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land, and a host of Christian statesmen, arrayed on the side of peace, I am induced to suspect my over-confident persuasions.
I then went on to ask myself, whether it was not possible that some popular error might have been unconsciously cherished in my mind on this wide question; and have led me to mingle my deeplyseated hostility to Popery, with matters not necessarily connected with it. history certainly teaches me, that every great topic, which has been long agitated in a free country, becomes mixed up with a variety of points with which it has no essential connexion. Past history teaches me, that, of all topics, religion has been most apt to be the occasion of heats and controversies, from its infinite importance, and its direct concern with the conscience. Past history teaches me, that when any portion of a great people is in possession of immunities, they have been ever prone to fears, jealousies, and alarm, when the admission of others to a participation of them has been proposed. Past history teaches me, as Lord Clarendon strongly states, that the clergy, as a body, have, like all other bodies of men, been frequently found the worst judges of matters of legislation affecting their own order. These things spring out of our common nature. The blame rests, not on the present generation, but on man as man*. These considerations insensibly prepared my mind for examining the religious bearings of the question with greater care. I was willing to consider, whether there were not separate parts of the subject to be disposed of on their respective principles.
To this end, I inquired of those senators on whose piety and talents I had the strongest reason to repose, if they could point out to me any plain, intelligible prineiple of mis-government in the affairs of Ireland, which was distinct from the religious character of Popery; and which, if removed, would leave the full force of pure Christianity to operate upon the minds and hearts of the people. They mentioned instantly, the anomalous state of the laws; laws which thwart and impede each other's operation; which place the Irish RomanCatholics in A FALSE POSITION, where their property and wealth, their influence and numbers, work against the peace of the community, instead of for it-laws which irritate without subduing-which gather for the Catholics all the elements of political power, and yet deny them the means of using it safely; which drive in
vinced that Catholic-relief was most agreeable to the highest and purest spirit of Christianity.
The history of the league in Franceof the civil war in our own country-of the agitation fifty years since, when the nore odious of the Roman-Catholic penal laws were repealed, attest this.
upon the vitals of the state the fever which might be assuaged by proper treat
I allowed that this was certainly a point distinct from religion: I doubted, however, whether it could be separated from the Catholic superstition. Consider, then, the present state of the laws, replied my friends. They belong to a system which has outlived the occasion which created them. Most of the severer penal statutes have been repealed, and those which remain are neither one thing nor another; neither coercive enough to restrain the rising energies of the people, nor generous enough to give them the peace and tranquillity of citizens. They just serve to brand with a mark of indignity, without affording safety to the Protestant, or any effective check to the Roman-Catholic religion. They are the relics of a worn-out oppression. They send the Catholics abroad, as Mr. Wilberforce once finely said, with their prison-dress upon them, after their fetters have been knocked off and they have been considered to be at large.
The laws now allow the Roman Catholics to follow commerce, acquire wealth, possess and devise estates, pursue the honours of the bar and the camp, exercise the rites of their religion, advance in knowledge and science, spread over the country in their talents, reputation, numbers--above all, to enjoy the elective franchise; that is, they open all the abundant sources of influence and powerand then they deprive them of a share in the privileges of the Constitution, deny them any efficient channel for expressing their grievances, leave them without their natural leaders, and throw them into the arms of demagogues and priests. The political power of the Catholics is not now the question; this already exists, and is daily increasing; but it works in discontent, in turbulence, in outrage. The engine has no safety-valve. Repeal these anomalous statutes; sever the Catholic gentry from that unnatural dependence on their priests, which the spirit of exclusion generates; give them the common interest of citizens; mix them with the Protestant gentry and legislators; and their violence will be moderated, subdued, controlled. The flood, which now dashes over the rocks, and precipitates itself down the fearful torrent, will flow more gently and safely when mingled with the other currents of the soil, and allowed to roll in the capacious bed of the parent stream.
Here then, said my friends, a false principle is at work. This is a political error, an error in government, which has nothing to do with the character of the particular religion on which it operates. Set this matter to rights, and you strengthen the Protestant faith, and open a way for the conversion of the Catholics. Till this is done, all other means of benefiting Ireland fail, because they only accumulate the
materials and causes of the evil. Every increase of the wealth, comfort, and influence of the Irish, as things now are, increases the danger of the state. Each year's delay is aggravating the disease. And what, they added, was the origin of these penal laws? Temporary and incidental not to seize a religion, but to detect treason. The occasion has ceased; the exiled family is no more: let the exclusive laws expire with the cause which gave them birth. Irritating and harsh statutes, if continued beyond the occasion, can never promote the religion of peace and love.
The more I considered the subject, the more it seemed to me that these facts, if they could be made out, would deserve attention. It has been always so, said I to myself, in all ages and all countries a distrustful and contemptuous policy makes men rebels by treating them as such a generous policy attracts and creates confidence, and obtains a loyal affection by deserving it. If this unequal state of the laws is festering in the bosom of the people, can I wonder that Ireland is in its present state? If we can extract this irritating thorn, we are most effectually sapping the vigour of the false religion which it excites and inflames. There can be nothing that opposes the Divine law in this, as I used to think there must be; nothing which dishonours God; nothing which undervalues the warnings of Prophecy; nothing which betrays indifference to the Protestant faith. It is merely altering civil regulations as circumstances require. To separate the religious from the political parts of a mixed question, is the office of true wisdom. At least, let me pause before I continue my opposition to all conciliatory measures. It is possible I may be wrong. The whole subject may be susceptible of a new light. My principles, indeed, must be unaltered, my dread of the apostate church be the same, my reverence for the word of God the same; but perhaps I may discover that I have been mixing up these things, which I do understand, with other things, which I do not understand.
Many of these considerations had been thrown into my mind, and had been working there, when I went abroad for my health about six years since. I was slow to give up my old opinions. Though the foundation of them was shaken, it was long before I fully detected the error, or rather false association of thought, which pervaded them. I went abroad, however. I saw the Catholics and Protestants of France, Switzerland, and Germany enjoy the same laws, sit in the same legislative assemblies, partake of the same spirit of freedom, and sometimes (I do not defend the practice) worship in the same temples. I was in formed, that in Saxony, Prussia, the Netherlands, and Hanover one equal state of political privileges tended to peace and national strength. I found that where
the greatest freedom of intercourse prevailed, the grosser corruptions of Popery were less obtruded on the people in the discourses of the clergy. Wherever I went, the conduct of England to her RomanCatholic subjects excited surprise and indignation. I remember the late amiable and accomplished Baron de Stael wrote me word, just before his death, that the Jesuits, in proportion as they knew the circumstances of Ireland, were unfriendly to the measure of Emancipation, as likely to weaken the hold of their religion upon the people. During the same journey, the frightful absurdities and superstitions of Popery, as well as its spirit of bigotry and intolerance, seemed to lead me to hope that there was little danger of its spreading again amongst a free, highminded, and religious people, like the English. I came home with my doubts about my former opinions augmented. My dread of Popery, indeed, my abhorrence of its corruptions, and my veneration for the Protestant Episcopal Church of my own country, were more wakeful than ever; but I was better prepared to separate these feelings from the question of the system of laws which affected the Irish.
In this state of mind I continued after my return, taking no share in the discussions which arose, but expressing my doubts as occasion served. I found the statements of my parliamentary friends confirmed year after year-things in Ireland growing worse a power rising up beside the law, and contrary to it-the priests more and more infatuating the minds of the people. Still I found the English clergy so decidedly hostile to any settlement of the case in a way of concession, that I was fearful of committing myself to a strong opinion on a question which might much depend on the particular plan of accommodation proposed. I began, however, to think some arrangement must be made, which might tend to undermine the strongest holds of a secular and debased superstition. Against such an arrangement I could no longer, in principle, see any insuperable obstacle. I
thought it probable that it would be forced upon the government before long, considering the hopes which had been held out to the Irish Roman-Catholics at the Union, the majorities which had been gained in the House of Commons, and the actual state of Ireland.
You may imagine, then, sir, with what feelings I received the announcement in the Speech from the Throne, of the proposed adjustment of this long-agitated controversy. When the ministers of the Crown publicly declared, that the state of Ireland made it impossible for them to go on in the present system; that a divided government, a divided cabinet, a divided parliament, could no longer consist with the safety of the Protestant institutions
and the national welfare; I was, at length, strongly persuaded of the duty of a Christian minister to leave the question in the hands of the three estates of the realm, and to assist in calming, rather than inflaming, the public mind. What I might have thought, if the adjustment had come from the hands of a leading member of Opposition, or even from the policy of the late Mr. Canning, I cannot say certainly my confidence would have been less than that I now feel. Especially the manly avowal made by the Right Honourable the Home Secretary, Mr. Peel- considering the talents and acknowledged uprightness of this distinguished statesman, his attachment to our Protestant institutions, his intimate knowledge of Ireland, his natural and strong bias to the opposite measures from his connexion with Oxford, and from the lead he had taken in the House of Commons-considering, above all, the sacrifices of every kind, except conscience, duty, and the future approbation of a grateful country, which his noble conduct involved, all this had a powerful effect on my mind, and led me to think that the moment was indeed come for the amicable settlement of the question.
These anticipations have, I must say, been amply confirmed by the details of the measure as now laid before Parliament. Looking at them in a religious point of view, I really hope they will tend to secure the interests of a pure Christianity, and weaken all the strongest bulwarks of a corrupt and degenerate one. The civil details of the measure I leave to statesmen, except so far as they are immediately connected with the religious question. I am aware that a minister of the Gospel may not fully understand a political proceeding like this: he may, indeed, come to a practical conclusion, and must come to it, upon the best evidence he can obtain; but his limited opportunities for obtaining the necessary knowledge cannot, I own, but qualify the value of his opinion. In a religious view, then, what are the chief objections which now press on the minds of conscientious persons?
"Does the proposed adjustment involve any approbation of Popery as Popery, any union with idolatry, any indifference to the Protestant faith? Is there any sin necessarily involved in thus legislating for the Roman-Catholic subjects of our realm?" This is the first objection. So far as my judgment goes, I would answer, No: I think there is no sin involved in the settlement of it. The Irish RomanCatholics are fellow-creatures, fellowcountrymen, fellow-Christians. They belong to a true, though a most corrupt, church. They were a part of your people, would I say to my countrymen, long before the Reformation. To alter the details of legislation concerning them is nothing new. You have been doing it ever since that glorious era. They form
an integral portion of your population : they live amongst you: they are a third or fourth part of the British Empire: they obey your laws, they pay taxes, they form your armies, they fight your battles: they are already united with you in government, rights, and protection: you derive from them a share of all the benefits which subjects confer upon a state. Legislate for them you must, either in the way of conciliation or coercion. Remain as you are, you cannot. If you re-model your laws, you do it in order to strengthen the Protestant Church; to meet altered circumstances; to render justice, and requite years of neglect or injury, to Ireland; to complete and make consistent your previous benefits; to carry into effect the spirit of your constitution.
You do this, moreover, with an avowed and open profession of unalterable attachment to the Protestant religion; you do it with such provisions against the worst practices of Popery as proclaims your dread of its corruptions; you exclude the Jesuits; you put down the Popish Associations; you take the peasantry out of the hands of priests and demagogues; you exact from the Catholic senator an express oath that he will maintain the Protestant succession to the Crown, and the Protestant church; that is, you exact more securities than any reasonable Protestant ever imagined pos sible. You avoid, further, in the conduct of the arrangements, every thing that can give any colour to the charge of an union with Popery; you declare you will have nothing to do with it; you will not be implicated in the nomination of their bishops; you will not support their clergy; you will have no intercourse with their corrupt hierarchy, no dealings, no concordat, no understanding, no compromise with Rome. You thus stand forth as a Protestant people, avowing your attachment to the Protestant religion, and performing an act of national equity, which you are persuaded will also go to undermine the artificial supports of the apostate church. If this be to unite with idolatry, or to countenance Popery, I know not what would be protesting against it. Nor have you done this till necessity positively forced it upon you. So fearful have you justly been of the Roman-Catholic religion, that nothing would lead your government to interfere, but a necessity so imperious as to admit of no delay. It is no sin, therefore, but an obvious duty, a plain act of national piety, a reparation made for long-continued misrule. It is to set to rights an anomalous state of the laws, and take from the Papists the factitious strength arising from indignation at a sense of wrong.
If the annual grant to the college of Maynooth were to be discontinued, it
View of Public Affairs.
But it is next objected, that "we are giving to the Roman Catholics political power"- -as if they had not a fearful political power already, which it is the tendency of the proposed measures to mitigate and subdue. We are not creating a political power. We find this power existing; we find it matured and consolidated under the exclusion laws; nourished up to a portentous power surrounding us on all sides; Catholic Ireland one vast Association. We opened the spring of this power when we abolished so many penal laws fifty years since; we fed the widening tide when we conferred the elective franchise: since that time the waters have been accumulating; they threaten to burst the dam and overflow in a dangerous and wide-spread inundation. To lessen their momentum, to give them a new and safer direction, and to present a constitutional channel for their gentler flow, is the dictate of wisdom as well as necessity. We take away, rather than give, political power, by conferring, under such circumstances, a small share of the legislative functions. We remove irritating and impotent enactments from a people who have been long possessed of an irregular and uncontroulable force; we throw the leaders of this people into the mass of our statesmen; we subject their proceedings to the full glare of a nation's jealousy; we sink and merge their influence in the general interests of the state; we plunge them into insignificance by removing all just grounds of complaint; we disperse the collected clouds of ferment and disorder by raising the conductor to carry off innoxious the electrical elements which, if allowed to concentrate, might burst in thunder and desolation over our heads.
Nor is it a just objection to allege that this is "acting upon the dictates of a base expediency." Mere human expediency in points of morals and religion, where we have Revelation for our guide, the Christian disavows; he has no such word in his vocabulary: his idea of expediency is simply to obey the will of God, wherever it can be ascertained. But expediency, considered as the choice of the best methods of acting under various emergencies, consistently with fundamental principles, is the very soul of legislation. Expediency in this sense dictated the imposition of these laws; and if it dictates now their repeal, it is equally sound, and more easily justified.
I do not presume to claim from your readers an assent to all these remarks. I have given indeed the answers to those objections which strike my own mind; but I ask of others only to follow me so far as that, when the Government of their
would render our policy consistent, and dissever the nation yet more widely from the charge of supporting Popery.
they would re-consider the whole case country has proposed a great measure, calmly, and see whether the political and civil parts of it may not be separated from then I only ask them to allow to others the religious. If they think they cannot, the right they claim for themselves: to allow that we are animated by a sincere and deeply-seated attachment to the Protestant faith, and an undiminished in measures which we abhorrence of superstition and idolatry, will go to sap the foundation of a corrupt, are persuaded Christianity. and establish all the defences of a pure,
disposed to go further, and to think that But I would hope that many will be nation to separate things that have become united by a false association. Let us it is the part of a generous and religious penal enactments, and the honouring, then distinguish between the removal of extending, enriching the Church of Rome. given to error a moral force not its own, Let us distinguish between unfettering men from restrictive laws, which have and an approbation of that error. improvement in Ireland, when free scope us rather picture to ourselves the probable advance of moral, religious, and social is given to the operation of true religion. At present, all is disorder and bitterness. The Catholic feels insulted when he is invited to desert the cause of what he feuds, divisions, reign in every neighbourhood, and almost every family; and the considers a persecuted faith. Discord, voice of peace and truth is drowned and lost your own cause. Repeal the disabling Approach your erring brethren in the attitude of kindness. Distrust not tural knowledge diffused; prejudices and statutes, and you will see peace and amity gradually restored; education and scripawakened; adherence to the errors of an passion insensibly abated; inquiry into ancient faith loosened; the superadditions the foundations of the Protestant religion ed; the Bible calmly read and studied; of human invention dropping off; the tyranny and subtilty of priestcraft detectforgotten and abjured; the religion of Popery in its essential mischiefs tacitly Quesnel, and of Fénelon, revived,--if not that of Jewel and Latimer, Hooker and Thomas à Kempis, of Pascal, of Nicole, of Hall, Leighton and Beveridge. Then add the temporal benefits which may followcommerce widened; the administration ling with Irish, and pouring their joint of law purified; property secured; absenteeism lessened; English capitalists mingthe country; a resident gentry and nobility stores of wealth and talent into the lap of and charity; the animosity between man bearing the noble functions of protection good-will; and a benignant government dispensing a thousand benefits to a united and man exchanged for confidence and people.
With this prospect contrast the certain progress of things, if the laws continue as they are. But they cannot continue as they are.-After the expectation now excited, the decisions in the house of parliament so often in their favour, the agitation of the last thirty years raised to the most fearful height, the portentous power of the Catholic Association fresh in our memory, things cannot continue as they are. Every considerate man must, I think, acknowledge that the hopes of the Catholics cannot now, with any shew of justice, be dashed from their lips. The mind is appalled at the frightful consequences which utter despair may produce on six millions of people. Even those who have taken a very different view from myself of the general question, may well pause, and are pausing, now that the existence of the present ministry and government is pledged to this measure; now that the preparatory law for suppressing the Catholic Association has received the Royal assent, and, being allowed to pass by mutual compromise, has made the subsequent parts of the arrangement a matter of common honesty --now that immense majorities in full houses have carried the relief bill through its first and second reading. At this moment, surely, few will be found to offer an obstinate and irritating-I was near ly saying, a factious opposition. But I retract that expression. I so well remember my own warmth in former years, that I would rather confine myself now to entreating those conscientious persons, who still conceive themselves called by the voice of duty to resist the pending measures, to act with the mildness and reserve which the present crisis should impose on every loyal subject. If the public voice of the intelligent classes in this country had been intended to be calmly raised against a settlement, under any circumstances, of this question, it would surely have been expressed at the election of the last parliament. It was not so expressed; and it is too late, now that the flood-gates of hope are opened, and the measure is in full progress, to turn round, and, by addresses to the passions and consciences of the less discerning mass of our population, to alarm the public mind, and endanger the peace of the state. FEAR IS THE WORST Of all counsellORS. Religious persons will not any longer thus act. I am far from regretting much of the declaration of the popular feeling hitherto on the present great occasion. It has been the national voice raised, so far as the intention went, in honour of God and his truth. It has strengthened that protest against Popery which the bills themselves contain. It has marked the attachment of a Christian people to the pure doctrines of the Gospel. It has sprung, in most instances, from real simplicity and zeal. I think that that zeal has been sometimes misdirected, but I honour it still. I re
cognise in it the national character. A re-action is now taking place in the popular mind. It is characteristic of the strong and sound common-sense of Englishmen, that, though over-excited for a time, they soon return to a calm conclusion. They follow the deliberate voice of the legislature. They separate questions which have become confounded in their minds by exaggerated representations. This is the case now, and the minds of men are beginning to cool. They know that their king, and his present ministers of state, and the two houses of parliament, cannot wilfully have betrayed the Protestant cause. For my own part, I cannot withhold my deliberate sentiments in such a moment of excitement and agitation. Fellow-Christians, THERE IS NO GROUND OF ALARM; the pending measures are so far from constituting a sin against God, that they are a paramount dictate both of piety and wisdom: they will eminently contribute to the honour of the Protestant faith, to the stability of our Protestant institutions, to the safety of our Protestant Episcopal Church, to the pacification of our irritated fellow-countrymen, and the prevalence of pure Christianity throughout our empire.
I cannot but hope, indeed, that many important blessings may directly spring from the agitation of the question itself. One of these, and that no inconsiderable one, is, that the excitement about Protestantism and Popery may lead us to consider practically the importance of religion for ourselves-that we may turn our zeal from the national to the individual duty; and inquire what is our own state of heart before God, our own knowledge of the foundations of the Protestant religion, our own measure of habitual penitence, faith, and love-our own obedience to the Gospel. This would be an incomparable benefit: national excitement exchanged for personal faith and love-the scrutiny about others transferred to ourselves the doubtful agitation of a mixed political and religious question, softened down into the certain inquiry after our own salvation.
If it spread,
Nor will the benefit of increased activity and purity of life and doctrine in our clergy, be of less moment. I have little patience with the argument against the present plans, on the ground of the probable spread of Popery. whose will be the fault? If so gross and tyrannical and barefaced a corruption spread, where must be the ministers of religion, where the pastors of the flock, where the bishops, where the patrons of ecclesiastical preferment? If it spread, it will not be the alteration of laws which will produce that evil, but the indifference of the Protestant bodies, the tameness and worldliness of the ministers of religion. But I have no fears. The revival of pure Christianity in our church, perhaps, only