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Cabinet been offered to the Catholics or Dissenters, I should have reposed little confidence in it, knowing as I do the parties from whom it would have proceeded : at all events, I should have entertained less fears for the repeal of the test and corporation acts from the answer of the late highly-gifted Premier of England. I'll tell you why :-Although Mr. Canning might have created dissatisfaction in the dissenting bodies by the answer he gave them, and apparently, I admit, with cause, yet the inquiring mind will not be satisfied without entering dispassionately, a little beyond the mere act of dissent, and ask-is there no satisfactory reason why a mind like that of Mr. Canning should depart from his own general principles in the case of the Dissenters alone? Might not Mr. Canning have reasoned thus ? Did the petition of the Dissenters incorporate the removal of disability from others? If granted, would it injure the claims of others? Would it secure the support of the Dissenters in favor of the claims of the Roman Catholics ? Am I not justified in saying, that in the providence of his mind he was probably laying the foundation of a general code of freedom ? Am I not bound to admit he had a right to suspect the Dissenters were looking to themselves alone, as they had then evinced no great disposition to take into consideration the unbearable wrongs of their Roman Catholic countrymen, and in which conclusion he felt himself fortified by the latter conduct of the Dissenters in the north of Ireland ? Was he not justified in saying to himself, if I concede the wishes of the Dissenter separately, may I not weaken the common cause? And thus he naturally decided in his own mind--if I carry emancipation, I secure the repeal of the test and corporation acts; for if the former succeeds, the latter follows. But if the latter were granted first and separately, emancipation must be postponed, and Ireland may be sacrificed for I could not possibly, while the parties do not appear to act together, succeed in both. What, then, is my inference from that? That this answer was intended to be merely temporary, and by no means committing Mr. Canning to a persistance in refusal; and that the answer would not have been given, had the Dissenters entered cordially into the common cause of all. I repeat it, he felt that under existing circumstances any encouragement held out by him would be premature, and might injure the great general cause which he had so much at heart, and of which the repeal of the test and corporation acts, and the removal of disability from Ireland, formed separate and component parts.
How can I for one moment suppose the mind which had unmasked its ruling principle, when no longer controlled by a power to which from habit or from necessity it had been forced to yield (and which, it seems to me, with all humility, the hand of Providence removed, to bring about its own great purposes, to smooth
the way for the introduction of a more benign system, calculated to shed its influence over the nations of the earth;)-how can I suppose a mind like his, at the moment he was interesting himself for the liberties of America, for the liberties of Portugal, for the liberalisation of Greece, for the removal of disabilities in Ireland, could descend to such an act of inconsistency as to proscribe the larger, influential, and most respectable dissenting bodies in our country? So far from being determined to deny the Dissenters their rights, it is my opinion Mr. Canning was determined to support them when the season arrived. What can be the objection to a union amongst brethren in exclusion, amounting by census to about 15,000,000, including Ireland, but not including the liberal Protestants, the best friends to the cause of liberality; and why should not Ireland be included, the main stay of the case, on whose wounds the tears of England are now fast dropping, with whom the plighted faith of Government has been broken, and as if her measure of misfortune was not sufficiently full, I fear her cause has been weakened by a facility of doing her injury, I shall not say in what quarter?
I have long supported His Majesty's Government in Ireland—I would continue so to do, if the present evinced any wish to adopt the measures necessary for her peace. Of what consequence is it to me who is Minister, or who is not? I belong to no party. But when I find the old system is to be persevered in—when I find those in power, whose cradles have been rocked in the ascendancy school of Ireland, who have been fostered on the lap of that power -when I find one of them, after admitting the dreadful state Ireland is in, that the system tried has failed, that another should be tried-when I see him resume office, to persevere in the old system, with a characteristic coldness when she is in question—when that Minister owes his political consequence to a determined opposition to the measures I know can alone eventually tranquillise my country, how can I reconcile it to myself not to oppose by every legitimate means an Administration in which he fils so ostensible a situation? Every day proves to me how little the question of Ireland is understood. A says, in a certain house, B threatened us in unbecoming language, and therefore I'll not accede to a great imperial question, on which the properties, peace, and happiness of millions depend. C, a great statesman, declares he'll exclude a whole nation, because a few Roman Catholics he alleges are intemperate.” I am a Protestant, and I should be glad to be informed what is the intemperance of a Roman Catholic to me. Why should I be debarred from my right to return a Roman Catholic to Parliament if I chose to vote for him? Why should my political ineligibility arise out of his being ineligible, contrary to the compact ratified between two nations ? Why should
I be debarred from living in peace and quietness? Why should I be debarred from getting the same price for my lands as I would if my country was tranquil? Because a Roman Catholic has made use of intemperate language. A fine statesman-like argument truly ! “ No, no,” says the public voice, “that can't be another reason is assigned for your systematic opposition.”
What hopes, then, has Ireland of a shadow of peace or rest? Already we hear from the tribunal to which she appeals the cold refusal. Before whom has her cause to appear ? Before those who have received their political education in the Castle of Dublin, and whose early march was in the train of the ascendancy power. I repeat again, every day convinces me more and more how little che question of Ireland is understood. The interest of the Protestant is totally forgotten. If any Catholic was to tell me—« Oh, this is a question you have nothing to do with ; it's a Catholic question entirely:" I would answer, “By your leave, good Sir, it's my country as much as yours; I have no property any where else : my ancestors have lived here for years; I and my children live here, and I am interested as well as you in this tremendous question. I'll tell you more-I'll make common cause with you in it; and if the Minister, contrary to the plighted faith of his Government, was to attempt to re-enact the penal code, I'd join you in opposing him.” Why am I so adverse to this ascendancy power, and what is it?
I know it well, for I was brought up under its shade.
It is the evil genius of Ireland, whose principle it is to govern her by the sword.
She sits intrenched in the Castle of Dublin-the Acropolis of corruption. There she held her court, not to distribute equal law, but to instruct the youthful English senator in the art of governing poor Ireland by the sword. Hence our misfortunes. (There are five at least of those statesmen in the present Administration.) The early poison is sucked in-ascendancy principle takes root prejudice prevails, and bigotry covers all the land. Here she makes Protestantism a good trade-monopoly the law-remonstrance against it disloyalty. She would have made the illustrious name of Grattan a term of reproach. She drove the immortal Abercrombie from our shore-the bravest of the brave-because his benevolent mind would not consent to carry free-quarter and desolation into our fields, and become accessory to revive again the day of Elizabeth, marked in the gloomy pages of our history, and recorded in the lamentations of Sir John Davis.
I heard the parting words of Abercrombie ; I was often with him; I shall never forget them : there are those alive who heard the same "I will never draw my sword on Paddy." He dropped the prophetic tear of mourning on our fate; and his departure from Ireland was more creditable to him than the victory which closed his honorable career.
From such a subject, Englishmen, allow me to move the scene, and present to you another, with which all that is dear to you as freemen is connected. I saw it first at Cintra. And it now advances on me “in such a questionable shape” that I will look it in the face.
Cæsar fought for Rome, and overthrew her liberty with the legions he led on to conquest in her cause-an awful and a memorable lesson: Cæsar, as conspicuous for clemency as for success in arms. But there is a fascination attendant on long command, that perhaps unfits a man for the subordination necessary in times of peace. By this event, a principle was recognised which had been introduced by Sylla. Hence followed a military Government, and all the misfortunes attendant on military rule. The late war, when England fought for her existence, authorised a departure from the jealous provisions of our ancestors; our armies were increased to an amount never before known, and with it the influence of the Minister. A peace establishment succeeded, but neither the Ministry nor the army were included in any retrenchment that followed ; and we feel, at this very day, the melancholy con. sequences in the assumption of a power (for it's nothing else) hitherto unheard of in Britain, in the person of the Commander of our armies--of him who had so often led them on to conquesi, not only in defence of our liberties, but of those of the civilised world, and after dictating his own terms, filling two situations incompatible with the spirit of the Constitution. But the Duke of Wellington, like Cæsar, has passed the Rubicon. There is something in uncontrolled power that knows not how to recede; the principle is to be established or not. Far be it from me to suppose, that any act will take place on the part of his Grace, or any of His Majesty's present Ministers, to overturn the liberties of these realms, or intentionally to injure them; but if the principle becomes once recognised, the gulf is opened for any future despot to hurl the Constitution into an abyss--and where will Britain find a Curtius to close it up ? Britons, this is a power that can be no longer trifled with. Formerly, Administrations depended for their existence on the majority of the people's voice : now they depend on the Lords. Here is the cancer with which the Union with Ireland has infected England. Her fibres imperceptibly advancing have now taken root; and if not in time eradicated, will extend their ramifications and overspread the fair face of the Constitution. Here is one of the deadly symptoms of the measure which properly executed would have given security to the parties, but,
insidiously contrived and jesuitically effected, has by bad faith destroyed the social compact. The Minister of that day, to carry the principles of the Union, strengthened himself in the Lords by the introduction of Irish Bishops and of representative Peers, who were notoriously returned by him, to counteract the voice of the people in their Commons House. So long as the Duke of Wellington is First Lord of the Treasury, so long will he be virtually Commanderin-chief of the British Armies, with the disposal of all appointments to civil situations under Government, as well as the whole patronage of the Church. This is a monstrous power, far exceeding that of the Sovereign. Any attempt of his Grace to get rid of the responsibility by appointing a military friend or friends will 'avail him but little ; such appointments being in reality nothing more than aides-de-camp to his Grace. How could our armies be better commanded, how could the vessel of the state under such circumstances be worse guided,—than by the Duke of Wellington ? What kind of power is this? People of England, hesitate one moment, and the principle becomes for ever recognised by which the liberty of your country may be hereafter overthrown. Lose not one moment. I call on you not to lose one moment. Resist the establishment of this power : its next inroad may be on the press. Witness the late attempt in France. Are not all the Powers in Europe confederated in secret league? Petition from John o'Groat's House to the Land's-end. Petition, I call on you to petition, by the memory of your ancestors, by the duty you owe to yourselves, your posterity, and your country. Petition, before this « self-condemned” and inconsistent power has time to concentrate its strength, and this Administration will vanish into air, For (in the words of one of our most eminent statesmen) « no complaisance to our court, or to our age, can make us believe nature to be so changed, but that public liberty will be among us, as among our ancestors, obnoxious to some person or other; and that opportunities will not be furnished, for attempting at least some alterations to the prejudice of our constitution ; that these attempts will naturally vary in their mode according to times and circumstances : for ambition, though it has ever the same general views, has not at all times the same means, nor the same particular objects."
Hatchett's Hotel, Feb. 3.