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IRELAND 1825 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Joseph Hamburger (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982).
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Parliamentary History and Review; Containing Reports of the Proceedings of the Two Houses of Parliament during the Session of 1825:—6 Geo. IV. With Critical Remarks on the Principal Measures of the Session. 2 vols. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1826, II (Review), 603-26. Headed: “Ireland./The ADDRESS—Catholic Association—Catholic Claims—Elective Franchise—Provision for Catholic Clergy—Church Establishment, &c.” Running titles as title. Unsigned; not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the Catholic Question which appeared in the Parliamentary Review for 1825” (MacMinn, 7). For comment on the article, see xlix and lvii above.
it is now our duty, conformably with the plan of this work, to pass judgment upon that portion of the proceedings of Parliament, a report of which is contained under the general head of Ireland.[*]
These proceedings divide themselves into two parts; the one consisting of acts, the other of discussions: the one comprising what was done, by one or other House, as a body; the other, what was said, by individual members.
In our examination of what was done, it will be necessary to state our own opinions on the great public questions which occupied the attention of Parliament; to assign the grounds of those opinions, without which neither our opinions, nor those of any one, are worth regarding; and, lastly, to examine how far what was done, did or did not accord with what, in our estimation, ought to have been done.
In our examination of what was said, it will be our duty to scrutinize rigidly the arguments advanced on both sides of every question; to expose the shifts and pretences of a bad cause, and rid a good one of those bad arguments by which its real merits are often so materially obscured.
When a ground shall thus have been laid for passing a deliberate judgment upon the conduct, both of the legislature as a whole, and of every member of it individually; something more will be necessary, to give to this part of our work all the utility of which it is susceptible.
Though many proceedings in Parliament are very important in their effects, few of them are so important in their effects, as they are in their causes. When an event, in addition to whatever good or evil may result immediately from itself, gives indication of the existence of a cause, from which an indefinite number of events of like tendency may be expected to flow; an estimate of its importance would be very imperfect, in which this indication should not be included.
The actions of public, like those of private, men, are governed by their interests. Their interests result directly from the institutions under which they live: if these be good, public men have no interest that is not in unison with the interest of the community: under bad institutions, their interest is frequently different from, and even opposite to, that of the community. Accordingly, the working of good or bad institutions may always be traced in the conduct of public men. If the institutions be good, their conduct is directed towards the advantage of the community, which in that case is also their own. If the institutions be bad, they pursue either their individual interest, or that of the class, or party, to which they belong: and the interest of the community is sacrificed.
In our comments, therefore, upon the proceedings in Parliament, we shall endeavour, in each instance, to bring to view, not only the events themselves, but their causes; viz.—the interests, generated by political institutions, and variously modified by those numerous and diversified circumstances which compose what is termed the spirit of the age.[*]
In all these points of view, few events will demand a greater share of our attention, than the proceedings of the last session in regard to the Catholics of Ireland. The range of these proceedings took in, not one only, but several great questions: the Catholic Association; the Catholic Claims; and the two measures, called the wings.[†] On each of these, rooted prejudices exist: the merits, therefore, of the different questions must be entered into, at least sufficiently to place every conclusion upon evidence sufficient to support it. The multiplicity of arguments, or what passed under that name, which were brought forward by all parties, render a proportional number of words necessary for making a due estimate of their validity: and finally, discussions, in which almost every prominent person in both Houses took a part, bore unusually strong marks of that general character which is impressed upon British statesmen by British institutions, and by the particular stage of intellectual and moral improvement at which the British nation has arrived.
The main question—that of Catholic emancipation—is, in our opinion, by no means a difficult one: and that any person capable of reasoning should feel a moment’s doubt upon the subject, would surprise us, if we did not know that the strongest reasoning powers desert their possessor, when he is frightened. With all opponents of the Catholic Claims, in whose instance private interest is out of the question, the contest is simply, as it seems to us, between the great principles of justice on the one hand, and vague apprehensions on the other.
The public mind, in this country, is now so far advanced, that we may affirm, without hazard of being openly contradicted, even by those who would contradict us if they dared, that to subject any person to temporal inconvenience in any shape, on the ground of his religious opinions, is, primâ facie, injustice and oppression: that it cannot be justified on any such ground as that his religion is bad, or unacceptable in the sight of God: nor by any thing but the certainty, or at least a preponderant probability, that some great temporal calamity will befal the rest of the community, unless averted by imposing restraints, disabilities, or penalties, upon persons of some particular faith. It will also be allowed, that, if there be a danger, and if security against that danger require the imposition of disabilities on account of religious opinions; at least no disability should exist which does not, in some way or another, conduce to the end in view; that end being, security. We might join issue on both points, and maintain, not only the non-existence of danger, but the existence of disabilities, which, with whatever view they were imposed, can under no conceivable supposition (except that of extreme mental imbecillity) be now maintained, with any such view as that of guarding against danger. But as we have not space to argue both these questions, we will confine ourselves to the first and most important.
Before we can be called upon to say, what the danger is not, we are entitled to expect that the opponents of Catholic emancipation will declare what it is. This, however, the greater number of them would find an embarrassing question: accordingly few of them have ever attempted to answer it. So vague and indefinite are those fears, on the ground of which they are willing to degrade five or six millions of their countrymen to the condition of an inferior caste, that if they were asked what great calamity it is which they apprehend from the concession of the Catholic claims, we doubt whether one in ten of them could tell. What they have in their minds is an indistinct feeling that the Catholics are dangerous persons: and this being assumed, it never occurs to them to consider, whether the Catholics not emancipated are not fully as dangerous as the Catholics emancipated would be.
We will concede one point, about which there has been much unprofitable discussion: that no confidence is to be reposed in the professions of the Catholics; that, whatever they may now say, or think, they would not be satisfied with equality, if they could obtain superiority. We know of no body of men who would. We have no doubt—it would be absurd to doubt—that the Catholic clergy would willingly possess themselves of the temporalities of the Protestant Church; that the Catholic nobility and gentry, in destroying Protestant ascendancy, would willingly supply its place by the ascendancy of their own creed; and that the great body of the Catholics would gladly embrace any opportunity, and any means, of making their own religion the dominant religion of the state. We will even allow that they would aim at the suppression of all other religions, by persecution: for this is no more than has been done by Catholics; and not by Catholics only, but, in every age and country, by that sect of religionists who have been uppermost, as far as they have dared.
That the Catholic aristocracy and clergy should desire a monopoly of political power, and of the wealth which that power affords, is no more than natural. The propensity to pursue their own interests, is not peculiar to Catholic human beings. To persecute, indeed, is not the interest of any sect: and this the majority of every sect would see, if they were wise. But the majority of every sect has hitherto been unwise: accordingly no sect (with at most but one or two exceptions) which has had the power to persecute, has ever failed to make use of it. The Romish Church persecuted, and does persecute, wherever it is strong enough: so did the Church of England, as long as it was strong enough; so did the Greek Church; so did the Presbyterian.
Now, therefore, when we have made every concession against the Catholics which the most unreasonable opponent could demand, we require of our antagonists, in our turn, that they will find some better ground for imposing disabilities upon millions of human beings, than the mischief which it is feared they would do, if it were but in their power.
If the Catholic disabilities were upheld as a measure of hostility, it would be fit to consider whether the Catholics were proper objects of hostility. But as they are professedly measures, not of hostility, but of security; the question, and the only question, is, not what the Catholics would be willing, but what they would be able, to do.
It is hard to guess what precise evil the fears of most of the Anti-Catholic orators point to. Some of them talk of a divided allegiance. “The Protestant,” says Lord Liverpool, “gives an entire allegiance to his sovereign; the Catholic, a divided one. The service of the first is complete, of the last only qualified.”*
Now, if by the sovereign be meant the king, we should be sorry to think that every, or any, Protestant gave to his sovereign an unqualified allegiance. If allegiance mean obedience, and what else it can mean we know not, an entire allegiance is suitable only to a despotic government. What there is of meaning in this accusation, must be, that the Catholics acknowledge a foreigner as the head of their church, to whose interests, it is imagined, they are disposed to sacrifice the interests of their country. That there is a party of persons, professing the Catholic faith, who are so disposed, is true: that this party is any thing but a small minority, is not true: for, if it were, what must be the situation, we do not say of Protestant states in which Catholics lie under no disqualifications, but of countries in which a vast majority of the people are Catholics, as France, Austria, and Spain? If the authority of the Pope be there paramount to that of the temporal sovereign; if the Pope be there suffered to depose kings; the danger apprehended is real: if not, it is imaginary.
The few Anti-Catholics who can tell what they are afraid of, seem chiefly to fear that the Catholics would attempt to subvert the established church; and this is the only tangible ground which they have assigned for their alarm.
In the first place, then, we think we may lay it down as an indisputable axiom, that the re-establishment of Catholicism, as the dominant religion in this country, is an event quite beyond the range of human probability. That six millions of persons, not having the powers of government in their hands, should either convert or conquer twelve millions, does not seem a very probable contingency. If probable at all, however, it is more probable before emancipation than after: since the power, whether of converting or of conquering, is the same, and the motive incomparably greater. They are six millions now, they would be but six millions then: their clergy would hardly be more eager to convert, nor their laity more able to rebel.
But though they might not be able, in opposition to the whole body of Protestants, to make their own religion the religion of the state; they might still, it is perhaps supposed, in concert with the sectarians, and with those other Protestants who are hostile to a church establishment, bring about the downfal of the existing church, and make all religions equal in the eye of the law.
This is to suppose, that, persons of all persuasions being included, a decided majority of the population of the two islands either is, or is likely to become, hostile to the continuance of the present church establishment. For, under any other supposition, it is difficult to see what danger there could be in throwing an additional weight into a scale, which would continue, notwithstanding, to be the lighter. Now, if this be true; without giving any opinion on the question, how far good government, good order, or religion itself, would suffer, if all religions were made equal in the eye of the law; we may be permitted to doubt whether the minority should be allowed to establish their religion, against the will of the majority; and whether the few might not, with as much justice, tax the many to build palaces for them as churches, and to pay their physicians and their lawyers as their clergy. But we do not wish to argue the question on a ground which would provoke so much opposition.
If the church were to be subverted, it would be in one of two ways: by means of the legislature, or in opposition to it; that is, by rebellion. If, then, after emancipation, it would be in the power of the Catholics, aided or not by the dissenters, to effect, in either of these two ways, the subversion of the church; what hinders them from doing it at this moment? Is it to be done by physical force? But if they are not strong enough now, emancipation would not make them so. Is it to be done by commanding a majority in Parliament? A few Catholic peers would take their seats in the Upper House; but in the Lower, beyond those whom they command at present, they would not be able to command a single vote. There would not be one Catholic elector—the Catholic aristocracy would not possess one borough—more than at present. They would indeed be enabled to return Catholics to Parliament; and, if nobody could be found but Catholics to assail the church, the disabilities would be some security: but it would be affectation in the most zealous churchman to pretend to doubt that the number of Protestants who are hostile to the church, is at least sufficient to fill the few seats which are at the disposal of the Catholic party. How happens it then that the church is not destroyed? The question is absurd. With almost every liberal Protestant on their side, the Catholics cannot command votes enough to carry their own emancipation; and it is supposed that with the great body of the Protestants against them they could command enough to overthrow the Protestant church!—But their influence in Parliament may increase. The Catholic electors may grow more numerous; more Catholics may become borough proprietors.—They may: and so they may, while their disabilities continue, and to the full as easily.
For the above reasons, and many others which we have not room to mention, we dismiss the idea of danger from Catholic emancipation. On the other hand, we are inclined to abate much from the current estimate of its advantages. An importance has been attached to it, both in respect of good and of evil, for which we are at a loss to find any adequate ground. We do not think that of itself it would do much for Ireland; the evils by which that country is afflicted, are not to be so summarily cured: and though Catholic emancipation might be a useful preparative to other and more important ameliorations, we do not think that it is by any means a necessary one.
Catholic emancipation would do nothing for the body of the people. Eligibility to office would be to them but a nominal privilege: excluded in fact by their situation in life, it is scarcely an additional evil to be excluded in law too. If they really feel as strongly on the subject of emancipation, as the friends of that measure wish it to be believed,—a belief which we find it difficult to entertain,—they must expect much more from it than the removal of disabilities; they must expect something which cannot be realized: to them, therefore, the effect of emancipation would be disappointment; and disappointment is seldom followed by tranquillity.
It is idle to expect tranquillity in Ireland so long as its inhabitants are the poorest and the most oppressed people in Europe. That they are the poorest, appears from the testimony of all who know them: that they are the most oppressed, no unprejudiced person can doubt, who will read the evidence taken before the Committees of the two Houses in the sessions of 1824 and 1825.[*] He will there find, that whatever the end of government in Ireland may be, it at any rate is not the protection of the weak against the strong: that government and law exist in that country solely for the benefit of the strong: that, while the Negro slave is at least protected against the encroachments of all masters except his own, the Irish peasant is at the mercy, not only of a whole series of landlords, from the proprietor of the soil down to the lowest middleman, but moreover of the tithe-owner and the tithe-farmer or proctor, to say nothing of vestries and grand juries: that against undue demands on the part of all these persons he has no remedy: that there is no law, no administration of justice for him; the superior courts being at all times inaccessible to him, and those of the country magistrates who do not take bribes, being for the most part leagued together to deny him redress; which is in general the less difficult, as the defects of the law are such, that he who would oppress under color of the law must be exceedingly unskilful if he cannot accomplish his object without incurring the penalties of the law.
All these causes of misery, and of that discontent which does, and, we hope, ever will, accompany all remediable evils, are perfectly independent of the Catholic disabilities, and would in no respect be affected by their removal. And why should we deem it impossible to apply remedies to these evils, leaving the Catholic disabilities as they are? That “purer administration of justice,” which even the bishop of Chester* admits to be necessary, would of itself suffice, and without it nothing will suffice, to tranquillize Ireland. It is not the power of the Protestant over the Catholic, which has made Ireland what she is: it is the power of the rich over the poor.
A superficial observer might perhaps infer, from the active demonstrations of hostility between the two sects, that it is the Catholics who are oppressed as Catholics, not the poor as poor, and that the body of the people, if they were not oppressed as Catholics, would not be oppressed at all. But if, in removing the Catholic disabilities, the power of landlords over tenants, of the tithe-owner over the tithe-payer, and of magistrates over the great body of the people, were left untouched, we cannot perceive that the condition of the Irish peasantry would be in any respect altered for the better. There is no evidence that a Catholic landlord treats his tenants better than a Protestant landlord. Catholic emancipation would not affect the mode of collecting tithe; and the few Catholic magistrates that there are, have now an interest in protecting the poor against their brother magistrates, which, in the event of emancipation, it is possible they might not retain.
That the Protestant aristocracy, who are now in possession of a monopoly of political power and of its attendant profit, should be averse to sharing that power and profit with the Catholic aristocracy, is quite natural. It is quite natural also that the Catholic aristocracy should feel uneasy under this forced exclusion: and as the aristocracy are much better able to make their complaints heard, than the people are, it is also natural that their grievances should be more thought of, than those of the people; but we are not therefore to suppose them of more importance.
There still remains another question to be answered, before we proceed with our comment upon the debates. If the Catholic disabilities be not in reality the grand evil of Ireland, how happens it that, in the two Houses of Parliament, they are so often spoken of as if they were?
Questions of this sort are what, in the sequel of this work, we shall very frequently have occasion to put.
In reviewing the proceedings of Parliament, it may in general be remarked, that the great abuses almost always escape its notice. The composition of the Parliament affords a key to this, as it does to so many of its other peculiarities.
The truth is, that there is scarcely an individual in either House whose interest it is that the great abuses should be reformed. The members of both Houses belong, almost all of them, to those classes for the benefit of which all great abuses exist; and not being accountable to, nor in any other way under the influence of, that much larger class, who suffer by the abuses, they have abundant motives to uphold, and no sufficient motive to redress them.
This interest being common to both parties in the two Houses of Parliament, the great abuses are, in Parliamentary discussions, by a sort of tacit consent kept out of view. The Opposition party, however, must have something to attack; or they could shew no ground for finding fault with the party in power. Nothing, therefore, remains for them to do, except to fall might and main upon the small abuses, and do every thing in their power to cause them to be taken for great ones.
To apply these principles to the case now in hand. Here is a country, the most miserable, and at the same time the most turbulent, of all countries pretending to civilization; and that, under a set of institutions, which all—that is, all who derive either money or power from them—unite in designating as the best institutions that wisdom ever devised for the government of mankind. Here then is an anomaly to be explained; a cause must be found for it, and that too without imputing blame to these admirable institutions. The Catholic Question, appearing well adapted to the purpose, is eagerly laid hold of by the Whigs, and a part of the Tories, and exalted into a sovereign remedy for the ills of Ireland. It answers the purposes of the Whigs, by affording a handle for attacking the ministry, who, having such a panacea in their hands, neglect to apply it. It serves the purposes of both sections of the Tories, by diverting the public attention, from much more important grievances. All parties being thus interested in making as much noise about this question as possible, it is not wonderful that so much noise has been made.
* * * * *
The subject which chiefly engaged the attention of Parliament, on the day of its meeting, and for some time afterwards, was the Catholic Association. We need not inform our readers what this Association was: it may, however, be of some use to put them in mind of its objects. It held meetings—and it raised money. At the meetings, certain persons, mostly Catholics, and of the higher ranks, were in the habit of expressing, in strong language, their dissatisfaction at the existing state of things in Ireland, chiefly as it regarded the Catholic disabilities. To what purposes the money was applied, has never been fully made known: the offer of the Association to produce their books not having been accepted by Parliament.[*] Part of it, however, is known to have been laid out in defraying the law expenses of such persons as had been, or were supposed to have been, injured, and were too poor to seek redress for themselves. The Association, moreover, put forth at least one address to their Catholic countrymen, earnestly exhorting them to remain peaceable and obedient to the laws.
Bodies of men very seldom act wisely: and it was little to be expected that a body of Irishmen should form an exception to the rule.
All men love power: most men love it better than any other thing, human or divine. There are times when, by joining in sufficient numbers, and acting in a body, men are enabled to exercise very considerable power. In this power, every man among them is eager to participate, by giving himself up heart and soul to the prosecution of the common design. The only part, however, of their joint operations which displays power, is the acting part; and this, accordingly, is the only part in which every man is eager to take a share. But to wise conduct, thinking is necessary, as well as acting. Thinking, however, is trouble: to the mass of mankind it is the most insupportable of all kinds of trouble: and trouble being pain, and pain being a thing which every body avoids as much as he can, we find that, as a general rule, a man will never do any thing requiring trouble, which he thinks he can, without too great a sacrifice, prevail upon another person to do for him. While every individual, therefore, is eager to act, the business of thinking for the whole body generally falls into the hands of a few: and these few will naturally be those who are known to the greatest numbers; the noisiest talkers, who, even when they have no private interest of their own to serve, are very seldom the best thinkers. As, moreover, people are naturally guided, other things being the same, by those who profess the greatest zeal to serve them; and as one very obvious mode of shewing zeal in a man’s service, is to rail vehemently against those whom he considers to be his enemies; the leaders will, in addition to their other attributes, be in general among the most intemperate of the set.
These considerations would have prepared us to expect much intemperance of language in the speeches of the Association, and no very great measure of wisdom in their acts. The most foolish of their acts, however, as far as they are known (and let it be remembered by whose fault they are not all known) were not of a nature to do much harm to any body except to themselves. Considering the number of persons interested in bringing whatever was exceptionable either in their purposes or in their measures to light, it is astonishing how little has appeared but what was allowable, if not laudable. The purpose of tranquillizing the Irish people was undoubtedly a laudable purpose; the purpose of exciting attention to their own claims, cannot well be said to be a blameable one. The purpose of giving the poor man access to that justice which the expensiveness of the law has put out of the reach of every man who does not come with a full purse in his hand,—this surely was among the most laudable of all purposes. And suppose that occasionally a party in the wrong were by their assistance enabled to come into court, and be told publicly, by judge and jury, that he was in the wrong—for that was the only privilege which their assistance conferred upon him—was this a thing to be complained of? There would be little use in a public trial, if no one were to have the benefit of it until it had first been ascertained that the right was on his side. Until malâ fide suitors shall wear their characters stamped in large letters upon their foreheads, a public investigation is, and ought to be, the privilege of every one, whether an honest man or a knave.
Such, however, as they were, these proceedings of the Association gave great alarm to the Protestant aristocracy of Ireland. The few, in every country, are remarkable for being easily alarmed; more especially when any one takes upon himself to censure their acts. So easily are they frightened at censure, that they never seem to feel secure until they imagine that they have put a stop to it entirely; and whenever they have been able, they have treated such censure as a crime which could never be punished too severely. It is no wonder, therefore, that they should have taken alarm at the Catholic Association. They did take alarm at it a year before. Even then, as Mr. Canning said, the ministers were “goaded” to put it down;* and, as the Association went on, the alarm increased, and ministers were “goaded” more and more, till at last they were goaded into compliance.[*] That which a large portion of their parliamentary supporters really and earnestly demand, the ministers, if they would continue ministers, cannot long persist in refusing.
At the opening of Parliament, it was stated from the throne, that there existed associations in Ireland, which had “adopted proceedings irreconcileable with the spirit of the constitution,” and were “calculated, by exciting alarm and exasperating animosities, to endanger the peace of society, and to retard the course of national improvement.”[†]
What is called a King’s speech enjoys a prescriptive right to be unmeaning, and we are not disposed to find fault with it for being so in the present instance. We cannot refrain, however, from representing to the framers of the speech, that a sic volo sic jubeo would have been more decent than the mere pretence of a reason. Such vague phrases as “irreconcileable with the spirit of the constitution,” “endanger the peace of society,” and the like, deserve no better name. They are not reasons; they are mere expressions of dislike. When a cause affords no better reason, there is little to be said for it: when it does, these phrases are useless, and can serve at best no higher purpose than that of swelling a period.
If the King’s speech afforded few reasons, and those few of little worth, the subsequent speeches made ample amends, in quantity of reasons, if not in quality. We will lay before our readers the whole catalogue. We imagine that the more rational and sober among the Anti-Catholics will view it with as little complacency as we ourselves.
It was alleged, then, of the Catholic Association, 1st, that its tendency was to overthrow the constitution; 2nd, that the language of some of its members was inflammatory; 3d, that it imposed taxes, issued proclamations, made laws, and in fact, exercised all the powers of government; 4th, that its business was to evade and nullify the laws; 5th, that it was a convention; 6th, that it was an imperium in imperio; 7th, that it frustrated the effect of beneficial measures of government; 8th, that it diverted the attention of the people from honest industry; 9th, that its subscriptions were collected by Catholic priests; 10th, that it retarded emancipation; 11th, that it adjured the Catholics “by the hatred they bore to Orangemen”;[*] 12th, that it was a second Parliament, and used parliamentary forms; 13th, that it employed coercion in levying the Catholic rent; 14th, that it prevented capital from flowing into Ireland; 15th, that it pandered to the prejudices and passions of the multitude; 16th, that it interfered with the administration of justice; 17th, that even in cautioning the people to be quiet, it libelled the law; 18th, that its members, in their speeches, made attacks on private character; 19th, that it named those who should and should not be returned as members of Parliament; 20th, that it had not its freedom of speech from the crown, nor could the crown suspend it; 21st, that if it had power to quell disturbances, it had power to raise them; 22nd, that it could sit whenever it pleased; 23rd, that if it continued, it would demand the Church property; 24th, that it was the machinery of a rebellion, for the time when an occasion might arrive.
Of these twenty-four reasons, we abandon twenty-one to the justice and mercy of the reader. The remaining three we reserve in our own hands: viz. the inflammatory speeches; the levying of the rent, and the interference of the Association in the administration of justice.
By inflammatory language is, of course, meant, language calculated to excite hostility. Now whether hostility, and the language of hostility, be blameable or not, depends upon the occasion, and the manner. Both the occasion and the manner were in this case very peculiar.
Here is a country of which it has been said by a Lord Chancellor—Lord Redesdale—who will not be suspected of aspiring to that character which another Lord Chancellor says, he has lived too long to have much respect for, the character of a reformer:* —Here is a country, we say, in which a Lord Chancellor says, that there is one law for the rich, and another for the poor. Here is a people, who, having but the smallest pittance beyond what is barely sufficient to sustain life, are compelled to give up nearly the whole of that pittance to build churches and pay clergymen for about one-fourteenth part of their number: in return for which, that fourteenth part take every opportunity of expressing their hatred and contempt for those who furnish them with money for these purposes, and their firm determination to extort as much more money from them, for other purposes of all sorts, as they can. Now then comes the Catholic Association, and, addressing itself to the thirteen-fourteenths, tells them that all this misery and degradation is not the work of nature, but of men; powerful men, who produce it for their own advantage, who for their own advantage will continue it as long as they have power, and who therefore, as a first step to effecting any improvement, must be deprived of power. This may be called exasperating animosities; in a certain sense, it is exasperating animosities: to tell the many in what way the few have treated them, certainly has no tendency to make them love the few: and if the Catholic Association are to be tried by this standard, their cause, we fear, must be given up: as must also that of all other reformers, ancient or modern. If it be always a crime to excite animosities, it must be always a crime to expose abuses. If the exposure is to be deferred until it can be made in such language as will excite sentiments of affection and good-will towards the authors of the abuses, it would be as reasonable, and more honest, to say, that it is not to be made at all.
The language of the weaker party is ever inflammatory; that of the stronger, never: because it is the stronger who is the judge. A man may rail as much as he pleases at the party which is undermost, and the language which he makes use of will not be very nicely scanned: he may inflame the passions of the powerful; he may incite those to tyrannize, who have it in their power to tyrannize; and “every thing is as it should be.”[*] But let him address himself to the weak; let him attempt to stir them up, not to tyrannize, for that is not in their power, but to use their efforts to take from the strong their power of tyrannizing—and the state is going to wreck: sedition, insurrection are abroad: and one would imagine that heaven and earth were coming together.
It is a mockery to tell a man that he is wronged, and to bid him at the same time feel no hostility against those who have wronged him. The proper exhortation is, not to let his feelings of hostility overcome his reason, and drive him to acts of useless and wicked violence: not to wreak his vengeance upon the hay-stacks and barns of those who have acted so ill a part towards him, nor to set fire to their houses, and burn them and their families alive; but to direct all his energies to one great object, the ridding them of their mischievous power. Now all this, the Catholic Association did. It not only exhorted the people to be peaceable, but many of its enemies acknowledge, that it actually made them so.
When a man has resolved to do a thing, and has it in his power, any reason will in general suffice. If the Association had not pacified the Irish, that would have been a reason for putting it down: but it did pacify the Irish: and this also was a reason for putting it down. It was discovered, that, as it had power, to quell disturbances, it probably had power to raise them: and as it was probable that it had the power, it could not but appear certain that it had the will. Upon this principle, we should be justified in throwing a man into prison, for helping a drowning person out of a river. If he had power to drag him out, he has power to push him in: so dangerous a man must not be suffered to go at large: no time must be lost in depriving him of the means of doing mischief.
It seems, however, that they had a way of pacifying the people, which made it much worse than if they had bid them go and cut throats: they adjured them to be peaceable, “by the hatred they bore to Orangemen:” it being deemed preferable by certain members of Parliament, that they should slaughter and burn the Orangemen, probably out of love, than live with them, out of hatred, in the peace of God and of the king. We will not now go over Dr. Lushington’s argument, which instead of answering, Mr. Canning sneered at, and put to flight a whole army of syllogisms with a volley of jokes.[*] But we do think that the Orangemen, who so rigidly act up to the Christian principle of returning good for evil, should make some allowance for the frailty of those inferior natures which fail of reaching that standard of perfection. They should bear in mind that all men cannot, like them, love their enemies, turn the left cheek to those that smite them on the right, and do good to those that hate them, and despitefully use them.[†] Pure as they are themselves from all malignant passions, Christianity does not surely enjoin so much severity, towards those who aim at no more than to make those passions subservient to virtue. We have no great objection to a species of hatred, which inspires men to obey the laws, and be good citizens and peaceable subjects.
We pass to the accusation of levying money, by improper means, from the people.
The Catholic Association was not the only association which was in the habit of levying money from the people. To say nothing of any others, the Methodist Conference is accustomed to levy money to a much greater amount, and for purposes much more strictly sectarian.* As therefore the receiving of the money could not, without too gross a violation of decency, be adduced as the heinous part of the offence; a vigorous attempt was made to get up a case which should shew that the subscriptions were obtained by coercion. It was first said, that the priests were in the habit of encouraging and collecting the rent: which not being denied, it was next insinuated, that they extorted subscriptions by refusing the sacraments to those who did not subscribe. We say insinuated, because it was only spoken of as a possibility; and upon this possibility the House was called upon to legislate. It was not shewn that the priests did as was represented, it being sufficient that they could do so, without violating their religion: this last was, indeed, denied by the Catholic prelates; but then it was affirmed by Mr. Goulburn,* and the Solicitor General.†
Without cavilling at this logic; which, however, if nicely looked into, might probably be found to be not quite formal; we will content ourselves with asking one question. Since after all no physical coercion was used, what definition is it possible to give of moral coercion? Or how are we to distinguish that legitimate influence, by which the Rev. Mr. Wilson persuades his parishioner to give, through the fear of God, his guinea to the Bible Society, from that improper influence, that coercion (since that is the word) by which the Catholic priest persuades his parishioners to give, through a similar fear, their several pennies to the Catholic rent? We might also ask, if the peasant can be persuaded to give money, in order to purchase absolution, how it is expected, that this sort of traffic should be put a stop to by an Act of Parliament? But we have not space to follow out this question as we could wish.
Another sort of coercion, it was positively affirmed, was practised, not by the priests, but by the Association itself. This consisted in making entries in a book, which was called the black book, of the names of all those who refused to subscribe.‡ Without repeating the question, which we put just now, or asking how a pretence can ever be wanting to the strong man, if such a proceeding as this is to be called coercion; we will content ourselves with one fact. It was publicly stated by Mr. Brougham,§ in behalf of the Association, that the names of those who refused to subscribe were not entered in any book: proof of this assertion was offered to be presented at the bar of the House; and the House would not hear it: the fact speaks for itself.¶
The only remaining charge against the Association, which we intend to notice, is one to which we have already made some allusion: the charge of interference with the administration of justice. We do not know very well how to meet this charge; having some difficulty in discerning through the vague and misty language of the accusers, what sort of improper conduct it is, that was really imputed to the Association. One of them, indeed, Mr. W. Lamb, has not left his sentiments on the subject uncertain.
There was already too much disposition, [said he,] about the lower orders, even in England, to litigation. Every body knew, that if half the indictments and causes which were tried in courts were entirely omitted, it would be for the benefit of all the parties concerned in them. Then, if people would go to law, and prosecute each other needlessly, at their own expense, and even to their own ruin, where would be the end of petty ill-blood and dissension, when they were enabled to do that free of cost!*
It having been made quite clear, by these shrewd observations, that the great fault of the judicial administration of both countries is, that justice is too accessible; that the only use of an administration of justice is to create “petty ill-blood and dissension,” and that it is a great crime to have been wronged; it is no wonder that Mr. Lamb should condemn the Catholic Association: who, instead of lamenting, with him, that people should apply for justice, were perverse enough to tell them that it was their due; and even gave them money to assist them in obtaining it.
Others said, that the Association, by putting forth ex parte statements, biassed the minds of the jury, and deprived those whom they prosecuted of their fair chance for justice. And this, we believe, is what the charge of “interfering with the administration of justice”[*] amounts to. In proof of this, two instances were given, and no more, of what were considered to have been improper prosecutions by the Association. In both these instances, Mr. Brougham succeeded in rendering the impropriety of the prosecution at least a matter of doubt.[†] But let us see what it is that is to be proved, and what it is that is given in evidence to prove it. The assertion is, that the minds of juries were prejudiced against the persons whom the Association selected for prosecution; and the proof is, two prosecutions in both of which the prisoners were acquitted.
One word on the subject of prejudging, and ex parte statements: a subject which we thought had long ago been set at rest for ever. What notion can these gentlemen have of trial by jury, if they imagine that jurymen, who have sworn to decide according to the evidence, will suffer themselves to be biassed by the vague rumours, the extrajudicial and unsupported opinions, which they have heard out of doors? If this be a true character of an Irish jury, either an Irish jury must be a very different thing from an English one, or jury trial is altogether a very different thing from what it is supposed to be.
When it has been determined that a thing is at all events to be found fault with, it is usual, in making an account of its effects, to strike out all the good items, and leave the bad ones standing alone: to hold up to view the possible evils which may arise from it, and to say nothing of the necessarily accompanying good. When publicity was given, by the Catholic Association, to the whole story of the supposed offence, the minds of the jury, say these gentlemen, might possibly be biassed against the prisoner: well—we grant them this; let them make what they can of it. But may not this very publication raise up persons, to bear witness in his favour? Is it nothing that the public eye has been attracted to the case, and fixed anxiously upon the behaviour of the judge and the jury? And is it no advantage, to the prisoner himself, to know the prosecutor’s case,—the assertions which he intends to make, and the evidence by which he expects to prove them? What could be of more use to the defendant in a cause, than that the counsel for the prosecution should allow him to inspect his brief? Surely then it is no injury to him, that all which is contained in that brief should be made, before the trial, a subject of public discussion.
* * * * *
The petition of the Catholics of Ireland for emancipation was presented to the House of Commons on the first of March by Sir Francis Burdett, who, on the same evening, moved a string of resolutions setting forth the expediency of granting the Catholic claims.[*] The motion was introduced by what is termed a conciliatory speech; that is to say, a speech in which every body found himself praised, who had any reason for expecting that he would be blamed. “A more enlightened and liberal body of men” than the clergy of the Church of England, “did not do honour to this or any other country. The Church of England was, of all others, the faith he would rather adopt,” and no wonder, if we consider the excellent reason he had for adopting it: he had been “bred up” in it, “as ample a reason as any man could be called on to give for his religion.”* The Orangemen, too, were nearly perfect. “There did not exist more honourable or more liberal men.” They had, to be sure, one small failing, an “unfortunate propensity to domination;” an “unwillingness to be deprived of the power they had been accustomed to exercise;” a “right which they fancied they had by birth, to trample upon their Catholic fellow-subjects.”† They had no fault, in short, but a desire to get and keep, at all costs, as great a quantity of undue power as they could. We would ask, in what other habit of mind the worst acts of the worst tyrants have taken their rise? What else was it that prompted the crimes of an Augustus or an Aurungzebe? What else made an Alexander or a Napoleon the scourges of mankind?
There is no mistake which seems to be more universal among public men, not to speak of other men of all descriptions, than that of imagining it to be of no consequence what they do with their praise. In most other matters it seems to be pretty generally understood that the gift which is meant to be valued must be sparingly bestowed: but no measure, no temperance, is thought necessary in the distribution of praise; people seem in general to be ready to throw it at the first dog they meet. After what fashion men bepraise their friends, the proceedings at any public dinner will testify. At such entertainments (next to eating and drinking), the principal purpose for which the guests are assembled, seems in general to be that of receiving assurances from one another that they are patterns of every human virtue. Most men, too, are glad of any decent opportunity for bestowing laudation upon their opponents. It has so candid an appearance, and men are so naturally, and even so properly, eager to shew that they have no private hatred of those to whom they are politically hostile, that, even in bringing accusations against their opponents, which, if true, import the very essence of imbecillity and wickedness, they frequently clothe them in language expressive of the most profound veneration.
If Sir Francis Burdett,—after representing the state of things in Ireland as uniting a flagrant breach of faith with the most odious tyranny—after characterizing the Orangemen as the upholders of this state of things, and imputing to them as motives, a “propensity to domination” and a fancied right to “trample upon their Catholic fellow-subjects,”—can yet affirm, in the same breath, that “there did not exist more honourable or more liberal men” than these same Orangemen; how is it possible, henceforth, to set any value on any praise which he can bestow? We are not blaming the disposition to conciliate opponents; and we have the strongest objections to vague and general vituperation: but excessive praise, much more that which is totally unmerited, is equally mischievous, and almost equally offensive.
Bating this one fault, which, however much to be regretted, is too common not to be quite venial, and which we are far from imputing to any but the most creditable motives; the tone of Sir F. Burdett’s speech was highly commendable. In some of his reasonings we are not quite sure that we concur; in particular where he partly founds the claims of the Catholics upon the treaty of Limerick. We are favourable to those claims, because we are unfavourable, on general principles, to all religious distinctions; unless when there is strong ground for them in point of expediency, which, in the case of the British Catholics, we think that there is not: but if there were,—if it were really dangerous to admit the Catholics into a participation of political power,—we are by no means prepared to say that we should be bound to incur this danger, because certain persons, none of whom are now in existence, promised something about a hundred and thirty years ago, to certain other persons, none of whom are now in existence. Every man is bound to keep his promise—agreed: that is, he ought not to make the promise, unless he is sure that he can keep it. But that the Government of that day should be at liberty to make promises which should be binding under all circumstances upon the Government of this, or that we should be pledged to do for one set of men, whatever our ancestors promised to do for another, is a maxim of much wider extent, and we will add, of much more dubious propriety. Granting, for the sake of the argument, that the Catholics of that day, though all of them partisans of the exiled family, were wronged by the non-fulfilment of the pledge which was given to them at Limerick: nothing which can be done now, will be any reparation to them. The question at present is, what is to be done with another set of men professing the same religion, but in no other conceivable sense the same, and who, whatever claims they may have upon our justice, or our humanity, can have none upon our good faith, since our faith has never been plighted to them. The fallacy of irrevocable laws is alike absurd, in every one of its shapes.
Mr. Leslie Foster, Mr. Peel, and the Solicitor General, followed in the debate,[*] on the side opposed to the Catholics, and set forth, at considerable length, the badness of the Catholic religion, the intolerance of Catholics in other countries, &c. &c., all which being very little to the purpose, unless it could be shewn that they would derive an increase of power for bad purposes, from the concession of their claims, the following arguments were thrown as a makeweight into the scale: 1. Grant this, and they will ask for more:* (fallacy of distrust). 2. “This concession to the Catholics would involve a violation of the Constitution: Was not the principle of the Protestant religion in church and state, made a fundamental and inviolable part of the compact with King William III after the expulsion of James II?[†] and would they abandon that indispensable principle of the Bill of Rights?”† (fallacies of irrevocable laws, and vague generalities, cloaking a petitio principii).[‡] 3. The House ought not to yield to menace and intimidation:‡ or, in other words, having driven the Catholics to exasperation by denying them justice, they were to make that exasperation a reason for denying it to them still longer. 4. The great men, who framed the Act of Union with Scotland,[§] introduced into that measure the principle of excluding Catholics from office:§ (fallacies of irrevocable laws, and wisdom of ancestors).[*] 5. Retaining the religion of the minority as the religion of the state, would it be safe to allow the majority to come into an equal participation with them of rights and power?* —A mere assumption, in the first place; and in the next place, it looks a little too much like the argument of the highwayman who ties your hands in order that he may more safely rob you.
Mr. Plunkett and Mr. Brougham, without grappling with the question, pointedly exposed some of the fallacies of their opponents, and addressed themselves to the House in the manner which alone has much influence with an interested audience, by appealing to their fears.[†] In the present case, it was not possible to act upon this passion but through the medium of a fallacy. The two assumptions, upon which these gentlemen proceeded, were that Catholic emancipation would, and that, without that measure, any thing else would not, tranquillize the Irish people.† The unconscious action of those interests, to which we have before pointed as the secret springs of the conduct both of Whigs and Tories on this question, will sufficiently account for the course pursued by both these gentlemen. But to those who desire the passing of this question on its own account, and on its own account solely, we recommend a much more effectual mode of frightening its opponents into concession. Let them drag forth and hold up to view the real evils of Ireland: let them assail the abuses of the Church, the Law, and the Magistracy: and the alarmed participators in the profits of these abuses will soon consent to forego the small interest, which they have in the exclusion of Catholics from office, in hopes of disarming some portion of the opposition to those much greater evils, to which they are indebted for so much of their wealth, and their power, the power of the few over the many.
In the interval between this first debate on the Catholic question in the Commons, and its final rejection in the Lords,[‡] much of the time of both Houses was occupied by angry discussions, arising out of the petitions which were presented for and against the bill. This, which would have required no notice if it had occurred only once, having been repeated so often as to become a marked feature in the history of the Session, we will not omit those observations which appear to us to be applicable to it.
The grand object, with both parties, in these discussions, was to make it appear that public opinion was in their favour. When a petition was presented, either from the friends or the opponents, but particularly from the opponents of the bill, up started somebody on the contrary side to prove that the petition did not, followed by somebody on the same side with the petitioners, to prove that it did, represent the true state of public opinion on the question. All this solicitude about public opinion clearly shewed how nicely the two parties were balanced. When either of them is sure of a majority, right or wrong, it seldom troubles itself much about public opinion.
The meaning (if it had any meaning) of all this talk, must have been either, 1st. That, if the public were with them, they must necessarily be in the right, (vox populi, vox Dei);[*] or, 2nd. That public opinion had declared itself so strongly on one side, that for Parliament to take the opposite side, however right at other times, would at this time be unsafe, and therefore wrong. The first supposition (the fallacy of authority, in its least delusive shape)[†] is too obviously absurd, to be imputed to any body: and the very fact, that there could be any dispute upon the subject, proves the falsity of the second. Those who felt sufficient interest in the question to put their names to a petition being in number no more than a minute fraction of the public, and these being nearly equally divided, things were exactly in that state in which it was quite certain that Parliament might take either course without one atom of risk from public opinion. To what end, then, all these acrimonious discussions?
If we disapprove of the end, we disapprove equally of the means; we see as much to blame in the tone and spirit which characterized the discussions, as we do in the discussions themselves.
It is a principle of human nature, as well established as any principle can be, that, taking men as they are (that is, ninety-nine out of every hundred of them), a man’s opinion, as such, is of no value, on any matter in which his interest is concerned. Not only the assertion of the knave, but the unfeigned opinion of the honest man, if he be not a man of an unusually powerful mind, is sure to follow any strong interest, or fancied interest. On this principle nobody attaches any weight to the opinion of a Catholic, in favour of Catholic emancipation: and, on the same principle, no weight ought to be attached to the opinion of a clergyman of the Church of England, against that measure.
It admits of no question that the clergy of the Established Church in general apprehend great danger to the Church, from the concession of the Catholic claims. The clergy of an establishment, and dissenters from the establishment, are seldom on very good terms with one another; and the clergy, knowing that no Catholic can possibly approve of a Protestant church establishment, imagine that the establishment would go to pieces immediately if a single Catholic were admitted into power. The correctness or incorrectness of this notion, is not now in question; its existence is all that we are arguing for; and while it exists, every body must perceive that the clergy are as incompetent witnesses on Catholic emancipation, as they would be on the expediency of the Church Establishment itself.
When, therefore, petitions were presented from clergymen of the Church of England against the bill; supposing Lord King, or any other supporter of the Catholic claims, to have said any thing, what would it have been proper for him to say? Simply this:—that the petitions came from a body of men, who, as to this question, were an interested body: that if their only object were to shew that the opinions of the petitioners were unfavourable to Catholic emancipation, this was scarcely worth proving, since it was hardly to be expected that they would be favourable; but that if the object of the petitioners were to prove that the measure ought not to pass, they deserved not one particle of regard beyond what might be due to their reasons, if they gave any; and that these were no more than a repetition of what had been said and answered a hundred times in that House.
This would have been common sense, and would have had its effect, both in Parliament and out of it, without the aid of declamation or invective.—The advocates of the Bill took, however, a different course. Instead of shewing that the opinions of the clergy, on this question, were worth nothing, they did what was utterly useless as well as irrelevant, they vituperated the men. They told them, that they were intolerant, that they were illiberal, that they were deficient in Christian charity; all which language, besides that it assumed the very point at issue, namely, that the sentiments of the petitioners were wrong,—really meant nothing, except that those who used the terms were very much dissatisfied with those to whom they applied them; and moreover had all the appearance of that disposition which is itself the very essence of intolerance, a disposition to apply bad names to others for having a different opinion from ourselves.
The handle which was so injudiciously given by the one party was eagerly laid hold of by the other. They retorted the charge of intolerance upon the impugners of the clergy; they called the clergy a proscribed body.* As the other side had begged the question against the clergy, they, not content with begging it in their favour, proceeded to something like a threat, saying, that “the petitioners belonged to a body of men whom their lordships would find out one day, as their ancestors had found before them, that they ought to treat with respect, and not with contumely.”†
The debate on the second reading of the Catholic bill opened with an exhibition of honesty and courage not often exemplified in public men. Mr. Brownlow, a leading Orangeman, abjured his old opinions, and declared himself a convert to the cause of Catholic emancipation.[*] Such things rarely happen in the sphere of party morality, where consistency in right or wrong usurps the praise of honesty, and where the merit of having chosen and for half a century rigidly adhered to that path which is the shortest cut to honour, wealth, and power, is accepted as an equivalent for every quality which goes to make a good minister or an honest statesman.* Where the interests of rival parties have succeeded in rendering almost infamous the highest act of virtue perhaps which a public man can perform, we hail with joy the dawn of a better morality in the public recantation of Mr. Brownlow. The manner in which that recantation was received is among the most striking marks of the improving spirit of the age.
At the same time, we must be permitted to remark, sorry as we are to say any thing which may seem indicative of a wish to tarnish the credit which Mr. Brownlow has so justly earned,—that his new opinions, upon his own shewing, have scarcely more foundation in reason than his old ones; and we should not be surprised if some of the late proceedings of the New Catholic Association were to shake his recently acquired liberality, and re-incline him to his former prejudices.
The evidence before the Committees had wrought, he said, his conversion. Dr. Doyle had declared that two doctrines, the power of the Pope to exercise temporal authority over the subjects of other sovereigns, and his power to grant dispensations for crimes, were not doctrines of the Catholic church. Dr. Doyle certainly did say so.[†] He also said (what Mr. Brownlow did not mention) that these doctrines never had been doctrines of that church; by which latter assertion he took away the whole value of the former. If, according to Dr. Doyle, the temporal authority of the Pope is as much a doctrine of the Catholic church as it was when a Gregory or a Boniface fulminated their excommunications and sentences of deposition against kings and emperors; if the power of dispensation is as much a doctrine of the church as it was when indulgences were openly sold from one end of Europe to the other; of what consequence is it that, in the opinion of one man, or of two men (Dr. Doyle and Dr. Murray), these powers were not authorized? Their not being authorized did not prevent their being acted upon then, nor could it prevent them, if an opportunity offered, from being acted upon now. If individual opinions were wanted, we had opinions already; opinions of foreign universities, at least as high authority as Dr. Doyle. As for the Pope, we can hardly conceive any thing more ridiculous than to talk of danger from him. The real danger is from the power of the priests, whether concentrated in one man, or diffused through a great number. If they place the supreme direction in his hands, it is for their own purposes: and if they do not, it is for the same reason. His power is only their power: and does Mr. Brownlow really think that either priests or any other sort of men ever give up any power which they can possibly keep; or are withheld from resuming it by any other reason than because they cannot?
We shall pass slightly over the remainder of the debate. Mr. Dawson brought forward several arguments against emancipation, the chief of which were, that Mr. O’Connell and Dr. Doyle were temperate before the committee but turbulent in Ireland: that the Catholics, in 1824, petitioned parliament for a reform in the temporalities of the Irish church, and that a Catholic parliament treated the Protestants in 1687 pretty much as Protestant parliaments have treated the Catholics ever since.[*] Sufficient answers having been given to these objections, either by the speakers who followed, or in the former part of this article, we shall not waste our readers’ time and our own by going over them again.
Mr. Goulburn and Mr. Peel again insisted upon danger to the Constitution, the Church, and the State,[†] but without proving, any more than their predecessors had done, that whatever danger there might be would be in any wise increased by Catholic emancipation. Mr. Peel illustrated his general argument by a particular example; he put the case of a Catholic king, who, by the bill before the House, would have it in his power to appoint a Catholic ministry.[‡] The contingency is somewhat distant, as well as somewhat improbable: but suppose it certain and near at hand; unless a majority in Parliament were Catholics too, what harm could be done by a Catholic king, though backed by a Catholic ministry? If such chimerical terrors are to be listened to, what dangers are we not exposed to already! What is there to hinder the King from turning Presbyterian, and filling every office in the ministry with Presbyterians? yet is this very likely to happen? or where would be the harm if it did? Has the King, with or without a ministry of his choice, the power to change the established religion, against the will of his people? If so, he can as well change the constitution itself; whatever advantages we owe to it, exist only by his sufferance, and the government of this country is in reality despotic. But if not, what becomes of the imaginary danger?
We must now need say something (much we need not) on the celebrated speech of the Duke of York.[§] What there was objectionable in it has been sufficiently exposed by others; and the station of the royal speaker has drawn down animadversions more severe than the speech, if delivered from other lips, would probably have called forth. As a piece of argument, it cannot be spoken of seriously; indeed it scarcely laid claim to that character. With the exception of what Mr. Canning called “the idle objection of the coronation oath,”* it only offered one reason, which turned upon the oddest of all équivoques. No clergyman can sit in the House of Commons; therefore (said his Royal Highness), the Protestant church, meaning the clergy, is not represented; ergo, the Catholic church, meaning the laity, ought not to be represented either. Considered merely as a declaration of opinion, we have not much to say against this speech: his Royal Highness was as well entitled, as any other person, to choose his side. It may be questioned, however, whether it would have been in any way discreditable to his Royal Highness, if, in testifying his attachment to the opinion he had chosen, he had remembered that even the Heir to the Throne is not infallible, and that it was just possible, that the opinion, to which he was thus solemnly vowing an eternal adherence, might be wrong.
In the interval between the second and third reading of the Catholic bill, two auxiliary measures were introduced into the Lower House, which have excited much discussion, and occasioned much difference of opinion, both among the supporters and among the opponents of the Catholic claims.[*]
The question of a state provision for the Catholic clergy does not seem to us encumbered with many difficulties. Such a provision certainly is not per se desirable. To a Protestant, it must of course appear desirable that there should be none but Protestants, in which case there would be no Catholic clergy, and consequently no need of paying them.—There are, however, Catholic clergy, and they exercise great influence over the people. We should be very glad to see that influence weakened: but, in the meantime, the question is, whether every thing which can be done ought not to be done, towards rendering it as little noxious as possible.
By the admission of all who know any thing of Ireland, one of the greatest evils of that country is, a deficiency of employment compared with the numbers of the people, or, what is the same thing, an excess of numbers, compared with the means of employment. As the best established general principles forbid us to expect that any measures, having for their object to provide employment for the people, can afford any thing more than a temporary palliation to the evil, whilst their numbers continue to increase at the present rate—there is nothing to be done without correcting the prevailing habit of early marriages and heedless increase of families. But to the introduction of any change in this respect, no state of things can be more adverse than one in which the priests derive their chief emoluments from marriages, baptisms, and funerals.* We make no invidious insinuations; we will not ask, whether the priests have given direct encouragement to those early marriages, which have co-operated with bad government to make the Irish people what they are;† but we say that nothing can be more impolitic, nor can shew a greater ignorance of human nature, than to admit of the continuance of a state of things in which it is their interest to do so.
Whenever, therefore, a public provision shall be granted to the Catholic clergy of Ireland, we hope that the act conferring it will contain a clause, providing, not for the discontinuance of the fees on marriages and baptisms, but for their being regularly handed over to some officer, for the benefit of the public revenue. To reconcile the priests themselves to this transfer, we would suggest that a portion of their stipends should be in name as well as in reality a commutation for their fees. Under this arrangement they would no longer have an interest in encouraging improvident marriages, while the money received on account of fees would in part contribute to defray the expense of the stipends.
Another reason for paying the Catholic clergy, is to diminish the interest they now have in proselytism. Believing, as we do, the Catholic religion to be a bad one, we of course think it undesirable that proselytes should be made to it. The motives to proselytism will be but too strong, without the aid of pecuniary interest: but when the priest’s emoluments entirely depend upon the number of his flock, those motives are at the highest pitch. Surely all Protestants should wish this to be at an end.
It deserves notice, that of all those who advocated this measure in the House of Commons, there was not one who placed the expediency of it upon the right grounds. One reason assigned was, that the Catholic clergy were a meritorious body.[*] Another, that it was desirable they should be connected with the state;[†] a proposition in which, if, by connexion with the state, is meant dependence upon the government, we are so far from agreeing, that if the stipends were to be put upon such a footing as to create any such dependence, it would shake our confidence in the expediency of the measure itself. Another reason was, that it was desirable that a portion of the higher classes should form a part of the Catholic clergy.[‡] We do not exactly see why; or how the higher classes could be drawn into it by changing the source of its emoluments; unless at the same time an increase were made in the amount, which would be objectionable on another score.
If the reasons given for the measure were bad, the reasons against it were still worse.
The first was, that no provision is made for the clergy of any of the dissenting sects. But there is no other sect, for the payment of whose clergy there are the same reasons.[§]
The second was, that the Catholic clergy, if paid at all, ought to be paid out of the superfluous property of the Established Church: and if the payment could not be made in that way, it ought not, however desirable, to be made at all.[¶]
The third was, that the measure tended to undermine the Established Church. Of this tendency no proof was so much as pretended to be given. But danger to the church is that sort of thing which persons of a certain stamp are accustomed to see in every thing which they do not like.[∥]
The fourth was, that the House ought not to establish a Papal Church, armed with all the jurisdiction belonging to Papacy.* Who would not have supposed that the question before the House was whether there should be a Catholic church in Ireland, or not?
The fifth was, that it would diminish the influence of the Catholic clergy over their flocks. This objection was brought forward in the House by nobody but Mr. Goulburn;[*] in whose mouth it seems to be any thing but appropriate: but it is the objection which we have heard oftenest urged in other places. It has not, however, been proved by any sufficient evidence, that the Catholics would like their priests the less for being no longer a burden on them; that they feel the burden most severely, is well known: that the priests’ fees were a subject of complaint with the discontented, almost equally with tithes and rents, has been given in evidence by several witnesses before the Committees.* Further, if it were made out, that the influence of the priests would be diminished by a public provision, we should not consider this an evil, but a good; it appearing to us to be any thing but beneficial, either to religion or morality, that a body of priests should exercise any such influence over the people, as is exercised by the Catholic clergy: and the influence of the priests having besides afforded to the enemies of emancipation their most plausible topic of alarm.
The proposed alteration of the elective franchise in Ireland appears at first sight a measure of greater delicacy. To those, however, who look to things rather than names, there is no great difficulty in the question.
The forms of liberty, are one thing; the substance another. These two things are often confounded; and the consequence is, that the substance is very often sacrificed to the forms. There is a certain set of politicians, who maintain it as an established principle, that the substance always ought to be sacrificed to the forms; the form being in their estimation every thing, the substance nothing. It is, according to them, not only useful, but essential to good government, that the body of the people should, at every election, go to the poll, and vote for somebody; because this contributes exceedingly to the generation of public spirit: but once there, it is not of the slightest consequence whom they vote for; at least, it is not necessary that they should exercise any choice; or rather, it would be of the most fatal consequence if they did. Elections, according to them, are on the best footing, when there are but two or three real choosers; the two or three thousand, who are the nominal choosers, discharging no other functions, in regard to the favoured candidate, than that of committing to memory his name, and repeating it at the hustings, to a person stationed there to hear it.
This class of politicians find in Ireland a system of election management to their heart’s content. Droves of electors, driven to the poll often without knowing, till they reach the spot, the name of the candidate whom they are to vote for; themselves the property of their landlord, a sort of live stock upon the estate, whom nobody thinks of canvassing, and who would probably stare on being told that the franchise (as it is ironically called) was regarded as a privilege to themselves. In one or two instances of late years, when the state of misery to which they were already reduced rendered ejectment from their wretched tenancies an event scarcely to be dreaded, they did, in considerable numbers, break through their subjection, and from being the tools of their landlords, became the tools of their priests: in consequence of which defection they had to endure all the sufferings which the rage of their thwarted taskmasters could inflict upon them.*
It is moreover well established, though in the lamentable ignorance which prevails in this country with respect to Ireland, it seems not to be generally known, that, of those who are called, and give their votes as, forty-shilling freeholders, it is a very small proportion indeed who are really so; the remainder consisting of persons who not only have not an interest to the value of forty shillings in the land, but who pay to their landlords a full, and more than a full rent; and are registered as freeholders by the grossest perjury on their own part, and the grossest subornation or rather compulsion of perjury on that of the Irish gentlemen, their landlords.†
It is true, as was justly observed by Col. Johnson, that the proper remedy for these evils is not disfranchisement, but vote by ballot.[*] Vote by ballot, however, there was no chance of obtaining. Disfranchisement there was a chance of obtaining: it could do no harm, and might do good; by taking away from a few lords of the soil the power of bringing their thousands and tens of thousands to the poll, it would tend to give at least somewhat more importance to the small number of electors who can choose for themselves, without drawing down upon their heads inevitable ruin. It is no mark of wisdom to reject what is good, because you cannot have what is better.
On the other hand, we agree with Lord Milton,‡ that the good effects of this measure have been much exaggerated. It has been assumed, as it appears to us on scarcely any evidence, that the desire of making freeholds for electioneering purposes, has been a great cause of the minute subdivision of lands. That it may have been so in one or two instances we do not deny; indeed it is sufficiently proved that it has. But, that, as a general rule, such political influence as the landlords of the predominant party might acquire by splitting farms, over and above what they might have had without it, could act upon them with sufficient force to counterbalance the direct and obvious interest which they have in the good cultivation of their estates, is a conclusion not to be founded on one or two, or even on ten or twenty, instances. That the lands should be parcelled out in small farms, was no more than is natural in a country where, till of late, scarcely any tenants had capital enough to occupy large ones. Now, when capital is flowing into the country, the landlords are rapidly clearing their estates of the wretched cottier tenantry; uniting numbers of small farms into one, and introducing a better system of cultivation. Observe that the church lands, on which no freeholds can be created, are just as minutely divided as the rest;* while in England, where political influence is fully as much valued as in Ireland, the land is generally let in large farms: why? because there are farmers possessed of sufficient capital to occupy them; and because it is in general of much more importance to a landlord that his lands should be cultivated by persons of capital and intelligence, than that he should gain a few votes, by means which are equally open to the opposite party, if they are willing to make the same sacrifice.
We, therefore, do not claim for the proposed bill, the merit of giving to Ireland a “sturdy and independent yeomanry;”† we bound its pretensions to those of diminishing, in some small degree, the power of the aristocracy, and putting an end to a great amount of perjury. Though, even for these purposes, we are much inclined, with Mr. Leslie Foster and Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald,[*] to think that it did not take a range sufficiently wide, and that to produce any very sensible improvement, the disfranchisement ought to have extended to freeholders in fee, as well as to freeholders for lives.
In the debates on this question, it may be remarked, that the extremes both of Toryism and of Whiggism were found on one side, and the more moderate of both parties on the other. This anomaly appears to us to have naturally arisen out of the circumstances of the case. The thorough-goers on both sides, in their opposition to this measure, will be found to have been perfectly consistent with themselves; while the more moderate have on this occasion made a sacrifice of party principles, from an honest desire to promote the public good.
Every Englishman who knows any thing of the manner in which the legislature of his own country is formed, knows perfectly well that the great mass of the electors, though they have somewhat more of the form, have as little of the reality of a free choice, as their degraded brethren, the forty shilling freeholders of Ireland. If all the English electors were disfranchised, who dare not vote but according to the bidding of their landlords, or customers, so few would be left that there would be no semblance of a popular choice, and the real amount of the aristocratic power would be made universally apparent. This would not suit either section of the aristocracy: neither the stronger section, who are now the absolute masters of the government, nor the weaker section, who hope to become the stronger, and by that means to become the masters of the government in their turn.
In confirmation of the above remark, so far as it affects the Whig party, it may be observed that the various plans which have been proposed by that party for putting the election of Members of Parliament upon a different footing, have been of a nature to add to the aristocratic power, not to diminish it: and to add to it, too, in the very manner to which the principle of the Irish freeholders’ bill is most directly hostile, viz. by giving the franchise to a set of electors who are irresistibly under aristocratic controul. One of these plans is to take away the franchise from the electors of the rotten boroughs who do exercise a free choice, though from their small number they are interested in making a bad one, and to give an additional representation to the county electors, who are almost all of them under the absolute command of their landlords, and who are the very same class of electors whom the Irish freeholders’ bill would disfranchise.[*] Another of their plans, is to extend the elective franchise to copyholders; who would be every where under exactly the same influence as the freeholders.[†]
The more consistent, therefore, and clear-sighted among the Whigs, perceived that it was impossible for them to give their support to this measure, without departing from the principles on which they had constantly acted, and to which they were determined to adhere. Mr. Lambton’s declaration, then, that he would oppose Catholic emancipation in order to frustrate this measure, appears to us perfectly consistent, and, on his own principles, proper.[‡]
The consistent Tories had exactly the same interest in opposing the measure, as the consistent Whigs: they were also actuated by the general hostility to change; and several (Mr. Goulburn for instance)[§] who approved of the measure, opposed it with the view of thwarting Catholic emancipation. Some persons have wondered that such men as Mr. Bankes should stand forward on this occasion as the champions of popular rights: but to us it appears nothing surprising, that a man who has been all his life a determined opponent of all innovation, should oppose it on this occasion as on any other.[*]
If we have succeeded in laying open the springs of action which impelled both classes of opponents to say and do what they said and did against the bill, the reader will be able to make the application to the different speeches without our assistance, and we should have quitted the subject had there not been one passage in the speech of Mr. Brougham, which appears to us to call for particular animadversion.[†]
We do not allude to the bitter complaint which he made [pp. 192-3], oddly enough, of the want of information, when there is probably no subject relative to Ireland, in respect to which the information was equally complete; nor to the still odder reason that he gave for suffering the Irish freeholders to continue perjuring themselves, because officers in the army, members of parliament, and bishops, perjured themselves too [pp. 194-5]; nor even to the excellent definition which he gave of the “natural influence of property,” when he defined it to consist in driving Englishmen by threats to go to the poll and utter a deliberate falsehood, enforcing that falsehood by the ceremony of an oath, to put a candidate into parliament of whom they knew nothing; of which influence he added that he did not complain, and that it must exist every where.* The only part of his speech which we have it in view to touch upon, is the unprovoked attack, which he went out of his way to make, upon “the political economists.”
They were told by a class of men, who had carried their dogmatical notions almost as far, and with a spirit similar to the religious persecutions of other times—he meant the political economists, who had held up a valued friend of his, Mr. Malthus, to public ridicule, only because he differed from Mr. Ricardo on a mere metaphysical, not a practical point—that they ought to pass this measure, &c. &c.
(Ibid., p. 193.)
We cannot see in what manner a knowledge of the circumstance, that the political economists were intolerant, or had dogmatical notions, conduced to the forming a right decision on the subject of Irish freeholds; but the irrelevancy of this accusation is the least of the faults, with which it is justly chargeable.
If, by the term “political economists,” Mr. Brougham intended to designate any particular individuals, we would recommend him,—before he again vituperates the cultivators of a science, the first principles of which it would do him no harm to study,—to consult Lindley Murray’s English Grammar,[‡] from which he will learn the difference between nouns proper and appellative, and will be taught to avoid confounding classes with individuals. But if he include under the expression “political economists,” all or most of those who have made the cultivation of that science their particular pursuit, we have not heard of any act which has emanated from these persons as a body; and we imagine that Mr. Malthus must have been somewhat surprised to find himself represented by his “valued friend” as having been “held up to public ridicule,” by a class of philosophers, among whom he probably esteems himself to be not one of the least considerable. It strikes us, too, as rather odd, that the act of “holding a man up to public ridicule” should be regarded as proof of “a spirit similar to the religious persecutions of other times.” Religious persecutors have been wont to resort to tortures of a keener description than public ridicule: and is Mr. Malthus the first person who has been held up to ridicule for a “merely speculative” opinion?
To be serious, it is astonishing, that a man like Mr. Brougham should either be ignorant himself, or should count upon so extraordinary a degree of ignorance on the part of his audience, as to impute intolerance to the political economists: a class of men who are by nothing more distinguished, than by the mildness and urbanity with which their warmest discussions have been carried on: a mildness till then unknown in the history of controversy; and forming a most striking contrast with the bitterness and animosity which have characterized the disputes not merely of politicians and theologians, contending for power over the bodies or souls of mankind, but even of the professors of purely abstract science, for example the mathematicians: who in their controversies with one another, or with those who have impugned any of their doctrines, have on several occasions displayed even more than ordinary arrogance, petulance, and ill-temper. He who was ignorant of all this, or knowing it could charge the political economists with dogmatism and intolerance, must have merely taken up the first bad name which occurred to him, and without for a moment considering whether it was applicable or not, flung it at the heads of those whom he had a mind to assail.
We have not left ourselves space to comment at much length upon the two remaining discussions on the Catholic question.[*] The subject was much more thoroughly sifted in these two debates than in the foregoing: we allude particularly to the speeches of Mr. Horace Twiss and Lord Harrowby, by both of whom the only argument was put forward which really goes to the bottom of the question, namely, that, for any mischievous purpose, the Catholics would not gain one particle of power by emancipation.[†] Mr. Charles Grant was, as usual, honest and manly.[‡] The opponents of the Catholics begged the question against them, in all the old, and a variety of new ways: but their speeches were in every material feature so like those of their predecessors, that we need not waste any words upon them. The only speech deserving of notice on that side of the question was the speech of the Bishop of Chester: and this not so much from the merits or demerits of its arguments as from the lengths to which the right reverend prelate was hurried by the clerical esprit de corps, and the cavalier manner in which he treated all classes in Ireland, except the priesthood of the church, “a priesthood,” (including, we suppose, the Honorable and Venerable Archdeacon Trench, and the Rev. Mr. Morrett of Skibbereen)* “which, in the moral desolation of Ireland, remained the Oasis of the desert, and gave to the eye some points on which it could rest with pleasure.”† It was ludicrous enough too, to hear a man who is pocketing thousands a year by his opinions, and who has nothing to fear from a strict adherence to them but removal from a lower grade of emolument and grandeur to a higher, spout mock-heroics, and talk of martyrdom.
* * * * *
Hitherto what we have been mainly considering, in the different speeches, has been their arguments. The occasion now calls for another sort of remark.
In private life, no maxim, that has human conduct for its subject, is more universally assented to than the paramount importance of an inviolable adherence to truth. To charge a man with a disregard to truth is justly considered as the most flagrant insult which can be put upon him: and the state of mind which characterizes an habitual liar, as one with which no good or great quality can easily coexist.
It has however been long ago observed by Addison, that party lies are in a great measure exempt from this stigma; and that men who would sooner die than be guilty of the slightest violation of truth for their individual advantage, are ready, for the benefit of their party, to put forth assertions which they not only know to be false, but which they know cannot, in the common course of things, be believed by any body for more than a few days.[*]
Whether matters have altered in this respect, since the days of Addison, is what we do not pretend to determine. Thus much, however, will, it is believed, be found to be borne out by a considerable body of modern experience: that what would be a falsehood anywhere else, is a justifiable piece of rhetorical artifice in the House of Commons; and that gentlemen, in all other respects of the most unblemished honour, and quite incapable of saying or doing any thing which is generally regarded as dishonorable, are in the daily habit of making assertions in Parliament, which would infallibly lead an indifferent auditor to suppose that the convenience of an assertion for their purposes was a circumstance much more regarded by them than its truth.
It will be for the reader to judge, whether the assertions which we are now about to quote, belong to the class of assertions which we have just mentioned, or not. We will deal fairly by him and them; we will lay before him,—together with the assertions,—if not the proofs, at least an indication of the proofs, which lead us without hesitation to pronounce them unfounded. It is possible that the gentlemen to whom they are ascribed, may have been misrepresented by the reporters; if so, they are bound in justice to the public and to themselves, to disavow them. It is also, in the case of some of these gentlemen, just possible, that they may not have known positively that the assertions were unfounded, but only, not known them to be true. We shall be extremely glad to find that the gentlemen have been misrepresented. We bear them no ill will; on the contrary, we have for some of them individually great respect. In the code of party ethics, the stain may not be a very black one; but we confess it is one from which we would gladly see them freed.
Frequent allusions had been made to the partial administration of justice in Ireland. Now he would say, and the experience of some years entitled him to say it, that the Catholics of Ireland enjoyed the fullest and fairest administration of justice. He affirmed, without fear of contradiction from any Irish member, that the courts of justice were equally open to the rich and the poor, without distinction of religious sentiments.*
The same gentleman:
As far as the experience of seventeen years’ attendance on the Irish circuit enabled him to judge, the administration of justice in ireland was perfectly pure. He repeated that the administration of justice in Ireland was perfectly pure, that the rights of the poor man were equally respected with those of the rich, and that no distinction whatever was made between Catholic and Protestant.†
Mr. Cobbett, who within the last two months had become the oracle of the Catholics, had desired them to make out a list of the cases in which justice had been denied, or in which oppression and violence had received a sanction from the law. The Catholics, however, had drawn out no such list, because they could not; no such cases of successful injustice existing except in the heated imaginations of those who had fabricated them.*
It had been said that there was one law for the rich and another for the poor in Ireland. If that meant that there was a denial of justice to the poor man,he begged to deny the fact. With respect to magistrates, he would assert, and he defied contradiction, that there was no such thing as a disposition among them to take bribes for the administration of justice to the poor.†
To the above list, it is with great pain we add the following passage; which, however, is so vague and intangible that it can hardly be said to contain an assertion at all, consequently not a false assertion.
The Protestant gentlemen of Ireland, in the relations of parents, landlords, and magistrates, followed the precepts of their religion, by studying the good of all committed to their charge, in a manner not to be surpassed by a similar body of men in any country.‡
The following assertion belongs to the same class:
The Earl of Roden:
The situation of the peasantry of Ireland had, he conceived, been very much misrepresented. No set of people enjoyed more amply the benefits of the British Constitution than the peasantry of Ireland.§
We shall not attempt to do what volumes would not do effectually, to present the reader with the original of this delightful picture: but we can at least tell him what to read. If he will peruse those passages in the Evidence before the Committees to which we are about to refer him, he will form some conception of the purity of the administration of justice in Ireland (we are not speaking of the superior courts), both in other respects, and in regard to the taking of bribes; of the benefits which no set of people enjoy more amply than the peasantry of Ireland, to wit, those of the British constitution; and of the manner in which the Protestant gentlemen of Ireland follow the precepts of their religion, by studying, in the character of landlords and magistrates, and we will add, grand jurors, the good of all committed to their charge. We have inclosed our references to the most important passages within brackets. The authority of any one of these witnesses may be cavilled at; but we recommend to the reader to count them.
Before the Commons’ Committee of 1825.
Mr. [Daniel] O’Connell, pp. 51, 55-6, [60, 61]. Col. Currey, 297, . Major Gen. Bourke, 324, , 326-7, 330, , 339, . Rev. John Keily, 397. Rev. Thomas Costello, , 418. Mr. Rochfort, 446, 448, . Mr. [Arthur] Kelly, 521, [522, 526]. Mr. Barrington, 578. Lord Carbery, . Mr. [John] Currie, . Mr. [John] Godley, 741. [Parliamentary Papers, 1825, VIII.]
Before the Commons’ Committee of 1824.
Mr. Blacker, pp. [60, 61]. Major Willcocks, 101, , 113. Major Warburton, 164. Mr. [William Wrixon] Becher, [183, 184, 185]. Mr. Leslie Foster, 242. Mr. Justice Day, [253, 257-9, 264]. Mr. [William Henry] Newenham, 306. Mr. Macarty, [328-9, 332]. Rev. Michael Collins, 335, 336, [337, 371-7]. Mr. O’Driscol, 381, [383-5, 396]. Dr. [John Richard] Elmore, . Dr. Church, 424, [429-30]. Mr. Lawler, 441, 442-3. [Ibid., Vol. VII.]
Before the Lords’ Committee of 1825.
Mr. Leslie Foster, pp. 55, , 65. Mr. Doherty, 91, 94, . Mr. O’Connell, , 131, 134, . Major Gen. Bourke, 173, 176, , 180. Mr. [Joseph] Abbott, [196-8]. Rev. Henry Cooke, 217. Sir John Newport, 288. Mr. Barrington, 305. Earl of Kingston, [437, 439]. Archdeacon Trench, . Mr. Justice Day, , 526, 527, [528-9]. Mr. Dominick Browne, 588. [Ibid., Vol. IX.]
Before the Lords’ Committee of 1824.
Major Willcocks, pp. 554-5. Major Warburton, . Major [Thomas] Powell, 609. Mr. [Alexander] Nimmo, [631-2], 659, 663, , 679. Mr. Becher, 634, , 639. The Duke of Leinster, [Augustus Frederick Fitzgerald,] 704. Mr. Macarty, 719. The Marquis of Westmeath, [George Thomas Nugent,] 728-31. Mr. O’Driscol, [733-4]. [Ibid., Vol. VII.]
But, infinitely more than all these, let him read from beginning to end the evidence of Mr. Macdonnell, of Ballinasloe, before the Commons’ Committee of 1825: that part of it which relates to magistrates, that part of it which relates to grand juries, that part of it which relates to illegal tolls, and other illegal charges, and that part of it which relates to tithes.[*] He will find there—it is not safe to tell him what he will find: let him read for himself.
* * * * *
Among the minor proceedings of the last session relative to Ireland, none are of sufficient importance to require notice, with the exception of Mr. Hume’s motion concerning the Irish church, and the debate to which it gave rise.[†]
As this was only a motion for inquiry, we are not called upon to give any opinion on the expediency of a revision of the Church Establishment of Ireland: a large subject, and one upon which we shall have other opportunities of stating our opinions, at greater length than our limits would have enabled us, on the present occasion, to afford. We shall content ourselves, then, with an examination of the grounds, on which the House resolved, that there was no need of inquiry.
The only speaker against the motion (Mr. Peel said but a few words)[‡] was Mr. Canning. His arguments were two. One was, that a revision of the Irish Church Establishment was contrary to the Union.[§] The other consisted in calling the church revenues property, in denouncing all interference with them as spoliation, and affirming that the House might, with equal right, seize upon the lay tithes, and the property of corporations. To these arguments Mr. Canning added (what is often more effective than argument) vituperation: “he had never heard a principle so base propounded for consideration in that House.”*
The first argument is defective in two ways: in the first place, because, as was remarked by Sir Francis Burdett[¶] in his pointed answer to Mr. Canning, the Act of Union is not a law of the Medes and Persians; in the next place, because, supposing it were so, the opponents of the motion failed, on their own shewing, in making it out to be a violation of the Union. It is a mockery to say, that, in merely enacting that the churches of England and Ireland should be united in one Protestant Episcopalian church, to be subject to the same laws, it was ever intended to tie up the hands of the legislature from introducing any reform into either, which might render it more conducive to its object, or to the good of the state. Mr. Peel attempted to bolster up this flimsy argument, by referring to that article of the Union by which it was provided, that the Irish bishops should succeed in a certain order to seats in Parliament:[*] this he called recognizing the number of bishops; and so it was: recognizing the actual number; recognizing it as being the actual number: but not surely as a number never to be altered, should any other number be, in the opinion of the legislature, more eligible. Is a law to be construed as giving perpetuity to every thing, the existence of which it takes for granted as a fact, and provides for the consequences of it accordingly? If there had been a provision in the Union to regulate the right of pasturage upon a common, or of cutting turf upon a bog, would it have been a consequence of that provision, that the common should never be ploughed up, the bog never drained? If a man had bound himself by a contract to give his footman a livery, would he by that contract have debarred himself from ever parting with his footman?
The other argument, which turns upon the words property and spoliation, was completely demolished in the masterly speech of Mr. Brougham,[†] who pointed out the inherent distinctions between the revenues of the Church and private property, and the consequent inapplicability of such a term as spoliation to any measure for regulating their amount. Spoliation,—whatever be meant by spoliation, must at any rate be spoliation of somebody. The spoliation in question, if such it is to be called, would not be spoliation of the present incumbents, since it was proposed to leave their incomes untouched: it would not be spoliation of their children, or heirs, since these would not have got the incomes, and therefore cannot lose them. No man, no person, no actually existing being would be deprived by the proposed measure of any thing which he has, nor of any thing which he is entitled to expect. Of whom then would it be spoliation? Of an ideal being; a mere imaginary entity: an abstract idea: a name, a sound. It would, in one word, be spoliation of nobody.
Having no better arguments than these, it is no wonder that Mr. Canning should have had recourse to the old expedient of “flinging dirt.” It is the characteristic of a bad cause to resort to such helps, as it is of a good one to have no need of them.
[[*] ]Parliamentary History (hereafter cited as PH), 1825, pp. 46-282.
[[*] ]The term (later used by Mill as the title of a series of articles) seems to derive from Ernst Moritz Arndt’s Der Geist der Zeit (1805, part trans. into English, 1808), which was abused by William Hazlitt in the Examiner, 1 Dec., 1816. Hazlitt used the term in 1820, and then published The Spirit of the Age (London: Colburn, 1825), which is probably Mill’s immediate source.
[[†] ]These appear in PH, 1825, as sections of “Ireland”: “Catholic Association,” pp. 47-148; “Catholic Claims,” pp. 148-88, 208-12, and 215-62; and the two “wings,” “Elective Franchise,” pp. 188-204 and 212-15; and “Catholic Clergy,” pp. 204-8. The statutes objected to by the Irish Catholics included 13 Charles II, second session, c. 1 (1661), 25 Charles II, c. 2 (1672), 30 Charles II, second session, c. 1 (1677 ), and 7 & 8 William III, c. 27 (1696).
[* ][Robert Banks Jenkinson, Speech on Roman Catholic Relief (17 May, 1825),] PH , p. 244.
[[*] ]See “Minutes of Evidence” (Commons), Parliamentary Papers (hereafter cited as PP), 1825, VII, 1-499; “Minutes of Evidence” (Lords), pp. 501-802; first, second, third, and fourth Reports from the Select Committee on Ireland (Commons), ibid., VIII, 4-855; and “Minutes of Evidence” (Lords), ibid., IX, 1-675.
[* ][Charles James Blomfield, Speech on Roman Catholic Relief (17 May, 1825),] PH , p. 239.
[[*] ]See ibid., pp. 120-1 (18 Feb., 1825).
[* ][George Canning, Speech on the Address from the Throne (3 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 38.
[[*] ]See 6 George IV, c. 4 (1825).
[[†] ]Speech from the Throne (“King’s Speech”; 3 Feb., 1825), PH, 1825, p. 29.
[[*] ]See p. 74n below.
[* ][John Scott, Speech on Roman Catholic Relief (17 May, 1825),] PH , p. 249.
[[*] ]William Blackstone’s phrase,undoubtedly taken by Mill from Jeremy Bentham; see A Fragment on Government, in Works, Vol. I, p. 230.
[[*] ]Stephen Lushington, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (14 Feb., 1825), PH, 1825, pp. 88-9; Canning, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (15 Feb., 1825), ibid., p. 98.
[[†] ]Luke, 6: 27-9.
[* ]See Mr. [Henry Peter] Brougham’s speech [on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (15 Feb., 1825)], PH , pp. 104-5.
[* ][Henry Goulburn, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (10 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 52. [In this speech Goulburn quotes (p. 53) from the Catholic Association the words about hatred to Orangemen cited by Mill at pp. 71 and 73 above.]
[† ][Charles Wetherell, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (18 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 112.
[‡ ]See the speeches [on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (18 Feb., 1825)] of Mr. [Robert] Peel (ibid., p. 115), and of the Solicitor General [Wetherell] (ibid., p. 112).
[§ ][Henry Brougham, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (18 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 120.
[¶ ]Another assertion made by the enemies of the Association (see Lord Liverpool’s speech [on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (3 Mar., 1825)], ibid., p. 140), that a peasant had been distrained upon, for non-payment of the Catholic rent, was summarily contradicted by Lord Kingston upon the spot [ibid., p. 143].
[* ][William Lamb, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (15 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 93.
[[*] ]Goulburn, speech of 10 Feb., 1825, ibid., p. 52.
[[†] ]Henry Brougham, speech of 15 Feb., 1825, ibid., pp. 102-3.
[[*] ]Leading to “A Bill to Provide for the Removal of the Disqualifications under Which His Majesty’s Roman Catholic Subjects Now Labour,” 6 George IV (23 Mar., 1825), PP, 1825, III, 441-50 (not enacted).
[* ][Francis Burdett, Speech in Presenting a Petition (1 Mar., 1825),] PH , p. 151.
[† ]Ibid., p. 152.
[[*] ]John Leslie Foster, Robert Peel, and Wetherell, Speeches on Roman Catholic Claims (1 Mar., 1825), ibid., pp. 154, 160-3, and 155-6, respectively.
[* ]Solicitor General [Wetherell], ibid., p. 155. Mr. Peel, ibid., p. 162. [For the fallacy of distrust, see Peregrine Bingham, “Prefatory Treatise on Political Fallacies,” Parliamentary Review (hereafter cited as PR), 1825, pp. 12-13.]
[[†] ]1 William and Mary, second session, c. 2 (1688).
[† ]Solicitor General, [speech of 1 Mar., 1825,] PH , p. 156.
[[‡] ]See Bingham, “Prefatory Treatise,” pp. 8-10 and 20-1.
[‡ ]Solicitor General, [speech of 1 Mar., 1825,] PH , p. 155.
[[§] ]6 Anne, c. 6 (1707).
[§ ]Mr. Peel, [speech of 1 Mar., 1825,] PH , p. 161.
[[*] ]See Bingham, “Prefatory Treatise,” pp. 8-10 and 6-7.
[* ]Mr. Peel, [speech of 1 Mar., 1825,] PH , p. 162.
[[†] ]William Conyngham Plunket and Henry Brougham, Speeches on Roman Catholic Claims (1 Mar., 1825), ibid., pp. 157-60 and 163-5, respectively.
[† ]Mr. Brougham went so far, not long after, as to say of Catholic emancipation—“Grant that to the people of Ireland, and it would allay all dissensions and disturbances—it would give us their hearts, and in giving us their hearts, it would secure our dominion over them, so that a world in arms should not be able to wrest it from us.” See [Speech on the Catholic Clergy of Ireland (29 Apr., 1825),] ibid., p. 208.
[[‡] ]I.e., between 1 Mar. and 17 May, 1825. See ibid., pp. 150 and 250.
[[*] ]Alcuin, Letter to Charlemagne, in Opera omnia, Vols. C-CI of Jacques Paul Migne, ed., Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina (Paris: Migne, 1851), Vol. C, col. 438.
[[†] ]Cf. Bingham, “Prefatory Treatise,” p. 5.
[* ]Bishop of Exeter [William Carey, Speech on Catholic Claims (13 Apr., 1825)], PH, 1825, p. 169.
[† ]Bishop of Chester [Charles James Blomfield, Speech on Roman Catholic Claims (29 Mar., 1825)], ibid., p. 168.
[[*] ]Charles Brownlow, Speech on Catholic Relief (19 Apr., 1825), ibid., p. 174.
[* ]Mr. Peel [Speech on the Address from the Throne (4 Feb., 1825)], ibid., p. 43: “Of the Lord Chancellor, he could not speak in terms of adequate praise; but he believed he would go down to posterity as a man of exalted merits, and as the most consistent politician who had ever held the great seal.”
[[†] ]James Warren Doyle, “Evidence Taken before the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the State of Ireland,” PP, 1825, VIII, 190-2 and 195.
[[*] ]George Dawson, Speech on Roman Catholic Relief (19 Apr., 1825), PH, 1825, pp. 175-6.
[[†] ]Goulburn and Peel, Speeches on Roman Catholic Relief (19 and 21 Apr., and 21 Apr., 1825), ibid., pp. 178-80 and 184-6.
[[‡] ]Peel, ibid., p. 185.
[[§] ]Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, Speech on Roman Catholic Claims (25 Apr., 1825), ibid., pp. 187-8.
[* ][Canning, Speech on the State of Ireland (26 May, 1825),] ibid., p. 261. See also [Peregrine Bingham, “Prefatory Treatise”], PR, 1825, p. 9: Fallacy of Vows.
[[*] ]For the first, a Resolution concerning state provision for a Catholic clergy (29 Apr., 1825), see PD, n.s., Vol. 13, cols. 308-36; for the second, “A Bill to Regulate the Exercise of the Elective Franchise in Counties at Large, in Ireland,” 6 George IV (22 Apr., 1825), PP, 1825, III, 85-6 (not enacted).
[* ]Mr. Dennis Browne says in his Evidence before the Commons’ Committee, that the priests have not, at an average, in his part of the country, 100l. a-year, and that they get for a marriage sometimes half-a-guinea, sometimes 15s., never less than half-a-guinea; independently of the collections made at the wedding among the visitors, which, according to Dr. Doyle, have been known to amount to 40l. [For Browne, see PP, 1825, VIII, 30; for Doyle, ibid., p. 185.] The Rev. Malachi Duggan, parish priest of Moyferta and Killballyowen, who stated his annual income to be about 200l., declared himself to have celebrated in the preceding year about fifty marriages; whereof about thirty produced pounds or guineas each; thirteen produced various sums from 2l. 10s. to 6l.; four produced various sums from 5s. to 10s.; and three, to the best of his recollection, were gratuitous. Out of an income, therefore, of 200l., nearly 90l. were derived from the fees on marriages alone. (Rev. M. Duggan’s Evidence before the Commons’ Committee of 1824 [ibid., pp. 211, 217].)
[† ]See, however, the evidence of Mr. [Thomas] Frankland Lewis, before the Lords’ Committee of 1825, who says, “I believe it is known that the priests avow that they do recommend early marriages” ([ibid., IX,] 41); and the evidence of Mr. Leslie Foster, “I believe it is a matter pretty well ascertained, that the Roman Catholic clergy are in the habit of suggesting marriages to young persons, and not merely recommending, but enjoining them.” ([Ibid.,] p. 66.) See also the evidence of Mr. Justice [Robert] Day (ibid., p. 534,) to the same effect.
[[*] ]See Francis Leveson Gower, Speech on the Roman Catholic Clergy (29 Apr., 1825), PH, 1825, p. 204.
[[§] ]See William John Bankes, Goulburn, Joseph Hume, and Robert Peel, Speeches on the Roman Catholic Clergy (all on 29 Apr., 1825), ibid., pp. 205, 207, 205, and 206, respectively.
[[¶] ]See Thomas Creevey, Speech on the Roman Catholic Clergy (29 Apr., 1825), ibid., p. 207.
[[∥] ]See Thomas Peregrine Courtenay, Speech on the Roman Catholic Clergy (29 Apr., 1825), ibid., p. 205.
[* ]Solicitor General [Wetherell, Speech on Roman Catholic Relief (10 May, 1825)], ibid., p. 223.
[[*] ]Ibid., p. 207.
[* ]See the evidence of Mr. [Anthony Richard] Blake (p. 40); of Dr. [Daniel] Murray (p. 237); of Dr. [Oliver] Kelly (p. 259), before the Commons’ Committee of 1825 [PP, 1825, VIII]; and the evidence of Major [Richard] Willcocks (p. 118), before that of 1824 [ibid., VII].
[* ]See particularly the evidence of Mr. Leslie Foster before the Lords’ Committee of 1825, “There have fallen, within my own knowledge, frequent instances of the tenants having been destroyed in consequence of their having voted with their clergy.” ([PP, 1825, IX,] p. 79.)
[† ]See the evidence of Mr. Blake (p. 43); of Dr. [Oliver] Kelly (p. 252); of Col. [William Samuel] Currey (pp. 303-4); of the Rev. Henry Cooke (p. 372); of the Rev. Thomas Costello (p. 416); of Mr. [John Staunton] Rochfort (pp. 436-7); of Mr. [Matthew] Barrington (pp. 577-8); and of Dr. [William] O’Brien (p. 588), before the Commons’ Committee of 1825 [PP, 1825, VIII]; the evidence of Mr. Justice [Robert] Day (p. 263), before the Commons’ Committee of 1824 [ibid., VII]; of Mr. Leslie Foster (p. 78); Mr. Blake (p. 106); [William Knox,] the Bishop of Derry (p. 280); Mr. [Arthur Irwin] Kelly (p. 492); Mr. Justice Day (p. 534); and Mr. Dominick Browne (pp. 586-7), before the Lords’ Committee of 1825 [ibid., IX], &c.
[[*] ]William Augustus Johnson, Speech on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (9 May, 1825), PH, 1825, p. 213.
[‡ ][Charles William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, Speech on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (9 May, 1825),] ibid., p. 214.
[* ]See the evidence of Col. Currey (p. 304); of Major-Gen. [Richard] Bourke (p. 318); and of Mr. Rochfort (p. 437), before the Commons’ Committee of 1825 [PP, 1825, VIII]; the evidence of Mr. [Maxwell] Blacker (p. 78); of Justice Day (p. 264); of Mr. [Justin] Macarty (p. 320); of Mr. [Richard] Simpson (p. 406); of Mr. [James] Lawler (p. 442); and of Dr. [John] Church (p. 450), before the Commons’ Committee of 1824 [ibid., VII]. Mr. Leslie Foster, indeed, is of a different opinion: see his evidence before the Lords’ Committee of 1825, [ibid., IX,] p. 81.
[† ]Mr. [William Conyngham] Plunkett, [Speech on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (26 Apr., 1825),] PH, 1825, p. 200.
[[*] ]Foster and William Vesey Fitzgerald, Speeches on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (9 May, 1825), ibid., pp. 213 and 212-13, respectively.
[[*] ]See PD, n.s., Vol. 5, cols. 604-22 (9 May, 1821).
[[†] ]Ibid., Vol. 7, cols. 51-88 (25 Apr., 1822).
[[‡] ]John George Lambton, Speech on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (9 May, 1825), PH, 1825, p. 214.
[[§] ]Goulburn, Speech on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (26 Apr., 1825), ibid., p. 202.
[[*] ]Henry Bankes, Speech on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (26 Apr., 1825), ibid., p. 200.
[[†] ]Henry Brougham, Speech on the Elective Franchise in Ireland (26 Apr., 1825), ibid., pp. 192-8.
[* ]Ibid., p. 193.
[[‡] ]York: Wilson, Spence, and Mawman, 1795.
[[*] ]Debate on the Roman Catholic Relief Bill (10 May, 1825, Commons, and 17 May, 1825, Lords), PH, 1825, pp. 215-27, 232-56.
[[†] ]Horace Twiss and Dudley Ryder, Speeches on Roman Catholic Relief (10 and 17 May, 1825), ibid., pp. 216-21 and 247-8, respectively.
[[‡] ]Charles Grant, Speech on Roman Catholic Relief (10 May, 1825), ibid., pp. 221-2.
[* ]See the evidence of [John Evans-Freke,] Lord Carbery (p. 603) before the Commons’ Committee of 1825 [PP, 1825, VIII]; of Mr. Blacker (pp. 60-1), and the Rev. Michael Collins (pp. 375-7), before the Commons’ Committee of 1824 [ibid., VII]; and of Mr. [John] O’Driscol (p. 733) before the Lords’ Committee of 1824 [ibid.]. See more particularly the evidence of Mr. [Randle Patrick] Macdonell, before the Commons’ Committee of 1825 ([ibid., VIII,] pp. 759-60), and the whole. For further information concerning the Oasis, see the evidence of Major [George] Warburton (p. 147) before the Commons’ Committee of 1824 [ibid., VII].
[† ][Blomfield, speech of 17 May, 1825,] PH, 1825, p. 240.
[[*] ]Joseph Addison, Spectator, No. 507 (11 Oct., 1712), in The Spectator, 8 vols. (London: Buckley, and Tonson, 1712-15), Vol. VII, pp. 179-82.
[* ][John Doherty, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (11 Feb., 1825),] PH, 1825, p. 67.
[† ][Doherty, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (25 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 127. Contrast this with Mr. Doherty’s own words to the jury in the case of Lawrence v. Dempster. “This case will shew the manner in which the insurrection act has been administered in a part of this county. I rejoice that the cases of oppression which have been developed at these assizes were not earlier made public, lest the sturdy guardians of our rights and privileges, who yielded lately such a reluctant assent to this harsh, but, I believe,necessary law, should have been confirmed in their opposition, from seeing the vile, selfish, and tyrannical purposes to which it has been made subservient in the hands of arrogant and oppressive magistrates; and lest they should have formed their opinions from the abuse rather than the use of this salutary law. Teach him, if he continue in the commission of the peace, that he must learn to administer the law in its true meaning, and not, as in the present case, torture it into an instrument of caprice or malevolence.” [See The Times, 8 Aug., 1823, p. 3. The law referred to is 3 George IV, c. 1 (1822), continued by 4 George IV, c. 58 (1823), and further continued (and amended) by 5 George IV, c. 105 (1824).]
[* ][John North, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (14 Feb., 1825),] PH, 1825, p. 87.
[† ][Goulburn, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (25 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 128.
[‡ ][Brownlow, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (14 Feb., 1825),] ibid., p. 81.
[§ ][Robert Jocelyn, Speech on Unlawful Societies in Ireland (7 Mar., 1825),] ibid., p. 147.
[[*] ]PP, 1825, VIII, 752-8, 760-1 (on magistrates), 761-6 (on grand juries), 746-52 (on illegal tolls and other illegal charges), and 759-60 (on tithes).
[[†] ]Joseph Hume, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Established Church in Ireland (14 June, 1825), PH, pp. 267-70.
[[‡] ]Robert Peel, Speech on the Established Church in Ireland (14 June, 1825), ibid., p. 271.
[[§] ]I.e., the Act of Union, 39 & 40 George III, c. 67 (1800).
[* ][Canning, Speech on the Established Church in Ireland (14 June, 1825),] PH, 1825, pp. 270-1.
[[¶] ]Burdett, Speech on the Established Church in Ireland (14 June, 1825), ibid., p. 271.
[[*] ]39 & 40 George III, c. 67, §5.
[[†] ]Henry Brougham, Speech on the Established Church in Ireland (14 June, 1825), PH, 1825, pp. 271-3.