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Catholics can be called on to make out their title under the general rule. I submit that we Protestants are bound to show that the offence and the danger for which the Roman Catholics were first excluded remain, and remain undiminished. For such exceptions to be just must be absolutely necessary; to be useful, they must be entirely just. I may assume, then, that unless a case can be established on which, if these exclusive laws had never been enacted, it would be necessary now for the first time to enact them, the argument is closed, and in justice and right the cause of Roman Catholic Emancipation is won.


But the friends of the measure may, I think, safely leave this vantage ground, and take the proof on themselves. I think it can be shown, that neither from remote history, if remote history could afford any just ground for penal enactment, nor from recent example, can any case be made out for these disabilities; but that the whole evidence of history and example is the other way. I think it can be shown that the principles of the English Constitution, and particularly those declared at the Revolution, are not favorable to the continuance of these disabilities, but the direct opposite. That he who quotes against the Catholic Claims the principles then declared, has fallen into what Mr. Burke, in a tract which in my opinion contains the whole spirit of this great Question, so well exposes as the vulgar fallacy of "confounding in his mind all that was done at the Revolution with the principles of the Revolution," and that he who describes the English Constitution as a code essentially of exclusions defames that Constitution, and is ignorant of the first principles on which it rests. I think it can be shown that, even granting the charges of religious error against the Roman Catholics not to be exaggerated, these have nothing at all to do with the Question; that our charges against them of civil intolerance are for the most part untrue, and might be more colorably charged against ourselves; and that all that are truly chargeable against them are equally so against us. That, even putting out of consideration all claim founded on moral right, we are bound to repair the wrong we are doing them, were it only by reason of the extreme hazard of persisting in it; and, lastly, I think it may be shown that we are bound to do so by solemn pledges, which nothing but superior power, and clamor which confounds both fact and argument, have enabled us hitherto dishonestly and shamefully to violate. It would be necessary for those who are disposed to go through these propo sitions, to bear with a few facts and arguments often before adduce d. But this is not our fault; for, if our opponents hold a number of

1 Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe.

opinions, venerable, as the saying is, from their antiquity, there are likewise a few facts and arguments on our side, not claiming, like those opinions of our adversaries, to be held venerable for their antiquity, but only to be received as sound in spite of their antiquity. It is not our fault if in their old age these must sometimes be brought to take the field; I wish they had prevailed in their youth, and had accordingly been entitled to an honorable and lasting repose. But we cannot do without them.

I believe that there are few subjects on which so many opponents are to be met with of that very numerous class who think themselves justified in feeling strongly without inquiring deeply, who acquiesce in unexamined statements merely to fortify their own preconceived sense of the case, and who are ever recurring to defences a thousand times overthrown, and now, by universal consent of all well-informed persons, abandoned, merely because the fact of the discomfiture and surrender may have escaped their not very extensive research, or may have lost its place in their not very impartial memory. This is a serious difficulty, because with such persons it is not easy to determine at what precise period of the controversy to begin. There is, however, another class with whom it is impossible to deal: the mere shouters of "No Popery ;" those who, without the desire of inquiry or the capacity of reasoning, think that they see their interest or their honor bound up in a determination never to doubt any early, or accidental, or careless, impressions, to which by habit they consider themselves pledged. Such we can only leave to rejoice in their own conclu sions, unquestioned and undisturbed, withdrawing ourselves from all dispute with them as we should from the attempt to go through a proposition in mathematics with a person to whom the admission of an axiom appears to be matter of too hazardous generosity, and who accordingly, while expressing his readiness to listen to proof, feels that he owes it to his cause to refuse every preliminary concession on which a proof can by possibility turn. Until they shall have done what they never will do,-until they shall have enlightened themselves on the history, not of their own country only, but of some other parts of modern Europe,—until they shall have learned what the penal laws were, and what they are now,until they shall know the story and condition of the Roman Catholics in this empire, and of Protestants in others, they must be content to be challenged as jurors to pass on this Question. Nay, more, they must, till then, absolutely abstain from all customary expressions of vituperation against the Papists, on pain of convicting themselves of possessing less than they ought of common honesty, or less than most men would be thought to possess of common discretion.

* Never, probably, of late years has there been any other topic, on some most material points of which (although for near half a century so much discussed and so deeply felt, and although the prevailing sentiment of the country on it has of late so much, as you and I should term it, improved,) so little is even yet generally understood. First, as to what the constitutional advantages are of which our Roman Catholic countrymen are actually deprived; and, secondly, as to what are the particulars in which it is the object of the friends, as they are called, of the Roman Catholics, to liken their condition to that of others who differ, some quite as widely, from the Established Church of England and Ireland. The first obvious and wide distinction between the political condition of the Roman Catholics and that of the Protestant dissenters is this. The disqualifying laws against the Protestant dissenters have, by the wisdom of Parliament and the necessity of the case, been rendered of no effect; while the Roman Catholics are practically disqualified, without even the pretext of any political tenet being urged against them, and on account only of speculative doctrines of a purely spiritual nature. Now, the latter part of this I am aware Lord Liverpool denies; but am I not justified in so stating it? Surely I am, if I find these spiritual doctrines made the only instruments of their disfranchisement. The Roman Catholics implore you to substitute what civil tests you will, to satisfy yourselves of their allegiance; and they declare their readiness to subscribe to them. You answer them with an inquiry on oath, not as to how they stand affected towards the Constitution of the realm, but as to how they believe of the essence of a Sacrament and the mediation of Saints. Your Test is not one to ascertain whether a Catholic can be a good subject, but to ascertain whether a man be a Catholic in his spiritual creed, assuming that one who is a Catholic in his spiritual creed cannot be a good subject.


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Then your real objection must be held to centre in the doctrines of this spiritual creed; for, if not, even though you should establish a just cause for excluding those who profess it, you would still convict yourselves of doing so on false pretences. If you must punish, let the indictment at least set forth the offence which, according to your opinion, deserves the punishment.

The Test and Corporation Acts disqualify Protestant dissenters. I think the absurdity of those acts about equal to their injustice; and so thinks the Parliament; and therefore it annually passes an Indemnity Bill, which, though nominally but an annual Bill, knows no end, and has been for more than a century as essentially and permanently a law on behalf of the Protestant dissenters, as has been the annual Mutiny Bill on behalf of the Crown and its

army. Under it all persons find shelter who, having neglected or scrupled to qualify for office by receiving the Sacrament according to the forms of the Church of England, have become liable to heavy disabilities and fine. Thus in practice and effect the good sense of the Legislature, by interposing this shield, renders the Protestant dissenters eligible to all civil offices under the Crown; thereby engaging many an honest and able servant to the State, and withdrawing from these public honors the foul imputation thatthey may be purchased by the abandonment of a conscientious scruple, aggravated by the profanation of a holy rite. From Parliament they are not, and never were, excluded. But the Roman Catholic is deprived of all these advantages, absolutely and literally; and, if the disqualifying oaths speak truth, not because he fails in his duty as a subject, not because his sense of duty is even suspected, but because he invokes the intercession of Saints, because he recognises the Pope in spiritualities, and because he believes in the "real corporeal presence" (and not as the Church of England does, only in "the body and blood of Christ, verily and indeed received,") in the elements of the Last Supper.1

It has always appeared to me that, of all men, Protestant dissenters ought to be the last to object to Catholic Emancipation ; for religious liberty is either an universal principle or no principle at all; nor can it with justice be extended to certain sects, and withheld from others. I need hardly say, then, how cheerfully I would vote, as I have voted, for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, but only for the reasons which would equally move me to vote for the repeal of all the other laws that disqualify the Roman Catholics.

It is said that the Roman Catholics "enjoy perfect toleration, because they are permitted to worship God in the manner the most agreeable to the dictates of their own conscience." I should admit that this is "perfect toleration," could we conclude the sentence thus, "without thereby incurring penalty or privation." But here lies the whole matter of complaint. A man is clearly not left free to do that which if done subjects him to punishment. The Catholics, then, are not free to exercise their religion. No syllogism, as it appears to me, can be clearer than this.

But let us not be mistaken. It is not toleration only that we ask for the Roman Catholics and for Protestant dissenters: we ask liberty. The very term toleration implies that you possess a power which no human creature ought to claim over the mode in which another worships that Being, "in whom," according to,

1 Catechism of the Church of England.

the words of the Church of England Liturgy, than which man never devised better, "in whom standeth our eternal life," and

whose service is perfect freedom." Toleration is but as a scabbard to clothe the sword of persecution: whilst it covers the keenness of the edge, it preserves for use the weapon within, and retains its form. That weapon it is which a government, conforming to the spirit of Christianity or of Liberty, must cast away and renounce for ever.


We are told that the relieving the Roman Catholics from the penalties and privations which, by being Roman Catholics, they now incur, would be the giving them political power. Now this is not so: there can hardly be a grosser misuse of terms, or mistake in reality, than to confound Power with Privilege. Privilege is not Power: it is protection from Power. What the Church of England possesses, and what the opponents of religious liberty would retain, is exclusive Power. What we desire for dissenters, Protestant and Catholic, is community of Privilege. Mere eligibility to civil office is not Power; it is Privilege. Mere eligibility to Parliament is not Power; it is Privilege. Privilege is what belongs to a member of the State; Power is what belongs to the State itself. These two things, as Mr. Burke expresses it, "I conceive to be as different as a part is from the whole, that is, just as different as possible." But we are sometimes told that, to give full effect to our principle, the Throne itself must be left open to them, or that we are inconsistent. This is by no means a necessary consequence, nor has it the remotest connexion with the premises. I might admit the Roman Catholic to all the rights and privileges of all other British subjects, and might continue to exclude him from the Throne; and yet I think I could show that I am not inconsistent in principle. We have a right to confer Sovereignty, or any other trust, on what terms we please: we have no right to deprive of a franchise but for some proved crime. The Act of Settlement provides that the Crown shall descend to the heirs-general of a certain line being Protestants. The King of England is supreme head of the Church: the Church of England is Protestant. I think it would be an inconsistency to place a Roman Catholic sovereign at the head of a Protestant Church. But, again, is eligibility to the Throne among the "rights and privileges of other British subjects?" While there is such a thing as constructive treason, I will not say so within hearing of His Majesty's Attorney-General.

But, with respect to the dangers to be apprehended from their eligibility to office and representation, Parliament, I have heard

Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe.

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