Front Page Titles (by Subject) PROPOSALS FOR AN ASSOCIATION, ETC, - Prose Works vol. 1
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PROPOSALS FOR AN ASSOCIATION, ETC, - Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prose Works vol. 1 
The Prose Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley from the original Editions. Edited, Prefaced, and Annotated by Richard Hearne Shepherd, in Two Volumes (London: Chatto & Windus, 1906).
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PROPOSALS FOR AN ASSOCIATION, ETC,
I propose an Association which shall have for its immediate objects Catholic Emancipation and the Repeal of the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland; and grounding on the removal of these grievances, an annihilation or palliation of whatever moral or political evil it may be within the compass of human power to assuage or eradicate.
MAN cannot make occasions, but he may seize those that offer. None are more interesting to philanthropy than those which excite the benevolent passions, that generalize and expand private into public feelings, and make the hearts of individuals vibrate not merely for themselves, their families, and their friends, but for posterity, for a people; till their country becomes the world, and their family the sensitive creation.
A recollection of the absent, and a taking into consideration the interests of those unconnected with ourselves, is a principal source of that feeling which generates occasions wherein a love for human kind may become eminently useful and active. Public topics of fear and hope, such as sympathize with general grievance, or hold out hopes of general amendment, are those on which the philanthropist would dilate with the warmest feeling; because these are accustomed to place individuals at a distance from self; for in proportion as he is absorbed in public feeling, so will a consideration of his proper benefit be generalized. In proportion as he feels with or for a nation or a world, so will man consider himself less as that centre to which we are but too prone to believe that every line of human concern does or ought to converge.
I should not here make the trite remark that selfish motive biasses, brutalizes, and degrades the human mind, did it not thence follow, that to seize those occasions wherein the opposite spirit predominates, is a duty which Philanthropy imperiously exacts of her votaries; that occasions like these are the proper ones for leading mankind to their own interest by awakening in their minds a love for the interest of their fellows. A plant that grows in every soil, though too often it is choked by tares before its lovely blossoms are expanded. Virtue produces pleasure, it is as the cause to the effect; I feel pleasure in doing good to my friend, because I love him. I do not love him for the sake of that pleasure.
I regard the present state of the public mind in Ireland to be one of those occasions which the ardent votary of the religion of Philanthropy dare not leave unseized. I perceive that the public interest is excited, I perceive that individual interest has, in a certain degree, quitted individual concern to generalize itself with universal feeling. Be the Catholic Emancipation a thing of great or of small misfortune,* be it a means of adding happiness to four millions of people, or a reform which will only give honour to a few of the higher ranks, yet a benevolent and disinterested feeling has gone abroad, and I am willing that it should never subside. I desire that means should be taken with energy and expedition in this important yet fleeting crisis, to feed the unpolluted flame at which nations and ages may light the torch of Liberty and Virtue!
It is my opinion that the claims of the Catholic inhabitants of Ireland, if gained to-morrow, would in a very small degree aggrandize their liberty and happiness. The disqualifications principally affect the higher orders of the Catholic persuasion, these would principally be benefited by their removal. Power and wealth do not benefit, but injure, the cause of virtue and freedom. I am happy, however, at the near approach of this emancipation, because I am inimical to all disqualifications for opinion. It gives me pleasure to see the approach of this enfranchisement, not for the good which it will bring with it, but because it is a sign of benefits approaching, a prophet of good about to come; and therefore do I sympathize with the inhabitants of Ireland in this great cause; a cause which though in its own accomplishment will add not one comfort to the cottager, will snatch not one from the dark dungeon, will root not out one vice, alleviate not one pang, yet it is the foreground of a picture, in the dimness of whose distance I behold the lion lay down with the lamb, and the infant play with the basilisk. For it supposes the extermination of the eyeless monster Bigotry, whose throne has tottered for two hundred years. I hear the teeth of the palsied beldame Superstition chatter, and I see her descending to the grave! Reason points to the open gates of the Temple of Religious Freedom, Philanthropy kneels at the altar of the common God! There, wealth and poverty, rank and abjectness, are names known but as memorials of past time: meteors which play over the loathsome pool of vice and misery, to warn the wanderer where dangers lie. Does a God rule this illimitable universe? Are you thankful for his beneficence—do you adore his wisdom—do you hang upon his altar the garland of your devotion? Curse not your brother, though he hath enwreathed with his flowers of a different hue; the purest religion is that of Charity, its loveliness begins to proselyte the hearts of men. The tree is to be judged of by its fruit. I regard the admission of the Catholic claims and the Repeal of the Union Act as blossoms of that fruit which the summer sun of improved intellect and progressive virtue is destined to mature.
I will not pass unreflected on the Legislative Union of Great Britain and Ireland, nor will I speak of it as a grievance so tolerable or unimportant in its own nature as that of Catholic disqualification. The latter affects few, the former affects thousands. The one disqualifies the rich from power, the other impoverishes the peasant, adds beggary to the city, famine to the country, multiplies abjectedness, whilst misery and crime play into each other’s hands under its withering auspices. I esteem, then, the annihilation of this second grievance to be something more than a mere sign of coming good. I esteem it to be in itself a substantial benefit. The aristocracy of Ireland—(for much as I may disapprove other distinctions than those of virtue and talent, I consider it useless, hasty, and violent, not for the present to acquiesce in their continuance)—the aristocracy of Ireland suck the veins of its inhabitants and consume the blood in England. I mean not to deny the unhappy truth that there is much misery and vice in the world. I mean to say that Ireland shares largely of both.—England has made her poor; and the poverty of a rich nation will make its people very desperate and wicked.
I look forward, then, to the redress of both these grievances; or rather, I perceive the state of the public mind, that precedes them as the crisis of beneficial innovation. The latter I consider to be the cause of the former, as I hope it will be the cause of more comprehensively beneficial amendments. It forms that occasion which should energetically and quickly be occupied. The voice of the whole human race; their crimes, their miseries, and their ignorance, invoke us to the task. For the miseries of the Irish poor, exacerbated by the union of their country with England, are not peculiar to themselves. England, the whole civilized world, with few exceptions, is either sunk in disproportioned abjectness, or raised to unnatural elevation. The repeal of the Union Act will place Ireland on a level, so far as concerns the well-being of its poor, with her sister nation. Benevolent feeling has gone out in this country in favour of the happiness of its inhabitants; may this feeling be corroborated, methodized, and continued! May it never fail! But it will not be kept alive by each citizen sitting quietly by his own fireside, and saying that things are going on well, because the rain does not beat on him, because he has books and leisure to read them, because he has money and is at liberty to accumulate luxuries to himself. Generous feeling dictates no such sayings. When the heart recurs to the thousands who have no liberty and no leisure, it must be rendered callous by long contemplation of wretchedness, if after such recurrence it can beat with contented evenness. Why do I talk thus? Is there anyone who doubts that the present state of politics and morals is wrong? They say, Show us a safe method of improvement. There is no safer than the corroboration and propagation of generous and philanthropic feeling, than the keeping continually alive a love for the human race, than the putting in train causes which shall have for their consequences virtue and freedom; and, because I think that individuals acting singly, with whatever energy, can never effect so much as a society, I propose that all those whose views coincide with those that I have avowed, who perceive the state of the public mind in Ireland, who think the present a fit opportunity for attempting to fix its fluctuations at Philanthropy, who love all mankind, and are willing actively to engage in its cause, or passively to endure the persecutions of those who are inimical to its success; I propose to these to form an association for the purposes, first, of debating on the propriety of whatever measures may be agitated; and secondly, for carrying, by united or individual exertion, such measures into effect when determined on. That it should be an association for discussing* knowledge and virtue throughout the poorer classes of society in Ireland, for co-operating with any enlightened system of education; for discussing topics calculated to throw light on any methods of alleviation of moral and political evil, and, as far as lays in its power, actively interesting itself, in whatever occasions may arise for benefiting mankind.
When I mention Ireland, I do not mean to confine the influence of the association to this or to any other country, but for the time being. Moreover, I would recommend that this association should attempt to form others, and to actuate them with a similar spirit; and I am thus indeterminate in my description of the association which I propose, because I conceive that an assembly of men meeting to do all the good that opportunity will permit them to do, must be in its nature as indefinite and varying as the instances of human vice and misery that precede, occasion, and call for its institution.
As political institution and its attendant evils constitute the majority of those grievances which philanthropists desire to remedy, it is probable that existing Governments will frequently become the topic of their discussions, the results of which may little coincide with the opinions which those who profit by the supineness of human belief desire to impress upon the world. It is probable that this freedom may excite the odium of certain well-meaning people, who pin their faith upon their grandmother’s apron-string. The minority in number are the majority in intellect and power. The former govern the latter, though it is by the sufferance of the latter that this originally delegated power is exercised. This power is become hereditary, and hath ceased to be necessarily united with intellect.
It is certain, therefore, that any questioning of established principles would excite the abhorrence and opposition of those who derived power and honour (such as it is) from their continuance.
As the association which I recommend would question those principles (however they may be hedged in with antiquity and precedent) which appeared ill adapted for the benefit of human kind, it would probably excite the odium of those in power. It would be obnoxious to the Government, though nothing would be farther from the views of associated philanthropists than attempting to subvert establishments forcibly, or even hastily. Aristocracy would oppose it, whether oppositionists or ministerialists (for philanthropy is of no party), because its ultimate views look to a subversion of all factitious distinctions, although from its immediate intentions I fear that aristocracy can have nothing to dread. The priesthood would oppose it, because a union of Church and State—contrary to the principles and practice of Jesus, contrary to that equality which he fruitlessly endeavoured to teach mankind—is, of all institutions that from the rust of antiquity are called venerable, the least qualified to stand free and cool reasoning, because it least conduces to the happiness of human kind; yet, did either the minister, the peer, or the bishop know their true interest, instead of that virulent opposition which some among them have made to freedom and philanthropy, they would rejoice and co-operate with the diffusion and corroboration of those principles that would remove a load of paltry equivocation, paltrier grandeur, and of wigs that crush into emptiness the brains below them, from their shoulders; and, by permitting them to reassume the degraded and vilified title of man, would preclude the necessity of mystery and deception, would bestow on them a title more ennobling, and a dignity which, though it would be without the gravity of an ape, would possess the ease and consistency of a man.
For the reasons above alleged, falsely, prejudicedly, and narrowly, will those very persons whose ultimate benefit is included in the general good, whose promotion is the essence of a philanthropic association, will they persecute those who have the best intentions towards them, malevolence towards none.
I do not, therefore, conceal that those who make the favour of Government the sunshine of their moral day, confide in the political creed-makers of the hour, are willing to think things that are rusty and decayed venerable, and are uninquiringly satisfied with evils as these are, because they find them established and unquestioned as they do sunlight and air when they come into existence; that they had better not even think of philanthropy. I conceal not from them that the discountenance which Government will show to such an association as I am desirous to establish will come under their comprehensive definition of danger: that virtue, and any assembly instituted under its auspices, demands a voluntariness on the part of its devoted individuals, to sacrifice personal to public benefit; and that it is possible that a party of beings associated for the purposes of disseminating virtuous principles, may, considering the ascendency which long custom has conferred on opposite motives to action, meet with inconveniences that may amount to personal danger. These considerations are, however, to the mind of the philanthropist, as is a drop to an ocean; they serve by their possible existence as tests whereby to discover the really virtuous man from him who calls himself a patriot for dishonourable and selfish purposes. I propose then, to such as think with me, a Philanthropic Association, in spite of the danger that may attend the attempt. I do not this beneath the shroud of mystery and darkness. I propose not an Association of Secrecy. Let it [be?] open as the beam of day. Let it rival the sunbeam in its stainless purity, as in the extensiveness of its effulgence.
I disclaim all connexion with insincerity and concealment. The latter implies the former, as much as the former stands in need of the latter. It is a very latitudinarian system of morality that permits its professor to employ bad means for any end whatever. Weapons which vice can use are unfit for the hands of virtue. Concealment implies falsehood; it is bad, and can therefore never be serviceable to the cause of philanthropy.
I propose therefore that the association shall be established and conducted in the open face of day, with the utmost possible publicity. It is only vice that hides itself in holes and corners, whose effrontery shrinks from scrutiny, whose cowardice
But the eye of virtue, eagle-like, darts through the undazzling beam of eternal truth, and from the undiminished fountain of its purity gathers wherewith to vivify and illuminate a universe.
I have hitherto abstained from inquiring whether the association which I recommend be or be not consistent with the English Constitution. And here it is fit briefly to consider what a constitution is.
Government can have no rights, it is a delegation for the purpose of securing them to others. Man becomes a subject of government, not that he may be in a worse, but that he may be in a better state than that of unorganized society. The strength of government is the happiness of the governed. All government existing for the happiness of others is just only so far as it exists by their consent, and useful only so far as it operates to their well-being. Constitution is to government what government is to law. Constitution may, in this view of the subject, be defined to be not merely something constituted for the benefit of any nation or class of people, but something constituted by themselves for their own benefit. The nations of England and Ireland have no constitution, because at no one time did the individuals that compose them constitute a system for the general benefit. If a system determined on by a very few, at a great length of time; if Magna Charta, the Bill of Rights, and other usages for whose influence the improved state of human knowledge is rather to be looked to than any system which courtiers pretend to exist, and perhaps believe to exist—a system whose spring of agency they represent as something secret, undiscoverable, and awful as the law of nature; if these make a constitution, then England has one. But if (as I have endeavoured to show they do not) a constitution is something else, then the speeches of kings or commissioners, the writings of courtiers, and the journals of Parliament, which teem with its glory, are full of political cant, exhibit the skeleton of national freedom, and are fruitless attempts to hide evils in whose favour they cannot prove an alibi. As, therefore, in the true sense of the expression, the spot of earth on which we live is destitute of constituted government, it is impossible to offend against its principles, or to be with justice accused of wishing to subvert what has no real existence. If a man was accused of setting fire to a house, which house never existed, and from the nature of things could not have existed, it is impossible that a jury in their senses would find him guilty of arson. The English Constitution then could not be offended by the principles of virtue and freedom. In fact, the manner in which the Government of England has varied since its earliest establishment, proves that its present form is the result of a progressive accommodation to existing principles. It has been a continual struggle for liberty on the part of the people, and an uninterrupted attempt at tightening the reins of oppression, and encouraging ignorance and imposture, by the oligarchy to whom the first William parcelled out the property of the aborigines at the conquest of England by the Normans. I hear much of its being a tree so long growing which to cut down is as bad as cutting down an oak where there are no more. But the best way, on topics similar to these, is to tell the plain truth, without the confusion and ornament of metaphor. I call expressions similar to these, political cant, which, like the songs of “Rule Britannia” and “God save the King,” are but abstracts of the caterpillar creed of courtiers, cut down to the taste and comprehension of a mob; the one to disguise to an alehouse politician the evils of that devilish practice of war, and the other to inspire among clubs of all descriptions a certain feeling which some call loyalty and others servility. A Philanthropic Association has nothing to fear from the English Constitution, but it may expect danger from its government. So far, however, from thinking this an argument against its institution, establishment, and augmentation, I am inclined to rest much of the weight of the cause which my duties call upon me to support, on the very fact that government forcibly interferes when the opposition that is made to its proceedings is profoundly and undeniably nothing but intellectual. A good cause may be shown to be good, violence instantly renders bad what might before have been good. “Weapons that falsehood can use are unfit for the hands of truth”—truth can reason, and falsehood cannot.
A political or religious system may burn and imprison those who investigate its principles; but it is an invariable proof of their falsehood and hollowness. Here there is another reason for the necessity of a Philanthropic Association, and I call upon any fair and rational opponent to controvert the argument which it contains; for there is no one who even calls himself a philanthropist that thinks personal danger or dishonour terrible in any other light than as it affects his usefulness.
Man has a heart to feel, a brain to think, and a tongue to utter. The laws of his moral as of his physical nature are immutable, as is everything of nature; nor can the ephemeral institutions of human society take away those rights, annihilate or strengthen the duties that have for their basis the imperishable relations of his constitution.
Though the Parliament of England were to pass a thousand bills, to inflict upon those who determined to utter their thoughts a thousand penalties, it could not render that criminal which was in its nature innocent before the passing of such bills.
Man has a right to feel, to think, and to speak, nor can any acts of legislature destroy that right. He will feel, he must think, and he ought to give utterance to those thoughts and feelings with the readiest sincerity and the strictest candour. A man must have a right to do a thing before he can have a duty; this right must permit before his duty can enjoin him to any act. Any law is bad which attempts to make it criminal to do what the plain dictates within the breast of every man tell him that he ought to do.
The English Government permits a fanatic to assemble any number of persons to teach them the most extravagant and immoral systems of faith; but a few men meeting to consider its own principles are marked with its hatred and pursued by its jealousy.
The religionist who agonizes the death-bed of the cottager, and, by picturing the hell which hearts black and narrow as his own alone could have invented, and which exists but in their cores, spreads the uncharitable doctrines which devote heretics to eternal torments, and represents heaven to be what earth is, a monopoly in the hands of certain favoured ones whose merit consists in slavishness, whose success is the reward of sycophancy. Thus much is permitted, but a public inquiry that involves any doubt of their rectitude into the principles of government is not permitted. When Jupiter and a countryman were one day walking out, conversing familiarly on the affairs of earth, the countryman listened to Jupiter’s assertions on the subject for some time in acquiescence, at length, happening to hint a doubt, Jupiter threatened him with his thunder. “Ah, ah,” says the countryman, “now, Jupiter, I know that you are wrong; you are always wrong when you appeal to your thunder.” The essence of virtue is disinterestedness. Disinterestedness is the quality which preserves the character of virtue distinct from that of either innocence or vice. This, it will be said, is mere assertion. It is so: but it is an assertion whose truth, I believe, the hearts of philanthropists are disinclined to deny. Those who have been convinced by their grandam of the doctrine of an original hereditary sin, or by the apostles of a degrading philosophy of the necessary and universal selfishness of man, cannot be philanthropists. Now, as an action, or a motive to action, is only virtuous so far as it is disinterested, or partakes (I adopt this mode of expression to suit the taste of some) of the nature of generalized self-love, then reward or punishment, attached even by omnipotence to any action, can in no wise make it either good or bad.
It is no crime to act in contradiction to an English judge or an English legislator, but it is a crime to transgress the dictates of a monitor which feels the spring of every motive, whose throne is the human sensorium, whose empire the human conduct. Conscience is a government before which all others sink into nothingness; it surpasses, and, where it can act, supersedes all other, as nature surpasses art, as God surpasses man.
In the preceding pages, during the course of an investigation of the possible objections which might be urged by philanthropy to an association such as I recommend, as I have rather sought to bring forward than conceal my principles, it will appear that they have their origin from the discoveries in the sciences of politics and morals which preceded and occasioned the revolutions of America and France. It is with openness that I confess, nay, with pride I assert, that they are so. The names of Paine and Lafayette will outlive the p[o]etic aristocracy of an expatriated Jesuit,* as the executive of a bigoted policy will die before the disgust at the sycophancy of their eulogists can subside.
It will be said, perhaps, that much as principles such as these may appear marked on the outside with peace, liberty, and virtue, that their ultimate tendency is to a Revolution, which, like that of France, will end in bloodshed, vice, and slavery. I must offer, therefore, my thoughts on that event, which so suddenly and so lamentably extinguished the overstrained hopes of liberty which it excited. I do not deny that the Revolution of France was occasioned by the literary labours of the encyclopædists. When we see two events together, in certain cases, we speak of one as the cause, the other the effect. We have no other idea of cause and effect but that which arises from necessary connexion; it is, therefore, still doubtful whether D’Alembert, Boulanger, Condorcet, and other celebrated characters, were the causes of the overthrow of the ancient monarchy of France. Thus much is certain, that they contributed greatly to the extension and diffusion of knowledge, and that knowledge is incompatible with slavery. The French nation was bowed to the dust by ages of uninterrupted despotism. They were plundered and insulted by a succession of oligarchies, each more bloodthirsty and unrelenting than the foregoing. In a state like this her soldiers learned to fight for Freedom on the plains of America, whilst at this very conjuncture a ray of science burst through the clouds of bigotry that obscured the moral day of Europe. The French were in the lowest state of human degradation, and when the truth, unaccustomed to their ears, that they were men and equals, was promulgated, they were the first to vent their indignation on the monopolizers of earth, because they were most glaringly defrauded of the immunities of nature.
Since the French were furthest removed by the sophistications of political institution from the genuine condition of human beings, they must have been most unfit for that happy state of equal law which proceeds from consummated civilization, and which demands habits of the strictest virtue before its introduction.
The murders during the period of the French Revolution, and the despotism which has since been established, prove that the doctrines of philanthropy and freedom were but shallowly understood. Nor was it until after that period that their principles became clearly to be explained, and unanswerably to be established.
Voltaire was the flatterer of kings, though in his heart he despised them—so far has he been instrumental in the present slavery of his country. Rousseau gave licence by his writings to passions that only incapacitate and contract the human heart—so far hath he prepared the necks of his fellow-beings for that yoke of galling and dishonourable servitude which at this moment it bears. Helvetius and Condorcet established principles; but if they drew conclusions, their conclusions were unsystematical, and devoid of the luminousness and energy of method. They were little understood in the Revolution. But this age of ours is not stationary. Philosophers have not developed the great principles of the human mind that conclusions from them should be unprofitable and impracticable. We are in a state of continually progressive improvement. One truth that has been discovered can never die, but will prevent the revivification of its apportioned opposite falsehood. By promoting truth and discouraging its opposite—the means of philanthropy are principally to be forwarded. Godwin wrote during the Revolution of France, and certainly his writings were totally devoid of influence with regard to its purposes. Oh! that they had not! In the Revolution of France were engaged men whose names are inerasable from the records of Liberty. Their genius penetrated with a glance the gloom and glare which Church-craft and State-craft had spread before the imposture and villany of their establishments. They saw the world. Were they men? Yes! They felt for it! They risked their lives and happiness for its benefit! Had there been more of those men, France would not now be a beacon to warn us of the hazard and horror of Revolutions, but a pattern of society rapidly advancing to a state of perfection, and holding out an example for the gradual and peaceful regeneration of the world. I consider it to be one of the effects of a Philanthropic Association to assist in the production of such men as these, in an extensive development of those germs of excellence whose favourite soil is the cultured garden of the human mind.
Many well-meaning persons may think that the attainment of the good which I propose as the ultimatum of philanthropic exertion is visionary and inconsistent with human nature; they would tell me not to make people happy for fear of overstocking the world, and to permit those who found dishes placed before them on the table of partial nature to enjoy their superfluities in quietness, though millions of wretches crowded around but to pick a morsel,* which morsel was still refused to the prayers of agonizing famine.
I cannot help thinking this an evil, nor help endeavouring, by the safest means that I can devise, to palliate at present, and in fine to eradicate, this evil. War, vice, and misery are undeniably bad, they embrace all that we can conceive of temporal and eternal evil. Are we to be told that these are remediless, because the earth would, in case of their remedy, be overstocked? That the rich are still to glut, that the ambitious are still to plan, that the fools whom these knaves mould, are still to murder their brethren and call it glory, and that the poor are to pay with their blood, their labour, their happiness, and their innocence for the crimes and mistakes which the hereditary monopolists of earth commit? Rare sophism! How will the heartless rich hug thee to their bosoms, and lull their conscience into slumber with the opiate of thy reconciling dogmas!
But when the philosopher and philanthropist contemplates the universe, when he perceives existing evils that admit of amendment, and hears tell of other evils, which, in the course of sixty centuries, may again derange the system of happiness which the amendment is calculated to produce, does he submit to prolong a positive evil, because, if that were eradicated, after a millennium of 6000 years (for such space of time would it take to people the earth) another evil would take place?
To how contemptible a degradation of grossest credulity will not prejudice lower the human mind! We see in winter that the foliage of the trees is gone, that they present to the view nothing but leafless branches—we see that the loveliness of the flower decays, though the root continues in the earth. What opinion should we form of that man who, when he walked in the freshness of the spring, beheld the fields enamelled with flowers, and the foliage bursting from the buds, should find fault with this beautiful order, and murmur his contemptible discontents because winter must come, and the landscape be robbed of its beauty for a while again? Yet this man is Mr. Malthus. Do we not see that the laws of nature perpetually act by disorganization and reproduction, each alternately becoming cause and effect. The analogies that we can draw from physical to moral topics are of all others the most striking.
Does anyone yet question the possibility of inducing radical reform of moral and political evil? Does he object, from that impossibility, to the association which I propose, which I frankly confess to be one of the means whose instrumentality I would employ to attain this reform. Let them look to the methods which I use. Let me put my object out of their view and propose their own, how would they accomplish it? By diffusing virtue and knowledge, by promoting human happiness. Palsied be the hand, for ever dumb be the tongue that would by one expression convey sentiments differing from these: I will use no bad means for any end whatever. Know then, ye philanthropists—to whatever profession of faith, or whatever determination of principles, chance, reason, or education may have conducted you—that the endeavours of the truly virtuous necessarily converge to one point, though it be hidden from them what point that is; they all labour for one end, and that controversies concerning the nature of that end serve only to weaken the strength which for the interest of virtue should be consolidated.
The diffusion of true and virtuous principles (for in the first principles of morality none disagree) will produce the best of possible terminations.
I invite to an Association of Philanthropy those, of whatever ultimate expectations, who will employ the same means that I employ; let their designs differ as much as they may from mine, I shall rejoice at their cooperation: because, if the ultimatum of my hopes be founded on the unity of truth, I shall then have auxiliaries in its cause, and if it be false I shall rejoice that means are not neglected for forwarding that which is true.
The accumulation of evil which Ireland has for the last twenty years sustained, and considering the unremittingness of its pressure I may say patiently sustained; the melancholy prospect which the unforeseen conduct of the Regent of England holds out of its continuance, demands of every Irishman whose pulses have not ceased to throb with the life-blood of his heart, that he should individually consult, and unitedly determine on some measures for the liberty of his countrymen. That those measures should be pacific though resolute, that their movers should be calmly brave and temperately unbending, though the whole heart and soul should go with the attempt, is the opinion which my principles command me to give.
And I am induced to call an association such as this occasion demands, an Association of Philanthropy, because good men ought never to circumscribe their usefulness by any name which denotes their exclusive devotion to the accomplishment of its signification.
When I began the preceding remarks, I conceived that on the removal of the restrictions from the Regent a ministry less inimical than the present to the interests of liberty would have been appointed. I am deceived, and the disappointment of the hopes of freedom on this subject affords an additional argument towards the necessity of an Association.
I conclude these remarks, which I have indited principally with a view of unveiling my principles, with a proposal for an Association for the purposes of Catholic Emancipation, a repeal of the Union Act, and grounding upon the attainment of these objects a reform of whatever moral or political evil may be within its compass of human power to remedy.
Such as are favourably inclined towards the institution would highly gratify the Proposer if they would personally communicate with him on this important subject; by which means the plan might be matured, errors in the Proposer’s original system be detected, and a meeting for the purpose convened with that resolute expedition which the nature of the present crisis demands.
[* ]Query, a misprint for importance?
[* ]Query, diffusing?
[* ]Macbeth, act i. sc. 7.
[* ]See Mémoires de Jacobinisme, par l’Abbé Baruel.
[* ]See Malthus on Population.