer gets access to my house or family-worms my secret out of me and then betrays me to the magistrate. Now, all these evils may be tolerated in a small degree, while, in a greater degree, they would be perfectly intolerable. Thirty or forty informers roaming about the metropolis may frighten the mass of offenders a little, and do some good; ten thousand informers would either create an insurrection, or totally destroy the confidence and cheerfulness of private life. Whatever may be said, therefore, of the single and insulated informer, it is quite a new question when we come to a corporation of informers supported by large contributions. The one may be a good, the other a very serious evil; the one legal, the other wholly out of the contemplation of law-which often, and very wisely, allows individuals to do what it forbids to many individuals assembled.
If once combination is allowed for the suppression of vice, where are its limits to be? Its capital may as well consist of £100,000 per annnm, as of a thousand : its numbers may increase from a thousand subscribers, which this society, it seems, had reached in its second year, to twenty thousand; and, in that case, what accused person of an inferior condition of life would have the temerity to stand against such a society? Their mandates would very soon ve law; and there is no compliance into which they might not frighten the common people and the lower orders of tradesmen. The idea of a society of gentlemen, calling themselves an Association for the Suppression of Vice, would alarm any small offender to a degree that would make him prefer any submission to any resistance. He would consider the very fact of being accused by them as almost sufficient to ruin him.
An individual accuser accuses at his own expense; and the risk he runs is a good security that the subject will not be harassed by needless accusations--a security which, of course, he cannot have against such a society as this, to whom pecuniary loss is an object of such little consequence. It must never be forgotten that this is not a society for punishing people who have been found to transgress the law, but for accusing persons of transgressing the law; and that, before trial, the accused person is to be considered as innocent, and is to have every fair chance of establishing his innocence. He must be no common defendant, however, who does not contend against such a society with very fearful odds—the best counsel engaged for his opponents-great practice in the particular court and particular species of cause-witnesses thoroughly hackneyed in a court of justice-and an unlimited command of money. It by no means follows that the legislature, in allowing individuals to be informers, meant to subject the accused person to the superior weight and power of such societies. The very influence of names must have a considerable weight with the jury. Lord Dartmouth, Lord Radstock, and the Bishop of Durham versus a Whitechapel butcher or a publican! Is this a fair contest before a jury? It is not so even in London; and what must it be in the country, where a society for the suppression of vice may consist of all the principal persons in the neighbourhood? These societies are now established in York, in Reading, and in many other large towns. Wherever this is the case, it is far from improbable that the same persons, at the Quarter or Town Sessions, may be both judges and accusers; and still more fatally so if the offence is tried by a special jury. This is already most notoriously the case in societies for the preservation of game. They prosecute a poacher—the jury is special; and the poor wretch is found guilty by the very same persons who have accused him.
If it be lawful for respectable men to combine for the purpose of turning informers, it is lawful for the lowest and most despicable race of informers to do the same thing; and then it is quite clear that every species of wickedness and extortion would be the consequence. We are rather surprised that no society of perjured attorneys and fraudulent bankrupts has risen up in this metropolis for the suppression of vice. A chairman, deputy chairman, subscriptions, and an annual sermon would give great dignity to their proceedings; and they would soon begin to take some rank in the world.
It is true that it is the duty of grand juries to inform against vice; but the law knows the probable number of grand jurymen, the times of their meeting, and the description of persons of whom they consist. Of voluntary societies it can know nothing-their numbers, their wealth, or the character of their members. It may therefore trust to a grand jury what it would by no means trust to an unknown combination. A vast distinction is to be made, too, between official duties and voluntary duties. The first are commonly carried on with calmness and moderation; the latter often characterized, in their execution, by rash and intemperate zeal.
The present Society receives no members but those who are of the Church of England. As we are now arguing the question generally, we have a right to make any supposition. It is equally free, therefore, upon general principles, for a society of sectarians to combine and exclude members of the Church of England; and the suppression of vice may thus come in aid of Methodism, Jacobinism, or any set of principles, however perilous, either to