« ПредишнаНапред »
that country, and the opinions entertained by them, he could say that the petition contained the public sentiments of the great body of the Romancatholics of Ireland. A similar petition had been presented in that house the year before last. On that occasion the prayers of the petitioners had come forward to that house with all the eloquence, with all the experience, with all the authority of the late Mr. Grattan. In now undertaking the duty devolved on him, he felt his heart melted with public sorrow and private regret with which he had followed to the grave that great man, by whose confidence he had been honoured, by whose wisdom he had been encircled, by whose example he had been guided. After the warm and unrivalled eloquence with which he had been lamented in that house, and after the distinguished honors with which the justice and liberality of Englishmen had accompanied his remains to the tomb—for at his death, as during life, he had been the bond of union between the two countries—after these tributes to his virtues, tributes as distinguished as they were merited, he would not disturb the solemnity of his obsequies by his feeble praise and unavailing sorrow. Yet he could not avoid to mention his name now when presenting this petition. The subject was one on which he (Mr. Grattan) had deeply and earnestly meditated; it had taken early and entire possession of his mind, and held that possession to the last hour of his life; he would have willingly laid down his life in advocating the rights and liberties which he believed to be due
to the Roman catholic subjects
of the king, and beneficial to the whole empire. It had been his deliberate conviction that there could be no sympathy of feeling, and no establishment of concord between the two countries, till this question should be set at rest. He had always been alive to the desire of fame, and showed in the various actions of his life that love of the approbation and esteem of the wise which clung to every aspiration of a good man, while on earth. But never man had treated with more absolute disdain the hollow and faithless popularity which is obtained by subserviency, and preserved by dereliction of principle. He had never, therefore, urged the great measure which he had so cordiall espoused but on terms by j. it could be reconciled to the Protestant interest of the country. He (Mr. Plunkett,) in following. his steps, was actuated by the same spirit. In that spirit he now moved for leave to bring up this petition. Mr. Dennis Brown seconded the motion. The petition was brought up, and ordered to be printed. Mr. Plunkett afterwards presented a similar petition from four parishes in Dublin, and another petition of the same kind from the city and county of Waterford. Mr. Plunkett, having resumed his place, said it now remained for him to perform his duty as a member ...” that house by bringing forward a motion relative to the petitions which he had presented. He desired to be considered as calling for an act of the legislature in behalf both of catholics and protestants, as beseeching
beseeching the earnest attention of parliament to the situation which, on the one side, justified accusations of hardship and oppression; and, on the other, excited a consciousness of injustice; and which, if it should continue, would prove in its consequences equally fatal and disastrous to the party who inflicted, and to the party who suffered the injury. His object was public good. He desired to obtain that object by doing an act of public justice. If the prayer presented was founded in justice, he was sure of its being ultimately conceded, because he was sure that the result of justice conceded would be public good. He was sure that the immediate result of the concession would be general satisfaction; he was sure that it would be received with gratitude. But that was a secondary consideration, although he by no means undervalued it. If any supposed that the object was to allay temporary discontent, or to get rid of accidental ill-will, he not only mistook the importance of the subject, but he misunderstood its object. He would beg leave to say that the catholics of Ireland had nobly entitled themselves to the disuse of this argument, founded on their supposed disaffection, when this question came before parliament. Determined as they were to persevere in their efforts to obtain redress of grievances and restoration of rights, they were equally determined never to seek them but as the result of wisdom and justice in the legislature, in which they knew that they could not be ultimately disappointed. That there did exist among them an eager desire for immediate redress,
and instant restoration to the freedom to which their fellow-subjects possessed, he should be ashamed to deny. That there was felt by them that sickness of the heart which arose from hope deferred, and which called urgently for a remedy to be administered, he did not deny. But he was not so sick and silly a zealot as to believe that the immediate effect of the measure which he urged would be to remove every feeling of uneasiness excited by a long course of irritation and injustice. No measure which he could propose, or the legislature could adopt, would operate as a charm. By applying an instant remedy the discontent would not instantly cease. The waves were heard to roll for some time after the tempest had ceased. But these were not the questions for parliament to inquire into. Their duty was to consider whether injustice had been done to any portion of the people, and if so, to atone for it —whether grievances still oppressed them, and if so, to remove the grievances; — whether injurious restraints were still imposed on them, and if so, to obliterate those restraints. If there were no discontent on the part of the sufferers, the more our shame to suffer the injustice, the grievances, and the restraints to remain, and the more imperative our duty to remove them. They knew that injustice, grievances, and injurious restraints were in their nature calculated to excite discontent, and they ought therefore to remove them. But they were not merely the grievances and injuries of individuals— they were not merely the injuries and grievances of bodies of men; they wereinjuries
not agreed as to the extent to which it should be carried, or the securities by which it should be guarded. For instance, it had been objected that some had of. fered to concede points which others considered to be as important as those retained; that some had agreed to restrictions which others regarded as quite as intolerable as those proposed to be abrogated; that, in short, the friends of catholic emancipation were not agreed upon any definite mode of effecting their object. Now this way of meeting the question he considered as not fair, not manly, not candid. They called for concessions which justice required, which the constitution admitted, and which policy warranted. If you show the request to be unfounded in argument, he yielded the question; but if you object to the form of the measure, or to the detail of the terms, he would say it was not fair, manly, or candid to meet the question so. Be it wise or not, the question was of deep and vital importance to the country. If it was not a public mischief, it was a great public good. To meet such a
question with objections to the plan, the form, or the detail, was not fair, manly, or candid. “What right have you"—Mr. Plunkett proceeded. —“what right have you to neutrality on such a question? Why don't you come forward to assist us? Why don't you remove the objections which you are so sensible of? Why don't you clear up the obscurities which mislead us? What right have you to wrap yourself up in neutrality on a question which, if not bad, is necessarily good 2" The question could not be viewed by any one as indifferent. The petitioners came forward to demand the attention of parliament —not as an invading army; they asked for no untried experiment, or any innovation on the entrenchments of the constitution, or on the constitution itself; but millions of loyal subjects came forward petitioning, humbly and respectfully, to be admitted to the rights and privileges which had been possessed by their ancestors, that they and their posterity might enjoy them according to the known and approved constitution of the country. On this ground let them be fairly met. What he was now to propose was to refer the petitions which he had presented to a committee for arranging the mode in which the desires expressed in them could be complied with. No man in that house
could be prepared to say that
there was no plan for reconciling the claims of the catholics and the apprehensions actually felt, he would admit, by the protestants of the country. If there was any man capable of wishing that there could be no such plan, he would not condescend to argue with him.
He would assume, then, that there might be such a plan. He was not a little supported in the conviction of his own mind on that point, by the fact that the house of commons of a former parliament had agreed to resolve itself into a committee; that there had been very nearly a majority of persons inclined for the admission of Roman catholics to parliament; and that, if not for the gross misconduct of the friends of the measure, it would have been carried. The time to which he alluded was a time when this country was reeling to its centre by the agitation of a storm which had shaken every other state in Europe to its foundation. He could not think that any who had at that moment of peril supported this question, could now withhold his support. The house, he trusted, would abide by the sentiments on which it had them acted. It could not be forgotten by any candid or generous mind, that no portion of the people had been more distinguished for zeal and valour, in the defence of the country, than the catholics. They had fought our battles; they had shed their blood with a pertinacity of self devotion for the liberties and privileges of the British constitution, which showed that they were worthy to enjoy them. He apprehended, then, nothing of hostility, certainly nothing of rancour, against his motion. There might be something of prejudice opposed to him. When he said prejudice, he begged to be understood to mean nothing hurtful to the feelings of any individual or class of persons. The prejudices opposed to him were derived from an origin so noble, and connect182].
ed themselves with feelings so intimately associated with the struggles of our ancestors, both for civil and religious liberty, that they claimed every respect and attention; but as they were honourable in their origin, he hoped they were in their nature accessible to truth and reason. They were prejudices which, if not rudely assailed, could be fully satisfied. He believed that there was a great anxiety in the house to concede their claims to the Roman catholics, unless they supposed it to be their imperious duty to refuse. It was impossible for him to mistake that this was the feeling of the house, or not to perceive that it was a growing feeling. Fully assured that he was not likely to encounter any thing but fair and respectable opposition on the ground that there was in the question something dangerous to the constitution and establishments of the country, he should now proceed to show that such apprehensions were unfounded. It was to be considered as a question of religion, of constitution, and of policy. He feared he should trespass longer on the attention of the house than would be justifiable or right. The question had been often canvassed, but certainly not in this parliament, and there were perhaps many hearing him who had never heard the question discussed within these walls. He would treat the subject as shortly as it was possible for him; but still he feared he should trespass more largely on the attention of the house than he was warranted to do. On the religious consideration of the question he was not called to say much. If the
- E question
question involved no consideration dangerous to the state, it was injurious to exclude from civil privileges merely on a religious consideration. Great credit was due to a right rev. prelate (we believe the present bishop of Peterborough) who had fairly admitted that the exclusion was not to be justified on religious grounds, but that the being of certain religious opinions was a reason for excluding on political considerations. This statement having been made in presence of the right rev. bench, who had expressed no dissent, he might pass over that part of the question; but the repugnance of the 30th of Charles the second, to christian charity, and to christianity in general, made it impossible for him to forbear from offering a few observations, though they might not strictly apply to the question as immediately before the house. Any religious pledge was calculated to impress an opinion that religion was only an instrument for state purposes. What was the inference from the necessity of giving a pledge, but that for the enjoyment of privileges of state, certain religious opinions wererequired? Now all religions,as religions were in this respectequal, all religions were equally true in the estimation of those who re. professed them. If in this country the interests of true religion required tests and political restrictions, the interests of true religion in a catholic country required tests and political restrictions; the interests of true religion in a Mahometan country required tests and political restrictions; the interests of true religion in a Pagan country required tests and political
restrictions. That many, who had taken up the question on trust, maintained the necessity of pledges and restrictions on religious grounds, might be conceived; but that any person maintained on principle that there was any pledge or test necessary but as a matter of state, he very much doubted. Why not require, if religious faith was necessary before one became a member of the state—why not require that a o should give pledges of is faith? Why should he not be required to declare his faith in God, his faith in a Redeemer, his faith in a future state of rewards and punishments? No. man was required to declare his belief; he might believe nothing; for all that was required was negative. Nothing positive was submitted as a test. It was all abhorrence and antipathy. Nothing positive was required to be believed. Again, if it was not positive belief that was required, but denunciation of what was believed by others, why was it only the catholics that were denounced? Why was there no denunciation of those who believed not the divinity of our Lord? Why was there not a denunciation of the Jews, of the Mahometans, of Pagans?, Why was it sufficient to abhor the Roman catholics, who believed all that we believed, and only differed from us by believing something more? He might be an infidel, he might believe in Jupiter, in Osiris, in all the host of heaven, and all the creeping things of the earth, and be admitted to all the privileges of the state, for the statutory abhorrence was limited to those who believed all the great principles of religion. Why was the doctrine