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against ministers; and in pursuance of this threat, the parliament was actually dissolved. From that moment, the new prerogative of penal dissolution was added to all the other means of ministerial influence: Every man who now votes against ministers, endangers his seat by his vote. Ministers have acquired a
many cases more important than that of bestowing honours or rewards. It now rests with them to determine whether members shall sit securely for four or five years longer, or be instantly sent to their constituents at the moment when the most violent, and perhaps the most unjust prejudice has been excited against them. The security of seats in parliament is made to depend on the subserviency of majorities.
Of all the silent revolutions which have materially changed the English government, without any alteration in the letter of the law, there is, perhaps, none more fatal to the constitution, than this power of penal dissolution, thus introduced by Mr. Pitt, and strengthened by his followers : And it is the more dangerous, because it is hardly capable of being counteracted by direct laws. The prerogative of dissolution, being a mean of defence on sudden emergencies, is scarcely to be limited by law. There is, however, an indirect but effectual mode of meeting its abuse. By shortening the duration of parliaments, the punishment of dissolution will be devested of its terrors.
While its defensive power will be unimpaired, its efficacy, as a means of influence, will be nearly destroyed. The attempt to reduce parliament to a greater degree of dependence, will thus be defeated; due reparation be made to the constitution; and future ministers taught, by a useful example of just retaliation, that the crown is not likely to be finally the gainer, in struggles to convert a necessary prerogative into a means of unconstitutional influence.
Moderate reformers have been asked, by the most formidable of their opponents, at what period of history was the house of commons in the state to which you wish to restore it ?a An answer may now be given to that triumphant question. Had the object of the moderate reformer been total change, he might be called upon to point out some former state of the representation, which he would in all respects prefer to the present. But it is a part of his principle, that the institutions of one age, can never be entirely suitable to the condition of another. It was well said by an English politician of keen and brilliant wit, that neither king nor people would now like just the original constitution, without any varyings.' It is sufficient for the 'Whig, or moderate reformer,' (for Mr. Canning has joined them, and we do not
a Mr. Canning's Speech at Liverpool, p. 45.
wish to put them asunder,) to point out a period when the constitution was in one respect better, inasmuch as it possessed the means of regulating and equalising the representation. Its return to the former state, in that particular only, would be sufficient for the attainment of all his objects.
If no conciliatory measures on this subject be adopted, there is great reason to apprehend that the country will be reduced to the necessity of choosing between different forms of despotism. For it is certain, that the habit of maintaining the forms of the constitution by a long system of coercion and terror, must convert it into an absolute monarchy. It is equally evident, from history and experience, that revolutions, effected by violence, and attended by a total change in the fundamental laws of a commonwealth, have a natural tendency to throw a power into the hands of their leaders, which, however disguised, must in truth be unlimited and dictatorial. The restraints of law and usage necessarily cease.
If, on the other hand, a plan of constitutional reform be adopted, the government, which must derive its chief hopes of strength from popular support, would honestly desire to consult the opinions, and as far as possible, to satisfy the wishes of the people. -On the issue of the experiment, the existence of such an administration must depend. By its failure, the situation of the country could hardly be made worse than it now is. By its success, the King of England, reinstated in the hearts of his people, at the head of a contented and united people, would resume his high station in the system of Europe ; instead of beholding, as at present, the strength of this great nation, palsied by internal distractions; his ministers despised by his royal allies for inability to aid them; and their professions of neutrality scorned by those nations struggling for liberty, who'see English councils still directed by members of the congress of Vienna.
ART. VII. 1. Whitelaw's History of the City of Dublin. 4to.
Cadell & Davies. 2. Observations on the State of Ireland, principally directed to
its Agricultural 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 every thing was open sea between England and the Atlantic, and if skates and codfish 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 civilized 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 five 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. 501. was given for discovering a popish archbishop-30l. 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 George Ist, 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 every thing 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 every body 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 4 to 1-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 the 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 2 to 1. It is now (as we have already observed) 4 to 1; and the causes which have thus altered the proportion 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 Vol. II.