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Peter Plymley's Letters and Selected Essays by Sydney Smith

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bear away for their own coast; and you will observe that the very
same wind which locks you up in the British Channel, when you are
got there, is evidently favourable for the invasion of Ireland. And
yet this is called Government, and the people huzza Mr. Perceval for
continuing to expose his country day after day to such tremendous
perils as these; cursing the men who would have given up a question
in theology to have saved us from such a risk. The British empire
at this moment is in the state of a peach-blossom--if the wind blows
gently from one quarter, it survives; if furiously from the other,
it perishes. A stiff breeze may set in from the north, the
Rochefort squadron will be taken, and the Minister will be the most
holy of men: if it comes from some other point, Ireland is gone; we
curse ourselves as a set of monastic madmen, and call out for the
unavailing satisfaction of Mr. Perceval's head. Such a state of
political existence is scarcely credible: it is the action of a mad
young fool standing upon one foot, and peeping down the crater of
Mount AEtna, not the conduct of a wise and sober people deciding
upon their best and dearest interests: and in the name, the much-
injured name, of heaven, what is it all for that we expose ourselves
to these dangers? Is it that we may sell more muslin? Is it that
we may acquire more territory? Is it that we may strengthen what we
have already acquired? No; nothing of all this; but that one set of
Irishmen may torture another set of Irishmen--that Sir Phelim
O'Callaghan may continue to whip Sir Toby M'Tackle, his next door
neighbour, and continue to ravish his Catholic daughters; and these
are the measures which the honest and consistent Secretary supports;
and this is the Secretary whose genius in the estimation of Brother
Abraham is to extinguish the genius of Bonaparte. Pompey was killed
by a slave, Goliath smitten by a stripling, Pyrrhus died by the hand
of a woman; tremble, thou great Gaul, from whose head an armed
Minerva leaps forth in the hour of danger; tremble, thou scourge of
God, a pleasant man is come out against thee, and thou shalt be laid
low by a joker of jokes, and he shall talk his pleasant talk against
thee, and thou shalt be no more!

You tell me, in spite of all this parade of sea-coast, Bonaparte has
neither ships nor sailors: but this is a mistake. He has not ships
and sailors to contest the empire of the seas with Great Britain,
but there remains quite sufficient of the navies of France, Spain,
Holland, and Denmark, for these short excursions and invasions. Do
you think, too, that Bonaparte does not add to his navy every year?
Do you suppose, with all Europe at his feet, that he can find any
difficulty in obtaining timber, and that money will not procure for
him any quantity of naval stores he may want? The mere machine, the
empty ship, he can build as well, and as quickly, as you can; and
though he may not find enough of practised sailors to man large
fighting-fleets--it is not possible to conceive that he can want
sailors for such sort of purposes as I have stated. He is at
present the despotic monarch of above twenty thousand miles of sea-
coast, and yet you suppose he cannot procure sailors for the
invasion of Ireland. Believe, if you please, that such a fleet met
at sea by any number of our ships at all comparable to them in point
of force, would be immediately taken, let it be so; I count nothing
upon their power of resistance, only upon their power of escaping
unobserved. If experience has taught us anything, it is the
impossibility of perpetual blockades. The instances are
innumerable, during the course of this war, where whole fleets have
sailed in and out of harbour, in spite of every vigilance used to
prevent it. I shall only mention those cases where Ireland is
concerned. In December, 1796, seven ships of the line, and ten
transports, reached Bantry Bay from Brest, without having seen an
English ship in their passage. It blew a storm when they were off
shore, and therefore England still continues to be an independent
kingdom. You will observe that at the very time the French fleet
sailed out of Brest Harbour, Admiral Colpoys was cruising off there
with a powerful squadron, and still, from the particular
circumstances of the weather, found it impossible to prevent the
French from coming out. During the time that Admiral Colpoys was
cruising off Brest, Admiral Richery, with six ships of the line,
passed him, and got safe into the harbour. At the very moment when
the French squadron was lying in Bantry Bay, Lord Bridport with his
fleet was locked up by a foul wind in the Channel, and for several
days could not stir to the assistance of Ireland. Admiral Colpoys,
totally unable to find the French fleet, came home. Lord Bridport,
at the change of the wind, cruised for them in vain, and they got
safe back to Brest, without having seen a single one of those
floating bulwarks, the possession of which we believe will enable us
with impunity to set justice and common sense at defiance.

Such is the miserable and precarious state of an anemocracy, of a
people who put their trust in hurricanes, and are governed by wind.
In August, 1798, three forty-gun frigates landed 1,100 men under
Humbert, making the passage from Rochelle to Killala without seeing
any English ship. In October of the same year, four French frigates
anchored in Killala Bay with 2,000 troops; and though they did not
land their troops, they returned to France in safety. In the same
month, a line-of-battle ship, eight stout frigates, and a brig, all
full of troops and stores, reached the coast of Ireland, and were
fortunately, in sight of land, destroyed, after an obstinate
engagement, by Sir John Warren.

If you despise the little troop which, in these numerous
experiments, did make good its landing, take with you, if you
please, this precis of its exploits: eleven hundred men, commanded
by a soldier raised from the ranks, put to rout a select army of
6,000 men, commanded by General Lake, seized their ordnance,
ammunition, and stores, advanced 150 miles into a country containing
an armed force of 150,000 men, and at last surrendered to the
Viceroy, an experienced general, gravely and cautiously advancing at
the head of all his chivalry and of an immense army to oppose him.
You must excuse these details about Ireland, but it appears to me to
be of all other subjects the most important. If we conciliate
Ireland, we can do nothing amiss; if we do not, we can do nothing
well. If Ireland was friendly, we might equally set at defiance the
talents of Bonaparte and the blunders of his rival, Mr. Canning; we
could then support the ruinous and silly bustle of our useless
expeditions, and the almost incredible ignorance of our commercial
orders in council. Let the present administration give up but this
one point, and there is nothing which I would not consent to grant
them. Mr. Perceval shall have full liberty to insult the tomb of
Mr. Fox, and to torment every eminent Dissenter in Great Britain;
Lord Camden shall have large boxes of plums; Mr. Rose receive
permission to prefix to his name the appellative of virtuous; and to
the Viscount Castlereagh a round sum of ready money shall be well
and truly paid into his hand. Lastly, what remains to Mr. George
Canning, but that he ride up and down Pall Mall glorious upon a
white horse, and that they cry out before him, Thus shall it be done
to the statesman who hath written "The Needy Knife-Grinder," and the
German play? Adieu only for the present; you shall soon hear from
me again; it is a subject upon which I cannot long be silent.


Nothing can be more erroneous than to suppose that Ireland is not
bigger than the Isle of Wight, or of more consequence than Guernsey
or Jersey; and yet I am almost inclined to believe, from the general
supineness which prevails here respecting the dangerous state of
that country, that such is the rank which it holds in our
statistical tables. I have been writing to you a great deal about
Ireland, and perhaps it may be of some use to state to you concisely
the nature and resources of the country which has been the subject
of our long and strange correspondence. There were returned, as I
have before observed, to the hearth tax in 1791, 701,102 houses,
which Mr. Newenham shows from unquestionable documents to be nearly
80,000 below the real number of houses in that country. There are
27,457 square English miles in Ireland, and more than five millions
of people.

By the last survey it appears that the inhabited houses in England
and Wales amount to 1,574,902, and the population to 9,343,578,
which gives an average of 5.875 to each house, in a country where
the density of population is certainly less considerable than in
Ireland. It is commonly supposed that two-fifths of the army and
navy are Irishmen, at periods when political disaffection does not
avert the Catholics from the service. The current value of Irish
exports in 1807 was 9,314,854 pounds 17s. 7d.; a state of commerce
about equal to the commerce of England in the middle of the reign of
George II. The tonnage of ships entered inward and cleared outward
in the trade of Ireland, in 1807, amounted to 1,567,430 tons. The
quantity of home spirits exported amounted to 10,284 gallons in
1796, and to 930,800 gallons in 1804. Of the exports which I have
stated, provisions amounted to four millions, and linen to about
four millions and a half. There was exported from Ireland, upon an
average of two years ending in January, 1804, 591,274 barrels of
barley, oats, and wheat; and by weight 910,848 cwts. of flour,
oatmeal, barley, oats, and wheat. The amount of butter exported in
1804, from Ireland, was worth, in money, 1,704,680 pounds sterling.
The importation of ale and beer, from the immense manufactures now
carrying on of these articles, was diminished to 3,209 barrels, in
the year 1804, from 111,920 barrels, which was the average
importation per annum, taking from three years ending in 1792; and
at present there is an export trade of porter. On an average of
three years, ending March, 1783, there were imported into Ireland,
of cotton wool, 3,326 cwts., of cotton yarn, 5,405 lbs.; but on an
average of three years, ending January, 1803, there were imported,
of the first article, 13,159 cwts., and of the latter, 628,406 lbs.
It is impossible to conceive any manufacture more flourishing. The
export of linen has increased in Ireland from 17,776,862 yards, the
average in 1770, to 43,534,971 yards, the amount in 1805. The
tillage of Ireland has more than trebled within the last twenty-one
years. The importation of coals has increased from 230,000 tons in
1783, to 417,030 in 1804; of tobacco, from 3,459,861 lbs. in 1783,
to 6,611,543 in 1804; of tea, from 1,703,855 lbs. in 1783, to
3,358,256 in 1804; of sugar, from 143,117 cwts. in 1782, to 309,076
in 1804. Ireland now supports a funded debt of above 64 millions,
and it is computed that more than three millions' of money are
annually remitted to Irish absentees resident in this country. In
Mr. Foster's report, of 100 folio pages, presented to the House of
Commons in the year 1806, the total expenditure of Ireland is stated
at 9,760,013 pounds. Ireland has increased about two-thirds in its
population within twenty-five years, and yet, and in about the same
space of time, its exports of beef, bullocks, cows, pork, swine,
butter, wheat, barley, and oats, collectively taken, have doubled;
and this, in spite of two years' famine, and the presence of an
immense army, that is always at hand to guard the most valuable
appanage of our empire from joining our most inveterate enemies.
Ireland has the greatest possible facilities for carrying on
commerce with the whole of Europe. It contains, within a circuit of
750 miles, 66 secure harbours, and presents a western frontier
against Great Britain, reaching from the Firth of Clyde north to the
Bristol Channel south, and varying in distance from 20 to 100 miles;
so that the subjugation of Ireland would compel us to guard with
ships and soldiers a new line of coast, certainly amounting, with
all its sinuosities, to more than 700 miles--an addition of
polemics, in our present state of hostility with all the world,
which must highly gratify the vigorists, and give them an ample
opportunity of displaying that foolish energy upon which their
claims to distinction are founded. Such is the country which the
Right Reverend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would drive into the
arms of France, and for the conciliation of which we are requested
to wait, as if it were one of those sinecure places which were given
to Mr. Perceval snarling at the breast, and which cannot be
abolished till his decease.

How sincerely and fervently have I often wished that the Emperor of
the French had thought as Mr. Spencer Perceval does upon the subject
of government; that he had entertained doubts and scruples upon the
propriety of admitting the Protestants to an equality of rights with
the Catholics, and that he had left in the middle of his empire
these vigorous seeds of hatred and disaffection! But the world was
never yet conquered by a blockhead. One of the very first measures
we saw him recurring to was the complete establishment of religious
liberty: if his subjects fought and paid as he pleased, he allowed
them to believe as they pleased: the moment I saw this, my best
hopes were lost. I perceived in a moment the kind of man we had to
do with. I was well aware of the miserable ignorance and folly of
this country upon the subject of toleration; and every year has been
adding to the success of that game, which it was clear he had the
will and the ability to play against us.

You say Bonaparte is not in earnest upon the subject of religion,
and that this is the cause of his tolerant spirit; but is it
possible you can intend to give us such dreadful and unamiable
notions of religion. Are we to understand that the moment a man is
sincere he is narrow-minded; that persecution is the child of
belief; and that a desire to leave all men in the quiet and
unpunished exercise of their own creed can only exist in the mind of
an infidel? Thank God! I know many men whose principles are as firm
as they are expanded, who cling tenaciously to their own
modification of the Christian faith, without the slightest
disposition to force that modification upon other people. If
Bonaparte is liberal in subjects of religion because he has no
religion, is this a reason why we should be illiberal because we are
Christians? If he owes this excellent quality to a vice, is that
any reason why we may not owe it to a virtue? Toleration is a great
good, and a good to be imitated, let it come from whom it will. If
a sceptic is tolerant, it only shows that he is not foolish in
practice as well as erroneous in theory. If a religious man is
tolerant, it evinces that he is religious from thought and inquiry,
because he exhibits in his conduct one of the most beautiful and
important consequences of a religious mind--an inviolable charity to
all the honest varieties of human opinion.

Lord Sidmouth, and all the anti-Catholic people, little foresee that
they will hereafter be the sport of the antiquary; that their
prophecies of ruin and destruction from Catholic emancipation will
be clapped into the notes of some quaint history, and be matter of
pleasantry even to the sedulous housewife and the rural dean. There
is always a copious supply of Lord Sidmouths in the world; nor is
there one single source of human happiness against which they have
not uttered the most lugubrious predictions. Turnpike roads,
navigable canals, inoculation, hops, tobacco, the Reformation, the
Revolution--there are always a set of worthy and moderately-gifted
men, who bawl out death and ruin upon every valuable change which
the varying aspect of human affairs absolutely and imperiously
requires. I have often thought that it would be extremely useful to
make a collection of the hatred and abuse that all those changes
have experienced, which are now admitted to be marked improvements
in our condition. Such a history might make folly a little more
modest, and suspicious of its own decisions.

Ireland, you say, since the Union is to be considered as a part of
the whole kingdom; and therefore, however Catholics may predominate
in that particular spot, yet, taking the whole empire together, they
are to be considered as a much more insignificant quota of the
population. Consider them in what light you please, as part of the
whole, or by themselves, or in what manner may be most consentaneous
to the devices of your holy mind--I say in a very few words, if you
do not relieve these people from the civil incapacities to which
they are exposed, you will lose them; or you must employ great
strength and much treasure in watching over them. In the present
state of the world you can afford to do neither the one nor the
other. Having stated this, I shall leave you to be ruined,
Puffendorf in hand (as Mr. Secretary Canning says), and to lose
Ireland, just as you have found out what proportion the aggrieved
people should bear to the whole population before their calamities
meet with redress. As for your parallel cases, I am no more afraid
of deciding upon them than I am upon their prototype. If ever any
one heresy should so far spread itself over the principality of
Wales that the Established Church were left in a minority of one to
four; if you had subjected these heretics to very severe civil
privations; if the consequence of such privations were a universal
state of disaffection among that caseous and wrathful people; and if
at the same time you were at war with all the world, how can you
doubt for a moment that I would instantly restore them to a state of
the most complete civil liberty? What matters it under what name
you put the same case? Common sense is not changed by appellations.
I have said how I would act to Ireland, and I would act so to all
the world.

I admit that, to a certain degree, the Government will lose the
affections of the Orangemen by emancipating the Catholics; much
less, however, at present, than three years past. The few men, who
have ill-treated the whole crew, live in constant terror that the
oppressed people will rise upon them and carry the ship into Brest:
--they begin to find that it is a very tiresome thing to sleep every
night with cocked pistols under their pillows, and to breakfast,
dine, and sup with drawn hangers. They suspect that the privilege
of beating and kicking the rest of the sailors is hardly worth all
this anxiety, and that if the ship does ever fall into the hands of
the disaffected, all the cruelties which they have experienced will
be thoroughly remembered and amply repaid. To a short period of
disaffection among the Orangemen I confess I should not much object:
my love of poetical justice does carry me as far as that; one
summer's whipping, only one: the thumb-screw for a short season; a
little light easy torturing between Ladyday and Michaelmas; a short
specimen of Mr. Perceval's rigour. I have malice enough to ask this
slight atonement for the groans and shrieks of the poor Catholics,
unheard by any human tribunal, but registered by the Angel of God
against their Protestant and enlightened oppressors.

Besides, if you who count ten so often can count five, you must
perceive that it is better to have four friends and one enemy than
four enemies and one friend; and the more violent the hatred of the
Orangemen, the more certain the reconciliation of the Catholics.
The disaffection of the Orangemen will be the Irish rainbow: when I
see it I shall be sure that the storm is over.

If these incapacities, from which the Catholics ask to be relieved,
were to the mass of them only a mere feeling of pride, and if the
question were respecting the attainment of privileges which could be
of importance only to the highest of the sect, I should still say
that the pride of the mass was very naturally wounded by the
degradation of their superiors. Indignity to George Rose would be
felt by the smallest nummary gentleman in the king's employ; and Mr.
John Bannister could not be indifferent to anything which happened
to Mr. Canning. But the truth is, it is a most egregious mistake to
suppose that the Catholics are contending merely for the fringes and
feathers of their chiefs. I will give you a list in my next Letter
of those privations which are represented to be of no consequence to
anybody but Lord Fingal, and some twenty or thirty of the principal
persons of their sect. In the meantime, adieu, and be wise.


Dear Abraham,--No Catholic can be chief Governor or Governor of this
kingdom, Chancellor or Keeper of the Great Seal, Lord High
Treasurer, Chief of any of the Courts of Justice, Chancellor of the
Exchequer, Puisne Judge, Judge in the Admiralty, Master of the
Rolls, Secretary of State, Keeper of the Privy Seal, Vice-Treasurer
or his Deputy, Teller or Cashier of Exchequer, Auditor or General,
Governor or Custos Rotulorum of Counties, Chief Governor's
Secretary, Privy Councillor, King's Counsel, Serjeant, Attorney,
Solicitor-General, Master in Chancery, Provost or Fellow of Trinity
College, Dublin, Postmaster-General, Master and Lieutenant-General
of Ordnance, Commander-in-Chief, General on the Staff, Sheriff, Sub-
Sheriff, Mayor, Bailiff, Recorder, Burgess, or any other officer in
a City, or a Corporation. No Catholic can be guardian to a
Protestant, and no priest guardian at all; no Catholic can be a
gamekeeper, or have for sale, or otherwise, any arms or warlike
stores; no Catholic can present to a living, unless he choose to
turn Jew in order to obtain that privilege; the pecuniary
qualification of Catholic jurors is made higher than that of
Protestants, and no relaxation of the ancient rigorous code is
permitted, unless to those who shall take an oath prescribed by 13
and 14 George III. Now if this is not picking the plums out of the
pudding and leaving the mere batter to the Catholics, I know not
what is. If it were merely the Privy Council, it would be (I allow)
nothing but a point of honour for which the mass of Catholics were
contending, the honour of being chief-mourners or pall-bearers to
the country; but surely no man will contend that every barrister may
not speculate upon the possibility of being a Puisne Judge; and that
every shopkeeper must not feel himself injured by his exclusion from
borough offices.

One of the greatest practical evils which the Catholics suffer in
Ireland is their exclusion from the offices of Sheriff and Deputy
Sheriff. Nobody who is unacquainted with Ireland can conceive the
obstacles which this opposes to the fair administration of justice.
The formation of juries is now entirely in the hands of the
Protestants; the lives, liberties, and properties of the Catholics
in the hands of the juries; and this is the arrangement for the
administration of justice in a country where religious prejudices
are inflamed to the greatest degree of animosity! In this country,
if a man be a foreigner, if he sell slippers, and sealing wax, and
artificial flowers, we are so tender of human life that we take care
half the number of persons who are to decide upon his fate should be
men of similar prejudices and feelings with himself: but a poor
Catholic in Ireland may be tried by twelve Percevals, and destroyed
according to the manner of that gentleman in the name of the Lord,
and with all the insulting forms of justice. I do not go the length
of saying that deliberate and wilful injustice is done. I have no
doubt that the Orange Deputy Sheriff thinks it would be a most
unpardonable breach of his duty if he did not summon a Protestant
panel. I can easily believe that the Protestant panel may conduct
themselves very conscientiously in hanging the gentlemen of the
crucifix; but I blame the law which does not guard the Catholic
against the probable tenor of those feelings which must
unconsciously influence the judgments of mankind. I detest that
state of society which extends unequal degrees of protection to
different creeds and persuasions; and I cannot describe to you the
contempt I feel for a man who, calling himself a statesman, defends
a system which fills the heart of every Irishman with treason, and
makes his allegiance prudence, not choice.

I request to know if the vestry taxes in Ireland are a mere matter
of romantic feeling which can affect only the Earl of Fingal? In a
parish where there are four thousand Catholics and fifty
Protestants, the Protestants may meet together in a vestry meeting
at which no Catholic has the right to vote, and tax all the lands in
the parish 1s. 6d. per acre, or in the pound, I forget which, for
the repairs of the church--and how has the necessity of these
repairs been ascertained? A Protestant plumber has discovered that
it wants new leading; a Protestant carpenter is convinced the
timbers are not sound; and the glazier who hates holy water (as an
accoucheur hates celibacy, because he gets nothing by it) is
employed to put in new sashes.

The grand juries in Ireland are the great scene of jobbing. They
have a power of making a county rate to a considerable extent for
roads, bridges, and other objects of general accommodation. "You
suffer the road to be brought through my park, and I will have the
bridge constructed in a situation where it will make a beautiful
object to your house. You do my job, and I will do yours." These
are the sweet and interesting subjects which occasionally occupy
Milesian gentlemen while they are attendant upon this grand inquest
of justice. But there is a religion, it seems, even in jobs; and it
will be highly gratifying to Mr. Perceval to learn that no man in
Ireland who believes in seven sacraments can carry a public road, or
bridge, one yard out of the direction most beneficial to the public,
and that nobody can cheat the public who does not expound the
Scriptures in the purest and most orthodox manner. This will give
pleasure to Mr. Perceval: but, from his unfairness upon these
topics I appeal to the justice and the proper feelings of Mr.
Huskisson. I ask him if the human mind can experience a more
dreadful sensation than to see its own jobs refused, and the jobs of
another religion perpetually succeeding? I ask him his opinion of a
jobless faith, of a creed which dooms a man through life to a lean
and plunderless integrity. He knows that human nature cannot and
will not bear it; and if we were to paint a political Tartarus, it
would be an endless series of snug expectations and cruel
disappointments. These are a few of many dreadful inconveniences
which the Catholics of all ranks suffer from the laws by which they
are at present oppressed. Besides, look at human nature: what is
the history of all professions? Joel is to be brought up to the
bar: has Mrs. Plymley the slightest doubt of his being Chancellor?
Do not his two shrivelled aunts live in the certainty of seeing him
in that situation, and of cutting out with their own hands his
equity habiliments? And I could name a certain minister of the
Gospel who does not, in the bottom of his heart, much differ from
these opinions. Do you think that the fathers and mothers of the
holy Catholic Church are not as absurd as Protestant papas and
mammas? The probability I admit to be, in each particular case,
that the sweet little blockhead will in fact never get a brief;--but
I will venture to say, there is not a parent from the Giant's
Causeway to Bantry Bay who does not conceive that his child is the
unfortunate victim of the exclusion, and that nothing short of
positive law could prevent his own dear, pre-eminent Paddy from
rising to the highest honours of the State. So with the army and
parliament; in fact, few are excluded; but, in imagination, all:
you keep twenty or thirty Catholics out, and you lose the affections
of four millions; and, let me tell you, that recent circumstances
have by no means tended to diminish in the minds of men that hope of
elevation beyond their own rank which is so congenial to our nature:
from pleading for John Roe to taxing John Bull, from jesting for Mr.
Pitt and writing in the Anti-Jacobin, to managing the affairs of
Europe--these are leaps which seem to justify the fondest dreams of
mothers and of aunts.

I do not say that the disabilities to which the Catholics are
exposed amount to such intolerable grievances, that the strength and
industry of a nation are overwhelmed by them: the increasing
prosperity of Ireland fully demonstrates to the contrary. But I
repeat again, what I have often stated in the course of our
correspondence, that your laws against the Catholics are exactly in
that state in which you have neither the benefits of rigour nor of
liberality: every law which prevented the Catholic from gaining
strength and wealth is repealed; every law which can irritate
remains; if you were determined to insult the Catholics, you should
have kept them weak; if you resolved to give them strength, you
should have ceased to insult them--at present your conduct is pure,
unadulterated folly.

Lord Hawkesbury says, "We heard nothing about the Catholics till we
began to mitigate the laws against them; when we relieved them in
part from this oppression they began to be disaffected. This is
very true; but it proves just what I have said, that you have either
done too much or too little; and as there lives not, I hope, upon
earth, so depraved a courtier that he would load the Catholics with
their ancient chains, what absurdity it is, then, not to render
their dispositions friendly, when you leave their arms and legs

You know, and many Englishmen know, what passes in China; but nobody
knows or cares what passes in Ireland. At the beginning of the
present reign no Catholic could realise property, or carry on any
business; they were absolutely annihilated, had had no more agency
in the country than so many trees. They were like Lord Mulgrave's
eloquence and Lord Camden's wit; the legislative bodies did not know
of their existence. For these twenty-five years last past the
Catholics have been engaged in commerce; within that period the
commerce of Ireland has doubled--there are four Catholics at work
for one Protestant, and eight Catholics at work for one
Episcopalian. Of course, the proportion which Catholic wealth bears
to Protestant wealth is every year altering rapidly in favour of the
Catholics. I have already told you what their purchases of land
were the last year: since that period I have been at some pains to
find out the actual state of the Catholic wealth: it is impossible
upon such a subject to arrive at complete accuracy; but I have good
reason to believe that there are at present 2,000 Catholics in
Ireland, possessing an income of 500 pounds and upwards, many of
these with incomes of one, two, three, and four thousand, and some
amounting to fifteen and twenty thousand per annum:- and this is the
kingdom, and these the people, for whose conciliation we are to wait
Heaven knows when, and Lord Hawkesbury why! As for me, I never
think of the situation of Ireland without feeling the same necessity
for immediate interference as I should do if I saw blood flowing
from a great artery. I rush towards it with the instinctive
rapidity of a man desirous of preventing death, and have no other
feeling but that in a few seconds the patient may be no more.

I could not help smiling, in the times of No Popery, to witness the
loyal indignation of many persons at the attempt made by the last
ministry to do something for the relief of Ireland. The general cry
in the country was, that they would not see their beloved Monarch
used ill in his old age, and that they would stand by him to the
last drop of their blood. I respect good feelings, however
erroneous be the occasions on which they display themselves; and
therefore I saw in all this as much to admire as to blame. It was a
species of affection, however, which reminded me very forcibly of
the attachment displayed by the servants of the Russian ambassador
at the beginning of the last century. His Excellency happened to
fall down in a kind of apoplectic fit, when he was paying a morning
visit in the house of an acquaintance. The confusion was of course
very great, and messengers were despatched in every direction to
find a surgeon: who, upon his arrival, declared that his Excellency
must be immediately blooded, and prepared himself forthwith to
perform the operation: the barbarous servants of the embassy, who
were there in great numbers, no sooner saw the surgeon prepared to
wound the arm of their master with a sharp, shining instrument, than
they drew their swords, put themselves in an attitude of defence,
and swore in pure Sclavonic, "that they would murder any man who
attempted to do him the slightest injury: he had been a very good
master to them, and they would not desert him in his misfortunes, or
suffer his blood to be shed while he was off his guard, and
incapable of defending himself." By good fortune, the secretary
arrived about this period of the dispute, and his Excellency,
relieved from superfluous blood and perilous affection, was, after
much difficulty, restored to life.

There is an argument brought forward with some appearance of
plausibility in the House of Commons, which certainly merits an
answer: You know that the Catholics now vote for members of
parliament in Ireland, and that they outnumber the Protestants in a
very great proportion; if you allow Catholics to sit in parliament,
religion will be found to influence votes more than property, and
the greater part of the 100 Irish members who are returned to
parliament will be Catholics. Add to these the Catholic members who
are returned in England, and you will have a phalanx of heretical
strength which every minister will be compelled to respect, and
occasionally to conciliate by concessions incompatible with the
interests of the Protestant Church. The fact is, however, that you
are at this moment subjected to every danger of this kind which you
can possibly apprehend hereafter. If the spiritual interests of the
voters are more powerful than their temporal interests, they can
bind down their representatives to support any measures favourable
to the Catholic religion, and they can change the objects of their
choice till they have found Protestant members (as they easily may
do) perfectly obedient to their wishes. If the superior possessions
of the Protestants prevent the Catholics from uniting for a common
political object, then the danger you fear cannot exist: if zeal,
on the contrary, gets the better of acres, then the danger at
present exists, from the right of voting already given to the
Catholics, and it will not be increased by allowing them to sit in
parliament. There are, as nearly as I can recollect, thirty seats
in Ireland for cities and counties, where the Protestants are the
most numerous, and where the members returned must of course be
Protestants. In the other seventy representations the wealth of the
Protestants is opposed to the number of the Catholics; and if all
the seventy members returned were of the Catholic persuasion, they
must still plot the destruction of our religion in the midst of 588
Protestants. Such terrors would disgrace a cook-maid, or a
toothless aunt--when they fall from the lips of bearded and
senatorial men, they are nauseous, antiperistaltic, and emetical.

How can you for a moment doubt of the rapid effects which would be
produced by the emancipation? In the first place, to my certain
knowledge the Catholics have long since expressed to his Majesty's
Ministers their perfect readiness TO VEST IN HIS MAJESTY, EITHER
prelacy in Ireland consists of twenty-six bishops and the warden of
Galway, a dignitary enjoying Catholic jurisdiction. The number of
Roman Catholic priests in Ireland exceeds one thousand. The
expenses of his peculiar worship are, to a substantial farmer or
mechanic, five shillings per annum; to a labourer (where he is not
entirely excused) one shilling per annum; this includes the
contribution of the whole family, and for this the priest is bound
to attend them when sick, and to confess them when they apply to
him; he is also to keep his chapel in order, to celebrate divine
service, and to preach on Sundays and holydays.

In the northern district a priest gains from 30 to 50 pounds; in the
other parts of Ireland from 60 to 90 pounds per annum. The best
paid Catholic bishops receive about 400 pounds per annum; the others
from 300 to 350 pounds. My plan is very simple: I would have 300
Catholic parishes at 100 pounds per annum, 300 at 200 pounds per
annum, and 400 at 300 pounds per annum; this, for the whole thousand
parishes, would amount to 190,000 pounds. To the prelacy I would
allot 20,000 pounds in unequal proportions, from 1,000 to 500
pounds; and I would appropriate 40,000 pounds more for the support
of Catholic schools, and the repairs of Catholic churches; the whole
amount of which sum is 250,000 pounds, about the expense of three
days of one of our genuine, good English JUST AND NECESSARY WARS.
The clergy should all receive their salaries at the Bank of Ireland,
and I would place the whole patronage in the hands of the Crown.
Now, I appeal to any human being, except Spencer Perceval, Esq., of
the parish of Hampstead, what the disaffection of a clergy would
amount to, gaping after this graduated bounty of the Crown, and
whether Ignatius Loyala himself, if he were a living blockhead
instead of a dead saint, could withstand the temptation of bouncing
from 100 pounds a year at Sligo, to 300 pounds in Tipperary? This
is the miserable sum of money for which the merchants and landowners
and nobility of England are exposing themselves to the tremendous
peril of losing Ireland. The sinecure places of the Roses and the
Percevals, and the "dear and near relations," put up to auction at
thirty years' purchase, would almost amount to the money.

I admit that nothing can be more reasonable than to expect that a
Catholic priest should starve to death, genteelly and pleasantly,
for the good of the Protestant religion; but is it equally
reasonable to expect that he should do so for the Protestant pews,
and Protestant brick and mortar? On an Irish Sabbath, the bell of a
neat parish church often summons to church only the parson and an
occasionally conforming clerk; while, two hundred yards off, a
thousand Catholics are huddled together in a miserable hovel, and
pelted by all the storms of heaven. Can anything be more
distressing than to see a venerable man pouring forth sublime truths
in tattered breeches, and depending for his food upon the little
offal he gets from his parishioners? I venerate a human being who
starves for his principles, let them be what they may; but starving
for anything is not at all to the taste of the honourable
flagellants: strict principles, and good pay, is the motto of Mr.
Perceval: the one he keeps in great measure for the faults of his
enemies, the other for himself.

There are parishes in Connaught in which a Protestant was never
settled nor even seen. In that province in Munster, and in parts of
Leinster, the entire peasantry for sixty miles are Catholics; in
these tracts the churches are frequently shut for want of a
congregation, or opened to an assemblage of from six to twenty
persons. Of what Protestants there are in Ireland, the greatest
part are gathered together in Ulster, or they live in towns. In the
country of the other three provinces the Catholics see no other
religion but their own, and are at the least as fifteen to one
Protestant. In the diocese of Tuam they are sixty to one; in the
parish of St. Mulins, diocese of Leghlin, there are four thousand
Catholics and one Protestant; in the town of Grasgenamana, in the
county of Kilkenny, there are between four and five hundred Catholic
houses, and three Protestant houses. In the parish of Allen, county
Kildare, there is no Protestant, though it is very populous. In the
parish of Arlesin, Queen's County, the proportion is one hundred to
one. In the whole county of Kilkenny, by actual enumeration, it is
seventeen to one; in the diocese of Kilmacduagh, province of
Connaught, fifty-two to one, by ditto. These I give you as a few
specimens of the present state of Ireland; and yet there are men
impudent and ignorant enough to contend that such evils require no
remedy, and that mild family man who dwelleth in Hampstead can find
none but the cautery and the knife.

- "Omne per ignem
Excoquitur vitium."

I cannot describe the horror and disgust which I felt at hearing Mr.
Perceval call upon the then Ministry for measures of vigour in
Ireland. If I lived at Hampstead upon stewed meats and claret; if I
walked to church every Sunday before eleven young gentlemen of my
own begetting, with their faces washed, and their hair pleasingly
combed; if the Almighty had blessed me with every earthly comfort--
how awfully would I pause before I sent forth the flame and the
sword over the cabins of the poor, brave, generous, open-hearted
peasants of Ireland! How easy it is to shed human blood; how easy
it is to persuade ourselves that it is our duty to do so, and that
the decision has cost us a severe struggle; how much in all ages
have wounds and shrieks and tears been the cheap and vulgar
resources of the rulers of mankind; how difficult and how noble it
is to govern in kindness and to found an empire upon the everlasting
basis of justice and affection! But what do men call vigour? To
let loose hussars and to bring up artillery, to govern with lighted
matches, and to cut, and push, and prime; I call this not vigour,
but the SLOTH OF CRUELTY AND IGNORANCE. The vigour I love consists
in finding out wherein subjects are aggrieved, in relieving them, in
studying the temper and genius of a people, in consulting their
prejudices, in selecting proper persons to lead and manage them, in
the laborious, watchful, and difficult task of increasing public
happiness by allaying each particular discontent. In this way Hoche
pacified La Vendee--and in this way only will Ireland ever be
subdued. But this, in the eyes of Mr. Perceval, is imbecility and
meanness. Houses are not broken open, women are not insulted, the
people seem all to be happy; they are not rode over by horses, and
cut by whips. Do you call this vigour? Is this government?


You must observe that all I have said of the effects which will be
produced by giving salaries to the Catholic clergy, only proceeds
upon the supposition that the emanciptaion of the laity is effected:
--without that, I am sure there is not a clergyman in Ireland who
would receive a shilling from government; he could not do so,
without an entire loss of credit among the members of his own

What you say of the moderation of the Irish Protestant clergy in
collecting tithes, is, I believe, strictly true. Instead of
collecting what the law enables them to collect, I believe they
seldom or ever collect more than two-thirds; and I entirely agree
with you, that the abolition of agistment tithe in Ireland by a vote
of the Irish House of Commons, and without any remuneration to the
Church, was a most scandalous and Jacobinical measure. I do not
blame the Irish clergy; but I submit to your common sense, if it be
possible to explain to an Irish peasant upon what principle of
justice, or common sense, he is to pay every tenth potato in his
little garden to a clergyman in whose religion nobody believes for
twenty miles around him, and who has nothing to preach to but bare
walls? It is true, if the tithes are bought up, the cottager must
pay more rent to his landlord; but the same thing done in the shape
of rent is less odious than when it is done in the shape of tithe.
I do not want to take a shilling out of the pockets of the clergy,
but to leave the substance of things, and to change their names. I
cannot see the slightest reason why the Irish labourer is to be
relieved from the real onus, or from anything else but the name of
tithe. At present he rents only nine-tenths of the produce of the
land, which is all that belongs to the owner; this he has at the
market price; if the landowner purchase the other tenth of the
Church, of course he has a right to make a correspondent advance
upon his tenant.

I very much doubt, if you were to lay open all civil offices to the
Catholics, and to grant salaries to their clergy, in the manner I
have stated, if the Catholic laity would give themselves much
trouble about the advance of their Church; for they would pay the
same tithes under one system that they do under another. If you
were to bring the Catholics into the daylight of the world, to the
high situations of the army, the navy, and the bar, numbers of them
would come over to the Established Church, and do as other people
do; instead of that, you set a mark of infamy upon them, rouse every
passion of our nature in favour of their creed, and then wonder that
men are blind to the follies of the Catholic religion. There are
hardly any instances of old and rich families among the Protestant
Dissenters: when a man keeps a coach, and lives in good company, he
comes to church, and gets ashamed of the meeting-house; if this is
not the case with the father, it is almost always the case with the
son. These things would never be so if the Dissenters were in
PRACTICE as much excluded from all the concerns of civil life as the
Catholics are. If a rich young Catholic were in Parliament, he
would belong to White's and to Brookes's, would keep race-horses,
would walk up and down Pall Mall, be exonerated of his ready money
and his constitution, become as totally devoid of morality, honesty,
knowledge, and civility as Protestant loungers in Pall Mall, and
return home with a supreme contempt for Father O'Leary and Father
O'Callaghan. I am astonished at the madness of the Catholic clergy
in not perceiving that Catholic emancipation is Catholic infidelity;
that to entangle their people in the intrigues of a Protestant
parliament, and a Protestant court, is to ensure the loss of every
man of fashion and consequence in their community. The true receipt
for preserving their religion, is Mr. Perceval's receipt for
destroying it: it is to deprive every rich Catholic of all the
objects of secular ambition, to separate him from the Protestant,
and to shut him up in his castle with priests and relics.

We are told, in answer to all our arguments, that this is not a fit
period--that a period of universal war is not the proper time for
dangerous innovations in the constitution: this is as much as to
say, that the worst time for making friends is the period when you
have made many enemies; that it is the greatest of all errors to
stop when you are breathless, and to lie down when you are fatigued.
Of one thing I am quite certain: if the safety of Europe is once
completely restored, the Catholics may for ever bid adieu to the
slightest probability of effecting their object. Such men as hang
about a court not only are deaf to the suggestions of mere justice,
but they despise justice; they detest the word RIGHT; the only word
which rouses them is PERIL; where they can oppress with impunity,
they oppress for ever, and call it loyalty and wisdom.

I am so far from conceiving the legitimate strength of the Crown
would be diminished by these abolitions of civil incapacities in
consequence of religious opinions, that my only objection to the
increase of religious freedom is, that it would operate as a
diminution of political freedom; the power of the Crown is so
overbearing at this period, that almost the only steady opposers of
its fatal influence are men disgusted by religious intolerance. Our
establishments are so enormous, and so utterly disproportioned to
our population, that every second or third man you meet in society
gains something from the public; my brother the commissioner,--my
nephew the police justice,--purveyor of small beer to the army in
Ireland,--clerk of the mouth,--yeoman to the left hand,--these are
the obstacles which common sense and justice have now to overcome.
Add to this that the King, old and infirm, excites a principle of
very amiable generosity in his favour; that he has led a good,
moral, and religious life, equally removed from profligacy and
methodistical hypocrisy; that he has been a good husband, a good
father, and a good master; that he dresses plain, loves hunting and
farming, fates the French, and is in all his opinions and habits,
quite English: --these feelings are heightened by the present
situation of the world, and the yet unexploded clamour of
Jacobinism. In short, from the various sources of interest,
personal regard, and national taste, such a tempest of loyalty has
set in upon the people that the 47th proposition in Euclid might now
be voted down with as much ease as any proposition in politics; and
therefore if Lord Hawkesbury hates the abstract truths of science as
much as he hates concrete truth in human affairs, now is his time
for getting rid of the multiplication table, and passing a vote of
censure upon the pretensions of the hypotenuse. Such is the history
of English parties at this moment: you cannot seriously suppose
that the people care for such men as Lord Hawkesbury, Mr. Canning,
and Mr. Perceval on their own account; you cannot really believe
them to be so degraded as to look to their safety from a man who
proposes to subdue Europe by keeping it without Jesuit's Bark. The
people at present have one passion, and but one -

"A Jove principium, Jovis omnia plena."

They care no more for the ministers I have mentioned, than they do
for those sturdy royalists who for 60 pounds per annum stand behind
his Majesty's carriage, arrayed in scarlet and in gold. If the
present ministers opposed the Court instead of flattering it, they
would not command twenty votes.

Do not imagine by these observations that I am not loyal; without
joining in the common cant of the best of kings, I respect the King
most sincerely as a good man. His religion is better than the
religion of Mr. Perceval, his old morality very superior to the old
morality of Mr. Canning, and I am quite certain he has a safer
understanding than both of them put together. Loyalty within the
bounds of reason and moderation is one of the great instruments of
human happiness; but the love of the king may easily become more
strong than the love of the kingdom, and we may lose sight of the
public welfare in our exaggerated admiration of him who is appointed
to reign only for its promotion and support. I detest Jacobinism;
and if I am doomed to be a slave at all, I would rather be the slave
of a king than a cobbler. God save the King, you say, warms your
heart like the sound of a trumpet. I cannot make use of so violent
a metaphor; but I am delighted to hear it, when it is the cry of
genuine affection; I am delighted to hear it when they hail not only
the individual man, but the outward and living sign of all English
blessings. These are noble feelings, and the heart of every good
man must go with them; but God save the King, in these times, too
often means God save my pension and my place, God give my sisters an
allowance out of the privy purse--make me clerk of the irons, let me
survey the meltings, let me live upon the fruits of other men's
industry, and fatten upon the plunder of the public.

What is it possible to say to such a man as the Gentleman of
Hampstead, who really believes it feasible to convert the four
million Irish Catholics to the Protestant religion, and considers
this as the best remedy for the disturbed state of Ireland? It is
not possible to answer such a man with arguments; we must come out
against him with beads and a cowl, and push him into an hermitage.
It is really such trash, that it is an abuse of the privilege of
reasoning to reply to it. Such a project is well worthy the
statesman who would bring the French to reason by keeping them
without rhubarb, and exhibit to mankind the awful spectacle of a
nation deprived of neutral salts. This is not the dream of a wild
apothecary indulging in his own opium; this is not the distempered
fancy of a pounder of drugs, delirious from smallness of profits;
but it is the sober, deliberate, and systematic scheme of a man to
whom the public safety is intrusted, and whose appointment is
considered by many as a masterpiece of political sagacity. What a
sublime thought, that no purge can now be taken between the Weser
and the Garonne; that the bustling pestle is still, the canorous
mortar mute, and the bowels of mankind locked up for fourteen
degrees of latitude! When, I should be curious to know, were all
the powers of crudity and flatulence fully explained to his
Majesty's ministers? At what period was this great plan of conquest
and constipation fully developed? In whose mind was the idea of
destroying the pride and the plasters of France first engendered?
Without castor oil they might for some months, to be sure, have
carried on a lingering war! but can they do without bark? Will the
people live under a government where antimonial powders cannot be
procured? Will they bear the loss of mercury? "There's the rub."
Depend upon it, the absence of the materia medica will soon bring
them to their senses, and the cry of Bourbon and bolus burst forth
from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.

You ask me for any precedent in our history where the oath of
supremacy has been dispensed with. It was dispensed with to the
Catholics of Canada in 1774. They are only required to take a
simple oath of allegiance. The same, I believe, was the case in
Corsica. The reason of such exemption was obvious; you could not
possibly have retained either of these countries without it. And
what did it signify, whether you retained them or not? In cases
where you might have been foolish without peril you were wise; when
nonsense and bigotry threaten you with destruction, it is impossible
to bring you back to the alphabet of justice and common sense. If
men are to be fools, I would rather they were fools in little
matters than in great; dulness turned up with temerity is a livery
all the worse for the facings; and the most tremendous of all things
is the magnanimity of the dunce.

It is not by any means necessary, as you contend, to repeal the Test
Act if you give relief to the Catholic: what the Catholics ask for
is to be put on a footing with the Protestant Dissenters, which
would be done by repealing that part of the law which compels them
to take the oath of supremacy and to make the declaration against
transubstantiation: they would then come into Parliament as all
other Dissenters are allowed to do, and the penal laws to which they
were exposed for taking office would be suspended every year, as
they have been for this half century past towards Protestant
Dissenters. Perhaps, after all, this is the best method--to
continue the persecuting law, and to suspend it every year--a method
which, while it effectually destroys the persecution itself, leaves
to the great mass of mankind the exquisite gratification of
supposing that they are enjoying some advantage from which a
particular class of their fellow creatures are excluded. We manage
the Corporation and Test Acts at present much in the same manner as
if we were to persuade parish boys who had been in the habit of
beating an ass to spare the animal, and beat the skin of an ass
stuffed with straw; this would preserve the semblance of tormenting
without the reality, and keep boy and beast in good humour.

How can you imagine that a provision for the Catholic clergy affects
the 5th article of the Union? Surely I am preserving the Protestant
Church in Ireland if I put it in a better condition than that in
which it now is. A tithe proctor in Ireland collects his tithes
with a blunderbuss, and carries his tenth hay-cock by storm, sword
in hand: to give him equal value in a more pacific shape cannot, I
should imagine, be considered as injurious to the Church of Ireland;
and what right has that Church to complain if Parliament chooses to
fix upon the empire the burden of supporting a double ecclesiastical
establishment? Are the revenues of the Irish Protestant clergy in
the slightest degree injured by such provision? On the contrary, is
it possible to confer a more serious benefit upon that Church than
by quieting and contenting those who are at work for its

It is impossible to think of the affairs of Ireland without being
forcibly struck with the parallel of Hungary. Of her seven millions
of inhabitants, one half were Protestants, Calvinists, and
Lutherans, many of the Greek Church, and many Jews: such was the
state of their religious dissensions that Mahomet had often been
called in to the aid of Calvin, and the crescent often glittered on
the walls of Buda and Presburg. At last, in 1791, during the most
violent crisis of disturbance, a Diet was called, and by a great
majority of voices a decree was passed, which secured to all the
contending sects the fullest and freest exercise of religious
worship and education; ordained--let it be heard in Hampstead--that
churches and chapels should be erected for all on the most perfectly
equal terms; that the Protestants of both confessions should depend
upon their spiritual superiors alone; liberated them from swearing
by the usual oath, "the Holy Virgin Mary, the saints, and chosen of
God;" and then the decree adds, "that PUBLIC OFFICES AND HONOURS,
line of policy pursued in a Diet consisting of four hundred members,
in a state whose form of government approaches nearer to our own
than any other, having a Roman Catholic establishment of great
wealth and power, and under the influence of one of the most bigoted
Catholic Courts in Europe. This measure has now the experience of
eighteen years in its favour; it has undergone a trial of fourteen
years of revolution such as the world never witnessed, and more than
equal to a century less convulsed: What have been its effects?
When the French advanced like a torrent within a few days' march of
Vienna, the Hungarians rose in a mass; they formed what they called
the sacred insurrection, to defend their sovereign, their rights and
liberties, now common to all; and the apprehension of their approach
dictated to the reluctant Bonaparte the immediate signature of the
treaty of Leoben. The Romish hierarchy of Hungary exists in all its
former splendour and opulence; never has the slightest attempt been
made to diminish it; and those revolutionary principles, to which so
large a portion of civilised Europe has been sacrificed, have here
failed in making the smallest successful inroad.

The whole history of this proceeding of the Hungarian Diet is so
extraordinary, and such an admirable comment upon the Protestantism
of Mr. Spencer Perceval, that I must compel you to read a few short
extracts from the law itself: --"The Protestants of both confessions
shall, in religious matters, depend upon their own spiritual
superiors alone. The Protestants may likewise retain their trivial
and grammar schools. The Church dues which the Protestants have
hitherto paid to the Catholic parish priests, schoolmasters, or
other such officers, either in money, productions, or labour, shall
in future entirely cease, and after three months from the publishing
of this law, be no more anywhere demanded. In the building or
repairing of churches, parsonage-houses, and schools, the
Protestants are not obliged to assist the Catholics with labour, nor
the Catholics the Protestants. The pious foundations and donations
of the Protestants which already exist, or which in future may be
made for their churches, ministers, schools and students, hospitals,
orphan houses, and poor, cannot be taken from them under any
pretext, nor yet the care of them; but rather the unimpeded
administration shall be intrusted to those from among them to whom
it legally belongs, and those foundations which may have been taken
from them under the last government shall be returned to them
without delay. All affairs of marriage of the Protestants are left
to their own consistories; all landlords and masters of families,
under the penalty of public prosecution, are ordered not to prevent
their subjects and servants, whether they be Catholic or Protestant,
from the observance of the festivals and ceremonies of their
religion," etc. etc. etc.--By what strange chances are mankind
influenced! A little Catholic barrister of Vienna might have raised
the cry of NO PROTESTANTISM, and Hungary would have panted for the
arrival of a French army as much as Ireland does at this moment;
arms would have been searched for; Lutheran and Calvinist houses
entered in the dead of the night; and the strength of Austria
exhausted in guarding a country from which, under the present
liberal system, she may expect in the moment of danger the most
powerful aid: and let it be remembered that this memorable example
of political wisdom took place at a period when many great
monarchies were yet unconquered in Europe; in a country where the
two religious parties were equal in number; and where it is
impossible to suppose indifference in the party which relinquished
its exclusive privileges. Under all these circumstances the measure
was carried in the Hungarian Diet by a majority of 280 to 120. In a
few weeks we shall see every concession denied to the Catholics by a
much larger majority of Protestants, at a moment when every other
power is subjugated but ourselves, and in a country where the
oppressed are four times as numerous as their oppressors. So much
for the wisdom of our ancestors--so much for the nineteenth century-
-so much for the superiority of the English over all the nations of
the Continent.

Are you not sensible, let me ask you, of the absurdity of trusting
the lowest Catholics with offices correspondent to their situation
in life, and of denying such privileges to the higher. A Catholic
may serve in the militia, but a Catholic cannot come into
Parliament; in the latter case you suspect combination, and in the
former case you suspect no combination; you deliberately arm ten or
twenty thousand of the lowest of the Catholic people; and the moment
you come to a class of men whose education, honour, and talents seem
to render all mischief less probable, then you see the danger of
employing a Catholic, and cling to your investigating tests and
disabling laws. If you tell me you have enough of members of
Parliament and not enough of militia without the Catholics, I beg
leave to remind you that, by employing the physical force of any
sect at the same time when you leave them in a state of utter
disaffection, you are not adding strength to your armies, but
weakness and ruin. If you want the vigour of their common people,
you must not disgrace their nobility and insult their priesthood.

I thought that the terror of the Pope had been confined to the
limits of the nursery, and merely employed as a means to induce
young master to enter into his small-clothes with greater speed and
to eat his breakfast with greater attention to decorum. For these
purposes the name of the Pope is admirable; but why push it beyond?
Why not leave to Lord Hawkesbury all further enumeration of the
Pope's powers? For a whole century you have been exposed to the
enmity of France, and your succession was disputed in two
rebellions: what could the Pope do at the period when there was a
serious struggle whether England should be Protestant or Catholic,
and when the issue was completely doubtful? Could the Pope induce
the Irish to rise in 1715? Could he induce them to rise in 1745?
You had no Catholic enemy when half this island was in arms; and
what did the Pope attempt in the last rebellion in Ireland? But if
he had as much power over the minds of the Irish as Mr. Wilberforce
has over the mind of a young Methodist converted the preceding
quarter, is this a reason why we are to disgust men who may be acted
upon in such a manner by a foreign power? or is it not an additional
reason why we should raise up every barrier of affection and
kindness against the mischief of foreign influence? But the true
answer is, the mischief does not exist. Gog and Magog have produced
as much influence upon human affairs as the Pope has done for this
half century past; and by spoiling him of his possessions, and
degrading him in the eyes of all Europe, Bonaparte has not taken
quite the proper method of increasing his influence.

But why not a Catholic king as well as a Catholic member of
Parliament, or of the Cabinet?--Because it is probable that the one
would be mischievous and the other not. A Catholic king might
struggle against the Protestantism of the country, and if the
struggle were not successful it would at least be dangerous; but the
efforts of any other Catholic would be quite insignificant, and his
hope of success so small, that it is quite improbable the effort
would ever be made: my argument is, that in so Protestant a country
as Great Britain, the character of her parliaments and her cabinet
could not be changed by the few Catholics who would ever find their
way to the one or the other. But the power of the Crown is
immeasurably greater than the power which the Catholics could obtain
from any other species of authority in the state; and it does not
follow because the lesser degree of power is innocent that the
greater should be so too. As for the stress you lay upon the danger
of a Catholic chancellor, I have not the least hesitation in saying
that his appointment would not do a ten thousandth part of the
mischief to the English Church that might be done by a Methodistical
chancellor of the true Clapham breed; and I request to know if it is
really so very necessary that a chancellor should be of the religion
of the Church of England, how many chancellors you have had within
the last century who have been bred up in the Presbyterian religion?
And again, how many you have had who notoriously have been without
any religion at all?

Why are you to suppose that eligibility and election are the same
thing, and that all the cabinet WILL be Catholics whenever all the
cabinet MAY be Catholics? You have a right, you say, to suppose an
extreme case, and to argue upon it--so have I: and I will suppose
that the hundred Irish members will one day come down in a body and
pass a law compelling the King to reside in Dublin. I will suppose
that the Scotch members, by a similar stratagem, will lay England
under a large contribution of meal and sulphur: no measure is
without objection if you sweep the whole horizon for danger; it is
not sufficient to tell me of what may happen, but you must show me a
rational probability that it will happen: after all, I might,
contrary to my real opinion, admit all your dangers to exist; it is
enough for me to contend that all other dangers taken together are
not equal to the danger of losing Ireland from disaffection and

I am astonished to see you, and many good and well-meaning clergymen
beside you, painting the Catholics in such detestable colours; two-
thirds, at least, of Europe are Catholics--they are Christians,
though mistaken Christians; how can I possibly admit that any sect
of Christians, and, above all, that the oldest and the most numerous
sect of Christians are incapable of fulfilling the common duties and
relations of life: though I do differ from them in many
particulars, God forbid I should give such a handle to infidelity,
and subscribe to such blasphemy against our common religion?

Do you think mankind never change their opinions without formally
expressing and confessing that change? When you quote the decisions
of ancient Catholic councils, are you prepared to defend all the
decrees of English convocations and universities since the reign of
Queen Elizabeth? I could soon make you sick of your uncandid
industry against the Catholics, and bring you to allow that it is
better to forget times past, and to judge and be judged by present
opinions and present practice.

I must beg to be excused from explaining and refuting all the
mistakes about the Catholics made by my Lord Redesdale; and I must
do that nobleman the justice to say, that he has been treated with
great disrespect. Could anything be more indecent than to make it a
morning lounge in Dublin to call upon his Lordship, and to cram him
with Arabian-night stories about the Catholics? Is this proper
behaviour to the representative of Majesty, the child of Themis, and
the keeper of the conscience in West Britain? Whoever reads the
Letters of the Catholic Bishops, in the appendix to Sir John
Hippesly's very sensible book, will see to what an excess this
practice must have been carried with the pleasing and Protestant
nobleman whose name I have mentioned, and from thence I wish you to
receive your answer about excommunication, and all the trash which
is talked against the Catholics.

A sort of notion has, by some means or another, crept into the world
that difference of religion would render men unfit to perform
together the offices of common and civil life: that Brother Wood
and Brother Grose could not travel together the same circuit if they
differed in creed, nor Cockell and Mingay be engaged in the same
cause, if Cockell was a Catholic and Mingay a Muggletonian. It is
supposed that Huskisson and Sir Harry Englefield would squabble
behind the Speaker's chair about the council of Lateran, and many a
turnpike bill miscarry by the sarcastical controversies of Mr.
Hawkins Brown and Sir John Throckmorton upon the real presence. I
wish I could see some of these symptoms of earnestness upon the
subject of religion; but it really seems to me that, in the present
state of society, men no more think about inquiring concerning each
other's faith than they do concerning the colour of each other's
skins. There may have been times in England when the quarter
sessions would have been disturbed by theological polemics; but now,
after a Catholic justice had once been seen on the bench, and it had
been clearly ascertained that he spoke English, had no tail, only a
single row of teeth, and that he loved port wine--after all the
scandalous and infamous reports of his physical conformation had
been clearly proved to be false--he would be reckoned a jolly
fellow, and very superior in flavour to a sly Presbyterian.
Nothing, in fact, can be more uncandid and unphilosophical than to
say that a man has a tail, because you cannot agree within him upon
religious subjects; it appears to be ludicrous: but I am convinced
it has done infinite mischief to the Catholics, and made a very
serious impression upon the minds of many gentlemen of large landed

In talking of the impossibility of Catholic and Protestant living
together with equal privilege under the same government, do you
forget the Cantons of Switzerland? You might have seen there a
Protestant congregation going into a church which had just been
quitted by a Catholic congregation; and I will venture to say that
the Swiss Catholics were more bigoted to their religion than any
people in the whole world. Did the kings of Prussia ever refuse to
employ a Catholic? Would Frederick the Great have rejected an able
man on this account? We have seen Prince Czartorinski, a Catholic
Secretary of State in Russia; in former times a Greek patriarch and
an apostolic vicar acted together in the most perfect harmony in
Venice; and we have seen the Emperor of Germany in modern times
intrusting the care of his person and the command of his guard to a
Protestant Prince, Frederick of Wittenberg. But what are all these
things to Mr. Perceval? He has looked at human nature from the top
of Hampstead Hill, and has not a thought beyond the little sphere of
his own vision. "The snail," say the Hindoos, "sees nothing but his
own shell, and thinks it the grandest palace in the universe."

I now take a final leave of this subject of Ireland; the only
difficulty in discussing it is a want of resistance, a want of
something difficult to unravel, and something dark to illumine. To
agitate such a question is to beat the air with a club, and cut down
gnats with a scimitar; it is a prostitution of industry, and a waste
of strength. If a man say, I have a good place, and I do not choose
to lose it, this mode of arguing upon the Catholic question I can
well understand; but that any human being with an understanding two
degrees elevated above that of an Anabaptist preacher, should
conscientiously contend for the expediency and propriety of leaving
the Irish Catholics in their present state, and of subjecting us to
such tremendous peril in the present condition of the world, it is
utterly out of my power to conceive. Such a measure as the Catholic
question is entirely beyond the common game of politics; it is a
measure in which all parties ought to acquiesce, in order to
preserve the place where and the stake for which they play. If
Ireland is gone, where are jobs? where are reversions? where is my
brother Lord Arden? where are my dear and near relations? The game
is up, and the Speaker of the house of Commons will be sent as a
present to the menagerie at Paris. We talk of waiting from
particular considerations, as if centuries of joy and prosperity
were before us: in the next ten years our fate must be decided; we
shall know, long before that period, whether we can bear up against
the miseries by which we are threatened or not; and yet, in the very
midst of our crisis, we are enjoined to abstain from the most
certain means of increasing our strength, and advised to wait for
the remedy till the disease is removed by death or health. And now,
instead of the plain and manly policy of increasing unanimity at
home, by equalising rights and privileges, what is the ignorant,
arrogant, and wicked system which has been pursued? Such a career
of madness and of folly was, I believe, never run in so short a
period. The vigour of the ministry is like the vigour of a grave-
digger--the tomb becomes more ready and more wide for every effort
which they make. There is nothing which it is worth while either to
take or to retain, and a constant train of ruinous expeditions have
been kept up. Every Englishman felt proud of the integrity of his
country; the character of the country is lost for ever. It is of
the utmost consequence to a commercial people at war with the
greatest part of Europe, that there should be a free entry of
neutrals into the enemy's ports; the neutrals who earned our
manufactures we have not only excluded, but we have compelled them
to declare war against us. It was our interest to make a good
peace, or convince our own people that it could not be obtained; we
have not made a peace, and we have convinced the people of nothing
but of the arrogance of the Foreign Secretary: and all this has
taken place in the short space of a year, because a King's Bench
barrister and a writer of epigrams, turned into Ministers of State,
were determined to show country gentlemen that the late
administration had no vigour. In the meantime commerce stands
still, manufactures perish, Ireland is more and more irritated,
India is threatened, fresh taxes are accumulated upon the wretched
people, the war is carried on without it being possible to conceive
any one single object which a rational being can propose to himself
by its continuation; and in the midst of this unparalleled insanity
we are told that the Continent is to be reconquered by the want of
rhubarb and plums. A better spirit than exists in the English
people never existed in any people in the world: it has been
misdirected, and squandered upon party purposes in the most
degrading and scandalous manner; they have been led to believe that
they were benefiting the commerce of England by destroying the
commerce of America, that they were defending their Sovereign by
perpetuating the bigoted oppression of their fellow-subjects; their
rulers and their guides have told them that they would equal the
vigour of France by equalling her atrocity; and they have gone on
wasting that opulence, patience, and courage, which, if husbanded by
prudent and moderate counsels, might have proved the salvation of
mankind. The same policy of turning the good qualities of
Englishmen to their own destruction, which made Mr. Pitt omnipotent,
continues his power to those who resemble him only in his vices;
advantage is taken of the loyalty of Englishmen to make them meanly
submissive; their piety is turned into persecution, their courage
into useless and obstinate contention; they are plundered because
they are ready to pay, and soothed into asinine stupidity because
they are full of virtuous patience. If England must perish at last,
so let it be: that event is in the hands of God; we must dry up our
tears and submit. But that England should perish swindling and
stealing; that it should perish waging war against lazar houses and
hospitals; that it should perish persecuting with monastic bigotry;
that it should calmly give itself up to be ruined by the flashy
arrogance of one man, and the narrow fanaticism of another; these
events are within the power of human beings, and I did not think
that the magnanimity of Englishmen would ever stoop to such

Longum Vale!



Historical Apology for The Irish Catholics. By WILLIAM PARNELL,
Esquire. Fitzpatrick, Dublin. 1807.

If ever a nation exhibited symptoms of downright madness, or utter
stupidity, we conceive these symptoms may be easily recognised in
the conduct of this country upon the Catholic question. A man has a
wound in his great toe, and a violent and perilous fever at the same
time; and he refuses to take the medicines for the fever because it
will disconcert the toe! The mournful and folly-stricken blockhead
forgets that his toe cannot survive him; that if he dies, there can
be no digital life apart from him: yet he lingers and fondles over
this last part of his body, soothing it madly with little plasters,
and anile fomentations, while the neglected fever rages in his
entrails, and burns away his whole life. If the comparatively
little questions of Establishment are all that this country is
capable of discussing or regarding, for God's sake let us remember
that the foreign conquest, which destroys all, destroys this beloved
TOE also. Pass over freedom, industry, and science--and look upon
this great empire, by which we are about to be swallowed up, only as
it affects the manner of collecting tithes, and of reading the
liturgy--still, if all goes, these must go too; and even, for their
interests, it is worth while to conciliate Ireland, to avert the
hostility, and to employ the strength of the Catholic population.
We plead the question as the sincerest friends to the
Establishment;--as wishing to it all the prosperity and duration its
warmest advocates can desire,--but remembering always what these
advocates seem to forget, that the Establishment cannot be
threatened by any danger so great as the perdition of the kingdom in
which it is established.

We are truly glad to agree so entirely with Mr. Parnell upon this
great question; we admire his way of thinking, and most cordially
recommend his work to the attention of the public. The general
conclusion which he attempts to prove is this: that religious
sentiment, however perverted by bigotry or fanaticism, has always a
TENDENCY to moderation.; that it seldom assumes any great portion of
activity or enthusiasm, except from novelty of opinion, or from
opposition, contumely, and persecution, when novelty ceases; that a
Government has little to fear from any religious sect, except while
that sect is new. Give a Government only time, and, provided it has
the good sense to treat folly with forbearance, it must ultimately
prevail. When, therefore, a sect is found, after a lapse of years,
to be ill-disposed to the Government, we may be certain that
Government has widened its separation by marked distinctions, roused
its resentment by contumely, or supported its enthusiasm by

The PARTICULAR conclusion Mr. Parnell attempts to prove is, that the
Catholic religion in Ireland had sunk into torpor and inactivity,
till Government roused it with the lash: that even then, from the
respect and attachment which men are always inclined to show towards
government, there still remained a large body of loyal Catholics;
that these only decreased in number from the rapid increase of
persecution; and that, after all, the effects which the resentment
of the Roman Catholics had in creating rebellions had been very much

In support of these two conclusions, Mr. Parnell takes a survey of
the history of Ireland, from the conquest under Henry to the
rebellion under Charles I., passing very rapidly over the period
which preceded the Reformation, and dwelling principally upon the
various rebellions which broke out in Ireland between the
Reformation and the grand rebellion in the reign of Charles I. The
celebrated conquest of Ireland by Henry II. extended only to a very
few counties in Leinster; nine-tenths of the whole kingdom were
left, as he found them, under the dominion of their native princes.
The influence of example was as strong in this as in most other
instances; and great numbers of the English settlers who came over
under various adventures resigned their pretensions to superior
civilisation, cast off their lower garments, and lapsed into the
nudity and barbarism of the Irish. The limit which divided the
possessions of the English settler from those of the native Irish
was called THE PALE; and the expressions of inhabitants WITHIN THE
PALE, and WITHOUT THE PALE, were the terms by which the two nations
were distinguished. It is almost superfluous to state, that the
most bloody and pernicious warfare was carried on upon the borders--
sometimes for something, sometimes for nothing--most commonly for
cows. The Irish, over whom the sovereigns of England affected a
sort of nominal dominion, were entirely governed by their own laws,
and so very little connection had they with the justice of the
invading country, that it was as lawful to kill an Irishman as it
was to kill a badger or a fox. The instances are innumerable, where
the defendant has pleaded that the deceased was an Irishman, and
that therefore defendant had a right to kill him--and upon the proof
of Hibernicism, acquittal followed of course.

When the English army mustered in any great strength, the Irish
chieftains would do exterior homage to the English Crown; and they
very frequently, by this artifice, averted from their country the
miseries of invasion: but they remained completely unsubdued, till
the rebellion which took place in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, of
which that politic woman availed herself to the complete subjugation
of Ireland. In speaking of the Irish about the reign of Elizabeth
or James I., we must not draw our comparisons from England, but from
New Zealand; they were not civilised men, but savages; and if we
reason about their conduct, we must reason of them as savages.

"After reading every account of Irish history," says Mr. Parnell,
"one great perplexity appears to remain: How does it happen, that,
from the first invasion of the English till the reign of James I.,
Ireland seems not to have made the smallest progress in civilisation
or wealth?

"That it was divided into a number of small principalities, which
waged constant war on each other--or that the appointment of the
chieftains was elective--do not appear sufficient reasons, although
these are the only ones assigned by those who have been at the
trouble of considering the subject: neither are the confiscations
of property quite sufficient to account for the effect. There have
been great confiscations in other countries, and still they have
flourished; the petty states of Greece were quite analogous to the
chiefries, as they were called, in Ireland; and yet they seemed to
flourish almost in proportion to their dissensions. Poland felt the
bad effects of an elective monarchy more than any other country; and
yet, in point of civilisation, it maintained a very respectable rank
among the nations of Europe; but Ireland never, for an instant, made
any progress in improvement, till the reign of James I.

"It is scarcely credible, that in a climate like that of Ireland,
and at a period so far advanced in civilisation as the end of
Elizabeth's reign, the greater part of the natives should go naked.
Yet this is rendered certain by the testimony of an eye-witness,
Fynes Moryson. 'In the remote parts,' he says, 'where the English
laws and manners are unknown, the very chief of the Irish, as well
men as women, go naked in the winter time, only having their privy
parts covered with a rag of linen, and their bodies with a loose
mantle. This I speak of my own experience; yet remember that a
Bohemian baron coming out of Scotland to us by the north parts of
the wild Irish, told me in great earnestness, that he, coming to the
house of O'Kane, a great lord amongst them, was met at the door by
sixteen women, all naked, excepting their loose mantles, whereof
eight or ten were very fair; with which strange sight his eyes being
dazzled, they led him into the house, and then sitting down by the
fire, with crossed legs, like tailors, and so low as could not but
offend chaste eyes, desired him to sit down with them. Soon after,
O'Kane, the lord of the country, came in all naked, except a loose
mantle and shoes, which he put off as soon as he came in; and,
entertaining the Baron after his best manner in the Latin tongue,
desired him to put off his apparel, which he thought to be a burden
to him, and to sit naked.

"'To conclude, men and women at night going to sleep, he thus naked
in a round circle about the fire, with their feet towards it. They
fold their heads and their upper parts in woollen mantles, first
steeped in water to keep them warm; for they say, that woollen
cloth, wetted, preserves heat (as linen, wetted, preserves cold),
when the smoke of their bodies has warmed the woollen cloth.'

"The cause of this extreme poverty, and of its long continuance, we
must conclude, arose from the peculiar laws of property which were
in force under the Irish dynasties. These laws have been described
by most writers as similar to the Kentish custom of gavelkind; and,
indeed, so little attention was paid to the subject, that were it
not for the researches of Sir J. Davis, the knowledge of this
singular usage would have been entirely lost.

"The Brehon law of property, he tells us, was similar to the custom
(as the English lawyers term it) of hodge-podge. When any one of
the sept died, his lands did not descend to his sons, but were
divided among the whole sept: and, for this purpose, the chief of
the sept made a new division of the whole lands belonging to the
sept, and gave every one his part according to seniority. So that
no man had a property which could descend to his children; and even
during his own life his possession of any particular spot was quite
uncertain, being liable to be constantly shuffled and changed by new
partitions. The consequence of this was that there was not a house
of brick or stone among the Irish down to the reign of Henry VII.;
not even a garden or orchard, or well-fenced or improved field;
neither village or town, or in any respect the least provision for
posterity. This monstrous custom, so opposite to the natural
feelings of mankind, was probably perpetuated by the policy of the
chiefs. In the first place the power of partitioning being lodged
in their hands, made them the most absolute of tyrants, being the
dispensers of the property as well as of the liberty of their
subjects. In the second place, it had the appearance of adding to
the number of their savage armies; for where there was no
improvement or tillage, war was pursued as an occupation.

"In the early history of Ireland, we find several instances of
chieftains discountenancing tillage; and so late as Elizabeth's
reign, Moryson says, that 'Sir Neal Garve restrained his people from
ploughing, that they might assist him to do any mischief.'"--(pp.

These quotations and observations will enable us to state a few
plain facts for the recollection of our English readers: --lst,
Ireland was never subdued till the rebellion in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth. 2nd, For four hundred years before that period the two
nations had been almost constantly at war; and in consequence of
this, a deep and irreconcilable hatred existed between the people
within and without the pale. 3rd, The Irish, at the accession of
Queen Elizabeth, were unquestionably the most barbarous people in
Europe. So much for what had happened previous to the reign of
Queen Elizabeth; and let any man, who has the most superficial
knowledge of human affairs, determine whether national hatred,
proceeding from such powerful causes, could possibly have been kept
under by the defeat of one single rebellion--whether it would not
have been easy to have foreseen, at that period, that a proud,
brave, half-savage people, would cherish the memory of their wrongs
for centuries to come, and break forth into arms at every period
when they were particularly exasperated by oppression, or invited by
opportunity. If the Protestant religion had spread in Ireland as it
did in England, and if there had never been any difference of faith
between the two countries--can it be believed that the Irish, ill-
treated and infamously governed as they have been, would never have
made any efforts to shake off the yoke of England? Surely there are
causes enough to account for their impatience of that yoke, without
endeavouring to inflame the zeal of ignorant people against the
Catholic religion, and to make that mode of faith responsible for
all the butchery which the Irish and English for these last two
centuries have exercised upon each other. Everybody, of course,
must admit, that if to the causes of hatred already specified there
be added the additional cause of religious distinction, this last
will give greater force (and what is of more consequence to observe,
give a NAME) to the whole aggregate motive. But what Mr. Parnell
contends for, and clearly and decisively proves, is that many of
those sanguinary scenes attributed to the Catholic religion are to
be partly imputed to causes totally disconnected from religion; that
the unjust invasion, and the tyrannical, infamous policy of the
English, are to take their full share of blame with the sophisms and
plots of Catholic priests. In the reign of Henry VIII., Mr. Parnell
shows that feudal submission was readily paid to him by all the
Irish chiefs; that the Reformation was received without the
slightest opposition; and that the troubles which took place at that
period in Ireland are to be entirely attributed to the ambition and
injustice of Henry. In the reign of Queen Mary there was no
recrimination upon the Protestants--a striking proof that the
bigotry of the Catholic religion had not at that period risen to any
great height in Ireland. The insurrections of the various Irish
princes were as numerous during this reign as they had been in the
two preceding reigns--a circumstance rather difficult of
explanation, if, as is commonly believed, the Catholic religion was
at that period the main-spring of men's actions.

In the reign of Elizabeth, the Catholic in the pale regularly fought
against the Catholic out of the pale. O'Sullivan, a bigoted Papist,
reproaches them with doing so. Speaking of the reign of James I.,
he says, "And now the eyes even of the English Irish (the Catholics
of the pale) were opened; and they cursed their former folly for
helping the heretic." The English Government were so sensible of
the loyalty of the Irish English Catholics that they entrusted them
with the most confidential services. The Earl of Kildare was the
principal instrument in waging war against the chieftains of Leix
and Offal. William O'Bourge, another Catholic, was created Lord
Castle Connel for his eminent services; and MacGully Patrick, a
priest, was the State spy. We presume that this wise and MANLY
conduct of Queen Elizabeth was utterly unknown both to the
Pastrycook and the Secretary of State, who have published upon the
dangers of employing Catholics even against foreign enemies; and in
those publications have said a great deal about the wisdom of our
ancestors--the usual topic whenever the folly of their descendants
is to be defended. To whatever other of our ancestors they may
allude, they may spare all compliments to this illustrious Princess,
who would certainly have kept the worthy confectioner to the
composition of tarts, and most probably furnished him with the
productions of the Right Honourable Secretary as the means of
conveying those juicy delicacies to a hungry and discerning public.

In the next two reigns, Mr. Parnell shows by what injudicious
measures of the English Government the spirit of Catholic opposition
was gradually formed; for that it did produce powerful effects at a
subsequent period he does not deny; but contends only (as we have
before stated) that these effects have been much overrated, and
ascribed SOLELY to the Catholic religion when other causes have at
least had an equal agency in bringing them about. He concludes with
some general remarks on the dreadful state of Ireland, and the
contemptible folly and bigotry of the English--remarks full of
truth, of good sense, and of political courage. How melancholy to
reflect, that there would be still some chance of saving England
from the general wreck of empires, but that it may not be saved,
because one politician will lose two thousand a year by it, and
another three thousand--a third a place in reversion, and a fourth a
pension for his aunt! Alas! these are the powerful causes which
have always settled the destiny of great kingdoms, and which may
level Old England, with all its boasted freedom, and boasted wisdom,
to the dust. Nor is it the least singular, among the political
phenomena of the present day, that the sole consideration which
seems to influence the unbigoted part of the English people, in this
great question of Ireland, is a regard for the personal feelings of
the Monarch. Nothing is said or thought of the enormous risk to
which Ireland is exposed--nothing of the gross injustice with which
the Catholics are treated--nothing of the lucrative apostasy of
those from whom they experience this treatment: but the only
concern by which we all seem to be agitated is, that the King must
not be vexed in his old age. We have a great respect for the King;
and wish him all the happiness compatible with the happiness of his
people. But these are not times to pay foolish compliments to
kings, or the sons of kings, or to anybody else; this journal (the
Edinburgh Review) has always preserved its character for courage and
honesty; and it shall do so to the last. If the people of this
country are solely occupied in considering what is personally
agreeable to the King, without considering what is for his permanent
good, and for the safety of his dominions; if all public men,
quitting the common vulgar scramble for emolument, do not concur in
conciliating the people of Ireland; if the unfounded alarms, and the
comparatively trifling interests of the clergy, are to supersede the
great question of freedom or slavery, it does appear to us quite
impossible that so mean and so foolish a people can escape that
destruction which is ready to burst upon them--a destruction so
imminent that it can only be averted by arming all in our defence
who would evidently be sharers in our ruin--and by such a change of
system as may save us from the hazard of being ruined by the
ignorance and cowardice of any general, by the bigotry or the
ambition of any minister, or by the well-meaning scruples of any
human being, let his dignity be what it may. These minor and
domestic dangers we must endeavour firmly and temperately to avert
as we best can; but at all hazards we must keep out the destroyer
from among us, or perish like wise and brave men in the attempt.


1. Whitelaw's History of the City of Dublin. 4to. Cadell and

2. Observations on the State of Ireland, principally directed to
its Agriculture and Rural Population; in a Series of Letters written
on a Tour through that Country. In 2 vols. By J. C. Curwen, Esq.,
M.P. London, 1818.

3. Gamble's Views of Society in Ireland.

These are all the late publications that treat of Irish interests in
general, and none of them are of first-rate importance. Mr.
Gamble's "Travels in Ireland" are of a very ordinary description,
low scenes and low humour making up the principal part of the
narrative. There are readers, however, whom it will amuse; and the
reading market becomes more and more extensive, and embraces a
greater variety of persons every day. Mr. Whitelaw's "History of
Dublin" is a book of great accuracy and research, highly creditable
to the industry, good sense, and benevolence of its author. Of the
"Travels" of Mr. Christian Curwen we hardly know what to say. He is
bold and honest in his politics, a great enemy to abuses, vapid in
his levity and pleasantry, and infinitely too much inclined to
declaim upon commonplace topics of morality and benevolence. But,
with these drawbacks, the book is not ill-written, and may be
advantageously read by those who are desirous of information upon
the present state of Ireland.

So great and so long has been the misgovernment of that country,
that we verily believe the empire would be much stronger if
everything was open sea between England and the Atlantic, and if
SKATES AND COD-FISH swam over the fair land of Ulster. Such
jobbing, such profligacy, so much direct tyranny and oppression,
such an abuse of God's gifts, such a profanation of God's name for
the purposes of bigotry and party spirit, cannot be exceeded in the
history of civilised Europe, and will long remain a monument of
infamy and shame to England. But it will be more useful to suppress
the indignation which the very name of Ireland inspires, and to
consider impartially those causes which have marred this fair
portion of the creation, and kept it wild and savage in the midst of
improving Europe.

The great misfortune of Ireland is that the mass of the people have
been given up for a century to a handful of Protestants, by whom
they have been treated as Helots, and subjected to every species of
persecution and disgrace. The sufferings of the Catholics have been
so loudly chanted in the very streets, that it is almost needless to
remind our readers that, during the reigns of George I. and George
II., the Irish Roman Catholics were disabled from holding any civil
or military office, from voting at elections, from admission into
corporations, from practising law or physic. A younger brother, by
turning Protestant, might deprive his elder brother of his
birthright; by the same process he might force his father, under the
name of a liberal provision, to yield up to him a part of his landed
property; and, if an eldest son, he might, in the same way, reduce
his father's fee-simple to a life-estate. A Papist was disabled
from purchasing freehold lands, and even from holding long leases;
and any person might take his Catholic neighbour's house by paying 5
pounds for it. If the child of a Catholic father turned Protestant
he was taken away from his father and put into the hands of a
Protestant relation. No Papist could purchase a freehold or lease
for more than thirty years, or inherit from an intestate Protestant,
nor from an intestate Catholic, nor dwell in Limerick or Galway, nor
hold an advowson, nor buy an annuity for life. 50 pounds was given
for discovering a Popish archbishop, 30 pounds for a Popish
clergyman, and 10s. for a schoolmaster. No one was allowed to be
trustee for Catholics; no Catholic was allowed to take more than two
apprentices; no Papist to be solicitor, sheriff, or to serve on
Grand Juries. Horses of Papists might be seized for the militia,
for which militia Papists were to pay double, and to find Protestant
substitutes. Papists were prohibited from being present at
vestries, or from being high or petty constables: and, when
resident in towns, they were compelled to find Protestant watchmen.
Barristers and solicitors marrying Catholics were exposed to the
penalties of Catholics. Persons plundered by privateers during a
war with any Popish prince were reimbursed by a levy on the Catholic
inhabitants where they lived. All Popish priests celebrating
marriages contrary to 12 Geo. I., cap 3, were to be HANGED!

The greater part of these incapacities are removed, though many of a
very serious and oppressive nature still remain. But the grand
misfortune is that the spirit which these oppressive laws engendered
remains. The Protestant still looks upon the Catholic as a degraded
being. The Catholic does not yet consider himself upon an equality
with his former tyrant and taskmaster. That religious hatred which
required all the prohibiting vigilance of the law for its restraint
has found in the law its strongest support; and the spirit which the
law first exasperated and embittered continues to act long after the
original stimulus is withdrawn. The law which prevented Catholics
from serving on Grand Juries is repealed; but Catholics are not
called upon Grand Juries in the proportion in which they are
entitled by their rank and fortune. The Duke of Bedford did all he
could to give them the benefit of those laws which are already
passed in their favour. But power is seldom entrusted in this
country to one of the Duke of Bedford's liberality, and everything
has fallen back in the hands of his successors into the ancient
division of the privileged and degraded castes. We do not mean to
cast any reflection upon the present Secretary for Ireland, whom we
believe to be upon this subject a very liberal politician, and on
all subjects an honourable and excellent man. The Government under
which he serves allows him to indulge in a little harmless
liberality; but it is perfectly understood that nothing is intended
to be done for the Catholics; that no loaves and fishes will be lost
by indulgence in Protestant insolence and tyranny; and, therefore,
among the generality of Irish Protestants, insolence, tyranny, and
exclusion continue to operate. However eligible the Catholic may
be, he is not elected; whatever barriers may be thrown down, he does
not advance a step. He was first kept out by law; he is now kept
out by opinion and habit. They have been so long in chains that
nobody believes they are capable of using their hands and feet.

It is not, however, the only or the worst misfortune of the
Catholics that the relaxations of the law are hitherto of little
benefit to them; the law is not yet sufficiently relaxed. A
Catholic, as everybody knows, cannot be made sheriff; cannot be in
parliament; cannot be a director of the Irish Bank; cannot fill the
great departments of the law, the army, and the navy; is cut off
from all the high objects of human ambition, and treated as a marked
and degraded person.

The common admission now is that the Catholics are to the
Protestants in Ireland as about four to one, of which Protestants
not more than ONE HALF belong to the Church of Ireland. This, then,
is one of the most striking features in the state of Ireland. That
the great mass of the population is completely subjugated and
overawed by a handful of comparatively recent settlers, in whom all
the power and patronage of the country is vested, who have been
reluctantly compelled to desist from still greater abuses of
authority, and who look with trembling apprehension to the
increasing liberality of the parliament and the country towards
these unfortunate persons whom they have always looked upon as their
property and their prey.

Whatever evils may result from these proportions between the
oppressor and oppressed--to whatever dangers a country so situated
may be considered to be exposed, these evils and dangers are rapidly
increasing in Ireland. The proportion of Catholics to Protestants
is infinitely greater now than it was thirty years ago, and is
becoming more and more favourable to the former. By a return made
to the Irish House of Lords in 1732 the proportion of Catholics to
Protestants was not two to one. It is now (as we have already
observed) four to one; and the causes which have thus altered the
proportions in favour of the Catholics are sufficiently obvious to
any one acquainted with the state of Ireland. The Roman Catholic
priest resides; his income entirely depends upon the number of his
flock; and he must exert himself or he starves. There is some
chance of success, therefore, in HIS efforts to convert; but the
Protestant clergyman, if he were equally eager, has little or no
probability of persuading so much larger a proportion of the
population to come over to his Church. The Catholic clergyman
belongs to a religion that has always been more desirous of gaining
proselytes than the Protestant Church; and he is animated by a sense
of injury and a desire of revenge. Another reason for the
disproportionate increase of Catholics is that the Catholics will
marry upon means which the Protestant considers as insufficient for
marriage. A few potatoes and a shed of turf are all that Luther has
left for the Romanist; and, when the latter gets these, he instantly
begins upon the great Irish manufacture of children. But a
Protestant belongs to the sect that eats the fine flour and heaves
the bran to others; he must have comforts, and he does not marry
till he gets them. He would be ashamed if he were seen living as a
Catholic lives. This is the principal reason why the Protestants
who remain attached to their Church do not increase so fast as the
Catholics. But in common minds, daily scenes, the example of the
majority, the power of imitation, decide their habits, religious as
well as civil. A Protestant labourer who works among Catholics soon
learns to think and act and talk as they do; he is not proof against
the eternal panegyric which he hears of Father O'Leary. His
Protestantism is rubbed away, and he goes at last, after some little
resistance, to the chapel where he sees everybody else going.

These eight Catholics not only hate the ninth man, the Protestant of
the Establishment, for the unjust privileges he enjoys--not only
remember that the lands of their father were given to his father--
but they find themselves forced to pay for the support of his
religion. In the wretched state of poverty in which the lower
orders of Irish are plunged, it is not without considerable effort
that they can pay the few shillings necessary for the support of
their Catholic priest; and when this is effected, a tenth of the
potatoes in the garden are to be set out for the support of a
persuasion, the introduction of which into Ireland they consider as
the great cause of their political inferiority, and all their
manifold wretchedness. In England a labourer can procure constant
employment, or he can, at the worst, obtain relief from his parish.
Whether tithe operates as a tax upon him, is known only to the
political economist: if he does pay it, he does not know that he
pays it, and the burden of supporting the Clergy is at least kept
out of his view. But in Ireland, the only method in which a poor
man lives is by taking a small portion of land in which he can grow
potatoes: seven or eight months out of twelve, in many parts of
Ireland, there is no constant employment of the poor; and the potato
farm is all that shelters them from absolute famine. If the Pope
were to come in person, seize upon every tenth potato, the poor
peasant would scarcely endure it. With what patience, then, can he
see it tossed into the cart of the heretic rector, who has a church
without a congregation, and a revenue without duties? We do not say
whether these things are right or wrong, whether they want a remedy
at all, or what remedy they want; but we paint them in those colours
in which they appear to the eye of poverty and ignorance, without
saying whether those colours are false or true. Nor is the case at
all comparable to that of Dissenters paying tithe in England; which
case is precisely the reverse of what happens in Ireland, for it is
the contribution of a very small minority to the religion of a very
large majority; and the numbers on either side make all the
difference in the argument. To exasperate the poor Catholic still
more, the rich graziers of the parish, or the squire in his parish,
pay no tithe at all for their grass land. Agistment tithe is
abolished in Ireland, and the burthen of supporting two Churches
seems to devolve upon the poorer Catholics, struggling with plough
and spade in small scraps of dearly-rented land. Tithes seem to be
collected in a more harsh manner than they are collected in England.
The minute sub-divisions of land in Ireland--the little connection
which the Protestant clergyman commonly has with the Catholic
population of his parish--have made the introduction of tithe
proctors very general, sometimes as the agent of the clergyman,
sometimes as the lessee or middleman between the clergyman and the
cultivator of the land, but, in either case, practised, dexterous
estimators of tithe. The English clergymen in general are far from
exacting the whole of what is due to them, but sacrifice a little to
the love of popularity or to the dread of odium. A system of tithe-
proctors established all over England (as it is in Ireland), would
produce general disgust and alienation from the Established Church.

"During the administration of Lord Halifax," says Mr. Hardy, in
quoting the opinion of Lord Charlemont upon tithes paid by
Catholics, "Ireland was dangerously disturbed in its southern and
northern regions. In the south principally, in the counties of
Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork, and Tipperary, the White Boys now made
their first appearance; those White Boys who have ever since
occasionally disturbed the public tranquillity, without any rational
method having been as yet pursued to eradicate this disgraceful
evil. When we consider that the very same district has been for the
long space of seven-and-twenty years liable to frequent returns of
the same disorder into which it has continually relapsed, in spite
of all the violent remedies from time to time administered by our
political quacks, we cannot doubt but that some real, peculiar, and
topical cause must exist, and yet neither the removal, nor even the
investigation of this cause, has ever once been seriously attempted.
Laws of the most sanguinary and unconstitutional nature have been
enacted; the country has been disgraced and exasperated by frequent
and bloody executions; and the gibbet, that perpetual resource of
weak and cruel legislators, has groaned under the multitude of
starving criminals; yet, while the cause is suffered to exist, the
effects will ever follow. The amputation of limbs will never
eradicate a prurient humour, which must be sought in its source and
there remedied."

"I wish," continues Mr. Wakefield, "for the sake of humanity and for
the honour of the Irish character, that the gentlemen of that
country would take this matter into their serious consideration.
Let them only for a moment place themselves in the situation of the
half-famished cotter, surrounded by a wretched family clamorous for
food, and judge what his feelings must be when he sees the tenth
part of the produce of his potato garden exposed at harvest time to
public CANT, or if he have given a promissory note for the payment
of a certain sum of money to compensate for such tithe when it
becomes due, to hear the heart-rending cries of his offspring
clinging round him, and lamenting for the milk of which they are
deprived by the cows being driven to the pound to be sold to
discharge the debt. Such accounts are not the creations of fancy;
the facts do exist, and are but too common in Ireland. Were one of
them transferred to canvas by the hand of genius, and exhibited to
English humanity, that heart must be callous indeed that could
refuse its sympathy. I have seen the cow, the favourite cow, driven
away, accompanied by the sighs, the tears, and the imprecations of a
whole family, who were paddling after, through wet and dirt, to take
their last affectionate farewell of this their only friend and
benefactor at the pound gate. I have heard with emotions which I
can scarcely describe, deep curses repeated from village to village
as the cavalcade proceeded. I have witnessed the group pass the
domain walls of the opulent grazier, whose numerous herds were
cropping the most luxuriant pastures, while he was secure from any
demand for the tithe of their food, looking on with the most
unfeeling indifference."--Ibid., p. 486.

In Munster, where tithe of potatoes is exacted, risings against the
system have constantly occurred during the last forty years. In
Ulster, where no such tithe is required, these insurrections are
unknown. The double Church which Ireland supports, and that painful
visible contribution towards it which the poor Irishman is compelled
to make from his miserable pittance, is one great cause of those
never-ending insurrections, burnings, murders, and robberies, which
have laid waste that ill-fated country for so many years. The
unfortunate consequence of the civil disabilities, and the Church
payments under which the Catholics labour, is a rooted antipathy to
this country. They hate the English Government from historical
recollection, actual suffering, and disappointed hope, and till they
are better treated they will continue to hate it. At this moment,
in a period of the most profound peace, there are twenty-five
thousand of the best disciplined and best appointed troops in the
world in Ireland, with bayonets fixed, presented arms, and in the
attitude of present war: nor is there a man too much--nor would
Ireland be tenable without them. When it was necessary last year
(or thought necessary) to put down the children of reform, we were
forced to make a new levy of troops in this country; not a man could
be spared from Ireland. The moment they had embarked, Peep-of-Day
Boys, Heart-of-Oak Boys, Twelve-o'-clock Boys, Heart-of-Flint Boys,
and all the bloody boyhood of the Bog of Allen, would have proceeded
to the ancient work of riot, rapine, and disaffection. Ireland, in
short, till her wrongs are redressed and a more liberal policy is
adopted towards her, will always be a cause of anxiety and suspicion
to this country, and in some moment of our weakness and depression,
will forcibly extort what she would now receive with gratitude and

Ireland is situated close to another island of greater size,
speaking the same language, very superior in civilisation, and the
seat of government. The consequence of this is the emigration of
the richest and most powerful part of the community--a vast drain of
wealth--and the absence of all that wholesome influence which the
representatives of ancient families, residing upon their estates,
produce upon their tenantry and dependents. Can any man imagine
that the scenes which have been acted in Ireland, within these last
twenty years, would have taken place, if such vast proprietors as
the Duke of Devonshire, the Marquis of Hertford, the Marquis of
Lansdowne, Earl Fitzwilliam, and many other men of equal wealth, had
been in the constant habit of residing upon their Irish as they are
upon their English estates? Is it of no consequence to the order
and the civilisation of a large district, whether the great mansion
is inhabited by an insignificant, perhaps a mischievous attorney, in
the shape of agent, or whether the first and greatest men of the
United Kingdoms, after the business of Parliament is over, come with
their friends and families, to exercise hospitality, to spend large
revenues, to diffuse information, and to improve manners? This evil
is a very serious one to Ireland; and, as far as we see, incurable.
For if the present large estates were, by the dilapidation of
families, to be broken to pieces and sold, others equally great
would, in the free circulation of property, speedily accumulate; and
the moment any possessor arrived at a certain pitch of fortune, he
would probably choose to reside in the better country--near the
Parliament, or the Court.

This absence of great proprietors in Ireland necessarily brings with
it, or if not necessarily, has actually brought with it, the
employment of the middlemen, which forms one other standing and
regular Irish grievance. We are well aware of all that can be said
in defence of middlemen; that they stand between the little farmer
and the great proprietor as the shopkeeper does between the
manufacturer and consumer; and, in fact, by their intervention, save
time, and therefore expense. This may be true enough in the
abstract; but the particular nature of land must be attended to.
The object of the man who makes cloth is to sell his cloth at the
present market, for as high a price as he can obtain. If that price
is too high, it soon falls; but no injury is done to his machinery
by the superior price he has enjoyed for a season--he is just as
able to produce cloth with it, as if the profits he enjoyed had
always been equally moderate; he has no fear, therefore, of the
middleman, or of any species of moral machinery which may help to
obtain for him the greatest present prices. The same would be the
feeling of any one who let out a steam-engine, or any other machine,
for the purposes of manufacture; he would naturally take the highest
price he could get; for he might either let his machine for a price
proportionate to the work it did, or the repairs, estimable with the
greatest precision, might be thrown upon the tenant; in short, he
could hardly ask any rent too high for his machine which a
responsible person would give; dilapidation would be so visible, and
so calculable in such instances, that any secondary lease, or
subletting, would be rather an increase of security than a source of
alarm. Any evil from such a practice would be improbable
measurable, and remediable. In land, on the contrary, the object is
not to get the highest prices absolutely, but to get the highest
prices which will not injure the machine. One tenant may offer and
pay double the rent of another, and in a few years leave the land in
a state which will effectually bar all future offers of tenancy. It
is of no use to fill a lease full of clauses and covenants; a tenant
who pays more than he ought to pay, or who pays even to the last
farthing which he ought to pay, will rob the land, and injure the
machine, in spite of all the attorneys in England. He will rob it
even if he means to remain upon it--driven on by present distress,
and anxious to put off the day of defalcation and arrear. The
damage is often difficult of detection--not easily calculated, not
easily to be proved; such for which juries (themselves perhaps
farmers) will not willingly give sufficient compensation. And if
this be true in England, it is much more strikingly true in Ireland,
where it is extremely difficult to obtain verdicts for breaches of
covenant in leases.

The only method, then, of guarding the machine from real injury, is
by giving to the actual occupier such advantage in his contract,
that he is unwilling to give it up--that he has a real interest in
retaining it, and is not driven by the distresses of the present
moment to destroy the future productiveness of the soil. Any rent
which the landlord accepts more than this, or any system by which
more rent than this is obtained, is to borrow money upon the most
usurious and profligate interest--to increase the revenue of the
present day by the absolute ruin of the property. Such is the
effect produced by a middleman; he gives high prices that he may
obtain higher from the occupier; more is paid by the actual occupier
than is consistent with the safety and preservation of the machine;
the land is run out, and, in the end, that maximum of rent we have
described is not obtained; and not only is the property injured by
such a system, but in Ireland the most shocking consequences ensue
from it. There is little manufacture in Ireland; the price of

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