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I LETTEES -v;- < 









Wlio now reads Bolingbroke ? Burke once asked ; and if 
the same question were at this day asked in respect to 
Burke himself, what would be the answer ? Certainly 
not that he is read anything like as much as he deserves 
to be read. We English make far too little use of our 
prose classics, far less than the French make of theirs. 
The place which a writer like Pascal, for instance, 
fills in French education, and in the minds of cultivated 
Frenchmen in general, how different is it from the 
place which Burke fills in our reading and thoughts, 
and how much larger ! Shakespeare and Milton we 
are all supposed to know something of ; but of none of 
our prose classics, I think, if we leave stories out of 
the account, such as are the Pilgrim s Progress and the 
Vicar of Wakefield, are we expected to have a like 
knowledge. Perhaps an exception is to be made for 
Bacon s Essays, but even of this I do not feel sure. 
Our grandfathers were bound to know their Addison, 
but for us the obligation has ceased ; nor is that loss, 
indeed, a very serious matter. But to lose Swift and 
Burke out of our mind s circle of acquaintance is a loss 


indeed, and a loss for which no conversance with con 
temporary prose literature can make up, any more than 
conversance with contemporary poetry could make up 
to us for unacquaintance with Shakespeare and Milton. 
In both cases the unacquaintance shuts us out from 
great sources of English life, thought, and language, and 
from the capital records of its history and develop 
ment, and leaves us in consequence very imperfect and 
fragmentary Englishmen. It can hardly be said that 
this inattention to our prose classics is due to their being 
contained in collections made up of many volumes, 
collections dear and inaccessible. Their remaining 
buried in such collections, a fate so unlike that which 
has been Eousseau s in France, or Lessing s in Germany, 
is rather the result of our inattention than its cause. 
While they are so buried, however, they are in truth 
almost inaccessible to the general public, and all occa 
sions for rescuing and exhibiting representative speci 
mens of them should be welcomed and used. 

Such an occasion offers itself, for Burke, in the 
interest about Ireland which the present state of that 
country compels even the most unwilling Englishman 
to feel. Our neglected classic is by birth an Irishman ; 
he knows Ireland and its history thoroughly. " I have 
studied it," he most truly says, " with more care than is 
common." He is the greatest of our political thinkers 
and writers. But his political thinking and writing has 
more value on some subjects than on others ; the value 
is at its highest when the subject is Ireland. The writ- 


ings collected in this volume cover a period of more 
than thirty years of Irish history, and show at work all 
the causes which have brought Ireland to its present 
state. The tyranny of the grantees of confiscation ; of 
the English garrison ; Protestant ascendency ; the reli 
ance of the English Government upon this ascendency 
and its instruments as their means of government ; the 
yielding to menaces of danger and insurrection what was 
never yielded to considerations of equity and reason ; 
the recurrence to the old perversity of mismanagement 
as soon as ever the danger was passed, all these are 
shown in this volume ; the evils, and Burke s constant 
sense of their gravity, his constant struggle to cure 
them. The volume begins with the Tracts on the Popery 
Laws, written probably between 1760 and 1765, when 
that penal code, of which the monstrosity is not half 
known to Englishmen, and may be studied by them 
with profit in the Tracts, was still in force, and when 
Irish trade was restricted, almost annulled, from jealousy 
lest it should interfere with the trade of England. Then 
comes the American war. In the pressure of difficulty 
and danger, as that war proceeded, Lord North s Govern 
ment proposed, in 1778, to conciliate Ireland by partly 
withdrawing the restrictions on her trade. The com 
mercial middle class, the class with which a certain 
school of politicians supposes virtue, abhorring nobles 
and squires, to have taken refuge, the men of Liverpool, 
Manchester, Glasgow, and Bristol, were instantly in 
angry movement, and forced the Minister to abandon his 

viii PREFACE. 

propositions. The danger deepened ; Spain joined herself 
with France and America; the Irish volunteers appeared 
in arms. Then, in 1779, the restrictions on Irish trade, of 
which the partial withdrawal had been refused the year 
before, were withdrawn altogether. But the irritation 
of his constituents at his supporting this withdrawal, 
and at his supporting a measure of relief to Catholics, 
cost Burke his seat at Bristol. Meanwhile, the Irish 
Parliament proceeded in establishing its independence 
of that of Great Britain. Irish affairs were controlled 
by Irish legislators ; the penal laws were relaxed, the 
Catholics admitted to the franchise, though not to Par 
liament. The English Government had to govern Ire 
land through the Irish Legislature. But it persisted on 
leaning upon that party in the Irish Legislature, a Pro 
testant Legislature, no doubt, but containing such patri 
otic and liberal Protestants as Grattan it persisted on 
leaning upon that party which represented Protestant 
ascendency and the rule of the grantees of confiscation in 
its worst form. In 1789 came the French Revolution. 
To remove the disabilities under which the Catholics of 
Ireland still lay was a measure which commended itself 
to all the best politicians at that time. The English 
Government sent, in 1795, Burke s friend, Lord Fitz- 
william, as Viceroy to Ireland. Lord Fitzwilliam was 
the declared friend of Catholic emancipation. It seemed 
on the point of being granted, when the Irish Protestant 
junto, as Burke calls it, prevailed with Mr. Pitt, and 
Lord Fitzwilliam was recalled. In 1797 Burke died, 


full of mournful apprehensions for the future ; in 1798 
came the Irish Eebellion. But with the Eebellion we 
pass beyond the life of Burke, and beyond the period of 
Irish history covered by this volume. 

The rapid summary just given of that history, from 
1760 to 1797, will afford a sufficient clue to the writ 
ings and speeches which follow. Burke, let me observe 
in passing, greatly needs to be re-edited ; indeed, he has 
never yet been properly edited at all. But all that I 
have attempted to do in the present volume is to arrange 
chronologically the writings and speeches on Irish affairs, 
which, in Burke s collected works, are now scattered 
promiscuously ; and to subjoin the most important of 
his private letters on the same subject, taken from the cor 
respondence published in 1844 by the late Lord Fitzwil- 
liam, the son of Burke s friend, the Irish Viceroy. 1 In 
my opinion, the importance of Burke s thoughts on the 
policy pursued in Ireland is as great now as when he 
uttered them, and when they were received, as he him 
self tells us, with contempt. " You do not suppose," said 
Mr. Bright the other day in the City, " you do not sup 
pose that the fourteen members of the Government 
spend days and weeks in the consideration of a measure 
such as the Irish Land Bill without ascertaining in connex 
ion with it everything everybody else can know." Alas ! 
how many English Governments have been confident 

1 The copyright of these Letters belongs to Messrs. Rivington, and 
I have to thank them for their kindness in permitting me to print 
such as I needed for my purpose. 


that they had ascertained in connexion with their Irish 
policy "everything everybody else could know!" Burke 
writes to Mrs. Crewe that a work of his has, he is told, 
"put people in a mood a little unusual to them it has set 
them on thinking." "One might have imagined," he adds, 
"that the train of events, as they passed before their 
eyes, might have done that !" Nevertheless, it does not; 
and so, he concludes, " Let them think now who never 
thought before ! " In general, our Governments, however 
well informed, feel bound, it would seem, to adapt their 
policy to our normal mental condition, which is, as 
Burke says, a non-thinking one. Burke s paramount 
and undying merit as a politician is, that instead of 
accepting as fatal and necessary this non-thinking con 
dition of ours, he battles with it, mends and changes it ; 
he will not rest until he has " put people in a mood a 
little unusual with them," until he has "set them on 



Tracts on the Popery Laws . . . . . 1 


A Letter to Sir Charles Bingham, Bart., on the Irish 

Absentee Tax . . . . .70 


A Letter to the Honourable Charles James Fox . 84 


Two Letters to Gentlemen in Bristol 

To Samuel Span, Esq., Master of the Society of 

Merchants Adventurers of Bristol . .97 

To Messrs. - and Co., Bristol .. . 108 


Mr. Burke s Speech at the Guildhall, in Bristol, 1780 . 116 


A Letter to a Peer of Ireland on the Penal Laws against 

Irish Catholics 182 




A Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, M.P., 1792 


A Letter to the Right Honourable Edmund Pery . 279 


A Letter to Thomas Burgh, Esq. 


A Letter to John Merlott, Esq. 317 


A Letter to William Smith, Esq. . .322 


A Second Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe . .334 

A Letter to Richard Burke, Esq. . . .343 


A Letter on the Affairs of Ireland, 1797 .373 




A Letter to the Duke of Portland . . . 390 

A Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hussey, 1795 . . 394 

A Letter to the Same . . . . .401 

A Letter to Thomas Keogh, Esq. . . .410 

A Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hussey, 1796 . .416 

A Letter to the Right Hon. William Windham . 436 

A Letter to Dr. Laurence 438 






Fragments of a Tract on the Popery Laws. 


I PROPOSE first to make an introduction, in order to 
show the propriety of a closer inspection into the 
affairs of Ireland ; and this takes up the first chapter ; 
which is. to be spent in this introductory matter, and 
in stating the Popery Laws in general as one leading- 
cause of the imbecility of the country. 

1 The condition of the Roman Catholics in Ireland appears to have 
engaged the attention of Mr. Burke at a very early period of his poli 
tical life. It was probably soon after the year 1765, that he formed 

TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

Chap. II. states particularly the laws themselves in 
a plain and popular manner. 

Chap. III. begins the remarks upon them, under 
the heads of, 1st, The object, which is a numerous 
people; 2t%, Their means, a restraint on property; 
3<%, Their instruments of execution, corrupted morals ; 
which affect the national prosperity. 

Chap. IV. The impolicy of those laws as they affect 
the national security. 

Chap. V. Eeasons by which the laws are supported, 
and answers to them. 

the plan of a work upon that subject, the fragments of which are now 
given to the public. No title is prefixed to it in the original manu 
script ; and the Plan, which it has been thought proper to insert here, 
was evidently designed merely for the convenience of the author. Of 
the first chapter some unconnected fragments only too imperfect for 
publication have been found. Of the second there is a considerable 
portion, perhaps nearly the whole ; but the copy from which it is ; 
printed is evidently a first rough draft. The third chapter, as far 
as it goes, is taken from a fair corrected copy ; but the end of the 
second part of the first head is left unfinished ; and the discussion of 
the second and third heads was either never entered upon, or the j 
manuscript containing it has unfortunately been lost. What follows 
the third chapter appears to have been designed for the beginning of ; 
the fourth, and is evidently the first rough draft ; and to this we 
have added a fragment which appears to have been a part either of : 
this or the first chapter. 

1760-65. THE POPERY LA WS. 


In order to lay this matter with full satisfaction 
before the reader, I shall collect into one point of 
view, and state as shortly and as clearly as I am able, 
the purport of these laws, according to the objects 
which they affect, without making at present any 
further observation upon them, but just what shall be 
necessary to render the drift and intention of the 
Legislature, and the tendency and operation of the 
laws, the more distinct and evident. 

I shall begin with those which relate to the pos 
session and inheritance of landed property in Popish 
hands. The first operation of those Acts upon this ob 
ject was wholly to change the course of descent by the 
common law ; to take away the right of primogeniture ; 
and, in lieu thereof, to substitute and establish a new 
species of Statute Gavelkind. By this law, on the 
death of a Papist possessed of an estate in fee simple, 
or in fee tail, the land is to be divided by equal por 
tions between all the male children ; and those portions 
are likewise to be parcelled out, share and share alike, 
amongst the descendants of each son, and so to pro 
ceed in a similar distribution ad infinitum. From 
this regulation it was proposed that some important 
consequences should follow. First By taking away 
the right of primogeniture, perhaps in the very first 
generation, certainly in the second, the families of 

TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

Papists, however respectable, and their fortunes, how 
ever considerable, would be wholly dissipated, and 
reduced to obscurity and indigence, without any possi 
bility that they should repair them by their industry 
or abilities being, as we shall see anon, disabled from 
every species of permanent acquisition. Secondly By 
this law the right of testamentation was taken away, 
which the inferior tenures had always enjoyed ; and 
all tenures from the 27th Hen. VIII. Thirdly The 
right of settlement was taken away, that no such per 
sons should, from the moment the Act passed, be 
enabled to advance themselves in fortune or connec 
tion by marriage being disabled from making any 
disposition in consideration of such marriage but what 
the law had previously regulated ; the reputable estab 
lishment of the eldest son, as representative of the 
family, or to settle a jointure, being commonly the 
great object in such settlements, which was the very 
power which the law had absolutely taken away. 

The operation of this law, however certain, might 
be too slow. The present possessors might happen to 
be long lived. The Legislature knew the natural 
impatience of expectants, and upon this principle they 
gave encouragement to children to anticipate the in 
heritance. For it is provided that the eldest son of 
any Papist shall, immediately on his conformity, change 
entirely the nature and properties of his father s legal 
estate ; if he before held in fee simple, or, in other 
words, had the entire and absolute dominion over the 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 5 

land, he is reduced to an estate for his life only, with 
all the consequences of the natural debility of that 
estate ; by which he becomes disqualified to sell, mort 
gage, charge (except for his life), or in any wise to do 
any act by which he may raise money for relief in 
his most urgent necessities. The eldest son, so con 
forming, immediately acquires and in the life-time of 
his father the permanent part, what our law calls 
the reversion and inheritance of the estate ; and he 
discharges it by retrospect, and annuls every sort of 
voluntary settlement made by the father ever so long 
before his conversion. This he may sell or dispose of 
immediately, and alienate it from the family for ever. 

Having thus reduced his father s estate, he may 
also bring his father into the Court of Chancery, 
where he may compel him to swear to the value of 
his estate ; and to allow him out of that possession 
(which had been before reduced to an estate for life), 
such an immediate annual allowance as the Lord 
Chancellor or Lord Keeper shall judge suitable to his 
age and quality. 

This indulgence is not confined to the eldest son. 
The other children likewise, by conformity, may acquire 
the same privileges, and in the same manner force 
from their father an immediate and independent main 
tenance. It is very well worth remarking, that the 
statutes have avoided to fix any determinate age for 
these emancipating conversions ; so that the children, 
at any age however incapable of choice in other 

TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

respects, however immature, or even infantile are 
yet considered sufficiently capable to disinherit their 
parents, and totally to subtract themselves from their 
direction and control, either at their own option, or by 
the instigation of others. By this law the tenure and 
value of a Eoman Catholic in his real property is not 
only rendered extremely limited and altogether pre 
carious, but the paternal power is in all such families 
so enervated, that it may well be considered as entirely 
taken away ; even the principle upon which it is 
founded seems to be directly reversed. However, the 
Legislature feared that enough was not yet done upon 
this head ; the Eoman Catholic parent, by selling his 
real estate, might in some sort preserve the dominion 
over his substance and his family, and thereby evade 
the operation of these laws, which intended to take 
away both. Besides, frequent revolutions and many 
conversions had so broken the landed property of 
Papists in that kingdom, that it was apprehended that 
this law could have in a short time but a few objects 
upon which it would be capable of operating. 

To obviate these inconveniences another law was 
made, by which the dominion of children over their 
parents was extended universally throughout the whole 
Popish part of the nation, and every child of every 
Popish parent was encouraged to come into what is 
called a Court of Equity to prefer a Bill against his 
father, and compel him to confess, upon oath, the 
quantity and value of his substance, personal as well 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 1 

as real, of what nature soever, or howsoever it might 
be employed ; upon which discovery the Court is em 
powered to seize upon and allocate, for the immediate 
maintenance of such child or children, any sum not 
exceeding a third of the whole fortune and as to their 
future establishment on the death of the father no 
limits are assigned. The Chancery may, if it thinks fit, 
take the whole property, personal as well as real, money, 
stock in trade, etc., out of the power of the possessor, 
and secure it in any manner they judge expedient for 
that purpose ; for the Act has not assigned any sort of 
limit with regard to the quantity which is to be 
charged, or given any direction concerning the means 
of charging and securing it a law which supersedes 
all observation. 

But the law is still more extensive in its provision. 
Because there was a possibility that the parent, though 
sworn, might by false representations evade the dis 
covery of the ultimate value of his estate, a new Bill 
may be at any time brought by one, any, or all, of the 
children for a further discovery; his effects are to 
undergo a fresh scrutiny, and a new distribution is to 
be made in consequence of it. So that the parent has 
no security against perpetual inquietude and the re 
iteration of Chancery suits, but by (what is somewhat 
difficult for human nature to comply with) fully, and 
without reserve, abandoning his whole property to the 
discretion of the Court to be disposed of in favour of 
such children. 

TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

But is this enough, and has the parent purchased 
his repose by such a surrender ? Very far from it. 
The law expressly, and very carefully, provides that 
he shall not ; before he can be secure from the perse 
cution of his children, it requires another and a much 
more extraordinary condition ; the children are author 
ised, if they can find that their parent has by his in 
dustry, or otherwise, increased the value of his property 
since their first Bill, to bring another, compelling a new 
account of the value of his estate, in order to a new 
distribution proportioned to the value of the estate at 
the time of the new Bill preferred. They may bring 
such Bills, toties quoties, upon every improvement of 
his fortune, without any sort of limitation of time or 
regard to the frequency of such Bills, or to the quantity 
of the increase of the estate which shall justify the 
bringing them. This Act expressly provides that he 
shall have no respite from the persecution of his chil 
dren, but by totally abandoning all thoughts of improve 
ment and acquisition. 

This is going a great way surely, but the laws in 
question have gone much farther. Not satisfied with 
calling upon children to revolt against their parents 
and to possess themselves of their substance, there are 
cases where the withdrawing of the child from his 
father s obedience is not left to the option of the child 
himself ; for if the wife of a Eoman Catholic should 
choose to change her religion, from that moment she 
deprives her husband of all management and direction 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 9 

of his children, and even of all the tender satisfaction 
which a parent can feel in their society, and which is 
the only indemnification he can have for all his cares 
and sorrows ; and they are to be torn for ever, at the 
earliest age, from his house and family ; for the Lord 
Chancellor is not only authorised, but he is strongly 
required, to take away all his children from such Popish 
parent, to appoint where, in what manner, and by 
whom, they are to be educated ; and the father is com 
pelled to pay not for the ransom but for the depriva 
tion of his children, and to furnish such a sum as the 
Chancellor thinks proper to appoint for their education 
to the age of eighteen years. The case is the same if 
the husband should be the conformist ; though how the 
law is to operate in this case I do not see, for the Act 
expressly says that the child shall be taken from such 
Popish parent. And whilst such husband and wife 
cohabit it will be impossible to put it into execution 
without taking the child from one as well as from the 
other, and then the effect of the law will be, that if 
either husband or wife becomes Protestant, both are to 
be deprived of their children. 

The paternal power thus being wholly abrogated, 
it is evident that by the last regulation the power of 
a husband over his wife is also considerably impaired, 
because, if it be in her power, whenever she pleases, 
to subtract the children from his protection and obedi 
ence, she herself by that hold inevitably acquires a 
power and superiority over her husband. 

10 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

But she is not left dependent upon this oblique 
influence, for if in any marriage settlement the hus 
band has reserved to him a power of making a jointure, 
and he dies without settling any, her conformity exe 
cutes his powers, and executes them in as large extent 
as the Chancellor thinks fit. The husband is deprived 
of that coercive power over his wife which he had in 
his hands by the use he might make of the discretionary 
power reserved in the settlement. 

But if no such power had been reserved, and no 
such settlement existed, yet if the husband dies leaving 
his conforming wife without a fixed provision by some 
settlement on his real estate, his wife may apply to 
Chancery, where she shall be allotted a portion from 
his leases and other personal estate not exceeding one- 
third of his whole clear substance. The laws in this 
instance, as well as in the former, have presumed that 
the husband has omitted to make all the provision 
which he might have done, for no other reason than 
that of her religion. If, therefore, she chooses to 
balance any domestic misdemeanours to her husband 
by the public merit of conformity to the Protestant 
religion, the law will suffer no plea of such misde 
meanours to be urged on the husband s part, nor proof 
of that kind to be entered into. She acquires a pro 
vision totally independent of his favour, and deprives 
him of that source of domestic authority which the 
common law had left to him that of rewarding or 
punishing, by a voluntary distribution of his effects, 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 1 1 

what in his opinion was the good or ill behaviour of 
his wife. 

Thus the laws stand with regard to the property 
already acquired, to its mode of descent, and to family 
powers. Now as to the new acquisition of real pro 
perty, and both to the acquisition and security of per 
sonal, the law stands thus : 

All persons of that persuasion are disabled from 
taking or purchasing directly or by a trust, any lands, 
any mortgage upon land, any rents or profits from 
land, any lease, interest, or term of any land, any 
annuity for life or lives, or years, or any estate what 
soever, chargeable upon, or which may in any manner 
affect, any lands. 

One exception, and one only, is admitted by the 
statutes to the universality of this exclusion, viz. a 
lease for a term not exceeding thirty-one years. But 
even this privilege is charged with a prior qualifica 
tion. This remnant of a right is doubly curtailed ; 1st, 
that on such a short lease, a rent not less than two- 
thirds of the full improved yearly value, at the time 
of the making it, shall be reserved during the whole 
continuance of the term ; and 2dly, it does not extend 
to the whole kingdom. This lease must also be in 
possession, and not in reversion. If any lease is made, 
exceeding either in duration or value, and in the small 
est degree, the above limits, the whole interest is for 
feited, and vested ipso facto in the first Protestant dis 
coverer or informer. This discoverer, thus invested witli 

12 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

the property, is enabled to sue for it as his own right. 
The Courts of Law are not alone open to him ; he may 
(and this is the usual method) enter into either of the 
Courts of Equity, and call upon the parties, and those 
whom he suspects to be their trustees, upon oath, and 
under the penalities of perjury, to discover against 
themselves the exact nature and value of their estates 
in every particular, in order to induce their forfeiture 
on the discovery. In such suits the informer is not 
liable to those delays which the ordinary procedure of 
those Courts throws into the way of the justest claim 
ant ; nor has the Papist the indulgence which he allows 
to the most fraudulent defendant that of plea and 
demurrer. But the defendant is obliged to answer the 
whole directly upon oath. The rule of favores ampli- 
andi, etc., is reversed by this Act, lest any favour should 
be shown, or the force and operation of the law in any 
part of its progress be enervated. All issues to be 
tried on this Act are to be tried by none but known 

It is here unnecessary to state as a part of this 
law what has been for some time generally understood 
as a certain consequence of it. The Act had expressly 
provided that a Papist could possess no sort of estate 
which might affect land (except as before excepted). 
On this a difficulty did not unnaturally arise. It is 
generally known, a judgment being obtained or ac 
knowledged for any debt since the Statute of Westm. 
2, 13 Ed. I. c. 18, one half of the debtor s land is to 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 13 

be delivered unto the creditor until the obligation is 
satisfied, under a writ called Elegit, and this writ has 
been ever since the ordinary assurance of the land, and 
the great foundation of general credit in the nation. 
Although the species of holding under this writ is not 
specified in the Statute, the received opinion, though 
not juridically delivered, has been, that if they attempt 
to avail themselves of that security, because it may 
create an estate, however precarious, in land, their 
whole debt or charge is forfeited, and becomes the 
property of the Protestant informer. Thus you observe, 
first, that by the express words of the law all possibility 
of acquiring any species of valuable property, in any 
sort connected with land, is taken away ; and secondly, 
by the construction, all security for money is also cut 
off. No security is left, except what is merely personal, 
and which, therefore, most people, who lend money, 
would, I believe, consider as none at all. 

Under this head of the acquisition of property, the 
law meets them in every road of industry, and in its 
direct and consequential provisions throws almost all 
sorts of obstacles in their way. For they are not only 
excluded from all offices in Church and State, which, 
though a just and necessary provision, is yet no small 
restraint in the acquisition ; but they are interdicted 
from the Army and the Law in all its branches. This 
point is carried to so scrupulous a severity, that 
chamber practice, and even private conveyancing, the 
most voluntary agency, are prohibited to them under 

14 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

the severest penalties, and the most rigid modes of 
inquisition. They have gone beyond even this ; for 
every barrister, six clerk, attorney, or solicitor, is 
obliged to take a solemn oath not to employ persons of 
that persuasion ; no, not as hackney clerks, at the 
miserable salary of seven shillings a week. No trades 
man of that persuasion is capable, by any service or 
settlement, to obtain his freedom in any town corporate; 
so that they trade and work in their own native towns 
as aliens, paying, as such, quarterage, and other charges 
and impositions. They are expressly forbidden, in 
whatever employment, to take more than two appren 
tices, except in the linen manufacture only. 

In every state, next to the care of the life and 
properties of the subject, the education of their youth 
has been a subject of attention. In the Irish Laws 
this point has not been neglected. Those who are 
acquainted with the constitution of our Universities, 
need not be informed that none but those who conform 
to the Established Church can be at all admitted to 
study there ; and that none can obtain degrees in them 
who do not previously take all the tests, oaths, and 
declarations. Lest they should be enabled to supply 
this defect by private academies and schools of their 
own, the law has armed itself with all its terrors 
against such a practice. Popish schoolmasters of every 
species are proscribed by those Acts, and it is made 
felony to teach even in a private family; so that 
Papists are entirely excluded from an education in any 

1760-65. THE POPERY LA WS. 15 

of our authorised establishments for learning at home. 
In order to shut up every avenue to instruction, the 
Act of King William in Ireland has added to this re 
straint by precluding them from all foreign education. 
This Act is worthy of attention, on account of the 
singularity of some of its provisions. Being sent for 
education to any Popish school or college abroad, upon 
conviction, incurs (if the party sent has any estate of 
inheritance) a kind of unalterable and perpetual out 
lawry. The tender and incapable age of such a person, 
his natural subjection to the will of others, his necessary 
unavoidable ignorance of the Laws, stands for nothing 
in his favour. He is disabled to sue in Law or Equity; 
to be guardian, executor, or administrator ; he is 
rendered incapable of any legacy or deed of gift ; he 
forfeits all his goods and chattels for ever, and he 
forfeits for his life all his lands, hereditaments, offices, 
and estate of freehold, and all trusts, powers, or interests 

All persons concerned in sending them or main 
taining them abroad, by the least assistance of money 
or otherwise, are involved in the same disabilities, and 
subjected to the same penalties. 

The mode of conviction is as extraordinary as the 
penal sanctions of this Act. A Justice of Peace, upon 
information that any child is sent away, may require 
to be brought before him all persons charged or even 
suspected of sending or assisting, and examine them 
and other persons on oath concerning the fact. If on 

16 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

this examination he finds it probable, that the party 
was sent contrary to this Act, he is then to bind over 
the parties and witnesses in any sum he thinks fit but 
not less than 200 to appear and take their trial at 
the next Quarter Sessions. Here the Justices are to 
re-examine evidence, until they arrive, as before, to 
what shall appear to them a probability. For the 
rest, they resort to the accused ; if they can prove that 
any person, or any money, or any bill of exchange, has 
been sent abroad by the party accused, they throw the 
proof upon him to show for what innocent purposes it 
was sent ; and on failure of such proof he is subjected 
to all the above-mentioned penalties. Half the for 
feiture is given to the Crown ; the other half goes to 
the informer. 

It ought here to be remarked, that this mode of 
conviction not only concludes the party has failed in 
his expurgatory proof, but it is sufficient also to subject 
to the penalties and incapacities of the law, the infant 
upon whose account the person has been so convicted. 
It must be confessed that the law has not left him 
without some species of remedy in this case, apparently 
of much hardship, where one man is convicted upon 
evidence given against another, if he has the good for 
tune to live ; for, within a twelvemonth after his return, 
or his age of twenty-one, he has a right to call for a new 
trial, in which he also is to undertake the negative 
proof, and to show by sufficient evidence, that he has 
not been sent abroad against the intention of the Act. 

1760-65. THE POPERY LA WS. 17 

If he succeeds in this difficult exculpation, and de 
monstrates his innocence to the satisfaction of the 
Court, he forfeits all his goods and chattels, and all 
the profits of his lands incurred and received before 
such acquittal ; but he is freed from all other forfeitures, 
and from all subsequent incapacities. There is also 
another method allowed by the law in favour of persons 
under such unfortunate circumstances, as in the former 
case for their innocence, in this upon account of their 
expiation; if within six months after their return, 
with the punctilious observation of many ceremonies, 
they conform to the Established Church, and take all 
the oaths and subscriptions, the Legislature, in con 
sideration of the incapable age in which they were 
sent abroad, of the merit of their early conformity, and 
to encourage conversions, only confiscates, as in the 
former case, the whole personal estate, and the profits 
of the real in all other respects restoring and rehabili 
tating the party. 

So far as to property and education. There remain 
some other heads upon which the Acts have changed 
the course of the common law ; and first, with regard 
to the right of self-defence, which consists in the use of 
arms. This, though one of the rights by the law of 
nature, yet is so capable of abuses, that it may not be 
unwise to make some regulations concerning them ; and 
many wise nations have thought proper to set several 
restrictions on this right, especially temporary ones, 
with regard to suspected persons, and on occasion of 


18 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

some imminent danger to the public from foreign in 
vasion or domestic commotions. 

But provisions, in time of trouble proper, and 
perhaps necessary, may become in time of profound 
peace a scheme of tyranny. The method which the 
Statute Law of Ireland has taken upon this delicate 
article, is, to get rid of all difficulties at once by an 
universal prohibition to all persons, at all times, and 
under all circumstances, who are not Protestants, of 
using or keeping any kind of weapons whatsoever. In 
order to enforce this regulation, the whole spirit of the 
common law is changed ; very severe penalties are 
enjoined ; the largest powers are vested in the lowest 
magistrates. Any two Justices of Peace, or magis 
trates of a town, with or without information, at their 
pleasure, by themselves, or their warrant, are empow 
ered to enter and search the house of any Papist, or 
even of any other person, whom they suspect to keep 
such arms in trust for them. The only limitation to the 
extent of this power is, that the search is to be made 
between the rising and setting of the sun ; but even 
this qualification extends no farther than to the execu 
tion of the Act in the open country ; for in all cities 
and their suburbs, in towns corporate and market 
towns, they may, at their discretion, and without 
information, break open houses, and institute such 
search at any hour of the day or night. This I say 
they may do at their discretion, and it seems a pretty 
ample power in the hands of such magistrates. How- 

1760-65. THE POPERY LA WS. 19 

ever, the matter does by no means totally rest on their 
discretion. Besides the discretionary and occasional 
search, the statute has prescribed one that is general 
and periodical. It is to be made annually, by the 
Warrant of the Justices at their Midsummer Quarter 
Sessions, by the high and petty constables, or any 
others whom they may authorise, and by all corporate 
magistrates, in all houses of Papists, and every other, 
where they suspect arms for the use of such persons to 
be concealed, with the same powers, in all respects, 
which attend the occasional search. The whole of 
this regulation, concerning both the general and par 
ticular search, seems to have been made by a Legis 
lature which was not at all extravagantly jealous of 
personal liberty. Not trusting, however, to the activity 
of the magistrate acting officially, the law has invited 
all voluntary informers by considerable rewards, and 
even pressed involuntary informers into this service by 
the dread of heavy penalties. With regard to the latter 
method, two Justices of Peace, or the magistrate of any 
corporation, are empowered to summon before them 
any persons whatsoever, to tender them an oath, by 
which they oblige them to discover all persons who 
have any arms concealed contrary to law. Their re 
fusal, or declining to appear, or appearing, their refusal 
to inform, subjects them to the severest penalties. If 
peers or peeresses are summoned (for they may be 
summoned by the bailiff of a corporation of six 
cottages) to perform this honourable service, and 


TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

refuse to inform, the first offence is 300 penalty ; 
the second is Premunire that is to say, imprisonment 
for life, and forfeiture of all their goods. Persons of 
an inferior order are, for their first offence, fined 30 ; 
for the second, they too are subjected to Premunire. 
So far as to involuntary; now as to voluntary informers. 
The law entitles them to half the penalty incurred by 
carrying or keeping arms ; for, on conviction of this 
offence, the penalty upon persons of whatever substance 
is the sum of 50 and a year s imprisonment, which 
cannot be remitted even by the Crown. 

The only exception to this law is a license from the 
Lord Lieutenant and Council to carry arms, which, by 
its nature, is extremely limited, and I do not suppose 
that there are six persons now in the kingdom who have 
been fortunate enough to obtain it. 

There remains, after this system concerning property 
and defence, to say something concerning the exercise of 
religion, which is carried on in all persuasions, but espe 
cially in the Eomish, by persons appointed for that 
purpose. The law of King William and Queen Anne 
ordered all Popish parsons exercising ecclesiastical juris 
diction, all orders of monks and friars, and all priests 
not then actually in parishes, and to be registered, to be 
banished the kingdom, and if they should return from 
exile, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Twenty 
pounds reward is given for apprehending them. Penalty 
on harbouring and concealing. 

As all the priests then in being and registered are 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 21 

long since dead, and as these laws are made perpetual, 
every Popish priest is liable to the law. 

The reader has now before him a tolerably complete 
view of the Popery Laws relative to property by descent 
or acquisition, to education, to defence, and to the free 
exercise of religion, which may be necessary to enable 
him to form some judgment of the spirit of the whole 
system, and of the subsequent reflections that are to be 
made upon it. 



The system which we have just reviewed, and the 
manner in which religious influence on the public is 
made to operate upon the laws concerning property in 
Ireland, is in its nature very singular, and differs, I 
apprehend, essentially, and perhaps to its disadvantage, 
from any scheme of religious persecution now existing 
in any other country in Europe, or which has prevailed 
in any time or nation with which history has made us 
acquainted. I believe it will not be difficult to show 
that it is unjust, impolitic, and inefficacious; that it has 
the most unhappy influence on the prosperity, the morals, 
and the safety of that country; that this influence is 
not accidental, but has flowed as the necessary and 
direct consequence of the laws themselves, first on 
account of the object which they affect, and next by 
the quality of the greatest part of the instruments 

22 TRACTS O.V 1760-65. 

they employ. Upon all these points, first upon the 
general, and then on the particular, this question will 
be considered with as much order as can be followed 
in a matter of itself as involved and intricate as it is 

The lirst and most capital consideration with regard 
to this, as to every object, is the extent of it ; and here 
it is necessary to premise, this system of penalty and 
incapacity has for its object no small sect or obscure 
party, but a very numerous body of men a body which 
comprehends at least two-thirds of that whole nation ; it 
amounts to 2,800,000 souls a number sufficient for the 
materials constituent of a great people. Xow it is 
well worthy of a serious and dispassionate examination, 
whether such a system, respecting such an object, be in 
reality agreeable to any sound principles of legislation, 
or any authorised definition of law ; for if our reasons 
or practices differ from the general informed sense of 
mankind, it is very moderate to say that they are at 
least suspicious. 

This consideration of the magnitude of the object 
ought to attend us through the whole inquiry ; if it 
does not always affect the reason, it is always decisive 
on the importance of the question. It not only makes 
in itself a more leading point, but complicates itself 
with every other part of the matter, giving every error, 
minute in itself, a character and significance from its 
application. It is therefore not to be wondered at, 
if we perpetually recur to it in the course of this Essav. 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 23 

In the making of a new law it is undoubtedly the 
duty of the legislator to see that no injustice be done 
even to an individual ; for there is then nothing to be 
unsettled, and the matter is under his hands to mould 
it as he pleases ; and if he finds it untractable in the 
working, he may abandon it without incurring any new 
inconvenience. But in the question concerning the 
repeal of an old one, the work is of more difficulty, 
because laws, like houses, lean on one another, and the 
operation is delicate and should be necessary; the 
objection in such a case ought not to arise from the 
natural infirmity of human institutions, but from sub 
stantial faults which contradict the nature and end of 
law itself faults not arising from the imperfection, but 
from the misapplication and abuse of our reason. As 
no legislators can regard the minima of equity, a law 
may in some instances be a just subject of censure, 
without being at all an object of repeal. But if its 
transgressions against common right and the ends of 
just government should be considerable in their nature 
and spreading in their effects as this objection goes to 
the root and principle of the law it renders it void in 
its obligatory quality on the mind, and therefore deter 
mines it as the proper object of abrogation and repeal 
so far as regards its civil existence. The objection here 
is, as we observed, by no means on account of the im 
perfection of the law. It is on account of its erroneous 
principle, for if this be fundamentally wrong, the more 
perfect the law is made the worse it becomes. It can- 

24 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

not be said to have the properties of genuine law even 
in its imperfections and defects. The true weakness 
and opprobrium of our best general constitutions is that 
they cannot provide beneficially for every particular 
case, and thus fill adequately to their intentions the 
circle of universal justice. But where the principle is 
faulty, the erroneous part of the law is the beneficial ; 
and justice only finds refuge in those holes and corners 
which had escaped the sagacity and inquisition of the 
legislator. The happiness or misery of multitudes can 
never be a thing indifferent. A law against the major 
ity of the people is in substance a law against the people 
itself ; its extent determines its invalidity ; it even 
changes its character as it enlarges its operation ; it is 
not particular injustice, but general oppression, and can 
no longer be considered as a private hardship which 
might be borne, but spreads and grows up into the 
unfortunate importance of a national calamity. 

Now, as a law directed against the mass of the 
nation has not the nature of a reasonable institution, so 
neither has it the authority ; for in all forms of govern 
ment the people is the true legislator ; and whether the 
immediate and instrumental cause of the law be a 
single person or many, the remote and efficient cause is 
the consent of the people either actual or implied 
and such consent is absolutely essential to its validity. 
To the solid establishment of every law two things 
are essentially requisite : first, a proper and sufficient 
human power to declare and modify the matter of the 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 25 

law; and next, such a fit and equitable constitution as 
they have a right to declare and render binding. With 
regard to the first requisite, the human authority, it is 
their judgment they give up, not their right. The 
people, indeed, are presumed to consent to whatever the 
Legislature ordains for their benefit ; and they are to 
acquiesce in it though they do not clearly see into the 
propriety of the means by which they are conducted to 
that desirable end. This they owe as an act of homage 
and just deference to a reason which the necessity of 
Government has made superior to their own. But 
though the means, and indeed the nature of a public 
advantage, may not always be evident to the under 
standing of the subject, no one is so gross and stupid as 
not to distinguish between a benefit and an injury. No 
one can imagine then an exclusion of a great body of 
men, not from favours, privileges, and trusts, but from 
the common advantages of society, can ever be a thing 
intended for their good, or can ever be ratified by any 
implied consent of theirs. If, therefore, at least an 
implied human consent is necessary to the existence 
of a law, such a constitution cannot in propriety be a 
law at all. 

But if we could suppose that such a ratification was 
made not virtually, but actually by the people not 
representatively, but even collectively, still it would 
be null and void. They have no right to make a law 
prejudicial to the whole community, even though the 
delinquents in making such an Act should be them- 

26 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

selves the chief sufferers by it, because it would be 
made against the principle of a superior law, which it 
is not in the power of any community, or of the whole 
race of man, to alter I mean the will of Him who 
gave us our nature, and in giving, impressed an invari 
able law upon it. It would be hard to point out any 
error more truly subversive of all the order and beauty, 
of all the peace and happiness of human society, than 
the position that any body of men have a right to 
make what laws they please ; or that laws can derive 
any authority from their institution merely, and inde 
pendent of the quality of the subject-matter. No argu 
ments of policy, reason of State, or preservation of the 
constitution, can be pleaded in favour of such a practice. 
They may indeed impeach the frame of that constitu 
tion, but can never touch this immovable principle. 
This seems to be indeed the doctrine which Hobbes 
broached in the last century, and which was then so 
frequently and so ably refuted. Cicero exclaims with 
the utmost indignation and contempt against such a 
notion; 1 he considers it not only as unworthy of a 
philosopher, but of an illiterate peasant; that of all 
things this was the most truly absurd to fancy that 

1 Cicero de Legibus, lib. prim. 15 and 16. rein dignam, in qua 
non modo docti, verum etiam agrestes erubescant ! Jam vero illud 
stultissimum existimare omnia justa esse, quse scita sunt in populorum 
institutis aut legibus, etc. Quod si populorum jussis, si principum 
decretis, si sententiis judicum jura constituerentur, jus esset latroci- 
nari, jus adulterare, jus testamenta falsa supponere, si hsec suffrages 
aut scitis multitudinis probarentur. 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 27 

the rule of justice was to be taken from the constitu 
tions of commonwealths, or that laws derived their 
authority from the statutes of the people, the edicts of 
princes, or the decrees of judges. If it be admitted 
that it is not the black letter and the king s arms that 
makes the law, we are to look for it elsewhere. 

In reality there are two, and only two foundations 
of law, and they are both of them conditions without 
which nothing can give it any force I mean equity 
and utility. With respect to the former, it grows out 
of the great rule of equality which is grounded upon 
our common nature, and which Philo, with propriety 
and beauty, calls the mother of justice. All human 
laws are, properly speaking, only declaratory ; they may 
alter the mode and application, but have no power over 
the substance of original justice. The other founda 
tion of law, which is utility, must be understood not of 
partial or limited, but of general and public utility, con 
nected in the same manner with, and derived directly 
from our rational nature ; for any other utility may be 
the utility of a robber, but cannot be that of a citizen, 
the interest of the domestic enemy, and not that of a 
member of the commonwealth. This present equality 
can never be the foundation of statutes, which create an 
artificial difference between men, as the laws before us 
do, in order to induce a consequential inequality in the 
distribution of justice. Law is a mode of human action 
respecting society, and must be governed by the same 
rules of equity which govern every private action, and 

28 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

so Tully considers it in his offices as the only utility 
agreeable to that nature ; unum debet esse omnibus pro- 
positum, ut eadem sit utilitas unius cujusq ; et imiver- 
sorum ; quam si ad se quisq ; rapiat, dissolvetur omnis 
humana consortio. 

If any proposition can be clear in itself, it is this, 
that a law which shuts out from all secure and valuable 
property the bulk of the people, cannot be made for the 
utility of the party so excluded. This therefore is not 
the utility which Tully mentions. But if it were true 
(as it is not) that the real interest of any part of the 
community could be separated from the happiness of 
the rest, still it would afford no just foundation for a 
statute providing exclusively for that interest at the ex 
pense of the other ; because it would be repugnant to the 
essence of law, which requires that it be made as much as 
possible for the benefit of the whole. If this principle 
be denied or evaded, what ground have we left to reason 
on ? We must at once make a total change in all our 
ideas, and look for a new definition of law. Where to 
find it I confess myself at a loss. If we resort to the 
fountains of jurisprudence, they will not supply us 
with any that is for our purpose. Jus (says Paulus) 
pluribus modis dicitur ; uno modo, cum id, quod semper 
cequum et lonum est, Jus dicitur, ut est Jus naturale. This 
sense of the word will not be thought, I imagine, very 
applicable to our penal laws. Altero modo, quod omni- 
lus aut pluribus in undqudque civitate utile est, ut est 
Jus civile. Perhaps this latter will be as insufficient, 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 29 

and would rather seem a censure and condemnation of 
the Popery Acts, than a definition that includes them ; 
and there is no other to be found in the whole digest, 
neither are there any modern writers whose ideas of law 
are at all narrower. 

It would be far more easy to heap up authorities on 
this article, than to excuse the prolixity and tediousness 
of producing any at all in proof of a point which, though 
too often practically denied, is in its theory almost self- 
evident. For Suarez, handling this very question, utrum 
de ratione et substantid Legis esse vti propter commune 
~bonum feratur, does not hesitate a moment, finding no 
ground in reason or authority to render the affirmative 
in the least degree disputable. In qucestione ergo p r ro- 
positd (says he) mdla est inter authores controversia ; sed 
omnium commune est axioma de substantid et ratione 
Legis esse, ut pro communi bono feratur ; ita ut propter 
illud prcecipue tradatur, having observed in another place, 
contra omnem rectitudinem est lonum commune ad 
privatum ordinare, seu totum ad partem propter ipsum 
referre. Partiality and law are contradictory terms. 
Neither the merits nor the ill deserts, neither the wealth 
and importance, nor the indigence and obscurity of the 
one part or of the other, can make any alteration in this 
fundamental truth. On any other scheme I defy any 
man living to settle a correct standard, which may dis 
criminate between equitable rule and the most direct 
tyranny. For if we can once prevail upon ourselves to 
depart from the strictness and integrity of this principle, 

30 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

in favour even of a considerable party, the argument 
will hold for one that is less so, and thus we shall go on 
narrowing the bottom of public right, until step by step 
we arrive, though after no very long or very forced 
deduction, at what one of our poets calls the enormous 
faith the faith of the many, created for the advantage 
of a single person. I cannot see a glimmering of dis 
tinction to evade it, nor is it possible to allege any 
reason for the proscription of so large a part of the 
kingdom, which would not hold equally to support, 
under parallel circumstances the proscription of the 

I am sensible that these principles in their abstract 
light will not be very strenuously opposed. Eeason is 
never inconvenient but when it comes to be applied. 
Mere general truths interfere very little with the 
passions. They can, until they are roused by a trouble 
some application, rest in great tranquillity side by side 
with tempers and proceedings the most directly opposite 
to them. Men want to be reminded who do not w-ant 
to be taught, because those original ideas of rectitude, 
to which the mind is compelled to assent when they are 
proposed, are not always as present to it as they ought 
to be. When people are gone, if not into a denial, at 
least into a sort of oblivion of those ideas, when they 
know them only as barren speculations, and not as 
practical motives for conduct, it will be proper to press 
as well as to offer them to the understanding, and when 
one is attacked by prejudices which aim to intrude 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA IVS. 31 

themselves into the place of law, what is left for us but 
to vouch and call to warranty those principles of original 
justice from whence alone our title to everything 
valuable in society is derived ? Can it be thought to 
arise from a superfluous vain parade of displaying 
general and uncontroverted maxims, that we should 
revert at this time to the first principles of law, when 
we have directly under our consideration a whole 
body of statutes, which I say are so many contradic 
tions, which their advocates allow to be so many excep 
tions from those very principles ? Take them in the 
most favourable light, every exception from the original 
and fixed rule of equality and justice ought surely to be 
very well authorised in the reason of their deviation, 
and very rare in their use. For if they should grow to 
be frequent, in what would they differ from an abroga 
tion of the rule itself? By becoming thus frequent, 
they might even go farther, and establishing themselves 
into a principle, convert the rule into the exception. 
It cannot be dissembled that this is not at all remote 
from the case before us, where the great body of the 
people are excluded from all valuable property, where 
the greatest and most ordinary benefits of society are 
conferred as privileges, and not enjoyed on the footing 
of common rights. 

The clandestine manner in which those in power 
carry on such designs is a sufficient argument of the 
sense they inwardly entertain of the true nature of their 
proceedings. Seldom is the title or preamble of the law 

32 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

of the same import with the body and enacting part ; but 
they generally place some other colour uppermost, which 
differs from that which is afterwards to appear, or at 
least one that is several shades fainter. Thus the penal 
laws in question are not called laws to oblige men 
baptized and educated in Popery to renounce their re 
ligion or their property ; but are called laws to prevent 
the growth of Popery ; as if their purpose was only to 
prevent conversions to that sect, and not to persecute a 
million of people already engaged in it. But of all the 
instances of this sort of legislative artifice, and of the 
principles that produced it, I never met with any which 
made a stronger impression on me than that of Louis 
XIV. in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. That 
monarch had, when he made that revocation, as few 
measures to keep with public opinion as any man. In 
the exercise of the most unresisted authority at home, 
in a career of uninterrupted victory abroad, and in a 
course of flattery equal to the circumstances of his 
greatness in both these particulars, he might be sup 
posed to have as little need as disposition to render any 
sort of account to the world of his procedure towards 
his subjects. But the persecution of so vast a body of 
men as the Huguenots was too strong a measure even for 
the law of pride and power. It was too glaring a con 
tradiction even to those principles upon which persecu 
tion itself is supported. Shocked at the naked attempt, 
he had recourse, for a palliation of his conduct, to an 
unkingly denial of the fact, which made against him. 

1760-65. THE POPERY LAWS. 33 

In the preamble, therefore, to his Act of Eevocation he 
sets forth that the Edict of Nantes was no longer neces 
sary, as the object of it (the Protestants of his kingdom) 
were then reduced to a very small number. The refugees 
in Holland cried out against this misrepresentation. 
They asserted, I believe with truth, that this revocation 
had driven 20,000 of them out of their country ; and 
that they could readily demonstrate there still remained 
600,000 Protestants in France. If this were the fact 
(as it was undoubtedly), no argument of policy could 
have been strong enough to excuse a measure by which 
800,000 men were despoiled, at one stroke, of so many 
of their rights and privileges. Louis XIV. confessed 
by this sort of apology, that if the number had been 
large, the revocation had been unjust. But after all, is 
it not most evident that this act of injustice, which let 
loose on that monarch such a torrent of invective and 
reproach, and which threw so dark a cloud over all the 
splendour of a most illustrious reign, falls far short of 
the case in Ireland ? The privileges which the Protest 
ants of that kingdom enjoyed antecedent to this revo 
cation were far greater than the Roman Catholics of 
Ireland ever aspired to under a contrary establishment. 
The number of their sufferers, if considered absolutely, 
is not half of ours ; if considered relatively to the body 
of each community, it is not perhaps a twentieth part. 
And then the penalties and incapacities which grew 
from that revocation are not so grievous in their nature, 
nor so certain in their execution, nor so ruinous by a 


34 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

great deal to the civil prosperity of the State, as those 
which we have established for a perpetual law in our 
unhappy country. It cannot be thought to arise from 
affectation, that I call it so. What other name can be 
given to a country which contains so many hundred 
thousands of human creatures reduced to a state of the 
most abject servitude ? 

In putting this parallel I take it for granted that we 
can stand for this short time very clear of our party 
distinctions. If it were enough by the use of an odious 
and unpopular word to determine the question, it would 
be no longer a subject of rational disquisition ; since 
that very prejudice, which gives these odious names, 
and which is the party charged for doing so, and for the 
consequences of it, would then become the judge also. 
But I natter myself that not a few will be found who 
do not think that the names of Protestant and Papist 
can make any change in the nature of essential justice. 
Such men will not allow that to be proper treatment to 
the one of these denominations, which would be cruelty 
to the other ; and which converts its very crime into 
the instrument of its defence. They will hardly persuade 
themselves that what was bad policy in France can be 
good in Ireland, or that what was intolerable injustice 
in an arbitrary monarch becomes, only by being more 
extended and more violent, an equitable procedure in a 
country professing to be governed by law. It is, how 
ever, impossible not to observe with some concern that 
there are many also of a different disposition a number 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 35 

of persons whose minds are so formed that they find 
the communion of religion to be a close and an endear 
ing tie, and their country to be no bond at all ; to whom 
common altars are a better relation than common habita 
tions, and a common civil interest ; whose hearts are 
touched with the distresses of foreigners, and are abund 
antly awake to all the tenderness of human feeling on 
such an occasion, even at the moment that they 
are inflicting the very same distresses, or worse, on 
their fellow -citizens, without the least sting of com 
passion or remorse. To commiserate the distresses of 
all men suffering innocently, perhaps meritoriously, is 
generous, and very agreeable to the better part of our 
nature a disposition that ought by all means to be 
cherished. But to transfer humanity from its natural \ 
basis our legitimate and homebred connections ; to lose 
all feeling for those who have grown up by our sides, 
in our eyes, the benefit of whose cares and labours we 
have partaken from our birth, and meretriciously to 
hunt abroad after foreign affections, is such a disarrange 
ment of the whole system of our duties, that I do not 
know whether benevolence so displaced is not almost 
the same thing as destroyed, or what effect bigotry 
could have produced that is more fatal to society. This 
no one could help observing, who has seen our doors 
kindly and bountifully thrown open to foreign sufferers 
for conscience, whilst through the same ports were 
issuing fugitives of our own, driven from their country 
for a cause which to an indifferent person would seem 

36 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

to be exactly similar, whilst we stood by, without any 
sense of the impropriety of this extraordinary scene, 
accusing, and practising injustice. For my part, there 
is no circumstance in all the contradictions of our most 
mysterious nature, that appears to be more humiliating 
than the use we are disposed to make of those sad 
examples which seem purposely marked for our correc 
tion and improvement. Every instance of fury and 
bigotry in other men, one should think, would naturally 
fill us with horror of that disposition. The effect, how 
ever, is directly contrary. We are inspired, it is true, 
with a very sufficient hatred for the party, but with no 
detestation at all of the proceeding. Nay, we are apt to 
urge our dislike of such measures, as a reason for imi 
tating them ; and, by an almost incredible absurdity, 
because some powers have destroyed their country by 
their persecuting spirit, to argue, that we ought to 
retaliate on them by destroying our own. Such are the 
effects, and such I fear has been the intention of those 
numberless books which are daily printed and indus 
triously spread, of the persecutions in other countries 
and other religious persuasions. These observations, 
which are a digression, but hardly, I think, can be con 
sidered as a departure from the subject, have detained 
us some time ; we will now come more directly to our 

It has been shown, I hope with sufficient evidence, 
that a Constitution against the interest of the many 
is rather of the nature of a grievance than of a law ; 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 37 

that of all grievances, it is the most weighty and 
important ; that it is made without due authority, 
against all the acknowledged principles of jurisprudence, 
against the opinions of all the great lights in that 
science ; and that such is the tacit sense even of those 
who act in the most contrary manner. These points 
are indeed so evident, that I apprehend the abettors of 
the penal system will ground their defence on admission, 
and not on a denial of them. They will lay it down as a 1 
principle, that the Protestant religion is a thing bene 
ficial for the whole community, as well in its civil inte 
rests as in those of a superior order. From thence they 
will argue, that the end being essentially beneficial, the 
means become instrumentally so ; that these penalties 
and incapacities are not final causes of the Law, but 
only a discipline to bring over a deluded people to 
their real interest ; and therefore, though they may be 
harsh in their operation, they will be pleasant in their 
effects ; and be they what they will, they cannot be 
considered as a very extraordinary hardship, as it is in 
the power of the sufferer to free himself when he 
pleases ; and that only by converting to a better religion, 
which it is his duty to embrace, even though it were 
attended with all those penalties from whence in 
reality it delivers him : if he suffers, it is his own fault ; 
volenti non Jit injuria. 

I shall be very short without being, I think, the less 
satisfactory in my answer to these topics, because they 
never can be urged from a conviction of their validity, 

38 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

and are indeed only the usual and impotent struggles of 
those who are unwilling to abandon a practice which 
they are unable to defend. First then, I observe that 
if the principle of their final and beneficial intention be 
admitted as a just ground for such proceedings, there 
never was, in the blameable sense of the word, nor ever 
can be, such a thing as a religious persecution in the 
world. Such an intention is pretended by all men, who 
all not only insist that their religion has the sanction of 
Heaven, but is likewise, and for that reason, the best 
and most convenient to human society. All religious 
persecution, Mr. Bayle well observes, is grounded upon 
a miserable petitio principii. You are wrong, I am 
right ; you must come over to me, or you must suffer. 
Let me add that the great inlet by which a colour for 
oppression has entered into the world, is by one man s 
pretending to determine concerning the happiness of 
another, and by claiming a right to use what means he 
thinks proper in order to bring him to a sense of it. It 
is the ordinary and trite sophism of oppression. But 
there is not yet such a convenient ductility in the human 
understanding as to make us capable of being persuaded 
that men can possibly mean the ultimate good of the 
whole society by rendering miserable for a century 
together the greater part of it, or that any one has such 
a reversionary benevolence as seriously to intend the 
remote good of a late posterity who can give up the 
present enjoyment which every honest man must have 
in the happiness of his contemporaries. Everybody is 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 39 

satisfied that a conservation and secure enjoyment of 
our natural rights is the great and ultimate purpose of 
civil society, and that therefore all forms whatsoever of 
Government are only good as they are subservient to 
that purpose to which they are entirely subordinate. 
Now, to aim at the establishment of any form of 
Government by sacrificing what is the substance of it, 
to take away, or at least to suspend the rights of nature 
in order to an approved system for the protection of 
them, and for the sake of that about which men must ? 
dispute for ever to postpone those things about which 
they have no controversy at all, and this not in minute 
and subordinate, but large and principal objects is a 
procedure as preposterous and absurd in argument as it 
is oppressive and cruel in its effect. For the Protestant 
religion, nor (I speak it with reverence, I am sure) the 
truth of our common Christianity, is not so clear as this 
proposition, that all men at least the majority of men 
in the society ought to enjoy the common advantages 
of it. You fall, therefore, into a double error ; first, you 
incur a certain mischief for an advantage which is 
comparatively problematical, even though you were sure 
of obtaining it ; secondly, whatever the proposed advan 
tage may be, were it of a certain nature, the attainment 
of it is by no means certain, and such deep gaming for 
stakes so valuable ought not to be admitted ; the risk 
is of too much consequence to society. If no other 
country furnished examples of this risk, yet our laws 
and our country are enough fully to demonstrate the 

40 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

fact; Ireland, after almost a century of persecution, 
is at this hour full of penalties and full of Papists. 
This is a point which would lead us a great way, but it 
is only just touched here, having much to say upon it 
in its proper place. So that you have incurred a certain 
and an immediate inconvenience for a remote and for a 
doubly uncertain benefit. Thus far, as to the argument 
which would sanctify the injustice of these laws by the 
benefits which are proposed to arise from them, and as 
to that liberty which, by a new political chemistry, was 
to be extracted out of a system of oppression. 

Now, as to the other point, that the objects of these 
laws suffer voluntarily, this seems to me to be an insult 
rather than an argument. For, besides that it totally 
annihilates every characteristic, and therefore every 
faulty idea of persecution, just as the former does, it 
supposes, what is fault in fact, that it is in a man s 
moral power to change his religion whenever his con 
venience requires it. If he be beforehand satisfied that 
your opinion is better than his, he will voluntarily 
come over to you, and without compulsion, and then 
your law would be unnecessary; but if he is not so 
convinced, he must know that it is his duty in this 
point to sacrifice his interest here to his opinion of his 
eternal happiness, else he could have in reality no reli 
gion at all. In the former case, therefore, as your law 
would be unnecessary, in the latter it would be perse 
cuting that is, it would put your penalty and his ideas 
of duty in the opposite scales, which is, or I know not 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 41 

what is, the precise idea of persecution. If, then, you 
require a renunciation of his conscience as a preliminary" 
to his admission to the rights of society, you annex, 
morally speaking, an impossible condition to it. In this 
case, in the language of reason and jurisprudence, the 
condition would be void and the gift absolute ; as the 
practice runs, it is to establish the condition, and to 
withhold the benefit. The suffering is then not volun 
tary. And I never heard any other argument drawn 
from the nature of laws and the good of human society, 
urged in favour of those prescriptive statutes except 
those which have just been mentioned. 



THE second head upon which I propose to consider those 
statutes with regard to their object, and which is the 
next in importance to the magnitude, and of almost 
equal concern in the inquiry into the justice of these 
laws, is its possession. It is proper to recollect that this 
religion, which is so persecuted in its members, is the 
old religion of the country and the once established 
religion of the State the very same which had for 
centuries received the countenance and sanction of the 
laws, and from which it would at one time have been 
highly penal to have dissented. In proportion as man 
kind has become enlightened, the idea of religious 

42 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

persecution, under any circumstances, has been almost 
universally exploded by all good and thinking men. 
The only faint shadow of difficulty which remains is 
concerning the introduction of new opinions. Experi 
ence has shown that, if it has been favourable to the 
cause of truth, it has not been always conducive to the 
peace of society. Though a new religious sect should 
even be totally free in itself from any tumultuous and 
disorderly zeal, which, however, is rarely the case, it has 
a tendency to create a resistance from the establishment 
in possession productive of great disorders, and thus 
becomes, innocently indeed, but yet very certainly, the 
cause of the bitterest dissensions in the commonwealth. 
To a mind not thoroughly saturated with the tolerating 
maxims of the gospel, a preventive persecution on such 
principles might come recommended by strong and 
apparently no immoral motives of policy, whilst yet the 
contagion was recent, and had laid hold but on a few 
persons. The truth is, these politics are rotten and 
hollow at bottom, as all that are founded upon any, 
however minute a degree of positive injustice, must ever 
be. But they are specious, and sufficiently so to delude 
a man of sense and of integrity. But it is quite other 
wise with the attempt to eradicate by violence a wide- 
spreading and established religious opinion. If the 
people are in an error, to inform them is not only fair 
but charitable ; to drive them is a strain of the most 
manifest injustice. If not the right, the presumption at 
least is ever on the side of possession. Are they mis- 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 43 

taken ? If it does not fully justify them, it is a great 
alleviation of guilt, which may be mingled with their 
misfortune, that the error is none of their forging ; that 
they received it on as good a footing as they can receive 
your laws and your legislative authority, because it was 
handed down to them from their ancestors. The opinion 
may be erroneous, but the principle is undoubtedly right, 
and you punish them for acting upon a principle which, 
of all others, is perhaps the most necessary for preserv- 
ing society an implicit admiration and adherence to 
the establishments of their forefathers. 

If, indeed, the legislative authority was on all hands 
admitted to be the ground of religious persuasion, I 
should readily allow that dissent would be rebellion. 
In this case it would make no difference whether the 
opinion was sucked in with the milk, or imbibed yester 
day, because the same legislative authority which had 
settled could destroy it with all the power of a Creator 
over his creature. But this doctrine is universally dis 
owned, and for a very plain reason. Eeligion, to have 
any force on men s understandings, indeed, to exist at 
all, must be supposed paramount to laws, and inde 
pendent for its substance upon any human institution. 
Else it would be the absurdest thing in the world, an 
acknowledged cheat. Eeligion, therefore, is not believed 
because the laws have established it, but it is established 
because the leading part of the community have pre 
viously believed it to be true. As no water can rise 
higher than its spring, no establishment can have more 


TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

authority than it derives from its principle, and the 
power of the Government can with no appearance of 
reason go further coercively than to bind and hold down 
those who have once consented to their opinions. The 
consent is the origin of the whole. If they attempt to 
proceed farther they disown the foundation upon which 
their own establishment was built, and they claim a 
religious assent upon mere human authority, which has 
been just now shown to be absurd and preposterous, and 
which they in fact confess to be so. 

However, we are warranted to go thus far. The 
people often actually do (and perhaps they cannot in 
general do better) take their religion, not on the coercive, 
which is impossible, but on the influencing authority of 
their governors as wise and informed men. But if they 
once take a religion on the word of the State, they 
cannot in common sense do so a second time, unless 
they have some concurrent reason for it. The prejudice 

- in favour of your wisdom is shaken by your change. 
You confess that you have been wrong, and yet you 
would pretend to dictate by your sole authority, whereas 
you disengage the mind by embarrassing it. For why 

x should I prefer your opinion of to-day to your persuasion 
of yesterday ? If we must resort to prepossessions for 
the ground of opinion, it is in the nature of man rather 

to defer to the wisdom of times passed, whose weak 
ness is not before his eyes, than to the present, of 
whose imbecility he has daily experience. Veneration 
of antiquity is congenial to the human mind. When, 

1760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 45 

therefore, an establishment would persecute an opinion 
in possession, it sets against it all the powerful prejudices 
of human nature. It even sets its own authority, when 
it is of most weight, against itself in that very circum 
stance in which it must necessarily have the least, and 
it opposes the stable prejudice of time against a new 
opinion founded on mutability a consideration that 
must render compulsion in such a case the more grievous, 
as there is no security that, when the mind is settled in 
the new opinion, it may not be obliged to give place to one 
that is still newer, or even to a return of the old. But 
when an ancient establishment begins early to persecute 
an innovation, it stands upon quite other grounds, and 
it has all the prejudices and presumptions on its side. 
It puts its own authority, not only of compulsion, but 
prepossession, the veneration of past age, as well as 
the activity of the present time, against the opinion only 
of a private man or set of men. If there be no reason, 
there is at least some consistency in its proceedings. 
Commanding to constancy, it does nothing but that * 
of which it sets an example itself. But an opinion at 
once new and persecuting is a monster, because in the 
very instant in which it takes a liberty of change, it * 
does not leave to you even a liberty of perseverance. 

Is then no improvement to be brought into society ? 
Undoubtedly, but not by compulsion ; but by encourage-^ 
ment; but by countenance, favour, privileges which 
are powerful and are lawful instruments. The coercive 
authority of the State is limited to what is necessary 

46 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

for its existence. To this belongs the whole order of 
Criminal Law. It considers as crimes (that is, the 
object of punishment) trespasses against those rules for 
which society was instituted. The law punishes de 
linquents not because they are not good men, but 
because they are intolerably wicked. It does bear, and 
must, with the vices and the follies of men until they 
actually strike at the root of order. This it does in 
things actually moral. In all matters of speculative 
improvement the case is stronger, even where the matter 
is properly of human cognisance. But to consider an 
averseness to improvement the not arriving at perfec 
tion as a crime, is against all tolerably correct juris 
prudence ; for if the resistance to improvement should 
be great and any way general, they would in effect give 
up the necessary and substantial part in favour of the 
perfection and the finishing. 

But, say the abettors of our penal laws, this old 
possessed superstition is such in its principles that 
society, on its general principles, cannot subsist along 
with it. Could a man think such an objection possible 
if he had not actually heard it made ? an objection 
contradicted not by hypothetical reasonings, but the 
clear evidence of the most decisive facts. Society not 
only exists but nourishes at this hour, with this super 
stition, in many countries, under every form of Govern 
mentin some established, in some tolerated, in others 
upon an equal footing. And was there no civil society 
at all in these kingdoms before the Eeformation ? To 

1760-65. THE POPERY LA WS. 47 

say it was not as well constituted as it ought to be is 
saying nothing at all to the purpose ; for that assertion 
evidently regards improvement, not existence. It cer 
tainly did then exist, and it as certainly then was at 
least as much to the advantage of a very great part of 
society as what we have brought in the place of it 
which is indeed a great blessing to those who have 
profited by the change ; but to all the rest as we have 
wrought that is by blending general persecution with 
partial reformation it is the very reverse. We found 
the people heretics and idolaters ; we have, by way of 
improving their condition, rendered them slaves and 
beggars. They remain in all the misfortune of their old 
errors, and all the superadded misery of their recent 
punishment. They were happy enough in their 
opinion at least before the change. What benefits 
society then had, they partook of them all. They are 
now excluded from those benefits, and so far as civil 
society comprehends them, and as we have managed 
the matter, our persecutions are so far from being 
necessary to its existence, that our very Reformation is 
made in a degree noxious. If this be improvement, 
truly I know not what can be called a depravation of 

But as those who argue in this manner are perpetually 
shifting the question, having begun with objecting in 
order to give a fair and public colour to their scheme 
to a toleration of those opinions as subversive of society 
in general, they will surely end by abandoning the 

48 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

broad part of the argument, and attempting to show 
that a toleration of them is inconsistent with the estab 
lished Government among us. Now, though this 
position be in reality as untenable as the other, it is not 
altogether such an absurdity on the face of it. All I 
shall here observe is, that those who lay it down little 
consider what a wound they are giving to that Estab 
lishment for which they pretend so much zeal. How 
ever, as this is a consideration not of general justice 
but of particular and national policy, and as I have 
reserved a place expressly where it will undergo a 
thorough discussion, I shall not here embarrass myself 
with it, being resolved to preserve all the order in my 
power in the examination of this important melancholy 

However, before we pass from this point concerning 
possession, it will be a relaxation of the mind not wholly 
foreign to our purpose to take a short review of the 
extraordinary policy which has been held with regard 
to religion in that kingdom, from the time our ancestors 
took possession of it. The most able antiquaries are 
of opinion, and Archbishop Usher (whom I reckon 
amongst the first of them) has, I think, shown that a 
religion, not very remote from the present Protestant 
persuasion, was that of the Irish before the union of 
that kingdom to the Crown of England. If this was 
not directly the fact, this at least seems very probable, 
that Papal authority was much lower in Ireland than 
in other countries. This union was made under the 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 49 

authority of an arbitrary grant of Pope Adrian, in order 
that the Church of Ireland should be reduced to the 
same servitude with those that were nearer to his See. 
It is not very wonderful that an ambitious monarch 
should make use of any pretence in his way to so con 
siderable an object. What is extraordinary is, that for 
a very long time even quite down to the Eeformation 
and in their most solemn acts, the kings of England 
founded their title wholly on this grant. They called for 
obedience from the people of Ireland, not on principles 
of subjection, but as vassals and mean lords between 
them and the Popes ; and they omitted no measure of 
force or policy to establish that papal authority with all 
the distinguishing articles of religion connected with it, 
and to make it take deep root in the minds of the 
people. Not to crowd instances unnecessarily, I shall 
select two; one of which is in print, the other on 
record ; the one a Treaty, the other an Act of Parlia 
ment. The first is the submission of the Irish chiefs to 
Eichard II., mentioned by Sir John Davis. In this 
pact they bind themselves for the future to preserve 
peace and allegiance to the kings of England, under 
certain pecuniary penalties. But what is remarkable, 
these fines were all covenanted to be paid into the 
Apostolical Chamber, supposing the Pope as the 
superior power, whose peace was broken and whose- 
majesty was violated in disobeying his governor. By 
this time, so far as regarded England, the kings had 
extremely abridged the papal power in many material 


50 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

particulars ; they had passed the Statute of Provisors ; 
the Statute of Premunire ; and indeed struck out of the 
Papal authority all things at least, that seemed to 
infringe on their temporal independence. In Ireland, 
however, their proceeding was directly the reverse : 
there they thought it expedient to exalt it at least as 
high as ever. For, so late as the reign of Edward IV., 
the following short but very explicit Act of Parliament 

IV. ED. Cap. 3. 

An Act, whereby letters patent of pardon from the 
king to those that sue to Piome for certain bene 
fices is void. Eot. Paii. 

Item, At the request of the Commons it is ordeyned 
and established, by authority of the said Parliament, 
that aU maner letters patents of the king, of pardons or 
pardon granted by the king, or hereafter to be granted 
to any provisor, that claim any title by the bulls of the 
Pope to any maner benefices, where at the time of the 
impetrating of the said bulls of provision, the benefice 
is full of an incumbent, that then the said letters 
patents of pardon or pardons be void in law and of 
none effect. 

When by every expedient of force and policy, by 

1760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 51 

war of some centuries, by extirpating a number of the 
old, and by bringing in a number of new people full of 
those opinions, and intending to propagate them, they 
had fully compassed their object, they suddenly took 
another turn; commenced an opposite persecution, 
made heavy laws, carried on mighty wars, inflicted 
and suffered the worst evils, extirpated the mass of the 
old, brought in new inhabitants ; and they continue at 
this day an oppressive system, and may for four hun 
dred years to come, to eradicate opinions which, by the 
same violent means they had been four hundred years 
endeavouring by every means to establish. They com 
pelled the people to submit, by the forfeiture of all 
their civil rights, to the Pope s authority, in its most 
extravagant and unbounded sense, as a giver of king 
doms ; and now they refuse even to tolerate them in 
the most moderate and chastised sentiments concerning 
it. No country, I believe, since the world began, has 
suffered so much on account of religion ; or has been 
so variously harassed both for Popery and for Protest- 

It will now be seen, that, even if these laws could 
be supposed agreeable to those of Nature in these par 
ticulars, on another and almost as strong a principle 
they are yet unjust, as being contrary to positive com 
pact, and the public faith most solemnly plighted. On 
the surrender of Limerick, and some other Irish garri 
sons, in the war of the Revolution, the Lords Justices 
of Ireland, and the commander-in-chief of the king s 

52 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

forces, signed a capitulation with the Irish, which was 
afterwards ratified by the king himself, by Inspeximus 
under the great seal of England. It contains some 
public articles relative to the whole body of the Eoman 
Catholics in that kingdom, and some with regard to the 
security of the greater part of the inhabitants of five 
counties. What the latter were, or in what manner 
they were observed, is at this day of much less public 
concern. The former are two, the 1st and the 9th. 
The first is of this tenour. The Eoman Catholics of 
this kingdom (Ireland) shall enjoy such privileges, in 
the exercise of their religion, as are consistent with the 
laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of 
King Charles II. ; and their Majesties, as soon as their 
affairs will permit them to summon a Parliament in 
this kingdom, will endeavour to procure the said Eoman 
Catholics such further security in that particular as 
may preserve them from any disturbance on account of 
their religion. The ninth article is to this effect. The 
oath to be administered to such Eoman Catholics as 
submit to their Majesties Government, shall be the oath 
aforesaid, and no other ; viz. the oath of allegiance, 
made by Act of Parliament in England, in the first year 
of their then Majesties ; as required by the second of the 
articles of Limerick. Compare this latter article with 
the penal laws, as they are stated in the second chap 
ter, and judge whether they seem to be the public Acts 
of the same power, and observe whether other oaths are 
tendered to them, and under what penalties. Compare 

1760-65. THE POPERY LAWS. 53 

the former with the same laws, from the beginning to 
the end ; and judge whether the Eoman Catholics have 
been preserved, agreeably to the sense of the article, 
from any disturbance upon account of their religion ; 
or rather, whether on that account there is a single 
right of nature, or benefit of society, which has not 
been either totally taken away or considerably im 

But it is said that the Legislature was not bound 
by this article, as it has never been ratified in Parlia 
ment. I do admit that it never had that sanction, 
and that the Parliament was under no obligation to 
ratify these articles by any express Act of theirs. 
But still I am at a loss how they came to be the less 
valid, on the principles of our constitution, by being 
without that sanction. They certainly bound the 
king and his successors. The words of the article do 
this ; or they do nothing ; and so far as the Crown 
had a share in passing those Acts, the public faith was 
unquestionably broken. In Ireland such a breach on 
the part of the Crown was much more unpardonable 
in administration, than it would have been here. They 
have in Ireland a way of preventing any Bill even from 
approaching the Royal Presence, in matters of far less 
importance than the honour and faith of the Crown, 
and the well-being of a great body of the people. For, 
besides that they might have opposed the very first 
suggestion of it in the House of Commons, it could not 
be framed into a Bill without the approbation of the 

54 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

Council in Ireland. It could not be returned to them 
again without the approbation of the King and Council 
here. They might have met it again in its second 
passage through that House of Parliament, in which it 
was originally suggested, as well as in the other. If 
it had escaped them through all these mazes, it was 
again to come before the Lord Lieutenant, who might 
have sunk it by a refusal of the royal assent. The 
constitution of Ireland has interposed all those checks 
to the passing of any constitutional Act, however 
insignificant in its own nature. But did the Adminis 
tration in that reign avail themselves of any one of 
those opportunities ? They never gave the Act of the 
llth of Queen Anne the least degree of opposition in 
any one stage of its progress. What is rather the fact, 
many of the Queen s servants encouraged it, recom 
mended it, were, in reality, the true authors of its 
passing in Parliament, instead of recommending and 
using their utmost endeavour to establish a law directly 
opposite in its tendency, as they were bound to do by 
the express letter of the very first article of the Treaty 
of Limerick. To say nothing further of the Ministry, 
who in this instance most shamefully betrayed the 
faith of Government, may it not be a matter of some 
degree of doubt, whether the Parliament, who do not 
claim a right of dissolving the force of moral obligation, 
did not make themselves a party in this breach of 
contract, by presenting a Bill to the Crown in direct 
violation of those Articles so solemnly and so recently 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 55 

executed, which by the constitution they had full 
authority to execute ? 

It may be further objected that, when the Irish 
requested the ratification of Parliament to those articles, 
they did, in effect, themselves entertain a doubt con 
cerning their validity without such a ratification. To 
this I answer, that the collateral security was meant to 
bind the Crown, and to hold it firm to its engagements. 
They did not, therefore, call it a perfecting of the 
security, but an additional security, which it could 
not have been, if the first had been void; for the 
Parliament could not bind itself more than the Crown 
had bound itself. And if all had made but one security, 
neither of them could be called additional with pro 
priety or common sense. But let us suppose that they 
did apprehend there might have been something want 
ing in this security without the sanction of Parliament. 
They were, however, evidently mistaken ; and this 
surplusage of theirs did not weaken the validity of the 
single contract, upon the known principle of law, Non 
solent, gum abundant, mtiare scripturas. For nothing 
is more evident than that the Crown was bound, and 
that no Act can be made without the royal assent. 
But the constitution will warrant us in going a great 
deal farther, and in affirming that a treaty executed 
by the Crown, and contradictory of no preceding law, 
full as binding on the whole body of the nation as 
it had twenty times received the sanction of Parlia- 
lent ; because the very same constitution, which has 

56 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

given to the Houses of Parliament their definite 
authority, has also left in the Crown the trust of 
making peace, as a consequence, and much the best 
consequence, of the prerogative of making war. If the 
peace was ill made, my Lord Galway, Coningsby, and 
Porter, who signed it, were responsible ; because they 
were subject to the community. But its own contracts 
are not subject to it. It is subject to them ; and the 
compact of the king acting constitutionally was the 
compact of the nation. 

Observe what monstrous Consequences would result 
from a contrary position. A foreign enemy has entered, 
or a strong domestic one has arisen in the nation. In 
such events the circumstances may be, and often have 
been, such that a Parliament cannot sit. This was 
precisely the case in that rebellion in Ireland. It will 
be admitted also that their power may be so great as 
to make it very prudent to treat with them, in order 
to save effusion of blood, perhaps to save the nation. 
Now, could such a treaty be at all made if your ene 
mies, or rebels, were fully persuaded that, in these 
times of confusion, there was no authority in the State 
which could hold out to them an inviolable pledge for 
their future security; but that there lurked in the 
constitution a dormant but irresistible power, who 
would not think itself bound by the ordinary subsisting 
and contracting authority, but might rescind its acts 
and obligations at pleasure ? This would be a doctrine 
made to perpetuate and exasperate war ; and on that 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 57 

principle it directly impugns the law of nations, which 
is built upon this principle, that war should be softened 
as much as possible, and that it should cease as soon 
as possible between contending parties and communities. 
The king has a power to pardon individuals. If the 
king holds out his faith to a robber to come in on 
a promise of pardon, of life and estate, and, in all 
respects, of a full indemnity, shall the Parliament say 
that he must, nevertheless, be executed, that his estate 
must be forfeited, or that he shall be abridged of any 
of the privileges which he* before held as a subject ? 
Nobody will affirm it. In such a case the breach of 
faith would not only be on the part of the king, who 
assented to such an act, but on the part of the Parlia 
ment, who made it. As the king represents the whole 
contracting capacity of the nation, so far as his pre 
rogative (unlimited, as I said before, by any precedent 
law) can extend, he acts as the national procurator on 
all such occasions. What is true of a robber is true 
of a rebel ; and what is true of one robber or rebel is 
as true and it is a much more important truth of 
one hundred thousand. 

To urge this part of the argument farther is indeed, 
I fear, not necessary, for two reasons. First, that it 
seems tolerably evident in itself; and next, that there 
is but too much ground to apprehend that the actual 
ratification of Parliament would, in the then temper of 
parties, have proved but a very slight and trivial 
security. Of this there is a very strong example in 

58 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

the history of those very articles. Tor, though the 
Parliament omitted in the reign of King William to 
ratify the first and most general of them, they did actu 
ally confirm the second and more limited that which 
related to the security of the inhabitants of those five 
counties which were in arms when the treaty was 


In the foregoing book we considered these laws in 
a very simple point of view, and in a very general 
one merely as a system of hardship imposed on the 
body of the community; and from thence and from 
some other arguments inferred the general injustice of 
such a procedure. In this we shall be obliged to be 
more minute ; and the matter will become more com 
plex as we undertake to demonstrate the mischievous 
and impolitic consequences, which the particular mode 
of this oppressive system, and the instruments which 
it employs, operating, as we said, on this extensive 
object, produce on the national prosperity, quiet, and 

The stock of materials by which any nation is 
rendered flourishing and prosperous, are its industry, 
its knowledge or skill, its morals, its execution of 
justice, its courage, and the national union in direct 
ing these powers to one point, and making them all 
centre in the public benefit. Other than these I do 

1760-65. THE POPERY LA WS. 59 

not know, and scarcely can conceive any means by 
which a community may flourish. 

If we show that these penal laws of Ireland de 
stroy not one only, but every one of these materials of 
public prosperity, it will not be difficult to perceive 
that Great Britain, whilst they subsist, never can draw 
from that country all the advantages to which the 
bounty of nature has entitled it. 

To begin with the first great instrument of national 
happiness and strength its industry I must observe 
that although these penal laws do indeed inflict many 
hardships on those who are obnoxious to them, yet 
their chief, their most extensive and most certain 
operation is upon property. Those civil constitutions 
which promote industry are such as facilitate the 
acquisition, secure the holding, enable the fixing, and 
suffer the alienation of property. Every law which 
obstructs it in any part of its distribution is, in pro 
portion to the force and extent of the obstruction, a 
discouragement to industry. For a law against pro- v 
perty is a law against industry, the latter having 
always the former, and nothing else, for its object. 
Now as to the acquisition of landed property, which 
is the foundation and support of all the other kinds, 
the laws have disabled three-fourths of the inhabitants 
of Ireland from acquiring any estate of inheritance for 
life or years, or any charge whatsoever, on which two- 
thirds of the improved yearly value are not reserved 
for thirty years. 

60 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

This confinement of landed property to one set of 
hands, and preventing its free circulation through the 
community, is a most leading article of ill policy, 
because it is one of the most capital discouragements 
to all that industry which may be employed on the 
lasting improvement of the soil, or is any way con 
versant about land. A tenure of thirty years is evi 
dently no tenure upon which to build, to plant, to raise 
enclosures, to change the nature of the ground, to make 
any new experiment which might improve agriculture, 
or to do anything more than what may answer the 
immediate and momentary calls of rent to the landlord, 
and leave subsistence to the tenant and his family. 
The desire of acquisition is always a passion of long 
views. Confine a man to momentary possession, and 
you at once cut off that laudable avarice which every 
wise State has cherished as one of the first principles 
of its greatness. Allow a man but a temporary pos 
session, lay it down as a maxim that he never can 
have any other, and you immediately and infallibly 
turn him to temporary enjoyments ; and these enjoy 
ments are never the pleasures of labour and free 
industry, whose quality it is to famish the present 
hours, and squander all upon prospect and futurity ; 
they are, on the contrary, those of a thoughtless, loiter 
ing, and dissipated life. The people must be inevi 
tably disposed to such pernicious habits merely from 
the short duration of their tenure which the law has 

1760-65. THE POPERY LAWS. 61 

allowed. But it is not enough that industry is checked 
by the confinement of its views ; it is further dis 
couraged by the limitation of its own direct object 
profit. This is a regulation extremely worthy of our 
attention, as it is not a consequential, but a direct dis 
couragement to melioration, as directly as if the law 
had said in express terms, " Thou shalt not im 

But we have an additional argument to demonstrate 
the ill policy of denying the occupiers of land any 
solid property in it. Ireland is a country wholly un- 
planted. The farms have neither dwelling-houses nor 
good offices, nor are the lands almost anywhere pro 
vided with fences and communications ; in a word, in 
a very unimproved state. The land-owner there never 
takes upon him, as it is usual in this kingdom, to 
supply all these conveniences, and to set down his 
tenant in what may be called a completely furnished 
farm. If the tenant will not do it, it is never done. 
This circumstance shows how miserably and peculiarly 
impolitic it has been in Ireland to tie down the body 
of the tenantry to short and unprofitable tenures. A 
finished and furnished house will be taken for any term, 
however short ; if the repair lies on the owner, the 
shorter the better. But no one will take one not only 
unfurnished but half built, but upon a term which, on 
calculation, will answer with profit all his charges. It 
is on this principle that the Romans established their 
Emphyteusis, or fee-farm. For though they extended 


TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

the ordinary term of their location only to nine years, 
yet they encouraged a more permanent letting to 
farm, with the condition of improvement, as well as of 
annual payment, on the part of the tenant, where the 
land had lain rough and neglected; and therefore 
invented this species of engrafted holding in the later 
times, when property came to be worse distributed by 
falling into a few hands. This denial of landed pro 
perty to the gross of the people has this further evil 
effect in preventing the improvement of land ; that it 
prevents any of the property acquired in trade to be 
re-gorged as it were upon the land. They must have 
observed very little who have not remarked the bold 
and liberal spirit of improvement which persons bred 
to trade have often exerted on their land-purchases ; 
that they usually come to them with a more abundant 
command of ready money than most landed men pos 
sess ; and that they have in general a much better 
idea, by long habits of calculative dealings, of the pro 
priety of expending in order to acquire. Besides, such 
men often bring their spirit of commerce into their 
estates with them, and make manufactures take a root 
where the mere landed gentry had perhaps no capital, 
perhaps no inclination, and most frequently not suffi 
cient knowledge to effect anything of the kind. By 
these means what beautiful and useful spots have 
there not been made about trading and manufacturing 
towns, and how has agriculture had reason to bless 
that happy alliance with commerce ; and how miser- 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 63 

able must that nation be whose frame of polity has 
disjointed the landing and the trading interests ! 

The great prop of this whole system is not pre 
tended to be its justice or its utility, but the supposed 
danger to the State, which gave rise to it originally, 
and which, they apprehend, would return if this system 
were overturned. Whilst, say they, the Papists of this 
kingdom were possessed of landed property, and of the 
influence consequent to such property, their allegiance 
to the Crown of Great Britain was ever insecure ; the 
public peace was ever liable to be broken ; and Pro 
testants never could be a moment secure either of their 
properties or of their lives. Indulgence only made 
them arrogant, and power daring; confidence only 
excited and enabled them to exert their inherent 
treachery ; and the times which they generally selected 
for their most wicked and desperate rebellions were 
those in which they enjoyed the greatest ease and the 
most perfect tranquillity. 

Such are the arguments that are used both publicly 
and privately in every discussion upon this point. 
They are generally full of passion and of error, and 
built upon facts which, in themselves, are most false. 
It cannot, I confess, be denied that those miserable 
performances which go about under the names of 
Histories of Ireland, do indeed represent those events 
after this manner ; and they would persuade us, con 
trary to the known order of Nature, that indulgence 

G4 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

and moderation in governors is the natural incitement 
in subjects to rebel. But there is an interior History 
of Ireland the genuine voice of its records and monu 
ments which speaks a very different language from 
these histories from Temple and from Clarendon. 
These restore nature to its just rights, and policy to its 
proper order ; for they even now show to those who 
have been at the pains to examine them and they may 
show one day to all the world that these rebellions 
x were not produced by toleration but by persecution; 
that they arose not from just and mild government, 
but from the most unparalleled oppression. These 
records will be far from giving the least countenance 
to a doctrine so repugnant to humanity and good sense 
as that the security of any establishment, civil or re- 
. ligious, can ever depend upon the misery of those who 
live under it, or that its danger can arise from their 
quiet and prosperity. God forbid that the history of 
this or any country should give such encouragement 
to the folly or vices of those who govern. If it can 
be shown that the great rebellions of Ireland have 
arisen from attempts to reduce the natives to the state 
to which they are now reduced, it will show that an 
attempt to continue them in that state will rather be 
disadvantageous to the public peace than any kind of 
security to it. These things have, in some measure, 
begun to appear already, and as far as regards the 
argument drawn from former rebellions, it will fall 
readily to the ground. But, for my part, I think the 

1760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 65 

real danger to every state is, to render its subjects 
justly discontented ; nor is there in politics or science 
any more effectual secret for their security than to 
establish in their people a firm opinion that no change 
can be for their advantage. It is true that bigotry and 
fanaticism may, for a time, draw great multitudes of 
people from a knowledge of their true and substantial 
interest. But upon this I have to remark three things ; 
first, that such a temper can never become universal, 
or last for a long time. The principle of religion "is 
seldom lasting ; the majority of men are in no per 
suasion bigots ; they are not willing to sacrifice on 
every vain imagination that superstition or enthusiasm 
holds forth, or that even zeal and piety recommend, the 
certain possession of their temporal happiness. And if 
such a spirit has been at any time roused in a society, 
after it has had its paroxysm it commonly subsides 
and is quiet, and is even the weaker for the violence 
of its first exertion ; security and ease are its mortal 
enemies. But secondly, if anything can tend to revive 
and keep it up, it is to keep alive the passions of men 
by ill usage. This is enough to irritate even those 
who have not a spark of bigotry in their constitution 
to the most desperate enterprises ; it certainly will in 
flame, darken, and render more dangerous, the spirit of 
bigotry in those who are possessed by it. Lastly, by 
rooting out any sect, you are never secure against the* 
effects of fanaticism ; it may arise on the side of the 
most favoured opinions ; and many are the instances 


66 TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

wherein the established religion of a state has grown 
ferocious and turned upon its keeper, and has often 
torn to pieces the civil establishment that had cherished 
it, and which it was designed to support ; France 
England Holland. 

But there may be danger of washing a change, 
even where no religious motive can operate ; and 
every enemy to such a state conies as a friend to the 
subject ; and where other countries are under terror, 
they begin to hope. 

This argument ad verecnndiam has as much force 
as any such have. But I think it fares but very 
indifferently with those who make use of it ; for they 
would get but little to be proved abettors of tyranny 
at the expense of putting me to an inconvenient 
acknowledgment. For if I were to confess that there 
are circumstances in which it would be better to 
establish such a religion ..... 

With regard to the Pope s interest. This foreign 
chief of their religion cannot be more formidable to us 
than to other Protestant countries. To conquer that 
country for himself is a wild chimera ; to encourage 
revolt in favour of foreign princes is an exploded idea 
in the politics of that Court. Perhaps it would be 
full as dangerous to have the people under the conduct 
of factious pastors of their own as under a foreign 
ecclesiastical court. 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 67 

In the second year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 
were enacted several limitations in the acquisition or 
the retaining of property, which had so far as regarded 
any general principles hitherto remained untouched 
under all changes. 

These Bills met no opposition either in the Irish 
Parliament or in the English Council, except from 
private agents, who were little attended to ; and they 
passed into laws with the highest and most general 
applauses, as all such things are, in the beginning, 
not as a system of persecution, but as masterpieces 
of the most subtle and refined politics. And to say 
the truth, these laws at first view have rather an 
appearance of a plan of vexatious litigation and crooked 
law chicanery, than of a direct and sanguinary attack 
upon the rights of private conscience, because they did 
not affect life, at least with regard to the laity ; and 
making the Catholic opinions rather the subject of civil 
regulations than of criminal prosecutions, to those who 
are not lawyers and read these laws, they only appear to 
be a species of jargon. For the execution of criminal 
law has always a certain appearance of violence. Be 
ing exercised directly on the persons of the supposed 
offenders, and commonly executed in the face of the 
public, such executions are apt to excite sentiments of 
pity for the sufferers, and indignation against those 
who are employed in such cruelties being seen as 
single acts of cruelty, rather than as ill general prin 
ciples of government. But the operation of the laws 

TRACTS ON 1760-65. 

in question being such as common feeling brings home 
to every man s bosom, they operate in a sort of com 
parative silence and obscurity; and though their 
cruelty is exceedingly great, it is never seen in a 
single exertion, and always escapes commiseration, 
being scarce known, except to those who view them 
in a general which is always a cold and phlegmatic 

light. The first of these laws being made with so 

general a satisfaction, as the chief governors found 
that such things were extremely acceptable to the 
leading people in that country, they were willling 
enough to gratify them with the ruin of their fellow- 
citizens ; they were not sorry to divert their attention 
from other inquiries, and to keep them fixed to this, as 
if this had been the only real object of their national 
politics ; and for many years there was no speech 
from the throne which did not, with great appearance 
of seriousness, recommend the passing of such laws ; 
and scarce a session went over without in effect pass 
ing some of them, until they have by degrees grown to 
be the most considerable head in the Irish Statute 
Book. At the same time, giving a temporary and 
occasional mitigation to the severity of some of the 
harshest of those laws, they appeared in some sort the 
protectors of those whom they were in reality destroy 
ing by the establishment of general constitutions 
against them. At length, however, the policy of this 
expedient is worn out; the passions of men are cooled; 
those laws begin to disclose themselves, and to pro- 

1 760-65. THE POPER Y LA WS. 69 

duce effects very different from those which were 
promised in making them ; for crooked counsels are 
ever unwise; and nothing can be more absurd and 
dangerous than to tamper with the natural founda 
tions of society, in hopes of keeping it up by certain 

70 A LETTER TO i?73- 




I AM much flattered by your very obliging letter, and 
the rather because it promises an opening to our future 
correspondence. This may be my only indemnification 
for very great losses. One of the most odious parts of 
the proposed Absentee Tax is its tendency to separate 
friends, and to make as ugly breaches in private society 
as it must make in the unity of the great political body. 
I am sure that much of the satisfaction of some circles 
in London will be lost by it. Do you think that our 
friend Mrs. Yesey will suffer her husband to vote for a 
tax that is to destroy the evenings at Bolton Row ? I 
trust we shall have other supporters of the same sex, 

i From authentic documents found with the copy of this letter 
among Mr. Burke s papers, it appears that in the year 1773 a project 
of imposing a tax upon all proprietors of landed estates in Ireland, 
whose ordinary residence should be in Great Britain, had been adopted 
and avowed by his Majesty s ministers at that time. A remonstrance 
against this measure, as highly unjust and impolitic, was presented to 
the ministers by several of the principal Irish absentees, and the project 
was subsequently abandoned. 


equally powerful and equally deserving to be so, who 
will not abandon the common cause of their own 
liberties and our satisfactions. We shall be barbarised 
on both sides of the water if we do not see one another 
now and then. We shall sink into surly, brutish 
Johns, and you will degenerate into wild Irish. It is 
impossible that we should be the wiser or the more 
agreeable ; certainly we shall not love one another the 
better for this forced separation which our ministers, 
who have already done so much for the dissolution of 
every other sort of good connection, are now meditating 
for the further improvement of this too well united 
empire. Their next step will be to encourage all the 
colonies about thirty separate Governments to keep 
their people from all intercourse with each other and 
with the mother country. A gentleman of New York 
or Barbadoes will be as much gazed at as a strange 
animal from Nova Zembla or Otaheite, and those rogues, 
the travellers, will tell us what stories they please about 
poor old Ireland. 

In all seriousness (though I am a great deal more 
than half serious in what I have been saying), I look 
upon this projected tax in a very evil light. I think it 
is not advisable ; I am sure it is not necessary ; and 
as it is not a mere matter of finance, but involves a 
political question of much importance, I consider the 
principle and precedent as far worse than the thing 
itself. You are too kind in imagining I can suggest 
anything new upon the subject. The objections to it 

72 A LETTER TO 1773- 

are very glaring, and must strike the eyes of all those 
who have not their reasons for shutting them against 
evident truth. I have no feelings or opinions on this 
subject which I do not partake with all the sensible 
and informed people that I meet with. At first I 
could scarcely meet with any one who could believe 
that this scheme originated from the English Govern 
ment. They considered it not only as absurd, but as 
something monstrous and unnatural. In the first 
instance it strikes at the power of this country, in the 
end, at the union of the whole empire. I do not mean 
to express, most certainly I do not entertain in my 
mind, anything invidious concerning the superintend 
ing authority of Great Britain. But if it be true that 
the several bodies which make up this complicated mass 
are to be preserved as one empire, an authority suffi 
cient to preserve that unity, and by its equal weight 
and pressure to consolidate the various parts that com 
pose it, must reside somewhere ; that somewhere can 
only be in England. Possibly any one member dis 
tinctly taken might decide in favour of that residence 
within itself, but certainly no member would give its 
voice for any other except this. So that I look upon 
the residence of the supreme power to be settled here 
not by force or tyranny, or even by mere long usage, 
but by the very nature of things and the joint consent 
of the whole body. 

If all this be admitted, then without question this 
country must have the sole right to the Imperial 


Legislation, by which I mean that law which regulates 
the polity and economy of the several parts, as they 
relate to one another and to the whole. But if any of 
the parts, which (not for oppression but for order) are 
placed in a subordinate situation, will assume to them 
selves the power of hindering or checking the resort of 
their municipal subjects to the centre, or even to any 
other part of the empire, they arrogate to themselves 
the imperial rights, which do not, which cannot, belong 
to them, and, so far as in them lies, destroy the happy 
arrangement of the entire empire. 

A free communication, by discretionary residence, is 
necessary to all the other purposes of communication. 
For what purpose are the Irish and Plantation laws 
sent hither, but as means of preserving this sovereign 
constitution? Whether such a constitution was ori 
ginally right or wrong, this is not the time of day to 
dispute. If any evils arise from it, let us not strip it 
of what may be useful in it. By taking the English 
Privy Council into your Legislature, you obtain a new, 
a further, and, possibly, a more liberal consideration of 
all your acts. If a local Legislature shall by oblique 
means tend to deprive any of the people of this benefit, 
and shall make it penal to them to follow into England 
the laws which may affect them, then the English 
Privy Council will have to decide upon your acts 
without those lights that may enable them to judge 
upon what grounds you made them, or how far they 
ought to be modified, received, or rejected. 

74 A LETTER TO 1773- 

To what end is the ultimate appeal in judicature 
lodged in this kingdom, if men may be disabled from 
following their suits here, and may be taxed into an 
absolute denial of justice ? You observe, my dear sir, 
that I do not assert that, in all cases, two shillings will 
necessarily cut off this means of correcting legislative 
and judicial mistakes, and thus amount to a denial of 
justice. I might indeed state cases in which this very 
quantum of tax would be fully sufficient to defeat this 
right. But I argue not on the case, but on the prin 
ciple, and I am sure the principle implies it. They 
who may restrain, may prohibit. They who may im 
pose two shillings, may impose ten shillings, in the 
pound ; and those who may condition the tax to six 
months annual absence, may carry that condition to 
six weeks, or even to six days, and thereby totally 
defeat the wise means which have been provided for 
extensive and impartial justice, and for orderly, well- 
poised, and well-connected government. 

What is taxing the resort to and residence in any 
place, but declaring that your connection with that 
place is a grievance ? Is not such an Irish tax as is 
now proposed a virtual declaration that England is a 
foreign country, and a renunciation on your part of the 
principle of common naturalisation, which runs through 
this whole empire ? 

Do you, or does any Irish gentleman, think it a 
mean privilege that, the moment he sets his foot upon 
this ground, he is to all intents and purposes an 


Englishman ? You will not be pleased with a law, 
which by its operation tends to disqualify you from a 
seat in this Parliament ; and if your own virtue or 
fortune, or if that of your children, should carry you 
or them to it, should you like to be excluded from the 
possibility of a peerage in this kingdom ? If in Ireland 
we lay it down as a maxim, that a residence in Great 
Britain is a political evil, and to be discouraged by 
penal taxes, you must necessarily reject all the privi 
leges and benefits which are connected with such a 

I can easily conceive that a citizen of Dublin, who 
looks no farther than his counter, may think that 
Ireland will be repaid for such a loss by any small 
diminution of taxes, or any increase in the circulation 
of money, that may be laid out in the purchase of 
claret or groceries in his corporation. In such a man 
an error of that kind, as it would be natural, would be 
excusable. But I cannot think that any educated man, 
any man who looks with an enlightened eye on the 
interest of Ireland, can believe that it is not highly for 
the advantage of Ireland that this Parliament, which, 
whether right or wrong, whether we will or not, will 
make some laws to bind Ireland, should always have 
in it some persons, who, by connection, by property, or 
by early prepossessions and affections, are attached to 
the welfare of that country. I am so clear upon this 
point, not only from the clear reason of the thing, but 
from the constant course of my observation, by now 

76 A LETTER TO 773. 

having sat eight sessions in Parliament, that I declare 
it to you, as my sincere opinion, that (if you must do 
either the one or the other) it would be wiser by far, 
and far better for Ireland, that some new privileges 
should attend the estates of Irishmen, members of the 
two Houses here, than that their characters should 
be stained by penal impositions, and their properties 
loaded by unequal and unheard-of modes of taxation. 
I do really trust that, when the matter comes a little to 
be considered, a majority of our gentlemen will never 
consent to establish such a principle of disqualification 
against themselves and their posterity, and, for the sake 
of gratifying the schemes of a transitory Administration 
of the Cockpit or the Castle, or in compliance with the 
lightest part of the most vulgar and transient popularity, 
fix so irreparable an injury on the permanent interest 
of their country. 

This law seems, therefore, to me to go directly 
against the fundamental points of the legislative and 
judicial constitution of these kingdoms, and against 
the happy communion of their privileges. But there 
is another matter in the tax proposed, that contradicts 
as essentially a very great principle necessary for pre 
serving the union of the various parts of a State ; 
because it does, in effect, discountenance mutual inter 
marriage and inheritance things that bind countries 
more closely together than any laws or constitutions 
whatsoever. Is it right that a woman who marries 
into Ireland, and perhaps well purchases her jointure 

1773- -S77? CHARLES BINGHAM. 77 

or her dower there, should not after her husband s 
death have it in her choice to return to her country 
and her friends without being taxed for it ? 

If an Irish heiress should marry into an English 
family, and that great property in both countries 
should thereby come to be united in this common 
issue, shall the descendant of that marriage abandon 
his natural connection, his family interests, his public 
and his private duties, and be compelled to take up 
his residence in Ireland ? Is there any sense or any 
justice in it, unless you affirm that there should be no 
such intermarriage and no such mutual inheritance 
between the natives ? Is there a shadow of reason 
that because a Lord Eockingham, a Duke of Devon 
shire, a Sir George Saville, possess property in Ireland, 
which has descended to them without any act of theirs, 
they should abandon their duty in Parliament, and 
spend the winters in Dublin ? or, having spent the 
Session in Westminster, must they abandon their seats 
and all their family interests in Yorkshire and Derby 
shire, and pass the rest of the year in Wicklow, in 
Cork, or Tyrone ? 

See what the consequence must be from a muni 
cipal legislature considering itself as an unconnected 
body, and attempting to enforce a partial residence. A 
man may have property in more parts than two of this 
empire. He may have property in Jamaica and in 
North America, as well as in England and Ireland. I 
know some that have property in all of them. What 

78 A LETTER TO 773- 

shall we say to this case ? After the poor distracted 
citizen of the whole empire has, in compliance with 
your partial law, removed his family, bid adieu to his 
connections, and settled himself quietly and snug in a 
pretty box by the Liffey, he hears that the Parliament 
of Great Britain is of opinion that all English estates 
ought to be spent in England, and that they will tax 
him double if he does not return. Suppose him, then 
(if the nature of the two laws will permit it), providing 
a flying camp, and dividing his year as well as he can 
between England and Ireland, and at the charge of 
two town -houses and two country-houses in both 
kingdoms ; in this situation he receives an account 
that a law is transmitted from Jamaica, and another 
from Pennsylvania, to tax absentees from these pro 
vinces, which are impoverished by the European resid 
ence of the possessors of their lands. How is he to 
escape this ricochet cross -firing of so many opposite 
batteries of police and regulation ? If he attempts to 
comply, he is likely to be more a citizen of the 
Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea than of any of these 
countries. The matter is absurd and ridiculous ; and 
while ever the idea of mutual marriages, inheritances, 
purchases, and privileges subsist, can never be carried 
into execution with common sense or common justice. 
I do not know how gentlemen of Ireland reconcile 
such an idea to their own liberties, or to the natural 
use and enjoyment of their estates. If any of their 
children should be left in a minority, and a guardian 


should think, as many do (it matters not whether 
properly or no), that his ward had better be educated 
in a school or university here than in Ireland, is he 
sure that he can justify the bringing a tax of ten per 
cent, perhaps twenty, on his pupil s estate, by giving 
what, in his opinion, is the best education in general, 
or the best for that pupil s particular character and 
circumstances? Can he justify his sending him to 
travel a necessary part of the higher style of educa 
tion, and, notwithstanding what some narrow writers 
have said, of great benefit to all countries, but very 
particularly so to Ireland ? Suppose a guardian, under 
the authority or pretence of such a tax of police, had 
prevented our dear friend, Lord Charlemont, from going 
abroad, would he have lost no satisfaction ? Would 
his friends have lost nothing in the companion ? Would 
his country have lost nothing in the cultivated taste 
with which he has adorned it in so many ways ? His 
natural elegance of mind would undoubtedly do a great 
deal ; but I will venture to assert, without the danger 
of being contradicted, that he adorns his present resi 
dence in Ireland much the more for having resided a 
long time out of it. Will Mr. Flood himself think he 
ought to have been driven by taxes into Ireland, whilst 
he prepared himself by an English education to under 
stand and to defend the rights of the subject in Ireland, 
or to support the dignity of Government there accord 
ing as his opinions, or the situation of things, may lead 
him to take either part upon respectable principles ? 

80 A LETTER TO i?73. 

I hope it is not forgot that an Irish Act of Parliament 
sends its youth to England for the study of the Law, and 
compels a residence in the Inns of Court here for some 
years. Will you send out with one breath and recall 
with another ? This Act plainly provides for that 
intercourse which supposes the strictest union in laws 
and policy, in both which the intended tax supposes 
an entire separation. 

It would be endless to go into all the inconveni 
ences this tax will lead to in the conduct of private 
life and the use of property. How many infirm people 
are obliged to change their climate whose life depends 
upon that change ? How many families straitened in 
their circumstances are there, who from the shame, 
sometimes from the utter impossibility otherwise of 
retrenching, are obliged to remove from their country 
in order to preserve their estates in their families ? 
You begin, then, to burthen these people precisely at 
the time when their circumstances of health and for 
tune render them rather objects of relief and commis 

I know very well that a great proportion of the 
money of every subordinate country will flow towards 
the metropolis. This is unavoidable. Other incon 
veniences too will result to particular parts ; and why ? 
Why, because they are particular parts ; each a mem 
ber of a greater, and riot a whole within itself. But 
those members are to consider whether these incon 
veniences are not fully balanced perhaps more than 

1773- ^V# CHARLES BINGHAM. 81 

balanced by the united strength of a great and com 
pact body. I am sensible, too, of a difficulty that will 
be started against the application of some of the prin 
ciples which I reason upon to the case of Ireland. It 
will be said that Ireland, in many particulars, is not 
bound to consider itself as a part of the British body, 
because this country in many instances is mistaken 
enough to treat you as foreigners, and draws away your 
money by absentees without suffering you to enjoy 
your natural advantages in trade and commerce. No 
man living loves restrictive regulations of any kind 
less than myself ; at best, nine times in ten, they are 
little better than laborious and vexatious follies. Often, 
as in your case, they are great oppressions as well as 
great absurdities. But still an injury is not always a 
reason for retaliation, nor is the folly of others with 
regard to us a reason for imitating it with regard to 
them. Before we attempt to retort we ought to con 
sider whether we may not injure ourselves even more 
than our adversary, since, in the contest who shall gu 
the greatest length in absurdity, the victor is generally 
the greatest sufferer. Besides, when there is an un 
fortunate emulation in restraints and oppressions, the 
question of strength is of the highest importance. It 
little becomes the feeble to be unjust. Justice is the 
shield of the weak, and when they choose to lay this 
down, and fight naked in the contest of mere power, 
the event will be what must be expected from such 


82 A LETTER TO 1773- 

I ought to beg your pardon for running into this 
length. You want no arguments to convince you on 
this subject, and you want no resources of matter to 
convince others. I ought, too, to ask pardon for having 
delayed my answer so long, but I received your letter 
on Tuesday in town, and I was obliged to come to 
the country on business. From the country I write 
at present, but this day I shall go to town again. I 
shall see Lord Eockingham, who has spared neither 
time nor trouble in making a vigorous opposition to 
this inconsiderate measure. I hope to be able to send 
you the papers, which will give you information of 
the steps he has taken. He has pursued this business 
with the foresight, diligence, and good sense with 
which he generally resists unconstitutional attempts of 
Government. A life of disinterestedness, generosity, 
and public spirit, are his titles to have it believed that 
the effect which the Tax may have upon his private 
property is not the sole nor the principal motive to 
his exertions. I know he is of opinion that the oppo 
sition in Ireland ought to be carried on with that 
spirit, as if no aid was expected from this country; and 
here, as if nothing would be done in Ireland, many 
things have been lost by not acting in this manner. 

I am told that you are not likely to be alone in 
the generous stand you are to make against this un 
natural monster of Court popularity. It is said Mr. 
Hussey who is so very considerable at present, and who 
is everything in expectation will give his assistance. 


I rejoice to see (that very rare spectacle) a good mind, 
a great genius, and public activity united together, and 
united so early in life. By not running into every 
popular humour he may depend upon it the popularity 
of his character will wear the better. 

Non ponebat enim rumores ante salutem ; 
Ergo postque magisque viri nunc gloria claret. 

Adieu, my dear sir. Give my best respects to 
Lady Bingham ; and believe me, with great truth and 
esteem, Your most obedient and most humble Servant, 


BEACONSFIELD, 307t October 1773. 

To Sir Chas. Bingham. 




I AM on many accounts exceedingly pleased with 
your journey to Ireland. I do not think it was pos 
sible to dispose better of the interval between this and 
the meeting of Parliament. I told you as much in 
the same general terms by the post. My opinion of 
the infidelity of that conveyance hindered me from 
being particular. I now sit down with malice pre 
pense to kill you with a very long letter, and must 
take my chance for some safe method of conveying 
the dose. Before I say anything to you of the place 
you are in, or the business of it on which, by the 
way, a great deal might be said I will turn myself to 
the concluding part of your letter from Chatsworth. 

You are sensible that I do not differ from you in 
many things, and most certainly I do not dissent from 
the main of your doctrine concerning the heresy of 
depending upon contingencies. You must recollect 
how uniform my sentiments have been on that subject. 

1777- HONOURABLE C. J. FOX. 85 

I have ever wished a settled plan of our own, founded 
in the very essence of the American business, wholly 
unconnected with the events of the war, and framed 
in such a manner as to keep up our credit and main 
tain our system at home, in spite of anything which 
may happen abroad. I am now convinced, by a long 
and somewhat vexatious experience, that such a plan 
is absolutely impracticable. I think with you that 
some faults in the constitution of those whom we must 
love and trust, are among the causes of this impractica 
bility ; they are faults, too, that one can hardly wish 
them perfectly cured of, as I am afraid they are inti 
mately connected with honest, disinterested intentions, 
plentiful fortunes, assured rank, and quiet homes. A 
great deal of activity and enterprise can scarcely ever 
be expected from such men, unless some horrible 
calamity is just over their heads, or unless they suffer 
some gross personal insults from power, the resentment 
of which may be as unquiet and stimulating a principle 
in their minds as ambition is in those of a different 
complexion. To say the truth, I cannot greatly blame 
them. We live at a time when men are not repaid 
in fame for what they sacrifice in interest or repose. 

On the whole, when I consider of what discordant, 
and particularly of what fleeting materials the Opposi 
tion has been all along composed, and at the same 
time review what Lord Eockingham has done, with 
that and with his own shattered constitution for these 
last twelve years, I confess I am rather surprised that 

86 A LETTER TO THE 1777. 

he has done so much and persevered so long, than 
that he has felt now and then some cold fits, and that 
he grows somewhat languid and desponding at last. 
I know that he and those who are much prevalent 
with him though they are not thought so much devoted 
to popularity as others do very much look to the 
people ; and more than I think is wise in them, who 
do so little to guide and direct the public opinion. 
Without this they act indeed ; but they act as it were 
from compulsion, and because it is impossible, in their 
situation, to avoid taking some part. All this it is 
impossible to change, and to no purpose to complain of. 
As to that popular humour, which is the medium 
we float in, if I can discern anything at all of its 
present state, it is far worse than I have ever known, 
or could ever imagine it. The faults of the people are 
not popular vices at least they are not such as grow 
out of what we used to take to be the English temper 
and character. The greatest number have a sort of a 
heavy, lumpish acquiescence in Government, without 
much respect or esteem for those that compose it. I 
really cannot avoid making some very unpleasant 
prognostics ; from this disposition of the people. I 
think many of the symptoms must have struck you ; 
I will mention one or two that are to me very re 
markable. You must know that at Bristol we grow, 
as an election interest, and even as a party interest, 
rather stronger than we were when I was chosen. 
We have just now a majority in the corporation. In 

1777. HONOURABLE C. J. FOX. 87 

this state of matters what, think you, have they done ? 
They have voted their freedom to Lord Sandwich and 
Lord Suffolk ! to the first at the very moment when 
the American privateers were domineering in the Irish 
Sea, and taking the Bristol traders in the Bristol 
Channel ; to the latter when his remonstrances on 
the subject of captures were the jest of Paris and of 
Europe. This fine step was taken, it seems, in honour 
of the zeal of these two profound statesmen in the 
prosecution of John the Painter so totally negligent 
are they of everything essential, and so long and so 
deeply affected with trash the most low and con 
temptible ; just as if they thought the merit of Sir John 
Fielding was the most shining point in the character 
of great ministers in the most critical of all times, and, 
of all others, the most deeply interesting to the com 
mercial world ! My best friends in the Corporation 
had no other doubts on the occasion than whether it 
did not belong to me, by right of my representative 
capacity, to be the bearer of this auspicious compli 
ment. In addition to this, if it could receive any 
addition, they now employ me to solicit as a favour of 
no small magnitude, that after the example of New 
castle they may be suffered to arm vessels for their 
own defence in the Channel. Their memorial, under 
the seal of Merchant s Hall, is now lying on the table 
before me. Not a soul has the least sensibility on 
finding themselves now for the first time obliged to 
act as if the community were dissolved, and after 

88 A LETTER TO THE 1777. 

enormous payments towards the common protection, 
each part was to defend itself as if it were a separate 

I don t mention Bristol as if that were the part 
farthest gone in this mortification. Far from it; I 
know that there is rather a little more life in us than 
in any other place. In Liverpool they are literally 
almost ruined by this American War ; but they love 
it as they suffer from it. In short, from whatever I 
see, and from whatever quarter I hear, I am convinced 
that everything that is not absolute stagnation is 
evidently a party spirit very adverse to our politics 
and to the principles from whence they arise. There 
are manifest marks of the resurrection of the Tory 
party. They no longer criticise, as all disengaged 
people in the world will, on the acts of Government ; 
but they are silent under every evil, and hide and 
cover up every ministerial blunder and misfortune 
with the officious zeal of men who think they have a 
party of their own to support in power. The Tories 
do universally think their power and consequence in 
volved in the success of this American business. The 
clergy are astonishingly warm in it; and what the 
Tories are when embodied and united with their 
natural head, the Crown, and animated by their clergy, 
no man knows better than yourself. As to the Whigs, 
I think them far from extinct. They are, what they 
always were (except by the able use of opportunities), 
by far the weakest party in this country. They have 

1777- HONOURABLE C. J. FOX. 89 

not yet learned the application of their principles to 
the present state of things ; and as to the dissenters, 
the main effective part of the Whig strength, they are 
to use a favourite expression of our American cam 
paign style " not all in force." They will do very 
little, and, as far as I can discern, are rather intimi 
dated than provoked at the denunciations of the Court 
in the Archbishop of York s sermon. I thought that 
sermon rather imprudent when I first saw it ; but it 
seems to have done its business. 

In this temper of the people I do not wholly wonder 
that our Northern friends look a little towards events. 
In war, particularly, I am afraid it must be so. There 
is something so weighty and decisive in the events of 
war, something that so completely overpowers the 
imagination of the vulgar, that all counsels must, in a 
great degree, be subordinate to and attendant on them. 
I am sure it was so in the last war very eminently. 
So that, on the whole, what with the temper of the 
people, the temper of our own friends, and the domin 
eering necessities of war, we must quietly give up all 
ideas of any settled, preconcerted plan. We shall be 
lucky enough, if, keeping ourselves attentive and alert, 
we can contrive to profit of the occasions as they arise ; 
though I am sensible that those who are best provided 
with a general scheme are fittest to take advantage of 
all contingencies. However, to act with any people 
witli the least degree of comfort, I believe we must 
contrive a little to assimilate to their character. We 

90 A LETTER TO THE i;77- 

must gravitate towards them, if we would keep in the 
same system, or expect that they should approach 
towards us. They are indeed worthy of much con 
cession and management. I am quite convinced that 
they are the honestest public men that ever appeared 
in this country, and I am sure that they are the wisest 
by far of those who appear in it at present. None of 
those who are continually complaining of them, but are 
themselves just as chargeable with all their faults, and 
have a decent stock of their own into the bargain. 
They (our friends) are, I admit, as you very truly re 
present them, but indifferently qualified for storming 
a citadel. After all, God knows whether this citadel 
is to be stormed by them, or by anybody else, by the 
means they use, or by any means. I know that as 
they are, abstractedly speaking, to blame, so there are 
those who cry out against them for it, not with a 
friendly complaint as we do, but with the bitterness 
of enemies. But I know, too, that those who blame 
them for want of enterprise have shown no activity at 
all against the common enemy ; all their skill and all 
their spirit have been shown only in weakening, divid 
ing, and indeed destroying their allies. What they are 
and what we are is now pretty evidently experienced ; 
and it is certain that partly by our common faults, but 
much more by the difficulties of our situation, and 
some circumstances of unavoidable misfortune, we are 
in little better than a sort of cul-de-sac. For my part, 
I do all I can to give ease to my mind in this strange 

1777- HONOURABLE C. J. FOX. 91 

position. I remember, some years ago, when I was 
pressing some points with great eagerness and anxiety, 
and complaining with great vexation to the Duke of 
Kichmond of the little progress I make, he told me 
kindly, and I believe very truly, that though he was 
far from thinking so himself, other people could not be 
persuaded I had not some latent private interest in 
pushing these matters, which I urged with an earnest 
ness so extreme, and so much approaching to passion. 
He was certainly in the right. I am thoroughly re 
solved to give, both to myself and to my friends, less 
vexation on these subjects than hitherto I have done ; 
much less indeed. 

If you should grow too earnest, you will be still 
more inexcusable than I was. Your having entered 
into affairs so much younger ought to make them too 
familiar to you to be the cause of much agitation, and 
you have much more before you for your work. Do 
not be in haste. Lay your foundations deep in public 
opinion. Though (as you are sensible) I have never 
given you the least hint of advice about joining your 
self in a declared connection with our Party, nor do I 
now ; yet as I love that Party very well, and am clear 
that you are better able to serve them than any man I 
know, I wish that things should be so kept as to leave 
you mutually very open to one another in all changes 
and contingencies ; and I wish this the rather, because, 
in order to be very great, as I am anxious that you 
should be (always presuming that you are disposed to 

92 A LETTER TO THE 1777- 

make a good use of power), you will certainly want 
some better support than merely that of the Crown. 
For I much doubt whether, with all your parts, you 
are the man formed for acquiring real interior favour 
in this Court, or in any ; I therefore wish you a firm 
ground in the country ; and I do not know so firm 
and so sound a bottom to build on as our Party. 
Well, I have done with this matter ; and you think 
I ought to have finished it long ago. Now I turn to 

Observe that I have not heard a word of any news 
relative to it from thence or from London ; so that I 
am only going to state to you my conjectures as to 
facts, and to speculate again on these conjectures. I 
have a strong notion that the lateness of our meeting 
is owing to the previous arrangements intended in 
Ireland. I suspect they mean that Ireland should 
take a sort of lead, and act an efficient part in this 
war, both with men and money. It will sound well, 
when we meet, to tell us of the active zeal and loyalty 
of the people of Ireland, and contrast it with the 
rebellious spirit of America. It will be a popular 
topic the perfect confidence of Ireland in the power 
of the British Parliament. From thence they will 
argue the little danger, which any dependency of the 
Crown has to apprehend from the enforcement of that 
authority. It will be, too, somewhat flattering to the 
country gentlemen, who might otherwise begin to be 
sullen, to hold out that the burthen is not wholly to 

1777- HONOURABLE C. J. FOX. 93 

rest upon them, and it will pique our pride to be told 
that Ireland has cheerfully stepped forward ; and when 
a dependant of this kingdom has already engaged 
itself in another year s war, merely for our dignity, 
how can we, who are Principals in the quarrel, hold 
off ? This scheme of policy seems to me so very 
obvious, and is likely to be of so much service to the 
present system, that I cannot conceive it possible they 
should neglect it, or something like it. They have 
already put the people of Ireland to the proof. Have 
they not born the Earl of Buckinghamshire ? the person 
who was employed to move the fiery Committee in the 
House of Lords, in order to stimulate the Ministry to 
this war ; who was in the chair ; and who moved 
the Eesolutions. 

It is within a few days of eleven years since I 
was in Ireland, and then after an absence of two. 
Those who have been absent from any scene for even 
a much shorter time, generally lose the true practical 
notion of the country, and of what may or- may not be 
done in it. When I knew Ireland it was very different 
from the state of England, where Government is a vast 
deal, the Public something, but Individuals compara 
tively very little. But if Ireland bears any resem 
blance to what it was some years ago, neither Govern 
ment nor public opinion can do a great deal ; almost 
the whole is in the hands of a few leading people. 
The populace of Dublin, and some parts in the North, 
are in some sort an exception. But the Primate, Lord 

94 A LETTER TO THE 177 7- 

Hillsborough, and Lord Hertford, have great sway in 
the latter, and the former may be considerable or not, 
pretty much as the Duke of Leinster pleases. On the 
whole, the success of the Government usually depended 
on the bargain made with a very few men. The resi 
dent Lieutenancy may have made some change, and 
given a strength to Government which formerly, I 
know, it had not ; still, however, I am of opinion, the 
former state, though in other hands perhaps, and in 
another manner, still continues. The house you are 
connected with is grown into a much greater degree of 
power than it had, though it was very considerable at 
the period I speak of. If the D. of L. takes a popular 
part, he is sure of the city of Dublin, and he has a 
young man attached to him, who stands very forward 
in Parliament, and in profession, and, by what I hear, 
with more goodwill and less envy than usually attends 
so rapid a progress. The movement of one or two 
principal men, if they manage the little popular strength 
which is to be found in Dublin and Ulster, may do a 
great deal especially when money is to be saved and 
taxes to be kept off. I confess I should despair of 
your succeeding with any of them, if they cannot be 
satisfied that every job which they can look for on 
account of carrying this measure, would be just as sure 
to them for their ordinary support of Government. 
They are essential to Government, which at this time 
must not be disturbed, and their neutrality will be 
purchased at as high a price as their alliance, offen- 

1777- HONOURABLE C. J. FOX. 95 

sive and defensive. Now, as by supporting they may 
get as much as by betraying their country, it must be 
a great leaning to turpitude that can make them take 
a part in this war. I am satisfied that if the Duke of 
Leinster and Lord Shannon could act together, this 
business would not go on ; or if either of them took 
part with Ponsonby, it would have no better success. 
Hutchinson s situation is much altered since I saw you. 
To please Tisdall, he had been in a manner laid aside 
at the Castle. It is now to be seen whether he prefers 
the gratification of his resentment and his appetite for 
popularity both of which are strong enough in him 
to the advantages which his independence gives him of 
making a new bargain and accumulating new offices on 
his heap. Pray do not be asleep in this scene of action ; 
at this time, if I am right, the principal. The Pro 
testants of Ireland will be, I think, in general back 
ward ; they form infinitely the greatest part of the landed 
and the monied interests, and they will not like to pay. 
The Papists are reduced to beasts of burthen; they will 
give all they have their shoulders readily enough if 
they are flattered. Surely the state of Ireland ought 
for ever to teach parties moderation in their victories. 
People crushed by law have no hopes but from power. 
If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws ; 
and those who have much to hope and nothing to lose 
will always be dangerous, more or less. But this is 
not our present business. If all this should prove a 
dream, however, let it not hinder you from writing to 

96 A LETTER TO THE HON. C J. FOX. 1777. 

me and telling me so. You will easily refute, in your 
conversation, the little topics which they will set afloat; 
such as, that Ireland is a boat and must go with the 
ship ; that if the Americans contended only for their 
liberties it would be different ; but since they have 
declared independence, and so forth. 

You are happy in enjoying Townsend s company. 
Eemember me to him. How does he like his private 
situation in a country where he was the son of the 
sovereign ? Mrs. Burke and the two Eichards salute 
you cordially. 

E. B. 

BEACONSFIELD, 8th October 1777. 

1778. TWO LETTERS, ETC. 97 


the City of Bristol; on the BILLS DEPENDING IN 

To Samuel Span, Esq., Master of the Society of 
Merchants Adventurers of Bristol. 


I AM honoured with your letter of the 13th, in 
answer to mine, which accompanied the resolutions of 
the House relative to the trade of Ireland. 

You will be so good as to present my best respects 
to the Society, and to assure them, that it was alto- 

1 These were propositions introduced by Lord North for removing 
certain restrictions on the trade of Ireland. They were at first well 
received on both sides of the House, as being founded in justice, and a 
liberal policy required by the circumstances of the time. Subsequently, 
the jealousy of the English manufacturers and traders was so strongly 
expressed, and so much influenced the conduct of many of the repre 
sentatives of those interests in Parliament, that in the bill giving effect 
to the propositions it was thought necessary, towards the end of the 
session, to give up most of the advantages originally intended for 


98 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

gether unnecessary to remind me of the interest of the 
constituents. I have never regarded anything else 
since I had a seat in Parliament. Having frequently 
and maturely considered that interest, and stated it to 
myself in almost every point of view, I am persuaded 
that, under the present circumstances, I cannot more 
effectually pursue it than by giving all the support in 
my power to the propositions which I lately transmitted 
to the hall. 

The fault I find in the scheme is, that it falls 
extremely short. _of that liberality in the commercial 
system, which, I trust, wilLona day he adopted. If I 
had not considered the present resolutions merely as 
preparatory to better things, and as a means of showing, 
experimentally, that justice to others is not always 
folly to ourselves. I should have contented myself with 
receiving them in a cold and silent acquiescence. 
Separately considered, they are matters of no very great 
importance. But they aim, however imperfectly, at a 
right principle. I submit to the restraint to appease 
prejudice ; I accept the enlargement, so far as it goes, 
as the result of reason and of sound policy. 

We cannot be insensible of the calamities which 
have been brought upon this nation by an obstinate 
adherence to narrow and restrictive plans of govern.- 
ment. I confess, I cannot prevail on myself to take 
them up precisely at a time . when the most decisive 
experience has taught the rest of the world to lay them 
down, The propositions in question did not originate 


from me, or from my particular friends. But when 
things are so right in themselves, I hold it my duty 
not to inquire from what hands they come. I opposed 
the American measures upon the very same principle 
on which I support those that relate to Ireland. I 
was convinced that the evils which have arisen from 
the adoption of the former would be infinitely aggra 
vated by the rejection of the latter. 

Perhaps gentlemen are not yet fully aware of the 
situation of their country, and what its exigencies 
absolutely require. I find that we are still disposed 
to talk at our ease, and as if all things were to be i 
regulated by our good pleasure. I should consider it 
as a fatal symptom, if, in our present distressed and 
adverse circumstances, we should persist in the errors 
which are natural only to prosperity. One cannot 
indeed sufficiently lament the continuance of that 
spirit of delusion by which, for a long time past, we 
have thought fit to measure our necessities by our 
inclinations. Moderation, prudence, and .equity., are 1 
far. JQiQia suitable to our condition than loftiness, and 
confidence, and rigour. We are threatened by enemies J 
of no small magnitude, whom, if we think fit, we may 
despise, as we have despised others ; but they are 
enemies who can only cease to be truly formidable by 
our entertaining a due respect for their power. Our 
danger will not be lessened by our shutting our eyes 
to it ; nor will our force abroad be increased by ren 
dering ourselves feeble and divided at home. 

100 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

There is a dreadful schism in the British nation. 
Since we are not able to re-unite the empire, it is our 

\ business to give all possible vigour and soundness to 

[those parts of it which are still content to be governed 
Vby our councils. Sir, it is proper to inform you that 

f our measures must be healing. Such a degree of 
strength must be communicated to all the members of 
the State, as may enable them to defend themselves 
and to co-operate in the defence of the whole. Their 
temper, too, must be managed, and their good affections 
cultivated. They may then be disposed to bear the 
load with cheerfulness, as a contribution towards what 
may be called with truth and propriety, and not by an 
empty form of words, a common cause. Too little 
dependence cannot be had, at this time of day, on 
names and prejudices. The eyes of mankind are 
opened ; and communities must be held together by an 
evident and solid interest. God forbid that our 
conduct should demonstrate to the world that Great 

N Britain can, in no instance whatsoever, be brought to 
a sense of rational and equitable policy, but by coercion; 
and force of arms. 

I wish you to recollect with what powers of con 
cession, relatively to commerce, as well as to legisla 
tion, His Majesty s Commissioners to the united colonies 
have sailed from England within this week. Whether 
these powers are sufficient for their purposes, it is not 
now my business to examine. But we all know thati 
our resolutions in favour of Ireland are trifling and I 


insignificant when compared with the concessions to 
the Americans. At such a juncture I would implore 
every man who retains the least spark of regard to 
the yet remaining honour and security of this country 
not to compel others to an imitation of their conduct, 
or by passion and violence to force them to seek, in 
the territories of the separation, that freedom, and 
those advantages which they are not to look for whilst 
they remain under the wings of their ancient Govern 

After all, what are the matters we dispute with so 

much warmth ? Do we in these resolutions bestow 

anything upon Ireland ? Not a shilling. We only 

jmn se.n t. toJa^JfflJ&epgu^ instances, the 

jlS&__QL_tke. natural faculties which God has given to 

them and to all mankind. Is Ireland united to the 

Crown of Great Britain for no other purpose than that 

3Efi_should counteract the bounty of Providence in her 

favour ? and in proportion as that bounty has been 

liberal that we are to regard it as an evil, which is 

I to be met with in every sort of corrective ? To__say 

! that Ireland interferes with us, and therefore must be 

.checked, is, in my opinion, a very mistaken and a very 

dangerous principle. I must beg leave to repeat what 

I took the liberty of suggesting to you in my last 

letter, that Ireland is a country in the same climate 

and .of the same natural qualities and productions with. 

Jthis, and has consequently no other means of growing 

wealthy in herself, or, in other words, of being useful 

102 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

to us, but by doing the very same things whichjwe do, 
for the same purposes.. I hope that in Great Britain 
we shall always pursue, without exception, every 
means of prosperity ; and of course, that Ir^land_^/[ 
interfere with us in something or other; for either, in^ 
order to limit her, we must restrain ourselves, or we 
must fall into that shocking conclusion, that w r e are_to 
keep our yet remaining dependency, under a general 
and indiscriminate restraint, for the mere purpose_of 
oppression. Indeed, sir, England and Ireland may I 
flourish together. The world.- is.. Iarge__ejiough for JLLS 
both. Let it be our care not to make ourselves -ton 
little for it. 

I know it is said that the people of Ireland do not 
pay the .same taxes, and therefore ought not in equity 
to enjoy the same benefits with this. I had hopes 
that the unhappy phantom of a compulsory equal taxa^ 
tion had haunted us long enough. I do assure you, 
that until it is entirely banished from our imaginations 
(where alone it has, or can have any existence), we 
shall never cease to do ourselves the most substantial 
injuries. To that argument of equal taxation I can? 
Qnly__say that Ireland pays as many taxes as those 
who are the best judges of her powers are of opinion] 
she can bear. To bear more she must have more 
ability ; and, in the order of nature, the advantage 
must precede the charge. This disposition of things 
being the law of God, neither you nor I can alter it. 
So that if you will have more help from Ireland you ) 


| must previously supply her with more means. I be 
lieve it will be found that if men are suffered freely to 
cultivate their natural advantages, a virtual equality 
of contribution will come in its own time, and will 
flow by an easy descent through its own proper and 
natural channels. An attempt to disturb that course, 
and to force nature, will only bring on universal dis 
content, distress, and confusion. 

You tell me, sir, that you prefer a union with 
Ireland to the little regulations which are proposed in 
Parliament. This union is a great question of State, 
to which, when it comes properly before me in my 
parliamentary capacity, I shall give an honest and 
unprejudiced consideration. However, it is a settled 
rule with me, to make the most of my actual situation ; 
and not to refuse to do a proper thing because there is 
something else more proper, which I am not able to 
do. This union is a business of difficulty, and, on 
the principles of your letter, a business impracticable. 
Until it can be matured into a feasible and desirable 
scheme, I wish to have as close a union of interest 
and affection with Ireland as I can have ; and that, I ^ 
am sure, is a far better thing than any nominal v 
union of government. 

France, and indeed most extensive empires which, 
by various designs and fortunes, have grown into one 
great mass, contain many provinces that are very dif 
ferent from each other in privileges and modes of 
government ; and they raise their supplies in different 

104 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

ways, in different proportions, and under different 
authorities ; yet none of them are for this reason cur 
tailed of their natural rights ; but they carry on trade 
and manufactures with perfect equality. In some 
way or other the true balance is found, and all of 
them are poised and harmonised. How much have 
you lost by the participation of Scotland in all your 
commerce ? The external trade of England has more 
than doubled since that period; and I believe your 
internal (which is the most advantageous) has been 
augmented at least fourfold. Such virtue there is in 
liberality of sentiment, that you have grown richer 
even by the partnership of poverty. 

If you think that this participation was a loss, 
commercially considered, but that it has been com 
pensated by the share which Scotland has taken in 
defraying the public charge I believe you have 
not very carefully looked at the public accounts. 
Ireland, sir, pays a great deal more than Scotland;^; 
^and is perhaps as much and as effectually united to 
England as Scotland is. But if Scotland, instead of 
paying little, had paid nothing at all, we should be 
gainers, not losers, by acquiring the hearty co-operation 
of an active, intelligent people, towards the increase of 
the common stock ; instead of our being employed in 
watching and counteracting them, and their being em 
ployed in watching and counteracting us, with the 
peevish and churlish jealousy of rivals and enemies on 
both sides. 


I am sure, sir, that the commercial experience of 
the merchants of Bristol will soon disabuse them of 
the prejudice, that they can trade no longer, if countries 
more lightly taxed are permitted to deal in the same 
commodities at the same markets. You know that, 
in fact, you trade very largely where you are met by 
the goods of all nations. You even pay high duties 
on the import of your goods, and afterwards undersell 
nations less taxed at their own markets ; and where 
goods of the same kind are not charged at all. If it 
were otherwise you could trade very little. You know 
that the price of all sorts of manufacture is not a great 
deal enhanced (except to the domestic consumer) by 
any taxes paid in this country. This I might very 
easily prove. 

The same consideration will relieve you from the 
apprehension you express with relation to sugars, and 
the difference of the duties paid here and in Ireland. 
Those duties affect the interior consumer only; and 
for obvious reasons, relative to the interest of revenue 
itself, they must be proportioned to his ability of pay 
ments ; but in all cases in which sugar can be an 
object of commerce, and therefore (in this view) of rival- 
ship, you are sensible that you are at least on a par 
with Ireland. As to your apprehensions concerning 
the more advantageous situation of Ireland, for some 
branches of commerce (for it is so but for some), I 
trust you will not find them more serious. Milford 
Haven, which is at your door, may serve to show you 

106 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

that the mere advantage of ports is not the thing 
which shifts the seat of commerce from one part of 
the world to the other. If I thought you inclined to 
take up this matter on local considerations, I should 
state to you that I do not know any part of the 
kingdom so well situated for an advantageous com 
merce with Ireland as Bristol ; and that none would 
be so likely to profit of its prosperity as our city. 
But your profit and theirs must concur. Beggary and 
bankruptcy are not the circumstances which invite to 
an intercourse with that or with any country ; and I 
believe it will be found invariably true that the super 
fluities of a rich nation furnish a better object of trade 
than the necessities of a poor one. It is the interest 
of the commercial world that wealth should be found 

The true ground of fear in my opinion is this, that 
Ireland, from the vicious system of its internal polity, 
will be a long time before it can derive any benefit 
from the liberty now granted, or from anything else. 
But, as I do not vote advantages in hopes that they 
may not be enjoyed, I will not lay any stress upon 
this consideration. I rather wish that the Parliament 
of Ireland may, in its own wisdom, remove these im 
pediments and put their country in a condition to 
avail itself of its natural advantages. If they do not, 
the fault is with them and not with us. 

I have written this long letter in order to give all 
possible satisfaction to my constituents with regard to 


the part I have taken in this affair. It gave me in 
expressible concern to find that my conduct had been 
a cause of uneasiness to any of them. Next to my 
honour and conscience, I have nothing so near and 
dear to me as their approbation. However, I had 
much rather run the risk of displeasing than of injur 
ing them if I am driven to make such an option. 
You obligingly lament that you are not to have me for 
your advocate ; but if I had been capable of acting as 
an advocate in opposition to a plan so perfectly con 
sonant to my known principles and to the opinions I 
had publicly declared on a hundred occasions, I should 
only disgrace myself without supporting, with the 
smallest degree of credit or effect, the cause you 
wished me to undertake. I should have lost the only / 
thing which can make such abilities as mine of any * 
use to the world now or hereafter I mean that 
authority which is derived from an opinion that a 
member speaks the language of truth and sincerity, and 
that he is not ready to take up or lay down a great 
political system for the convenience of the hour ; that 
he is in Parliament to support his opinion of the 
public good, and does not form his opinion in order to 
get into Parliament or to continue in it. It is in a 
great measure for your sake that I wish to preserve 
this character. Without it I am sure I should be ill 
able to discharge, by any service, the smallest part of 
that debt of gratitude and affection which I owe you 
for the great and honourable trust you have reposed 

108 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

in me. I am, with the highest regard and esteem, 
sir, your most obedient and humble servant, 

E. B. 


^U April 1778. 

To Messrs. ^ and Co., Bristol. 


IT gives me the most sensible concern to find 
that my vote on the resolutions relative to the trade 
of Ireland has not been fortunate enough to meet 
with your approbation. I have explained at large 
the grounds of my conduct on that occasion in 
my letters to the Merchants Hall ; but my very 
sincere regard and esteem for you will not permit me 
to let the matter pass without an explanation which 
is particular to yourselves, and which, I hope, will 
prove satisfactory to you. 

You tell me that the conduct of your late member 
is not much wondered at ; but you seem to be at a 
loss to account for mine ; and you lament that I have 
taken so decided a part against my constituents. 

This is rather a heavy imputation. Does it then 
really appear to you that the propositions to which 
you refer are, on the face of them, so manifestly wrong, 
,jand so certainly injurious to the trade and manu- 
| factures of Great Britain and particularly to yours 
that no man could think of proposing or supporting 


5 them, except from resentment to you, or from some 
other oblique motive ? If you suppose your late 
member, or if you suppose me, to act upon other 
reasons than we choose to avow, to what do you 
attribute the conduct of the other members, who in 
the beginning almost unanimously adopted those 
resolutions ? To what do you attribute the strong 
part taken by the ministers, and along with the min 
isters, by several of their most declared opponents ? 
This does not indicate a ministerial job, a party 
design, or a provincial or local purpose. It is there 
fore not so absolutely clear that the measure is 
wrong, or likely to be injurious to the true interests 
of any place, or any person. 

The reason, gentlemen, for taking this step at this 
time is but too obvious and too urgent. I cannofc 
imagine that you forget the great war which has been) 
carried on with so little success (and, as I thought,! 
with so little policy) in America ; or that you are not, 
aware of the other great wars which are impending. 
Ireland has been called upon to repel the attacks of] 
enemies of no small power, brought upon her by( 
councils in which she has had no share. The very* 
purpose and declared object of that original war, which 
has brought other wars and other enemies on Ireland, 
was not very nattering to her dignity, her interest, or 
to the very principle of her liberty. Yet she sub 
mitted patiently to the evils she suffered from an 

110 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

attempt to subdue to your obedience, countries whose 
very commerce was not open to her. America was to 

v be conquered in order that Ireland should not trade* 
thither, whilst the miserable trade which she is per 
mitted to carry on to other places has been torn to I 
pieces in the struggle. In this situation, are we 
neither to suffer her to have any real interest in our 
quarrel, or to be flattered with the hope of any future 
means of bearing the burdens which she is to incur 
in defending herself against enemies which we have 
brought upon her ? 

I cannot set my face against such arguments. Is it 

? quite fair to suppose that I have no other motive for 

yielding to them but a desire of acting against my 

Constituents ? It is for you, and for your interest, as 

L a dear, cherished, and respected part of a valuable 

whole, that I have taken my share in this question. 

You do not, you cannot suffer by it. If honesty be 

, true policy with regard to the transient interest of 
individuals, it is much more certainly so with regard 
to the permanent interest of communities. I know 
that it is but too natural for us to see our own certain 
ruin in the possible prosperity of other people. It 
hard to persuade us that everything which is got 
another is not taken from ourselves. But it is fit that! 
we should get the better of these suggestions, which 
come from what is not the best and soundest part of 
our nature, and that we should form to ourselves a way 


of thinking more rational, more just, and more reli 
gious. Trade is not a limited thing ; as if the objects 
of mutual demand and consumption could not stretch 
beyond the bounds of our jealousies. God has given 
the earth to the children of men, and He has un 
doubtedly, in giving it to them, given them what 
is abundantly sufficient for all their exigencies not a 
scanty, but a most liberal provision for them all. The 
Author of our nature has written it strongly in that 
nature, and has promulgated the same law in His 
written word, that man shall eat his bread by his 
labour ; and I am persuaded that no man, and no 
combination of men, for their own ideas or their parti 
cular profit, can, without great impiety, undertake to 
say that he shall not do so ; that they have no sort of 
right either to prevent the labour, or to withhold the 
bread. Ireland having received no compensation, 
directly or indirectly, for any restraints on their trade, 
ought not, in justice or common honesty, to be made 
subject to such restraints. I do not mean to impeach 
the right of the Parliament of Great Britain to make 
laws for the trade of Ireland. I only speak of what 
laws it is right for Parliament to make. 

It is nothing to an oppressed people to say that in 
part they are protected at our charge. The military 
force which shall be kept up in order to cramp the 
natural faculties of a people, and to prevent their 
arrival to their utmost prosperity; is the instrument of 

112 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

their servitude, not the means of their protection. To 
protect men, is to forward, and not to restrain, their 
improvement. Else what is it more than to avow to 
them and to the world that you guard them from 
others only to make them a prey to yourself ? This 
fundamental nature of protection does not belong to 
free, but to all governments ; and is as valid in Turkey 
as in Great Britain. No government ought to owif 
that it exists for the purpose of checking the prosperity 
of its people, or that there is such a principle involved 
in its policy. 

Under the impression of these sentiments (and not 
as wanting every attention to my constituents which 
affection and gratitude could inspire), I voted for these 
bills which give you so much trouble. I voted for" 
them, not as doing complete justice to Ireland, but as 
being something less unjust than the general prohibi 
tion which has hitherto prevailed. I hear some dis 
course as if in one or two paltry duties on materials 
Ireland had a preference ; and that those who set 
themselves against this act of scanty justice assert 
that they are only contending for an equality. What 
equality? Do they forget that the whole woollen 
manufacture of Ireland, the most extensive and profit 
able of any, and the natural staple of that kingdom, 
has been in a manner so destroyed by restrictive laws 
of ours, and (at our persuasion, and on our promises) 
by restrictive laws of their own, that in a few years, it 


is probable, they will not be able to wear a coat of 
their own fabric ? Is this equality ? Do gentlemen 
forget that the understood faith upon which they were 
persuaded to such an unnatural act has not been kept, 
and that a linen-manufacture has been set up and 
highly encouraged against them ? Is this equality ? 
Do they forget the state of the trade of Ireland in beer 
so great an article of consumption and which now 
stands in so mischievous a position with regard to their 
revenue, their manufacture, and their agriculture ? Do 
they find any equality in all this ? Yet, if the least^ 
step is taken towards doing them common justice in 
the slightest article for the most limited markets, a cry 
is raised as if we were going to be ruined by partiality 
to Ireland. 

Gentlemen, I know that the deficiency in these 
arguments is made up (not by you, but by others) by 
the usual resource on such occasions the confidence* 
in military force and superior power. But that ground 
of confidence, which at no time was perfectly just, or 
the avowal of it tolerably decent, is at this time very 
unseasonable. Late experience has shown that it 
cannot be altogether relied upon ; and many, if not 
all of our present difficulties, have arisen from putting 
our trust in what may very possibly fail, and if it 
should fail, leaves those who are hurt by such a reli 
ance without pity. Whereas honesty and justice, 
reason and equity, go a very great way in securing 
prosperity to those who use them; and, in case of 


114 TWO LETTERS TO 1778. 

failure, secure the best retreat, and the most honour 
able consolations. 

It is very unfortunate that we should consider 
those as rivals whom we ought to regard as fellow- 
labourers in a common cause. Ireland has never 
made a single step in its progress towards prosperity 
by which you have not had a share, and perhaps the j 
greatest share, in the benefit. That progress has been 
chiefly owing to her own natural advantages and her 
own efforts, which, after a long time, and by slow 
degrees, have prevailed in some measure over the mis 
chievous systems which have been adopted. Far 
enough she is still from having arrived even at an 
ordinary state of perfection, and if our jealousies were 
to be converted into politics as systematically as some 
would have them, the trade of Ireland would vanish 
out of the system of commerce. But, believe me, 11 
Ireland is beneficial to you, it is so not from the parts 
in which it is restrained, but from those in which it is 
left free, though not left unrivalled. The greater its 
freedom the greater must be your advantage. If, you 
should lose in one way, you will gain in twenty. 

Whilst I remain under this unalterable and power 
ful conviction, you will not winder at the decided part 
I take. It is my custom so to do when I see my way 
clearly before me, and when I know that I am not 
misled by any passion or any personal interest, as in 
this case I am very sure I am not. I find that dis- 
a" reeable things are circulated among my constituents, 


and I wish my sentiments, which form my justification, 
may be equally general with the circulation against 
me. I have the honour to be, with the greatest regard 
and esteem, Gentlemen, your most obedient and humble 
servant, E j> 

WESTMINSTEE, May 2, 1778. 

116 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 





I AM extremely pleased at the appearance of this large 
and respectable meeting. The steps I may be obliged 
to take will want the sanction of a considerable autho 
rity; and in explaining any thing which may appear 
doubtful in my public conduct, I must naturally desire 
a very full audience. 

I have been backward to begin my canvass. The 
dissolution of the Parliament was uncertain ; and it did 
not become me, by an unseasonable importunity, to 
appear diffident of the fact of my six years endeavours 
to please you. I have served the city of Bristol 
honourably ; and the city of Bristol had no reason to 
think that the means of honourable service to the 
public were become indifferent to me. 

I found on my arrival here that three gentlemen 
had been long in eager pursuit of an object which but 


two of us can obtain. I found that they had all met 
with encouragement. A contested election, in such a 
city as this, is no light thing. I paused on the brink 
of the precipice. These three gentlemen, by various 
merits and on various titles, I made no doubt were 
worthy of your favour. I shall never attempt to raise 
myself by depreciating the merits of my competitors. 
In the complexity and confusion of these cross pursuits, 
I wished to take the authentic public sense of my 
friends upon a business of so much delicacy. I wished 
to take your opinion along with me ; that if I should 
give up the contest at the very beginning, my sur 
render of my post may not seem the effect of incon 
stancy, or timidity, or anger, or disgust, or indolence, 
or any other temper unbecoming a man who has 
engaged in the public service. If, on the contrary, 
I should undertake the election, and fail of success, 
I was full as anxious that it should be manifest to 
the whole world, that the peace of the city had not 
been broken by my rashness, presumption, or fond 
conceit of my own merit. 

I am not come by a false and counterfeit show 
of deference to your judgment, to seduce it in my 
favour. I ask it seriously and unaffectedly. If you 
wish that I should retire, I shall not consider that 
advice as a censure upon my conduct, or an alteration 
in your sentiments, but as a rational submission 
to the circumstances of affairs. If, on the contrary, 
you should think it proper for me to proceed on my 

118 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

canvass, if you will risk the trouble on your part, 
I will risk it on mine. My pretensions are such as 
you cannot be ashamed of, whether they succeed or 

If you call upon me, I shall solicit the favour of 
the city upon manly ground. I come before you with 
the plain confidence of an honest servant in the equity 
of a candid and discerning master. I come to claim 
your approbation, not to amuse you with vain apologies, 
or with professions still more vain and senseless. I 
have lived too long to be served by apologies, or to 
stand in need of them. The part I have acted has 
been in open day ; and to hold out to a conduct 
which stands in that clear and steady light for all its 
good and all its evil, to hold out to that conduct the 
paltry winking tapers of excuses and promises I 
never will do it. They may obscure it with their 
smoke ; but they never can illumine sunshine by 
such a flame as theirs. 

I am sensible that no endeavours have been left 
untried to injure me in your opinion. But the use of 
character is to be a shield against calumny. I could 
wish, undoubtedly (if idle wishes were not the most 
idle of all things), to make every part of my conduct 
agreeable to every one of my constituents. But in so 
great a city, and so greatly divided as this, it is weak 
to expect it. 

In such a discordancy of sentiments, it is better to 
look to the nature of things than to the humours of 


men. The very attempt towards pleasing everybody 
discovers a temper always flashy, and often false and 
insincere. Therefore, as I have proceeded straight 
onward in my conduct, so I will proceed in my 
account of those parts of it which have been most 
excepted to. But I must first beg leave just to hint 
to you that we may suffer very great detriment by 
being open to every talker. It is not to be imagined 
how much of service is lost from spirits full of 
activity and full of energy, who are pressing, who 
are rushing forward, to great and capital objects, when 
you oblige them to be continually looking back. 
Whilst they are defending one service, they defraud * 
you of a hundred. Applaud us when we run ; con^T 
sole us when we fall ; cheer us when we recover ; but! 
let us pass on for God s sake, let us pass on. 

Do you think, gentlemen, that every public act in 
the six years since I stood in this place before you 
that all the arduous things which have been done 
in this eventful period, which has crowded into a few 
years space the revolutions of an age, can be opened 
to you on their fair grounds in half an hour s con 

But it is no reason, because there is a bad mode 
of inquiry, that there should be no examination at 
all. Most certainly it is our duty to examine ; it 
is our interest too. But it must be with discretion ; 
with an attention to all the circumstances, and to all 
the motives : like sound judges, and not like cavilling 

120 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

pettifoggers and quibbling pleaders, prying into flaws 
and hunting for exceptions. Look, gentlemen, to the" 
whole tenor of your member s conduct. Try whether 
his ambition or his avarice have justled him out of 
the straight line of duty ; or whether that grand foe 
of the offices of active life, that master- vice in men of 
business, a degenerate and inglorious sloth, has made 
him flag and languish in his course ? This is the 
object of our inquiry. If our member s conduct can 
bear this touch, mark it for sterling. He may have 
fallen into errors ; he must have faults ; but our error 
is greater, and our fault is radically ruinous to our 
selves, if we do not bear, if we do not even applaud, 
the whole compound and mixed mass of such a char 
acter. Not to act thus is folly ; I had almost said it 
is impiety. He censures God, who quarrels with the 
imperfections of man. 

Gentlemen, we must not be peevish with those 
who serve the people. For none will serve us whilst 
there is a court to serve, but those who are of a nice 
and jealous honour. They who think everything, in com 
parison of that honour, to be dust and ashes, will not 
bear to have it soiled and impaired by those for whose 
sake they make a thousand sacrifices to preserve it 
immaculate and whole. We shall either drive such 
men from the public stage, or we shall send them to 
the court for protection : where, if they must sacrifice 
their reputation, they will at least secure their interest. 
Depend upon it, that the lovers of freedom will be free. 


None will violate their conscience to please us, in order 
afterwards to discharge that conscience, which have 
violated, by doing us faithful and affectionate service. 
If we degrade and deprave their minds by servility, it 
will be absurd to expect that they who are creeping 
and abject towards us, will ever be bold and incorrupt - 
ible assertors of our freedom, against the most seducing 
and the most formidable of all powers. No ! human 
nature is not so formed ; nor shall we improve the 
faculties or better the morals of public men by our 
possession of the most infallible receipt in the world 
for making cheats and hypocrites. 

Let me say with plainness, I who am no longer in 

a public character, that if by a fair, by an indulgent, 

by a gentlemanly behaviour to our representatives, we 

do not give confidence to their minds and a liberal 

scope to their understandings ; if we do not permit our 

members to act upon a very enlarged view of things ; 

\ we shall at length infallibly degrade our national 

.1 representation into a confused and scuffling bustle of 

; I local agency. When the popular member is narrowed 
in his ideas and rendered timid in his proceedings, the 
service of the crown will be the sole nursery of states 
men. Among the frolics of the court it may at length 
take that of attending to its business. Then the . . . 
monopoly of mental power will be added to the power 
of all other kinds it possesses. On the side of the 
people there will be nothing but impotence : for ignor 
ance is impotence ; narrowness of mind is impotence ; 

122 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

timidity is itself impotence, and makes all other 
qualities that go along with it, impotent and useless. 

At present it is the plan of the court to make its 
servants insignificant. If the people should fall into 
the same humour, and should choose their servants on 
the same principles of mere obsequiousness, and flex 
ibility, and total vacancy or indifference of opinion in 
all public matters, then no part of the State will be 
sound ; and it will be in vain to think of saving it. 

I thought it very expedient at this time to give 
you this candid counsel ; and with this counsel I 
would willingly close, if the matters which at various 
times have been objected to me in this city concerned 
only myself and my own election. These charges I 
think, are four in number; my neglect of a due 
> attention to my constituents, the not paying more 
frequent visits here ; my conduct on the affairs of the 
first Irish trade acts ; my opinion and mode of pro 
ceeding on Lord Beauchamp s debtors bills ; and my 
votes~oE~EeTatelSSiIra of The Eoman CathoHcsr ~ All 
of these (except perhaps the first) relate to matters of 
very considerable public concern ; and it is not lest 
you should censure me improperly, but lest you should 
form improper opinions on matters of some moment to 
you, that I trouble you at all upon the subject. My 
conduct is of small importance. 

, gV. With regard to the first charge, my friends have 
spoken to me of it in the style of amicable expostula 
tion ; not so much blaming the thing, as lamenting the 
effects. Others, less partial to me, were less kind in 


assigning the motives. I admit there._isji decorum 
and propriety in a member of Parliament s paying a 
respectful court to his constituents. If I were con 
scious to myself that pleasure or. dissipation, or low 
unworthy occupations, had detained me from personal 
attendance on you, I would readily admit my fault 
and quietly submit to the penalty. But, gentlemen/ii 
live at a hundred miles distance from Bristol ; and 
at the end of a session I come to my own house, 
fatigued in body and in mind, to a little repose, and 
to a very little attention to my family and my private 
concerns. A visit to Bristol is always a sort of 
canvass ; else it will do more harm than good. To 
pass from the toils of a session to the toils of a can 
vass, is the farthest thing in the world from repose. 
, I could hardly serve you as I have done, and court you 
I too. Most of you have heard that I do not very 
remarkably spare myself in public business ; and in 
the private business of my constituents I have done 
( very nearly as much as those who have nothing else 
[ to do. My canvass of you was not on the change, nor 
in the county meetings, nor in the clubs of this city : 
It was in the House of Commons ; it was at the 
Custom-house ; it was at the Council ; it was at the 
Treasury ; it was at the Admiralty. I canvassed you 
through your affairs, and not your persons^ I was not 
only your representative as a body ; I was the agent, 
the solicitor of individuals ; I ran about wherever your 
affairs could call me ; and in acting for you I often 

124 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

appeared rather as a ship broker, thanjis_ a Member of 
Parliament. There was nothing too laborious, or too 
low foTlnelo undertake. The meanness of the busi 
ness was raised by the dignity of the object. If some 
lesser matters have slipped through my fingers it was 
because I filled my hands too full ; and, in my eager 
ness to serve you, took in more than any hands could 
grasp. Several gentlemen stand round me who are 
my willing witnesses ; and there are others who, if 
they were here, would be still better ; because they 
would be unwilling witnesses to the same truth. It 
was in the middle of a summer residence in London, 
and in the middle of a negotiation at the Admiralty for 
your trade, that I was called to Bristol ; and this late 
visit, at this late day, has been possibly in prejudice to 
your affairs. 

Since I have touched upon this matter, let me say, 
gentlemen, that if I had a disposition, or a right to 
complain, I have some cause of complaint on my side. 
With a petition of this city in my hand, passed through 
the corporation without a dissenting voice a petition 
in unison with almost the whole voice of the kingdom 
(with whose formal thanks I was covered over) whilq 
I laboured on no less than five bills for a public 
reform, and fought against the opposition, of great 
abilities and of the greatest power, every clause and 
every word of the largest of those bills, almost to the 
very last day of a very long session ; all this time a 
canvass in Bristol was as calmly carried on as if I 


were dead. I was considered as a man wholly out of 
the question. Whilst I watched, and fasted, and 
sweated in the House of Commons by the most easy 
and ordinary arts of election, by dinners and visits, by 
" How do you do s," and " My worthy friends," I was 
to be quietly moved out of my seat and promises 
were made, and engagements entered into, without any 
exception or reserve, as if my laborious zeal in my 
duty had been a regular abdication of my trust. 

To open my whole heart to you on this subject, I 
do confess, however, that there were other times 
besides the two years in which I did visit you when I 
was not wholly without leisure for repeating that mark 
of my respect. But I could not bring my mind to see 
you. You remember that, in the beginning of this 
American war (that era of calamity, disgrace, and 
downfall, an era which no feeling mind will ever 
mention without a tear for England), you were greatly 
divided ; and a very strong body, if not the strongest, 
opposed itself to the madness which every art and 
every power were employed to render popular in order 
that the errors of the rulers might be lost in the 
general blindness of the nation. This opposition con 
tinued until after our great but most unfortunate 
victory at Long Island. Then all the mounds and 
banks of our constancy were borne down at once ; and 
the frenzy of the American war broke in upon us 
like a deluge. Thi^yictory, which seemed to put an 
immediate end to all difficulties, perfected us in that 

126 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

spirit of domination which our unparalleled prosperity 
had but too long nurtured. We had been so very 
powerful and so very prosperous, that even the humblest 
of us were degraded into the vices and follies of kings. 
We lost all measure between means and ends ; and 

our headlong desires became our- politics and our 
morals. All men who wished for peace, or retained 
any sentiments of moderation, were overborne or 
silenced ; and this city was led by every artifice (and 
probably with the more management because I was 
one of your members) to distinguish itself by its zeal 
for that fatal cause. In this temper of your and of 
my mind, I should have sooner fled to the extremities 
of the earth than have shown myself here. I, who 
saw in every American victory (for you have had a 
long series of these misfortunes) the germ and seed of 

* the naval power of France and Spain, which all our 
heat and warmth against America was only hatching 
into life, I should not have been a welcome visitant 
with the brow and the language of such feelings. 
When, afterwards, the other face of your calamity was 
turned upon you, and showed itself in defeat and 
distress, I shunned you full as much. I felt sorely 
this variety in our wretchedness ; and I did not wish 
to have the least appearance of insulting you with that 
show of superiority which, though it may not be 
assumed, is generally suspected in a time of calamity, 
from those whose previous warnings have been des 
pised. I could not bear to show you a representative 


whose face did not reflect that of his constituents ; a 
face that could not joy in your joys and sorrow in 
your sorrows. But time at length has made us all of 
one opinion ; and we have all opened our eyes on the 
true nature of the American war, to the true nature of 
all its successes and all its failures. 

In that public storm too I had my private feel 
ings. I had seen blown down and prostrate on the 
ground several of those houses to whom I was chiefly 
indebted for the honour this city has done me. I 
confess that, whilst the wounds of those I loved were 
yet green, I could not bear to show myself in pride 
and triumph in that place into which their partiality 
had brought me, and to appear at feasts and rejoicings 
in the midst of the grief and calamity of my warm 
friends, my zealous supporters, my generous bene 
factors. This is a true, unvarnished, undisguised state 
of the affair. You will judge of it. 

This is the only one of the charges in which I 
am personally concerned. As to the other matters 
objected against me, which in their turn I shall 
mention to you, remember once more I do not mean 
to extenuate or excuse. Why should I, when the 
things charged are among those upon which I found 
all my reputation ? What would be left to me, if I 
myself was the man, who softened, and blended, and 
diluted, and weakened, all the distinguishing colours 
of my life, so as to leave nothing distinct and deter 
minate in my whole conduct ? 

128 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

It has been said, and it is the second charge, that 
in the questions of the Irish trade I did not consult 
the interest of my constituents ; or, to speak out 
strongly, that I rather acted as a native of Ireland 
than as an English member of Parliament. 

I certainly have very warm good wishes for the 
place of my birth. But the sphere of my duties is 
my true country. It was, as a man attached to your 
interests, and zealous for the conservation of your 
power and dignity, that I acted on that occasion, and 
on all occasions. You were involved in the American 
war. A new world of policy was opened, to which it 
was necessary we should conform, whether we would 
or not ; and my only thought was how to conform to 
our situation in such a manner as to unite to this 
kingdom, in prosperity and in affection, whatever 
remained of the empire. I was true to my old, stand 
ing, invariable principle, that all things which came 
from Great Britain should issue as a gift of her 
bounty and beneficence, rather than as claims recov 
ered against a struggling litigant ; or, at least, that if 
your beneficence obtained no credit in your conces 
sions, yet that they should appear the salutary 
provisions of your wisdom and foresight ; not as 
things wrung from you with your blood by the cruel 
gripe of a rigid necessity. The first concessions, by 
being (much against my will) mangled and stripped of 
the parts which were necessary to make out their just 
correspondence and connection in trade, were of no 


use. The next year a feeble attempt was made to bring 
the thing into better shape. This attempt (counte 
nanced by the minister) on the very first appearance 
of some popular uneasiness, was, after a considerable 
progress through the House, thrown out by him. 1 

What was the consequence ? The whole king 
dom of Ireland was instantly in a flame. Threat- 
ened by foreigners, and, as they thought, insulted by ! 
England, they resolved at once to resist the power of 
France, and to cast off yours. As for us, we were 
able neither to protect nor to restrain them. Forty 
thousand men were raised and disciplined without 
commission from the Crown. Two illegal armies were 
seen with banners displayed at the same time and in 
the same country. No executive magistrate, no judi 
cature in Ireland would acknowledge the legality of 
the army which bore the king s commission ; and 
no law, or appearance of law, authorised the army 
commissioned by itself. In this unexampled state of 
things, which the least error, the least trespass on the 
right or left, would have hurried down the precipice 
into an abyss of blood and confusion, the people oft 
Ireland demand a freedom of trade with arms in theirl 
hands. They interdict all commerce between the two 
nations. They deny all new supply in the House of 
Commons, although in time of war. They stint the 
trust of the old revenue, given for two years to all the 
king s predecessors, to six months. The British Parlia- 

1 See note prefixed to Two Letters to Gentlemen in Bristol. 

130 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

ment, in a former session, frightened into a limited 
concession by the menaces of Ireland, frightened out of 
it by the menaces of England, were now frightened 
back again, and made a universal surrender of all 
that had been thought the peculiar, reserved, uncom- 
municable rights of England : the exclusive commerce 
of America, of Africa, of the West Indies all the 
enumerations of the acts of navigation all the manu 
factures iron, glass, even the last pledge of jealousy 
and pride, the interest hid in the secret of our hearts, 
the inveterate prejudice moulded into the constitution 
of our frame, even the sacred fleece itself all went 
together. 1 No reserve ; no exception ; no debate ; no 
discussion. A sudden light broke in upon us all. It f 
broke in, not through well- contrived and well-disposed 
windows, but through flaws and breaches ; through the 
yawning chasms of our ruin. We were taught wis 
dom by humiliation. No town in England presumed 
to have a prejudice, or dared to mutter a petition. 
What was worse, the whole Parliament of England, 
which retained authority for nothing but surrenders, 
was despoiled of every shadow of its superintendence. 
It was, without any qualification, denied in theory, as 
it had been trampled upon in practice. This scene of 
shame and disgrace has, in a manner, whilst I am 
speaking, ended by the perpetual establishment of a 
military power in the dominions of this Crown, with* 
out consent of the British Legislature, 2 contrary to th| 

1 In 1779. 2 Irish Perpetual Mutiny Act. 


policy of the Constitution, contrary to the declaration, 
of right : and by this your liberties are swept away 
along with your supreme authority and both linked 
together from the beginning, have, I am afraid, both 
together perished for ever. 

What ! gentlemen, was I not to foresee, or fore 
seeing, was I not to endeavour to save you from all 
these multiplied mischiefs and disgraces ? Would the 
little, silly, canvass prattle of obeying instructions, and 
having no opinions but yours, and such idle senseless 
tales, which amuse the vacant ears of unthinking men, 
have saved you from " the pelting of that pitiless 
storm," to which the loose improvidence, the cowardly 
rashness, of those who dare not look danger in the 
face, so as to provide against it in time, and therefore 
throw themselves headlong into the midst of it, have 
exposed this degraded nation, beaten down and pro 
strate on the earth, unsheltered, unarmed, unresisting ? 
Was I an Irishman on that day, that I boldly with-, 
stood our pride ? or on the day that I hung down my \ 
head, and wept in shame and silence over the humilia 
tion of Great Britain ? I became unpopular in Eng 
land for the one, and in Ireland for the other. What 
| then ? What obligation lay on me to be popular ? I 
was bound to serve both kingdoms. To be pleased 
with my service was their affair, not mine. 

I was an Irishman in the Irish business, just as 
: much as I was an American when, on the same prin- 
I jciples, I wished you to concede to America at a time 

132 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

when she prayed concession at our feet. Just as much 
was I an American when I wished Parliament to offer 
terms in victory, and not to wait the well-chosen hour 
of defeat, for making good by weakness and by sup 
plication a claim of prerogative, pre-eminence, and 

Instead of requiring it from me, as a point of duty, 
to kindle with your passions, had you all been as cool 
as I was, you would have been saved from disgraces 
and distresses that are unutterable. Do you remember 
our commission ? We sent out a solemn embassy 
across the Atlantic Ocean, to lay the Crown, the Peerage, 
the Commons of Great Britain, at the feet of the 
American Congress. That our disgrace might want 
no sort of brightening and burnishing, observe who 
they were that composed this famous embassy ! My 
Lord Carlisle is among the first ranks of our nobility. 
He is the identical man who, but two years before, had 
been put forward at the opening of a session in the 
House of Lords as the mover of a haughty and rigorous 
address against America. He was put in the front of 
the embassy of submission. Mr. Eden was taken from 
the office of Lord Suffolk, to whom he was then Under 
Secretary of State ; from the office of that Lord Suffolk 
who, but a few weeks before, in his place in Parliament 
x did not deign to inquire where a congress of vagrants 
was to be found. This Lord Suffolk sent Mr. Eden to 
find these vagrants, without knowing where this king s 
generals were to be found, who were joined in the 


same commission of supplicating those whom they 
were sent to subdue. They enter the capital of 
America only to abandon it ; and these assertors and 
representatives of the dignity of England, at the tail 
of a flying army, let fly their Parthian shafts of 
memorials and remonstrances at random behind them. 
Their promises and their offers, their flatteries and 
their menaces, were all despised ; and we were saved 
from the disgrace of their formal reception, only because 
the congress scorned to receive them ; whilst the state- 
house of independent Philadelphia opened her doors to 
the public entry of the ambassador of France. Frorm 
war and blood we went to submission ; and from sub 
mission plunged back again to war and blood to 
desolate and be desolated, without measure, hope, or 
end. I am a Eoyalist ; I blushed for this degradation 
of the Crown. I am a Whig ; I blushed for the dis 
honour of Parliament. I am a true Englishman ; I felt 
to the quick for the disgrace of England. I am a 
man ; I felt for the melancholy reverse of human 
affairs in the fall of the first power in the world. 

To read what was approaching in Ireland, in the 
black and bloody characters of the American war, was 
a painful, but it was a necessary part of my public 
duty. For, gentlemen, it is not your fond desires or 
mine that can alter the nature of things ; by contend 
ing against which, what have we got, or shall ever get, 
but defeat and shame ? I did not obey your instruc-^ 
tions : No. I conformed to the instructions of truth 


134 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

and nature, and maintained your interest, against your 
opinions, with a constancy that became me. A repre 
sentative worthy of you ought to be a person of 
stability. I am to look, indeed, to your opinions; but" 
to such opinions as you and_I must have five years 
henceT Fwas noTtcT looklib the flash of the day. I 
knew that you chose me, in my__jplace, along with 
others, to be a pillar of the State, and not a weather 
cock on the top of the edifice, exalted for my levity 
and versatility, and of no use but to indicate the 
shiftings of every fashionable gale. Would to God 
the value of my sentiments on Ireland and on America 
had been at this day a subject of doubt and discussion ! 
No matter what my sufferings had been, so that this 
kingdom had kept the authority I wished it to main 
tain, by a grave foresight, and by an equitable temper 
ance in the use of its power. 

The next article of charge on my public con- 
~ duct, and that which I find rather the most pre- 
l(> valent of all is Lord Beauchamp s Bill. I mean 
his Bill of last session, for reforming the law- 
process concerning imprisonment. It is said, to 
aggravate the offence, that I treated the petition 
,iOf this city with contempt even in presenting it to 
jthe House, and expressed myself in terms of marked 
(disrespect. Had this latter part of the charge been 
true, no merits on the side of the question which I 
took could possibly excuse me. But I am incapable \ 
of treating this city with disrespect. Very fortunately 


at this minute (if my bad eyesight does not deceive 
me) the worthy l gentleman deputed on this business 
stands directly before me. To him I appeal whether 
I did not, though it militated with my oldest and my 
most recent public opinions, deliver the petition with 
a strong and more than usual recommendation to the 
consideration of the House on account of the character 
and consequence of those who signed it. I believe 
the worthy gentleman will tell you that the very day 
I received it I applied to the Solicitor now the 
Attorney-General to give it an immediate considera 
tion, and he most obligingly and instantly consented 
to employ a great deal of his very valuable time to 
write an explanation of the Bill. I attended the com 
mittee with all possible care and diligence, in order 
that every objection of yours might meet with a solu 
tion, or produce an alteration. I entreated your 
learned recorder (always ready in business in which 
you take a concern) to attend. But what will you 
say to those who blame me for supporting Lord 
Beauchamp s Bill, as a disrespectful treatment of your 
petition, when you hear that out of respect to you I 
myself was the cause of the loss of that very Bill ? 
For the noble lord who brought it in, and who, I must 
say, has much merit for this and some other measures, 
at my request consented to put it off for a week, which 
the Speaker s illness lengthened to a fortnight; and 
then the frantic tumult about Popery drove that and 

1 Mr. Williams. 

136 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

every rational business from the House. So that if I 
chose to make a defence of myself on the little prin 
ciples of a culprit pleading in his exculpation, I might 
not only secure my acquittal, but make merit with the 
opposers of the Bill. But I shall do no such thing. 
The truth is that I did occasion the loss of the Bill, 
and by a delay caused by my respect to you. But 
such an event was never in my contemplation. And 
I am so far from taking credit for the defeat of that 
measure, that I cannot sufficiently lament my mis 
fortune if but one man, who ought to be at large, has 
passed a year in prison by my means. I am a debtor 
to the debtors. I confess judgment. I owe what, if 
ever it be in my power, I shall most certainly pay, 
ample atonement and usurious amends to liberty and 
humanity for my unhappy lapse. For, gentlemen, 
Lord Beauchamp s Bill was a law of justice and policy 
as far as it went I say as far as it went, for its fault 
was its being in the remedial part miserably defective. 
There are two capital faults in our law with re 
lation to civil debts. One is that every man is pre 
sumed solvent a presumption, in innumerable cases, 
directly against truth. Therefore, the debtor is ordered, 
on a supposition of ability and fraud, to be coerced his 
liberty until he makes payment. By this means, in 
all cases of civil insolvency, without a pardon from his 
creditor, he is to be imprisoned for life and thus 
a miserable mistaken invention of artificial science 
operates to change a civil into a criminal judgment, and 


to scourge misfortune or indiscretion with a punish 
ment which the law does not inflict on the greatest 

The next fault is, that the inflicting of that punish 
ment is not on the opinion of an equal and public 
judge ; but is referred to the arbitrary discretion of a 
private, nay interested, and irritated, individual. He 
who formally is, and substantially ought to be, the 
judge, is in reality no more than ministerial, a mere 
executive instrument of a private man, who is at once 
judge and party. Every idea of judicial order is subr 
verted by this procedure. If the insolvency be no 
crime, why is it punished with arbitrary imprisonment ? 
If it be a crime, why is it delivered into private hands 
to pardon without discretion, or to punish without 
mercy and without measure ? 

To these faults gross and cruel facts in our law 
the excellent principle of Lord Beauchamp s Bill ap 
plied some sort of remedy. I know that credit must 
be preserved ; but equity must be preserved too ; and 
it is impossible that anything should be necessary to 
commerce, which is inconsistent with justice. The 
principle of credit was not weakened by that Bill. 
God forbid ! The enforcement of that credit was only 
put into the same public judicial hands on which we 
depend for our lives, and all that makes life dear to 
us. But, indeed, this business was taken up too 
warmly both here and elsewhere. The Bill was 
extremely mistaken. It was supposed to enact what 

138 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

it never enacted, and complaints were made of clauses 
in it as novelties, which existed before the noble lord 
that brought in the Bill was born. There was a 
fallacy that ran through the whole of the objec 
tions. The gentlemen who opposed the Bill always 
argued as if the option lay between that Bill and the 
ancient law. But this is a grand mistake. For, prac 
tically, the option is between, not that Bill and the old 
law, but between that Bill and those occasional laws, 
called acts of grace. For the operation of the old law 
is so savage, and so inconvenient to society, that for a 
long time past, once in every Parliament, and lately 
twice, the legislature has been obliged to make a 
general arbitrary jail-delivery, and at once to set open, 
s by its sovereign authority, all the prisons in England. 
Gentlemen, I never relished acts of grace ; nor ever 
submitted to them but from despair of better. They 
are a dishonourable invention, by which, not from 
humanity, not from policy, but merely because we have 
not room enough to hold these victims of the ab 
surdity of our laws, we turn loose upon the public 
three or four thousand naked wretches, corrupted by 
habits, debased by the ignominy of a prison. If the 
creditor had a right to those carcases as a natural 
security for his property, I am sure we have no right 
to deprive him of that security. But if the few pounds 
of flesh were not necessary to his security, we had not 
a right to detain the unfortunate debtor without any 
benefit at all to the person who confined him. Take 


it as you will, we commit injustice. Now Lord Beau- 
champ s Bill intended to do deliberately and with great 
caution and circumspection, upon each several case, 
and with all attention to the just claimant, what acts 
of grace do in a much greater measure, and with very 
little care, caution, or deliberation. 

I suspect that here too, if we contrive to oppose 
this Bill, we shall be found in a struggle against the 
nature of things. For as we grow enlightened, the 
public will not bear, for any length of time, to pay for 
the maintenance of whole armies of prisoners, nor at 
their own expense submit to keep jails as a sort of 
garrisons, merely to fortify the absurd principle of v 
making men judges in their own cause. For credit 
has little or no concern in this cruelty. I speak in a 
commercial assembly. You know that credit is given, 
because capital must be employed ; that men calculate 
the chances of insolvency ; and they either withhold 
the credit, or make the debtor pay the risk in the 
price. The counting-house has no alliance with the 
jail. Holland understands trade as well as we, and 
she has done much more than this obnoxious Bill 
intended to do. There was not, when Mr. Howard 
visited Holland, more than one prisoner for debt in the * 
great city of Eotterdam. Although Lord Beauchamp s 
Act (which was previous to this Bill, and intended to 
feel the way for it) has already preserved liberty to 
thousands, and though it is not three years since the 
last Act of grace passed, yet, by Mr. Howard s last 

140 SPEECH A T THE 1780. 

account, there were near three thousand again in jail. 
I cannot name this gentleman without remarking that 
his labours and writings have done much to open the 
eyes and hearts of mankind. He has visited all 
Europe ; not to survey the sumptuousness of palaces, 
or the stateliness of temples ; not to make accurate 
measurements of the remains of ancient grandeur, nor 
to form a scale of the curiosity of modern art ; not to 
collect medals, or collate manuscripts, but to dive into 
the depths of dungeons; to plunge into the infection of 
hospitals ; to survey the mansions of sorrow and pain ; 
to take the gauge and dimensions of misery, depression, 
and contempt ; to remember the forgotten, to attend to 
the neglected, to visit the forsaken ; and to compare 
and collate the distresses of all men in all countries. 
His plan is original ; and it is as full of genius as it is 
of humanity. It was a voyage of discovery ; a circum 
navigation of charity. Already the benefit of his 
labour is felt more or less in every country. I hope 
he will anticipate his final reward by seeing all its 
effects fully realised in his own. He will receive not 
by detail, but in gross the reward of those who visit 
the prisoner ; and he has so forestalled and monopolised 
this branch of charity that there will be, I trust, little 
room to merit by such acts of benevolence hereafter. 

Nothing now remains to trouble you with but the 
fourth charge against me the business of the Eoman 
Catholics. It is a business closely connected with the 
rest. They are all on one and the same principle. 


My little scheme of conduct, such as it is, is all 
arranged. I could do nothing but what I have done 
on this subject without confounding the whole train 
of my ideas, and disturbing the whole order of my life. 
Gentlemen, I ought to apologise to you for seeming to 
think anything at all necessary to be said upon this 
matter. The calumny is fitter to be scrawled with the 
midnight chalk of incendiaries, with " No popery " on 
walls and doors of devoted houses, than to be men 
tioned in any civilised company. I had heard that 
the spirit of discontent on that subject was very pre 
valent here. With pleasure I find that I have been 
grossly misinformed. If it exists at all in this city, 
the laws have crushed its exertions, and our morals 
have shamed its appearance in daylight. I have pur 
sued this spirit wherever I could trace it, but it still 
fled from me. It was a ghost which all had heard of, 
but none had seen. None would acknowledge that 
he thought the public proceeding with regard to our 
Catholic dissenters to be blameable, but several were 
sorry it had made an ill impression upon others, and 
that my interest was hurt by my share in the business. 
I find with satisfaction and pride that not above four 
or five in this city (and I dare say these misled by 
some gross misrepresentation) have signed that symbol 
of delusion and bond of sedition that libel on the 
national religion and English character the Protest 
ant Association. It is therefore, gentlemen, not by 
way of cure but of prevention, and lest the arts of 

142 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

wicked men may prevail over the integrity of any one 
amongst us, that I think it necessary to open to you 
the merits of this transaction pretty much at large, 
and I beg your patience upon it ; for, although the 
reasonings that have been used to depreciate the act 
are of little force, and though the authority of the men 
concerned in this ill design is not very imposing, yet 
the audaciousness of these conspirators against the 
national honour, and the extensive wickedness of their 
attempts, have raised persons of little importance to a 
degree of evil eminence, and imparted a sort of sinister 
dignity to proceedings that had their origin in only 
the meanest and blindest malice. 

In explaining to you the proceedings of Parliament 
which have been complained of, I will state to you, 
first, the thing that was done ; next, the person who 
did it ; and lastly, the grounds and reasons upon 
which the legislature proceeded in this deliberate act 
of public justice and public prudence. 

Gentlemen, the condition of our nature is such, 
that we buy our blessings at a price. The Keforma- 
tion one of the greatest periods of human improve 
ment was a time of trouble and confusion. The vast 
structure of superstition and tyranny, which had been 
for ages in rearing, and which was combined with the 
interest of the great and of the many, which was 
moulded into the laws, the manners, and civil institu 
tions of nations, and blended with the frame and policy 
of states, could not be brought to the ground without 


a fearful struggle ; nor could it fall without a violent 
concussion of itself and all about it. When this great 
revolution was attempted in a more regular mode by 
Government, it was opposed by plots and seditions of 
the people ; when by popular efforts, it was repressed 
as rebellion by the hand of power ; and bloody execu 
tions (often bloodily returned) marked the whole of its 
progress through all its stages. The affairs of religion, 
which are no longer heard of in the tumult of our 
present contentions, made a principal ingredient in the 
wars and politics of that time ; the enthusiasm of 
religion threw a gloom over the politics ; and political 
interests poisoned and perverted the spirit of religion 
upon all sides. The Protestant religion in that violent 
struggle, infected, as the Popish had been before, by 
worldly interests and worldly passions, became a perse 
cutor in its turn, sometimes of the new sects, which 
carried their own principles farther than it was con 
venient to the original reformers, and always of the 
body from whom they parted : and this persecuting 
spirit arose, not only from the bitterness of retaliation, 
but from the merciless policy of fear. 

It was long before the spirit of true piety and true 
wisdom, involved in the principles of the Eeformation, 
could be depurated from the dregs and feculence of 
the contention with which it was carried through. 
However, until this be done, the Eeformation is not 
complete ; and those who think themselves good Pro 
testants from their animosity to others, are in that 

144 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

respect no Protestants at all. It was at first thought 
necessary, perhaps, to oppose to Popery another 
Popery to get the better of it. Whatever was the 
cause, laws were made in many countries, and in this 
kingdom in particular, against Papists, which are as 
bloody as any of those which had been enacted by the 
popish princes and states ; and where those laws were 
not bloody, in my opinion they were worse ; as they 
were slow, cruel outrages on our nature, and kept men 
alive only to insult in their persons every one of the 
rights and feelings of humanity. I pass those statutes, 
because I would spare your pious ears the repetition 
of such shocking things ; and I come to that particular 
law, the repeal of which has produced so many un 
natural and unexpected consequences. 

A statute was fabricated in the year 1699, by which 
the saying mass (a Church-service in the Latin tongue, 
not exactly the same as our liturgy, but very near it, 
and containing no offence whatsoever against the laws, 
or against good morals) was forged into a crime, pun 
ishable with perpetual imprisonment. The teaching 
school a useful and virtuous occupation even the 
teaching in a private family was in every Catholic 
subjected to the same unproportioned punishment. 
Your industry, and the bread of your children, was 
taxed for a pecuniary reward to stimulate avarice to 
do what nature refused, to inform and prosecute on 
this law. Every Eoman Catholic was, under the same 
Act, to forfeit his estate to his nearest Protestant rela- 


tion, until, through a profession of what he did not 
believe, he redeemed by his hypocrisy what the law 
had transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of 
his profligacy. When thus turned out of doors from 
his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any 
other by any industry, donation, or charity; but was 
rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because 
he retained the religion, along with the property, 
handed down to him from those who had been the 
old inhabitants of that land before him. 

Does any one who hears me approve this scheme 
of things, or think there is common justice, common 
sense, or common honesty in any part of it ? If any 
does, let him say it, and I am ready to discuss the 
point with temper and candour. But instead of ap 
proving, I perceive a virtuous indignation beginning to 
rise in your minds on the mere cold stating of the 

But what will you feel when you know from history 
how this statute passed, and what were the motives, 
and what the mode of making it ? A party in this 
nation, enemies to the system of the Eevolution, were 
in opposition to the government of King William. 
They knew that our glorious deliverer was an enemy 
to all persecution. They knew that he came to free 
us from slavery and popery, out of a country where 
a third of the people are contented Catholics under a 
Protestant government. He came with a part of his 
army composed of those very Catholics, to overset the 


146 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

power of a popish prince. Such is the effect of a 
tolerating spirit : and so much is liberty served in every 
way, and by all persons, by a manly adherence to its 
own principles. Whilst freedom is true to itself, every 
thing becomes subject to it ; and its very adversaries 
are an instrument in its hands. 

The party I speak of (like some amongst us who 
would disparage the best friends of their country) re 
solved to make the king either violate his principles 
of toleration, or incur the odium of protecting Papists. 
They therefore brought in this Bill, and made it pur 
posely wicked and absurd, that it might be rejected. 
The then court-party, discovering their game, turned 
the tables on them, and returned their Bill to them 
stuffed with still greater absurdities, that its loss might 
lie upon its original authors. They, finding their own 
ball thrown back to them, kicked it back again to their 
adversaries. And thus this Act, loaded with the double 
injustice of two parties, neither of whom intended to 
pass what they hoped the other would be persuaded 
to reject, went through the legislature, contrary to the 
real wish of all parts of it, and of all the parties that 
composed it. In this manner these insolent and pro 
fligate factions, as if they were playing with balls and 
counters, made a sport of the fortunes and liberties 
of their fellow-creatures. Other acts of persecution 
have been acts of malice. This was a subversion of 
justice from wantonness and petulance. Look into the 
history of Bishop Burnet. He is a witness without 


The effects of the Act have been as mischievous as 
its origin was ludicrous and shameful. From that 
time every person of that communion, lay and eccle 
siastic, has been obliged to fly from the face of day. 
The clergy, concealed in garrets in private houses, or 
obliged to take a shelter (hardly safe to themselves, 
but infinitely dangerous to their country) under the 
privileges of foreign ministers, officiated as their 
servants, and under their protection. The whole 
body of the Catholics, condemned to beggary and to 
ignorance in their native land, have been obliged to 
learn the principle of letters, at the hazard of all their 
other principles, from the charity of your enemies. 
They have been taxed to their ruin at the pleasure of 
necessitous and profligate relations, and according to the 
measure of their necessity and profligacy. Examples 
of this are many and affecting. Some of them are 
known by a friend who stands near me in this hall, 
It is but six or seven years since a clergyman of the 
name of Malony, a man of morals, neither guilty nor 
accused of anything noxious to the State, was con 
demned to perpetual imprisonment for exercising the 
functions of his religion ; and after lying in jail two 
or three years, was relieved by the mercy of Govern 
ment from perpetual imprisonment, on condition of 
perpetual banishment. A brother of the Earl of 
Shrewsbury, a Talbot, a name respectable in this 
country, whilst its glory is any part of its concern 
was hauled to the bar of the Old Bailey, among 

148 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

common felons, and only escaped the same doom, 
either by some error in the process, or that the wretch 
who brought him there could not correctly describe 
his person, I now forget which. In short, the per 
secution would never have relented for a moment, if 
the judges, superseding (though with an ambiguous 
example) the strict rule of their artificial duty by the 
higher obligation of their conscience, did not constantly 
throw every difficulty in the way of such informers. 
But so ineffectual is the power of legal evasion against 
legal iniquity, that it was but the other day that a lady 
of condition, beyond the middle of life, was on the 
point of being stripped of her whole fortune by a near 
relation, to whom she had been a friend and bene 
factor; and she must have been totally ruined, without 
a power of redress or mitigation from the courts of 
law, had not the legislature itself rushed in, and by a 
special Act of Parliament rescued her from the injustice 
of its own statutes. One of the Acts authorising such 
things was that which we in part repealed, knowing 
what our duty was, and doing that duty as men of 
honour and virtue, as good Protestants, and as good 
citizens. Let him stand forth that disapproves what 
we have done. 

Gentlemen, bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. 
In such a country as this they are of all bad things 
the worst, worse by far than any where else ; and they 
derive a particular malignity even from the wisdom 
and soundness of the rest of our institutions. For 


very obvious reasons you cannot trust the Crown with 
a dispensing power over any of your laws. However, 
a government, be it as bad as it may, will, in the exer 
cise of a discretionary power, discriminate times and 
persons, and will not ordinarily pursue any man when 
its own safety is not concerned. A mercenary informer 
knows no distinction. Under such a system, the ob 
noxious people are slaves, not only to the Government, 
but they live at the mercy of every individual ; they 
are at once the slaves of the whole community, and of 
every part of it ; and the worst and most unmerciful 
men are those on whose goodness they most depend. 

In this situation men not only shrink from the 
frowns of a stern magistrate ; but they are obliged to 
fly from their very species. The seeds of destruction 
are sown in civil intercourse, in social habitudes. The 
blood of wholesome kindred is infected. Their tables 
and beds are surrounded with snares. All the means 
given by Providence to make life safe and comfortable 
are perverted into instruments of terror and torment. 
This species of universal subserviency, that makes the 
very servant who waits behind your chair the arbiter 
of your life and fortune, has such a tendency to degrade 
and abase mankind, and to deprive them of that assured 
and liberal state of mind which alone can make us 
what we ought to be, that I vow to God I would 
sooner bring myself to put a man to immediate death 
for opinions I disliked, and so to get rid of the man 
and his opinions at once, than to fret him with a 

150 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

feverish being, tainted with the jail -distemper of a 
contagious servitude, to keep him above ground an 

, animated mass of putrefaction, corrupted himself, and 

* corrupting all about him. 

The Act repealed was of this direct tendency ; and 
it was made in the manner which I have related to 
you. I will now tell you by whom the Bill of repeal 
was brought into Parliament. I find it has been in 
dustriously given out in this city (from kindness to me, 
unquestionably) that I was the mover or the seconder. 
The fact is, I did not once open my lips on the subject 
during the whole progress of the Bill. I do not say 
this as disclaiming my share in that measure. Very 
far from it. I inform you of this fact, lest I should 
seem to arrogate to myself the merits which belong to 
others. To have been the man chosen out to redeem 
our fellow-citizens from slavery ; to purify our laws 
from absurdity and injustice; and to cleanse our religion 
from the blot and stain of persecution, would be an 
honour and happiness to which my wishes would 
undoubtedly aspire ; but to which nothing but my 
wishes could have possibly entitled me. That great 
work was in hands in every respect far better quali- 

i fied than mine. The mover of the Bill was Sir George 

When an act of great and signal humanity was to be 
done, and done with all the weight and authority that 
belonged to it, the world could cast its eyes upon none 
but him. I hope that few things which have a tend- 


ency to bless or to adorn life have wholly escaped my 
observation in my passage through it. I have sought the 
acquaintance of that gentleman, and have seen him in 
all situations. He is a true genius ; with an under 
standing vigorous and acute and refined, and distin 
guishing even to excess ; and illuminated with a most 
unbounded, peculiar, and original cast of imagination. 
With these he possesses many external and instru 
mental advantages ; and he makes use of them all. 
His fortune is among the largest a fortune which, 
wholly unencumbered, as it is, with one single charge 
from luxury, vanity, or excess, sinks under the ben 
evolence of its dispenser. This private benevolence, 
expanding itself into patriotism, renders his whole 
being the estate of the public, in which he has not 
reserved a peculium for himself of profit, diversion, or 
relaxation. During the session, the first in, and the 
last out of the House ^of Commons, he passes from the 
senate to the camp ; and seldom seeing the seat of his 
ancestors, he is always in the senate to serve his 
country, or in the field to defend it. But in all well- 
wrought compositions, some particulars stand out more 
eminently than the rest; and the things which will 
carry his name to posterity are his two Bills ; I mean 
that for a limitation of the claims of the Crown upon 
landed estates ; and this for the relief of the Eoman 
Catholics. By the former, he has emancipated property; 
by the latter he has quieted conscience ; and by both 
he has taught that grand lesson to Government and 

152 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

subject, no longer to regard each other as adverse 

Such was the mover of the Act that is complained 
of by men who are not quite so good as he is an Act, 
most assuredly not brought in by him from any parti 
ality to the sect which is the object of it. For among 
his faults I really cannot help reckoning a greater 
degree of prejudice against that people than becomes 
so wise a man. I know that he inclines to a sort of 
disgust, mixed with a considerable degree of asperity, 
to the system ; and he has few, or rather no habits 
with any of its professors. What he has done was on 
quite other motives. The motives were these, which 
he declared in his excellent speech on his motion for 
the Bill ; namely, his extreme zeal to the Protestant 
religion, which he thought utterly disgraced by the 
Act of 1699; and his rooted hatred to all kind of 
oppression, under any colour, or upon any pretence 

The seconder was worthy of the mover and of the 
motion. I was not the seconder; it was Mr. Dunning, 
Eecorder of this city. I shall say the less of him 
because his near relation to you makes you more 
particularly acquainted with his merits. But I should 
appear little acquainted with them, or little sensible of 
them, if I could utter his name on this occasion with 
out expressing my esteem for his character. I am not 
afraid of offending a most learned body, and most 
jealous of its reputation for that learning, when I say 


he is the first of his profession. It is a point settled 
by those who settle everything else ; and I must add 
(what I am enabled to say from my own long and 
close observation) that there is not a man, of any pro 
fession, or in any situation, of a more erect and in 
dependent spirit ; of a more proud honour ; a more 
manly mind ; a more firm and determined integrity. 
Assure yourselves that the names of two such men 
will bear a great load of prejudice in the other scale 
before they can be entirely outweighed. 

With this mover and this seconder agreed the whole 
House of Commons, the whole House of Lords, the 
whole bench of bishops, the king, the Ministry, the 
Opposition, all the distinguished clergy of the Estab 
lishment, all the eminent lights (for they were con 
sulted) of the dissenting churches. This according 
voice of national wisdom ought to be listened to with 
reverence. To say that all these descriptions of 
Englishmen unanimously concurred in a scheme for 
introducing the Catholic religion, or that none of them 
understood the nature and effects of what they were 
doing so well as a few obscure clubs of people, whose 
names you never heard of, is shamelessly absurd. 
Surely it is paying a miserable compliment to the 
religion we profess, to suggest that everything eminent 
in the kingdom is indifferent, or even adverse to that 
religion, and that its security is wholly abandoned to 
the zeal of those who have nothing but their zeal to 
distinguish them. In weighing this unanimous con- 

154 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

currence of whatever the nation has to boast of, I hope 
you will recollect that all these concurring parties do by 
no means love one another enough to agree in any point, 
which was not both evidently and importantly right. 

To prove this ; to prove that the measure was both 
clearly and materially proper, I will next lay before 
you (as I promised) the political grounds and reasons 
for the repeal of that penal statute ; and the motives 
to its repeal at that particular time. 

Gentlemen, America When the English nation 

seemed to be dangerously, if not irrecoverably divided ; 
when one, and that the most growing branch, was torn 
from the parent stock, and engrafted on the power of 
France, a great terror fell upon this kingdom. On a 
sudden we awakened from our dreams of conquest, and 
saw ourselves threatened with an immediate invasion, 
which we were at that time very ill prepared to resist. 
You remember the cloud that gloomed over us all. In 
that hour of our dismay, from the bottom of the hiding- 
places into which the indiscriminate rigour of our 
statutes had driven them, came out the body of the 
Eoman Catholics. They appeared before the steps of 
a tottering throne with one of the most sober, 
measured, steady, and dutiful addresses that was ever 
presented to the Crown. It was no holiday ceremony ; 
no anniversary compliment of parade and show. It 
was signed by almost every gentleman of that persua 
sion of note or property in England. At such a crisis, 
nothing but a decided resolution to stand or fall with 


their country could have dictated such an address ; the 
direct tendency of which was to cut off all retreat, and 
to render them peculiarly obnoxious to an invader of 
their own communion. The address showed what I 
long languished to see that all the subjects of England 
had cast off all foreign views and connections, and that 
every man looked for his relief from every grievance at 
the hands only of his own natural government. 

It was necessary, on our part, that the natural 
government should show itself worthy of that name. 
It was necessary, at the crisis I speak of, that the 
supreme power of the State should meet the concilia 
tory dispositions of the subject. To delay protection 
would be to reject allegiance. And why should it be 
rejected, or even coldly and suspiciously received ? If 
any independent Catholic state should choose to take 
part with this kingdom in a war with France and 
Spain, that bigot (if such a bigot could be found) would 
be heard with little respect; who could dream of 
objecting his religion to an ally, whom the nation 
would not only receive with its freest thanks, but pur 
chase with the last remains of its exhausted treasure. 
To such an ally we should not dare to whisper a single 
syllable of those base and invidious topics, upon which 
some unhappy men would persuade the State to reject - 
the duty and allegiance of its own members. Is it 
then because foreigners are in a condition to set our 
malice at defiance, that with them we are willing to 
contract engagements of friendship, and to keep them 

156 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

with fidelity and honour ; but that, because we con 
ceive some descriptions of our countrymen are not 
powerful enough to punish our malignity, we will 
not permit them to support our common interest ? 
Is it on that ground that our anger is to be kindled 
by their offered kindness ? Is it on that ground 
that they are to be subjected to penalties, because 
they are willing, by actual merit, to purge them 
selves from imputed crimes ? Lest, by an adherence 
to the cause of their country, they should acquire a 
title to fair and equitable treatment, are we resolved 
to furnish them with causes of eternal enmity ; and 
rather supply them with just and founded motives to 
disaffection, than not to have that disaffection in exist 
ence to justify an oppression which, not from policy 
but disposition, we have predetermined to exercise ? 

What shadow of reason could be assigned why, at 
a time when the most Protestant part of this Protestant 
empire found for its advantage to unite with the two 
principal popish states, to unite itself in the closest 
bonds with France and Spain for our destruction, that 
we should refuse to unite with our own Catholic 
countrymen for our own preservation ? Ought we, 
like madmen, to tear off the plasters that the lenient 
hand of prudence had spread over the wounds and 
gashes which in our delirium of ambition we had given 
to our own body ? No person ever reprobated the 
American war more than I did, and do, and ever shall. 
But I never will consent that we should lay additional 


voluntary penalties upon ourselves for a fault which 
carries but too much of its own punishment in its own 
nature. For one, I was delighted with the proposal of 
internal peace. I accepted the blessing with thankful 
ness and transport ; I was truly happy to find one good 
effect of our civil distractions that they had put an 
end to all religious strife and heartburning in our own 
bowels. What must be the sentiments of a man who 
would wish to perpetuate domestic hostility, when the 
causes of dispute are at an end ; and who, crying out 
for peace with one part of the nation on the most 
humiliating terms, should deny it to those who offer 
friendship without any terms at all ? 

But if I was unable to reconcile such a denial to 
the contracted principles of local duty, what answer 
could I give to the broad claims of general humanity ? 
I confess to you freely that the sufferings and dis 
tresses of the people of America in this cruel war 
have at times affected me more deeply than I can 
express. I felt every Gazette of triumph as a blow 
upon my heart, which has an hundred times sunk and 
fainted within me at all the mischiefs brought upon 
those who bear the whole brunt of war in the heart 
of their country. Yet the Americans are utter 
strangers to me a nation among whom I am not sure 
that I have a single acquaintance. Was I to suffer 
my mind to be so unaccountably warped ; was I to 
keep such iniquitous weights and measures of temper 
and of reason as to sympathise with those who are in 

158 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

open rebellion against an authority which I respect, at 
war with a country which by every title ought to be, 
and is most dear to me ; and yet to have no feeling 
at all for the hardships and indignities suffered by 
men who, by their very vicinity, are bound up in a 
nearer relation to us ; who contribute their share, and 
more than their share, to the common prosperity ; who 
perform the common offices of social life, and who obey 
the laws to the full as well as I do ? Gentlemen, the 
danger to the State being out of the question (of which, 
let me tell you, statesmen themselves are apt to have 
but too exquisite a sense) I could assign no one reason 
of justice, policy, or feeling, for not concurring most 
cordially, as most cordially I did concur, in softening 
some part of that shameful servitude under which 
several of my worthy fellow-citizens were groaning. 

Important effects followed this act of wisdom. 
They appeared at home and abroad, to the great bene 
fit of this kingdom ; and, let me hope, to the advantage 
of mankind at large. It betokened union among our 
selves. It showed soundness, even on the part of the 
persecuted, which generally is the weak side of every 
community. But its most essential operation was not 
in England. The act was immediately, though very 
imperfectly, copied in Ireland ; and this imperfect 
transcript of an imperfect act, this first faint sketch of 
toleration, which did little more than disclose a prin 
ciple and mark out a disposition, completed in a most 
wonderful manner the re-union to the State of all the 


Catholics of that country. It made us what we ought 
always to have been, one family, one body, one heart 
and soul, against the family-combination, and all other 
combinations of our enemies. We have indeed obliga 
tions to that people, who received such small benefits 
with so much gratitude ; and for which gratitude and 
attachment to us I am afraid they have suffered not a 
little in other places. 

I dare say you have all heard of the privileges in 
dulged to the Irish Catholics residing in Spain. You 
have likewise heard with what circumstances of severity 
they have been lately expelled from the seaports of 
that kingdom ; driven into the inland cities ; and there 
detained as a sort of prisoners of State. I have good 
reason to believe that it was the zeal to our Govern 
ment and our cause (somewhat indiscreetly expressed 
in one of the addresses of the Catholics of Ireland) 
which has thus drawn down on their heads the indig 
nation of the court of Madrid ; to the inexpressible 
loss of several individuals, and in future, perhaps, to 
the great detriment of the whole of their body. Now 
that our people should be persecuted in Spain for their 
attachment to this country, and persecuted in this 
country for their supposed enmity to us, is such a 
jarring reconciliation of contradictory distresses, is a 
thing at once so dreadful and ridiculous, that no malice 
short of diabolical would wish to continue any human 
creatures in such a situation. But honest men will 
not forget either their merit or their sufferings. There 

160 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

are men (and many, I trust, there are) who, out of love 
to their country and their kind, would torture their 
invention to find excuses for the mistakes of their 
brethren ; and who, to stifle dissension, would construe 
even doubtful appearances with the utmost favour: 
such men will never persuade themselves to be in 
genious and refined in discovering disaffection and 
treason in the manifest, palpable signs of suffering 
loyalty. Persecution is so unnatural to them, that they 
gladly snatch the very first opportunity of laying aside 
all the tricks and devices of penal politics ; and of 
returning home, after all their irksome and vexatious 
wanderings, to our natural family mansion, to the 
grand social principle that unites all men, in all de 
scriptions, under the shadow of an equal and impartial 

Men of another sort I mean the bigoted enemies 
to liberty may perhaps in their politics make no ac 
count of the good or ill affection of the Catholics of 
England, who are but a handful of people (enough to 
torment but not enough to fear) perhaps not so many, 
of both sexes and of all ages, as fifty thousand. But, 
gentlemen, it is possible you may not know that the 
people of that persuasion in Ireland amount at least 
to sixteen or seventeen hundred thousand souls. I 
do not at all exaggerate the number. A nation to be 
persecuted ! Whilst we were masters of the sea, em 
bodied with America, and in alliance with half the 
powers of the Continent, we might perhaps, in that 


remote corner of Europe, afford to tyrannise with im 
punity. But there is a revolution in our affairs which 
makes it prudent to be just. In our late awkward 
contest with Ireland about trade, had religion been 
thrown in, to ferment and embitter the mass of dis 
contents, the consequences might have been truly 
dreadful. But very happily, that cause of quarrel was 
previously quieted by the wisdom of the Acts I am 

Even in England, where I admit the danger from 
the discontent of that persuasion to be less than in 
Ireland ; yet even here, had we listened to the counsels 
of fanaticism and folly, we might have wounded our 
selves very deeply, and wounded ourselves in a very 
tender part. You are apprised that the Catholics of 
England consist mostly of our best manufacturers. Had 
the Legislature chosen, instead of returning their de 
clarations of duty with correspondent goodwill, to 
drive them to despair, there is a country at their very 
door to which they would be invited a country in all 
respects as good as ours, and with the finest cities in 
the world ready built to receive them. And thus the 
bigotry of a free country, and in an enlightened age, 
would have re-peopled the cities of Flanders, which, in 
the darkness of two hundred years ago, had been 
desolated by the superstition of a cruel tyrant. Our 
manufacturers were the growth of the persecutions in 
the Low Countries. What a spectacle would it be to 
Europe, to see us at this time of day, balancing the 


162 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

account of tyranny with those very countries, and by 
our persecutions driving back trade and manufacture, 
as a sort of vagabonds, to their original settlement ! 
But I trust we shall be saved this last of disgraces. 

So far as to the effect of the Act on the interests 
of this nation. With regard to the interests of man 
kind at large, I am sure the benefit was very consider 
able. Long before this Act, indeed, the spirit of toler 
ation began to gain ground in Europe. In Holland, 
the third part of the people are Catholics ; they live at 
ease, and are a sound part of the State. In many 
parts of Germany, Protestants and Papists partake the 
same cities, the same councils, and even the same 
churches. The unbounded liberality of the King of 
Prussia s conduct on this occasion is known to all the 
world, and it is of a piece with the other grand maxims 
of his reign. The magnanimity of the imperial court, 
breaking through the narrow principles of its prede 
cessors, has indulged its Protestant subjects, not only 
with property, with worship, with liberal education, 
but with honours and trusts, both civil and military. 
A worthy Protestant gentleman of this country now 
fills, and fills with credit, a high office in the Austrian 
Netherlands. Even the Lutheran obstinacy of Sweden 
has thawed at length, and opened a toleration to all 
religions. I know myself that in France the Protestants 
begin to be at rest. The army which in that country 
is everything is open to them ; and some of the mili 
tary rewards and decorations which the laws deny are 


supplied by others, to make the service acceptable and 
honourable. The first minister of finance in that 
country is a Protestant. Two years war without a tax 
is among the first-fruits of their liberality. Tarnished 
as the glory of this nation is, and as far as it has 
waded into the shades of an eclipse, some beams of its 
former illumination still play upon its surface ; and 
what is done in England is still looked to as argument 
and as example. It is certainly true that no law of 
this country ever met with such universal applause 
abroad, or was so likely to produce the perfection of 
that tolerating spirit which, as I observed, has been 
long gaining ground in Europe ; for abroad it was uni 
versally thought that we had done what, I am sorry to 
say, we had not they thought we had granted a full 
toleration. That opinion was, however, so far from 
hurting the Protestant cause, that I declare, with the most 
serious solemnity, my firm belief that no one thing done 
for these fifty years past was so likely to prove deeply 
beneficial to our religion at large as Sir George Savile s 
Act. In its effects it was " an Act for tolerating and 
protecting Protestantism throughout Europe :" and I 
hope that those who were taking steps for the quiet 
and settlement of our Protestant brethren in other 
countries will even yet rather consider the steady equity 
of the greater and better part of the people of Great 
Britain, than the vanity and violence of a few. 

I perceive, gentlemen, by the manner of all about 
me, that you look with horror on the wicked clamour 

1G4 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

which has been raised on this subject ; and that in 
stead of an apology for what was done, you rather 
demand from me an account, why the execution of 
the scheme of toleration was not made more answer 
able to the large and liberal grounds on which it was 
taken up ? The question is natural and proper ; and 
I remember that a great and learned magistrate, 1 
distinguished for his strong and systematic under 
standing, and who at that time was a member of the 
House of Commons, made the same objection to the 
proceeding. The statutes, as they now stand, are, 
without doubt, perfectly absurd. But I beg leave to 
explain the cause of this gross imperfection in the 
tolerating plan as well and as shortly as I am able. 
It was universally thought that the session ought not 
to pass over without doing something in this business. 
To revise the whole body of the penal statutes was 
conceived to be an object too big for the time. The 
penal statute, therefore, which was chosen for repeal 
(chosen to show our disposition to conciliate, not to 
perfect a toleration), was this act of ludicrous cruelty, 
of which I have just given you the history. It is an 
Act which, though not by a great deal so fierce and 
bloody as some of the rest, was infinitely more ready 
in the execution. It was the Act which gave the 
4 greatest encouragement to those pests of society, 
mercenary informers, and interested disturbers of 
household peace ; and it was observed with truth, 

1 The Chancellor. 


that the prosecutions, either carried to conviction or 
compounded for many years, had been all commenced 
upon that Act. It was said, that whilst we were 
deliberating on a more perfect scheme, the spirit of 
the age would never come up to the execution of the 
statutes which remained ; especially as more steps, 
and a co-operation of more minds and powers, were 
required towards a mischievous use of them, than for 
the execution of the Act to be repealed : that it was 
better to unravel this texture from below than from 
above, beginning with the latest, which, in general prac 
tice, is the severest evil. It was alleged that this slow 
proceeding would be attended with the advantage of a 
progressive experience ; and that the people would 
grow reconciled to toleration, when they should find 
by the effects, that justice was not so irreconcilable 
an enemy to convenience as they had imagined. 

These, gentlemen, were the reasons why we left 
this good work in the rude, unfinished state in which 
good works are commonly left, through the tame cir 
cumspection with which a timid prudence so frequently 
enervates beneficence. In doing good, we are gener 
ally cold, and languid, and sluggish ; and of all things 
afraid of being too much in the right. But the works 
of malice and injustice are quite in another style. 
They are finished with a bold masterly hand ; touched 
as they are with the spirit of those vehement passions 
that call forth all our energies, whenever we oppress 
and persecute. 

1 66 SPEECH A T THE 1 780. 

Thus this matter was left for the time, with a full 
determination in Parliament not to suffer other and 
worse statutes to remain for the purpose of counter 
acting the benefits proposed by the repeal of one penal 
law ; for nobody then dreamed of defending what 
was done as a benefit, on the ground of its being no 
benefit at all. We were not then ripe for so mean a 

I do not wish to go over the horrid scene that 
was afterwards acted. Would to God it could be 
expunged for ever from the annals of this country ! 
But since it must subsist for our shame, let it subsist 
for our instruction. In the year 1780 there were 
found in this nation men deluded enough (for I give 
the whole to their delusion), on pretences of zeal and 
piety, without any sort of provocation whatsoever, real 
or pretended, to make a desperate attempt, which 
would have consumed all the glory and power of this 
country in the flames of London ; and buried all law, 
order, and religion, under the ruins of the metropolis 
of the Protestant world. Whether all this mischief 
done, or in the direct train of doing, was in their 
original scheme, I cannot say I hope it was not but 
this would have been the unavoidable consequence 
of their proceedings, had not the flames they had 
lighted up in their fury been extinguished in their 

All the time that this horrid scene was acting, 
or avenging, as well as for some time before, and ever 


since, the wicked instigators of this unhappy multitude, 
guilty with every aggravation of all their crimes, and 
screened in a cowardly darkness from their punish 
ment, continued without interruption, pity, or remorse, 
to blow up the blind rage of the populace, with a 
continued blast of pestilential libels, which infected and 
poisoned the very air we breathed in. 

The main drift of all the libels and all the riots 
was to force Parliament (to persuade us was hopeless) 
into an act of national perfidy, which has no example. 
For, gentlemen, it is proper you should all know what 
infamy we escaped by refusing that repeal, for a re 
fusal of which, it seems, I, among others, stand some 
where or other accused. When we took away, on the 
motives which I had the honour of stating to you, a 
few of the innumerable penalties upon an oppressed 
and injured people ; the relief was not absolute, but 
given on a stipulation and compact between them and 
us ; for we bound down the Koman Catholics with the 
most solemn oaths, to bear true allegiance to this Govern 
ment ; to abjure all sort of temporal power in any other ; 
and to renounce, under the same solemn obligations, the 
doctrines of systematic perfidy, with which they stood 
(I conceive very unjustly) charged. Now our modest 
petitioners came up to us, most humbly praying nothing 
more than that we should break our faith without any one 
cause whatsoever of forfeiture assigned ; and when the 
subjects of this kingdom had, on their part, fully per 
formed their engagement, we should refuse, on our part, 

168 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

the benefit we had stipulated on the performance of 
those very conditions that were prescribed by onr own 
authority, and taken on the sanction of our public 
faith, that is to say when we had inveigled them 
with fair promises within our door, we were to shut it 
on them ; and, adding mockery to outrage, to tell 
them, " Now we have got you fast your consciences 
are bound to a power resolved on your destruction. 
We have made you swear that your religion obliges 
you to keep your faith : fools as you are ! we will now 
let you see that our religion enjoins us to keep no 
faith with you." They, who would advisedly call upon 
us to do such things must certainly have thought us 
not only a convention of treacherous tyrants, but a 
gang of the lowest and dirtiest wretches that ever 
disgraced humanity. Had we done this, we should 
have indeed proved that there were some in the world 
whom no faith could bind ; and we should have con- 
meted ourselves of that odious principle of which Papists 
stood accused by those very savages who wished us, on 
that accusation, to deliver them over to their fury. 

In this audacious tumult, when our very name and 
character as gentlemen was to be cancelled for ever, 
along with the faith and honour of the nation, I, who 
had exerted myself very little on the quiet passing of 
the Bill, thought it necessary then to come forward. 
I was not alone : but though some distinguished 
members on all sides, and particularly on ours, added 
much to their high reputation by the part they took 


on that day (a part which will be remembered as long 
as honour, spirit, and eloquence have estimation in the 
world), I may and will value myself so far, that, yield 
ing in abilities to many, I yielded in zeal to none. 
With warmth and with vigour, and animated with a 
just and natural indignation, I called forth every 
faculty that I possessed, and I directed it in every 
way in which I could possibly employ it. I laboured 
night and day. I laboured in Parliament : I laboured 
out of Parliament. If, therefore, the resolution of the 
House of Commons, refusing to commit this act of 
unmatched turpitude, be a crime, I am guilty among 
the foremost. But, indeed, whatever the faults of that 
House may have been, no one member was found 
hardy enough to propose so infamous a thing ; and on 
full debate we passed the resolution against the peti 
tions with as much unanimity as we had formerly 
passed the law of which these petitions demanded the 

There was a circumstance (justice will not suffer 
me to pass it over) which, if anything could enforce 
the reasons I have given, would fully justify the act 
of relief, and render a repeal, or anything like a 
repeal, unnatural, impossible. It was the behaviour 
of the persecuted Eoman Catholics under the acts of 
violence and brutal insolence which they suffered. I 
suppose there are not in London less than four or five 
thousand of that persuasion from my country, who do 
a great deal of the most laborious works in the metro- 

170 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

polls ; and they chiefly inhabit those quarters which 
were the principal theatre of the fury of the bigoted 
multitude. They are known to be men of strong- 
arms and quick feelings, and more remarkable for a 
determined resolution than clear ideas, or much fore 
sight. But though provoked by everything that can 
stir the blood of men, their houses and chapels in 
flames, and with the most atrocious profanations of 

x everything which they hold sacred before their eyes, 
not a hand was moved to retaliate, or even to defend. 
Had a conflict once begun, the rage of their persecu 
tors would have redoubled. Thus fury increasing by 
the reverberation of outrages, house being fired for 
house, and church for chapel, I am convinced that no 
power under heaven could have prevented a general 
conflagration ; and at this day London would have 
been a tale. But I am well informed and the thing 
speaks it that their clergy exerted their whole influ- 

, ence to keep their people in such a state of forbear 
ance and quiet as, when I look back, fills me with 
astonishment ; but not with astonishment only. Their 
merits on that occasion ought not to be forgotten nor 
will they when Englishmen come to recollect them 
selves. I am sure it were far more proper to have 
called them forth, and given them the thanks of both 
Houses of Parliament, than to have suffered those 
worthy clergymen and excellent citizens to be hunted 
into holes and corners, whilst we are making low- 
minded inquisitions into the number of their people ; 


as if a tolerating principle was never to prevail, unless 
we were very sure that only a few could possibly take 
advantage of it. But indeed we are not yet well 
recovered of our fright. Our reason, I trust, will 
return with our security ; and this unfortunate temper 
will pass over like a cloud. 

Gentlemen, I have now laid before you a few of 
the reasons for taking away the penalties of the Act of 
1699, and for refusing to establish them on the riotous 
requisition of 1780. Because I would not suffer any 
thing which may be for your satisfaction to escape, 
permit me just to touch on the objections urged 
against our Act and our resolves, and intended as a 
justification of the violence offered to both Houses. 
" Parliament," they assert, " was too hasty, and they 
ought, in so essential and alarming a change, to have 
proceeded with a far greater degree of deliberation." 
The direct contrary. Parliament was too slow. They 
took fourscore years to deliberate on the repeal of an 
Act which ought not to have survived a second session. 
When at length, after a procrastination of near a 
century, the business was taken up, it proceeded in 
the most public manner, by the ordinary stages, and as 
slowly as a law so evidently right as to be resisted by 
none would naturally advance. Had it been read 
three times in one day, we should have shown only a 
becoming readiness to recognise, by protection, the 
undoubted dutiful behaviour of those whom we had 
but too long punished for offences of presumption or 

172 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

conjecture. But for what end was that Bill to linger 
beyond the usual period of an unopposed measure? 
Was it to be delayed until a rabble in Edinburgh 
should dictate to the Church of England what measure 

of persecution was fitting for her safety ? Was it to 
be adjourned until a fanatical force could be collected 
in London, sufficient to frighten us out of all our ideas 
of policy and justice ? Were we to wait for the pro 
found lectures on the reason of State, ecclesiastical and 
political, which the Protestant Association have since 
condescended to read to us ? Or were we seven 
hundred peers and commoners the only persons 
ignorant of the ribald invectives which occupy the 
place of argument in those remonstrances, which every 
man of common observation has heard a thousand 

N times over, and a thousand times over had despised ? 
All men had before heard what they have to say ; and 
all men at this day know what they dare to do ; 
and I trust, all honest men are equally influenced by 
the one, and by the other. 

But they tell us, that those our fellow-citizens, 
whose chains we have a little relaxed, are enemies to 

liberty and our free constitution. Not enemies I pre 
sume to their own liberty. And as to the constitution, 
until we give them some share in it, I do not know 
on what pretence we can examine into their opinions 
about a business in which they have no interest or 
concern. But, after all, are we equally sure that they 
are adverse to our constitution, as that our statutes 


are hostile and destructive to them ? For my part I 
have reason to believe their opinions and inclinations 
in that respect are various, exactly like those of other 
men ; and if they lean more to the Crown than I, and 
than many of you think we, ought, we must remember 
that he who aims at another s life is not to be sur 
prised if he flies into any sanctuary that will receive 
him. The tenderness of the executive power is the 
natural asylum of those upon whom the laws have 
declared war; and to complain that men are inclined 
to favour the means of their own safety is so absurd, 
that one forgets the injustice in the ridicule. 

I must fairly tell you that, so far as my principles 
are concerned (principles that I hope will only depart 
with my last breath) I have no idea of a liberty un-v 
connected with honesty and justice. Nor do I believe 
that any good constitutions of government or of free 
dom can find it necessary for their security to doom 
any part of the people to a permanent slavery. Such 
a constitution of freedom, if such can be, is in effect 
no more than another name for the tyranny of the 
strongest faction ; and factions in republics have 
been, and are full as capable as monarchs, of the most 
cruel oppression and injustice. It is but too true that 
the love, and even the very idea of genuine liberty, is 
extremely rare. It is but too true that there are 
many whose whole scheme of freedom is made up of 
pride, perverseness, and insolence. They feel them- 
.selves in a state of thraldom, they imagine that their 

174 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

souls are cooped and cabined in unless they have some 
man, or some body of men, dependent on their mercy. 
This desire of having some one below them descends 
to those who are the very lowest of all and a Pro 
testant cobbler, debased by his poverty, but exalted by 
his share of the ruling Church, feels a pride in knowing 
it is by his generosity alone that the peer whose foot 
man s instep he measures is able to keep his chaplain 
from a jail. This disposition is the true source of the 
passion which many men in very humble life have 
taken to the American war. Our subjects in America ; 
our colonies ; our dependants. This lust of party- 
power is the liberty they hunger and thirst for ; and 
this siren song of ambition has charmed ears that 
one would have thought were never organised to that 
sort of music. 

This way of proscribing the citizens by denominations 
and general descriptions, dignified by the name of 
reason of State, and security for constitutions and 
commonwealths, is nothing better at bottom than the 
miserable invention of an ungenerous ambition which 
would fain hold the sacred trust of power without any 
of the virtues or any of the energies that give a title 
to it a receipt of policy made up of a detestable com 
pound of malice, cowardice, and sloth. They would 
govern men against their will, but in that government 
they would be discharged from the exercise of vigil 
ance, providence, and fortitude ; and therefore, that 
they may sleep on their watch, they consent to take 


some one division of the society into partnership of 
the tyranny over the rest. But let Government, in 
what form it may be, comprehend the whole in its 
justice, and restrain the suspicious by its vigilance ; 
let it keep watch and ward ; let it discover by its 
sagacity and punish by his firmness, all delinquency 
against its power, whenever delinquency exists in the 
overt acts ; and then it will be as safe as ever God 
and nature intended it should be. Crimes are the , 
acts of individuals and not of denominations ; and 
therefore arbitrarily to class men under general descrip 
tions, in order to proscribe and punish them in the 
lump for a presumed delinquency, of which perhaps 
but a part, perhaps none at all, are guilty, is indeed a 
compendious method, and saves a world of trouble 
about proof; but such a method, instead of being law, 
is an act of unnatural rebellion against the legal 
dominion of reason and justice; and this vice in any 
constitution that entertains it at one time or other will 
certainly bring on its ruin. 

We are told that this is not a religious persecu 
tion, and its abettors are loud in disclaiming all 
severities on account of conscience. Very fine indeed ! 
Then let it be so, they are not persecutors, they are 
only tyrants. With all my heart. I am perfectly 
indifferent concerning the pretexts upon which we 
torment one another, or whether it be for the constitu 
tion of the Church of England, or for the constitution 
of the State of England, that people choose to make 

176 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

their fellow-creatures wretched. When we were sent 
into a place of authority, you that sent us had your 
selves but one commission to give. You could give 
us none to wrong or oppress, or even to suffer any kind 
of oppression or wrong, on any grounds whatsoever 
not on political, as in the affairs of America ; not on 
commercial, as in those of Ireland ; not in civil, as in 
the laws for debt ; not in religious, as in the statutes 
against Protestant or Catholic dissenters. The diversi 
fied but connected fabric of universal justice is well 
cramped and bolted together in all its parts, and, depend 
upon it, I never have employed, and I never shall 
employ, any engine of power which may come into my 
hands, to wrench it asunder. All shall stand, if I can 
help it, and all shall stand connected. After all, to 
complete this work, much remains to be done ; much 
in the east, much in the west. But, great as the work 
is, if our will be ready, our powers are not deficient. 

Since you have suffered me to trouble you so much 
on this subject, permit me, gentlemen, to detain you a 
little longer. I am indeed most solicitous to give you 
perfect satisfaction. I find there are some of a better 
and softer nature than the persons with whom I have 
supposed myself in debate, who neither think ill of the 
Act of relief, nor by any means desire the repeal ; yet 
who, not accusing but lamenting what w^as done, on 
account of the consequences, have frequently expressed 
their wish that the late Act had never been made. 
Some of this description, and persons of worth I have 


met with in this city. They conceive that the pre 
judices, whatever they might be, of a large part of the 
people ought not to have been shocked ; that their 
opinions ought to have been previously taken, and 
much attended to ; and that thereby the late horrid 
scenes might have been prevented. 

I confess my notions are widely different, and I 
never was less sorry for any action of my life. I like 
the Bill the better, on account of the events of all 
kinds that followed it. It relieved the real sufferers, 
it strengthened the State, and, by the disorders that 
ensued, we had clear evidence that there lurked a 
temper somewhere which ought not to be fostered by 
the laws. No ill consequences whatever could be 
attributed to the Act itself. We knew beforehand, or 
we were poorly instructed, that toleration is odious to 
the intolerant ; freedom to oppressors ; property to 
robbers ; and all kinds and degrees of prosperity to 
the envious. We knew that all these kinds of men 
would gladly gratify their evil dispositions under the 
sanction of law and religion if they could : if they 
could not, yet, to make way to their objects, they would 
do their utmost to subvert all religion and all law. 
This we certainly knew. But knowing this, is there 
any reason because thieves break in and steal, and 
thus bring detriment to you, and draw ruin on them 
selves, that I am to be sorry that you are in pos 
session of shops and of warehouses, and of wholesome 
laws to protect them ? Are you to build no houses 


178 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

because desperate men may pull them down upon their 
own heads ? Or, if a malignant wretch will cut his 
own throat because he sees you give alms to the 
necessitous and deserving, shall his destruction be attri 
buted to your charity and not to his own deplorable 
madness ? If we repent of our good actions, what, 
I pray you, is left for our faults and follies ? It is not 
the beneficence of the laws, it is the unnatural temper 
which beneficence can fret and sour, that is to be 
lamented. It is this temper which, by all rational 
means, ought to be sweetened and corrected. If froward 
men should refuse this cure, can they vitiate anything 
but themselves ? Does evil so react upon good as not 
only to retard its motion, but to change its nature ? If 
it can so operate, then good men will always be in the 
power of the bad : and virtue, by a dreadful reverse of 
order, must lie under perpetual subjection and bondage 
to vice. 

As to the opinion of the people, which some think 
in such cases is to be implicitly obeyed, nearly two 
years tranquillity which followed the Act, and its 
instant imitation in Ireland, proved abundantly that 
the late horrible spirit was, in a great measure, the 
effect of insidious art, and perverse industry, and gross 
misrepresentation. But suppose that the dislike had 
been much more deliberate and much more general than 
I am persuaded it was, when we know that the opinions 
of even the greatest multitudes are the standard of 
rectitude, I shall think myself obliged to make those 


opinions the masters of my conscience. But if it may 
be doubted whether Omnipotence itself is competent 
to alter the essential constitution of right and wrong, 
sure I am that such things as they and I are possessed 
of no such power. No man carries farther than I do 
the policy of making government pleasing to the 
people. But the widest range of this politic com 
plaisance is confined within the limits of justice. I *s-\ 
would not only consult the interest of the people, but % 
I would cheerfully gratify their humours. We are all 
a sort of children that must be soothed and managed. 
I think I am not austere or formal in my nature. I 
would bear, I would even myself play my part in, any 
innocent buffooneries, to divert them. But I never 
will act the tyrant for their amusement. If they will 
mix malice in their sports, I shall never consent to 
throw them any living, sentient creature whatsoever 
no, not so much as a kitling to torment. 

" But if I profess all this impolitic stubbornness, I 
may chance never to be elected into Parliament." It 
is certainly not pleasing to be put out of the public 
service. But I wish to be a member of Parliament to 
have my share of doing good and resisting evil. It 
would therefore be absurd to renounce my objects, in 
order to obtain my seat. I deceive myself indeed 
most grossly, if I had not much rather pass the re 
mainder of my life hidden in the recesses of the deepest 
obscurity, feeding my mind even with the visions and 
imaginations of such things, than to be placed on the 

180 SPEECH AT THE 1780. 

most splendid throne of the universe, tantalised with 
a denial of the practice of all which can make the 
greatest situation any other than the greatest curse. 
Gentlemen, I have had my day. I can never suffi 
ciently express my gratitude to you for having set me 
in a place wherein I could lend the slightest help to 
great and laudable designs. If I have had my share 
in any measure giving quiet to private property and 
private conscience; if by my vote I have aided in 
securing to families the best possession, peace ; if I 
have joined in reconciling kings to their subjects, and 
subjects to their prince ; if I have assisted to loosen 
the foreign holdings of the citizen, and taught him to 
look for his protection to the laws of his country, and 
for his comfort to the goodwill of his countrymen ; if 
I have thus taken my part with the best of men in 
the best of their actions, I can shut the book ; I might 
wish to read a page or two more, but this is enough 
for my measure, I have not lived in vain. 

And now, gentlemen, on this serious day, when I 
come, as it were, to make up my account with you, 
let me take to myself some degree of honest pride on 
the nature of the charges that are against me. I do 
not here stand before you accused of venality, or of 
neglect of duty. It is not said that, in the long 
period of my service, I have in a single instance 
sacrificed the slightest of your interests to my ambi 
tion, or to my fortune. It is not alleged that, to 
gratify any anger or revenge of my own or of my 


party, I have had a share in wronging or oppressing 
any description of men, or any one man in any 
description. No ! the charges against me are all of 
one kind that I have pushed the principles of general 
justice and benevolence too far ; farther than a 
cautious policy would warrant; and farther than the 
opinions of many would go along with me. In every 
accident which may happen through life in pain, in 
sorrow, in depression and distress I will call to mind 
this accusation, and be comforted. 

Gentlemen, I submit the whole to your judgment. 
Mr. Mayor, I thank you for the trouble you have taken 
on this occasion ; in your state of health it is parti 
cularly obliging. If this company should think it 
advisable for me to withdraw, I shall respectfully 
retire ; if you think otherwise, I shall go directly to 
the Council House and to the Change, and, without a 
moment s delay, begin my canvass. 

182 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 


late repeal of a part thereof in the Session of the 
Irish Parliament, held A.D. 1782. 


I AM obliged to your lordship for your communication 
of the heads of Mr. Gardiner s Bill. I had received it 
in an earlier stage of its progress from Mr. Braughall, 
and I am still in that gentleman s debt, as I have not 
made him the proper return for the favour he has done 
me. Business, to which I was more immediately called, 
and in which my sentiments had the weight of one 
vote, occupied me every moment since I received his 
letter. This first morning which I can call my own, 
I give with great cheerfulness to the subject on which 
your lordship has done me the honour of desiring my 
opinion. I have read the heads of the Bill with the 
amendments. Your lordship is too well acquainted 
with men and with affairs to imagine that any true 


judgment can be formed on the value of a great mea 
sure of policy from the perusal of a piece of paper. 
At present I am much in the dark with regard to the 
state of the country which the intended law is to be 
applied to. 1 It is not easy for me to determine 
whether or no it was wise (for the sake of expunging 
the black letter of laws, which, menacing as they were 
in the language, were every day fading into disuse) 
solemnly to reaffirm the principles, and to re-enact the 
provisions of a code of statutes, by which you are 
totally excluded from the PRIVILEGES OF THE COMMON 
WEALTH from the highest to the lowest, from the most 
material of the civil professions, from the army, and 
even from education, where alone education is to be 

Whether this scheme of indulgence, grounded at 
once on contempt and jealousy, has a tendency gradu 
ally to produce something better and more liberal, I 
cannot tell, for want of having the actual map of the 
country. If this should be the case, it was right in 
you to accept it, such as it is. But if this should 
be one of the experiments which have sometimes been 
made before the temper of the nation was ripe for a 
real reformation, I think it may possibly have ill 
effects by disposing the penal matter in a more system 
atic order, and thereby fixing a permanent bar against 

1 The sketch of the Bill sent to Mr. Burke, along with the repeal 
of some Acts, reaffirmed many others in the penal code. It was 
altered afterwards, and the clauses reaffirming the incapacities left 
out, but they all still exist, and are in full force. 

184 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

any relief that is truly substantial. The whole merit 
or demerit of the measure depends upon the plans and 
dispositions of those by whom the Act was made con 
curring with the general temper of the Protestants of 
Ireland, and their aptitude to admit in time of some 
part of that equality, without which you never can be 
FELLOW-CITIZENS. Of all this I am wholly ignorant. 
All my correspondence with men of public importance 
in Ireland has for some time totally ceased. On the 
first Bill for the relief of the EOMAN CATHOLICS of 
Ireland I was, without any call of mine, consulted 
both on your side of the water and on this. On the 
present occasion I have not heard a word from any 
man in office, and know as little of the intentions of 
the British Government as I know of the temper of 
the Irish Parliament. I do not find that any opposi 
tion was made by the principal persons of the minority 
in the House of Commons, or that any is apprehended 
from them in the House of Lords. The whole of the 
difficulty seems to lie with the principal men in 
Government, under whose protection this Bill is 
supposed to be brought in. This violent opposition 
and cordial support, coming from one and the same 
quarter, appears to me something mysterious, and 
hinders me from being able to make any clear judg 
ment of the merit of the present measure, as compared 
with the actual state of the country and the general 
views of Government, without which one can say 
nothing that may not be very erroneous. 


To look at the Bill in the abstract, it is neither 
more nor less than a renewed act of UNIVERSAL, UNMITI 

One would imagine that a Bill, inflicting such a 
multitude of incapacities, had followed on the heels of 
a conquest made by a very fierce enemy, under the 
impression of recent animosity and resentment. No 
man on reading that Bill could imagine he was reading 
an Act of amnesty and indulgence, following a recital 
of the good behaviour of those who are the objects of 
it : which recital stood at the head of the Bill, as it 
was first introduced ; but I suppose for its incongruity 
with the body of the piece, was afterwards omitted. 
This I say on memory. It, however, still recites the 
oath, and that Catholics ought to be considered as good 
and loyal subjects to his Majesty, his Crown and 
Government. Then follows a universal exclusion of 
those GOOD and LOYAL subjects from every (even the 
lowest) office of trust and profit ; from any vote at an 
election ; from any privilege in a town corporate ; from 
being even a freeman of such a corporation ; from 
serving on grand juries ; from a vote at a vestry ; from 
having a gun in his house; from being a barrister, 
attorney, or solicitor, etc. etc. etc. 

This has surely much more the air of a table of 
proscription than an act of grace. What must we 
suppose the laws concerning those good subjects to 
have been, of which this is a relaxation ? I know 

186 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

well that there is a cant language current, about the 
difference between an exclusion from employments 
even to the most rigorous extent, and an exclusion 
from the natural benefits arising from a man s own 
industry. I allow that under some circumstances the 
difference is very material in point of justice, and that 
there are considerations which may render it advisable 
for a wise government to keep the leading parts of 
every branch of civil and military administration in 
hands of the best trust ; but a total exclusion from the 
commonwealth is a very different thing. When a 
government subsists (as governments formerly did) on 
an estate of its own, with but few and inconsiderable 
revenues drawn from the subject, then the few officers 
which existed in such establishments were naturally 
at the disposal of that government, which paid the 
salaries out of its own coffers ; there an exclusive pre 
ference could hardly merit the name of proscription. 
Almost the whole produce of a man s industry at that 
time remained in his own purse to maintain his family. 
But times alter, and the whole estate of government is 
from private contribution. When a very great portion 
of the labour of individuals goes to the State, and is 
by the State again refunded to individuals through the 
medium of offices, and in this circuitous progress from 
the private to the public, and from the public again to 
the private fund, the families from whom the revenue 
is taken are indemnified, and an equitable balance be 
tween the Government and the subject is established. 


But if a great body of the people, who contribute to 
this State lottery, are excluded from all the prizes, the 
stopping the circulation with regard to them may be 
a most cruel hardship, amounting in effect to being 
double and treble taxed ; and it will be felt as such to 
the very quick by all the families high and low of 
those hundreds of thousands who are denied their 
chance in the returned fruits of their own industry. 
This is the thing meant by those who look upon the 
public revenue only as a spoil ; and will naturally wish 
to have as few as possible concerned in the division of 
the booty. If a State should be so unhappy as to 
think it cannot subsist without such a barbarous pro 
scription, the persons so proscribed ought to be indem 
nified by the remission of a large part of their taxes, 
by an immunity from the offices of public burden, and 
by an exemption from being pressed into any military 
or naval service. 

Common sense and common justice dictate this at 
least, as some sort of compensation to a people for their 
slavery. How many families are incapable of existing 
if the little offices of the revenue and little military 
commissions are denied them ! To deny them at 
home, and to make the happiness of acquiring some of 
them somewhere else, felony, or high treason, is a piece 
of cruelty, in which, till very lately, I did not suppose 
this age capable of persisting. Formerly a similarity 
of religion made a sort of country for a man in some 
quarter or other. A refugee for religion was a pro- 

188 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

tected character. Now, the reception is cold indeed ; 
and, therefore, as the asylum abroad is destroyed, the 
hardship at home is doubled. This hardship is the 
more intolerable because the professions are shut up. 
The Church is so of course. Much is to be said on 
that subject in regard to them and to the Protestant 
dissenters. But that is a chapter by itself. I am 
sure I wish well to that Church, and think its 
ministers among the very best citizens of your country. 
However, such as it is, a great walk in life is forbidden 
ground to seventeen hundred thousand of the inhabit 
ants of Ireland. Why are they excluded from the 
law ? Do not they expend money in their suits ? 
Why may not they indemnify themselves by profiting 
in the persons of some for the losses incurred by others ? 
Why may not they have persons of confidence, whom 
they may, if they please, employ in the agency of their 
affairs ? The exclusion from the law, from grand 
juries, from sheriffships and under -sheriffships, as 
well as from freedom in any corporation, may subject 
them to dreadful hardships, as it may exclude them 
wholly from all that is beneficial, and expose them to 
all that is mischievous in a trial by jury. This was 
manifestly within my own observation, for I was three 
times in Ireland from the year 1760 to the year 1767, 
where I had sufficient means of information concerning 
the inhuman proceedings (among which were many 
cruel murders, besides an infinity of outrages and 
oppressions, unknown before in a civilised age) which 


prevailed during that period in consequence of a pre 
tended conspiracy among Roman Catholics against the 
king s Government. I could dilate upon the mischief 
that may happen from those which have happened 
upon this head of disqualification if it were at all 

The head of exclusion from votes for members of 
Parliament is closely connected with the former. 
When you cast your eye on the statute-book, you 
will see that no Catholic, even in the ferocious Acts 
of Queen Anne, was disabled from voting on account 
of his religion. The only conditions required for that 
privilege were the oaths of allegiance and abjuration 
both oaths relative to a civil concern. Parliament has 
since added another oath of the same kind, and yet a 
House of Commons adding to the securities of govern 
ment in proportion as its danger is confessedly lessened, 
and professing both confidence and indulgence in effect, 
takes away the privilege left by an Act full of jealousy 
and professing persecution. 

The taking away of a vote is the taking away the 
shield which the subject has, not only against the 
oppression of power, but that worst of all oppressions, 
the persecution of private society and private manners. 
No candidate for parliamentary influence is obliged to 
the least attention towards them, either in cities or 
counties. On the contrary, if they should become 
obnoxious to any bigoted or malignant people amongst 
whom they live, it will become the interest of those 

190 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

who court popular favour to use the numberless means 
which always reside in magistracy and influence to 
oppress them. The proceedings in a certain county in 
Munster during the unfortunate period I have men 
tioned, read a strong lecture on the cruelty of depriving 
men of that shield, on account of their speculative 
opinions. The Protestants of Ireland feel well and 
naturally on the hardship of being bound by laws, in 
the enacting of which they do not directly or indirectly 
vote. The bounds of these matters are nice, and hard 
to be settled in theory, and perhaps they have been 
pushed too far. But how they can avoid the necessary 
application of the principles they use in their disputes 
with others to their disputes with their fellow-citizens, 
I know not. 

It is true, the words of this Act do not create a 
disability ; but they clearly and evidently suppose it. 
There are few Catholic freeholders to take the benefit 
of the privilege, if they were permitted to partake it : 
but the manner in which this very right in freeholders 
at large is defended, is not on the idea that the free 
holders do really and truly represent the people ; but 
that all people being capable of obtaining freeholds, all 
those who by their industry and sobriety merit this 
privilege, have the means of arriving at votes. It is 
the same with the corporations. 

The laws against foreign education are clearly the 
very worst part of the old code. Besides your laity, 
you have the succession of about 4000 clergymen to 


provide for. These, having no lucrative objects in 
prospect, are taken very much out of the lower orders 
of the people. At home they have no means whatso 
ever provided for their attaining a clerical education, 
or indeed any education at all. When I was in Paris, 
about seven years ago, I looked at everything, and 
lived with every kind of people, as well as my time 
admitted. I saw there the Irish college of the Lombard, 
which seemed to rne a very good place of education, 
under excellent orders and regulations, and under the 
government of a very prudent and learned man (the 
late Dr. KELLY). This college was possessed of an 
annual fixed revenue of more than a thousand pounds 
a year ; the greatest part of which had arisen from the 
legacies and benefactions of persons educated in that 
college, and who had obtained promotions in France, 
from the emolument of which promotions they made 
this grateful return. One in particular I remember, 
to the amount of ten thousand livres, annually, as it 
is recorded on the donor s monument in their chapel. 

It has been the custom of poor persons in Ireland 
to pick up such knowledge of the Latin tongue as, 
under the general discouragements, and occasional pur 
suits of magistracy, they were able to acquire ; and 
receiving orders at home, were sent abroad to obtain a 
clerical education. By officiating in petty chaplain- 
ships, and performing, now and then, certainly offices 
of religion for small gratuities, they received the means 
of maintaining themselves, until they were able to 

192 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

complete their education. Through such difficulties 
and discouragements, many of them arrived at a very 
considerable proficiency, so as to be marked and 
distinguished abroad. These persons afterwards, by 
being sunk in the most abject poverty, despised and 
ill-treated by the high orders among Protestants, and 
not much better esteemed or treated, even by the few 
persons of fortune of their own persuasion, and 
contracting the habits and ways of thinking of the 
poor and uneducated, among whom they were obliged 
to live, in a few retained little or no traces of the 
talents and acquirements, which distinguished them in 
the early periods of their lives. Can we, with justice, 
cut them off from the use of places of education, 
founded, for the greater part, from the economy of 
poverty and exile, without providing something that is 
equivalent at home ? 

Whilst this restraint of foreign and domestic 
education was part of a horrible and impious system 
of servitude, the members were well fitted to the body. 
To render men patient under a deprivation of all the 
rights of human nature, everything which could give 
them a knowledge or feeling of those rights was 
rationally forbidden. To render humanity fit to be 
insulted, it was fit that it should be degraded. But 
when we profess to restore men to the capacity for 
property, it is equally irrational and unjust to deny 
them the power of improving their minds as well as 
their fortunes. Indeed, I have ever thought that the 


prohibition of the means of improving our rational 
nature to be the worst species of tyranny that the 
insolence and perverseness of mankind ever dared to 
exercise. This goes to all men, in all situations, to 
whom education can be denied. 

Your lordship mentions a proposal which came 
from my friend the provost, whose benevolence and 
enlarged spirit I am perfectly convinced of which is, 
the proposal of erecting a few. sizerships in the college 
for the education (I suppose) of Eoman Catholic 
clergymen. 1 He certainly meant it well, but coming 
from such a man as he is, it is a strong instance 
of the danger of suffering any description of men to 
fall into entire contempt. The charities intended for 
them are not perceived to be fresh insults, and the true 
nature of their wants and necessities being unknown, 
remedies wholly unsuitable to the nature of their com 
plaint are provided for them. It is to feed a sick 
Gentoo with beef broth, and to foment his wounds 
with brandy. If the other parts of the University 
were open to them as well on the foundation as other 
wise, the offering of sizerships would be a proportioned 
part of a general kindness. But when everything 
liberal is withheld, and only that which is servile is per 
mitted, it is easy to conceive upon what footing they 
must be in such a place. 

Mr. Hutchinson must well know the regard and 

1 It appears that Mr. Hutchinson meant this only as one of the 
means for their relief in point of education. 

194 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

honour I have for him, and he cannot think my dis 
senting from him in this particular arises from a 
disregard of his opinion it only shows that I think 
he has lived in Ireland. To have any respect for the 

character and person of a Popish priest there oh ! tis 

an uphill work indeed. But until we come to respect 
what stands in a respectable light with others, we are 
very deficient in the temper which qualifies us to 
make any laws and regulations about them. It even 
disqualifies us from being charitable to them with any 
effect or judgment. 

When we are to provide for the education of any 
body of men, we ought seriously to consider the 
particular functions they are to perform in life. A 
Roman Catholic clergyman is the minister of a very 
ritual religion, and by his profession subject to many 
restraints. His life is a life full of strict observances, 
and his duties are of a laborious nature towards him 
self, and of the highest possible trust towards others. 
The duty of confession alone is sufficient to set in the 
strongest light the necessity of his having an appro 
priated mode of education. The theological opinions 
and peculiar rights of one religion never can be pro 
perly taught in universities founded for the purposes 
and on the principles of another, which in many points 
are directly opposite. If a Eoman Catholic clergy 
man, intended for celibacy and the function of con 
fession, is not strictly bred in a seminary where these 
things are respected, inculcated, and enforced as sacred, 


and not made the subject of derision and obloquy, he 
will be ill fitted for the former, and the latter will be 
indeed in his hands a terrible instrument. 

There is a great resemblance between the whole 
frame and constitution of the Greek and Latin 
churches. The secular clergy in the former, by being 
married, living under little restraint, and having no 
particular education suited to their function, are uni 
versally fallen into such contempt that they are never 
permitted to aspire to the dignities of their own church. 
It is not held respectful to call them papas, their true 
and ancient appellation, but those who wish to address 
them with civility always call them hieromonachi. In 
consequence of this disrespect, which, I venture to say, 
in such a church must be the consequence of a 
secular life, a very great degeneracy from reputable 
Christian manners has taken place throughout almost 
the whole of that great member of the Christian 

It was so with the Latin church before the re 
straint on marriage. Even that restraint gave rise to 
the greatest disorders before the Council of Trent, which, 
together with the emulation raised and the good 
examples given by the reformed churches, wherever 
they were in view of each other, has brought on that 
happy amendment which we see in the Latin com 
munion, both at home and abroad. 

The Council of Trent has wisely introduced the 
discipline of seminaries, by which priests are not 

196 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

trusted for a clerical institution even to the severe 
discipline of their colleges; but, after they pass 
through them, are frequently, if not for the greater 
part, obliged to pass through peculiar methods having 
their particular ritual function in view. It is in a 
great measure to this and to similar methods used in 
foreign education, that the Eoman Catholic clergy of 
Ireland, miserably provided for, living among low and 
ill-regulated people, without any discipline of sufficient 
force to secure good manners, have been prevented 
from becoming an intolerable nuisance to the country, 
instead of being, as I conceive they generally are, a 
very great service to it. 

The ministers of Protestant churches require a 
different mode of education, more liberal and more 
fit for the ordinary intercourse of life. That religion 
having little hold on the minds of people by external 
ceremonies and extraordinary observances, or separate 
habits of living, the clergy make up the deficiency by 
cultivating their minds with all kinds of ornamental 
learning, which the liberal provision made in England 
and Ireland for the parochial clergy (to say nothing of 
the ample church preferments, with little or no duties 
annexed), and the comparative lightness of parochial 
duties, enables the greater part of them in some con 
siderable degree to accomplish. 

This learning, which I believe to be pretty general, 
together with a higher situation, and more chastened 
by the opinion of mankind, forms a sufficient security 


for the morals of the established clergy, and for their 
sustaining their clerical character with dignity. It is 
not necessary to observe that all these things are, how 
ever, collateral to their function, and that except in 
preaching, which may be and is supplied, and often 
best supplied, out of printed books, little else is neces 
sary for a Protestant minister than to be able to read 
the English language, I mean for the exercise of his 
function, not to the qualification of his admission to it. 
But a Popish parson in Ireland may do very well 
without any considerable classical erudition, or any 
proficiency in pure or mixed mathematics, or any 
knowledge of civil history. Even if the Catholic 
clergy should possess those acquisitions, as at first 
many of them do, they soon lose them in the painful 
course of professional and parochial duties ; but they 
must have all the knowledge, and, what is to them 
more important than the knowledge, the discipline 
necessary to those duties. All modes of education, 
conducted by those whose minds are cast in another 
mould, as I may say, and whose original ways of 
thinking are formed upon the reverse pattern, must be 
to them not only useless but mischievous. Just as I 
should suppose the education in a Popish ecclesiastical 
seminary would be ill fitted for a Protestant clergyman. 
To educate a Catholic priest in a Protestant seminary 
would be much worse. The Protestant educated 
amongst Catholics has only something to reject : what 
he keeps may be useful. But a Catholic parish priest 

198 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

learns little for his peculiar purpose and duty in a 
Protestant college. 

All this, my lord, I know very well will pass for 
nothing with those who wish that the popish clergy 
should be illiterate, and in a situation to produce 
contempt and detestation. Their minds are wholly 
taken up with party squabbles, and I have neither 
leisure nor inclination to apply any part of what I 
have to say to those who never think of religion, or of 
the commonwealth, in any other light than as they 
tend to the prevalence of some faction in either. I 
speak on a supposition that there is a disposition to 
take the State in the condition in which it is found, and 
to improve it in that state to the best advantage. 
Hitherto the plan for the government of Ireland has 
\ been to sacrifice the civil prosperity of the nation to 
its religious improvement. But if people in power 
there are at length come to entertain other ideas, they 
will consider the good order, decorum, virtue, and 
morality of every description of men among them as 
of infinitely greater importance than the struggle (for 
it is nothing better) to change those descriptions by 
means which put to hazard objects which, in my poor 
opinion, are of more importance to religion and to the 
State than all the polemical matter which has been 
agitated among men from the beginning of the world 
to this hour. 

On this idea, an education fitted to each order and 
division of men, such as they are found, will be thought 


an affair rather to be encouraged than discountenanced; 
and until institutions at home, suitable to the occa 
sions and necessities of the people, are established, and 
which are armed, as they are abroad, with authority 
to coerce the young men to be formed in them, by a 
strict and severe discipline, the means they have at 
present of a cheap and effectual education in other 
countries should not continue to be prohibited by 
penalties and modes of inquisition, not fit to be men 
tioned to ears that are organised to the chaste sounds 
of equity and justice. 

Before I had written thus far, I heard of a scheme 
of giving to the Castle the patronage of the presiding 
members of the Catholic clergy. At first I could 
scarcely credit it; for I believe it is the first time 
that the presentation to other people s alms has been 
desired in any country. If the State provides a suit 
able maintenance and temporality for the governing 
members of the Irish Eoman Catholic Church, and for 
the clergy under them, I should think the project, 
however improper in other respects, to be by no means 
unjust. But to deprive a poor people, who maintain 
a second set of clergy out of the miserable remains 
of what is left after taxing and tithing, to deprive 
them of the disposition of their own charities among 
their own communion, would, in my opinion, be an 
intolerable hardship. Never were the members of one 
religious sect fit to appoint the pastors to another. 
Those who have no regard for their welfare, reputa- 

200 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

tion, or internal quiet, will not appoint such as are 
proper. The seraglio of Constantinople is as equitable 
as we are, whether Catholics or Protestants; and where 
their own sect is concerned, full as religious. But the 
sport which they make of the miserable dignities of 
the Greek Church, the little factions of the harem to 
which they make them subservient, the continual sale 
to which they expose and re-expose the same dignity, 
and by which they squeeze all the inferior orders of 
the clergy, is (for I have had particular means of 
being acquainted with it) nearly equal to all the other 
oppressions together, exercised by Mussulmen over the 
unhappy members of the Oriental Church. It is a 
great deal to suppose that even the present Castle 
would nominate bishops for the Eoman Church of 
Ireland, with a religious regard for its welfare. Per 
haps they cannot, perhaps they dare not do it. 

But suppose them to be well inclined, as I know 
that I am, to do the Catholics all kind of justice, 
I declare I would not, if it were in my power, take 
that patronage on myself. I know I ought not to do 
it. I belong to another community, and it would be 
intolerable usurpation for me to affect such authority, 
where I conferred no benefit, or even if I did confer 
(as in some degree the seraglio does) temporal advan 
tages. But, allowing that the present Castle finds itself 
fit to administer the government of a Church which 
they solemnly forswear, and forswear with very hard 
words and many evil epithets, and that as often as 


they qualify themselves for the power which is to give 
this very patronage, or to give anything else that they 
desire, yet they cannot ensure themselves that a man 
like the late Lord Chesterfield will not succeed to 
them. This man, while he was duping the credulity 
of Papists with fine words in private, and commending 
their good behaviour during a rebellion in Great 
Britain (as it well deserved to be commended and 
rewarded), was capable of urging penal laws against 
them in a speech from the throne, and of stimulating 
with provocatives the wearied and half -exhausted 
bigotry of the then Parliament of Ireland. They set 
to work, but they were at a loss what to do ; for they 
had already almost gone through every contrivance 
which could waste the vigour of their country ; but after 
much struggle they produced a child of their old age, 
the shocking and unnatural act about marriages, which 
tended to finish the scheme for making the people not 
only two distinct parties for ever, but keeping them as 
two distinct species in the same land. Mr. Gardiner s 
humanity was shocked at it, as one of the worst parts 
of that truly barbarous system, if one could well settle 
the preference, where almost all the parts were out 
rages on the rights of humanity and the laws of nature. 
Suppose an atheist, playing the part of a bigot, 
should be in power again in that country, do you 
believe that he would faithfully and religiously ad 
minister the trust of appointing pastors to a Church, 
which, wanting every other support, stands in tenfold 

202 ON THE PENAL LAWS 1782. 

need of ministers who will be dear to the people com 
mitted to their charge, and who will exercise a really 
paternal authority amongst them ? But if the superior 
power was always in a disposition to dispense con 
scientiously, and like an upright trustee and guardian 
of these rights which he holds for those with whom he 
is at variance, has he the capacity and means of doing 
it? How can the Lord -Lieutenant form the least 
judgment of their merits, so as to discern which of the 
Popish priests is fit to be made a bishop ? It cannot 
be : the idea is ridiculous. He will hand them over 
to lords-lieutenants of counties, justices of the peace, 
and other persons, who, for the purpose of vexing and 
turning to derision this miserable people, will pick out 
the worst and most obnoxious they can find amongst 
the clergy to set over the rest. Whoever is complained 
against by his brother will be considered as persecuted ; 
whoever is censured by his superior will be looked 
upon as oppressed ; whoever is careless in his opinions 
and loose in his morals will be called a liberal man, 
and will be supposed to have incurred hatred, because 
he was not a bigot. Informers, tale-bearers, perverse 
and obstinate men, flatterers, who turn their back upon 
their flock, and court the Protestant gentlemen of the 
country, will be the objects of preferment. And then 
I run no risk in foretelling that whatever order, quiet, 
and morality you have in the country, will be lost. 
A Popish clergy who are not restrained by the most 
austere subordination will become a nuisance, a real 


public grievance of the heaviest kind, in any country 
that entertains them ; and instead of the great benefit 
which Ireland does, and has long derived from them, 
if they are educated without any idea of discipline and 
obedience, and then put under bishops who do not 
owe their station to their good opinion, and whom they 
cannot respect, that nation will see disorders of which, 
bad as things are, it has yet no idea. I do not say 
this as thinking the leading men in Ireland would 
exercise this trust worse than others. Not at all. No 
man, no set of men living are fit to administer the 
affairs, or regulate the interior economy of a Church to 
which they are enemies. 

As to government, if I might recommend a prudent 
caution to them, it would be to innovate as little as 
possible upon speculation in establishments from 
which, as they stand, they experience no material in 
convenience to the repose of the country, quieta non 
movere. I could say a great deal more, but I am tired, 
and am afraid your lordship is tired too. I have not 
sat to this letter a single quarter of an hour without 
interruption. It has grown long, and probably con 
tains many repetitions from my total want of leisure 
to digest and consolidate my thoughts ; and as to my 
expressions, I could wish to be able perhaps to measure 
them more exactly. But my intentions are fair, and I 
certainly mean to offend nobody. 

Thinking over this matter more maturely, I see no 

204 ON THE PENAL LA WS 1782. 

reason for altering my opinion in any part. The 
Act as far as it goes, is good undoubtedly. It amounts, 
I think, very nearly to a toleration with respect to 
religious ceremonies, but it puts a new bolt on civil 
rights, and rivets it to the old one in such a manner 
that neither, I fear, will be easily loosened. What I 
could have wished would be to see the civil advantages 
take the lead ; the other of a religious toleration, I con 
ceive, would follow (in a manner) of course. From what 
I have observed, it is pride, arrogance, and a spirit of 
domination, and not a bigoted spirit of religion, that 
has caused and kept up those oppressive statutes. I 
am sure I have known those who have oppressed 
Papists in their civil rights exceedingly indulgent to 
them in their religious ceremonies, and who really 
wished them to continue Catholics, in order to furnish 
pretences for oppression. These persons never saw a 
man (by converting) escape out of their power, but 
with grudging and regret. I have known men to 
whom I am not uncharitable in saying (though they 
are dead) that they would have become Papists in 
order to oppress Protestants, if, being Protestants, it 
was not in their power to oppress Papists. It is injus 
tice, and not a mistaken conscience, that has been the 
principle of persecution, at least as far as it has fallen 
under my observation. However, as I began, so I end. 
I do not know the map of the country. Mr. Gardiner 
who conducts this great and difficult work, and those 
who support him, are better judges of the business 


than I can pretend to be, who have not set my foot in 
Ireland these sixteen years. I have been given to 
understand that I am not considered as a friend to 
that country, and I know that pains have been taken 
to lessen the credit that I might have had there. 

I am so convinced of the weakness of interfering in 
any business without the opinion of the people in 
whose business I interefere, that I do not know how 
to acquit myself of what I have now done. I have 
the honour to be, with high regard and esteem, my 
Lord, your Lordship s most obedient and humble 
servant, etc., EDMUND BURKE. 

206 A LETTER TO 1792. 


A LETTER to SIR H. LANGUISHED Bart, M.P., on the 



YOUR remembrance of me with sentiments of so much 
kindness has given me the most sincere satisfaction. 
It perfectly agrees with the friendly and hospitable 
reception which my son and I received from you some 
time since, when, after an absence of twenty-two years, 
I had the happiness of embracing you among my few 
surviving friends. 

I really imagined that I should not again interest 
myself in any public business. I had, to the best of 
my moderate faculties, paid my club to the society 
which I was born in some way or other to serve ; and 
I thought I had a right to put on my night-gown and 
slippers, and wish a cheerful evening to the good com- 


pany I must leave behind. But if our resolutions of 
vigour and exertion are so often broken or procrastin 
ated in the execution, I think we may be excused if 
we are not very punctual in fulfilling our engagements 
to indolence and inactivity. I have indeed no power 
of action, and am almost a cripple, even with regard 
to thinking; but you descend with force into the 
stagnant pool, and you cause such a fermentation as 
to cure at least one impotent creature of his lameness, 
though it cannot enable him either to run or to 

You see by the paper l I take that I am likely to 
be long, with malice prepense. You have brought 
under my view a subject always difficult, at present 
critical. It has filled my thoughts, which I wish to 
lay open to you with the clearness and simplicity 
which your friendship demands from me. I thank 
you for the communication of your ideas. I should be 
still more pleased if they had been more your own. 
What you hint I believe to be the case, that if you 
had not deferred to the judgment of others, our 
opinions would not differ more materially at this day 
than they did when we used to confer on the same 
subject so many years ago. If I still persevere in 
my old opinions, it is no small comfort to me that 
it is not with regard to doctrines properly yours that I 
discover my indocility. 

The case upon which your letter of the 10th of 

1 The letter is written on folio sheets. 

208 A LETTER TO 1792. 

December turns is hardly before me with precision 
enough to enable me to form any very certain judg 
ment upon it. It seems to be some plan of further 
indulgence proposed for the Catholics of Ireland. 
You observe that your "general principles are not 
changed, but that times and circumstances are altered" 

O - 

I perfectly agree with you that times and circum 
stances, considered with reference to the public, ought 
very much to govern our conduct, though I am 
far from slighting, when applied with discretion to 
those circumstances, general principles and maxims 
of policy. I cannot help observing, however, that 
you have said rather less upon the inapplicability of 
your own old principles to the circumstances that are 
likely to influence your conduct against these prin 
ciples, than of the general maxims of State, which I 
can very readily believe not to have great weight 
with you personally. 

In my present state of imperfect information, you 
will pardon the errors into which I may easily fall. 
The principles you lay down are, "that the Eoman 
Catholics should enjoy everything under the State, 
but should not be the State itself" And you add, 
" that when you exclude them from being a part of 
the State, you rather conform to the spirit of the age 
than to any abstract doctrine ; " but you consider the 
constitution as already established that our State 
is Protestant. " It was declared so at the Eevolution. 
It was so provided in the Acts for settling the succes- 


sion of the Crown the king s coronation oath was 
enjoined, in order to keep it so. The king, as first 
magistrate of the State, is obliged to take the oath of 
abjuration, 1 and to subscribe the declaration ; and, by 
laws subsequent, every other magistrate and member 
of the State, legislative and executive, are bound under 
the same obligation." 

As to the plan to which these maxims are applied, 
I cannot speak, as I told you, positively about it, 
because neither from your letter nor from any infor 
mation I have been able to collect, do I find anything 
settled, either on the part of the Roman Catholics 
themselves or on that of any persons who may wish to 
conduct their affairs in Parliament. But if I have 
leave to conjecture, something is in agitation towards 
admitting them, under certain qualifications, to have 
some share in the election of members of Parliament. 
This, I understand, is the scheme of those who are 
entitled to come within your description of persons 
of consideration, property, and character ; and firmly 
attached to the king and constitution, as by "law 
established, with a grateful sense of your former con 
cessions, and a patient reliance on the benignity of 
Parliament for the further mitigation of the laws that 
still affect them." As to the low, thoughtless, wild 
and profligate, who have joined themselves with those 
of other professions but of the same character, you are 

1 A small error of fact as to the abjuration oath ; but of no import 
ance in the argument. 


210 A LETTER TO 1792. 

not to imagine that, for a moment, I can suppose them 
to be met with anything else than the manly and 
enlightened energy of a firm government, supported 
by the united efforts of all virtuous men, if ever their 
proceedings should become so considerable as to demand 
its notice. I really think that such associations should 
be crushed in their very commencement. 

Setting, therefore, this case out of the question, it 
becomes an object of very serious consideration whether, 
because wicked men of various descriptions are engaged 
in seditious courses, the rational, sober, and valuable 
part of one description should not be indulged in their 
sober and rational expectations ? You who have looked 
deeply into the spirit of the Popery laws, must be per 
fectly sensible that a great part of the present mischief 
which we abhor in common (if it at all exists) has 
arisen from them. Their declared object was to reduce 
the Catholics of Ireland to a miserable populace, with 
out property, without estimation, without education. 
The professed object was to deprive the few men who, 
in spite of those laws, might hold or retain any pro 
perty amongst them, of all sort of influence or authority 
over the rest. They divided the nation into two dis 
tinct bodies, without common interest, sympathy, or 
connection. One of these bodies was to possess all 
the franchises, all the property, all the education ; the 
other was to be composed of drawers of water and 
cutters of turf for them. Are we to be astonished 
when, by the efforts of so much violence in conquest, 


and so much policy in regulation, continued without 
intermission for near a hundred years, we had reduced 
them to a mob ; that whenever they came to act at all, 
many of them would act exactly like a mob, without 
temper, measure, or foresight ? Surely it might be 
just now a matter of temperate discussion whether 
you ought not to apply a remedy to the real cause of 
the evil. If the disorder you speak of be real and 
considerable, you ought to raise an aristocratic interest, 
that is, an interest of property and education, amongst 
them, and to strengthen, by every prudent means, the 
authority and influence of men of that description. 
It will deserve your best thoughts to examine whether 
this can be done without giving such persons the 
means of demonstrating to the rest, that something 
more is to be got by their temperate conduct than 
can be expected from the wild and senseless projects 
of those who do not belong to their body, who have 
no interest in their well-being, and only wish to make 
them the dupes of their turbulent ambition. 

If the absurd persons you mention find no way of 
providing for liberty but by overturning this happy 
constitution and introducing a frantic democracy, let 
us take care how we prevent better people from any 
rational expectations of partaking in the benefits of 
that constitution as it stands. The maxims you estab 
lish cut the matter short. They have no sort of con 
nection with the good or the ill behaviour of the 
persons who seek relief, or with the proper or improper 

212 A LETTER TO 1792. 

means by which they seek it. They form a perpetual 
bar to all pleas and to all expectations. 

You begin by asserting that " the Catholics ought 
to enjoy all things under the State, but that they 
ought not to "be the State" A position which, I believe, 
in the latter part of it, and in the latitude there ex 
pressed, no man of common sense has ever thought 
proper to dispute ; because the contrary implies that 
the State ought to be in them exclusively. But before 
you have finished the line, you express yourself as if 
the other member of your proposition namely, that 
"they ought not to be a part of the State," were 
necessarily included in the first ; whereas I conceive 
it to be as different as a part is from the whole that 
is, just as different as possible. I know, indeed, that 
it is common with those who talk very differently 
from you that is, with heat and animosity to con 
found those things, and to argue the admission of the 
Catholics into any however minute and subordinate 
parts of the State, as a surrender into their hands 
of the whole government of the kingdom. To them 
I have nothing at all to say. 

Wishing to proceed with a deliberative spirit and 
temper in so very serious a question, I shall attempt 
to analyse, as well as I can, the principles you lay 
down, in order to fit them for the grasp of an under 
standing so little comprehensive as mine. " State," 
" Protestant," " Eevolution." These are terms which, 
if not well explained, may lead us into many errors. 


In the word State, I conceive there is much ambiguity. 
The State is sometimes used to signify the whole 
commonwealth, comprehending all its orders, with the 
several privileges belonging to each. Sometimes it 
signifies only the higher and ruling part of the common 
wealth, which we commonly call the Government. In 
the first sense, to be under the State, but not the State 
itself, nor any part of it, that is, to be nothing at all 
in the commonwealth, is a situation perfectly intelli 
gible; but to those who fill that situation, not very 
pleasant, when it is understood. It is a state of civil 
servitude by the very force of the definition. Servorum 
non est respublica is a very old and a very true maxim. 
This servitude, which makes men subject to a State 
without being citizens, may be more or less tolerable 
from many circumstances ; but these circumstances, 
more or less favourable, do not alter the nature of the 
thing. The mildness by which absolute masters exer 
cise their dominion leaves them masters still. We 
may talk a little presently of the manner in which the 
majority of the people of Ireland (the Catholics) are 
affected by this situation, which at present undoubtedly 
is theirs ; and which you are of opinion ought so to 
continue for ever. 

In the other sense of the word State, by which is 
understood the Supreme Government only, I must 
observe this upon the question that to exclude whole 
classses of men entirely from this part of government, 
cannot be considered as absolute slavery. It only 

214 A LETTER TO 1792. 

implies a lower and degraded state of citizenship ; such 
is (with more or less strictness) the condition of all 
countries in which a hereditary nobility possess the 
exclusive rule. This may be no bad mode of govern 
ment, provided that the personal authority of individual 
nobles be kept in due bounds ; that their cabals and 
factions are guarded against with a severe vigilance ; 
and that the people (who have no share in granting 
their own money) are subjected to but light imposi 
tions, and are otherwise treated with attention, and 
with indulgence to their humours and prejudices. 

The Eepublic of Venice is one of those which 
strictly confines all the great functions and offices, 
such as are truly State functions and State offices, to 
those who, by hereditary right or admission, are noble 
Venetians. But there are many offices, and some of 
them not mean nor unprofitable (that of Chancellor is 
one), which are reserved for the Cittadini. Of these 
all citizens of Venice are capable. The inhabitants of 
the Terra fir ma, who are mere subjects of conquest, 
that is, as you express it, under the State, but " not a 
part of it," are not, however, subjects in so very rigor 
ous a sense as not to be capable of numberless sub 
ordinate employments. It is, indeed, one of the advan 
tages attending the narrow bottom of their aristocracy 
(narrow as compared with their acquired dominions, 
otherwise broad enough), that an exclusion from such 
employments cannot possibly be made amongst their 
subjects. There are, besides, advantages in States so 


constituted by which those who are considered as of 
an inferior race are indemnified for their exclusion from 
the government and from nobler employments. In all 
these countries, either by express law, or by usage 
more operative, the noble casts are almost universally 
in their turn excluded from commerce, manufacture, 
farming of land, and in general from all lucrative civil 
professions. The nobles have the monopoly of honour ; 
the plebeians a monopoly of all the means of acquir 
ing wealth. Thus some sort of a balance is formed 
among conditions ; a sort of compensation is furnished 
to those who, in a limited sense, are excluded from the 
government of the State. 

Between the extreme of a total exclusion, to which 
your maxim goes, and an universal unmodified capacity, 
to which the fanatics pretend, there are many different 
degrees and stages, and a great variety of temperaments, 
upon which prudence may give full scope to its exer 
tions. For you know that the decisions of prudence 
(contrary to the system of the insane reasoners) differ 
from those of judicature ; and that almost all the 
former are determined on the more or the less, the 
earlier or the later, and on a balance of advantage and 
inconvenience, of good and evil. 

In all considerations which turn upon the question 
of vesting or continuing the State solely and exclusively 
in some one description of citizens, prudent legislators 
will consider how far the general form and principles 
of their commonwealth render it fit to be cast into an 

216 A LETTER TO 1792. 

oligarchical shape, or to remain always in it. We know 
that the Government of Ireland (the same as the British) 
is not in its constitution wholly aristocratical ; and as 
it is not such in its form, so neither is it in its spirit. 
If it had been inveterately aristocratical, exclusions 
might be more patiently submitted to. The lot of one 
plebeian would be the lot of all; and an habitual 
reverence and admiration of certain families might 
make the people content to see government wholly in 
hands to whom it seemed naturally to belong. But 
our constitution has a plebeian member, which forms an 
essential integrant part of it. A plebeian oligarchy is 
a monster ; and no people not absolutely domestic or 
predial slaves will long endure it. The Protestants of 
Ireland are not alone sufficiently the people to form a 
democracy ; and they are too numerous to answer the 
ends and purposes of an aristocracy. Admiration, that 
first source of obedience, can be only the claim or the 
imposture of a few. I hold it to be absolutely impos 
sible for two millions of plebeians, composing, certainly, 
a very clear and decided majority in that class, to be 
come so far in love with six or seven hundred thousand 
of their fellow -citizens (to all outward appearance 
plebeians like themselves, and many of them trades 
men, servants, and otherwise inferior to some of them) 
as to see with satisfaction, or even with patience, an 
exclusive power vested in them, by which constitution 
ally they become the absolute masters, and by the 
manners derived from their circumstances, must be 


capable of exercising upon them, daily and hourly, an 
insulting and vexatious superiority. Neither are the 
majority of the Irish indemnified (as in some aristoc 
racies) for this state of humiliating vassalage (often 
inverting the nature of things and relations) by having 
the lower walks of industry wholly abandoned to them. 
They are rivalled, to say the least of the matter, in 
every laborious and lucrative course of life ; while 
every franchise, every honour, every trust, every place 
down to the very lowest and least confidential (besides 
whole professions), is reserved for the master cast. 

Our constitution is not made for great, general, and 
prescriptive exclusions ; sooner or later it will destroy 
them, or they will destroy the constitution. In our 
constitution there has always been a difference between 
a franchise and an office, and between the capacity for 
the one and for the other. Franchises were supposed 
to belong to the subject, as a subject, and not as a mem 
ber of the governing part of the State. The policy of 
government has considered them as things very dif 
ferent ; for whilst Parliament excluded by the Test 
Acts (and for a while these Test Acts were not a dead 
letter, as now they are in England) Protestant dis 
senters from all civil and military employments, they 
never touched their right of voting for members of Par 
liament or sitting in either House, a point I state, not 
1 as approving or condemning, with regard to them, the 
: measure of exclusion from employments, but to prove 

218 A LETTER TO 1792. 

that the distinction has been admitted in legislature, 
as, in truth, it is founded in reason. 

I will not here examine whether the principles of 
the British [the Irish] constitution be wsie or not. I 
must assume that they are, and that those who par 
take the franchises which make it partake of a benefit. 
They who are excluded from votes (under proper quali 
fications inherent in the constitution that gives them) 
are excluded, not from the State, but from the British 
constitution. They cannot by any possibility, whilst they 
hear its praises continually rung in their ears, and are 
present at the declaration which is so generally and so 
bravely made by those who possess the privilege that 
the best blood in their veins ought to be shed to pre 
serve their share in it; they, the disfranchised part, 
cannot, I say, think themselves in a happy state, to be 
utterly excluded from all its direct and all its conse 
quential advantages. The popular part of the con 
stitution must be to them by far the most odious part 
of it. To them it is not an actual, and, if possible, 
still less a virtual representation. It is indeed the 
direct contrary. It is power unlimited placed in the 
hands of an adverse description, because it is an adverse 
description. And if they who compose the privileged 
body have not an interest, they must but too fre 
quently have motives of pride, passion, petulance, 
peevish jealousy, or tyrannic suspicion, to urge them to 
treat the excluded people with contempt and rigour. 

This is not a mere theory, though, whilst men are 


men, it is a theory that cannot be false. I do not 
desire to revive all the particulars in my memory I 
wish them to sleep for ever; but it is impossible I 
should wholly forget what happened in some parts of 
Ireland, with very few and short intermissions, from 
the year 1761 to the year 1*766, both inclusive. In 
a country of miserable police, passing from the ex 
tremes of laxity to the extremes of rigour, among a 
neglected, and therefore disorderly, populace, if any 
disturbance or sedition from any grievance, real or 
imaginary, happened to arise, it was presently per 
verted from its true nature, often criminal enough in 
itself to draw upon it a severe appropriate punishment ; 
it was metamorphosed into a conspiracy against the 
State, and prosecuted as such. Amongst the Catholics, 
as being by far the most numerous and the most 
wretched, all sorts of offenders against the laws must 
commonly be found. The punishment of low people 
for the offences usual among low people would warrant 
no inference against any descriptions of religion or of 
politics. Men of consideration from their age, their 
profession, or their character, men of proprietary 
; landed estates, substantial renters, opulent merchants, 
physicians, and titular bishops, could not easily be 
| suspected of riot in open day, or of nocturnal assemb- 
j lies for the purpose of pulling down hedges, making 
! breaches in park walls, firing barns, maiming cattle, 
; and outrages of a similar nature, which characterise 
i the disorders of an oppressed or a licentious populace. 

220 A LETTER TO 1792. 

But when the evidence given on the trial for such 
misdemeanours qualified them as overt acts of high 
treason, and when witnesses were found (such wit 
nesses as they were) to depose to the taking of oaths 
of allegiance by the rioters to the king of France, to 
their being paid by his money, and embodied and 
exercised under his officers, to overturn the State for 
the purposes of that potentate, in that case the rioters 
might (if the witness was believed) be supposed only 
the troops and persons more reputable, the leaders and 
commanders in such a rebellion. All classes in the 
obnoxious description who could not be suspected in 
the lower crime of riot, might be involved in the 
odium, in the suspicion, and sometimes in the punish 
ment of a higher and far more criminal species of 
offence. These proceedings did not arise from any one 
of the Popery laws since repealed, but from this cir 
cumstance that when it answered the purposes of an 
election party, or a malevolent person of influence to 
forge such plots, the people had no protection. The 
people of that description have no hold on the gentle 
men who aspire to be popular representatives. The 
candidates neither love, nor respect, nor fear them 
individually or collectively. I do not think this evil 
(an evil amongst a thousand others) at this day 
entirely over ; for I conceive I have lately seen some 
indication of a disposition perfectly similar to the old 
one ; that is, a disposition to carry the imputation of 
crimes from persons to descriptions, and wholly to 


alter the character and quality of the offences them 

This universal exclusion seems to me a serious evil, 
because many collateral oppressions besides what I 
have just now stated have arisen from it. In things 
of this nature, it would not be either easy or proper to 
quote chapter and verse ; but I have great reason to 
believe, particularly since the Octennial Act, that several 
have refused at all to let their lands to Eoman Catholics, 
because it would so far disable them from promoting 
such interests in counties as they were inclined to 
favour. They who consider also the state of all sorts 
of tradesmen, shopkeepers, and particularly publicans 
in towns, must soon discern the disadvantages under 
which those labour who have no votes. It cannot be 
otherwise, whilst the spirit of elections and the ten 
dencies of human nature continue as they are. If 
property be artificially separated from franchise, the 
franchise must in some way or other, and in some 
| proportion, naturally attract property to it. Many are 
the collateral disadvantages amongst a privileged people, 
which must attend on those who have no privileges. 

Among the rich each individual, with or without a 

I franchise, is of importance ; the poor and the middling 

! are no otherwise so than as they obtain some collective 

capacity, and can be aggregated to some corps. If 

legal ways are not found, illegal will be resorted to ; 

! and seditious clubs and confederacies, such as no man 

I living holds in greater horror than I do, will grow and 

222 A LETTER TO 1792. 

flourish in spite, I am afraid, of anything which can 
be done to prevent the evil. Lawful enjoyment is the 
surest method to prevent unlawful gratification. Where 
there is property there will be less theft ; where there 
is marriage there will always be less fornication. 

I have said enough of the question of state, as it 
affects the people merely as such. But it is complicated 
with a political question relative to religion, to which 
it is very necessary I should say something ; because 
the term Protestant which you apply is too general 
for the conclusions which one of your accurate under 
standing would wish to draw from it, and because a 
great deal of argument will depend on the use that 
is made of that term. 

It is not a fundamental part of the settlement at 
the Eevolution that the State should be Protestant 
without any qualification of the term. With a qualifi 
cation it is unquestionably true : not in all its latitude. 
With the qualification, it was true before the Eevolu 
tion. Our predecessors in legislation were not so 
irrational (not to say impious) as to form an operose 
ecclesiastical establishment, and even to render the 
State itself in some degree subservient to it, when their 
religion (if such it might be called). was nothing but a 
mere negation of some other without any positive 
idea either of doctrine, discipline, worship, or morals in 
the scheme which they professed themselves, and which 
they imposed upon others even under penalties and 
incapacities No! No! This never could have been 


done even by reasonable atheists. They who think 
religion of no importance to the State have abandoned it 
to the conscience or caprice of the individual ; they 
make no provision for it whatsoever, but leave every 
club to make or not a voluntary contribution towards 
its support, according to their fancies. This would be 
consistent. The other always appeared to me to be a 
monster of contradiction and absurdity. It was for 
that reason that, some years ago, I strenuously opposed 
the clergy who petitioned, to the number of about three 
hundred, to be freed from the subscription to the thirty- 
nine articles without proposing to substitute any other 
in their place. There never has been a religion of the 
State (the few years of the Parliament only excepted) 
but that of the Episcopal Church of England, the Epis 
copal Church of England, before the Eeformation con 
nected with the See of Eome, since then disconnected 
and protesting against some of her doctrines, and 
against the whole of her authority as binding in our 
National Church. Nor did the fundamental laws of 
this kingdom (in Ireland it has been the same) ever 
know at any period any other Church as an object of 
j establishment ; or, in that light, any other Protestant 
I religion. Nay, our Protestant toleration itself, at the 
Revolution and until within a few years, required a 
j signature of thirty-six, and a part of the thirty-seventh, 
! out of the thirty-nine articles. So little idea had they 
at the Revolution of establishing Protestantism inde- 
I finitely, that they did not indefinitely tolerate it under 


224 A LETTER TO 1792. 

that name. I do not mean to praise that strictness 
where nothing more than merely religious toleration is 
concerned. Toleration, being a part of moral and 
political prudence, ought to be tender and large. A 
tolerant Government ought not to be too scrupulous in 
its investigations, but may bear without blame not only 
very ill-grounded doctrines, but even many things that 
are positively vices, where they are adulta et prcevalida. 
The good of the commonwealth is the rule which rides 
over the rest, and to this every other must completely 

The Church of Scotland knows as little of Protest 
antism undefined as the Churches of England and Ire 
land do. She has by the Articles of Union secured to 
herself the perpetual establishment of the Confession of 
Faith, and the Presbyterian Church government. In 
England, even during the troubled interregnum, it was 
not thought fit to establish a negative religion ; but the 
Parliament settled the Presbyterian as the Church 
discipline ; the Directory as the rule of public worship; 
and the Westminster Catechism as the institute of faith. 
This is to show that at no time was the Protestant 
religion, undefined, established here or anywhere else, 
as I believe. I am sure that when the three religions 
were established in Germany, they were expressly 
characterised and declared to be the Evangelic, the 
Reformed, and the Catholic, each of which has its Con 
fession of Faith and its settled discipline ; so that you 
always may know the best and the worst of them, to 


enable you to make the most of what is good, and to 
correct or to qualify, or to guard against, whatever may 
seem evil or dangerous. 

As to the coronation oath, to which you allude, as 
opposite to admitting a Eoman Catholic to the use of 
any franchise whatsoever, I cannot think that the king 
would be perjured if he gave his assent to any regula 
tion which Parliament might think fit to make with 
regard to that affair. The king is bound by law, as 
clearly specified in several Acts of Parliament, to be in 
communion with the Church of England. It is a part 
of the tenure by which he holds his crown; and though 
no provision was made till the Eevolution, which could 
be called positive and valid in law, to ascertain this 
great principle, I have always considered it as in fact 
fundamental that the King of England should be of 
the Christian religion, according to the national legal 
church for the time being. I conceive it was so before 
the Reformation. Since the Reformation it became 
doubly necessary, because the king is the head of that 
Church, in some sort an ecclesiastical person ; and it 
would be incongruous and absurd to have the head of 
the Church of one faith, and the members of another. 
The king may inherit the crown as a Protestant, but he 
cannot hold it, according to law, without being a Pro 
testant of the Church of England. 

Before we take it for granted that the king is bound 
by his coronation oath not to admit any of his Catholic 
subjects to the rights and liberties which ought to belong 


226 A LETTER TO 1792. 

to them as Englishmen (not as religionists), or to settle 
the conditions or proportions of such admission by an 
Act of Parliament, I wish you to place before your eyes 
that oath itself, as it is settled in the Act of William 
and Mary. 

" Will you to the utmost of your power maintain 

1 2 3 

" The laws of God, the true profession of the gospel 


and the Protestant reformed religion as it is estab- 


" lisked ly law. And will you preserve unto bishops 
" and clergy, and the churches committed to their 
" charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do, 
" or shall appertain to them, or any of them. All this 
" I promise to do." 

Here are the coronation engagements of the king. 
In them I do not find one word to preclude His Majesty 
from consenting to any arrangement which Parliament 
may make with regard to the civil privileges of any 
part of his subjects. 

It may not be amiss, on account of the light which 
it will throw on this discussion, to look a little more 
narrowly into the matter of that oath, in order to dis 
cover how far it has hitherto operated, or how far in 
future it ought to operate, as a bar to any proceedings 
of the Crown and Parliament in favour of those against 
whom it may be supposed that the king has engaged to 

1792. 677? HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 227 

support the Protestant Church of England in the two 
kingdoms in which it is established by law. First, the 
king swears he will maintain to the utmost of his power 
" the laws of God." I suppose it means the natural 
moral laws. Secondly, he swears to maintain " the 
true profession of the gospel." By which, I suppose, 
is understood affirmatively the Christian religion." 
Thirdly, : that he will maintain " the Protestant re 
formed religion." This leaves me no power of sup 
position or conjecture, for that Protestant reformed 
religion is defined and described by the subsequent 
words, " established by law," and in this instance, to 
define it beyond all possibility of doubt, he " swears 
to maintain the bishops and clergy, and the churches 
committed to their charge," in their rights present and 

The oath as effectually prevents the king from 
doing anything to the prejudice of the Church in 
favour of sectaries, Jews, Mahometans, or plain avowed 
infidels, as if he should do the same thing in favour 
of the Catholics. You will see that it is the same 
Protestant Church, so described, that the king is to 
maintain and communicate with, according to the Act 
of Settlement of the 12th and 13th of William III. 
This Act of the 5th of Anne, made in prospect of the 
Union, is entitled, " An Act for securing the Church of 
England as by law established." It meant to guard 
the Church implicitly against any other mode of Pro 
testant religion which might creep in by means of the 

228 A LETTER TO 1792- 

Union. It proves beyond all doubt that the Legisla 
ture did not mean to guard the Church on one part only, 
and to leave it defenceless and exposed upon every 
other. This Church, in that Act, is declared to be 
"fundamental and essential " for ever, in the constitu 
tion of the United Kingdom, so far as England is 
concerned ; and I suppose as the law stands, even 
since the Independence, it is so in Ireland. 

All this shows that the religion which the king is 
bound to maintain has a positive part in it as well as 
a negative; and that the positive part of it (in which 
we are in perfect agreement with the Catholics and 
with the Church of Scotland) is infinitely the most 
valuable and essential. Such an agreement we had with 
Protestant dissenters in England of those descriptions; 
who came under the Toleration Act of King William 
and Queen Mary, an Act coeval with the Eevolution, 
and which ought, on the principles of the gentlemen 
who oppose the relief to the Catholics, to have been 
held sacred and unalterable. Whether we agree with 
the present Protestant dissenters in the points at the 
Eevolution held essential and fundamental among 
Christians, or in any other fundamental, at present it 
is impossible for us to know, because, at their own 
very earnest desire, we have repealed the Toleration Act 
of William and Mary, and discharged them from the 
signature required by that Act ; and because, for the 
far greater part, they publicly declare against all man 
ner of confessions of faith, even the consensus. 


For reasons forcible enough at all times, but at this 
time particularly forcible with me, I dwell a little 
the longer upon this matter, and take the more pains, 
to put us both in mind that it was not settled at the 
Eevolution, that the State should be Protestant, in 
the latitude of the term, but in a defined and limited 
sense only, and that, in that sense only, the king is 
sworn to maintain it. To suppose that the king has 
sworn with his utmost power to maintain what it is 
wholly out of his power to discover, or which, if he 
could discover, he might discover to consist of things 
directly contradictory to each other, some of them 
perhaps impious, blasphemous, and seditious upon 
principle, would be not only a gross, but a most 
mischievous absurdity. If mere dissent from the 
Church of Eome be a merit, he that dissents the most 
perfectly is the most meritorious. In many points we 
hold strongly with that Church. He that dissents 
throughout with that Church will dissent with the 
Church of England, and then it will be a part of his 
merit that he dissents with ourselves a whimsical 
species of merit for any set of men to establish. We 
quarrel to extremity with those who, we know, agree 
with us in many things, but we are to be so malicious 
even in the principle of our friendships, that we are 
to cherish in our bosom those who accord with us in 
nothing, because whilst they despise ourselves, they 
abhor, even more than we do, those with whom we 
have some disagreement. A man is certainly the most 

230 A LETTER TO 1792. 

^perfect Protestant, who protests against the whole 
Christian religion. Whether a person s having no 
Christian religion be a title to favour, in exclusion to 
the largest description of Christians who hold all the 
doctrines of Christianity, though holding along with 
them some errors and some superfluities, is rather 
more than any man who has not become recreant and 
apostate from his baptism, will, I believe, choose to 
affirm. The countenance given from a spirit of con 
troversy to that negative religion may, by degrees, 
encourage light and unthinking people to a total 
indifference to everything positive in matters of 
doctrine ; and, in the end, of practice too. If continued 
it would play the game of that sort of active, proselyt 
ising, and persecuting atheism, which is the disgrace 
and calamity of our time, and which we see to be as 
capable of subverting a government as any mode can 
be of misguided zeal for better things. 

Now let us fairly see what course has been taken 
relative to those against whom, in part at least, the 
king has sworn to maintain a Church, positive in its 
doctrine and its discipline. The first thing done, even 
when the oath was fresh in the mouth of the sovereigns, 
was to give a toleration to Protestant dissenters, whose 
doctrines they ascertained. As to the mere civil 
privileges which the dissenters held as subjects before 
the Revolution, these were not touched at all. The 
laws have fully permitted in a qualification for all offices 
to such dissenters an occasional conformity a thing I 


believe singular, where tests are admitted. The Act 
called the Test Act itself is, with regard to them, grown 
to be hardly anything more than a dead letter. When 
ever the dissenters cease by their conduct to give any 
alarm to the Government in Church and State, I think 
it very probable that even this matter, rather disgust 
ful than inconvenient to them, may be removed, or at 
least so modified as to distinguish the qualification to 
those offices which really guide the State from those 
which are merely instrumental, or that some other and 
better tests may be put in their place. 

So far as to England. In Ireland you have outrun 
us. Without waiting for an English example, you 
have totally, and without any modification whatsoever, 
repealed the test as to Protestant dissenters. Not 
having the Eepealing Act by me, I ought not to say 
positively that there is no exception in it, but if it be 
what I suppose it is, you know very well that a Jew 
in religion, or a Mahometan, or even a public, declared 
atheist and blasphemer, is perfectly qualified to be 
Lord-Lieutenant, a Lord Justice, or even keeper of the 
king s conscience ; and by virtue of his office (if with 
you it be as it is with us) administrator to a great part 
of the ecclesiastical patronage of the Crown. 

Now let us deal a little fairly. We must admit 
that Protestant dissent was one of the quarters from 
which danger was apprehended at the Revolution, and 
against which a part of the coronation oath was 
peculiarly directed. By this unqualified repeal you 

232 A LETTER TO 1792. 

certainly did not mean to deny that it was the duty of 
the Crown to preserve the Church against Protestant 
dissenters ; or taking this to be the true sense of the 
two Eevolution Acts of King William, and of the pre 
vious and subsequent Union Acts of Queen Anne, you 
did not declare by this most unqualified repeal, by which 
you broke down all the barriers not invented, indeed, 
but carefully preserved at the Eevolution, you did 
not then and by that proceeding declare that you had 
advised the king to perjury towards God, and perfidy 
towards the Church. No ! far, very far from it ; you 
never would have done it if you did not think it could 
be done with perfect repose to the royal conscience, 
and perfect safety to the national established religion. 
You did this upon a full consideration of the circum 
stances of your country. Now, if circumstances re 
quired it, why should it be contrary to the king s oath 
his Parliament judging on those circumstances to 
restore to his Catholic people in such measure, and 
with such modification as the public wisdom shall 
think proper to add, some part in these franchises 
which they formerly had held without any limitation 
at all, and which, upon no sort of urgent reason at the 
time they were deprived of ? If such means can with 
any probability be shown from circumstances rather to 
add strength to our mixed ecclesiastical and secular 
constitution than to weaken it, surely they are means 
infinitely to be preferred to penalties, incapacities, and 
proscriptions continued from generation to generation. 

1792. S/ff HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 233 

They are perfectly consistent with the other parts of 
the coronation oath in which the king swears to main 
tain " the laws of God and the true profession of the 
gospel, and to govern the people according to the 
statutes in Parliament agreed upon, and the laws and 
customs of the realm." In consenting to such a 
statute, the Crown would act at least as agreeably to 
the laws of God, and to the true profession of the 
gospel, and to the laws and customs of the kingdom, 
as George I. did when he passed the statute which 
took from the body of the people everything which to 
that hour, and even after the monstrous Acts of the 
2d and 8th of Anne (the objects of our common 
hatred), they still enjoyed inviolate. 

It is hard to distinguish, with the least degree of 
accuracy, what laws are fundamental, and what not. 
However, there is a distinction between them author 
ised by the writers on jurisprudence, and recognised in 
some of our statutes. I admit the Acts of King 
William and Queen Anne to be fundamental, but they 
are not the only fundamental laws. The law called 
Magnet Charta, by which it is provided that " no man 
shall be disseised of his liberties and free customs but 
by the judgment of his peers or the laws of the land" 
(meaning clearly for some proved crime tried and 
adjudged), I take to be a fundamental law. Now, 
although this Magna Charta, or some of the Statutes 
establishing it, provide that that law shall be perpetual, 
and all Statutes contrary to it shall be void, yet I 



cannot go so far as to deny the authority of statutes 
made in defiance of Magna Charta and all its prin 
ciples. This, however, I will say, that it is a very 
venerable law made by very wise and learned men, 
and that the Legislature, in their attempt to perpetuate 
it, even against the authority of future Parliaments, 
have shown their judgment that it is fundamental on 
the same grounds and in the same manner as the Act 
of the 5th of Anne has considered and declared the 
establishment of the Church of England to be funda 
mental. Magna Charta, which secured these fran 
chises to the subjects, regarded the rights of freeholders 
in counties to be as much a fundamental part of the 
constitution as the establishment of the Church of 
England was thought either at that time or in the Act 
of King William or in Act of Queen Anne. 

The churchmen who led in that transaction certainly 
took care of the material interest of which they were 
the natural guardians. It is the first article of Magna 
Charta "that the Church of England shall be free," 
etc. etc. But at that period churchmen, and barons, 
and knights took care of the franchises and free cus 
toms of the people too. Those franchises are part of 
the constitution itself, and inseparable from it. It 
would be a very strange thing if there should not only 
exist anomalies in our laws a thing not easy to pre 
vent but that the fundamental parts of the constitu 
tion should be perpetually and irreconcilably at variance 
with each other. I cannot persuade myself that the 


lovers of our Church are not as able to find effectual 
ways of reconciling its safety with the franchises of the 
people, as the ecclesiastics of the thirteenth century were 
able to do. I cannot conceive how anything worse 
can be said of the Protestant religion of the Church of 
England than this, that wherever it is judged proper 
to give it a legal establishment, it becomes necessary 
to deprive the body of the people, if they adhere to 
their old opinions, of " their liberties and of all their 
free customs," and to reduce them to a state of civil 

There is no man on earth, I believe, more willing 
than I am to lay it down as a fundamental of the con 
stitution that the Church of England should be united 
and even identified with it ; but, allowing this, I cannot 
allow that all laws of regulation, made from time to time 
in support of that fundamental law, are, of course, equally 
fundamental and equally unchangeable. This would be 
to confound all the branches of legislation and of juris 
prudence. The Grown and the personal safety of the 
monarch are fundamentals in our constitution ; yet, I 
hope that no man regrets that the rabble of statutes 
got together during the reign of Henry VIII. by which 
treasons are multiplied with so prolific an energy have 
been all repealed in a body, although they were all, or 
most of them, made in support of things truly funda 
mental in our constitution. So were several of the 
Acts by which the Crown exercised its supremacy, such 
as the Act of Elizabeth for making the High Com- 

236 A LETTER TO 1792. 

mission Courts and the like, as well as things made- 
treason in the time of Charles II. None of this 
species of secondary and subsidiary laws have been 
held fundamental. They have yielded to circum 
stances, particularly where they were thought, even in 
their consequences or obliquely, to affect other funda 
mentals. How much more certainly ought they to 
give way, when, as in our case, they affect, not here 
and there in some particular point or in their conse 
quence, but universally, collectively, and directly the 
fundamental franchises of a people equal to the whole 
inhabitants of several respectable kingdoms and states ; 
equal to the subjects of the Kings of Sardinia or of 
Denmark ; equal to those of the United Netherlands, 
and more than are to be found in all the states of 
Switzerland. This way of proscribing men by whole 
nations, as it were, from all the benefits of the consti 
tution to which they were born, I never can believe to 
be politic or expedient, much less necessary for the 
existence of any State or Church in the world. When 
ever I shall be convinced which will be late and 
reluctantly that the safety of the Church is utterly in 
consistent with all the civil rights whatsoever of the 
far larger part of the inhabitants of our country, I 
shall be extremely sorry for it, because I shall think 
the church to be truly in danger. It is putting things 
into the position of an ugly alternative, into which I 
hope in God they never will be put. 

I have said most of what occurs to me on the topics 


you touch upon relative to the religion of the king and 
his coronation oath. I shall conclude the observations 
which I wished to submit to you on this point by 
assuring you that I think you the most remote that 
can be conceived from the metaphysicians of our times, 
who are the most foolish of men, and who, dealing in 
universals and essences, see no difference between more 
and less, and who of course would think that the reason 
of the law which obliged the king to be a communicant 
of the Church of England would be as valid to exclude 
a Catholic from being an exciseman, or to deprive a 
man who has five hundred a year under that descrip 
tion from voting on a par with a factitious Protestant 
dissenting freeholder of forty shillings. 

Recollect, my dear friend, that it was a fundamental 
principle in the French monarchy, whilst it stood, that 
the State should be Catholic, yet the edict of Nantz 
gave, not a full ecclesiastical, but a complete civil 
establishment, with places of which only they were 
capable, to the Calvinists of France ; and there were 
very few employments indeed of which they were not 
capable. The world praised the Cardinal de Eichelieu, 
who took the first opportunity to strip them of their 
fortified places and cautionary towns. The same world 
held, and does hold in execration (so far as that busi 
ness is concerned), the memory of Louis XIV. for the 
total repeal of that favourable edict, though the talk of 
" fundamental laws, established religion, religion of the 
prince, safety to the State," etc. etc. was then as largely 

238 A LETTER TO 1792. 

held, and with as bitter a revival of the animosities of 
the civil confusions during the struggles between the 
parties as now they can be in Ireland. 

Perhaps there are persons who think that the same 
reasons do not hold when the religious relation of the 
sovereign and subject is changed, but they who have 
their shop full of false weights and measures, and who 
imagine that the adding or taking away the name of 
Protestant or Papist, Guelph or Ghibelline, alters all 
the principles of equity, policy, and prudence, leave us 
no common data upon which we can reason. I there 
fore pass by all this, which on you will make no 
impression, to come to what seems to be a serious con 
sideration in your mind : I mean the dread you express 
of "reviewing for the purpose of altering the prin 
ciples of the Revolution" This is an interesting topic, 
on which I will, as fully as your leisure and mine 
permits, lay before you the ideas I have formed. 

First, I cannot possibly confound in my mind all 
the things which were done at the Eevolution with the 
principles of the Eevolution. As in most great changes, 
many things were done from the necessities of the time, 
well or ill understood, from passion or from vengeance, 
which were not only not perfectly agreeable to its 
principles, but in the most direct contradiction to them. 
I shall not think that the deprivation of some millions of 
people of all the rights of citizens, and all interest in the 
constitution in and to which they were born, was a thing 
conformable to the declared principles of the Eevolu- 


tion. This I am sure is true relatively to England 
(where the operation of these anti-principles compara 
tively were of little extent) ; and some of our late laws, 
in repealing Acts made immediately after the Ee volu 
tion, admit that some things then done were not done 
in the true spirit of the Kevolution. But the Eevolu- 
tion operated differently in England and Ireland in 
many and these essential particulars. Supposing the 
principles to have been altogether the same in both 
kingdoms, by the application of those principles to very 
different objects, the whole spirit of the system was 
changed, not to say reversed. In England it was the 
struggle of the great body of the people for the estab 
lishment of their liberties against the efforts of a very 
small faction who would have oppressed them. In 
Ireland it was the establishment of the power of the 
smaller number at the expense of the civil liberties and 
properties of the far greater part, and at the expense of 
the political liberties of the whole. It was, to say the 
truth, not a revolution but a conquest, which is not to 
say a great deal in its favour. To insist on everything 
done in Ireland at the Ee volution would be to insist 
on the severe and jealous policy of a conqueror in the 
crude settlement of his new acquisition as a permanent 
rule for its future government. This no power in no 
country that ever I heard of has done or professed to 
do, except in Ireland, where it is done, and possibly by 
some people will be professed. Time has, by degrees, 
in all other places and periods, blended and coalited 

240 A LETTER TO 1792. 

the conquered with the conquerors. So, after some 
time, and after one of the most rigid conquests that 
we read of in history, the Normans softened into the 
English. I wish you to turn your recollection to the 
fine speech of Cerealis to the Gauls, made to dissuade 
them from revolt. Speaking of the Romans, " JNos 
quamvis toties lacessiti, jure victories id solum vobis 
addidimus, quo pacem tueremur : nam neque quies 
gentium sine armis; neque arma sine stipendiis; neque 
stipendia sine tributis, haberi queant. Ccetera in com- 
muni sita sunt : ipsi plerumque nostris exercitibus 
presidetis : ipsi has aliasque provincias regitas : nil 
separatum clausumve Proinde pacem et urbem, quam 
vwtores mctique eodem jure obtinemus, amate, colite." 
You will consider whether the arguments used by 
that Eoman to these Gauls would apply to the case 
in Ireland ; and whether you could use so plausible a 
preamble to any severe warning you might think it 
proper to hold out to those who should resort to sedi 
tion, instead of supplication, to obtain any object that 
they may pursue with the governing power. 

For a much longer period than that which had 
sufficed to blend the Romans with the nation to which 
of all others they were the most adverse, the Protest 
ants settled in Ireland consider themselves in no other 
light than that of a sort of a colonial garrison to keep 
the natives in subjection to the other state of Great 
Britain. The whole spirit of the Revolution in Ire 
land was that of not the mildest conqueror. In truth, 


the spirit of those proceedings did not commence at 
that era, nor was religion of any kind their primary 
object. What was done was not in the spirit of a 
contest between two religious factions, but between 
two adverse nations. The statutes of Kilkenny show 
that the spirit of the popery laws, and some even of 
their actual provisions, as applied between Englishry 
and Irishry, had existed in that harassed country 
before the words Protestant and Papist were heard of 
in the world. If we read Baron Finglass, Spenser, 
and Sir John Davis, we cannot miss the true genius 
and policy of the English Government there before the 
Revolution, as well as during the whole reign of Queen 
Elizabeth. Sir John Davis boasts of the benefits 
received by the natives by extending to them the 
English law, and turning the whole kingdom into 
shire ground. But the appearance of things alone 
was changed. The original scheme was never de 
viated from for a single hour. Unheard-of confisca 
tions were made in the northern parts, upon grounds 
of plots and conspiracies, never proved upon their 
supposed authors. The war of chicane succeeded to 
the war of arms and of hostile statutes ; and a regular 
series of operations was carried on, particularly from 
Chichester s time, in the ordinary courts of justice, and 
by special commissions and inquisitions ; first, under 
pretence of tenures, and then of titles in the Crown, 
for the purpose of the total extirpation of the interest 
of the natives in their own soil until this species of 


242 A LETTER TO 1792. 

subtle ravage, being carried to the last excess of 
oppression and insolence under Lord Strafford, it 
kindled the flames of that rebellion which broke out 
in 1641. By the issue of that war, by the turn 
which the Earl of Clarendon gave to things at the 
Eestoration, and by the total reduction of the kingdom 
of Ireland in 1691, the ruin of the native Irish, and, 
in a great measure too, of the first races of the English, 
was completely accomplished. The new English in 
terest was settled with as solid a stability as anything 
in human affairs can look for. All the penal laws of 
that unparalleled code of oppression, which were made 
after the last event, were manifestly the effects of 
national hatred and scorn towards a conquered people, 
whom the victors delighted to trample upon, and were 
not at all afraid to provoke. They were not the effect 
of their fears, but of their security. They who carried 
on this system looked to the irresistible force of Great 
Britain for their support in their acts of power. They 
were quite certain that no complaints of the natives 
would be heard on this side of the water with any 
other sentiments than those of contempt and indig 
nation. Their cries served only to augment their 
torture. Machines which could answer their purposes 
so well must be of an excellent contrivance. In 
deed, in England, the double name of the complain 
ant, Irish and Papists (it would be hard to say which 
singly was the most odious), shut up the hearts of 
every one against them. Whilst that temper pre- 


vailed in all its force to a time within our memory, 
every measure was pleasing and popular, just in pro 
portion as it tended to harass and ruin a set of people 
who were looked upon as enemies to God and man ; 
and, indeed, as a race of bigoted savages who were a 
disgrace to human nature itself. 

However, as the English in Ireland began to be 
domiciliated, they began also to recollect that they 
had a country. The English interest, at first by faint 
and almost insensible degrees, but at length openly and 
avowedly, became an independent Irish interest ; full as 
independent as it could ever have been if it had con 
tinued in the persons of the native Irish, and it was 
maintained with more skill and more consistency than 
probably it would have been in theirs. With their 
views the Anglo-Irish changed their maxims ; it was 
necessary to demonstrate to the whole people that there 
was something at least of a common interest combined 
with the independency, which was to become the object 
of common exertions. The mildness of Government 
produced the first relaxation towards the Irish ; the 
necessities and, in part too, the temper that predomi 
nated at this great change, produced the second and 
the most important of these relaxations. English 
Government and Irish Legislature felt jointly the pro 
priety of this measure. The Irish Parliament and 
nation became independent. 

The true Eevolution to you that which most in 
trinsically and substantially resembled the English 

244 A LETTER TO 1792. 

Revolution of 1688 was the Irish Revolution of 1782. 
The Irish Parliament of 1782 bore little resemblance 
to that which sat in that kingdom after the period 
of the first of these Revolutions. It bore a much 
nearer resemblance to that which sat under King 
James. The change of the Parliament in 1*782 from 
the character of the Parliament which, as a token of 
its indignation, had burned all the journals indiscrimi 
nately of the former Parliament in the Council Chamber, 
was very visible. The address of King William s Par 
liament the Parliament which assembled after the 
Revolution amongst other causes of complaint (many 
of them sufficiently just), complains of the repeal by 
their predecessors of Poyning s law ; no absolute idol 
with the Parliament of 1782. 

Great Britain, finding the Anglo-Irish highly ani 
mated with a spirit which had indeed shown itself 
before, though with little energy and many interrup 
tions, and therefore suffered a multitude of uniform 
precedents to be established against it, acted, in my 
opinion, with the greatest temperance and wisdom. 
She saw that the disposition of the leading part of the 
nation would not permit them to act any longer the 
part of a garrison. She saw that true policy did not 
require that they ever should have appeared in that 
character, or, if it had done so formerly, the reasons 
had now ceased to operate. She saw that the Irish 
of her race were resolved to build their constitution 
and their politics upon another bottom. With those 

1792. .S7# HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 245 

things under her view, she instantly complied with the 
whole of your demands, without any reservation what 
soever. She surrendered that boundless superiority 
for the preservation of which, and the acquisition, she 
had supported the English colonies in Ireland for so 
long a time, and so vast an expense (according to the 
standard of those ages) of her blood and treasure. 

When we bring before us the matter which history 
affords for our selection, it is not improper to examine 
the spirit of the several precedents which are candi-f 
dates for our choice. Might it not be as well for your 
statesmen on the other side of the water to take an 
example from this latter, and surely more conciliatory 
Revolution, as a pattern for your conduct towards your 
own fellow-citizens, than from that of 1688, when a 
paramount sovereignty over both you and them was 
more loftily claimed, and more sternly exerted, than 
at any former or at any subsequent period. Great 
Britain, in 1782, rose above the vulgar ideas of policy, 
the ordinary jealousies of State, and all the sentiments 
of national pride and national ambition. If she had 
been more disposed than, I thank God for it, she was 
to listen to the suggestions of passion than to the die- 
tates of prudence, she might have urged the principles, 
the maxims, the policy, the practice of the Eevolution, 
against the demands of the leading description in 
Ireland, with full as much plausibility, and full as 
good a grace, as any amongst them can possibly do 

246 A LETTER TO 1792. 

against the supplications of so vast and extensive a 
description of their own people. 

A good deal, too, if the spirit of domination and 
exclusion had prevailed in England, might have been 
excepted against some of the means then employed in 
Ireland whilst her claims were in agitation. They 
were, at least, as much out of ordinary course as those 
which are now objected against admitting your people 
to any of the benefits of an English constitution. 
Most certainly, neither with you nor here was any 
one ignorant of what w r as at that time said, written, 
and done. But on all sides we separated the means 
from the end, and we separated the cause of the mode 
rate and rational from the ill-intentioned and seditious, 
which, 011 such occasions, are so frequently apt to 
march together. At that time, on your part, you were 
not afraid to review what was done at the ^Revolution 
of 1688, and what had been continued during the 
subsequent flourishing period of the British Empire. 
The change then made was a great and fundamental 
alteration. In the execution it was an operose busi 
ness on both sides of the water. It required the 
repeal of several laws, the modification of many, and 
a new course to be given to an infinite number of 
legislative, judicial, and official practices and usages 
in both kingdoms. This did not frighten any of us. 
You are now asked to give, in some moderate measure, 
to your fellow-citizens what Great Britain gave to you 
without any measure at all. Yet, notwithstanding all 

1792. 6Y7? HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 247 

the difficulties at the time and the apprehensions which 
some very well-meaning people entertained, through the 
admirable temper in which this revolution (or restora 
tion in the nature of a revolution) was conducted in 
both kingdoms, it has hitherto produced no inconveni 
ence to either, and, I trust, with the continuance of 
the same temper, that it never will. I think that 
this small, inconsiderable change (relative to an exclu 
sive statute not made at the Revolution) for restoring 
the people to the benefits from which the green sore 
ness of a civil war had not excluded them, will be 
productive of no sort of mischief whatsoever. Compare 
what was done in 1782 with what is wished in 1792; 
consider the spirit of what has been done at the several 
periods of reformation, and weigh maturely whether it 
be exactly true that conciliatory concessions are of 
good policy only in discussions between nations, but 
that among descriptions in the same nation they must 
always be irrational and dangerous. What have you 
suffered in your peace, your prosperity, or, in what 
ought ever to be dear to a nation, your glory, by the 
last act by which you took the property of that people 
under the protection of the laws ? What reasons have 
you to dread the consequences of admitting the people 
possessing that property to some share in the protec 
tion of the constitution ? 

I do not mean to trouble you with anything to 
remove the objections I will not call them arguments 
against this measure, taken from a ferocious hatred 

248 A LETTER TO 1792- 

to all that numerous description of Christians. It 
would be to pay a poor compliment to your under 
standing or your heart. Neither your religion nor 
your politics consists " in odd perverse antipathies." 
You are not resolved to persevere in proscribing from 
the constitution so many millions of your countrymen, 
because, in contradiction to experience and to common 
. sense, you think proper to imagine that their principles 
are subversive of common human society. To that I 
shall only say, that whosoever has a temper which can 
be gratified by indulging himself in these good-natured 
fancies, ought to do a great deal more. For an exclu 
sion from the privileges of British subjects is not a 
cure for so terrible a distemper of the human mind as 
they are pleased to suppose in their countrymen. I 
rather conceive a participation in those privileges to be 
itself a remedy for some mental disorders. 

As little shall I detain you with matters that can 
as little obtain admission into a mind like yours ; such 
as the fear, or pretence of fear, that, in spite of your 
own power, and the trifling power of Great Britain, 
you may be conquered by the Pope ; or that this com 
modious bugbear (who is of infinitely more use to 
those who pretend to fear, than to those who love him) 
will absolve His Majesty s subjects from their allegi 
ance, and send over the Cardinal of York to rule you 
as his viceroy ; or that, by the plenitude of his power, 
lie will take that fierce tyrant, the King of the French, 
out of his jail, and arm that nation (which on all occa- 


sions treats His Holiness so very politely) with his 
bulls and pardons, to invade poor old Ireland, to 
reduce you to Popery and slavery, and to force the 
free-born, naked feet of your people into the wooden 
shoes of that arbitrary monarch. I do not believe that 
discourses of this kind are held, or that anything like 
them will be held, by any who walk about without a 
keeper. Yet I confess that, on occasions of this 
nature, I am the most afraid of the weakest reasonings, 
because they discover the strongest passions. These 
things will never be brought out in definite proposi 
tions. They would not prevent pity towards any per 
sons ; they would only cause it for those who were 
capable of talking in such a strain. But I know, and 
am sure, that such ideas as no man will distinctly pro 
duce to another, or hardly venture to bring in any 
plain shape to his own mind he will utter in obscure, 
ill - explained doubts, jealousies, surmises, fears, and 
apprehensions ; and that, in such a fog, they will 
appear to have a good deal of size, and will make an 
impression, when, if they were clearly brought forth 
and defined, they would meet with nothing but scorn 
and derision. 

There is another way of taking an objection to this 
concession, which I admit to be something more 
plausible, and worthy of a more attentive examination. 
It is, that this numerous class of people is mutinous, 
disorderly, prone to sedition, and easy to be wrought 
upon by the insidious arts of wicked and designing 

250 A LETTER TO 1792. 

men ; that, conscious of this, the sober, rational, and 
wealthy part of that body, who are totally of another 
character, do by no means desire any participation for 
themselves, or for any one else of their description, in 
the franchises of the British constitution. 

I have great doubt of the exactness of any part of 
this observation. But let us admit that the body of 
the Catholics are prone to sedition (of which, as I have 
said, I entertain much doubt), is it possible that any 
fair observer, or fair reasoner, can think of confining 
this description to them only ? I believe it to be 
possible for men to be mutinous and seditious who 
feel no grievance ; but I believe no man will assert 
seriously that, when people are of a turbulent spirit, 
the best way to keep them in order is to furnish them 
with something substantial to complain of. 

You separate very properly the sober, rational, and 
substantial part of their description from the rest. 
You give, as you ought to do, weight only to the 
former. What I have always thought of the matter 
is this that the most poor, illiterate, and uninformed 
creatures upon earth are judges of a practical oppres 
sion. It is a matter of feeling ; and as such persons 
generally have felt most of it, and are not of an over- 
lively sensibility, they are the best judges of it. But 
for the real cause, or the appropriate remedy, they 
ought never to be called into council about the one or 
the other. They ought to be totally shut out ; because 
their reason is weak ; because, when once roused, their 


passions are ungoverned ; because they want informa 
tion ; because the smallness of the property, which 
individually they possess, renders them less attentive- 
to the consequence of the measures they adopt in 
affairs of moment. When I find a great cry amongst 
the people who speculate little, I think myself called 
seriously to examine into it, and to separate the real 
cause from the ill effects of the passion it may excite ; 
and the bad use which artful men may make of an 
irritation of the popular mind. Here we must be 
aided by persons of a contrary character; we must 
not listen to the desperate or the furious ; but it is 
therefore necessary for us to distinguish who are the 
really indigent, and the really intemperate. As to the 
persons who desire this part in the constitution, I have 
no reason to imagine that they are men who have 
nothing to lose and much to look for in public con 
fusion. The popular meeting, from which apprehen 
sions have been entertained, has assembled. I have 
accidentally had conversation with two friends of mine, 
who know something of the gentleman who was put 
into the chair upon that occasion ; one of them has 
had money transactions with him ; the other, from 
curiosity, has been to see his concerns ; they both tell 
me he is a man of some property ; but you must be 
the best judge of this, who by your office are likely to 
know his transactions. Many of the others are 
I certainly persons of fortune ; and all, or most, fathers 
of families, men in respectable ways of life, and some 

252 A LETTER TO 1792. 

of them far from contemptible, either for their informa 
tion, or for the abilities which they have shown in the 
discussion of their interests. What such men think it 
for their advantage to acquire, ought not, prima fade, 
to be considered as rash or heady, or incompatible with 
the public safety or welfare. 

I admit that men of the best fortunes and reputa 
tions, and of the best talents and education too, may, 
by accident, show themselves furious and intemperate 
in their desires. This is a great misfortune when it 
happens ; for the first presumptions are undoubtedly 
in their favour. We have two standards of judging 
in this case of the sanity and sobriety of any pro 
ceedings of unequal certainty indeed, but neither of 
them to be neglected : the first is by the value of the 
object sought, the next is by the means through which 
it is pursued. 

The object pursued by the Catholics is, I under 
stand, and have all along reasoned as if it were so, in 
some degree or measures to be again admitted to the 
franchises of the constitution. Men are considered as 
under some derangement of their intellects when they 
see good and evil in a different light from other men ; 
when they choose nauseous and unwholesome food, and 
reject such as to the rest of the world seems pleasant, 
and is known to be nutritive. I have always con 
sidered the British constitution, not to be a thing in 
itself so vicious, as that none but men of deranged 
understanding, and turbulent tempers could desire a 

1792. S/ff HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 253 

share in it ; on the contrary, I should think very in 
differently of the understanding and temper of any body 
of men who did not wish to partake of this great and 
acknowledged benefit. I cannot think quite so favour 
ably either of the sense or temper of those if any 
such there are who would voluntarily persuade their 
brethren that the object is not fit for them, or they 
for the object. Whatever may be my thoughts con 
cerning them, I am quite sure that they who hold such 
language must forfeit all credit with the rest. This is 
infallible if they conceive any opinion of their judg 
ment, they cannot possibly think them their friends. 
There is, indeed, one supposition which would reconcile 
the conduct of such gentlemen to sound reason, and to 
the purest affection towards their fellow- sufferers ; it is 
that they act under the impression of a well-grounded 
fear for the general interest. If they should be told, 
and should believe the story that they dare attempt 
to make their condition better, they will infallibly 
make it worse that if they aim at obtaining liberty, 
they will have their slavery doubled that their 
endeavour to put themselves upon anything which 
approaches towards an equitable footing with their 
fellow-subjects will be considered as an indication of a 
seditious and rebellious disposition such a view of 
things ought perfectly to restore the gentlemen who 
so anxiously dissuade their countrymen from wishing 
a participation with the privileged part of the people ^ 
to the good opinion of their fellows. But what is to 

254 A LETTER TO 1792. 

them a very full justification, is not quite so honour 
able to that power from whose maxims and temper 
so good a ground of rational terror is furnished. I 
think arguments of this kind will never be used by 
the friends of a Government which I greatly respect ; 
or by any of the leaders of an Opposition whom I 
have the honour to know, and the sense to admire. 
I remember Polybius tells us, that during his cap 
tivity in Italy as a Peloponnesian hostage, he solicited 
old Cato to intercede with the senate for his release, 
and that of his countrymen ; this old politician told 
him that he had better continue in his present con 
dition, however irksome, than apply again to that 
formidable authority for their relief; that he ought to 
imitate the wisdom of his countryman Ulysses, who, 
when he was once out of the den of the Cyclops, 
had too much sense to venture again into the same 
cavern. But I conceive too high an opinion of the 
Irish Legislature to think that they are to their fellow- 
citizens what the grand oppressors of mankind were 
to a people whom the fortune of war had subjected 
to their power. For though Cato could use such a 
parallel with regard to his senate, I should really 
think it nothing short of impious to compare an 
Irish Parliament to a den of Cyclops. I hope the 
people, both here and with you, will always apply to 
the House of Commons with becoming modesty; but at 
the same time with minds unembarrassed with any 
sort of terror. 


As to the means which the Catholics employ to 
obtain this object, so worthy of sober and rational 
minds, I do admit that such means may be used in 
the pursuit of it, as may make it proper for the Legisla 
ture, in this case, to defer their compliance until the 
demandants are brought to a proper sense of their duty. 
A concession in which the governing power of our 
country loses its dignity is dearly bought, even by him 
who obtains his object. All the people have a deep 
interest in the dignity of Parliament. But as the 
refusal of franchises which are drawn out of the first 
vital stamina of the British constitution, is a very 
serious thing, we ought to be very sure that the manner 
and spirit of the application is offensive and dangerous 
indeed, before we ultimately reject all applications of 
this nature. The mode of application, I hear, is by- 
petition. It is the manner in which all the sovereign 
powers in the world are approached ; and I never 
heard (except in the case of James II.) that any prince 
considered this manner of supplication to be contrary* 
to the humility of a subject, or to the respect due to 
the person or authority of the sovereign. This rule 
and a correspondent practice are observed from the 
Grand Seignior down to the most petty Prince or 
Republic in Europe. 

You have sent me several papers, some in print, 
some in manuscript. I think I had seen all of them, 
except the formula of association. I confess they 
appear to me to contain matter mischievous and cap- 

256 A LETTER TO 1792. 

able of giving alarm, if the spirit in which they are 
written should be found to make any considerable 
progress. But I am at a loss to know how to apply 
them as objections to the case now before us. When 
I find that the general committee, which acts for the 
Eoman Catholics in Dublin, prefers the association pro 
posed in the written draft you have sent me, to a re 
spectful application in Parliament, I shall think the 
persons who sign such a paper to be unworthy of any 
privilege which may be thought fit to be granted ; and 
that such men ought, by name, to be excepted from 
any benefit under the constitution to which they offer 
this violence. But I do not find that this form of a 
seditious league has been signed by any person what 
soever, either on the part of the supposed projectors, or 
on the part of those whom it is calculated to seduce. 
I do not find on inquiry that such a thing was men 
tioned, or even remotely alluded to, in the general 
meeting of the Catholics, from which so much violence 
was apprehended. I have considered the other publi 
cations signed by individuals on the part of certain 
societies I may mistake, for I have not the honour 
of knowing them personally, but I take Mr. Butler and 
Mr. Tandy not to be Catholics, but members of the 
Established Church. Not one that I recollect of these 
publications which you and I equally dislike appears 
to be written by persons of that persuasion. Now, if, 
whilst a man is doubtfully soliciting a favour from 
Parliament, any person should choose, in an improper 


manner, to show his inclination towards the cause 
depending ; and if that must destroy the cause of the 
petitioner, then not only the petitioner, but the Legis 
lature itself is in the power of any weak friend or 
artful enemy that the supplicant or that the Parlia 
ment may have. A man must be judged by his own 
actions only. Certain Protestant dissenters make sedi 
tious propositions to the Catholics, which it does not 
appear that they have yet accepted. It would be 
strange that the tempter should escape all punishment, 
and that he who, under circumstances full of seduction 
and full of provocation, has resisted the temptation, 
should incur the penalty. You know that with regard 
to the dissenters, who are stated to be the chief movers 
in this vile scheme of altering the principles of election 
to a right of voting by the head, you are not able (if 
you ought even to wish such a thing) to deprive them 
of any part of the franchises and privileges which they 
hold on a footing of perfect equality with yourselves. 
TJicy may do what they please with constitutional 
impunity; but the others cannot even listen with 
civility to an invitation from them to an ill-judged 
scheme of liberty, without forfeiting for ever all hopes 
of any of those liberties which we admit to be sober 
and rational. 

It is known, I believe, that the greater, as well as 
the sounder part of our excluded countrymen have not 
adopted the wild ideas and wilder engagements which 
have been held out to them; but have rather chosen to 


258 A LETTER TO 1792. 

hope small and safe concessions from the legal power, 
than boundless objects from trouble and confusion. 
This mode of action seems to me to mark men of 
sobriety, and to distinguish them from those who are 
intemperate from circumstance or from nature. But 
why do they not instantly disclaim and disavow 
those who make such advances to them ? In this, 
too, in my opinion, they show themselves no less sober 
and circumspect. In the present moment, nothing 
short of insanity could induce them to take such a 
step. Pray consider the circumstances. Disclaim, 
says somebody, all union with the dissenters. Right 
but when this your injunction is obeyed, shall I 
obtain the object which I solicit from you ? Oh, 
no, nothing at all like it ! But, in punishing us by an 
exclusion from the constitution through the great gate, 
for having been invited to enter into it by a postern, 
will you punish by deprivation of their privileges, or 
mulct in any other way, those who have tempted us ? 
Far from it we mean to preserve all their liberties 
and immunities, as our life-blood. We mean to cul 
tivate them as brethren, whom we love and respect 
with you we have no fellowship. We can bear with 
patience their enmity to ourselves ; but their friendship 
with you we will not endure. But mark it well ! All 
our quarrels with them are always to be revenged upon 
you. Formerly it is notorious that we should have 
resented with the highest indignation your presuming 
to show any ill-will to them. You must not suffer 


them now to show any good-will to you. Know 

and take it once for all that it is, and ever has been, 
and ever will be, a fundamental maxim in our politics, 
that you are not to have any part, or shadow, or name 
of interest whatever in our State ; that we look upon 
you as under an irreversible outlawry from our con 
stitution as perpetual and unalliable aliens. 

Such, my dear sir, is the plain nature of the argu 
ment drawn from the revolution maxims, enforced by 
a supposed disposition in the Catholics to unite with 
the dissenters. Such it is, though it were clothed in 
never such bland and civil forms, and wrapped up, as 
a poet says, in a thousand " artful folds of sacred 
lawn." For my own part, I do not know in what 
manner to shape such arguments so as to obtain ad 
mission for them into a rational understanding. Every 
thing of this kind is to be reduced, at last, to threats 
of power. I cannot say vce metis, and then throw the 
sword into the scale. I have no sword ; and if I had, 
in this case most certainly I would not use it as a 
make-weight in political reasoning. 

Observe, on these principles, the difference between 
the procedure of the Parliament and the dissenters 
towards the people in question. One employs court 
ship, the other force. The dissenters offer bribes, the 
Parliament nothing but the front negative of a stern * 
and forbidding authority. A man may be very wrong- 
in his ideas of what is good for him. But no man 
affronts me, nor can therefore justify my affronting 

260 A LETTER TO 1792. 

* him, by offering to make me as liappy as himself, ac 
cording to his own ideas of happiness. This the dis 
senters do to the Catholics. You are on the different 
extremes. The dissenters offer, with regard to con 
stitutional rights and civil advantages of all sorts, 
everything ; you refuse everything. With them there 
is boundless, though not very assured hope ; with you, 
a very sure and very unqualified despair. The terms 
of alliance from the dissenters offer a representation 

v of the commons, chosen out of the people by the head. 
This is absurdly and dangerously large in my opinion ; 
and that scheme of election is known to have been, at 
all times, perfectly odious to me. But I cannot think 
it right of course to punish the Irish Eomaii Catholics 
by a universal exclusion, because others, whom you 
would not punish at all, propose a universal admission. 
I cannot dissemble to myself that in this very king 
dom many persons who are not in the situation of the 
Irish Catholics, but who, on the contrary, enjoy the 
fall benefit of the constitution as it stands, and some 
of whom, from the effect of their fortunes, enjoy it in 
a large measure, had some years ago associated to pro 
cure great and undefined changes (they considered them 
as reforms) in the popular part of the constitution. 
Our friend, the late Mr. Flood (no slight man), proposed 
in his place, and in my hearing, a representation not 
much less extensive than this for England ; in which 
every house was to be inhabited by a voter in addi 
tion to all the actual votes by other titles (some of the 


corporate) which we know do not require a house or a 
shed. Can I forget that a person of the very highest 
rank, of very large fortune, and of the first class of 
ability, brought a Bill into the House of Lords, in the 
headquarters of aristocracy, containing identically the 
same project, for the supposed adoption of which by a 
club or two, it is thought right to extinguish all hopes 
in the Eoman Catholics of Ireland ? I cannot say it 
was very eagerly embraced or very warmly pursued. 
But the Lords neither did disavow the Bill, nor treat it 
with any disregard, nor express any sort of disappro 
bation of its nobler author, who has never lost, witli 
king or people, the least degree of the respect and con 
sideration which so justly belong to him. 

I am not at all enamoured, as I have told you, 
with this plan of representation ; as little do I relish 
any bandings or associations for procuring it. But if 
the question was to be put to you and me universal 
popular representation, or none at all for us and ours 
we should find ourselves in a very awkward position. 
I do not like this kind of dilemmas, especially when 
they are practical. 

Then, since our oldest fundamental laws follow, or 
rather couple, freehold with franchise; since no princi 
ple of the Eevolution shakes these liberties ; since the 
oldest of one of the best monuments of the constitu 
tion demands for the Irish the privilege which they 
supplicate ; since the principles of the Eevolution 
coincide with the declarations of the Great Charter ; 

262 A LETTER TO 1792. 

since the practice of the Eevolution, in this point, did 
not contradict its principles ; since, from that event, 
twenty -five years had elapsed, before a domineering 
party, on a party principle, had ventured to disfran 
chise, without any proof whatsoever of abuse, the 
greater part of the community; since the king s 
coronation oath does not stand in his way to the 
performance of his duty to all his subjects ; since you 
have given to all other dissenters these privileges 
without limit, which are hitherto withheld, without 
any limitation whatsoever, from the Catholics ; since 
no nation in the world has ever been known to 
exclude so great a body of men (not born slaves) from 
the civil State, and all the benefits of its constitution ; 
the whole question comes before Parliament as a 
matter for its prudence. I do not put the thing on a 
question of right. That discretion which in judica 
ture is well said by Lord Coke to be a crooked cord, 
in legislature is a golden rule. Supplicants ought not 
to appear too much in the character of litigants. If 
the subject thinks so highly and reverently of the 
* sovereign authority as not to claim anything of right, 
so that it may seem to be independent of the power 
and free choice of its government ; and if the sove 
reign, on his part, considers the advantages of the 
subjects as their right, and all their reasonable wishes 
as so many claims ; in the fortunate conjunction of 
these mutual dispositions are laid the foundations of 
a happy and prosperous commonwealth. For my own 


part, desiring of all things that the authority of the 
Legislature under which I was born, and which I 
cherish, not only with a dutiful awe, but with a 
partial and cordial affection, to be maintained in the 
utmost possible respect, I never will suffer myself to 
suppose, that, at bottom, their discretion will be found . 
to be at variance with their justice. 

The whole being at discretion, I beg leave just to 
suggest some matters for your consideration Whether 
the Government, in Church or State, is likely to be 
more secure by continuing causes of grounded discon 
tent, to a very great number (say two millions) of the 
subjects ? or whether the constitution, combined and 
balanced as it is, will be rendered more solid by 
depriving so large a part of the people of all concern, 
or interest, or share, in its representation, actual or 
virtual ? I here mean to lay an emphasis on the 
word virtual. Virtual representation is that in which . 
there is a communion of interests, and a sympathy in 
feelings and desires between those who act in the 
name of any description of people, and the people in 
whose name they act, though the trustees are not 
actually chosen by them. This is virtual representa 
tion. Such a representation I think to be, in many 
cases, even better than the actual. It possesses most 
of its advantages, and is free from many of its incon 
veniences; it corrects the irregularities in the literal 
representation when the shifting current of human 
affairs, or the acting of public interests in different 

264 A LETTER TO 1792. 

ways, carry it obliquely from its first line of direction. 
The people may err in their choice; but common 
interest and common sentiment are rarely mistaken. 

\But this sort of virtual representation cannot have a 
long or sure existence, if it has not a substratum in 
the actual. The member must have some relation to 
the constituent. As things stand, the Catholic, as a 
Catholic, and belonging to a description, has no virtual 
relation to the representative, but the contrary. There 
is a relation in mutual obligation. Gratitude may not 
always have a very lasting power ; but the frequent 
recurrence of an application for favours will revive 
and refresh it, and will necessarily produce some 
degree of mutual attention. It will produce at least 
acquaintance. The several descriptions of people will 
not be kept so much apart as they now are, as if they 
were not only separate nations, but separate species. 
The stigma and reproach, the hideous mask will be 
taken off, and men will see each other as they are. 
Sure I am, that there have been thousands in Ireland, 
who have never conversed with a Eoman Catholic in 
their whole lives, unless they happened to talk to 
their gardener s workmen, or to ask their way, when 
they had lost it, in their sports ; or, at best, who had 
known them only as footmen, or other domestics, of 
the second and third order : and so averse were they, 
x some time ago, to have them near their persons, that 
they would not employ even those who could never 
find their way beyond the stable. I well remember a 


great, and in many respects a good man, who adver 
tised for a blacksmith ; but at the same time added, 
he must be a Protestant. It is impossible that such a 
state of things, though natural goodness in many 
persons will undoubtedly make exceptions, must not 
produce alienation on the one side, and pride and 
insolence on the other. 

Reduced to a question of discretion, and that dis 
cretion exercised solely upon what will appear best for 
the conservation of the State on its present basis, I 
should recommend it to your serious thoughts, whether 
the narrowing of the foundation is always the best way 
to secure the building ? The body of disfranchised 
men will not be perfectly satisfied to remain always in 
that state. If they are not satisfied, you have two 
millions of subjects in your bosom full of uneasiness ; 
not that they cannot overturn the Act of Settlement, 
and put themselves and you under an arbitrary mas 
ter ; or that they are not premitted to spawn a hydra 
of wild republics, on principles of a pretended natural 
equality in man ; but because you will not suffer them 
to enjoy the ancient, fundamental, tried advantages of 
a British constitution ; that you will not permit them 
to profit of the protection of a common father, or the 
freedom of common citizens ; and that the only reason 
which can be assigned for this disfranchisement has a 
tendency more deeply to ulcerate their minds than the 
act of exclusion itself. What the consequence of such 
feelings must be, it is for you to look to. To warn is 
not to menace. 


I am far from asserting that men will not excite 
disturbances without just cause. I know that such an 
assertion is not true. But neither is it true that dis 
turbances have never just complaints for their origin. 
I am sure that it is hardly prudent to furnish them 
with such causes of complaint as every man who 
thinks the British constitution a benefit may think 
at least colourable and plausible. 

Several are in dread of the manoeuvres of certain 
persons among the dissenters, who turn this ill-humour 
to their own ill purposes. You know better than I 
can how much these proceedings of certain among the 
dissenters are to be feared. You are to weigh, with 
the temper which is natural to you, whether it may be 
for the safety of our establishment, that the Catho 
lics should be ultimately persuaded that they have no 
hope to enter into the constitution but through the 

Think, whether this be the way to prevent or dis 
solve factious combinations against the Church or the 
State. Reflect seriously on the possible consequences 
of keeping in the heart of your country a bank of dis 
content, every hour accumulating, upon which every 
description of seditious men may draw at pleasure. 
They whose principles of faction will dispose them 
to the establishment of an arbitrary monarchy, will 
find a nation of men who have no sort of interest 
in freedom; but who will have an interest in that 
equality of justice or favour with which a wise despot 

1792- *?//? HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 267 

must view all his subjects who do not attack the 
foundations of his power. Love of liberty itself may, 
in such men, become the means of establishing an 
arbitrary domination. On the other hand, they who 
wish for a democratic republic, will find a set of men 
who have no choice between civil servitude, and the 
entire ruin of a mixed constitution. 

Suppose the people of Ireland divided into three 
parts; of these (I speak within compass) two are 
Catholic. Of the remaining third one -half is com 
posed of dissenters. There is no natural union be 
tween those descriptions. It may be produced. If the 
two parts Catholic be driven into a close confeder 
acy with half the third part of Protestants, with a view 
to a change in the constitution in Church or State, 
or both, and you rest the whole of their security on a 
handful of gentlemen, clergy, and their dependants ; 
compute the strength you have in Ireland to oppose to 
grounded discontent, to capricious innovation, to blind 
popular fury, and to ambitious turbulent intrigue. 

You mention that the minds of some gentlemen are 
a good deal heated, and that it is often said that, 
rather than submit to such persons having a share in 
their franchises, they would throw up their independ 
ence and precipitate a union with Great Britain. f . 
I have heard a discussion concerning such a union 
amongst all sorts of men ever since I remember any 
thing. Tor my own part, I have never been able to 
bring my mind to anything clear and decisive upon 

268 A LETTER TO 1792. 

the subject. There cannot be a more arduous question. 
As far as I can form an opinion, it would not be for 
the mutual advantage of the two kingdoms. Persons, 
however, more able than I am, think otherwise. But, 
whatever the merits of this union may be, to make it 
a menace, it must be shown to be an evil ; and an evil 
more particularly to those who are threatened with it 
than to those who hold it out as a terror. I really do 
not see how this threat of a union can operate, or 
that the Catholics are more likely to be losers by that 
measure than the Churchmen. 

The humours of the people, and of politicians too, 
are so variable in themselves, and are so much under 
the occasional influence of some leading men, that it is 
impossible to know what turn the public mind here 
would take on such an event. There is but one thing 
certain concerning it. Great divisions and vehement 
passions would precede this union, both on the measure 
itself and on its terms ; and particularly, this very 
question of a share in the representation for the 
Catholics, from whence the project of a union origi 
nated, would form a principal part in the discussion ; 
and in the temper in which some gentlemen seem 
inclined to throw themselves, by a sort of high indig 
nant passion, into the scheme, those points would not 
be deliberated with all possible calmness. 

From my best observation I should greatly doubt 
whether, in the end, these gentlemen would obtain 
their object, so as to make the exclusion of two 

1792. 67# HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 269 

millions of their countrymen a fundamental article in 
the union. The demand would be of a nature quite 
unprecedented. You might obtain the union ; and yet 
a gentleman who, under the new union establishment, 
would aspire to the honour of representing his country, 
might possibly be as much obliged, as he may fear to 
be, under the old separate establishment, to the un- 
supportable mortification of asking his neighbours, who 
have a different opinion concerning the elements in the 
sacrament for their votes. 

I believe, nay, I am sure, that the people of 
Great Britain, with or without a union, might be de 
pended upon, in cases of any real danger, to aid the 
Government of Ireland with the same cordiality as 
they would support their own, against any wicked 
attempts to shake the security of the happy constitu 
tion in Church and State. But before Great Britain 
engages in any quarrel, the cause of the dispute would 
certainly be a part of her consideration. If confusions 
should arise in that kingdom from too steady an attach 
ment to a prescriptive monopolising system, and from 
the resolution of regarding the franchise, and in it the 
security of the subject as belonging rather to religious 
opinions than to civil qualification and civil conduct, I 
doubt whether you might quite certainly reckon on 
obtaining an aid of force from hence for the support of 
that system. We might extend your distractions to * 
this country by taking part in them. England will be 
indisposed, I suspect, to send an army for the conquest 

270 A LETTER TO 1792. 

of Ireland. What was done in 1782 is a decisive 
proof of her sentiments of justice and moderation. 
She will not be fond of making another American war 
in Ireland. The principles of such a war would but 
too much resemble the former one. The well-disposed 
and the ill-disposed in England would (for different 
reasons perhaps) be equally averse to such an enter 
prise. The confiscations, the public auctions, the 
private grants, the plantations, the transplantations, 
which formerly animated so many adventurers, even 
among sober citizens, to such Irish expeditions, and 
which possibly might have animated some of them to 
the American, can have no existence in the case that 
we suppose. 

Let us form a supposition (no foolish or ungrounded 
supposition) that in an age when men are infinitely 
. more disposed to heat themselves with political than 
religious controversies, the former should entirely pre 
vail, as we see that in some places they have prevailed, 
over the latter ; and that the Catholics of Ireland, from 
the courtship paid them on the one hand, and the 
high tone of refusal on the other, should, in order to 
enter into all the rights of subjects, all become Protest 
ant dissenters, and as the others do, take all your 
oaths. They would all obtain their civil objects ; and 
the change, for any thing I know to the contrary (in 
the dark as I am about the Protestant dissenting tenets), 
might be of use to the health of their souls. But, 
what security our constitution in Church or State 


could derive from that event I cannot possibly discern. 
Depend upon it, it is as true as nature is true, that if 
you force them out of the religion of habit, education, 
or opinion, it is not to yours they will ever go. 
Shaken in their minds, they will go to that where the 
dogmas are fewest ; where they are the most uncertain ; 
where they lead them the least to a consideration of 
what they have abandoned. They will go to that 
uniformly democratic system to whose first move 
ments they owed their emancipation. I recommend 
you seriously to turn this in your mind. Believe that 
it requires your best and maturest thoughts. Take 
what course you please union or no union ; whether 
the people remain Catholics or become Protestant dis 
senters, sure it is, that the present state of monopoly 
cannot continue. 

If England were animated, as I think she is not, 
with her former spirit of domination, and with the 
strong theological hatred which she once cherished for 
that description of her fellow -Christians and fellow- 
subjects, I am yet convinced, that after the fullest 
success in a ruinous struggle, you would be obliged to 
abandon that monopoly. We were obliged to do this, 
even when everything promised success in the Ameri 
can business. If you should make this experiment at 
last, under the pressure of any necessity, you never 
can do it well. But if, instead of falling into a 
passion, the leading gentlemen of the country them 
selves should undertake the business cheerfully, and 


with hearty affection towards it, great advantages 
would follow. What is forced cannot be modified ; 
but here you may measure your concessions. 

It is a consideration of great moment, that you 
make the desired admission without altering the system 
of your representation in the smallest degree, or in any 
part. You may leave that deliberation of a Parlia 
mentary change or reform, if ever you should think fit 
to engage in it, uncomplicated and unembarrassed with 
the other question. Whereas, if they are mixed and 
confounded as some people attempt to mix and con 
found them no one can answer for the effects on the 
constitution itself. 

There is another advantage in taking up this 
business singly and by an arrangement for the single 
object. It is that you may proceed by degrees. We 
must all obey the great law of change. It is the most 
powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its 
conservation. All we can do, and that human wisdom 
can do, is to provide that the change shall proceed by 
insensible degrees. This has all the benefits which 
may be in change, without any of the inconveniences 
of mutation. Everything is provided for as it arrives. 
This mode will, on the one hand, prevent the unfixing 
old interests at once : a thing which is apt to breed a 
black and sullen discontent in those who are at once 
dispossessed of all their influence and consideration. 
This gradual course, on the other side, will prevent 
men, long under depression, from being intoxicated 

1792. 5/7? HERCULES LANGRISHE, M.P. 273 

with a large draught of new power, which they always 
abuse with a licentious insolence. But wishing, as I 
do, the change to be gradual and cautious, I would, 
in my first steps, lean rather to the side of enlarge 
ment than restriction. 

It is one excellence of our constitution, that all our 
rights of provincial election regard rather property than 
person. It is another, that the rights which approach 
more nearly to the personal are most of them corporate, 
and suppose a restrained and strict education of seven 
years in some useful occupation. In both cases the 
practice may have slid from the principle. The standard 
of qualification in both cases may be so low, or not so 
judiciously chosen, as in some degree to frustrate the 
end. But all this is for your prudence in the case 
before you. You may raise a step or two the qualifi 
cation of the Catholic voters. But if you were to 
morrow to put the Catholic freeholder on the footing of 
the most favoured forty-shilling Protestant dissenter, 
you know that such is the actual state of Ireland, this 
would not make a sensible alteration in almost any 
one, election in the kingdom. The effect in their 
favour, even defensively, would be infinitely slow. But 
it would be healing ; it would be satisfactory and pro 
tecting. The stigma would be removed. By admitting 
settled, permanent substance in lieu of the numbers, 
you would avoid the great danger of our time that 
of setting up number against property. The numbers 
ought never to be neglected, because (besides what is 

274 A LETTER TO 1792. 

due to them as men) collectively, though not individu 
ally, they have great property : they ought to have, 
therefore, protection; they ought to have security; they 
ought to have even consideration ; but they ought not 
to predominate. 

My dear sir, I have nearly done ; I meant to write 
you a long letter, I have written a long dissertation. I 
might have done it earlier and better. I might have 
been more forcible and more clear, if I had not been 
interrupted as I have been; and this obliges me not to 
write to you in my own hand. Though my hand but 
signs it, my heart goes with what I have written. Since 
I could think at all, those have been my thoughts. You 
know that thirty -two years ago they were as fully 
matured in my mind as they are now. A letter of 
mine to Lord Kenmare, though not by my desire, and 
full of lesser mistakes, has been printed in Dublin. 
It was written ten or twelve years ago, at the time 
when I began the employment, which I have not yet 
finished, in favour of another distressed people, injured 
by those who have vanquished them, or stolen a do 
minion over them. It contained my sentiments then j 
you will see how far they accord with my sentiments 
now. Time has more and more confirmed me in them 
all. The present circumstances fix them deeper in my 

I voted last session, if a particular vote could be 
distinguished in unanimity, for an establishment of 
the Church of England conjointly with the establish- 


ment which was made some years before by Act of 
Parliament, of the Boman Catholic, in the French con 
quered country of Canada. At the time of making 
this English ecclesiastical establishment, we did not 
think it necessary for its safety to destroy the former 
Gallican Church settlement. In our first Act we settled 
a government altogether monarchical, or nearly so. In 
that system the Canadian Catholics were far from 
being deprived of the advantages or distinctions of 
any kind which they enjoyed under their former 
monarchy. It is true that some people and amongst 
them one eminent divine predicted at that time that 
by this step we should lose our dominions in America. 
He foretold that the Pope would send his indulgences 
hither ; that the Canadians would fall in with France, 
would declare independence, and draw or force our 
colonies into the same design. The independence 
happened according to his prediction, but in directly 
the reverse order. All our English Protestant coun 
tries revolted. They joined themselves to France : 
and it so happened that Popish Canada was the only 
place which preserved its fidelity the only place in 
which France got no footing the only peopled colony 
which now remains to Great Britain. Vain are all 
the prognostics taken from ideas and passions which 
survive the state of things which gave rise to them. 
When last year we gave a popular representation to 
i the same Canada by the choice of the landholders, 
land an aristocratic representation at the choice of the 

276 A LETTER TO 1792. 

Crown, neither was the choice of the Crown nor the 
election of the landholders limited by a consideration of 
religion. We had no dread for the Protestant Church 
which we settled there, because we permitted the 
French Catholics, in the utmost latitude of the descrip 
tion, to be free subjects. They are good subjects, I 
have no doubt; but I will not allow that any French 
Canadian Catholics are better men or better citizens 
than the Irish of the same communion. Passing from 
the extremity of the west to the extremity almost of 
the east, I have been many years (now entering into 
the twelfth) employed in supporting the rights, privi 
leges, laws, and immunities of a very remote people. I 
have not as yet been able to finish my task. I have 
struggled through much discouragement and much 
opposition, much obloquy, much calumny, for a people 
with whom I have no tie but the common bond of 
mankind. In this I have not been left alone. We did 
not fly from our undertaking because the people were 
Mahometans or pagans, and that a great majority of the 
Christians amongst them are Papists. Some gentlemen 
in Ireland, I dare say, have good reasons for what they 
may do, which do not occur to me. I do not presume 
to condemn them ; but, thinking and acting as I have 
done towards these remote nations, I should not know 
how to show my face here or in Ireland, if I should 
say that all the Pagans, all the Mussulmen, and even 
all the Papists (since they must form the highest stage 
in the climax of evil) are worthy of a liberal and 


honourable condition, except those of one of the 
descriptions, which forms the majority of the inhabit 
ants of the country in which you and I were born. 
If such are the Catholics of Ireland, ill-natured and 
unjust people from our own data may be inclined not 
to think better of the Protestants of a soil which is 
supposed to infuse into its sects a kind of venom un 
known in other places. 

You hated the old system as early as I did. Your 
first juvenile lance was broken against that giant. I 
think you were even the first who attacked the grim 
phantom. You have an exceedingly good understand 
ing, very good humour, and the best heart in the world. 
The dictates of that temper and that heart, as well as 
the policy pointed out by that understanding, led you 
to abhor the old code. You abhorred it, as I did, for 
its vicious perfection. For I must do it justice : it 
was a complete system, full of coherence and con 
sistency, well digested and well composed in all its 
parts. It was a machine of wise and elaborate con 
trivance, and as well fitted for the oppression, im 
poverishment, and degradation of a people, and the 
debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever 
proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man. It is 
a thing humiliating enough that we are doubtful of 
the effect of the medicines we compound. We are 
sure of our poisons. My opinion ever was (in which 
j I heartily agree with those that admired the old code) 
that it was so constructed, that if there was once a 

278 A LETTER TO THE 1792. 

breach in any essential part of it, the ruin of the 
whole, or nearly of the whole, was at some time or 
other a certainty. For that reason I honour, and 
shall for ever honour and love you, and those who first 
caused it to stagger, crack, and gape. Others may 
finish ; the beginners have the glory ; and, take what 
part you please at this hour (I think you will take the 
best), your first services will never be forgotten by a 
grateful country. Adieu ! Present my best regards to 
those I know, and as many as I know in our country 
I honour. There never was so much ability, nor, I 
believe, virtue in it. They have a task worthy of 
both. I doubt not they will perform it for the 
stability 01 the Church and State, and for the union 
and the separation of the people ; for the union of the 
honest and peaceable of all sects ; for their separation 
from all that is ill-intentioned and seditious in any of 


3d January 1792. 




I RECEIVED in due course your two very interesting 
and judicious letters, which gave me many new lights, 
and excited me to fresh activity in the important 
subject they related to. However, from that time I 
have not been perfectly free from doubt and uneasi 
ness. I used a liberty with those letters, which per 
haps, nothing can thoroughly justify, and which 

1 This letter is addressed to Mr. Pery (afterwards Lord Pery) then 
Speaker of the House of Commons of Ireland. It appears there had 
been much correspondence between that gentleman and Mr. Burke, on 
the subject of heads of a Bill (which had passed the Irish House of 
Commons in the summer of the year 1778, and had been transmitted 
by the Irish Privy Council of England) for the relief of his Majesty s 
Roman Catholic subjects in Ireland. The Bill contained a clause for 
exempting the Protestant Dissenters of Ireland from the Sacramental 
Test, which created a strong objection to the whole measure on the part 
of the English Government. Mr. Burke employed his most strenuous 
efforts to remove the prejudice which the king s ministers entertained 
againt the clause ; but the Bill was ultimately returned without it, and 
in that shape passed the Irish Parliament. (17th and 18 Geo. III. cap. 
49.) In the subsequent Session, however, a separate Act was passed 
for the relief of the Protestant Dissenters of Ireland. 

280 A LETTER TO THE 1778. 

certainly nothing but the delicacy of the crisis, the 
clearness of my intentions, and your great good nature 
can at all excuse. I might conceal this from you, but 
I think it better to lay the whole matter before you, 
and submit myself to your mercy ; assuring you, at 
the same time, that if you are so kind as to continue 
your confidence on this, or to renew it upon any other 
occasion, I shall never be tempted again to make so 
bold and unauthorised a use of the trust you place in 
me. I will state to you the history of the business 
since my last, and then you will see how far I am ex 
cusable by the circumstances. 

On the 3d of July I received a letter from the 
Attorney-General, dated the day before, in which, in a 
very open and obliging manner, he desires my thoughts 
of the Irish Toleration Bill, and particularly of the 
Dissenters Clause. I gave them to him by the return 
of the post at large ; but as the time pressed, I kept no 
copy of the letter. The general drift was strongly to 
recommend the whole, and principally to obviate the 
objections to the part that related to the Dissenters, 
with regard both to the general propriety and to the 
temporary policy at this juncture. I took likewise a 
good deal of pains to state the difference which had 
always subsisted with regard to the treatment of the 
Protestant Dissenters in Ireland and in England, and 
what I conceived the reason of that difference to be. 
About the same time I was called to town for a day, 
and I took an opportunity in Westminster Hall, of 


urging the same points with all the force I was master 
of to the Solicitor-General. I attempted to see the 
Chancellor for the same purpose, but was not fortunate 
enough to meet him at home. Soon after my return 
hither on Tuesday, I received a very polite, and I may 
say, friendly letter from him, wishing me (on supposi 
tion that I had continued in town) to dine with him 
on that day, in order to talk over the business of the 
Toleration Act then before him. Unluckily I had 
company with me, and was not able to leave them 
until Thursday, when I went to town and called at his 
house, but missed him. However, in answer to his 
letter I had before, and instantly on the receipt of it, 
written to him at large, and urged such topics, both 
with regard to the Catholics and Dissenters as I 
imagined were the most likely to be prevalent with 
him. This letter I followed to town on Thursday. 
On my arrival I was much alarmed with a report that 
the Ministry had thoughts of rejecting the whole Bill. 
Mr. M Narnara seemed apprehensive that it was a 
determined measure, and there seemed to be but too 
much reason for his fears. Not having met the 
Chancellor at home, either on my first visit or my 
second after receiving his letter, and fearful that the 
Cabinet should come to some unpleasant resolution, I 
went to the Treasury on Friday. There I saw Sir G. 
Cooper. I possessed him of the danger of a partial, 
and the inevitable mischief of the total, rejection of the 
Bill. I reminded him of the understood compact be- 

282 A LETTER TO THE 1778. 

tween parties, upon which the whole scheme of the 
Toleration, originating in the English Bill, was formed ; 
of the fair part which the Whigs had acted in a busi 
ness, which, though first started by them, was supposed 
equally acceptable to all sides ; and the risk of which 
they took upon themselves when others declined it. 
To this I added such matter as I thought most fit to 
engage Government, as Government not to sport 
with a singular opportunity which offered for the 
union of every description of men amongst us, in 
support of the common interest of the whole, and I 
ended by desiring to see Lord North upon the subject. 
Sir Grey Cooper showed a very right sense of the 
matter, and in a few minutes after our conversation, I 
went down from the Treasury Chambers to Lord 
North s house. I had a great deal of discourse with 
him. He told me that his ideas of toleration were 
large ; but that, large as they were, they did not com 
prehend a promiscuous establishment, even in matters 
merely civil ! that he thought the established religion 
ought to be the religion of the State; that, in this 
idea, he was not for the repeal of the Sacramental 
Test ; that indeed he knew the Dissenters in general 
did not greatly scruple it ; but that very want of 
scruple showed less zeal against the Establishment; 
and, after all, there could no provision be made by 
human laws against those who made light of the tests 
which were formed to discriminate opinions. On all 
this he spoke with a good deal of temper. He did not, 


indeed, seem to think the Test itself, which was rightly 
considered by Dissenters as in a manner dispensed with 
by an annual Act of Parliament, and which in Ireland 
was of a late origin, and of much less extent than here, 
a matter of much moment. The thing which seemed 
to affect him most was the offence that would be 
taken at the repeal by the leaders among the Church 
clergy here, on one hand, and on the other the steps 
which would be taken for its repeal in England in 
the next Session, in consequence of the repeal in 
Ireland. I assured him, with great truth, that we 
had no idea among the Whigs of moving the repeal of 
the Test. I confessed very freely, for my own part, 
that if it were brought in, I should certainly vote for 
it ; but that I should neither use, nor did I think 
applicable, any arguments drawn from the analogy 
of what was done in other parts of the British 
dominions. We did not argue from analogy, even 
in this Island and United Kingdom. Presbytery 
was established in Scotland. It became no reason 
either for its religious or civil establishment here. 
In New England the Independent Congregational 
Churches had an established legal maintenance ; 
whilst that country continued part of the British 
Empire, no argument in favour of Independency was 
adduced from the practice of New England. Govern 
ment itself lately thought fit to establish the Roman 
Catholic religion in Canada ; but they would not 
suffer an argument of analogy to be used for its 

284 A LETTER TO THE 1778. 

establishment anywhere else. These things were 
governed, as all things of that nature are governed, 
not by general maxims, but their own local and 
peculiar circumstances. Finding, however, that though 
he was very cool and patient, I made no great way in 
the business of the Dissenters, I turned myself to try 
whether, falling in with his maxims, some modification 
might not be found, the hint of which I received from 
your letter relative to the Irish Militia Bill, and the 
point I laboured was so to alter the Clause as to 
repeal the Test quoad Military and Ee venue Offices. 
For these being only subservient parts in the economy 
and execution, rather than the administration of 
affairs, the politic, civil, and judicial parts would still 
continue in the hands of the Conformists to religious 
establishments. Without giving any hopes, he how 
ever said, that this distinction deserved to be considered. 
After this, I strongly pressed the mischief of re 
jecting the whole Bill ; that a notion went abroad, 
that Government was not at this moment very well 
pleased with the Dissenters, as not very well affected 
to the Monarchy ; that in general, I conceived this 
to be a mistake ; but if it were not, the rejection of 
a Bill in favour of others, because something in favour 
of them was inserted, instead of humbling and mortify 
ing, would infinitely exalt them. For if the Legisla 
ture had no means of favouring those whom they 
meant to favour, as long as the Dissenters could find 
means to get themselves included, this would make 


them, instead of their only being subject to restraint 
themselves, the arbitrators of the fate of others, and 
that, not so much by their own strength (which could 
not be prevented in its operation), as by the co-opera 
tion of those whom they opposed. In the conclusion 
I recommended, that if they wished well to the 
measure, which was the main object of the Bill, they 
must explicitly make it their own, and stake them 
selves upon it ; that hitherto all their difficulties had 
arisen from their indecision and their wrong measures ; 
and to make Lord North sensible of the necessity of 
giving a firm support to some part of the Bill, and 
to add weighty authority to my reasons, I read him 
your letter of the 10th of July. It seemed, in some 
measure, to answer the purpose which I intended. I 
pressed the necessity of the management of the affair, 
both as to conduct and as to gaining of men ; and I 
renewed my former advice, that the Lord Lieutenant 
should be instructed to consult and co-operate with 
you in the whole affair. All this was apparently very 
fairly taken. 

In the evening of that day I saw the Lord Chan 
cellor. With him, too, I had much discourse. You 
know that he is intelligent, sagacious, systematic, and 
determined. At first he seemed of opinion that the 
relief contained in the Bill was so inadequate to the 
mass of oppression it was intended to remove, that it 
would be better to let it stand over until a more 
perfect and better digested plan could be settled. 

286 A LETTER TO THE 1778. 

This seemed to possess him very strongly. In order 
to combat this notion, and to show that the Bill all 
things considered was a very great acquisition, and 
that it was rather a preliminary than an obstruction 
to relief, I ventured to show him your letter. It had 
its effect. He declared himself roundly against giving 
anything to a confederacy, real or apparent, to distress 
Government ; that if anything was done for Catholics 
or Dissenters, it should be done on its own separate 
merits, and not by way of bargain and compromise ; 
that they should be each of them obliged to Govern 
ment, not each to the other ; that this would be a 
perpetual nursery of faction. In a word, he seemed 
so determined on not uniting these plans, that all I 
could say and I said everything I could think of 
was to no purpose. But when I insisted on the dis 
grace to Government which must arise from their re 
jecting a proposition recommended by themselves, be 
cause their opposers had made a mixture, separable too 
by themselves, I was -better heard. On the whole, I 
found him well disposed. 

As soon as I had returned to the country, this 
affair lay so much on my mind and the absolute 
necessity of Government s making a serious business of 
it agreeably to the seriousness they professed and the 
object required that I wrote to Sir G. Cooper to 
remind him of the principles upon which we went in 
our conversation, and to press the plan which was 
suggested for carrying them into execution. He wrote 
to me on the 20th ; and assured me "that Lord North 


had given all due attention and respect to what you 
said to him on Friday, and will pay the same respect 
to the sentiments conveyed in your letter. Everything 
you say or write on the subject undoubtedly demands 
it." Whether this was mere civility, or showed any 
thing effectual in their intentions, time and the success 
of this measure will show. It is wholly with them, 
and if it should fail, you are a witness that nothing on 
our part has been wanting to free so large a part of 
our fellow-subjects and fellow-citizens from slavery, 
and to free Government from the weakness and danger 
of ruling them by force. As to my own particular 
part, the desire of doing this has betrayed me into a 
step which I cannot perfectly reconcile to myself. You 
are to judge how far in the circumstances it may be 
excused. I think it had a good effect. You may be 
assured that I made this communication in a manner 
effectually to exclude so false and groundless an idea 
as that I confer with you, any more than I confer with 
them, on any party principle whatsoever, or that in this 
affair we look farther than the measure which is in 
profession, and I am sure ought to be in reason, theirs. 
I am ever, with the sincerest affection and esteem, my 
dear sir, your most faithful and obedient humble ser- 


BEACONSFIELD, 18th July 1778. 

I intended to have written sooner, but it has not 
been in my power. 

To the Speaker of the 
House of Commons of Ireland. 

288 A LETTER TO 1780. 



I DO not know in what manner I am to thank you 
properly for the very friendly solicitude you have been 
so good as to express for my reputation. The concern 
you have done me the honour to take in my affairs will 
be an ample indemnity from all that I may suffer 
from the rapid judgments of those who choose to form 
their opinions of men not from the life but from their 
portraits in a newspaper. I confess to you that my 
frame of mind is so constructed I have in me so little 
of the constitution of a great man that I am more 

1 Mr. Thomas Burgh, of Old Town, was a member of the House of 
Commons in Ireland. 

It appears from a letter written by this gentleman to Mr. Burke, 
24th December 1779, and to which the following is an answer, that 
the part Mr. Burke had taken in the discussion, which the affairs of 
Ireland had undergone in the preceding sessions of Parliament in Eng 
land (see note prefixed to Two Letters to Gentlemen in Bristol, and also 
Speech at the Guildhall in Bristol], had been grossly misrepresented 
and much censured in Ireland. 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 289 

gratified with a very moderate share of approbation 
from those few who know me, than I should be with 
the most clamorous applause from those multitudes 
who love to admire at a due distance. 

I am not, however, stoic enough to be able to 
affirm with truth, or hypocrite enough affectedly to 
pretend, that I am wholly unmoved at the difficulty 
which you and others of my friends in Ireland have 
found in vindicating my conduct towards my native 
country. It undoubtedly hurts me in some degree, 
but the wound is not very deep. If I had sought 
popularity in Ireland when in the cause of that 
country I was ready to sacrifice, and did sacrifice, a 
much nearer, a much more immediate, and a much 
more advantageous popularity here, I should find 
myself perfectly unhappy, because I should be totally 
disappointed in my expectations ; because I should dis 
cover when it was too late (what common sense might 
have told me very early) that I risked the capital of 
my fame in the most disadvantageous lottery in the 
world. But I acted then as I act now and as I hope 
I shall act always from a strong impulse of right, and 
: from motives in which popularity, either here or there, 
has but a very little part. 

With the support of that consciousness I can bear 
la good deal of the coquetry of public opinion, which 
jhas her caprices, and must have her way Miseri quibus 
\intentatct nitet! I, too, have had my holiday of popu 
larity in Ireland. I have even heard of an intention 


290 A LETTER TO 1780. 

to erect a statue. 1 I believe my intimate acquaint 
ance know how little that idea was encouraged by me ; 
and I was sincerely glad that it never took effect. 
Such honours belong exclusively to the tomb the 
natural and only period of human inconstancy with 
regard either to desert or to opinion ; for they are the 
very same hands which erect, that very frequently 
(and sometimes with reason enough) pluck down the 
statue. Had such an unmerited and unlooked-for 
compliment been paid to me two years ago, the frag 
ments of the piece might at this hour have the advan 
tage of seeing actual service, while they were moving, 
according to the law of projectiles, to the windows of 
the Attorney - General, or of my old friend Monk 

To speak seriously, let me assure you, my dear sir, 
that though I am not permitted to rejoice at all its 
effects, there is not one man on your side of the water 
more pleased to see the situation of Ireland so pros 
perous as that she can afford to throw away her friends. 
She has obtained, solely by her own efforts, the fruits 
of a great victory, which I am very ready to allow 
that the best efforts of her best well-wishers here could 
not have done for her so effectually in a great number 
of years, and perhaps could not have done at all. 
I could wish, however, merely for the sake of her 
own dignity, that in turning her poor relations and 

1 Tliis intention was communicated to Mr. Burke in a letter from 
Mr. Pery, the Speaker of the House of Commons in Ireland. 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 291 

antiquated friends out of doors (though one of the 
most common effects of new prosperity), she had 
thought proper to dismiss us with fewer tokens of 
unkindness. It is true that there is no sort of danger 
in affronting men who are not of importance enough 
to have any trust of ministerial, of royal, or of national 
honour to surrender. The unforced and unbought 
services of humble men who have no medium of in 
fluence in great assemblies but through the precarious 
force of reason, must be looked upon with contempt by 
those who by their wisdom and spirit have improved 
the critical moment of their fortune, and have debated 
with authority against pusillanimous dissent and un 
gracious compliance at the head of 40,000 men. 

Such feeble auxiliaries (as I talk of) to such a force 
employed against such resistance, I must own in the 
present moment, very little worthy of your attention. 
Yet, if one were to look forward, it scarcely seems 
altogether politic to bestow so much liberality of 
invective on the Whigs of this kingdom as I find 
has been the fashion to do both in and out of 
Parliament. That you should pay compliments in 
some tone or other, whether ironical or serious, to the 
minister from whose imbecility you have extorted 
what you could never obtain from his bounty, is not 
unnatural. In the first effusions of Parliamentary 
gratitude to that Minister for the early and voluntary 
I benefits he has conferred upon Ireland, it might appear 

that you were wanting to the triumph of his surrender 

292 A LETTER TO 1780. 

if you did not lead some of his enemies captive before 
him. Neither could you feast him with decorum, if 
his particular taste were not consulted. A minister 
who has never defended his measures in any other way 
than by railing at his adversaries, cannot have his 
palate made all at once to the relish of positive com 
mendation. I cannot deny but that on this occasion 
there was displayed a great deal of the good breeding 
which consists in the accommodation of the entertain 
ment to the relish of the guest. 

But that ceremony being past, it would not be un 
worthy of the wisdom of Ireland to consider what 
consequences the extinguishing every spark of freedom 
in this country may have upon your own liberties. 
You are at this instant flushed with victory and full 
of the confidence natural to recent and untried power. 
We are in a temper equally natural, though very 
different. We feel as men do, who, having placed an 
unbounded reliance on their force, have found it totally 
to fail on trial. We feel faint and heartless, and 
without the smallest degree of self-opinion. In plain 
words, we are cowed. When men give up their vio 
lence and injustice without a struggle, their condition 
is next to desperate. When no art, no management, no 
argument is necessary to abate their pride and over 
come their prejudices, and their uneasiness only excites 
an obscure and feeble rattling in their throat, their 
final dissolution seems not far off. In this miserable 
state we are still further depressed by the overbearing 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 293 

influence of the Crown. It acts with the officious 
cruelty of a mercenary nurse, who, under pretence of A 
tenderness, stifles us with our clothes, and plucks the 
pillow from our heads. .Injectu multce vestis opprimi 
senem jubet. Under this influence we have so little 
will of our own, that even in any apparent activity we 
may be got to assume, I may say, without any violence 
to sense and with very little to language, we are 
merely passive. We have yielded to your demands 
this session. In the last session we refused to prevent 
them. In both cases the passive and the active our 
principle was the same. Had the Crown pleased to 1 
retain the spirit with regard to Ireland, which seems 
to be now all directed to America, we should have 
neglected our own immediate defence, and sent over 
the last man of our militia to fight with the last man 
of your volunteers. 

To this influence the principle of action, the prin 
ciple of policy, and the principle of union of the present 
minority are opposed. These principles of the Opposi 
tion are the only thing which preserves a single symptom 
of life in the nation. That Opposition is composed of 
the far greater part of the independent property and 
independent rank of the kingdom ; of whatever is most 
untainted in character, and of whatever ability remains 
unextinguished in the people, and of all which tends to 
jdraw the attention of foreign countries upon this. It is 
[now in its final and conclusive struggle. It has to struggle 
inst a force to which I am afraid it is not equal. 

294 A LETTER TO 1780. 

The whole kingdom of Scotland ranges with the venal, 
the unprincipled, and the wrong-principled of this ; and 
if the kingdom of Ireland thinks proper to pass into the 
same camp, we shall certainly be obliged to quit the 
field. In that case, if I know anything of this country, 
another constitutional Opposition can never be formed 
in it ; and if this be impossible, it will be at least as 
much so (if there can be degrees in impossibility) to have 
a constitutional Administration at any future time. The 
possibility of the former is the only security for the 
existence of the latter. Whether the present Adminis 
tration be in the least like one, I must venture to doubt 
even in the honeymoon of the Irish fondness to Lord 
North, which has succeeded to all their slappings and 

If liberty cannot maintain its ground in this kingdom, 
I am sure that it cannot have any long continuance in 
yours. Our liberty might now and then jar, and strike 
a discord with that of Ireland. The thing is possible, 
but still the instruments might play in concert. But if 
ours be unstrung, yours will be hung up on a peg ; and 
both will be mute for ever. Your new military force 
may give you confidence, and it serves well for a turn ; 
but you and I know that it has not root. It is not 
perennial, and would prove but a poor shelter for your 
liberty when this nation, having no interest in its own, 
could look upon yours with the eye of envy and disgust. 
I cannot, therefore, help thinking and telling you what 
with great submission I think, that if the Parliament of 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 295 

Ireland be so jealous of the spirit of our common con 
stitution as she means to be, it was not so discreet to 
mix with the panegyric on the minister so large a 
portion of acrimony to the independent part of this 
nation. You never received any sort of injury from 
them, and you are grown to that degree of importance, 
that the discourses in your Parliament will have a much 
greater effect on our immediate fortune than our con 
versation can have upon yours. In the end they will 
seriously affect both. 

I have looked back upon our conduct and our public 
conversations in order to discover what it is that can 
have given you offence. I have done so because I am 
ready to admit that to offend you without any cause 
would be as contrary to true policy as I am sure it must 
be to the inclinations of almost every one of us. About 
two years ago Lord Nugent moved six propositions in 
favour of Ireland, in the House of Commons. At the 
time of the motions and during the debate, Lord North 
was either wholly out of the House or engaged in other 
matters of business or pleasantry in the remotest recesses 
of the West Saxon corner. He took no part whatsoevei 
in the affair ; but it was supposed his neutrality was 
more inclined towards the side of favour. The mover 
being a person in office was, however, the only indica 
tion that was given of such a leaning. We who sup 
ported the propositions, finding them better relished 
than at first we looked for, pursued our advantage, and 
began to open a way for more essential benefits to Ire- 

296 A LETTER TO 1780. 

land. On the other hand, those who had hitherto 
opposed them in vain redoubled their efforts, and 
became exceedingly clamorous. Then it was that Lord 
North found it necessary to come out of his fastness, 
and to interpose between the contending parties. In 
this character of mediator he declared that if anything 
beyond the first six resolutions should be attempted, he 
would oppose the whole ; but that if we rested there, 
the original motions should have his support. On this 
a sort of convention took place between him and the 
managers of the Irish business, in which the six resolu 
tions were to be considered as an uti possidetis, and 
to be held sacred. 

By this time other parties began to appear. A 
good many of the trading towns and manufactures of 
various kinds took the alarm. Petitions crowded in 
upon one another ; and the Bar was occupied by a 
formidable body of Council. Lord N". was staggered 
by this new battery. He is not of a constitution to 
encounter such an opposition as had then risen, when 
there were no other objects in view than those that 
were then before the House. In order not to lose 
him we were obliged to abandon, bit. by bit, the most 
considerable part of the original agreement. 

In several parts, however, he continued fair and 
firm. For my own part I acted, as I trust I com 
monly do, with decision. I saw very well that the 
things we had got were of no great consideration ; but 
they were, even in their defects, somewhat leading. I 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 297 

was in hopes that we might obtain gradually, and by 
parts, what we might attempt at once and in the whole 
without success ; that one concession would lead to 
another ; and that the people of England, discovering 
by a progressive experience that none of the concessions 
actually made were followed by the consequences they 
had dreaded, their fears from what they were yet to 
yield would considerably diminish. But that to which 
I attached myself most particularly, was to fix the 
principle of a free trade in all the ports of these 
Islands, as founded in justice, and beneficial to the 
whole ; but principally to this the seat of the supreme 
power. And this I laboured to the utmost of my 
might, upon general principles, illustrated by all the 
commercial detail with which my little inquiries in 
life were able to furnish me. I ought to forget such 
trifling things as those, with all concerning myself ; 
and possibly I might have forgotten them, if the Lord 
Advocate of Scotland had not, in a very flattering 
manner, revived them in my memory, in a full House 
in this session. He told me that my arguments, such 
as they were, had made him, at the period I allude to, 
change the opinion with which he had come into the 
House strongly impressed. I am sure that, at the 
time, at least twenty more told me the same thing. I 
certainly ought not to take their style of compliment 
as a testimony to fact neither do I. But all this 
showed sufficiently, not what they thought of my 
ability, but what they saw of my zeal. I could say 


298 A LETTER TO 1780. 

more in proof of the effects of that zeal, and of the 
unceasing industry with which I then acted, both in 
my endeavours which were apparent, and those that 
were not so visible. Let it be remembered that I 
showed those dispositions while the Parliament of 
England was in a capacity to deliberate, and in a 
situation to refuse ; when there was something to be 
risked here by being suspected of a partiality to 
Ireland ; when there was an honourable danger 
attending the profession of friendship to you, which 
heightened its relish and made it worthy of a recep 
tion in manly minds. But as for the awkward and 
nauseous parade of debate without opposition, the 
flimsy device of tricking out necessity, and disguising 
,it in the habit of choice, the shallow stratagem of 
^defending by argument what all the world must per 
ceive is yielded to. force these are a sort of acts of 
friendship which I am sorry that any of my country 
men should require of their real friends. They are 
things not to my taste; and if they are looked upon as 
tests of friendship, I desire for one that I may be 
considered as an enemy. 

What party purpose did my conduct answer at 
that time ? I acted with Lord N. I went to all the 
ministerial meetings and he and his associates in 
ofhce will do me the justice to say that, aiming at the 
concord of the Empire, I made it my business to give 
his concessions all the value of which they were cap 
able, whilst some of those who were covered with 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 299 

his favours, derogated from them, treated them with 
contempt, and openly threatened to oppose them. If 
I had acted with my dearest and most valued friends 
if I had acted with the Marquis of Eockingham, or 
the Duke of Richmond, in that situation, I could not 
have attended more to their honour, or endeavoured 
more earnestly to give efficacy to the measures I had 
taken in common with them. The return which I, and 
all who acted as I did, have met with from him, does 
not make me repent the conduct which I then held. 

As to the rest of the gentlemen with whom I have 
the honour to act, they did not then, or at any other 
time, make a party affair of Irish politics. That matter 
was always taken up without concert ; but in general, 
from the operation of our known liberal principles in 
government, in commerce, in religion, in everything, it 
was taken up favourably for Ireland. Where some 
local interests bore hard upon the members, they acted 
on the sense of their constituents, upon ideas which, 
though I do not always follow, I cannot blame. How 
ever, two or three persons high in opposition, and high 
in public esteem, ran great risks in their boroughs on 
that occasion. But all this was without any particular 
plan. I need not say that Ireland was in that affair 
much obliged to the liberal mind and enlarged under 
standing of Charles Fox, to Mr. Thomas Townshend, to 
Lord Middleton, and others. On reviewing that affair, 
which gave rise to all the subsequent manoeuvres, I am 
convinced that the whole of what has this day been 

300 A LETTER TO 1780. 

done might have then been effected. But then the 
minister must have taken it up as a great plan of 
national policy, and paid with his person in every 
lodgment of his approach. He must have used that 
influence to quiet prejudice, which he has so often used 
to corrupt principle ; and I know that if he had, he 
must have succeeded. Many of the most active in 
opposition would have given him an unequivocal sup 
port. The Corporation of London, and the great body 
of the London West India merchants and planters 
which forms the greatest mass of that vast interest, 
were disposed to fall in with such a plan. They cer 
tainly gave no sort of discountenance to what was done, 
or what was proposed. But these are not the kind of 
objects for which our ministers bring out the heavy 
artillery of the State. Therefore, as things stood at 
that time, a great deal more was not practicable. 

Last year another proposition was brought out for 
the relief of Ireland. It was started without any com 
munication with a single person of activity in the 
country party, and, as it should seem, without any kind 
of concert with Government. It appeared to me ex 
tremely raw and undigested. The behaviour of Lord 
X. on the opening of that business was the exact 
transcript of his conduct on the Irish question in the 
former session. It was a mode of proceeding which his 
nature has wrought into the texture of his politics, and 
which is inseparable from them. He chose to absent 
himself on the proposition, and during the agitation of 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 301 

that business, although the business of the House is 
that alone for which he has any kind of relish, or, as I 
am told, can be persuaded to listen to with any degree 
of attention. But he was willing to let it take its 
course. If it should pass without any consider 
able difficulty he would bring his acquiescence to tell 
for merit in Ireland, and he would have the credit, out 
of his indolence, of giving quiet to that country. If 
difficulties should arise on the part of England, he knew 
that the House was so well trained that he might at his 
pleasure call us off from the hottest scent. As he acted 
in his usual manner, and upon his usual principle, 
opposition acted upon theirs, and rather generally sup 
ported the measure. As to myself, I expressed a dis 
approbation at the practice of bringing imperfect and 
indigested projects into the House before means were 
used to quiet the clamours which a misconception of 
what we were doing might occasion at home, and before 
measures were settled with men of weight and authority 
in Ireland, in order to render our acts useful and 
acceptable to that country. I said that the only thing 
which could make the influence of the Crown (enor 
mous without as well as within the House) in any 
degree tolerable, was that it might be employed to give 
something of order and system to the proceedings of a 
popular assembly ; that Government, being so situated 
as to have a large range of prospect, and as it were a 
bird s-eye view of everything, they might see distant 
dangers and distant advantages, which were not so 

302 A LETTER TO 1780. 

visible to those who stood on the common level ; they 
might, besides, observe them from this advantage in 
their relative and combined state, which people, locally 
instructed and partially informed, could behold only in 
an insulated and unconnected manner; but that for 
many years past we suffered under all the evils, with 
out any one of the advantages, of a Government influ 
ence ; that the business of a minister, or of those who 
acted as such, had been still further to contract the nar 
rowness of men s ideas, to confirm inveterate prejudices, 
to inflame vulgar passions, and to abet all sorts of popu 
lar absurdities, in order the better to destroy popular 
rights and privileges; that, so far from methodising 
the business of the House, they had let all things run 
into an inextricable confusion, and had left affairs of 
the most delicate policy wholly to chance. 

After I had expressed myself with the warmth I felt 
on seeing all government and order buried under the 
ruins of liberty, and after I had made my protest against 
the insufficiency of the propositions, I supported the 
principle of enlargement, at which they aimed, though 
short and somewhat wide of the mark ; giving, as my 
sole reason, that the more frequently these matters 
came into discussion, the more it would tend to dispel 
fears and to eradicate prejudices. 

This was the only part I took. The detail was in 
the hands of Lord Newhaven and Lord Beauchamp, 
with some assistance from Earl Nugent and some inde 
pendent gentlemen of Irish property. The dead weight 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 303 

of the minister being removed, the House recovered its 
tone and elasticity. We had a temporary appearance 
of a deliberative character. The business was debated 
freely on both sides, and with sufficient temper. And 
the sense of the Members being influenced by nothing 
but what will naturally influence men unbought their 
reason and their prejudices these two principles had a 
fair conflict, and prejudice was obliged to give way to 
reason. A majority appeared on a division in favour of 
the propositions. 

As these proceedings got out of doors, Glasgow and 
Manchester, and, I think, Liverpool began to move, but 
in a manner much more slow and languid than formerly. 
Nothing, in my opinion, would have been less difficult 
than entirely to have over-born their opposition. The 
London West India trade was, as on the former occasion, 
so on this, perfectly liberal, and perfectly quiet ; and 
there is abroad so much respect for the united wisdom 
of the House, when supposed to act upon a fair view of 
a political situation, that I scarcely ever remember any 
considerable uneasiness out of doors, when the most 
active members, and those of most property and con 
sideration in the Minority, have joined themselves to 
the Administration. Many factious people in the towns 
I mentioned began indeed to revile Lord North, and to 
reproach his neutrality as treacherous and ungrateful to 
those who had so heartily and so warmly entered into 
all his views with regard to America. That noble lord, 
whose decided character it is to give way to the latest 

304 A LETTER TO 1780. 

and nearest pressure without any sort of regard to dis 
tant consequences of any kind, thought fit to appear on 
this signification of the pleasure of those his worthy 
friends and partisans, and putting himself at the head 
of the Posse Scaccarii, wholly regardless of the dignity 
and consistency of our miserable House, drove the pro 
positions entirely out of doors by a majority newly 
summoned to duty. 

In order to atone to Ireland for this gratification to 
Manchester, he graciously permitted, or rather forwarded 
two Bills that for encouraging the growth of tobacco, 
and that for giving a bounty on exportation of hemp 
from Ireland. They were brought in by two very 
worthy members, and on good principles ; but I was 
sorry to see them ; and after expressing my doubts of 
their propriety, left the House. Little also was said 
upon them. My objections were two ; the first, that the 
cultivation of those weeds (if one of them could be at 
all cultivated to profit) was adverse to the introduction 
of a good course of agriculture; the other, that the 
encouragement given to them tended to establish that 
mischievous policy of considering Ireland as a country 
of staple, and a producer of raw materials. 

When the rejection of the first propositions and the 
acceptance of the last had jointly, as it was natural, 
raised a very strong discontent in Ireland, Lord Kocking- 
ham, who frequently said that there never seemed a 
more opportune time for the relief of Ireland than that 
moment, when Lord North had rejected all rational 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 305 

propositions for its relief, without consulting, I believe, 
any one living, did what he is not often very willing to 
do; but he thought this an occasion of magnitude enough 
to justify an extraordinary step. He went into the 
Closet, and made a strong representation on the matter 
to the king, which was not ill received, and I believe 
produced good effects. He then made the motion in the 
House of Lords which you may recollect, but he was 
content to withdraw all of censure which it contained 
on the solemn promise of Ministry that they would, in 
the recess of Parliament, prepare a plan for the benefit 
of Ireland, and have it in readiness to produce at the 
next meeting. You may recollect that Lord Gower 
became in a particular manner bound for the fulfilling 
this engagement. Even this did not satisfy ; and most 
of the Minority were very unwilling that Parliament 
should be prorogued until something effectual on the 
subject should be done ; particularly as we saw that 
the distresses, discontents, and armaments of Ireland were 
increasing every day, and that we are not so much 
lost to common sense as not to know the wisdom and 
efficacy of early concession in circumstances such as ours. 
The session was now at an end. The ministers, in 
stead of attending to a duty that was so urgent on them, 
employed themselves, as usual, in endeavours to destroy 
the reputation of those who were bold enough to remind 
them of it. They caused it to be industriously circulated 
through the nation that the distresses of Ireland were of 
a nature hard to be traced to the true source ; that they 


306 A LETTER TO 1780. 

had been monstrously magnified ; and that, in particular, 
the official reports from Ireland had given the lie (that 
was their phrase) to Lord Kockingham s representations. 
And attributing the origin of the Irish proceedings wholly 
to us, they asserted that everything done in Parliament 
upon the subject was with a view of stirring up rebellion; 
" that neither the Irish Legislature nor their constituents 
had signified any dissatisfaction at the relief obtained in 
the session preceding the last ; that to convince both of 
the impropriety of their peaceable conduct, opposition, 
by making demands in the name of Ireland, pointed out 
what she might extort from Great Britain; that the 
facility with which relief was formerly granted, instead 
of satisfying opposition, was calculated to create new 
demands. These demands, as they interfered with the 
commerce of Great Britain, were certain of being op 
posed a circumstance which could not fail to create that 
desirable confusion which suits the views of the party. 
That they (the Irish) had long felt their own misery 
without knowing well from whence it came. Our worthy 
patriots, by pointing out Great Britain as the cause of 
Irish distress, may have some chance of rousing Irish re 
sentment." This I quote from a pamphlet, as perfectly 
contemptible in point of writing, as it is false in its facts 
and wicked in its design ; but as it is written under the 
authority of ministers by one of their principal literary 
pensioners, and was circulated with great diligence, and, 
as I am credibly informed, at a considerable expense to 
the public, I use the words of that book to let you see 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 307 

in what manner the friends and patrons of Ireland, the 
heroes of your Parliament, represented all efforts for 
your relief here, what means they took to dispose the 
minds of the people towards that great object, and what 
encouragement they gave to all who should choose to 
exert themselves in your favour. Their unwearied 
endeavours were not wholly without success, and the 
unthinking people in many places became ill affected 
towards us on this account. For the ministers pro 
ceeded in your affairs just as they did with regard 
to those of America. They always represented you as 
a parcel of blockheads without sense, or even feeling ; 
that all your words were only the echo of faction here, 
and (as you have seen above) that you had not under 
standing enough to know that your trade was cramped 
by restrictive acts of the British Parliament, unless we 
had, for factious purposes, given you the information. 

They were so far from giving the least intimation of 
the measures which have since taken place, that those 
who were supposed the best to know their intentions 
declared them impossible in the actual state of the two 
kingdoms, and spoke of nothing but an Act of Union as 
the only way that could be found of giving freedom of 
trade to Ireland consistently with the interests of this 
kingdom. Even when the session opened Lord North 
declared that he did not know what remedy to apply to 
a disease, of the cause of which he was ignorant, and 
Ministry not being then entirely resolved how far they 
should submit to your energy, they, by anticipation, set 

308 A LETTER TO 1780. 

the above author, or some of his associates, to fill the 
newspapers with invectives against us, as distressing the 
minister by extravagant demands in favour of Ireland. 

I need not inform you that everything they asserted 
of the steps taken in Ireland as the result of our 
machinations was utterly false and groundless. For 
myself, I seriously protest to you that I neither wrote 
a word or received a line upon any matter relative to 
the trade of Ireland, or to the politics of it, from the 
beginning of the last session to the day that I was 
honoured with your letter. It would be an affront to the 
talents in the Irish Parliament to say one word more. 

What was done in Ireland during that period in and 
out of Parliament never will be forgotten. You raised 
an army new in its kind and adequate to its purposes. 
It effected its end without its exertion. It was not 
under the authority of law, most certainly, but it 
derived from an authority still higher; and as they say 
of faith that it is not contrary to reason but above it, so 
this army did not so much contradict the spirit of the 
law as supersede it. What you did in the legislative 
body is above all praise. By your proceeding with 
regard to the supplies you revived the grand use and 
characteristic benefit of Parliament, which was on the 
point of being entirely lost amongst us. These senti 
ments I never concealed, and never shall, and Mr. Fox 
expressed them with his usual power when he spoke on 
the subject. 

All this is very honourable to you. But in what 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 309 

light must we see it ? How are we to consider your 
armament without commission from the Crown, when 
some of the first people in this kingdom have been 
refused arms at the time they did not only not reject, 
but solicited the king s commissions ? Here to arm and 
embody would be represented as little less than high 
treason if done on private authority. With you it 
receives the thanks of a Privy Counsellor of Great 
Britain, who obeys the Irish House of Lords in that 
point with pleasure, and is made Secretary of State, the 
moment he lands here, for his reward. You shortened 
the credit given to the Crown to six months ; you hung 
up the public credit of your kingdom by a thread ; you 
refused to raise any taxes, whilst you confessed the 
public debt and public exigencies to be great and 
urgent beyond example. You certainly acted in a great 
style, and on sound and invincible principles. But if 
we, in the opposition which fills Ireland with such 
loyal horrors, had even attempted what we never did 
even attempt the smallest delay or the smallest limita 
tion of supply in order to a constitutional coercion of 
the Crown we should have been decried by all the 
Court and Tory mouths of this kingdom as a desperate t 
faction, aiming at the direct ruin of the country, and to 
surrender it bound hand and foot to a foreign enemy. 
By actually doing what we never ventured to attempt, 
you have paid your court with such address, and have 
won so much favour with his Majesty and his Cabinet, 
that they have, of their special grace and mere motion, 

310 A LETTER TO 1780. 

raised you to new titles; and, for the first time, in a 
speech from the throne, complimented you with the 
appellation of "faithful and loyal," and, in order to 
insult our low-spirited and degenerate obedience, have 
thrown these epithets and your resistance together in 
our teeth ! What do you think were the feelings of 
every man who looks upon Parliament in a higher light 
than that of a market-overt for legalising a base traffic 
of votes and pensions, when he saw you employ such 
means of coercion to the Crown in order to coerce our 
Parliament through that medium ? How much his 
Majesty is pleased with his part of the civility must be 
left to his own taste. But as to us, you declared to the 
world that you knew that the way of bringing us to 
reason was to apply yourselves to the true source of all 
our opinions, and the only motive to all our conduct ! 
Now, it seems you think yourselves affronted, because 
a few of us express some indignation at the minister 
who has thought fit to strip us stark-naked, and expose 
the true state of our poxed and pestilential habit to the 
world ! Think or say what you will in Ireland, I shall 
ever think it a crime hardly to be expiated by his blood. 
He might and ought, by a longer continuance, or by an 
earlier meeting of this Parliament, to have given us the 
credit of some wisdom in foreseeing and anticipating 
an approaching force. So far from it, Lord Gower, 
coming out of his own Cabinet, declares that one prin 
cipal cause of his resignation was his not being able to 
prevail on the present minister to give any sort of 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 311 

application to this business. Even on the late meeting 
of Parliament nothing determinate could be drawn from 
him or from any of his associates until you had actually 
passed the short Money Bill, which measure they nat 
tered themselves, and assured others, you would never 
come up to. Disappointed in their expectation at seeing 
the siege raised, they surrendered at discretion. 

Judge, my dear sir, of our surprise at finding your 
censure directed against those whose only crime was in 
accusing the ministers of not having prevented your 
demands by our graces, of not having given you the 
natural advantages of your country in the most ample, 
the most early, and the most liberal manner ; and for 
not having given away authority in such a manner as 
to ensure friendship. That you should make the pane 
gyric of the ministers is what I expected, because in 
praising their bounty you paid a just compliment to 
your own force. But that you should rail at us, either 
individually or collectively, is what I can scarcely think 
a natural proceeding. I can easily conceive that gentle 
men might grow frightened at what they had done that 
they might imagine they had undertaken a business 
above their direction that having obtained a state of 
independence for their country, they meant to take the 
deserted helm into their own hands, and supply by 
their very real abilities the total inefficacy of the 
nominal Government. All these might be real, and 
might be very justifiable motives for their reconciling 
themselves cordially to the present Court system. But 

312 A LETTER TO 1780. 

I do not so well discover the reasons that could induce 
them, at the first feeble dawning of life in this country, 
to do all in their power to cast a cloud over it, and to 
prevent the least hope of our effecting the necessary 
reformations which are aimed at in our constitution 
and in our national economy. 

But it seems I was silent at the passing the resolu 
tions. Why what had I to say ? If I had thought 
them too much, I should have been accused of an 
endeavour to inflame England. If I should represent 
them as too little, I should have been charged with a 
design of fomenting the discontents of Ireland into 
actual rebellion. The Treasury Bench represented that 
the affair was a matter of State ; they represented it 
truly. I therefore only asked whether they knew these 
propositions to be such as would satisfy Ireland ; for if 
they were so, they would satisfy me. This did not 
indicate that I thought them too ample. In this our 
silence (however dishonourable to Parliament) there 
was one advantage ; that the whole passed, as far as it 
is gone, with complete unanimity, and so quickly that 
there was no time left to excite any opposition to it out 
of doors. In the West India business, reasoning on 
what had lately passed in the Parliament of Ireland, 
and on the mode in which it was opened here, I thought 
I saw much matter of perplexity. But I have now 
better reason than ever to be pleased with my silence. 
If I had spoken, one of the most honest and able men l 

1 Mr. Grattan. 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 313 

in the Irish Parliament would probably have thought 
my observation an endeavour to sow dissension, which 
he was resolved to prevent ; and one of the most in 
genious and one of the most amiable men, that 1 ever 
graced your or any House of Parliament, might have 
looked on it as a chimera. In the silence I observed I 
was strongly countenanced (to say no more of it) by 
every gentleman of Ireland that I had the honour of 
conversing with in London. The only word for that 
reason, which I spoke, was to restrain a worthy county 
member 2 who had received some communication from 
a great trading place in the county he represents, which, 
if it had been opened to the House, would have led to a 
perplexing discussion of one of the most troublesome 
matters that could arise in this business. I got up to 
put a stop to it ; and I believe, if you knew what the 
topic was, you would commend my discretion. 

That it should be a matter of public discretion in 
me to be silent on the affairs of Ireland is what, on all 
accounts, I bitterly lament. I stated to the House 
what I felt ; and I felt, as strongly as human sensibility 
can feel, the extinction of my Parliamentary capacity 
where I wished to use it most. When I came into this 
Parliament just fourteen years ago into this Parlia 
ment then, in vulgar opinion at least, the presiding 
Council of the greatest empire existing (arid perhaps, all 
things considered, that ever did exist), obscure and a 
stranger as I was, I considered myself as raised to the 

1 Mr. Hussey Burgh. 2 Mr. Stanley, member for Lancashire. 

314 A LETTER TO 1780. 

highest dignity to which a creature of our species could 
aspire. In that opinion one of the chief pleasures in 
my situation what was first and uppermost in my 
thoughts was the hope, without injury to this country, 
to be somewhat useful to the place of my birth and 
education, which in many respects, internal and external, 
I thought ill and impolitically governed. But when I 
found that the House, surrendering itself to the guid 
ance of an authority not grown out of an experienced 
wisdom and integrity, but out of the accidents of Court 
favour, had become the sport of the passions of men at 
once rash and pusillanimous that it had even got into 
I the habit of refusing everything to reason, and surren- 
vdering everything to force all my power of obliging 
either my country or individuals was gone, all the lustre 
of my imaginary rank was tarnished, and I felt degraded 
even by my elevation. I said this, or something to this 
effect. If it gives offence to Ireland, I am sorry for it ; 
it was the reason I gave for my silence, and it was, as 
far as it went, the true one. 

With you this silence of mine and of others was 
represented as factious, and as a discountenance to the 
measure of your relief. Do you think us children ? If 
it had been our wish to embroil matters, and for the 
sake of distressing Ministry to commit the two king 
doms in a dispute, we had nothing to do but (without 
at all condemning the propositions) to have gone into 
the commercial detail of the objects of them. It could 
not have been refused to us ; and vou who know the 

1780. THOMAS BURGH, ESQ. 315 

nature of business so well, must know that this would 
have caused such delays, and given rise during that 
delay to such discussions, as all the wisdom of your 
favourite Minister could never have settled. But in 
deed you mistake your men. We tremble at the idea 
of a disunion of these two nations. The only thing in 
which we differ with you is this, that we do not think 
your attaching yourselves to the Court, and quarrelling 
with the independent part of this people, is the way to 
promote the union of two free countries, or of holding 
them together by the most natural and salutary ties. 

You will be frightened when you see this long letter. 
I smile, when I consider the length of it myself. I 
never, that I remember, wrote any of the same extent. 
But it shows me that the reproaches of the country 
that I once belonged to, and in which I still have a 
dearness of instinct more than I can justify to reason, 
make a greater impression on me than I had imagined. 
But parting words are admitted to be a little tedious, 
because they are not likely to be renewed. If it will 
not be making yourself as troublesome to others as I am 
to you, I shall be obliged to you if you will show this, 
at their greatest leisure, to the Speaker, to your excel 
lent kinsman, to Mr. Grattan, Mr. Yelverton, and Mr. 
Daly. All these I" have the honour of being personally 
known to except Mr. Yelverton, to whom I am only 
known by my obligations to him. If you live in any 
habits with my old friend the Provost, I shall be glad 
that he too sees this, my humble apology. 

316 A LETTER TO 1780. 

Adieu ! Once more accept my best thanks for the 
interest you take in me. Believe that it is received by 
a heart not yet so old as to have lost its susceptibility. 
All here give you the best old-fashioned wishes of the 
season, and believe me, with the greatest truth and 
regard, my dear sir, your most faithful and obliged 
humble servant, 


BEACONSFIELD, New Year s Day, 1780. 

I am frightened at the trouble I give you and our 
friends ; but I recollect that you are mostly lawyers, 
and habituated to read long tiresome papers, and where - 
your friendship is concerned, without a fee. I am sure, 
too, that you will not act the lawyer in, scrutinising too 
minutely every expression which my haste may make 
me use. I forgot to mention my friend O Hara and 
others, but you will communicate it as you please. 

1780. JOHN MERLOTT, ESQ. 317 




I AM very unhappy to find that my conduct in the 
business of Ireland on a former occasion had made 
many to be cold and indifferent, who would otherwise 
have been warm in my favour. I really thought that 
events would have produced a quite contrary effect, 
and would have proved to all the inhabitants of Bristol 
that it was no desire of opposing myself to their wishes, 
but a certain knowledge of the necessity of their affairs, 
and a tender regard to their honour and interest, which 
induced me to take the part which I then took. They 
placed me in a situation which might enable me to 
discern what was fit to be done on a consideration of 
the relative circumstances of this country and all its 
neighbours. This was what you could not so well do 
yourselves ; but you had a right to expect that I 

1 An eminent merchant in the City of Bristol, of which Mr Burke 
was one of the Representatives in Parliament. It relates to the same 
subject as the preceding letter. 

318 A LETTER TO 1780. 

should avail myself of the advantage which I derived 
from your favour. Under the impression of this duty 
and this trust, I had endeavoured to render by preven 
tive graces and concessions every act of power at the 
same time an act of lenity the result of English 
bounty, and not of English timidity and distress. I 
really nattered myself that the events which have 
proved beyond dispute the prudence of such a maxim, 
would have obtained pardon for me, if not approbation. 
But if I have not been so fortunate, I do most sincerely 
regret my great loss ; with this comfort, however, that 
if I have disobliged my constituents, it was not in 
pursuit of any sinister interest, or any party passion of 
my own, but in endeavouring to save them from dis 
grace, along with the whole community to which they 
and I belong. I shall be concerned for this, and very 
much so ; but I should be more concerned if, in grati 
fying a present humour of theirs, I had rendered myself 
unworthy of their former or their future choice. I con 
fess that I could not bear to face my constituents at 
the next General Election if I had been a rival to Lord 
North in the glory of having refused some small, insig 
nificant concessions in favour of Ireland, to the argu 
ments and supplications of English Members of 
Parliament; and in the very next Session, on the 
demand of 40,000 Irish bayonets, of having made a 
speech of two hours long to prove, that my former 
conduct was founded upon no one right principle either 
of policy, justice, or commerce. I never heard a more 

1780. JOHN MERLOTT, ESQ. 319 

elaborate, more able, more convincing, and more shame 
ful speech. The debater obtained credit; but the 
statesman was disgraced for ever. Amends were made 
for having refused small but timely concessions by an 
unlimited and untimely surrender, not only of every 
one of the objects of former restraints, but virtually of 
the whole legislative power itself, which had made 
them. For it is not necessary to inform you that the 
unfortunate Parliament of this kingdom did not dare to 
qualify the very liberty she gave of trading with her 
own plantations, by applying, of her own authority, any 
one of the commercial regulations to the new traffic of 
Ireland, which bind us here under the several Acts of 
Navigation. We were obliged to refer them to the 
Parliament of Ireland as conditions, just in the same 
manner, as if we were bestowing a privilege of the 
same sort on France and Spain, or any other inde 
pendent power, and, indeed, with more studied caution 
than we should have used, not to shock the principle of 
their independence. How the minister reconciled the 
refusal to reason, and the surrender to arms, raised in 
defiance of the prerogatives of the Crown to his master, 
I know not ; it has probably been settled, in some way 
or other, between themselves. But, however the king 
and his ministers may settle the question of his dignity 
and his rights, I thought it became me by vigilance 
and foresight to take care of yours ; I thought I ought 
rather to lighten the ship in time than expose it to a 
total wreck. The conduct pursued seemed to me with- 

320 A LETTER TO 1780. 

out weight or judgment, and more fit for a member for 
Banbury than a member for Bristol. I stood, therefore, 
silent with grief and vexation on that day of the signal 
shame and humiliation of this degraded king and 
country. But it seems the pride of Ireland in the day 
of her power was equal to ours, when we dreamt we 
were powerful too. I have been abused there even for 
my silence, which was construed into a desire of excit 
ing discontent in England. But, thank God, my letter 
to Bristol was in print ; my sentiments on the policy 
of the measure were known and determined, and such 
as no man could think me absurd enough to contradict. 
When I am no longer a free agent, I am obliged in the 
crowd to yield to necessity ; it is surely enough that I 
silently submit to power ; it is enough that I do not 
foolishly affront the conqueror ; it is too hard to force 
me to sing his praises, whilst I arn led in triumph 
before him; or to make the panegyric of our own 
minister, who would put me neither in a condition to 
surrender w^ith honour, or to fight with the smallest 
hope of victory. I was, I confess, sullen and silent on 
that day ; and shall continue so, until I see some dis 
position to inquire into this and other causes of the 
national disgrace. If I suffer in my reputation for it in 
Ireland, I am sorry ; but it neither does nor can affect 
me so nearly as my suffering in Bristol, for having 
wished to unite the interests of the two nations in a 
manner that would secure the supremacy of this. 

Will you have the goodness to excuse the length of 

1780. JOHN MERLOTT, ESQ. 321 

this letter. My earnest desire of explaining myself in 
every point which may affect the mind of any worthy 
gentleman in Bristol is the cause of it. To yourself, 
and to your liberal and manly notions, I know it is not 
so necessary. Believe me, my dear sir, Your most 
faithful and obedient humble Servant, 


BEACONSFIELD, 4th April 1780. , 
.To John Merlott, Esq., Bristol. 

322 A LETTER TO 1795. 




YOUR letter is, to myself, infinitely obliging ; with 
regard to you, I can find no fault with it, except that 
of a tone of humility and disqualification, which neither 
your rank, nor the place you are in, nor the profession 
you belong to, nor your very extraordinary learning 
and talents, will, in propriety, demand, or perhaps 
admit. These dispositions will be still less proper, if 
you should feel them in the extent your modesty leads 
you to express them. You have certainly given by far 
too strong a proof of self -diffidence by asking the 
opinion of a man, circumstanced as I am, on the 
important subject of your letter. You are far more 
capable of forming just conceptions upon it than I 
can be. However, since you are pleased to command 
me to lay before you my thoughts, as materials upon 

1 Then a member of the Irish Parliament ; afterwards one of the 
Barons of the Court of Exchequer in Ireland. 

1795- WILLIAM SMITH, ESQ. 323 

which your better judgment may operate, I shall obey 
you ; and submit them, with great deference, to your 
melioration or rejection. 

But first permit me to put myself in the right. I 
owe you an answer to your former letter. It did not 
desire one ; but it deserved it. If not for an answer, 
it called for an acknowledgment. It was a new favour ; 
and indeed I should be worse than insensible if I did 
not consider the honours you have heaped upon me 
with no sparing hand, with becoming gratitude. But 
your letter arrived to me at a time, when the closing of 
my long and last business in life, a business extremely 
complex, and full of difficulties and vexations of all 
sorts, occupied me in a manner which those who have 
not seen the interior as well as exterior of it, cannot 
easily imagine. I confess that in the crisis of that rude 
conflict, I neglected many things that well deserved 
my best attention none that deserved it better, or 
have caused me more regret in the neglect, than your 
letter. The instant that business was over, and the 
House had passed its judgment on the conduct of the 
managers, I lost no time to execute what for years I 
had resolved on ; it was to quit my public station, and 
to seek that tranquillity in my very advanced age, to 
which, after a very tempestuous life, I thought myself 
entitled. But God has thought fit (and I unfeignedly 
acknowledge His justice) to dispose of things otherwise. 
So heavy a calamity has fallen upon me as to disable 
me for business, and to disqualify me for repose. The 

324 A LETTER TO 1795. 

existence I have, I do not know that I can call life. 
Accordingly I do not meddle with any one measure of 
Government, though, for what reasons I know not, you 
seem to suppose me deeply in the secret of affairs. I 
only know, so far as your side of the water is concerned, 
that your present excellent Lord Lieutenant (the best 
man in every relation that I have ever been acquainted 
with) has perfectly pure intentions with regard to 
Ireland ; and, of course, that he wishes cordially well 
to those who form the great mass of its inhabitants ; 
and who, as they are well or ill managed, must form an 
important part of its strength or weakness. If with 
regard to that great object he has carried over any 
ready-made system, I assure you it is perfectly unknown 
to me ; I am very much retired from the world, and 
live in much ignorance. This, I hope, will form my 
humble apology, if I should err in the notions I enter 
tain of the question, which is soon to become the subject 
of your deliberations. At the same time, accept it as an 
apology for my neglects. 

You need make no apology for your attachment to 
the religious description you belong to. It proves (as 
in you it is sincere) your attachment to the great points 
in which the leading divisions are agreed, when the 
lesser, in which they differ, are so dear to you. I shall 
never call any religious opinions, which appear im 
portant to serious and pious minds, things of no con 
sideration. Nothing is so fatal to religion as indiffer 
ence, which is, at least, half infidelity. As long as men 

1795- WILLIAM SMITH, ESQ. 325 

hold charity and justice to be essential integral parts of 
religion, there can be little danger from a strong at 
tachment to particular tenets in faith. This I am 
perfectly sure is your case; but I am not equally 
sure that either zeal for the tenets of faith, or the 
smallest degree of charity or justice, have much in 
fluenced the gentlemen who, under pretexts of zeal, 
ha,ve resisted the enfranchisement of their country. 
My dear son, who was a person of discernment, as 
well as clear and acute in his expressions, said in a 
letter of his which I have seen, " that in order to grace 
their cause, and to draw some respect to their persons, 
they pretend to be bigots." But here I take it we have 
not much to do with the theological tenets on the 
one side of the question or the other. The point itself 
is practically decided. That religion is owned by the 
State. Except in a settled maintenance, it is protected. 
A great deal of the rubbish, which, as a nuisance, long 
obstructed the way, is removed. One impediment 
remained longer, as a matter to justify the proscrip 
tion of the body of our country, after the rest had 
been abandoned as untenable ground. But the busi 
ness of the pope (that mixed person of politics and 
religion), has long ceased to be a bugbear ; for some 
time past he has ceased to be even a colourable pretext. 
This was well known when the Catholics of these 
kingdoms, for our amusement, were obliged on oath to 
disclaim him in his political capacity ; which implied 
an allowance for them to recognise him in some sort of 

326 A LETTER TO 1795. 

ecclesiastical superiority. It was a compromise of the 
old dispute. 

For my part, I confess, I wish that we had been less 
eager in this point. I don t think, indeed, that much 
mischief will happen from it if things are otherwise 
properly managed. Too nice an inquisition ought not 
to be made into opinions that are dying away of them 
selves. Had we lived a hundred and fifty years ago, I 
should have been as earnest and anxious as anybody for 
this sort of abjuration ; but, living at the time in which 
I live, and obliged to speculate forward instead of back 
ward, I must fairly say I could well endure the existence 
of every sort of collateral aid, which opinion might, in 
the now state of things, afford to authority. I must see 
much more danger than in my life I have seen, or than 
others will venture seriously to affirm that they see in 
the pope aforesaid (though a foreign power, and with 
his long tail of etceteras), before I should be active in 
weakening any hold which Government might think it 
prudent to resort to in the management of that large 
part of the king s subjects. I do not choose to direct 
all my precautions to the part where the danger does 
not press, and to leave myself open and unguarded where 
I am not only really but visibly attacked. 

My whole politics at present centre in one point, 
and to this the merit or demerit of every measure (with 
me) is referable; that is, what will most promote or 
depress the cause of Jacobinism. What is Jacobinism ? 
It is an attempt (hitherto but too successful) to eradicate 

1795- WILLIAM SMITH, ESQ. 327 

prejudice out of the minds of men for the purpose of 
putting all power and authority into the hands of the 
persons capable of occasionally enlightening the minds 
of the people. For this purpose the Jacobins have 
resolved to destroy the whole frame and fabric of the 
old societies of the world, and to regenerate them after 
their fashion. To obtain an army for this purpose they 
everywhere engage the poor by holding out to them as 
a bribe the spoils of the rich. This I take to be a fair 
description of the principles and leading maxims of 
the enlightened of our day, who are commonly called 

As the grand prejudice, and that which holds all the 
other prejudices together, the first, last, and middle object 
of their hostility is religion. With that they are at 
inexpiable war. They make no distinction of sects. A 
Christian as such is to them an enemy. What then is 
left to a real Christian (Christian as a believer and as a 
statesman) but to make a league between all the grand 
divisions of that name to protect and to cherish them 
all, and by no means to proscribe in any manner, more 
or less, any member of our common party ? The 
divisions which formerly prevailed in the Church, with 
all their overdone zeal, only purified and ventilated our 
common faith, because there was no common enemy \ 
arrayed and embattled to take advantage of their dis- \ 
sensions ; but now nothing but inevitable ruin will be 
the consequence of our quarrels. I think we may dis- j 
pute, rail, persecute, and provoke the Catholics out of 

328 A LETTER TO 1795. 

itheir prejudices ; but it is not in ours they will take 
refuge. If anything is, one more than another, out of 
the power of man, it is to create a prejudice. Somebody 
has said that a king may make a nobleman, but he can 
not make a gentleman. 

All the principal religions in Europe stand upon one 
common bottom. The support that the whole or the 
favoured parts may have in the secret dispensations of 
Providence it is impossible to tell ; but, humanly speak 
ing, they are all prescriptive religions. They have all 
stood long enough to make prescription and its chain of 
legitimate prejudices their mainstay. The people, who 
compose the four grand divisions of Christianity, have 
now their religion as a habit, and upon authority, and 
not on disputation, as all men who have their religion 
derived from their parents, and the fruits of education, 
must have it, however the one, more than the other, 
may be able to reconcile his faith to his own reason, or 
to that of other men. Depend upon it they must all be 
supported, or they must all fall in the crash of a com 
mon ruin. The Catholics are the far more numerous 
part of the Christians in your country; and how can 
Christianity (that is now the point in issue) be supported 
under the persecution, or even under the discountenance 
of the greater number of Christians ? It is a great truth, 
and which in one of the debates I stated as strongly as 
I could to the House of Commons in the last session, 
that if the Catholic religion is destroyed by the infidels, 
it is a most contemptible and absurd idea that this or 

1795- WILLIAM SMITH, ESQ. 329 

any Protestant Church can survive that event. There 
fore my humble and decided opinion is, that all the 
three religions, prevalent more or less in various parts 
of these islands, ought all, in subordination to the legal 
establishments as they stand in the several countries, to 
be all countenanced, protected, and cherished ; and that 
in Ireland particularly the Eoman Catholic religion 
should be upheld in high respect and veneration ; and 
should be, in its place, provided with all the means of 
making it a blessing to the people who profess it ; that 
it ought to be cherished as a good (though not as the 
most preferable good, if a choice was now to be made), 
and not tolerated as an inevitable evil. If this be my 
opinion as to the Catholic religion as a sect, you must 
see that I must be to the last degree averse to put a 
man, upon that account, upon a bad footing with rela 
tion to the privileges which the fundamental laws of 
this country give him as a subject. I am the more 
serious on the positive encouragement to be given to 
this religion (always, however, as secondary), because 
the serious and earnest belief and practice of it by its 
professors forms, as things stand, the most effectual 
barrier, if not the sole barrier, against Jacobinism. The 
Catholics form the great body of the lower ranks of your 
community, and no small part of those classes of the 
middling that come nearest to them. You know that 
the seduction of that part of mankind from the prin 
ciples of religion, morality, subordination, and social 
order is the great object of the Jacobins. Let them 

330 A LETTER TO 1795- 

grow lax, sceptical, careless, and indifferent with regard 
to religion, and so sure as we have an existence, it is 
not a zealous Anglican or Scottish Church principle, but 
direct Jacobinism, which will enter into that breach. 
,Two hundred years dreadfully spent in experiments to 
force that people to change the form of their religion 
have proved fruitless. You have now your choice, for 
full four-fifths of your people, of the Catholic religion 
or Jacobinism. If things appear to you to stand on this 
alternative, I think you will not be long in making your 

You have made, as you naturally do, a very able 
analysis of powers, and have separated, as the things 
are separable, civil from political powers. You start, 
-. too, a question whether the civil can be secured with 
out some share in the political. For my part, as abstract 
questions, I should find some difficulty in an attempt to 
resolve them. But as applied to the state of Ireland, to 
the form of our commonwealth, to the parties that divide 
us, and to the dispositions of the leading men in those 
parties, I cannot hesitate to lay before you my opinion, 
that whilst any kind of discouragements and disqualifi 
cations remain on the Catholics, a handle will be made 
by a factious power utterly to defeat the benefits of any 
civil rights they may apparently possess. I need not 
go to very remote times for my examples. It was 
within the course of about a twelvemonth that, after 
Parliament had been led into a step quite unparalleled 
in its records, after they had resisted all "concession, and 

1795- WILLIAM SMITH, ESQ. 331 

even hearing, with an obstinacy equal to anything that 
could have actuated a party domination in the second 
or eighth of Queen Anne, after the strange adventure 
of the grand juries, and after Parliament had listened to 
the sovereign pleading for the emancipation of his sub 
jects ; it was after all this that such a grudging and 
discontent was expressed as must justly have alarmed, as 
it did extremely alarm, the whole of the Catholic body; 
and I remember but one period in my whole life (I mean 
the savage period between 1761 and 1767) in which 
they have been more harshly or contumeliously treated 
than since the last partial enlargement. And thus I am 
convinced it will be by paroxysms, as long as any stigma 
remains on them, and whilst they are considered as no 
better than half citizens. If they are kept such for 
any length of time they will be made whole Jacobins. 
Against this grand and dreadful evil of our time (I do 
not love to cheat myself or others) I do not know any 
solid security whatsoever. But I am quite certain that 
what will come nearest to it is to interest as many as 
you can in the present order of things, religiously, 
civilly, politically, by all the ties and principles by 
which mankind are held. This is like to be the effec 
tual policy I am sure it is honourable policy ; and it 
is better to fail, if fail we must, in the paths of direct 
and manly than of low and crooked wisdom. 

As to the capacity of sitting in Parliament, after all 
the capacities for voting, for the army, for the navy, for 
the professions, for civil offices, it is a dispute de land 

332 A LETTER TO 1795. 

caprind, in my poor opinion, at least on the part of 
those who oppose it. In the first place, this admission 
to office, and this exclusion from Parliament, on the 
principle of an exclusion from political power, is the 
very reverse of the principle of the English Test Act. 
If I were to form a judgment from experience rather 
than theory, I should doubt much whether the capacity 
for, or even the possession of, a seat in Parliament did 
really convey much of power to be properly called politi 
cal. I have sat there, with some observation, for nine 
and twenty years or thereabouts. The power of a 
member of Parliament is uncertain and indirect ; and if 
power rather than splendour and fame were the object, 
I should think that any of the principal clerks in office, 
to say nothing of their superiors (several of whom are 
disqualified by law for seats in Parliament) possesses far 
more power than nine-tenths of the members of the 
House of Commons. I might say this of men who 
seemed from their fortunes, their weight in their country, 
and their talents, to be persons of figure there; and 
persons, too, not in opposition to the prevailing party in 

But be they what they will, on a fair canvass of the 
several prevalent Parliamentary interests in Ireland, I 
cannot, out of the three hundred members, of whom the 
Irish Parliament is composed, discover that above three, 
or at the utmost four, Catholics would be returned to the 
House of Commons. But suppose they should amount 
to thirty, that is, to a tenth part (a thing I hold impos- 

1795- WILLIAM SMITH, ESQ. 333 

sible for a long series of years, and never very likely to 
happen), what is this to those who are to balance them 
in the one house, and the clear and settled majority in 
the other ? for I think it absolutely impossible that, 
in the course of many years, above four or five peers 
should be created of that communion. In fact, the 
exclusion of them seems to me only to mark jealousy 
and suspicion, and not to provide security in any way. 
But I return to the old ground. The danger is not 
there ; these are things long since done away. The 
grand controversy is no longer between you and them. 
Forgive this length. My pen has insensibly run on. 
You are yourself to blame if you are much fatigued. I 
"congratulate you on the auspicious opening of your 
session. Surely Great Britain and Ireland ought to 
join in wreathing a never fading garland for the head of 
Gratt an. Adieu ! my dear sir good nights to you ! 
I never can have any. Yours always most sincerely. 


29ZA January 1795. 

Twelve at night. 





IF I am not as early as I ought to be in my acknow 
ledgments for your very kind letter, pray do me the 
justice to attribute my failure to its natural and but too 
real cause, a want of the most ordinary power of exer 
tion, owing to the impressions made upon an old and 
infirm constitution by private misfortune and by public 
calamity. It is true I make occasional efforts to rouse 
myself to something better, but I soon relapse into 
that state of languor which must be the habit of my 
body and understanding to the end of my short and 
cheerless existence in this world. 

I am sincerely grateful for your kindness in connect 
ing the interest you take in the sentiments of an old 
friend with the able part you take in the service of your 
country. It is an instance among many of that happy 
temper which has always given a character of amenity 
to your virtues, and a good-natured direction to your 

1795- $"//? HERCULES LANGRISHE. 335 

Your speech on the Catholic question I read with 
much satisfaction. It is solid, it is convincing, it is 
eloquent, and it ought on the spot to have produced 
that effect which its reason, and that contained in the 
other excellent speeches on the same side of the question, 
cannot possibly fail (though with less pleasant con 
sequences) to produce hereafter. What a sad thing it 
is that the grand instructor, time, has not yet been able 
to teach the grand lesson of his own value, and that in 
every question of moral and political prudence it is the 
choice of the moment which renders the measure service- , 
able or useless, noxious or salutary ! 

In the Catholic question I considered only one point. 
Was it, at the time and in the circumstances, a measure 
which tended to promote the concord of the citizens ? 
I have no difficulty in saying it was, and as little in 
saying that the present concord of the citizens was 
worth buying at a critical season, by granting a few 
capacities which probably no one man now living is 
likely to be served or hurt by. When any man tells you 
and me that if these places were left in the discretion of 
a Protestant Crown, and these memberships in the dis 
cretion of protestant electors or patrons, we should 
have a Popish official system and a Popish representa 
tion capable of overturning the Establishment, he only 
insults our understandings. When any man tells this to 
Catholics he insults their understandings, and he galls 
their feelings. It is not the question of the places and 
seats, it is the real hostile disposition and the pretended 


fears, that leave stings in the minds of the people. I 
really thought that in the total of the late circumstance* 
with regard to persons, to things, to principles, and to 
measures, was to be found a conjuncture favourable to 
the introduction and to the perpetuation of a general 
harmony, producing a general strength, which to that 
hour Ireland was never so happy as to enjoy. My 
sanguine hopes are blasted, and I must consign my feel 
ings on that terrible disappointment to the same patience 
in which I have been obliged to bury the vexation 
I suffered on the defeat of the other great, just, and hon 
ourable causes in which I have had some share, and 
which have given more of dignity than of peace and 
advantage to a long laborious life. Though, perhaps, a 
want of success might be urged as a reason for making 
me doubt of the justice of the part I have taken, yet 
until I have other lights than one side of the debate 
has furnished me, I must see things, and feel them too, 
as I see and feel them. I think I can hardly overrate 
the malignity of the principles of Protestant ascendency 
as they affect Ireland ; or of Indianism as they affect 
these countries, and as they affect Asia ; or of Jacobin 
ism, as they affect all Europe and the state of human 
society itself. The last is the greatest evil ; but it really 
combines with the others, and flows from them. What 
ever breeds discontent at this time will produce that 
great master-mischief most infallibly. Whatever tends 
to persuade the people that the few, called by whatever 
name you please, religious or political, are of opinion 


that their interest is not compatible with that of the 
many, is a great point gained to Jacobinism. Whatever 
tends to irritate the talents of a country, which have at 
all times, and at these particularly, a mighty influence 
on the public mind, is of infinite service to that formid 
able cause. Unless where heaven has mingled uncom 
mon ingredients of virtue in the composition quos 
meliorc Into faixit prcecordia Titan talents naturally 
gravitate to Jacobinism. Whatever ill-humours are 
afloat in the State, they will be sure to discharge them 
selves in a mingled torrent in the cloaca maxima of 
Jacobinism. Therefore people ought well to look about 
them. First, the physicians are to take care that they 
do nothing to irritate this epidemical distemper. It is 
a foolish thing to have the better of the patient in a \ 
dispute. The complaint, or its cause, ought to be re 
moved, and wise and lenient arts ought to precede the 
measures of vigour. They ought to be the ultima, not 
the prima, not the tota ratio of a wise government. 
God forbid that on a worthy occasion authority should 
want the means of force, or the disposition to use it. 
But where a prudent and enlarged policy does not pre 
cede it, and attend it too, where the hearts of the better 
sort of people do not go with the hands of the soldiery, 
you may call your constitution what you will, in effect 
it will consist of three parts (orders, if you please) 
cavalry, infantry, and artillery, and of nothing else or 

I agree with you in your dislike of the discourses in 


Francis Street ; but I like as little some of those in 
College Green. I am even less pleased with the tem 
per that predominated in the latter, as better things 
might have been expected in the regular family mansion 
of public discretion, than in a new and hasty assembly 
of unexperienced men, congregated under circumstances 
of no small irritation. After people have taken your 
tests, prescribed by yourselves as proofs of their alle 
giance, to be marked as enemies, traitors, or at best as 
suspected and dangerous persons, and that they are not 
to be believed on their oaths, we are not to be surprised 
if they fall into a passion, and talk, as men in a passion 
do, intemperately and idly. 

The worst of the matter is this you are partly 
leading, partly driving, into Jacobinism that descrip 
tion of your people whose religious principles Church 
polity and habitual discipline might make them an in 
vincible dyke against that inundation. This you have a 
thousand mattocks and pickaxes lifted up to demolish. 
You make a sad story of the Pope ! seri studiorum I 
It will not be difficult to get many called Catholics to 
laugh at this fundamental part of their religion. Never 
doubt it. You have succeeded in part ; and you may 
succeed completely. But in the present state of men s 
minds and affairs, do not flatter yourselves that they 
will piously look to the head of our Church in the place 
of that Pope whom you make them forswear; and out 
of all reverence to whom you bully, and rail, and buffoon 
them. Perhaps you may succeed in the same manner 


with all the other tenets of doctrine and usages of dis 
cipline amongst the Catholics. But what security have 
you that in the temper, and on the principles on which 
they have made this change, they will stop at the exact 
sticking places you have marked in your articles ? You 
have no security for anything, but that they will be 
come what are called Franco-Jacobins, and reject the 
whole together. No converts now will be made in a 
considerable number from one of our sects to the other 
upon a really religious principle. Controversy moves 
in another direction. 

Next to religion, property is the great point of Jacobin 
attack. Here many of the debaters in your majority, 
and their writers, have given the Jacobins all the assist 
ance their hearts can wish. When the Catholics desire 
places and seats, you tell them that this is only a pre 
text (though Protestants might suppose it just possible 
for men to like good places and snug boroughs for their 
own merits) ; but that their real view is to strip Pro 
testants of their property. To my certain knowledge 
till those Jacobin lectures were opened in the House of 
Commons, they never dreamt of any such thing; but 
now, the great professors may stimulate them to inquire 
(on the new principles) into the foundation of that pro 
perty, and of all property. If you treat men as robbers, i 
why robbers, sooner or later, they will become. 

A third point of Jacobin attack is on old traditionary 
constitutions. You are apprehensive for yours, which 
leans from its perpendicular, and does not stand firm 


on its theory. I like Parliamentary reforms as little as 
any man who has boroughs to sell for money or for 
peerages in Ireland. But it passes my comprehension 
in what manner it is that men can be reconciled to the 
practical merits of a constitution, the theory of which 
is in litigation, by being practically excluded from any 
of its advantages. Let us put ourselves in the place of 
these people, and try an experiment of the effects of 
such a procedure on our own minds. Unquestionably 
we should be perfectly satisfied when we were told that 
Houses of Parliament, instead of being places of refuge 
for popular liberty, were citadels for keeping us in order 
as a conquered people. These things play the Jacobin 
game to a nicety. Indeed, my dear sir, there is not a 
single particular in the Francis Street declamations, 
which has not, to your and to my certain knowledge, 
been taught by the jealous ascendants, sometimes by 
doctrine, sometimes by example, always by provocation. 
Eemember the whole of 1781 and 1782 in Parliament 
and out of Parliament at this very day, and in the 
worst acts and designs, observe the tenor of the objec 
tions with which the College Green orators of the 
ascendency reproach the Catholics. You have observed, 
no doubt, how much they rely on the affair of Jackson. 
Is it not pleasant to hear Catholics reproached for a 
supposed connection with whom ? with Protestant 
clergymen, with Protestant gentlemen! with Mr. 
Jackson! with Mr. Eowan, etc. etc. 1 But egomet 
mi ig nosco. Conspiracies and treasons are privileged 


pleasures, not to be profaned by the impure and un 
hallowed touch of Papists. Indeed, all this will do 
perhaps well enough with detachments of dismounted 
cavalry and fencibles from England. But let us not 
say to Catholics, by way of argument, that they are to 
be kept in a degraded state because some of them are 
no better than many of us Protestants. The thing I 
most disliked in some of their speeches (those I mean of 
the Catholics) was what is called the spirit of liberality, 
so much and so diligently taught by the ascendants, 
by which they are made to abandon their own par 
ticular interests, and to merge them in the general dis 
contents of the country. It gave me no pleasure to hear 
of the dissolution of the committee. There were in it a 
majority, to my knowledge, of very sober well-intentioned 
men ; and there were none in it but such who, if not 
continually goaded and irritated, might be made useful 
to the tranquillity of the country. It is right always to 
have a few of every description, through whom you may 
quietly operate on the many, both for the interests of 
the description, and for the general interest. Excuse 
me, my dear friend, if I have a little tried your patience. 
You have brought this trouble on yourself, by your 
thinking of a man forgot, and who has no objection to 
be forgot, by the world. These things we discussed to 
gether four or five and thirty years ago. We were then, 
and at bottom ever since, of the same opinion on the 
justice and policy of the whole, and of every part, of the 
penal system. You and I and everybody must now 

342 A SECOND LETTER, ETC. 1795. 

and then ply and bend to the occasion, and take what 
can be got. But very sure I am that whilst there re 
mains in the law any principle whatever which can 
furnish to certain politicians an excuse for raising an 
opinion of their own importance as necessary to keep 
their fellow-subjects in order, the obnoxious people will 
be fretted, harassed, insulted, provoked to discontent 
and disorder, and practically excluded from the partial 
advantages from which the letter of the law does not 
exclude them. 

Adieu ! my dear sir, and believe me very truly yours, 


BEACONSFIELD, 26th May 1795. 





WE are all again assembled in town to finish the last, 
but the most laborious, of the tasks which have been 
imposed upon me during my Parliamentary service. 
We are as well as, at our time of life, we can expect to 
be. We have indeed some moments of anxiety about 
you. You are engaged in an undertaking similar in its 
principle to mine. You are engaged in the relief of an 
oppressed people. 2 In that service you must necessarily 
excite the same sort of passions in those who have ex 
ercised and who wish to continue that oppression that I 
have had to struggle with in this long labour. As your 

1 Of this letter the first part appears to have been originally ad 
dressed by Mr. Burke to his son in the manner in which it is now 
printed, but to have been left unfinished ; after whose death he prob 
ably designed to have given the substance of it, with additional 
observations, to the public in some other form ; but never found 
leisure or inclination to finish it. 

2 Richard Burke acted as agent for the Roman Catholics of Ireland, 
with the approbation of his father. He died in 1794. 

344 A LETTER TO 179- 

father has done, you must make enemies of many of the 
rich, of the proud, and of the powerful. I and you be 
gan in the same way. I must confess that if our place 
was of our choice, I could wish it had been your lot to 
begin the career of your life with an endeavour to render 
some more moderate and less invidious service to the 
public. But being engaged in a great and critical work, 
I have not the least hesitation about your having hitherto 
done your duty as becomes you. If I had not an assur 
ance not to be shaken from the character of your mind, 
I should be satisfied on that point by the cry that is 
raised against you. If you had behaved, as they call it, 
discreetly, that is, faintly and treacherously in the exe 
cution of your trust, you would have had, for a while, 
the good word of all sorts of men, even of many of those 
whose cause you had betrayed ; and whilst your favour 
lasted, you might have coined that false reputation into 
a true and solid interest to yourself. This you are well 
apprised of; and you do not refuse to travel that beaten 
road from an ignorance, but from a contempt of the 
objects it leads to. 

When you choose an arduous and slippery path, God 
forbid that any weak feelings of my declining age, which 
calls for soothings and supports, and which can have 
none but from you, should make me wish that you should 
abandon what you are about, or should trifle with it. In 
this House we submit, though with troubled minds, to 
that order which has connected all great duties with toils 
and with perils, which has conducted the road to glory 


through the regions of obloquy and reproach, and which 
will never suffer the disparaging alliance of spurious, 
false, and fugitive praise with genuine and permanent 
reputation. We know that the power which has settled 
that order, and subjected you to it by placing you in the 
situation you are in, is able to bring you out of it with 
credit and with safety. His will be done. All must 
come right. You may open the way with pain, and 
under reproach. Others will pursue it with ease and 
with applause. 

I am sorry to find that pride and passion, and that 
sort of zeal for religion which never shows any wonder 
ful heat but when it afflicts and mortifies our neighbour, 
will not let the ruling description perceive that the 
privilege for which your clients contend, is very nearly 
as much for the benefit of those who refuse it as those 
who ask it. I am not to examine into the charges 
that are daily made on the Administration of Ireland. 
I am not qualified to say how much in them is cold 
truth, and how much rhetorical exaggeration. Allow 
ing some foundation to the complaint, it is to no 
purpose that these people allege that their Government 
is a job in its administration. I am sure it is a job in 
its constitution ; nor is it possible, a scheme of polity, 
which, in total exclusion of the body of the community, 
confines (with little or no regard to their rank or con 
dition in life) to a certain set of favoured citizens the 
rights which formerly belonged to the whole, should 
not, by the operation of the same selfish and narrow 

346 A LETTER TO 179-. 

principles, teach the persons who administer in that 
Government to prefer their own particular but well- 
understood private interest to the false and ill-calcu 
lated private interest of the monopolising Company 
they belong to. Eminent characters, to be sure, over 
rule places and circumstances. I have nothing to say 
to that virtue which shoots up in full force by the 
native vigour of the seminal principle, in spite of the 
adverse soil and climate that it grows in. But, speak 
ing of things in their ordinary course, in a country of 
monopoly there can be no patriotism. There may be a 
party spirit but public spirit there can be none. As 
to a spirit of liberty, still less can it exist, or anything 
like it. A liberty made up of penalties ! a liberty made 
up of incapacities ! a liberty made up of exclusion and 
proscription, continued for ages, of four fifths, perhaps, 
of the inhabitants of all ranks and fortunes ! In what 
does such liberty differ from the description of the 
most shocking kind of servitude ? 

But it will be said in that country some people are 
free why, this is the very description of despotism. 
Partial freedom is privilege and prerogative, and not 
liberty. Liberty, such as deserves the name, is an 
honest, equitable, diffusive, and impartial principle. It 
is a great and enlarged virtue, and not a sordid, selfish, 
and illiberal vice. It is the portion of the mass of the 
citizens; and not the haughty license of some potent 
individual, or some predominant faction. 

If anything ought to be despotic in a country, it is 


its government ; because there is no cause of constant 
operation to make its yoke unequal. But the dominion 
of a party must continually, steadily, and by its very 
essence, lean upon the prostrate description. A constitu 
tion formed so as to enable a party to overrule its very 
government, and to overpower the people too, answers 
the purposes neither of government nor of freedom. It 
compels that power which ought and often would be 
disposed equally to protect the subjects, to fail in its 
trust, to counteract its purposes, and to become no 
better than the instrument of the wrongs of a faction. 
Some degree of influence must exist in all governments. 
But a government which has no interest to please the 
body of the people, and can neither support them, nor 
with safety call for their support, nor is of power to 
sway the domineering faction, can only exist by cor 
ruption ; and taught by that monopolising party, which \ 
usurps the title and qualities of the public, to consider 
the body of the people as out of the constitution, they 
will consider those who are in it in the light in which 
they choose to consider themselves. The whole relation 
of government and of freedom will be a battle or a 

This system, in its real nature, and under its proper 
appellations, is odious and unnatural, especially when a 
constitution is admitted, which not only, as all consti 
tutions do profess, has a regard to the good of the 
multitude, but in its theory makes profession of their 
power also. But of late this scheme of theirs has been 

348 A LETTER TO 179- 

new christened honestum nomen imponitur vitio. A 
word has been lately struck in the mint of the Castle of 
Dublin ; thence it was conveyed to the Tholsel, or City 
Hall, where, having passed the touch of the Corporation, 
so respectably stamped and vouched, it soon became 
current in Parliament, and was carried back by the 
Speaker of the House of Commons in great pomp, as an 
offering of homage from whence it came. The word is 
Ascendency. It is not absolutely new. But the sense 
in which I have hitherto seen it used, was to signify an 
influence obtained over the minds of some other person 
by love and reverence, or by superior management and 
dexterity. It had, therefore, to this its promotion no 
more than a moral, not a civil or political use. But I 
admit it is capable of being so applied ; and if the Lord 
Mayor of Dublin, and the Speaker of the Irish Parlia 
ment, who recommend the preservation of the Pro 
testant ascendency, mean to employ the word in that 
sense that is, if they understand by it the preservation 
of the influence of that description of gentlemen over 
the Catholics by means of an authority derived from 
their wisdom and virtue, and from an opinion they raise 
in that people of a pious regard and affection for their 
freedom and happiness, it is impossible not to commend 
their adoption of so apt a term into the family of 
politics. It may be truly said to enrich the language. 
Even if the Lord Mayor and Speaker mean to insinuate 
that this influence is to be obtained and held by flatter 
ing their people, by managing them, by skilfully adapt- 


ing themselves to the humours and passions of those 
whom they would govern, he must be a very untoward 
critic who would cavil even at this use of the word, 
though such cajoleries would perhaps be more prudently 
practised than professed. These are all meanings laud 
able, or at least tolerable. But when we look a little 
more narrowly, and compare it with the plan to which 
it owes its present technical application, I find it has 
strayed far from its original sense. It goes much 
farther than the privilege allowed by Horace. It is 
more than parti detortum. This Protestant ascendency 
means nothing less than an influence obtained by virtue, 
by love, or even by artifice and seduction ; full as little 
an influence derived from the means by which ministers 
have obtained an influence, which might be called with 
out straining an ascendency in public assemblies in 
England, that is, by a liberal distribution of places and 
pensions, and other graces of Government. This last is 
wide indeed of the signification of the word. New 
ascendency is the old mastership. It is neither more 
nor less than the resolution of one set of people in Ire 
land to consider themselves as the sole citizens in the 
commonwealth, and to keep a dominion over the rest 
by reducing them to absolute slavery under a military 
power ; and thus fortified in their power, to divide the 
public estate, which is the result of general contribu 
tion, as a military booty solely amongst themselves. 

The poor word ascendency, so soft and melodious in 
its sound, so lenitive and emollient in its first usage, is 

350 A LETTER TO 179. 

now employed to cover to the world the most rigid, and 
perhaps not the most wise, of all plans of policy. The 
word is large enough in its comprehension. I cannot 
conceive what mode of oppression in civil life, or what 
mode of religious persecution may not come within the 
methods of preserving an ascendency. In plain old 
English, as they apply it, it signifies pride and dominion 
on the one part of the relation, and on the other sub 
serviency and contempt and it signifies nothing else. 
The old words are as fit to be set to music as the new ; 
but use has long since affixed to them their true signifi 
cation, and they sound, as the other will, harshly and 
odiously to the moral and intelligent ears of mankind. 

This ascendency, by being a Protestant ascendency, 
does not better it from the combination of a note or two 
more in this anti-harmonic scale. If Protestant ascend 
ency means the prescription from citizenship of by far 
the major part of the people of any country, then Pro 
testant ascendency is a bad thing, and it ought to have 
no existence. But there is a deeper evil. By the use 
that is so frequently made of the term, and the policy 
which is engrafted on it, the name Protestant becomes 
nothing more or better than the name of a persecuting 
faction, with a relation of some sort of theological 
hostility to others, but without any sort of ascertained 
tenets of its own, upon the ground of which it persecutes 
other men ; for the patrons of this Protestant ascend 
ency neither do, nor can by anything positive, define or 
describe what they mean by the word Protestant. It 


is defined, as Cowley defines wit, not by what it is, but 
by what it is not. It is not the Christian religion as 
professed in the churches holding communion with 
Borne the majority of Christians ; that is all which, in 
the latitude of the term, is known about the significa 
tion. This makes such persecutors ten times worse 
than any of that description that hitherto have been 
known in the world. The old persecutors, whether 
Pagan or Christian, whether Arian or Orthodox, whether 
Catholics, Anglicans, or Calvinists, actually were, or at 
least had the decorum to pretend to be, strong dogma 
tists. They pretended that their religious maxims were 
clear and ascertained, and so useful that they were 
bound for the eternal benefit of mankind to defend or 
diffuse them, though by any sacrifices of the temporal 
good of those who were the objects of their system of 

The bottom of this theory of persecution is false. It 
is not permitted to us to sacrifice the temporal good of 
any body of men to our own ideas of the truth and 
falsehood of any religious opinions. By making men 
miserable in this life, they counteract one of the great 
ends of charity, which is, inasmuch as in us lies, to make 
men happy in every period of their existence, and most 
in what most depends upon us. But give to these old 
persecutors their mistaken principle, in their reasoning 
they are consistent, and in their tempers they may be 
even kind and good-natured. But whenever a faction 
would render millions of mankind miserable, some 

352 A LETTER TO 179. 

millions of the race co-existent with themselves, and 
many millions in their succession, without knowing, or 
so much as pretending to ascertain, the doctrines of their 
own school (in which there is much of the lash and 
nothing of the lesson), the. errors which the persons in 
such a faction fall into are not those that are natural to 
human imbecility, nor is the least mixture of mistaken 
kindness to mankind an ingredient in the severities they 
inflict. The whole is nothing but pure and perfect 
malice. It is indeed a perfection in that kind belong 
ing to beings of a higher order than man, and to them 
we ought to leave it. 

This kind of persecutors, without zeal, without 
charity, know well enough that religion, to pass by all 
questions of the truth or falsehood of any of its 
particular systems (a matter I abandoned to the theo 
logians on all sides) is a source of great comfort to us 
mortals in this our short but tedious journey through 
the world. They know that to enjoy this consolation, 
men must believe their religion upon some principle or 
other, whether of education, habit, theory, or authority. 
When men are driven from any of those principles on 
which they have received religion, without embracing 
with the same assurance and cordiality some other 
system, a dreadful void is left in their minds, and a 
terrible shock is given to their morals. They lose their 
guide, their comfort, their hope. None but the most cruel 
and hard-hearted of men, who had banished all natural 
tenderness from their minds, such as those beings of 


iron, the atheists, could bring themselves to any persecu 
tion like this. Strange it is, but so it is, that men, 
driven by force from their habits in one mode of 
religion, have, by contrary habits under the same force, 
often quietly settled in another. They suborn their 
reason to declare in favour of their necessity. Man 
and his conscience cannot always be at war. If the 
first races have not been able to make a pacification 
between the conscience and the convenience, their 
descendants come generally to submit to the violence 
of the laws without violence to their minds. As things 
stood formerly, they possessed a positive scheme of 
direction and of consolation. In this men may acquiesce. 
The harsh methods in use with the old class of perse 
cutors were to make converts not apostates only. If 
they perversely hated other sects and factions, they 
loved their own inordinately. But in this Protestant 
persecution there is anything but benevolence at work. 
What do the Irish statutes ? They do not make a con 
formity to the established religion, and to its doctrines 
and practices, the condition of getting out of servitude. 
No such thing. Let three millions of people but 
abandon all that they and their ancestors have been 
taught to believe sacred, and to forswear it publicly in 
terms the most degrading, scurrilous, and indecent for 
men of integrity and virtue, and to abuse the whole of 
their former lives, and to slander the education they 
have received, and nothing more is required of them. 
There is no system of folly or impiety, or blasphemy, or 

2 A 

354 A LETTER TO 179. 

atheism, into which they may not throw themselves, and 
which they may not profess openly, and as a system con 
sistently with the enjoyment of all the privileges of a 
free citizen in the happiest constitution in the world. 

Some of the unhappy assertors of this strange scheme 
say they are not persecutors on account of religion. In 
the first place they say what is not true. For what else 
do they disfranchise the people ? If the man gets rid 
of a religion through which their malice operates, he 
gets rid of all their penalties and incapacities at once. 
They never afterwards inquire about him. I speak here 
of their pretexts, and not of the true spirit of the trans 
action in which religious bigotry, I apprehend, has little 
share. Every man has his taste, but I think, if I were 
so miserable and undone as to be guilty of premeditated 
and continued violence towards any set of men, I had 
rather that my conduct was supposed to arise from wild 
conceits concerning their religious advantages, than from 
low and ungenerous motives relative to my own selfish 
interest. I had rather be thought insane in my charity 
than rational in my malice. This much, my dear son, 
I have to say of this Protestant persecution, that is, a 
persecution of religion itself. 

A very great part of the mischiefs that vex the 
world, arises from words. People soon forget the mean 
ing, but the impression and the passion remain. The 
word Protestant is the charm that locks up in the 
dungeon of servitude three millions of your people. It is 
not amiss to consider this spell of potency, this abra- 


)ra that is hung about the necks of the unhappy, 
not to heal, but to communicate disease. We some 
times hear of a Protestant religion, frequently of a Protest 
ant interest. We hear of the latter the most frequently, 
because it has a positive meaning. The other has none. 
We hear of it the most frequently, because it has a 
word in the phrase, which well or ill understood, 
has animated to persecution and oppression at all times 
infinitely more than all the dogmas in dispute between 
religious factions. These are indeed well formed to per 
plex and torment the intellect, but not half so well cal 
culated to inflame the passions and animosities of men. 
I do readily admit that a great deal of the wars, 
seditions, and troubles of the world did formerly turn 
upon the contention between interests that went by the 
names of Protestant and Catholic. But I imagined that 
at this time no one was weak enough to believe, or 
impudent enough to pretend, that questions of Popish 
and Protestant opinions or interest are the things by 
which men are at present menaced with crusades by 
foreign invasion, or with seditions, which shake the 
foundations of the State at home. It is long since all 
this combination of things has vanished from the view 
of intelligent observers. The existence of quite another 
system of opinions and interests is now plain to the 
grossest sense. Are these the questions that raise a flame 
in the minds of men at this day ? If ever the Church 
and the constitution of England should fall in these 
islands (and they will fall together), it is not Pres- 

356 A LETTER TO 179- 

byterian discipline, nor Popish hierarchy that will rise 
upon their ruins. It will not be the Church of Eome, 
nor the Church of Scotland, nor the Church of Luther, 
nor the Church of Calvin. On the contrary, all these 
Churches are menaced, and menaced alike. It is the 
new fanatical religion now in the heat of its first 
ferment of the rights of man, which rejects all establish 
ments, all discipline, all ecclesiastical, and in truth, all 
civil order, which will triumph, and which will lay 
prostrate your Church ; which will destroy your distinc 
tions, and which will put all your properties to auction, 
and disperse you over the earth. If the present estab 
lishment should fall, it is this religion which will 
triumph in Ireland and in England, as it has triumphed 
in France. This religion, which laughs at creeds and 
dogmas and confessions of faith, may be fomented 
equally amongst all descriptions and all sects, amongst 
nominal Catholics, and amongst nominal Churchmen, 
and amongst those Dissenters, who know little and 
care less about a Presbytery, or any of its discipline, or 
any of its doctrine. 

Against this new, this growing, this exterminatory 
system, all these Churches have a common concern tcv 
defend themselves. How the enthusiasts of this rising 
sect rejoice to see you of the old Churches play their 
game, and stir and rake the cinders of animosities sunk 
in their ashes, in order to keep up the execution of their 
plan for your common ruin ! 

I suppress all that is in my mind about the blind- 


ness of those of our clergy, who will shut their eyes to 
a thing which glares in such manifest day. If some 
wretches amongst an indigent and disorderly part of the 
populace raise a riot about tithes, there are of these 
gentlemen ready to cry out that this is an overt act of 
a treasonable conspiracy. Here the bulls and the 
pardons, and the crusade and the Pope, and the thun 
ders of the Vatican, are everywhere at work. There is 
a plot to bring in a foreign power to destroy the Church. 
Alas ! it is not about Popes, but about potatoes, that 
the minds of this unhappy people are agitated. It is 
not from the spirit of zeal, but the spirit of whisky, 
that these wretches act. Is it then not conceived pos 
sible that a poor clown can be unwilling, after paying 
three pounds rent to a gentleman in a brown coat, to 
pay fourteen shillings to one in a black coat, for his 
acre of potatoes, and tumultuously to desire some modi 
fication of the charge without being supposed to have 
no other motive than a frantic zeal for being thus 
double-taxed to another set of landholders and another 
set of priests. Have men no self-interest ? no avarice ? 
no repugnance to public imposts? Have they no 
sturdy and restive minds, no undisciplined habits? 
Is there nothing in the whole mob of irregular 
passions which might precipitate some of the com 
mon people in some places to quarrel with a legal, 
because they feel it to be a burthensome imposi 
tion ! According to these gentlemen, no offence can be^ 
committed by Papists but from zeal to their religion. 

358 A LETTER TO 179- 

To make room for the vices of Papists, they clear the 
house of all the vices of men. Some of the common 
people (not one, however, in ten thousand) commit 
disorders. Well ! punish them as you do, and as you 
ought to punish them for their violence against the just 
property of each individual clergyman as each indi 
vidual suffers. Support the injured rector or the injured 
impropriator in the enjoyment of the estate of which 
(whether on the best plan or not) the laws have put 
him in possession. Let the crime and the punishment 
stand upon their own bottom. But now we ought all 
of us clergymen most particularly to avoid assigning 
another cause of quarrel in order to infuse a new source 
of bitterness into a dispute which personal feelings on 
both sides will of themselves make bitter enough, and 
thereby involve in it by religious descriptions, men who 
have individually no share whatsoever in those irregular 
acts. Let us not make the malignant fictions of our 
own imaginations, heated with factious controversies, 
reasons for keeping men that are neither guilty nor 
justly suspected of crime, in a servitude equally dis 
honourable and unsafe to religion and to the State. 
When men are constantly accused, but know them 
selves not to be guilty, they must naturally abhor their 
accusers. There is no character, when malignantly 
taken up and deliberately pursued, which more natu 
rally excites indignation and abhorrence in mankind 
especially in that part of mankind which suffers from it. 
I do not pretend to take pride in an extravagant 


attachment to any sect. Some gentlemen in Ireland 
affect that sort of glory. It is to their taste. Their 
piety, I take it for granted, justifies the fervour of their 
zeal, and may palliate the excess of it. Being myself 
no more than a common layman, commonly informed in 
controversies, leading only a very common life, and 
having only a common citizen s interest in the Church 
or in the State, yet to you I will say, in justice to my own 
sentiments, that not one of those zealots for a Protestant 
interest wishes more sincerely than I do perhaps not 
half so sincerely for the support of the Established 
Church in both these kingdoms. It is a great link ; 
towards holding fast the connection of religion with the j 
State, and for keeping these two islands, in their present 
critical independence of constitution, in a close connec 
tion of opinion and affection. I wish it well, as the 
religion of the greater number of the primary landed 
proprietors of the kingdom with whom all estab 
lishments of Church and State, for strong political 
reasons, ought, in my opinion, to be warmly con 
nected. I wish it well, because it is more closely 
combined than any other of the Church systems with 
the Crown, which is the stay of the mixed constitution, 
because it is, as things now stand, the sole connecting 
political principle between the constitutions of the two 
independent kingdoms. I have another, and infinitely 
a stronger reason for wishing it well it is that in the 
present time I consider it as one of the main pillars of 
the Christian religion itself. The body and substance 

360 A LETTER TO 179- 

of every religion I regard much more than any of the 
forms and dogmas of the particular sects. Its fall 
would leave a great void which nothing else of which 
I can form any distinct idea, might fill. I respect the 
Catholic hierarchy and the Presbyterian republic. But 
I know that the hope or the fear of establishing either 
of them is in these kingdoms equally chimerical, even 
if I preferred one or the other of them to the Establish 
ment, which certainly I do not. 

These are some of my reasons for wishing the sup 
port of the Church of Ireland as by law established. 
These reasons are founded as well on the absolute as 
on the relative situation of that kingdom. But is it 
because I love the Church, and the king, and the 
privileges of Parliament, that I am to be ready for any 
violence, or any injustice, or any absurdity, in the 
means of supporting any of these powers, or all of 
them together ? Instead of prating about Protestant 
ascendencies, Protestant Parliaments ought, in my opin 
ion, to think at last of becoming Patriot Parliaments. 

The Legislature of Ireland, like all legislatures, 
ought to frame its laws to suit the people and the 
circumstances of the country, and not any longer to 
make it their whole business to force the nature, the 
temper, and the inveterate habits of a nation to a 
conformity to speculative systems concerning any kind 
of laws. Ireland has an established government, and 
a religion legally established, which are to be pre 
served. It has a people, who are to be preserved too, 


and to be led by reason, principle, sentiment, and 
interest to acquiesce in that Government. Ireland is 
a country under peculiar circumstances. The people 
of Ireland are a very mixed people ; and the quantities 
of the several ingredients in the mixture are very much 
disproportion ed to each other. Are we to govern this 
mixed body as if it were composed of the most simple 
elements, comprehending the whole in one system of 
benevolent legislation ? or are we not rather to provide 
for the several parts according to the various and diversi 
fied necessities of the heterogeneous nature of the mass ? 
Would not common reason and common honesty dictate- 
to us the policy of regulating the people in the several 
descriptions of which they are composed, according to 
the natural ranks and classes of an orderly civil society, 
under a common protecting sovereign, and under a form 
of constitution favourable at once to authority and to 
freedom ; such as the British constitution boasts to be, 
and such as it is, to those who enjoy it ? 

You have an ecclesiastical establishment, which, 
though the religion of the prince, and of most of the 
first class of landed proprietors, is not the religion of 
the major part of the inhabitants, and which conse 
quently does not answer to them any one purpose of a 
religious establishment. This is a state of things 
which no man in his senses can call perfectly happy. 
But it is the state of Ireland. Two hundred years of 
experiment show it to be unalterable. Many a fierce 
struggle has passed between the parties. The result 

362 A LETTER TO 179. 

is you cannot make the people Protestants and 
they cannot shake off a Protestant government. This 
is what experience teaches, and what all men of sense, 
of all descriptions, know. To-day the question is this 
are we to make the best of this situation, which we 
cannot alter ? The question is shall the condition of 
the body of the people be alleviated in other things, 
on account of their necessary suffering from their being 
subject to the burthens of two religious establish 
ments, from one of which they do not partake the least, 
living or dying, either of instruction or of consolation ; 
or shall it be aggravated by stripping the people thus 
loaded of everything, which might support and in 
demnify them in this state, so as to leave them naked 
of every sort of right, and of every name of franchise ; 
to outlaw them from the constitution, and to cut off 
(perhaps) three millions of plebeian subjects, without 
reference to property, or any other qualification, from 
all connection with the popular representation of the 
kingdom ? 

As to religion, it has nothing at all to do with the 
proceeding. Liberty is not sacrificed to a zeal for 
religion ; but a zeal for religion is pretended and 
assumed to destroy liberty. The Catholic religion is 
completely free. It has no establishment ; but it is 
recognised, permitted, and, in a degree, protected by 
the laws. If a man is satisfied to be a slave, he may 
be a Papist with perfect impunity. He may say mass, 
or hear it, as he pleases ; but he must consider him- 


self as an outlaw from the British constitution. If 
the constitutional liberty of the subject were not the 
thing aimed at, the direct reverse course would be 
taken. The franchise would have been permitted, and 
the mass exterminated. But the conscience of a man 
left, and a tenderness for it hypocritically pretended, 
is to make it a trap to catch his liberty. 

So much is this the design that the violent partisans 
of this scheme fairly take up all the maxims and argu 
ments, as well as the practices by which tyranny has 
fortified itself at all times. Trusting wholly in their 
strength and power (and upon this they reckon as always 
ready to strike wherever they wish to direct the storm), 
they abandon all pretext of the general good of the 
community. They say that if the people, under any 
given modification, obtain the smallest portion or particle 
of constitutional freedom, it will be impossible for them 
to hold their property. They tell us that they act only 
on the defensive. They inform the public of Europe 
that their estates are made up of forfeitures and confis 
cations from the natives ; that, if the body of people 
obtain votes, any number of votes, however small, it 
will be a step to the choice of members of their own 
religion ; that the House of Commons, in spite of the 
influence of nineteen parts in twenty of the landed 
interest now in their hands, will be composed in the 
whole or in far the major part of Papists; that this 
Popish House of Commons will instantly pass a law to 
confiscate all their estates, which it will not be in their 

364 A LETTER TO 179. 

power to save even by entering into that Popish party 
themselves, because there are prior claimants to be 
satisfied ; that as to the House of Lords, though neither 
Papists nor Protestants have a share in electing them, 
the body of the peerage will be so obliging and dis 
interested as to fall in with this exterminatory scheme, 
which is to forfeit all their estates, the largest part of the 
kingdom ; and, to crown all, that his Majesty will give 
his cheerful assent to this causeless act of attainder of his 
innocent and faithful Protestant subjects ; that they will 
be, or are to be left, without house or land, to the dread 
ful resource of living by their wits, out of which they are 
already frightened by the apprehension of this^spoliation 
with which they are threatened ; that, therefore, they 
cannot so much as listen to any arguments drawn from 
equity or from national or constitutional policy; the 
sword is at their throats; beggary and famine at their 
door. See what it is to have a good look-out, and to 
see danger at the end of a sufficiently long perspective ! 

This is indeed to speak plain, though to speak no 
thing very new. The same thing has been said in all 
times and in all languages. The language of tyranny 
has been invariable; the general good is inconsistent 
with my personal safety. Justice and liberty seem so 
alarming to these gentlemen, that they are not ashamed 
even to slander their own titles, to calumniate and call 
in doubt their right to their own estates, and to consider 
themselves as novel disseizors, usurpers, and intruders, 
rather than lose a pretext for becoming oppressors of 


their fellow -citizens, whom they (not I) choose to 
describe themselves as having robbed. 

Instead of putting themselves in this odious point of 
light, one would think they would wish to let Time draw 
his oblivious veil over the unpleasant modes by which 
lordships and demeans have been acquired in their s, 
and almost in all other countries upon earth. It might 
be imagined that when the sufferer (if a sufferer exist) 
had forgot the wrong, they would be pleased to forget it 
too ; that they would permit the sacred name of posses 
sion to stand in the place of the melancholy and un 
pleasant title of grantees of confiscation, which, though 
firm and valid in law, surely merits the name that a 
great Eoman jurist gave to a title at least as valid in 
his nation as confiscation would be either in his or in 
ours. Tristis et luctuosa successio. 

Such is the situation of every man who comes in 
upon the ruin of another his succeeding, under this 
circumstance, is tristis et luctuosa successio. If it had 
been the fate of any gentleman to profit by the confisca 
tion of his neighbour, one would think he would be 
more disposed to give him a valuable interest under him 
in his land ; or to allow him a pension, as I understand 
one worthy person has done, without fear or apprehen 
sion, that his benevolence to a ruined family would be 
construed into a recognition of the forfeited title. The 
public of England the other day acted in this manner 
towards Lord Newburgh, a Catholic. Though the estate 
had been vested by law in the greatest of the public 

366 A LETTER TO 179. 

- charities, they have given him a pension from his con 
fiscation. They have gone farther in other cases. 
On the last Eebellion in 1745, in Scotland, several 
forfeitures were incurred. They had been disposed of 
by Parliament to certain laudable uses. Parliament 
reversed the method which they had adopted in Lord 
JSTewburgh s case, and in my opinion did better; they 
gave the forfeited estates to the successors of the forfeit 
ing proprietors, chargeable in part with the uses. Is 
this, or anything like this, asked in favour of any human 
creature in Ireland ? It is bounty ; it is charity ; wise 
bounty and politic charity ; but no man can claim it as 
a right. Here no such thing is claimed as right, or 
begged as charity. The demand has an object as distant 
from all considerations of this sort as any two extremes 
can be. The people desire the privileges inseparably 
annexed, since Magna Charta, to the freehold, which 
they have by descent, or obtain as the fruits of their 
industry. They call for no man s estate ; they desire not 
to be dispossessed of their own. 

But this melancholy and invidious title is a favourite 
(and like favourites, always of the least merit) with 
those who possess every other title upon earth along 
with it. For this purpose they revive the bitter memory 
of every dissension which has torn to pieces their miser 
able country for ages. After what has passed in 1782, 
one would not think that decorum, to say nothing of 
policy, would permit them to call up, by magic charms, 
the grounds, reasons, and principles of those terrible 


confiscatory and exterminatory periods. They would 
not set men upon calling from the quiet sleep of death 
any Samuel, to ask him by what act of arbitrary 
monarchs ; by what inquisitions of corrupted tribunals, 
and tortured jurors ; by what fictitious tenures, invented 
to dispossess whole unoffending tribes and their chief 
tains ! They would not conjure up the ghosts from the 
ruins of castles and churches, to tell for what attempt 
to struggle for the independence of an Irish Legislature, 
and to raise armies of volunteers, without regular com 
missions from the Crown, in support of that independence, 
the estates of the old Irish nobility and gentry had been 
confiscated. They would not wantonly call on those 
phantoms to tell by what English Acts of Parliament, 
forced upon two reluctant kings, the lands of their 
country were put up to a mean and scandalous auction 
in every goldsmith s shop in London ; or chopped to 
pieces, and cut into rations, to pay the mercenary* 
soldiery of a regicide usurper. They would not be so 
fond of titles under Cromwell, who, if he avenged an 
Irish rebellion against the sovereign authority of the 
Parliament of England, had himself rebelled against the 
very Parliament whose sovereignty he asserted, full as 
much as the Irish nation, which he was sent to subdue 
and confiscate, could rebel against that Parliament, or 
could rebel against the king, against whom both he and 
the Parliament which he served, and which he betrayed, 
had both of them rebelled. 

The gentlemen who hold the language of the day 

368 A LETTER TO 179. 

know perfectly well that the Irish in 1641 pretended 
at least that they did not rise against the king, nor in 
fact did they, whatever constructions law might put 
upon their act. But full surely they rebelled against 
the authority of the Parliament of England, and they 
openly professed so to do. Admitting (I have now no 
time to discuss the matter) the enormous and unpardon 
able magnitude of this their crime, they rued it in 
their persons, and in those of their children and their 
grandchildren, even to the fifth and sixth generations, 
Admitting, then, the enormity of this unnatural re 
bellion in favour of the independence of Ireland, will 
it follow that it must be avenged for ever ? Will it 
follow that it must be avenged on thousands, and 
perhaps hundreds of thousands, of those whom they 
can never trace, by the labours of the most subtle 
metaphysician of the traduction of crimes, or the most 
inquisitive genealogist of proscription, to the descendant 
of any one concerned in that nefarious Irish rebellion 
against the Parliament of England ? 

If, however, you could find out these pedigrees of 
guilt, I do not think the difference would be essential. 
History records many things which ought to make us 
hate evil actions ; but neither history, nor morals, nor 
policy, can teach us to punish innocent men on that 
account. What lesson does the iniquity of prevalent 
factions read to us ? It ought to lesson us into an 
abhorrence of the abuse of our own power in our own 
day; when we hate its excesses so much in other 


persons and in other times. To that school true 
statesmen ought to be satisfied to leave mankind. 
They ought not to call from the dead all the discus 
sions and litigations which formerly inflamed the 
furious factions which had torn their country to pieces; 
they ought not to rake into the hideous and abominable 
things which were done in the turbulent fury of an 
injured, robbed, and persecuted people, and which were 
afterwards cruelly revenged in the execution, and as 
outrageously and shamefully exaggerated in the repre 
sentation, in order, an hundred and fifty years after, to 
find some colour for justifying them in the eternal 
proscription and civil excommunication of a whole 

Let us come to a later period of those confiscations, 
with the memory of which the gentlemen, who triumph 
in the Acts of 1782, are so much delighted. The 
Irish again rebelled against English Parliament in 
1688, and the English Parliament again put up to 
sale the greatest part of their estates. I do not presume 
to defend the Irish for this rebellion ; nor to blame the 
English Parliament for this confiscation. The Irish, it 
is true, did not revolt from King James s power. He 
threw himself upon their fidelity, and they supported 
him to the best of their feeble power. Be the crime 
of that obstinate adherence to an abdicated sovereign 
against a prince whom the Parliaments of Ireland and 
Scotland had recognised what it may, I do not mean 
to justify this rebellion more than the former. It might, 


370 A LETTER TO 17 9~- 

however, admit some palliation in them. In generous 
minds, some small degree of compassion might be 
excited for an error, where they were misled, as Cicero 
says to a conqueror, quddam specie et similitudine pads, 
not without a mistaken appearance of duty, and for 
which the guilty have suffered by exile abroad, and 
slavery at home, to the extent of their folly or their 
offence. The best calculators compute that Ireland 
lost 200,000 of her inhabitants in that struggle. If 
the principle of the English and Scottish resistance at 
the Ee volution is to be justified (as sure I am it is), 
the submission of Ireland must be somewhat extenuated. 
For if the Irish resisted King William, they resisted 
him on the very same principle that the English and 
Scotch resisted King James. The Irish Catholics must 
have been the very worst and the most truly unnatural 
of rebels, if they had not supported a prince whom 
they had seen attacked, not for any designs against 
their religion, or their liberties, but for an extreme 
partiality for their sect ; and who, far from trespassing 
on their liberties and properties, secured both them and 
the independence of their country in much the same 
manner that we have seen the same things done at 
the period of 1782 I trust the last Eevolution in 

That the Irish Parliament of King James did in 
some particulars, though feebly, imitate the rigour 
which had been used towards the Irish, is true enough. 
Blameable enough they were for what they had done, 


though under the greatest possible provocation. I shall 
never praise confiscations or counter -confiscations as 
long as I live. When they happen by necessity, I shall 
think the necessity lamentable and odious. I shall 
think that anything done under it ought not to pass into 
precedent, or to be adopted by choice, or to produce any 
of those shocking retaliations which never suffer dis 
sensions to subside. Least of all would I fix the 
transitory spirit of civil fury by perpetuating and N 
methodising it in tyrannic government. If it were per 
mitted to argue with power, might one not ask these 
gentlemen whether it would not be more natural, in 
stead of wantonly mooting these questions concerning 
their property as if it were an exercise in law, to found 
it on the solid rock of prescription ? the soundest, the 
most general, and the most recognised title between 
man and man that is known in municipal or in public 
jurisprudence a title in which not arbitrary institu 
tions but the eternal order of things gives judgment 
a title which is not the creature but the master of 
positive law a title which, though not fixed in its 
term, is rooted in its principle, in the law of nature 
itself, and is indeed the original ground of all known 
property ; for all property in soil will always be traced 
back to that source, and will rest there. The miserable 
natives of Ireland, who ninety-nine in a hundred are 
tormented with quite other cares, and are bowed down 
to labour for the bread of the hour, are not, as gentlemen 
pretend, plodding with antiquaries for titles of centuries 


ago to the estates of the great Lords and Squires for 
whom they labour. But if they were thinking of the 
titles which gentlemen labour to beat into their heads, 
where can they bottom their own claims but in a pre 
sumption and a proof that these lands had at some time 
been possessed by their ancestors ? These gentlemen 
for they have lawyers amongst them know as well as 
I that in England we have had always a prescription or 
limitation, as all nations have, against each other. The 
Crown was excepted ; but that exception is destroyed, 
and we have lately established a sixty years possession 
as against the Crown. All titles terminate in prescrip 
tion, in which (differently from Time in the fabulous 
instances) the son devours the father, and the last pre 
scription eats up all the former. 

1797- A LETTER, ETC. 373 


A LETTEE on the AFFAIRS of IRELAND, written in 

the year 1797. 1 

IN the reduced state of body, and in the dejected state 
of mind, in which I find myself at this very advanced 
period of my life, it is a great consolation to me to know 
that a cause I ever had so very near my heart is taken 
up by a man of your activity and talents. 

It is very true that your late friend, my ever dear 
and honoured son, was in the highest degree solicitous 
about the final event of a business which he also had 
pursued for a long time with infinite zeal and no small 
degree of success. It was not above half-an-hour before 
he left me for ever that he spoke with considerable 
earnestness on this very subject. If I had needed 
any incentives to do my best for freeing the body of 

1 The name of the person to whom this letter was addressed does 
not appear on the manuscript, nor has the letter been found to which 
it was written as an answer. The letter was dictated from Mr. Burke s 
couch at Bath, to which place he had gone by the advice of his physi 
cians in March 1797. His health was now rapidly declining ; the 
vigour of his mind remained unimpaired. 

374 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

my country from the grievances under which they 
labour, this alone would certainly call forth all my 

The person who succeeded to the Government of 
Ireland about the time of that afflicting event had been 
all along of my sentiments and yours upon this subject ; 
and far from needing to be stimulated by me, that in 
comparable person and those in whom he strictly con 
fided even went before me in their resolution to pursue 
the great end of Government, the satisfaction and con 
cord of the people, with whose welfare they were charged. 
I cannot bear to think on the causes by which this great 
plan of policy, so manifestly beneficial to both king 
doms, has been defeated. 

Your mistake with regard to me lies in supposing 
that I did not, when his removal was in agitation, 
strongly and personally represent to several of his 
Majesty s Ministers, to whom I could have the most 
ready access, the true state of Ireland, and the mischiefs 
which sooner or later must arise from subjecting the 
mass of the people to the capricious and interested 
domination of an exceeding small faction and its de 

That representation was made the last time, or very 
nearly the last time, that I have ever had the honour of 
seeing those Ministers. I am so far from having any 
credit with them on this or any other public matters, 
that I have reason to be certain if it were known that 
any person in office in Ireland, from the highest to the 


lowest, were influenced by my opinions and disposed to 
act upon them, such an one would be instantly turned 
out of his employment. You have formed to my person 
a flattering, yet in truth a very erroneous opinion of my 
powerwith those who direct the public measures. I never 
have been directly or indirectly consulted about any 
thing that is done. The judgment of the eminent and 
able persons who conduct public affiairs is undoubtedly 
superior to mine, but self-partiality induces almost every 
man to defer something to his own. Nothing is more 
notorious than that I have the misfortune of thinking 
that no one capital measure relative to political arrange 
ments, and still less that a new military plan for the 
defence of either kingdom in this arduous war, has been 
taken upon any other principle than such as must con 
duct us to inevitable ruin. 

In the state of my mind, so discordant with the tone 
of Ministers, and still more discordant with the tone of 
Opposition, you may judge what degree of weight I am 
likely to have with either of the parties who divide this 
kingdom ; even though I were endowed with strength 
of body, or were possessed of any active situation in the 
Government, which might give success to my endeavours. 
But the fact is, since the day of my unspeakable cala 
mity, except in the attentions of a very few old and 
compassionate friends, I am totally out of all social 
intercourse. My health has gone down very rapidly ; 
and I have been brought hither with very faint hopes 
of life, and enfeebled to such a degree, as those who had 

376 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

known me some time ago, could scarcely think credible. 
Since I came hither, my sufferings have been greatly 
aggravated, and my little strength still further reduced ; 
so that, though I am told the symptoms of my disorder 
begin to carry a more favourable aspect, I pass the far 
larger part of the twenty-four hours, indeed almost the 
whole, either in my bed, or lying upon the couch, from 
which I dictate this. Had you been apprised of this 
circumstance, you could not have expected anything, as 
you seem to do, from my active exertions. I could do 
nothing, if I was still stronger, not even "Si meus 
adforet Hector." 

There is no hope for the body of the people of Ire 
land, as long as those who are in power with you shall 
make it the great object of their policy to propagate an 
opinion on this side of the water, that the mass of their 
countrymen are not to be trusted by their Government ; 
and that the only hold which England has upon Ireland 
consists in preserving a certain very small number of 
gentlemen in full possession of a monopoly of that king 
dom. This system has disgusted many others besides 
Catholics and Dissenters. 

As to those who on your side are in the Opposition 
to Government, they are composed of persons, several 
of whom I love and revere. They have been irritated 
by a treatment too much for the ordinary patience of 
mankind to bear into the adoption of schemes, which, 
however argumentatively specious, would go practically 
to the inevitable ruin of the kingdom. The Opposition 


always connects the emancipation of the Catholics with 
these schemes of reformation ; indeed it makes the 
former only a member of the latter project. The 
gentlemen who enforce that opposition, are, in my 
opinion, playing the game of their adversaries with all 
their might ; and there is no third party in Ireland (nor 
in England neither) to separate things that are in them 
selves so distinct, I mean the admitting people to the 
benefits of the constitution, and the change in the form 
of the constitution itself. 

As every one knows, that a great part of the 
constitution of the Irish House of Commons was 
formed about the year 1614, expressly for bringing 
that House into a state of dependence ; and that the 
new representative was at that time seated and in 
stalled by force and violence; nothing can be more 
impolitic than for those who wish the House to stand 
on its present basis (as for one, I most sincerely do), to 
make it appear to have kept too much the principle of 
its first institution, and to continue to be as little a 
virtual, as it is an actual representative of the Commons. 
It is the degeneracy of such an institution, so vicious in 
its principle, that is to be wished for. If men have the 
real benefit of a sympathetic representation, none but 
those who are heated and intoxicated with theory will 
look for any other. This sort of representation, my 
dear sir, must wholly depend, not on the force with 
which it is upheld, but upon the prudence of those who 
have influence upon it. Indeed, without some such 

378 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

prudence in the use of authority, I do not know, at 
least in the present time, how any power can long 

If it be true that both parties are carrying things 
to extremities in different ways, the object which you 
and I have in common, that is to say, the union and 
concord of our country, on the basis of the actual repre 
sentation, without risking those evils which any change 
in the form of our Legislature must inevitably bring 
on, can never be obtained. On the part of the Cath 
olics (that is to say, of the body of the people of the 
kingdom) it is a terrible alternative, either to submit 
to the yoke of declared and insulting enemies ; or to 
seek a remedy in plunging themselves into the horrors 
and crimes of that Jacobinism, which unfortunately is 
not disagreeable to the principles and inclinations of, 
I am afraid, the majority of what we call the Protestants 
of Ireland. The Protestant part of that kingdom is 
represented by the Government itself to be, by whole 
counties, in nothing less than open rebellion. I am 
sure that it is everywhere teeming with dangerous 

I believe it will be found that though the principles 
of the Catholics, and the incessant endeavours of their 
clergy, have kept them from being generally infected 
with the systems of this time, yet, whenever their 
situation brings them nearer into contact with the 
Jacobin Protestants, they are more or less infected 
with their doctrines. 


It is a matter for melancholy reflection ; but I am 
fully convinced that many persons in Ireland would be 
glad that the Catholics should become more and more 
infected with the Jacobin madness, in order to furnish 
new arguments for fortifying them in their monopoly. 
On any other ground it is impossible to account for the 
late language of your men in power. If statesmen (let 
me suppose for argument), upon the most solid political 
principles, conceive themselves obliged to resist the 
wishes of the far more numerous, and, as things stand, 
not the worst part of the community, one would think 
they would naturally put their refusal as much as 
possible upon temporary grounds; and that they 
would act towards them in the most conciliatory 
manner, and would talk to them in the most gentle and 
soothing language ; for refusal in itself is not a very 
gracious thing, and, unfortunately, men are very 
quickly irritated out of their principles. Nothing is 
more discouraging to the loyalty of any description of 
men than to represent to them that their humiliation 
and subjection make a principal part in the funda 
mental and invariable policy, which regards the con 
junction of these two kingdoms. This is not the way 
to give them a warm interest in that conjunction. 

My poor opinion is, that the closest connection be 
tween Great Britain and Ireland is essential to the 
wellbeing, I had almost said to the very being of the 
two kingdoms. For that purpose I humbly conceive, 
that the whole of the superior, and what I should call 

380 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

imperial politics ought to have its residence here ; and 
that Ireland, locally, civilly, and commercially inde 
pendent, ought politically to look up to Great Britain 
in all matters of peace or of war ; in all those points to 
be guided by her : and, in a word, with her to live and 
to die. At bottom, Ireland has no other choice I mean 
no other rational choice. 

I think, indeed, that Great Britain would be ruined 
by the separation of Ireland ; but as there are degrees 
even in ruin, it would fall the most heavily on Ireland. 
By such a separation Ireland would be the most com 
pletely undone country in the world, the most wretched, 
the most distracted, and, in the end, the most desolate 
part of the habitable globe. Little do many people in 
Ireland consider how much of its prosperity has been 
owing to, and still depends upon, its intimate connection 
with this kingdom. But, more sensible of this great 
truth than perhaps any other man, I have never con 
ceived, or can conceive, that the connection is strengthened 
by making the major part of the inhabitants of your 
country believe that their ease, and their satisfaction, 
and their equalisation with the rest of their fellow- 
subjects of Ireland, are things adverse to the principles 
of that connection ; or that their subjection to a small 
monopolising junto, composed of one of the smallest of 
their own internal factions, is the very condition upon 
which the harmony of the two kingdoms essentially 
depends. I was sorry to hear that this principle, or 
something not unlike it, was publicly and fully avowed 


by persons of great rank and authority in the House of 
Lords in Ireland. 

As to a participation on the part of the Catholics in 
the privileges and capacities which are withheld, without 
meaning wholly to depreciate their importance, if I had 
the honour of being an Irish Catholic I should be con 
tent to expect satisfaction upon that subject with 
patience, until the minds of my adversaries, few but 
powerful, were come to a proper temper ; because if 
the Catholics did enjoy without fraud, chicane, or 
partiality, some fair portion of those advantages which 
the law, even as now the law is, leaves open to them ; 
and if the rod were not shaken over them at every turn, 
their present condition would be tolerable as compared 
with their former condition it would be happy. But 
the most favourable laws can do very little towards 
the happiness of a people when the disposition of the 
ruling power is adverse to them. Men do not live upon 
blotted paper. The favourable or the hostile mind of 
the ruling power is of far more importance to mankind, 
for good or evil, than the black letter of any statute. 
Late Acts of Parliament, whilst they fixed at least a 
temporary bar to the hopes and progress of the larger 
description of the nation, opened to them certain sub 
ordinate objects of equality ; but it is impossible that 
the people should imagine that any fair measure of 
advantage is intended to them, when they hear the 
laws by which they were admitted to this limited 
qualification publicly reprobated as excessive and in- 

382 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

considerate. They must think that there is a hankering 
after the old penal and persecuting code. Their alarm 
must be great when that declaration is made by a person 
in very high and important office in the House of 
Commons, and as the very first specimen and auspice 
of a new Government. 

All this is very unfortunate. I have the honour of 
an old acquaintance, and entertain, in common with 
you, a very high esteem for the few English persons 
who are concerned in the Government of Ireland ; but 
I am not ignorant of the relation these transitory 
ministers bear to the more settled Irish part of your 
Administration. It is a delicate topic, upon which I 
wish to say but little ; though my reflections upon it 
are many and serious. There is a great cry against 
English influence. I am quite sure that it is Irish 
influence that dreads the English habits. 

Great disorders have long prevailed in Ireland. It 
is not long since that the Catholics were the suffer 
ing party from those disorders. I am sure they were 
not protected as the case required. Their sufferings 
became a matter of discussion in Parliament. It 
produced the most infuriated declamation against them 
that I have ever read. An inquiry was moved into 
the facts. The declamation was at least tolerated, if 
not approved. The inquiry was absolutely rejected. 
In that case what is left for those who are abandoned 
by Government but to join with the persons who are 
capable of injuring them or protecting them, as they 


oppose or concur in their designs ? This will produce 
a very fatal kind of union amongst the people, but 
it is a union which an unequal administration of justice 
tends necessarily to produce. 

If anything could astonish one at this time, it is the 
war that the rulers in Ireland think it proper to carry 
on against the person whom they call the pope, and 
against all his adherents, whenever they think they 
have the power of manifesting their hostility. Without 
in the least derogating from the talents of your theo 
logical politicians, or from the military abilities of your 
commanders (who act on the same principles) in Ireland, 
and without derogating from the zeal of either, it 
appears to me that the Protestant Directory of Paris, 
as statesmen, and the Protestant hero, Bonaparte, as 
a general, have done more to destroy the said pope 
and all his adherents, in all their capacities, than the 
junto in Ireland have ever been able to effect. You 
must submit your fasces to theirs, and at best be con 
tented to follow with songs of gratulation, or invectives, 
according to your humour, the triumphal car of those 
great conquerors. Had that true Protestant ffoche, 
with an army not infected with the slightest tincture of 
Popery, made good his landing in Ireland, he would 
have saved you from a great deal of the trouble which 
is taken to keep under a description of your fellow- 
citizens, obnoxious to you from their religion. It would 
not have a month s existence, supposing his success. 
This is the alliance which, under the appearance of 

384 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

hostility, we act as if we wished to promote. All is 
well, provided we are safe from Popery. 

It was not necessary for you, my dear sir, to explain 
yourself to me (in justification of your good wishes to 
your fellow-citizens), concerning your total alienation 
from the principles of the Catholics. I am more con 
cerned in what we agree than in what we differ. You 
know the impossibility of our forming any judgment 
upon the opinions, religious, moral, or political, of those 
who in the largest sense are called Protestants ; at least 
as these opinions and tenets form a qualification for 
holding any civil, judicial, military, or even ecclesiastical 
situation. I have no doubt of the orthodox opinion 
of many, both of the clergy and laity, professing the 
established religion in Ireland, and of many, even 
amongst the dissenters, relative to the great points of 
the Christian faith : but that orthodoxy concerns them 
only as individuals. As a qualification for employment, 
we all know that in Ireland it is not necessary that they 
should profess any religion at all ; so that the war that 
we make is upon certain theological tenets, about 
which scholastic disputes are carried on cequo Marte by 
controvertists on their side, as able and as learned, and 
perhaps as well intentioned, as those are who fight the 
battle on the other part. To them I would leave those 
controversies. I would turn my mind to what is more 
within its competence, and has been more my study 
(though for a man of the world I have thought of those 
things) I mean the moral, civil, and political good of 


the countries we belong to, and in which God has 
appointed your station and mine. Let every man be as 
pious as he pleases, and in the way that he pleases ; but 
it is agreeable neither to piety nor to policy to give 
exclusively all manner of civil privileges and advantages 
to a negative religion, such is the Protestant without 
a certain creed and at the same time to deny those 
privileges to men whom we know to agree to an iota in 
every one positive doctrine, which all of us who profess 
the religion authoritatively taught in England hold our 
selves, according to our faculties, bound to believe. The 
Catholics of Ireland (as I have said) have the whole of 
our positive religion ; our difference is only a negation of 
certain tenets of theirs. If we strip ourselves of that 
part of Catholicism we abjure Christianity. If we drive 
them from that holding, without engaging them in some 
other positive religion (which you know by our quali 
fying laws we do not), what do we better than to hold 
out to them terrors on the one side, and bounties on the 
other, in favour of that which, for anything we know to 
the contrary, may be pure Atheism ? 

You are well aware that when a man renounces the 
Roman religion there is no civil inconvenience or in 
capacity whatsoever which shall hinder him from joining 
any new or old sect of Dissenters, or of forming a sect 
of his own invention upon the most antichristian 
principles. Let Mr. Thomas Paine obtain a pardon (as 
on change of Ministry he may), there is nothing to 
hinder him from setting up a church of his own in the 

2 c 

386 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

very midst of you. He is a natural -born British 
subject. His French citizenship does not disqualify 
him, at least upon a peace. This Protestant Apostle is 
as much above all suspicion of Popery as the greatest 
and most zealous of your Sanhedrim in Ireland can 
possibly be. On purchasing a qualification (which his 
friends of the Directory are not so poor as to be unable 
to effect) he may sit in Parliament; and there is no 
doubt that there is not one of your tests against Popery 
that he will not take as fairly and as much ex animo 
as the best of your zealous statesmen. I push this point 
no farther, and only adduce this example (a pretty strong 
one, and fully in point) to show what I take to be the 
madness and folly of driving men, under the existing 
circumstances, from any positive religion whatever into 
the irreligion of the times and its sure concomitant 
principles of anarchy. 

When religion is brought into a question of civil and 
political arrangement, it must be considered more politi 
cally than theologically, at least by us, who are nothing 
more than mere laymen. In that light the case of the 
Catholics of Ireland is peculiarly hard, whether they be 
laity or clergy. If any of them take part, like the 
gentleman you mention, with some of the most ac 
credited Protestants of the country, in projects, which 
cannot be more abhorrent to your nature and disposition 
than they are to mine ; in that case, however few these 
Catholic factions, who are united with factious Pro 
testants, may be (and very few they are now, whatever 


shortly they may become) on their account the whole 
body is considered as of suspected fidelity to the Crown, 
and as wholly undeserving of its favour. But if, on the 
contrary, in those districts of the kingdom where their 
numbers are the greatest, where they make, in a manner, 
the whole body of the people (as, out of cities, in three- 
fourths of the kingdom they do), these Catholics show 
every mark of loyalty and zeal in support of the 
Government, which at best looks on them with an evil 
eye; then their very loyalty is turned against their 
claims. They are represented as a contented and happy 
people ; and that it is unnecessary to do anything more 
in their favour. Thus the factious disposition of a few 
among the Catholics, and the loyalty of the whole mass, 
are equally assigned as reasons for not putting them on 
a par with those Protestants, who are asserted by the 
Government itself, which frowns upon Papists, to be in 
a state of nothing short of actual rebellion, and in a 
strong disposition to make common cause with the 
worst foreign enemy that these countries have ever had 
to deal with. What in the end can come of all this ? 

As to the Irish Catholic Clergy, their condition is 
likewise most critical : if they endeavour by their in 
fluence to keep a dissatisfied laity in quiet, they are in 
danger of losing the little credit they possess, by being 
considered as the instruments of a Government adverse 
to the civil interests of their flock. If they let things 
take their course, they will be represented as colluding 
with sedition, or at least tacitly encouraging it. If they 


388 A LETTER ON THE 1797. 

remonstrate against persecution, they propagate rebellion. 
Whilst Government publicly avows hostility to that 
people, as a part of a regular system, there is no road 
they can take, which does not lead to their ruin. 

If nothing can be done on your side of the water, I 
promise you that nothing will be done here. Whether 
in reality or only in appearance, I cannot positively 
determine ; but you will be left to yourselves by the 
ruling powers here. It is thus ostensibly and above- 
board; and in part, I believe, the disposition is real. 
As to the people at large in this country, I am sure they 
have no disposition to intermeddle in your affairs. They 
mean you no ill whatever ; and they are too ignorant of 
the state of your affairs to be able to do you any good. 
Whatever opinion they have on your subject is very 
faint and indistinct; and if there is anything like a 
formed notion, even that amounts to no more than a sort 
of humming, that remains on their ears, of the burthen of 
the old song about Popery. Poor souls, they are to be 
pitied, who think of nothing but dangers long passed by; 
and but little of the perils that actually surround them. 

I have been long, but it is almost a necessary con 
sequence of dictating, and that by snatches, as a relief 
from pain gives me the means of expressing my senti 
ments. They can have little weight as coming from 
me ; and I have not power enough of mind or body to 
bring them out with their natural force. But I do not 
wish to have it concealed that I am of the same opinion 
to my last breath, which I entertained when my faculties 


were at the best ; and I have not held back from men 
in power in this kingdom, to whom I have very good 
wishes, any part of my sentiments on this melancholy 
subject, so long as I had means of access to persons of 
their consideration. 

I have the honour to be, etc. 

390 A LETTER TO THE 1794. 




YOUR great goodness and condescension have always 
encouraged me to take great liberties with you. I have 
done so with the less scruple, as your own excellent 
understanding will always enable you to improve the 
imperfect hints that others may throw out to you, or 
to control them where they are extravagant and ill- 

In my present state of mind, and what is likely to 
be long my state of mind, nothing could induce me to 
intrude any opinion of mine, except I thought the matter 
was of great importance to your and Lord Fitzwilliam s 

I wish everything you do to be not only right, but 
so splendidly right, that faction and malice may not be 
able to carp at it. It will not do for you to be vulgar, 
commonplace ministers. 

I have already ventured, through Mr. Windham, to 


1794- DUKE OF PORTLAND. 391 

submit to your better judgment, and with my reasons 
in writing, my poor thoughts upon an event then likely 
to take place, the death of Hely Hutchinson. That 
event, I find, has happened. He held two important 
offices, upon the proper or improper disposal of which 
a great deal will depend ; the provostship, and the 
Secretaryship of State. The former of these it was a 
shameful job to give him ; but it will be even more so, 
after all the consequences which attended it, again to 
break through the statutes without a reason as strong 
as that which gave ground to the statute itself, which 
most assuredly does not exist. On the contrary, no 
choice can exist, out of the University, so good as that 
which is furnished within its own walls. Three or four 
of the senior Fellows are men of the first order ; the 
others may be so also, for anything I hear to the con 
trary. I have not the honour of what may be called an 
acquaintance with any of them. Dr. Murray, 1 the vice- 
provost, who has filled that place with the highest 
honour, and stands therefore next in designation for the 
provostship, I do not recollect ever to have seen. I 
should be sorry, when I was recommending to ministers 
not to give way to their own partialities, to insinuate 
into them any partiality of mine. 

This office ought not to be considered as a thing in 
the mass of promiscuous patronage, and which may as 
well be given to one man as to another. 

1 Dr. Murray was appointed Provost during Lord Fitzwilliam s 
Lieutenancy, in January 1795. 

392 A LETTER TO THE 1794. 

I hear that the Bishop of Cloyne 1 is to be recom 
mended to it. The Irish bishoprics are all valuable 
things ; this of Cloyne is amongst the best of those 
valuable things, and the road to the highest, by trans 
lation, is open to him ; and nothing but an odious, and, 
at this time, a portentous avarice and rapacity could 
induce any of the Episcopal bench to seize upon this 
corporate office, the undoubted right of others, and which 
is fitted to be exercised by one who is practised in its 
particular corporate duties. If a check is not put upon 
them, they will be ruined by this mean, secular spirit. 

Your Grace holds a most honourable office, that of 
chancellor of one of our Universities. Your Grace s 
showing a manly and inflexible firmness in defence of 
the legal and equitable rights of another, against the 
unwarrantable use of a dispensing power, will do you 
infinite honour. It will be, I know, highly pleasing 
to the University of Dublin, which, about a twelvemonth 
ago, sent over a deputation to remonstrate against an 
unstatutable arrangement proposed for the succession to 
the provostship. They justly considered it as a gross 
and unmerited affront (as it was) to their body. 

Your Grace, by being where you are, is abundantly 
concerned that Government, at all times, but eminently 
at this time, ought to be kept in awe and reverence 
from opinion; and by the manner in which public 

1 Dr. Bennet, promoted by the Earl of Westmorland to the see of 
Cork and Koss in 1790, and translated by him to that of Cloyne in 

1794- DUKE OF PORTLAND. 393 

trusts are bestowed ; and not to leave obedience to be 
enforced by the pillory, the gallows, and the transport- 
vessel. No one thing is just now more necessary than 
the education of youth ; the least suspicion of any part 
of it being converted into a job will ruin all. 

As to Mr. Hutchinson s other office, your Grace will 
pardon me a suggestion on the subject. As the first 
ought to be kept out of the line of patronage, this of the 
office of secretaryship ought (always supposing common 
qualification) to be kept strictly within it. Whilst it 
was a sinecure pension, it might be given on the prin 
ciple of any other pension, during life, or as Government 
thought fit ; though, in my opinion, infinite caution 
ought to be used in giving anything in Ireland for life. 
But now, I hear the office is in a considerable degree 
effective, and may be made the means of great embar 
rassment to Government. I hope your Grace will stand 
in the gap, and not suffer the present Lord-Lieutenant to 
job it out of the hands of his successor. If great care 
is not used, Lord Fitzwilliam will find himself invested 
on every side. English Government, if they are suffered 
to go on there as they have gone on, will not be left 
even the miserable shadow of authority which it now 
seems to possess. God bless you and guide you ; every 
thing appears to me, in this season, to be serious and 
alarming in the highest degree. Office, to which men 
like you can only be called by an imperious duty, 
cannot afford to be conducted, as formerly it might, with 
impunity, by fancy, liking, or momentary expediency. 

394 A LETTER TO THE 1794- 

Again excuse the liberty of zeal and affection. I am 
as a man dead ; and dead men, in their written opi 
nions, are heard with patience. I have now no one 
earthly interest of my own. I have no other way than 
this of showing my gratitude for your long-continued 
kindness to me and to my poor brother. Alas ! he and 
my son are gone, and can no longer call for the protec 
tion of any mortal. 

I am ever, with the most affectionate and cordial 
attachment to your person, your honour, and your best 
interests, My dear Lord, your Grace s most sincere, 
but most unhappy friend, 


September 14, 1794. 



I HAVE received your two letters the first in answer 
to mine about Hylan ; l the second, chiefly employed in 
the account of the deserved confidence which the 
Catholics of Ireland, and most of the other descriptions 
in our country, repose in Earl Fitzwilliam. I thank 
you for both of them, as I do for all the other marks 
I have received of your good opinion and friend 

I must always be proud of the partiality you have 

1 A Catholic soldier who had been ill-treated. See p. 426. 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 395 

shown to me, and to him who was dearer to me than I 
am to myself. I am no flatterer, though to commend 
with justice is, I hope, more agreeable to my nature 
than with the same justice to censure. However, that 
must be done sometimes. I have always loved your 
public spirit, your regard to your country, your attach 
ment to its Government, your singular disinterestedness, 
and that very rare union you have made of the en 
lightened statesman with the ecclesiastic. I once spoke 
my sentiments very freely upon that subject to Mr. 
Pitt. From what had come to his own knowledge he 
did not seem at all to dissent from my notions, though 
his arrangements did not permit him at that time to 
make that use of your services which I proposed. 
Wherever you are you will be useful. I am sure you 
are so in Ireland. I am charmed with what you tell 
me of the alienation of the Catholics from the grand 
evil of our time, and their resolution to resist with all 
their might the attempts of Jacobinism from without 
and from within. I am more rejoiced at this, as few 
things have been left undone by their enemies to irritate 
them into the frenzy of that malignant fever. I am 
confident that the wisdom, the temper, and the firm 
magnanimity of Lord Fitzwilliam, will prevent their 
ever being provoked or seduced to their own or the 
general ruin. 

You tell me that some of the old gentry murmur at 
your having been at all at the Castle, though you have 
never been at levee or drawing-room of the Lord Lieu- 

396 A LETTER TO THE 1795- 

tenant or the Secretary, and never went to the Castle 
but when you were sent for. I trust that neither the 
Government nor you will be in the smallest degree 
affected by the creaking which some of the old worm- 
eaten furniture makes at its removal. But if (which I 
am far from thinking) any of the new household stuff 
should make the same noise in warping by its un 
seasoned greenness, which the other does in falling to 
pieces by its corruption, they may be assured that this 
fermentable sap portends the dry rot at no very remote 
distance. The being of Government depends upon 
keeping the Catholics from a mischievous presumption, 
and from a mean depression. No man is more con 
vinced than you are that they and public order have a 
common cause. A licentious popular arrogance would, 
along with their credit and happiness, subvert the foun 
dations of that order. On the other hand, if you lose 
dignity and courage, you lose the means of preserving 
that order and everything else. The advances you have 
hitherto made have been wholly owing to your having 
preserved that medium, which is only to be found in 
a calm and temperate firmness, the remotest thing in 
the world from that false and adulterate moderation, 
which is nothing else, but a mode of delivering deluded 
men, without a struggle, to the violence and intem 
perance of their enemies. 

Above all things, take care that, without being ob 
trusive (which is meanness in another mode) nothing 
should carry the appearance of skulking, or of being 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 397 

ashamed of your cause. If any one is ashamed of you, 
or afraid of your contact, it is clear that you can derive 
no essential service from such a person. The leading 
Catholics will be polite, attentive, forbearing, humble, 
and to a degree even submissive, to the ascendency, 
particularly to every man in office and in Parliament. 
But I have one favour to ask of them, which I hope 
they will grant to my tried attachment, which is, that 
they will be true to themselves, and that they will not 
pass by in silence any one act of outrage, oppression, 
and violence that they may suffer, without a complaint 
and a proceeding suitable to the nature of the wrong. 

If Lord Fitzwilliam was to live for half a century, 
and to continue in station as long as he lived, I should 
not pray to God for a greater security to you for every 
thing that you hold dear ; for in that time his virtues (the 
greatest and unmixed that I have known in man) would 
bring the leading men of the nation into habits of 
moderation, lenity, equity, and justice, which the 
practice of some hundreds of years, and the narrow 
hard-heartedness of a monopoly, have in a manner 
banished from the minds of too many of them. For it 
is plain that the late change in the laws has not made 
any alteration in their tempers, except that of aggravat 
ing their habitual pride by resentment and vexation. 
They have resolved to make one among the many un 
happy discoveries of our times. It is this that neither 
the laws nor the dispositions of the chief executive 
magistrate are able to give security to the people when- 

398 A LETTER TO THE 1795. 

ever certain leading men in the country and in office 
are against them. They have actually made the dis 
covery ; and a dreadful one it is for things, laws, and 
subjects. This is what makes all ideas of ascendency 
in particular factions, whether distinguished by party- 
names taken from theology or from politics, so mis 
chievous as they have been. Wherever such factions 
predominate in such a manner that they come to link 
(which, without loss of time, they are sure to do) a 
pecuniary and personal interest with the licentiousness 
of a party domination, nothing can secure those that 
are under it. If this was not clear enough upon a con 
sideration of the nature of things and the nature of 
men, the late proceedings in Ireland subsequent to the 
repeal of the penal laws would leave no doubt of it. 
For (besides not suffering individual Catholics to derive 
the smallest benefit from the capacities which the laws 
had granted to them) a more fierce, insolent, and con 
tumelious persecution had not (except in the time 
between 61 and 66) been carried on against them 
during the long period of my memory. This religious 
persecution, like most others, has been carried on under 
the pretext of their being bad subjects and disaffected 
to the Government. I think it very possible that to a 
degree the ascendants were sincere. The understanding 
> is soon debauched over to the passions ; and our 
opinions very easily follow our wishes. When we are 
once ill-inclined to any men, or set of men, we readily 
believe any evil of him or them that is inconvenient to 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 399 

our hostile designs. Besides, in that they have another 
excuse. Knowing and feeling that they are themselves 
attached to the cause of Government only on account 
of the profit they derive from their connection with it, 
it cannot enter into their conceptions how any man 
can be other than a rebel who is not brought into an 
obedience to law and authority. They are excusable, 
and may do the worst of things without being the worst 
of men. But it is not the less, but the more necessary 
that you should guard against such implacable and 
unprincipled enemies by an unremitting vigilance and 
a severe distrust. In the same manner that you never 
give the smallest credit to your enemies, in that pro 
portion you are to cherish and support your real 
friends who were such at the time of trial ; and indeed 
to wish well to all such as, without malice, went with 
the fashion and the crowd, but have since shown 
gentle and placable dispositions. Well, to know your 
friends and your enemies is almost the whole history of 
political prudence. This brings me to the business of 
Hylan, on occasion of which I took the liberty of open 
ing my correspondence with you. I refer you to the 
letter I wrote to you on that occasion. I wrote it in 
the first emotions which that cruel and infamous affair 
produced in my mind, and I have not altered my 
opinions in reflecting on the subject. In my poor 
opinion, the Catholic committee is bound in honour, in 
duty, and in common sense (if that affair is such as I 
imagine it to be), not to suffer a veil to be thrown over 

400 A LETTER TO THE 1795. 

it, or to compromise it in the smallest degree. You 
mention that more noise would have been made about 
it if it had not been from respect to Lord F. If this 
business had been done by his Excellency s orders, or 
under |his countenance, to be sure, to hush it up, how 
ever improper, would be to show respect to him. But 
as this was not the case, I do not feel how it can be to 
honour any Government to suppose it concerned in the 
impunity of oppression. Were I in that place, I should 
feel myself turned out of my situation the moment I 
was deprived of the power of being just and of protect 
ing the people under my care from the tumult of the 
multitude and the insolence of the rich and powerful ; 
for, in the name of God, for what else are governors and 
governments appointed ? I am (you will believe, what 
ever others may) beyond all men, perhaps, a friend to 
a lenient course; but my lenities are not for pride, 
cruelty, and oppression, but for those who are likely to 
suffer from these vices in action under royal or aristo 
cratic or democratic power. I would not put my 
melilot plaister on the back of the hangman, but on the 
skin of the person who has been torn by his whips. 
Your departed friend 1 was a wise person, of a penetrat 
ing and sagacious mind, and one who, by reading and 
observation, had made himself perfect master of the 
state of Ireland from the beginning of the sixteenth 
century to this hour. I wish you to look at the letter 
of his which he wrote when he was last in Cork, in 

1 Richard Burke junior. 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 401 

answer to an insidious paper circulated, and for some 
small time with effect, to delude the Irish Catholics. 
It is printed by Byrne, in Dublin. The spirit of that 
letter I wish to guide and direct the body of our 
country in all things. He was your true friend. He 
was not your friend because he was your law- counsel 
and active agent ; but he was your counsel and agent 
because he was your friend. Think it is he that speaks 
to you from the church of Beaconsfield, in which you, 
and the Duke of Portland, and Windham, and the 
Comte de Coigny, and O Connor, and the Earl of Inchi- 
quin, and Adey, laid the purest body that ever was 
informed by a rational soul. He would say to you, 
"Do not stifle the affair of Hylan! Pursue it with 
Government, with the courts of justice, with Parlia 
ment, with the public!" My dear sir, I am tired and 
sadly sunk. I will write to you more fully on the other 
subject of your letter to-morrow. Adieu ! Ever 
affectionately yours, EDMUND BURKE. 

BEACONSFIELD, February 4, 1795. 



I DON T know exactly why I am so unwilling to write 
by the post. I have little to say that might not be 
known to the world ; at the same time, there is some 
thing unpleasant in talking the confidential language of 


402 A LETTER TO THE 1795. 

friendship in the public theatre. It is still worse to 
put it into the power of any one to make unfaithful 
representations of it, or to make it the subject of 
malicious comments. I thank you for your letter; it 
is full of that good sense and good temper, as well as of 
that fortitude, which are natural to you. Since persons 
of so much greater authority than I am, and of so much 
better judgment, are of opinion you ought to stay, it 
was clearly right for you to remain at all risks. Indeed, 
if it could be done with tolerable safety, I wished you 
to watch over the cradle of those seminaries on which 
the future weal or woe of Ireland essentially depends. 
For you, I dread the revolutionary tribunal of Drog- 
heda. For the country, if some proper mode of educa 
tion is not adopted, I tremble for the spread of Atheism 
amongst the Catholics. I do not like the style of the 
meeting 1 in Francis Street. The tone was wholly 
Jacobinical. In Parliament, the language of your 
friends (one only excepted) was what it ought to be. 
But that one speech, though full of fire and animation, 
was not warmed with the fire of heaven. I am sorry 
for it. I have seen that gentleman but once. He is 
certainly a man of parts ; but one who has dealt too 
much in the philosophy of France. Justice, prudence, 
tenderness, moderation, and Christian charity, ought to 
become the measures of tolerance ; and not a cold 
apathy, or indeed, rather a savage hatred, to all religion, 

1 The assembly of the Roman Catholics held April 9, 1795, in 
Francis Street chapel. 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 403 

and an avowed contempt of all those points on which 
we differ and on those about which we agree. If what 
was said in Francis Street was in the first heat it might 
be excused. They were given to understand that a 
change of administration, short only of a revolution in 
violence, was made, only on account of a disposition in 
a Lord-Lieutenant to favour Catholics. Many provoking 
circumstances attended the business ; not the least of 
them was, that they saw themselves delivered over to 
their enemies, on no other apparent ground of merit 
than that they were such. All this is very true ; but 
under every provocation they ought not to be irritated 
by their enemies out of their principles and out of 
their senses. The language of the day went plainly to 
a separation of the two kingdoms. God forbid that 
anything like it should ever happen ! They would both 
be ruined by it; but Ireland would suffer most and 
first. The thing, however, is impossible. Those who 
should attempt that improbability would be undone. 
If ever the arms, which, indirectly, these orators seem 
to menace, were to be taken up, surely the threat of 
such a measure is not wise, as it could add nothing to 
their strength, but would give every possible advantage 
to their enemies. It is a foolish language, adopted from 
the United Irishmen, that their grievances originate 
from England. The direct contrary. It is an ascen 
dency which some of their own factions have obtained 
here that has hurt the Catholics with this Government. 
It is not as an English Government that Ministers act 

404 A LETTER TO THE 1795. 

in that manner, but as assisting a party in Ireland. 
When they talk of dissolving themselves as a Catholic 
body, and mixing their grievances with those of their 
country, all I have to say is, that they lose their own 
importance as a body by this amalgamation ; and they 
sink real matters of complaint in those which are 
factious and imaginary. For, in the name of God, what 
grievance has Ireland, as Ireland, to complain of with 
regard to Great Britain ; unless the protection of the 
most powerful country upon earth giving all her 
privileges, without exception, in common to Ireland, 
and reserving to herself only the painful pre-eminence 
of tenfold burdens, be a matter of complaint. The 
subject, as a subject, is as free in Ireland as he is in 
England. As a member of the empire, an Irishman has 
every privilege of a natural-born Englishman, in every 
part of it, in every occupation, and in every branch of 
commerce. No monopoly is established against him 
anywhere ; and the great staple manufacture of Ireland 
is not only not prohibited, not only not discouraged, but 
it is privileged in a manner that has no example. The 
provision trade is the same ; nor does Ireland, on her 
part, take a single article from England but what she 
has with more advantage than she could have it from 
any nation upon earth. I say nothing of the immense 
advantage she derives from the use of the English 
capital. In what country upon earth is it that a 
quantity of linens, the moment they are lodged in the 
warehouse, and before the sale, would entitle the Irish 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 405 

merchant or manufacturer to draw bills on the terms, 
and at the time, in which this is done by the ware 
houseman on London ? Ireland, therefore, as Ireland, * 
whether it be taken civilly, constitutionally, or com 
mercially, suffers no grievance. The Catholics, as 
Catholics, do ; and what can be got by joining their real 
complaint to a complaint which is fictitious, but to make 
the whole pass for fiction and groundless pretence ? I 
am not a man for construing with too much rigour the 
expressions of men under a sense of ill-usage. I know 
that much is to be given to passion ; and I hope I am 
more disposed to accuse the person who provokes 
another to anger, than the person who gives way to 
natural feelings in hot language. If this be all, it is no 
great matter ; but, if anger only brings out a plan that 
was before meditated, and laid up in the mind, the thing 
is more serious. The tenor of the speeches in Francis 
Street, attacking the idea of an incorporating union 
between the two kingdoms, expressed principles that 
went the full length of a separation, and of a dissolution 
of that union which arises from their being under the 
same crown. That Ireland would, in that case, come to 
make a figure amongst the nations, is an idea which has 
more of the ambition of individuals in it than of a sober 
regard to the happiness of a whole people. But if a 
people were to sacrifice solid quiet to empty glory, as on 
some occasions they have done under the circumstances 
of Ireland, she, most assuredly, never would obtain that 
independent glory, but would certainly lose all her 

406 A LETTER TO THE 1795. 

tranquillity, all her prosperity, and even that degree of 
lustre which she has, by the very free and very honour 
able connection she enjoys with a nation the most 
splendid and the most powerful upon earth. Ireland, 
constitutionally, is independent ; politically, she never 
can be so. It is a struggle against nature. She must 
be protected, and there is no protection to be found for 
her, but either from France or England. France, even 
if (under any form she may assume) she were disposed 
to give the same liberal and honourable protection to 
Ireland, has not the means of either serving or hurting 
her that are in the hands of Great Britain. She might 
make Ireland (supposing that kind of independence 
could be maintained, which for a year I am certain it 
could not) a dreadful thorn in the side of this kingdom; 
but Ireland would dearly buy that malignant and 
infernal satisfaction, by a dependence upon a power, 
either despotic, as formerly, or anarchical, as at present. 
We see well enough the kind of liberty which she 
either enjoys herself or is willing to bestow on others. 
This I say with regard to the scheme of those who call 
themselves United Irishmen ; that is to say, of those 
who, without any regard to religion, club all kinds of 
discontents together, in order to produce all kinds of 
disorders. But to speak to Catholics, as such, it is plain 
that whatever security they enjoy for their religion, as 
well as for the many solid advantages which, even 
under the present restrictions, they are entitled to, 
depends wholly upon their connection with this king- 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 407 

dom. France is an enemy to all religion ; but emi 
nently, and with a peculiar malignity, an enemy to the 
Catholic religion, which they mean, if they can, to 
extirpate throughout the globe. It is something per 
verse, and even unnatural, for Catholics to hear even the 
sound of a connection with France ; unless, under the 
colour and pretext of a religious description, they 
should, as some have done in this country, form them 
selves into a mischievous political faction. Catholics, 
as things now stand, have all the splendid abilities and 
much of the independent property in Parliament in 
their favour, and every Protestant (I believe with very 
few exceptions) who is really a Christian. Should they 
alienate these men from their cause, their choice is 
amongst those who, indeed, may have ability, but not 
wisdom or temper in proportion; and whose very 
ability is not equal, either in strength or exercise, to 
that which they lose. They will have to choose men of 
desperate property, or of no property, and men of no 
religious and no moral principle. Without a Protestant 
connection of some kind or other they cannot go on ; 
and here are the two sorts of descriptions of Protestants 
between whom they have an option to make. In this 
.state of things their situation, I allow, is difficult and 
delicate. If the better part lies by in a sullen silence, 
they still cannot hinder the more factious part both from 
speaking and from writing ; and the sentiments of those 
who are silent will be judged by the effusions of the 
people, who do not wish to conceal thoughts that the 

408 A LETTER TO THE 1795. 

sober part of mankind will not approve. On the other 
hand, if the better and more temperate part come forward 
to disclaim the others, they instantly make a breach in 
their own party, of which a malignant enemy will take 
advantage to crush them all. They will praise the 
sober part, but they will grant them nothing they shall 
desire ; nay, they will make use of their submission as 
a proof that sober men are perfectly satisfied in remain 
ing prostrate under their oppressive hands. These are 
dreadful dilemmas ; and they are such as ever will arise 
when men in power are possessed with a crafty malig 
nant disposition, without any real wisdom or enlarged 

However, as in every case of difficulty, there is a 
better way of proceeding and a worse ; and that some 
medium may be found between an abject, and, for 
that reason, an imprudent submission, and a contu 
macious, absurd resistance, what I would humbly sug 
gest is, that on occasion of the declamations in the 
newspaper, they should make, not an apology (for that 
is dishonourable and dangerous), but a strong charge on 
their enemies for defamation; disclaiming the tenets, 
practices, and designs, impudently attributed to them, 
and asserting, in cool, modest, and determined language, 
their resolution to assert the privileges to which, as good 
citizens and good subjects, they hold themselves en 
titled, without being intimidated or wearied out by the 
opposition of the monopolists of the kingdom. In this 
there will be nothing mean or servile, or which can 

1795- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 409 

carry any appearance of the effect of fear, but the con 
trary. At the same time it will remove the prejudices 
which, on this side of the water as well as on yours, are 
propagated against you with so much systematic pains. 
I think the committee would do well to do something 
of this kind in their own name. I trust those men of 
great ability in that committee, who incline to think 
that the Catholics ought to melt down their cause into 
the general mass of uncertain discontents and un 
ascertained principles, will, I hope, for the sake of 
agreeing with those whom, I am sure, they love and 
respect among their own brethren, as well as for the 
sake of the kingdom at large, waive that idea (which I 
do not deny to be greatly provoked) of dissolving the 
Catholic body before the objects of its union are ob 
tained, and turning the objects of their relief into a 
national quarrel. This, I am satisfied on recollection, 
they will think not irrational. The course taken by 
the enemy often becomes a fair rule of action. You 
see, by the whole turn of the debate against them, that 
their adversaries endeavoured to give this colour to the 
contest, and to make it hinge on this principle. The 
same policy cannot be good for you and your enemies. 
Sir George Shee, who is so good to take this, waits, or I 
should say more on this point. I should say something, 
too, of the colleges. I long much to hear how you 
go on. I have, however, said too much. If Grattan, 
by whom I wish the Catholics to be wholly advised, 
thinks differently from me, I wish the whole unsaid. 

410 A LETTER TO 1796. 

You see Lord Fitzwilliam sticks nobly to his text, and 
neither abandons his cause nor his friends, though he has 
few indeed to support him. When you can, pray let me 
hear from you. Mrs. Burke and myself, in this lonely 
and disconsolate house, never cease to think of you 
as we ought to do. I send some prints to Dublin ; but, 
as your house is not there, I reserve a memorial of my 
dear Eichard for your return. I am ever, my dear sir, 
faithfully and affectionately, your miserable friend, 


BEACONSFIELD, May 18, 1795. 


I AM so much out of the world that I am not surprised 
every one should be ignorant of, as he is uninterested 
in, the state of my health, my habits of life, or anything 
else that belongs to me. 

Your obliging letter of the 20th of July was delivered 
to me at Bath, to which place I was driven by urgent 
necessity, as my only chance of preserving a life which 
did not then promise a month s duration. I was directed 
to suspend all application to business, even to the 
writing of a common letter, as it was thought that I 
had suffered by some such application, and by the 
attendant anxiety, before and about that time. I 
returned from Bath not well, but much recovered from 
the state in which I had been ; and I continued in the 

1796. THOMAS KEOGH, ESQ. 411 

same condition of convalescence for a month or six 
weeks longer. Soon after I began gradually to decline, 
and at this moment I do not find myself very materially 
better or stronger than when I was sent to Bath. 

I am obliged to you for the offer which you made 
in that letter of conveying anything from me to Ire 
land ; but I really thought you had known that I have 
no kind of correspondence or communication with that 
country, and that for a good while I had not taken any 
part whatsoever in its affairs. I believe you must 
have observed, when last I had the honour of seeing 
you in London, how little any opinions of mine are 
likely to prevail with persons in power here, even with 
those with whom I had formerly a long and intimate 
connection. I never see any of his Majesty s ministers, 
except one gentleman who, from mere compassion, has 
paid me some visits in this my retreat, and has endeav 
oured, by his generous sympathy, to soothe my pains 
and my sorrows ; but that gentleman has no concern in 
Irish affairs, nor is, I believe, consulted about them. I 
cannot conceive how you or anybody can think that 
any sentiments of mine are called for, or even admitted, 
when it is notorious that there is nothing at home or 
abroad, in war or in peace, that I have the good fortune 
to be at all pleased with. I ought to presume that 
they who have a great public trust, who are of dis 
tinguished abilities, and who are in the vigour of their 
life, behold things in a juster point of view than I am 
able to see them, however my self-partiality may make 

412 A LETTER TO 1796. 

me too tenacious of my own opinion. I am in no 
degree of confidence with the great leader either of 
Ministry or Opposition. 

In a general way, I am but too well acquainted with 
the distracted state of Ireland, and with the designs of 
the public enemy pointed at that kingdom. I have my 
own thoughts upon the causes of those evils. You do 
me justice in saying in your letter of July that I 
am a true Irishman. Considering, as I do, England as 
my country, of long habit, of obligation, and of estab 
lishment, and that my primary duties are hers, I can 
not conceive how a man can be a genuine Englishman, 
without being at the same time a true Irishman, though 
fortune should have made his birth on this side the 
water. I think the same sentiments ought to be recip 
rocal on the part of Ireland, and, if possible, with much 
stronger reason. Ireland cannot be separated one 
moment from England without losing every source of 
her present prosperity, and even hope of her future. I 
am very much afflicted, deeply and bitterly afflicted, to 
see that a very small faction in Ireland should arrogate 
it to itself to be the whole of that great kingdom. I am 
more afflicted in seeing that a very minute part of that 
small faction should be able to persuade any person 
here, that on the support of their power the connection 
of the two kingdoms essentially depends. This strange 
error, if persevered in (as I am afraid it will), must 
accomplish the ruin of both countries. At the same time 
I must as bitterly regret that any persons who suffer 

1796. THOMAS KEOGH, ESQ, 413 

by the predominance of that corrupt fragment of a fac 
tion should totally mistake the cause of their evils as 
well as their remedy if a remedy can be at all looked 
for ; which, I confess, I am not sanguine enough to 
expect in any event, or from the exertions of any person; 
and least of all from exertions of mine, even if I had 
either health or prospect of life commensurate to so 
difficult an undertaking. I say, I do regret that the 
conduct of those who suffer should give any advantage 
to those who are resolved to tyrannise. I do believe that 
this conduct has served only as a pretext for aggravat 
ing the calamities of that party, which, though superior 
in number, is from many circumstances much inferior 
in force. 

I believe there are very few cases which will justify 
a revolt against the established government of a 
country, let its constitution be what it will, and even 
though its abuses should be great and provoking ; but 
I am sure there is no case in which it is justifiable, 
either to conscience or to prudence, to menace resistance 
when there is no means of effecting it, nor perhaps in 
the major part any disposition. You know the state of 
that country better than I can pretend to do, but I 
could wish, if there was any use in retrospect, that 
those menaces had been forborne, because they have 
caused a real alarm in some weak though well-inten 
tioned minds ; and because they furnish the bold and 
crafty with pretences for exciting a persecution of a 
much more fierce and terrible nature than I ever 

414 A LETTER TO 1796. 

remember, even when the country was under a system 
of laws apparently less favourable to its tranquillity 
and good government, at the same time that sober exer 
tion has lessened in the exact proportion in which 
flashy menaces increased. Pusillanimity (as it often 
does) has succeeded to rage and fury. Against all 
reason, experience, and observation, many persons in 
Ireland have taken it into their heads that the influence 
of the Government here has been the cause of the mis 
demeanour of persons in power in that country, and 
that they are suffering under the yoke of a British 
dominion. I must speak the truth I must say that 
all the evils of Ireland originate within itself ; that it 
is the boundless credit which is given to an Irish cabal 
that produces whatever mischiefs both countries may 
feel in their relation. England has hardly anything 
to do with Irish government. I heartily wish it were 
otherwise ; but the body of the people of England, even 
the most active politicians, take little or no concern in 
the affairs of Ireland. They are, therefore, by the min 
ister of this country, who fears upon that account no 
responsibility here, and who shuns all responsibility 
in Ireland, abandoned to the direction of those who are 
actually in possession of its internal government ; this 
has been the case more eminently for these five or six 
last years ; and it is a system, if it deserves that name, 
not likely to be altered. 

I conceive that the last disturbances, and those the 
most important, and which have the deepest root, do 

1796. THOMAS KEOGH, ESQ. 415 

not originate, nor have they their greatest strength, 
among the Catholics ; but there is, and ever has been, 
a strong republican Protestant faction in Ireland, which 
has persecuted the Catholics as long as persecution 
would answer their purpose; and now the same faction 
would dupe them to become accomplices in effectuating 
the same purposes ; and thus, either by tyranny or 
seduction, would accomplish their ruin. It was with 
grief I saw last year, with the Catholic delegates, a 
gentleman who was not of their religion, or united to 
them in any avowable bond of a public interest, acting 
as their secretary, in their most confidential concerns. 
I afterwards found that this gentleman s name was im 
plicated in a correspondence with certain Protestant 
conspirators and traitors, who were acting in direct con 
nection with the enemies of all government and religion. 
He might be innocent ; and I am very sure that those 
who employed and trusted him were perfectly ignorant 
of his treasonable correspondences and designs, if such 
he had ; but as he has thought proper to quit the king s 
dominions about the time of the investigation of that 
conspiracy, unpleasant inferences may have been drawn 
from it. I never saw him but once, which was in your 
company, and at that time knew nothing of his con 
nections, character, or dispositions. 

I am never likely to be called upon for my advice 
in this, or in any business ; and after having once 
almost forcibly obtruded myself into it, and having 
found no sort of good effect from my uncalled-for inter- 

416 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

ference, I shall certainly, though I should have better 
health than I can flatter myself with, never again 
thrust myself into those intricate affairs. Persons of 
much greater abilities, rank, and consequence than I 
am, and who had been called by their situation to those 
affairs, have been totally overwhelmed by the domineer 
ing party in Ireland, and have been disgraced and 
ruined, as far as independence, honour, and virtue can 
be ruined and disgraced. However, if your leisure per 
mits you to pay a visit to this melancholy infirmary, I 
shall certainly receive any information with which you 
are pleased to furnish me ; but merely as news, and 
what may serve to feed the little interest I take in this 
world. You will excuse my having used the hand of 
a confidential friend in this letter, for indeed I suffer 
much by stooping to write. I have the honour to be, 



BEACONSFIELD, November 17, 1796. 



THIS morning I received your letter of the 30th of 
November from Maynooth. I dictate my answer from 
my couch, on which I am obliged to lie for a good part 
of the day. I cannot conceal from you, much less can 
I conceal from myself, that in all probability I am not 

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 


long for this world. Indeed, things are in such a situa 
tion, independently of the domestic wound, that I never 
could have less reason for regret in quitting the world 
than at this moment ; and my end will be, by several, 
as little regretted. 

I have no difficulty at all in communicating to you, 
or, if it were any use, to mankind at large, my senti 
ments and feelings on the dismal state of things in 
Ireland ; but I find it difficult indeed to give you the 
advice you are pleased to ask, as to your own conduct 
in your very critical situation. 

You state, what has long been but too obvious, that 
it seems the unfortunate policy of the hour to put to the 
far largest portion of the king s subjects in Ireland the 
desperate alternative between a thankless acquiescence 
under grievous oppression, or a refuge in Jacobinism, 
with all its horrors and all its crimes. You prefer the 
former dismal part of the choice. There is no doubt 
but that you would have reason, if the election of one 
of these evils was at all a security against the other. 
But they are things very alliable, and as closely con 
nected as cause and effect. That Jacobinism which is 
speculative in its origin, and which arises from wanton 
ness and fulness of bread, may possibly be kept under 
by firmness and prudence. The very levity of character 
which produces it may extinguish it. But Jacobinism, 
which arises from penury and irritation, from scorned 
loyalty and rejected allegiance, has much deeper roots. 
They take their nourishment from the bottom of human 

2 E 

418 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

nature, and the unalterable constitution of things, and 
not from humour and caprice, or the opinions of the day 
about privileges and liberties. These roots will be shot 
into the depths of hell, and will at last raise up their 
proud tops to heaven itself. This radical evil may baffle 
the attempts of heads much wiser than those are, who, 
in the petulance and riot of their drunken power, are 
neither ashamed nor afraid to insult and provoke those 
whom it is their duty, and ought to be their glory, to 
cherish and protect. 

So then, the little wise men of the west, with every 
hazard of this evil, are resolved to persevere in the manly 
and well-timed resolution of a war against Popery. In 
the principle, and in all the proceedings, it is perfectly 
suited to their character. They begin this last series of 
their offensive operations by laying traps for the con 
sciences of poor foot-soldiers. They call these wretches 
to their church (empty of a volunteer congregation), not 
by the bell, but by the whip. This ecclesiastic military 
discipline is happily taken up, in order to form an army 
of well-scourged Papists into a firm phalanx for the 
support of the Protestant religion. I wish them joy of 
this their valuable discovery in theolog}^ politics, and 
the art military. Fashion governs the world, and it is 
the fashion in the great French empire of pure and per 
fect Protestantism, as well as in the little busy meddling 
province of servile imitators, that apes at a humble dis 
tance the tone of its capital, to make a crusade against 
you poor Catholics. But whatever may be thought in 

1796- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 419 

Ireland of its share of a war against the Pope in that 
out-lying part of Europe, the zealous Protestant, Bona 
parte, has given his late Holiness far more deadly blows, 
in the centre of his own power, and in the nearest seats 
of his influence, than the Irish Directory l can arrogate 
to itself within its own jurisdiction, from the utmost 
efforts of its political and military skill. I have my 
doubts (they may perhaps arise from my ignorance) 
whether the glories of the night expeditions, in surpris 
ing the cabin fortresses in Louth and Meath, or whether 
the slaughter and expulsion of the Catholic weavers by 
another set of zealots in Armagh, or even the proud 
trophies of the late potato field 2 in that county, are quite 
to be compared with the Protestant victories on the 
plains of Lombardy, or to the possession of the flat of 
Bologna, or to the approaching sack of Eome, where, 
even now, the Protestant commissaries give the law. 
In all this business Great Britain, to us merely secular 
politicians, makes no great figure ; but let the glory of 
Great Britain shift for itself as it may. All is well, pro 
vided Popery is crushed. 

This war against Popery furnishes me with a clue 
that leads me out of a maze of perplexed politics, which, 

1 By the " Irish Directory, " Mr. Burke means the Protestant 
ascendency party, then in power in Ireland. 

2 Mr. Burke alludes to popular disturbances in Louth and Meath, 
and the very questionable means taken by the Irish Government to 
suppress them ; to the attacks on the Catholics in Armagh by Orange 
men ; and probably to the " Battle of the Diamond," in that county, 
in September 1795. 

420 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

without it, I could not in the least understand. I now 
can account for the whole. Lord Malmesbury is sent 
to prostrate the dignity of the English monarchy at 
Paris, that an Irish, Popish common soldier may be 
whipt in, to give an appearance of habitation, to a de 
serted Protestant Church in Ireland. Thus we balance 
the account defeat and dishonour abroad ; oppression 
at home. We sneak to the regicides, but we boldly 
trample on our poor fellow-citizens. But all is for the 
Protestant cause. 

The same ruling principle explains the rest. We 
have abdicated the crown of Corsica, which had been 
newly soldered to the crown of Great Britain and to the 
crown of Ireland, lest the British diadem should look too 
like the Pope s triple crown. We have run away from 
the people of Corsica, and abandoned them without 
capitulation of any kind in favour of those of them who 
might be our friends ; but then it was for their having 
capitulated with us for Popery, as a part of their consti 
tution. We made amends for our sins by our repentance, 
and for our apostasy from Protestantism by a breach of 
faith with Popery. We have fled, overspread with dirt 
and ashes, but with hardly enough of sackcloth to cover 
our nakedness. We recollected that this island (together 
with its yews l and its other salubrious productions) had 
given birth to the illustrious champion of the Protestant 
world, Bonaparte. It was therefore not fit (to use the 
favourite French expression) that the cradle of this reli- 

1 Sic tua Cyrnseas fugiant examina taxos. Virg. Eel. ix. 30. 

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 421 

gious hero should be polluted by the feet of the British 
renegade slaves who had stipulated to support Popery 
in that island, whilst his friends and fellow-missionaries 
are so gloriously employed in extirpating it in another. 
Our policy is growing every day into more and more 
consistency. We have showed our broad back to the 
Mediterranean ; we have abandoned, too, the very hope 
of an alliance in Italy ; we have relinquished the Levant 
to the Jacobins ; we have considered our trade as nothing ; 
our policy and our honour went along with it. But all 
these objects were well sacrificed to remove the very 
suspicion of giving any assistance to that abomination 
the Pope, in his insolent attempts to resist a truly Pro 
testant power resolved to humble the Papal tiara, and to 
prevent his pardons and dispensations from being any 
longer the standing terror of the wise and virtuous Direc 
tory of Ireland ; who cannot sit down with any tolerable 
comfort to an innocent little job, whilst his bulls are 
thundering through the world. I ought to suppose that 
the arrival of General Hoche is eagerly expected in 
Ireland ; for he, too, is a most zealous Protestant, and he 
has given proof of it, by the studied cruelties and insults 
by which he put to death the old Bishop of Dol, 1 whom 
(but from the mortal fear I am in lest the suspicion of 
Popery should attach upon me) I should call a glorious 
martyr, and should class him amongst the most vener 
able prelates that have appeared in this century. It is 
to be feared, however, that the zealots will be disap- 

1 In Bretagne. 

422 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

pointed in their pious hopes by the season of the year 
and the bad condition of the Jacobin navy, which may 
keep him this winter from giving his brother Protestants 
his kind assistance in accomplishing with you what the 
other friend of the cause, Bonaparte, is doing in Italy ; 
and what the masters of these two pious men, the Pro 
testant Directory of France, have so thoroughly accom 
plished in that, the most Popish, but unluckily, whilst 
Popish, the most cultivated, the most populous, and the 
most nourishing of all countries the Austrian Nether 

When I consider the narrowness of the views, and 
the total want of human wisdom displayed in our 
western crusade against Popery, it is impossible to 
speak of it but with every mark of contempt and 
scorn. Yet one cannot help shuddering with horror 
when one contemplates the terrible consequences that 
are frequently the results of craft united with folly 
placed in an unnatural elevation. Such ever will be 
the issue of things when the mean vices attempt 
to mimic the grand passions. Great men will never do 
great mischief but for some great end. For this, they 
must be in a state of inflammation, and, in a manner, out 
of themselves. Among the nobler animals, whose 
blood is hot, the bite is never poisonous, except when 
the creature is mad; but in the cold-blooded reptile 
race, whose poison is exalted by the chemistry of their 
icy complexion, their venom is the result of their 
health, and of the perfection of their nature. Woe to 

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 423 

the country in which such snakes, whose primum mobile 
is their belly, obtain wings, and from serpents become 
dragons. It is not that these people want natural 
talents, and even a good cultivation ; on the contrary, 
they are the sharpest and most sagacious of mankind 
in the things to which they apply. But, having wasted 
their faculties upon base and unworthy objects, in any 
thing of a higher order they are far below the common 
rate of two-legged animals. 

I have nothing more to say just now upon the 
Directory in Ireland, which, indeed, is alone worth any 
mention at all. As to the half-dozen (or half-score as 
it may be) of gentlemen, who, under various names of 
authority, are sent from hence to be the subordinate 
agents of that low order of beings, I consider them as 
wholly out of the question. Their virtues or their 
vices, their ability or their weakness, are matters of 
no sort of consideration. You feel the thing very 
rightly. All the evils of Ireland originate within 
itself. That unwise body, the United Irishmen, have 
had the folly to represent those evils as owing to this 
country, when, in truth, its chief guilt is in its total 
neglect, its utter oblivion, its shameful indifference, 
and its entire ignorance of Ireland, and of everything 
that relates to it, and not in any oppressive disposi 
tion towards that unknown region. No such disposition 
exists. English Government has farmed out Ireland, 
without the reservation of a pepper-corn rent in power 
or influence, public or individual, to the little narrow 

424 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

faction that domineers there. Through that alone they 
see, feel, hear, or understand, anything relative to that 
kingdom. Nor do they any way interfere, that I know 
of, except in giving their countenance, and the sanction 
of their names, to whatever is done by that junto. 

Ireland has derived some advantage from its inde 
pendence on the Parliament of this kingdom, or rather, 
it did derive advantage from the arrangements that 
were made at the time of the establishment of that 
independence. But human blessings are mixed, and I 
cannot but think that even these great blessings were 
bought dearly enough when, along with the weight of 
the authority, they have totally lost all benefit from the 
superintendence of the British Parliament. Our pride 
of England is succeeded by fear. It is little less than 
a breach of order even to mention Ireland in the House 
of Commons of Great Britain. If the people of Ireland 
were to be flayed alive by the predominant faction, it 
would be the most critical of all attempts, so much as 
to discuss the subject in any public assembly upon this 
side of the water. If such a faction should hereafter 
happen, by its folly or its iniquity, or both, to promote 
disturbances in Ireland, the force paid by this kingdom 
(supposing our own insufficient) would infallibly be 
employed to redress them. This would be right enough, 
and indeed our duty, if our public councils at the same 
time possessed and employed the means of inquiring 
into the merits of that cause, in which their blood and 
treasure were to be laid out. By a strange inversion of 

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 425 

the order of things, not only the largest part of the 
natives of Ireland are thus annihilated, but the Parlia 
ment of Great Britain itself is rendered no better than 
an instrument in the hands of an Irish faction. This is 
ascendency with a witness ! In what all this will end 
it is not impossible to conjecture, though the exact 
time of the accomplishment cannot be fixed with the 
same certainty as you may calculate an eclipse. 

As to your particular conduct, it has undoubtedly 
been that of a good and faithful subject, and of a man 
of integrity and honour. You went to Ireland this 
last time, as you did the first time, at the express 
desire of the English minister of that department, and 
at the request of the Lord-Lieutenant himself. You 
were fully aware of the difficulties that would attend 
your mission ; and I was equally sensible of them. 
Yet you consented, and I advised, that you should obey 
the voice of what we considered an indispensable duty. 
We regarded, as the great evil of the time, the growth 
of Jacobinism, and we were very well assured that, 
from a variety of causes, no part of these countries was 
more favourable to the growth and progress of that evil 
than our unfortunate country. I considered it as a toler 
ably good omen that Government would do nothing 
further to foment and promote the Jacobin malady that 
they called upon you, a strenuous and steady Koyalist, an 
enlightened and exemplary clergyman, a man of birth 
and respectable connexions in the country, a man well- 
informed and conversant in State affairs, and in the 

426 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

general politics of the several courts of Europe, and in 
timately and personally habituated in some of those 
courts. I regretted indeed that the ministry had de 
clined to make any sort of use of the reiterated infor 
mations you had given them of the designs of their 
enemies, and had taken no notice of the noble and dis 
interested offers which, through me, were made for 
employing you to save Italy and Spain to the British 
alliance. But this being past, and Spain and Italy lost, 
I was in hopes that they were resolved to put them 
selves in the right at home, by calling upon you ; that 
they would leave, on their part, no cause or pretext for 
Jacobinism, except in the seditious disposition of in 
dividuals ; but I now see that, instead of profiting by 
your advice and services, they will not so much as take 
the least notice of your written representations, or 
permit you to have access to them, on the part of those 
whom it was your business to reconcile to Government, 
as well as to conciliate Government towards them. 
Having rejected your services as a friend of Govern 
ment, and in some sort in its employment, they will 
not even permit to you the natural expression of those 
sentiments which every man of sense and honesty must 
feel, and which every plain and sincere man must 
speak, upon this vile plan of abusing military discipline, 
and perverting it into an instrument of religious perse 
cution. You remember with what indignation I heard 
of the scourging of the soldier at Carrick for adhering 
to his religious opinions. It was at the time when 

1796- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 427 

Lord Fitzwilliam went to take possession of a short 
lived Government in Ireland. 

He could not live long in power, because he was a 
true patriot, a true friend of both countries, a steady 
resister of Jacobinism in every part of the world. On 
this occasion he was not of my opinion. He thought, 
indeed, that the sufferer ought to be relieved and dis 
charged, and I think he was so ; but, as to punishment 
to be inflicted on the offenders, he thought more lenient 
measures, comprehended in a general plan to prevent 
such evils in future, would be the better course. My 
judgment, such as it was, had been that punishment 
ought to attach, so far as the laws permitted, upon every 
evil action of subordinate power, as it arose. That such 
acts ought at least to be marked with the displeasure of 
Government, because general remedies are uncertain in 
their operation when obtained ; but that it is a matter 
of general uncertainty whether they can be obtained at 
all. For a time his appeared to be the better opinion. 
Even after he was cruelly torn from the embraces of the 
people of Ireland, when the militia and other troops 
were encamped (if I recollect right) at Loughlinstown, 
you yourself, with the knowledge and acquiescence of 
Government, publicly performed your function to the 
Catholics then in service. I believe, too, that all the 
Irish, who had composed the foreign corps taken into 
British pay, had their regular chaplains. But we see 
that things are returning fast to their old corrupted 
channels. There they will continue to flow. 

428 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

If any material evil had been stated to have arisen 
from this liberty, that is, if sedition, mutiny, disobedi 
ence of any kind to command, had been taught in their 
chapels, there might have been a reason for not only 
forcing the soldiers into churches where better doctrines 
were taught, but for punishing the teachers of disobedi 
ence and sedition. But I have never heard of any such 
complaint. It is a part, therefore, of the systematic ill- 
treatment of Catholics. This system never will be 
abandoned, as long as it brings advantage to those who 
adopt it. If the country enjoys a momentary quiet, it 
is pleaded as an argument in favour of the good effect 
of wholesome rigours. If, on the contrary, the country 
grows more discontented, and if riots and disorders 
multiply, new arguments are furnished for giving a 
vigorous support to the authority of the Directory, on 
account of the rebellious disposition of the people. So 
long, therefore, as disorders in the country become pre 
texts for adding to the power and emolument of a junto, 
means will be found to keep one part of it, or other, in 
a perpetual state of confusion and disorder. This is the 
old traditionary policy of that sort of men. The discon 
tents which, under them, break out amongst the people, 
become the tenure by which they hold their situation. 

I do not deny that in these contests the people, how 
ever oppressed, are frequently much to blame ; whether 
provoked to their excesses or not, undoubtedly the law 
ought to look to nothing but the offence, and punish it. 
The redress of grievances is not less necessary than the 

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 429 

punishment of disorders, but it is of another resort. In 
punishing, however, the law ought to be the only rule. 
If it is not of sufficient force ; a force consistent with its 
general principles ought to be added to it. The first 
duty of a State is to provide for its own conservation. 
Until that point is secured it can preserve and protect 
nothing else. But, if possible, it has greater interest 
in acting according to strict law than even the subject 
himself. For, if the people see that the law is violated 
to crush them, they will certainly despise the law. 
They, or their party, will be easily led to violate it, 
whenever they can, by all the means in their power. 
Except in cases of direct war, whenever Government 
abandons law it proclaims anarchy. I am well aware 
(if I cared one farthing, for the few days I have to live, 
whether the vain breath of men blow hot or cold about 
me) that they who censure any oppressive proceeding 
of Government are exciting the people to sedition and 
revolt. If there be any oppression, it is very true, or if 
there be nothing more than the lapses which will 
happen to human infirmity at all times, and in the 
exercise of all power, such complaints would be wicked 
indeed. These lapses are exceptions implied, an allow 
ance for which is a part of the understood covenant by 
which power is delegated by fallible men to other men 
that are not infallible ; but, whenever a hostile spirit on 
the part of Government is shown, the question assumes 
another form. This is no casual error, no lapse,^no 
sudden surprise ; nor is it a question of civil or political 

430 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

liberty. What contemptible stuff it is to say that a 
man who is lashed to church against his conscience 
would not discover that the whip is painful, or that he 
had a conscience to be violated, unless I told him so ! 
Would not a penitent offender, confessing his offence and 
expiating it by his blood, when denied the consolation 
of religion at his last moments, feel it as no injury to 
himself; or that the rest of the world would feel so 
horrible and impious an oppression with no indignation, 
unless I happened to say it ought to be reckoned 
amongst the most barbarous acts of our barbarous times ? 
Would the people consider the being taken out of their 
beds, and transported from their family and friends, 
to be an equitable, and legal, and charitable pro 
ceeding, unless I should say that it was a violation of 
justice and a dissolution, pro tanto, of the very compact 
of human society ? If a House of Parliament, whose 
essence it is to be the guardian of the laws, and a sym 
pathetic protector of the rights of the people, and 
eminently so of the most defenceless, should not only 
countenance but applaud this very violation of all law, 
and refuse even to examine into the grounds of the 
necessity upon the allegation of which the law was so 
violated, would this be taken for a tender solicitude for 
the welfare of the poor, and a true proof of the repre 
sentative capacity of the House of Commons, unless I 
should happen to say (what I do say) that the House 
had not done its duty, either in preserving the sacred 
rules of law, or in justifying the woeful and humiliating 

1796. REV. DR. HUSSEY. 431 

privilege of necessity ? They may indemnify and 
reward others. They might contrive, if I was within 
their grasp, to punish me, or, if they thought it worth 
their while, to stigmatise me by their censures ; but who 
will indemnify them for the disgrace of such an act ? 
Who will save them from the censures of posterity ? 
What act of oblivion will cover them from the wakeful 
memory, from the notices and issues of the grand 
remembrancer the God within ? Would it pass with 
the people who suffer from the abuse of lawful power, 
when at the same time they suffer from the use of law 
less violence of factions amongst themselves, that Govern 
ment had done its duty, and acted leniently in not 
animadverting on one of those acts of violence, if I did 
not tell them that the lenity with which Government 
passes by the crimes and oppressions of a favourite 
faction was itself an act of the most atrocious cruelty ? 
If a Parliament should hear a declamation attributing 
the sufferings of those who are destroyed by these riotous 
proceedings to their misconduct, and then to make them 
self-felonious, and should in effect refuse an inquiry into 
the fact, is no inference to be drawn from thence, unless 
I tell men in high places that these proceedings, taken 
together, form not only an encouragement to the abuse 
of power, but to riot, sedition, and a rebellious spirit, 
which, sooner or later, will turn upon those that 
encourage it ? 

I say little of the business of the potato field, 
because I am not acquainted with the particulars. If 

432 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

any persons were found in arms against the king, 
whether in a field of potatoes, or of flax, or of turnips, 
they ought to be attacked by a military power, and 
brought to condign punishment by course of law. If 
the county in which the rebellion was raised was not in 
a temper fit for the execution of justice, a law ought to 
be made, such as was made with regard to Scotland, in 
the suppression of the Eebellion of 45, to try the de 
linquents. There would be no difficulty in convicting 
men who were found "flagranto ddicte" But I hear 
nothing of all this. No law, no trial, no punishment 
commensurate to rebellion, nor of a known proportion 
to any lesser delinquency, nor any discrimination of the 
more or the less guilty. Shall you and I find fault 
with the proceedings of France, and be totally in 
different to the proceedings of Directories at home ? 
You and I hate Jacobinism as we hate the gates of hell. 
Why ? Because it is a system of oppression. What 
can make us in love with oppression because the 
syllables " Jacobin " are not put before the " ism" when 
the very same things are done under the "ism" pre 
ceded by any other name in the Directory of Ireland ? 

I have told you, at a great length for a letter, very 
shortly for the subject and for my feelings on it, my 
sentiments of the scene in which you have been called 
to act. On being consulted, you advised the sufferers 
to quiet and submission ; and, giving Government full 
credit for an attention to its duties, you held out, as an 
inducement to that submission, some sort of hope of 

1796- REV. DR. HUSSEY. 433 

redress. You tried what your reasons and your credit 
would do to effect it. In consequence of this piece of 
service to Government you have been excluded from all 
communication with the Castle ; and perhaps you may 
thank yourself that you are not in Newgate. You have 
done a little more than, in your circumstances, I should 
have done. You are, indeed, very excusable from your 
motives ; but it is very dangerous to hold out to an 
irritated people any hopes that we are not pretty sure 
of being able to realise. The doctrine of passive obedi 
ence, as a doctrine, it is unquestionably right to teach, 
but to go beyond that is a sort of deceit ; and the 
people who are provoked by their oppressors do not 
readily forgive their friends, if, whilst the first persecute, 
the other appear to deceive them. These friends lose 
all power of being serviceable to that Government in 
whose favour they have taken an ill-considered step ; 
therefore, my opinion is that, until the Castle shall 
show a greater disposition to listen to its true friends 
than hitherto it has done, it would not be right in you 
any further to obtrude your services. In the meantime, 
upon any new application from the Catholics, you 
ought to let them know, simply and candidly, how you 

The Duke of Portland sent you to Ireland, from a 
situation in this country of advantage and comfort to 
yourself, and no small utility to others. You explained 
to him, in the clearest manner, the conduct you were 
resolved to hold. I do not know that your writing to 

2 F 

434 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

him will be of the smallest advantage. I rather think 
not ; yet I am far from sure that you do not owe to him 
and yourself to represent to his Grace the matters 
which in substance you have stated to me. 

If anything else should occur to me, I shall, as you 
ask it, communicate my thoughts to you. In the mean 
time, I shall be happy to hear from you as often as you 
find it convenient. You never can neglect the great 
object of which you are so justly fond ; and let me beg 
of you not to let slip out of your mind the idea of the 
auxiliary studies and acquirements which I recom 
mended to you, to add to the merely professional pur 
suits of your young clergy ; and, above all, I hope that 
you will use the whole of your influence among the 
Catholics to persuade them to a greater indifference 
about the political objects which at present they have 
in view. It is not but that I am aware of their im 
portance, or that I wish them to be abandoned ; but 
that they would follow opportunities, and not attempt 
to force anything. I doubt whether the privileges they 
now seek, or have lately sought, are compassable. The 
struggle would, I am afraid, only lead to those very 
disorders which are made pretexts for further oppression 
of the oppressed. I wish the leading people amongst 
them would give the most systematic attention to pre 
vent frequent communication with their adversaries. 
There are a part of them proud, insulting, capricious, 
and tyrannical. These, of course, will keep at a 
distance. There are others of a seditious temper, who 

1796. REV, DR. HUSSEY. 435 

would make them at first the instruments, and in the 
end the victims, of their factious temper and purposes. 
Those that steer a middle course are truly respectable, 
but they are very few. Your friends ought to avoid all 
imitation of the vices of their proud lords. To many of 
these they are themselves sufficiently disposed. I 
should therefore recommend to the middle ranks of 
that description, in which I include not only all 
merchants, but all farmers and tradesmen, that they 
would change as much as possible those expensive 
modes of living, and that dissipation, to which our 
countrymen in general are so much addicted. It does 
not at all become men in a state of persecution. They 
ought to conform themselves to the circumstances of a 
people whom Government is resolved not to consider as 
upon a par with their fellow-subjects. Favour, they 
will have none. They must aim at other resources ; 
and to make themselves independent in fact, before they 
aim at a nominal independence. Depend upon it, that, 
with half the privileges of the others, joined to a 
different system of manners, they would grow to a 
degree of importance, to which, without it, no privileges 
could raise them, much less any intrigues or factious 
practices. I know very well that such a discipline, 
among so numerous a people, is not easily introduced, 
but I am sure it is not impossible. If I had youth and 
strength, I would go myself over to Ireland to work on 
that plan ; so certain I am that the well-being of all 
descriptions in the kingdom, as well as of themselves, 

436 A LETTER TO THE 1796. 

depends upon a reformation amongst the Catholics. 
The work will be new, and slow in its operation, but it 
is certain in its effect. There is nothing which will not 
yield to perseverance and method. Adieu ! my dear 
sir. You have full liberty to show this letter to all 
those (and they are but very few) who may be disposed 
to think well of my opinions. I did not care, so far as 
regards myself, whether it were read on the Change ; 
but with regard to you, more reserve may be proper ; 
but of that you will be the best judge. 

December 1796. 



. . . IRELAND is in a truly unpleasant situation. The 
Government is losing the hearts of the people, if it 
has not quite lost them, by the falsehood of its maxims, 
and their total ignorance in the art of governing. The 
Opposition in that country, as well as in this, is run 
ning the whole course of Jacobinism, and losing credit 
amongst the sober people, as the other loses credit with 
the people at large. It is a general bankruptcy of 
reputation in both parties. They must be singularly 
unfortunate who think to govern by dinners and bows, 
and who mistake the oil which facilitates the motion 
for the machine itself. It is a terrible thing for Govern 
ment to put its confidence in a handful of people of 

1796. RIGHT HON. WM, WIND HAM. 437 

fortune, separate from all holdings and dependencies. 
A full leve e is not a complete army. I know very well 
that when they disarm a whole province they think 
that all is well; but to take away arms is not to 
destroy disaffection. It has cast deep roots in the 
principles and habits of the majority amongst the lower 
and middle classes of the whole Protestant part of 
Ireland. The Catholics who are intermingled with 
them are more or less tainted. In the other parts of 
Ireland (some in Dublin only excepted) the Catholics, 
who are in a manner the whole people, are as yet sound ; 
but they may be provoked, as all men easily may be, 
out of their principles. I do not allude to the granting 
or withholding the matters of privilege, etc., which 
are in discussion between them and the Castle. In 
themselves, I consider them of very little moment, the 
one way or the other. But the principle is what sticks 
with me; which principle is the avowal of a direct, 
determined hostility to those who compose the in 
finitely larger part of the people, and that part upon 
whose fidelity, let what will be thought of it, the whole 
strength of Government ultimately rests. But I have 
done with this topic, and perhaps for ever, though I 
receive letters from the fast friends of the Catholics to 
solicit Government here to consider their true interests. 
Neglect, contumely, and insult, were never the ways of 
keeping friends ; and they add nothing to force against 

an enemy EDM< BuRKEi 

BATH, March 30, 1796. 

438 A LETTER TO 1797- 



I AM satisfied that there is nothing like a fixed inten 
tion of making a real change of system in Ireland ; 
but that they vary from day to day as their hopes are 
more or less sanguine from the Luttrellade. The system 
of military government is mad in the extreme merely 
as a system, but still worse in the mad hands in which 
it is placed. But my opinion is, that if Windham has 
not been brought into an absolute relish of this scheme, 
he has been brought off from any systematical dislike 
to it. When I object to the scheme of any military 
government, you do not imagine that I object to the use 
of the military arm in its proper place and order ; but 
I am sure that so long as this is looked upon as prin 
cipal, it will become the sole reliance of Government 
and that from its apparent facility, everything whatso 
ever belonging to real civil policy in the management 
of a people will be postponed, if not totally set aside. 
The truth is, the government of Ireland grows every 
day more and more difficult ; and, consequently, the 
incapacity of the jobbers there every day more and 
more evident ; but as long as they can draw upon Eng 
land for indefinite aids of men and sums of money, they 

1797- DR. LAURENCE. 439 

will go on with more resolution than ever in their 
jobbing system. Things must take their course. 1 . . . 
Yours ever, 

E. B. 

BEACONSFIELD, June 5, 1797. 

1 Mr. Burke died on the 9th of July 1797, aged sixty-seven. 


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Q.C., M.P. Crown 8vo. 2s. 6d. 

"They should be studied by every one who desires to understand 
the existing crisis in Ireland." Spectator. 

The Life s Work in Ireland of a Landlord who 

tried to do his Duty. By W. BENCE JONES, of 
Lisselan. Crown 8vo. 6s. 

" Mr. Bence Jones, every one must own, has a fair claim to be 
heard, and no one can be in a position properly to discuss Irish affairs 
till he has read his really valuable book." Literary World. 

Disturbed Ireland, being Letters written during the 
Winter of 1880-81. By BERNARD H. BECKER, 
Special Commissioner of the Daily News. With 
Route Maps. Crown 8vo. 6s. 

Nothing better in the way of special correspondence has perhaps 
ever been seen, and the book will be invaluable to every M.P. wish 
ing to understand the burning question of the time." The World. 

The Irish Crisis, being a Narrative of the Measures 
for the Relief of the Distress caused by the Great 
Irish Famine of 1846-47. By Sir CHARLES 
TREVELYAN, Bart., K.C.B. 8vo. Price 2s. 6d. 

The Land- War in Ireland : A HISTORY FOR THE 
TIMES. By JAMES GODKIN, Author of " Ireland 
and Her Churches," late Irish Correspondent of 
the Times. Demy 8vo. 12s. 



btP 8 )9N 


Burke, Edmund 

Letters, speeches and tract 
on Irish affairs