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ought to be pursued towards Ireland is consistent with the soundest and most enlightened principles. But this is a fact of which we cannot regularly have any knowledge here. The private opinion of His Majesty is in this country of no weight. The royal acts are the acts of the Ministry. The speeches from the throne are the speeches of the Ministry. But there is a country in which such is not the case. I may advert, in support of my conviction of His Majesty's opinion on the question of religious liberty, to his conduct in a country in which he acts not through his Ministers, but directly as a Sovereign. England has had frequent occasions to lament her connexion with Hanover. It is an ill wind, however, that blows nobody good. That connexion has proved highly serviceable to the cause of Ireland, by showing the sentiments entertained by the King on the subject which now agitates Ireland. I allude to the royal proclamation issued last December, at Hanover, for the purpose of removing doubts respecting one of the articles of the act of the German confederation of June, 1815. This, Sir, is the proclamation of George IV., King of Hanover. It is not his proclamation individually. It does not proceed from responsible advisers. Whatever blame or credit belongs to it belongs to His Majesty personally. It was, therefore, with no small delight that I read this, which I consider as a test of His Majesty's real opinion. It is a proclamation deserving of the highest praise. Our Government has been in the habit of imitating the Governments of the Continent. I wish they would do so in the present case. I hope they will take this whole leaf out of the volume of the practice of Hanover. It is a valuable hint which has been given to them-a useful admonition—a sound example of liberal policy. At least, it will for ever stop Ministers from insinuating that any one is to blame but themselves for whatever fate may await Ireland. The annunciation of the King of Hanover is one that ought to be echoed in this country. It is most wise and most enlightened. "The several professors of the Christian faith,” it declares, “ enjoy a perfect equality of civil and political rights in the kingdom; and, in confirmity with the said article, the notion of a predominant and of a merely tolerated church is entirely abolished." This, Sir, is the real doctrine of toleration.. The man who really means to tolerate does not use the word. He never speaks of it as a boon. He considers it as a right, not as a favour, that every man should worship his Creator in whatever mode he conscientiously prefers. He holds that a man may be erroneous in his religious opinions, but that, if he be sincere in them, it is an insult to him to say that he shall be tolerated in professing them. When, therefore, His Majesty, in this proclamation, says that the idea of a predominant and of a merely tolerated church is not to be endured, he speaks the language of a wise and liberal policy. More is added in the same sound spirit. “All Christian communities” (ALL—the expression is not confined to Hanover, it is equally applicable to Ireland) “ have a right to the unobstructed and free exercise of their religious worship.” More than this cannot be desired. Further than this no man would wish to go. But, I ask, why not apply to Ireland the principle which has
been thus wisely applied to Hanover? Why will His Majesty's Ministers in this country, in spite of this noble example, persevere in their present offensive and unjust policy? Why do not, at least, some of them manfully, frankly, and boldly, maintain the necessity of concession to the Catholics ?
Lord Eldon's Tenacity of Office.
Do you think he would resign his office that he would quit the great seal ? Prince Hohenloe is nothing to the man who could effect such a measure! (Hear, and a laugh.) A more chimerical apprehension never entered the brain of a distempered poet. Anything but that. Many things may surprise me; but nothing would so much surprise me as that the noble and learned individual to whom I allude should quit his hold of office while life remains. A more superfluous fear than such an event never crossed the wildest visionary in his dreams. Indeed, Sir, I cannot refrain from saying that I think the right honourable gentlemen opposite greatly underrate the steadiness of mind of the noble and learned individual in question. I think they greatly underrate the firmness and courage with which he bears, and will continue to bear, the burdens of his high and important station. In these qualities the noble and learned lord has never been excelled—has never, perhaps, been paralleled; nothing can equal the forbearance which he has manifested. Nothing can equal the constancy with which he has borne the thwarts that he has lately received on the questions of trade. His patience under such painful circumstances can be rivalled only by the fortitude with which he bears the prolonged distress of the suitors in his own court; but to apprehend that any defeat would induce him to quit office is one of the vainest fears-one of the most fantastic apprehensionsthat was ever entertained by man. Let him be tried. nerous mind, expanded as it has been by his long official character, there is no propensity so strong as a love of the service of his country. He is, no doubt, convinced that the higher an office, the more unjustifiable it is to abandon it. The more splendid the emoluments of a situation—the more extensive its patronage—the more he is persuaded that it is not allowed to a wise and good man to tear himself from it. I contend, therefore, that the right honourable gentlemen opposite underrate the firmness of their noble and learned colleague. Let them make the experiment; and, if they succeed in wrenching power from his gripe, I shall thenceforward estimate them as nothing short of mi-racle-mongers.
His present station the noble and learned lord holds as an estate for life. That is universally admitted. The only question is, whether he is to appoint his successor. By some it is supposed that he has actually appointed him, and I own I have observed several symptoms of such being the case. If it be so, I warn that successor that he will be exceedingly disappointed if he expects to step into the office a single moment before the decease of its present holder.
In his ge
However, I do entreat that the perseverance of this eminent person may be put to the test. Let the right honourable gentleman say hè will resign, if the Catholic question be not carried in the Cabinet : let the noble and learned lord say that he will resign if it be carried. I am quite sure of the result. The Catholic question would be carried, but the noble and learned lord would retain his place. He would behave with the fortitude which has distinguished him in the other instances in which he has been defeated; and the country would not be deprived, for a single hour, of the inestimable benefit of his services.
Power of the Catholic Association.
Is there any one who can deny that the leading members of the Catholic Association are men of great influence in Ireland ? Is there any one who can contradict my assertion that the Association receives the hearty support of the whole body of the Catholics in Ireland ? Sir, I am greatly misinformed, and I am misinformed by those too who must possess the best means of knowledge, if the Catholic Association in Ireland does not actually and virtually represent the wishes and feelings of almost all the Catholic body in that country. It is true that the whole of the proceedings of that Association may not be approved by every body. The right honourable and learned Attorney-General for Ireland thought (I for one certainly did not agree with him) that one of the members of that Association, in the warmth of his eloquence, had gone beyond what moderation would have dictated. But when the right honourable and learned gentleman submitted that obnoxious speech to the consideration of twenty-three impartial members, they differed from him. To that right honourable and learned gentleman the Ca
however, indebted for the most inestimable services. If any man in England, or in Ireland, has contributed more than any other to place the Catholics in the condition of power in which they are now placed, he is that man. If not the father of that Association, he has armed them with their present authority. For who, after the venerated Grattan, ever pleaded the cause of the Catholics with half the strength of reasoning and brilliancy of eloquence? There are many who may not approve of all the measures adopted by the Association of the rent for instance—but who may still be ready to adhere to the Association with their lives. To attack by Act of Parliament an Association thus representing the sentiments, wishes, and feelings of the people of Ireland, would be to attak the people of Ireland themselves.
Sir, it would at present be no difficult task to alienate the minds of the people of Ireland from this country. They were taught to look to the British Parliament for support ; that support has failed them. They were advised to look up to their representatives, but there again they found themselves deceived. There is not in this House any man who laments the fact more than I do; but so it is,
that the peace of Ireland is secured by the Catholic Association, and the Catholic Association alone. Ireland is at this moment tranquil. Never were the laws of the land more regularly enforced, more cheerfully obeyed, in that country than they are at present. It is true that some abuses of the administration of the laws are still complained of; yet, such is the luxury of even an approach to an equal distribution of justice amongst these poor people, that they already rejoice and feel comparatively happy. But has this feeling been produced by the Government of the country? I deny it: it would be but to cloak the truth to make such an assertion-it has been produced by the exertions of the Catholic Association,
The people of Ireland placed their trust in you. They found themselves disappointed. They threw themselves upon their former friends, those friends who had supported and flattered them at a period when we were surrounded by war and by danger; and they found that, the war being over and the danger subsided, their friends took to office and to power, and deserted them. Having found this, I then ask, Sir, what resource had this body? They discovered that they had no hope from Parliament; that they could not trust their friends; at least, those leading friends who forsook them for office : what then, I ask, could they do, but throw themselves upon those persons who continued to advocate their cause and support their interest? But His Majesty's Ministers complain of this; and why? just because it is their own handiwork; a piece of machinery of their creating, and therefore they hate and abuse it. They say, and very naturally, 6. This is our own work; we may
thank ourselves for allowing this Catholic Association, this new power, to grow up; but now that it has grown, we dread and would crush it." Let me ask, Sir, how can they do this? It has been well said by Swift
, that nothing is more common in society than that men should first render themselves ridiculous by their actions, and then turn round and feel angry because other men laugh at them. And, Sir, there is nothing more unreasonable, and yet more common, than that bad rulers should create mischiefs, and afterwards turn round and find fault with, and feel enraged at, those who, whilst they complain of the evil, point out the remedy. But what is to be done? They tell us that the Government must be kept in motion, while at the same time they vituperate and find fault with some of the members who are connected with it, and the alarm of rebellion is spread abroad. Sir, I mean to cast no reflections on any set of persons. I thank God there never was a period when disaffection was less to be apprehended in Ireland than at present; and, in my opinion, there is only one way by which those unfortunate disturbances can be rekindled-namely, by taking legal steps to put down the Catholic Association. If, Šir, you introduce such a measure as this—if you turn a deaf ear to the complaints and sufferings of that unhappy country—if, I say, you annihilate that body which your own negligence and misgovernment have allowed to grow up—you will give an additional proof of the impolicy of your measures, and the want of attention to the interests and happiness of Ireland. This House, as well as His Majesty's Ministers, must know, Sir, that the system
now complained of has so grown up in Ireland ; they must know the strength which it has attained, and the deep root which it has taken: they may try to put it down by an Act of Parliament; and they may do so~in twenty-four hours they may do so; but, if they do it, or attempt to do it, then, I say, they are unworthy of the smallest portion of that praise which they have received for the removal of even the most trifling restriction, which, in their liberal policy, they have removed from our foreign commerce, and for the which no man is more ready to give than myself. I say you may put down the Catholic Association in twenty-four hours; but, if you do, it is your own fault. You are conscious of the injuries you have inflicted on that body—you feel that you have denied to it even common justice —and now its ghost haunts you. If, however, you really wish to put that body down—if you wish to annihilate it for ever-then, I say, let the Roman Catholics know that you are determined to carry the question of emancipation. Let them know that you are determined, though late, to do them justice, and there is at once an end to the Catholic Association. That you may be so wise, so just, as to do this, instead of waging a harsh and impolitic war against 6,000,000 of oppressed subjects, is my most sincere wish ; would I could say my most sanguine hope.
But I, Sir, am the defender of the Catholic Association ; I am the advocate of the right of the Irish people to meet, to consider, to plan, to petition, to remonstrate, to demand; and my frank opinion is-an opinion which I set out with avowing, and which, I trust, will reach the whole of Ireland, as well as the whole of England—that the more energetic their remonstrance, provided that it be peaceable—the stronger the language they use, provided it be respectful—the more firm their port, the more lofty their demeanour, the more conformable it will be to the high interests of those who have all at stake, which can render life desirable, or existence honourable ; and infinitely more likely to succeed than any abject course, which would imply self-distrust, or self-conviction of error. I trust, Sir, that, after this open declaration, I shall not be charged with blinking the real merits of the question, nor accused of courting a base and fleeting popularity, the value of which I know as well as the right honourable gentleman.
Such popularity I as well know how to give to the wind as the right honourable gentleman does. The cause which I have undertaken to-night I would abandon to-morrow if I thought my duty to the House, to Ireland, or to the empire, required the sacrifice. By no much mean motive as a love of popular favour am I actuated, but by the more sacred incentive of attachment to that cause of which I avow myself the advocate, and to which I am now about to do my duty, as 'I trust I should to any other client, if menaced with the danger of an oppressive law, sanctioned by the majority of this House.
Unlawful Societies in Ireland, Feb. 15, 1825.