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most value, the character of integrity, of talents, of honour, of present reputation and future fame; these, and whatever else is precious to me, I stake upon
the constitutional safety, the enlarged policy, the equity, and the wisdom of this measure, and have no fear in saying (whatever may be the fate of its authors) that this bill will produce to this country every blessing of commerce and revenue; and that by extending a generous and humane government over those millions whom the inscrutable destinations of Providence have placed under us in the remotest regions of the earth, it will consecrate the name of England amongst the noblest of nations.
SIR HERCULES LANGRISHE'S SPEECH,
DELIVERED IN THE IRISH HOUSE OF COMMONS JANUARY 2d,
1792, ON A MOTION THAT LEAVE BE GIVEN TO BRING IN A BILL FOR REMOVING CERTAIN RESTRAINTS AND DISABILI TIES UNDER WHICH HIS MAJESTY'S CATHOLICK SUBJECTS LABOUR FROM STATUTES AT PRESENT IN FORCE.
THE speeches, which here follow each other, in the regular order of their delivery, arose out of a very animated debate on a bill,* introduced by sir Hercules Langrishe into the Irish house of commons, to remove certain restraints, and disabilities, to which the Roman Catholicks of that country were subjected.
The provisions of the bill went,
Ist. To allow the Catholicks to practise the profes sion of the law.
2. To restore to them the rights of education entire and unrestrained.
3. To sanction their intermarriage with protestants.
Lastly. To annul the injurious limitation on the number of apprentices to be kept by Catholick tradesmen.
The bill, after encountering some opposition in its progress, was ultimately carried in each house, unanimously.
It is creditable to the administration which then presided over Ireland, that it warmly lent all its weight and authority to a measure, which, otherwise, might have been defeated, by the influence of those narrow prejudices, and illiberal suspicions, that had before, too often, silenced the just pretensions of the Catho. licks.
* Except the present one, which was on the motion to introduce the bill.
These speeches, we think, will be read with con. siderable interest. They are no mean specimens of that rich, spirited, and glowing eloquence which peculiarly distinguishes the discussions of the Irish bar, and senate.
IT is now just ten years since the cause of the Roman Catholicks particularly engaged the attention of parliament; since we took our last review of those laws which the passions and prejudices, perhaps the pressure, of an intemperate season, had entailed upon them.
I think, sir, the present times and circumstances invite us to resume that duty.
The good offices we owe, one to another; the indulgence which is due to fellow subjects, recom. mended and endeared by the unimpeachable conduct of a century; the consideration that we owe to the national prosperity, all unite in calling our attention to the revision of this subject, at a time when the publick mind is becoming more enlightened, and prejudices and jealousy are every day yielding to confi. dence and affection.
It is not without much satisfaction, and I may be allowed to say, some little pride too, that I take a part in this grateful duty; as I consider, amongst the few honours of my humble life, that of being almost the first member of the Irish parliament who ventured to state to you the imprudence and immorality of what were then the popery laws; as a system of jurisprudence, subversive of integrity, and as a scheme of government, which, whilst by its severity it alienated the body of the people, by its impolicy forbad them to vest in the state any hostage for their fidelity.
I own, sir, I was not able in my researches into Holy Writ, to meet with that particular passage of the scripture, that gives an authority to propagate the faith
by a perversion of morals, or, from a principle of piety, to prohibit the exercise of religious worship.
I could not presume to think that it was ever justifiable, for the sake of civil or ceremonial conformity, to build a code of religious laws on the ruins of almost every moral virtue and obligation; to sport with the most sacred feelings, and violate the fondest prepossessions of the human heart; to rob youth of educa. tion and age of authority; to seduce the son to become an interested informer against the piety of the father, and so break the bonds of all domestick fidelity and affection.
I know very well, that the state has a right to impose conditions on those who are to become the state itself. But to be entitled to common benefits, and equal protection, I know of no qualifications but allegiance, a peaceable demeanour, and obedience to the laws.
It is now many years since I first stated those ideas to parliament; but, from the temper of the times, perhaps the imbecility of the advocate, I was unsupported, and unsuccessful.
However, the agitation of truth must ever make an impression. Succeeding times became more enlightened, and religious animosity gave way to moral justice and political wisdom.
In the year 1774, the legislature first gratified the Roman Catholicks with an opportunity of testifying their allegiance, by framing an oath for them, competent to that test, without involving any article of religious faith, or speculative opinion.
Four years afterwards, in 1778, the legislature, wisely confiding in their oaths, rewarded their loyalty by some substantial concessions.
The act in their favour then passed, truly recites in the preamble, " That from their uniform peaceable behaviour for a long series of years, it appears reason. able and expedient to relax several of their incapaci. ties and disabilities."
Accordingly it allowed them “ To take leases of land' for 999 years, and at any rent; to enjoy all such
estates that shall be left or transferred to them, and to dispose of the same by will or otherwise ; and that they shall be devisable and transferrable, as in the case of other people.” The abominable usurpation of children against the father was abolished, and to these concessions, the conditions annexed were : Ta. king the oath of 1774, and, that the law should not extend to converts relapsing, or to protestants becoming papists, or educating their children in the popish religion; the legislature naturally considering that some suspicion attached on frequent versatility of faith, and on those who professed a religion themselves which they would not transmit to their posterity.
Four years after that, in 1782, the spirit of tolera. tion further extended itself, and sound policy gained a further ascendancy in favour of the Roman Catholicks. That system of severity, which a few years before was thought prudence, began to look something like injustice, and what prejudice had adopted as preser. vation, moderation began to view as little short of oppression.
In 1782, the capacity of acquiring land by purchase, which in 1778 was granted under a fiction, was given direct and entire,
“ The acquisition by purchase, grant, limitation, descent or devise, by will or otherwise descendable, as the lands of protestants," was communicated to the Roman Catholicks. Some of their disabilities, as to education, were removed. The severe law was repealed, that compelled the papists to declare, on oath, when, and where, and by whom they heard mass celebrated. The unequal attachment of their proper. ties to make reprisals for common robberies, was discontinued; their horses were no more to be exposed as publick plunder; and the preposterous, but offensive prohibition, whereby persons professing the popish religion were forbidden to reside in certain cities was repealed. They were allowed the full rights of property; the free exercise of religion; and to appoint guardians.to their own children,