Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

cannot be, that, in this free and enlightened country, we are not equally at liberty with others, to enjoy the common prerogative of the Reformation, and to interpret Scripture at our will. There is no reason in such things. We must look to other causes, to account for that delusion of which we have been so long the victims; which imprints a stain upon our country; which makes us a byeword among the nations of the earth; and which converts the pride and glory we would gladly cherish, even as the degraded members of a free state, into feelings of shame and indignation. We consider ourselves, in common with a hundred millions of our Roman Catholic brethren in Europe,

scholars, philosophers, and divines; of generals, statesmen, and princes. Proudly as I may think of my own country, I cannot yet persuade myself that intellectual excellence is exclusively confined to this island; and when I look on the continent, and view the populous nations which there profess the Catholic faith—when I look back into past ages and behold millions of men, during a long series of generations, reckoning it as their pride and their happiness, I can smile at the invectives of it's adversaries, and despise the disgrace which is heaped upon it here.”

“ Catholicity, which has been this night the subject of so much abuse, has been the belief of the most extensive and enlightened nations in Europe ; and of the most illustrious characters that ever did honour to the name of man.”-Speech of Lord Hutchinson in the House of Lords, May 10, 1805.

[ocr errors]

to possess as strong intellectual faculties, as clear a judgment, and as upright intentions, as any body of Protestants in the world : it is therefore the more wounding to our feelings to be treated as an ignorant, a worthless, and an unprincipled race, which we must be, if we are the just objects of the incapacities to which we are subjected by law,--and such as every member of the Legislature calls God to witness that he believes us to be,-the abettors of superstitious and idolatrous doctrines.

The Catholic Peer is defrauded of his hereditary rights; the Catholic commoner, of the opportunities which wealth or talent might afford him to serve his country, in situations of honour and of trust ;the professional man, of those objects of lawful ambition, which are the incentives and the rewards of a long life of toil and labour ;—the freeholder, of the exercise of that qualification which is as dear to him, as the proudest distinction is to the most exalted personage;- ALL are deprived “of their fair chances in the lottery of life, and condemned hourly to the innumerable slights that wait upon political inferiority. A painful sense

(0) “We take from them every object of honourable ambition; we doom them to the martyrdom, as far as our laws have power to inflict it, of popular scorn from the cradle to the grave; we leave them a separate class, without one publio occupation or one aspiring hope, in the midst of a busy and ardent-spirited people.”-(Lord Nugent's Plain Statement, &c.)

of implied criminality, which is more galling to a well-constituted mind, than any corporeal suffering,” is constantly present to our imaginations; we carry the mark of Cain upon our forehead ; we drink the waters of bitterness in our journey through the desert; and, though some of our fetters have been removed, the dishonourable traces which they imprinted, still remain, to bear false evidence against us.

We know it to be an incontestable truth, that the main edifice of the constitution of this country, was the work of Catholic valour, talent, and perseverance; and yet we are doomed to be strangers to its benefits; to hear the principle proclaimed and acted upon, every day, that Catholics are only known to the constitution for the

purposes

of pains and penalties ;(e) and that it is just and lawful to despoil us, in the land of our forefathers, of that sacred and glorious inheritance, which they so solemnly bequeathed, as his birth-right, to every free-born Englishman. Weare worse than aliens in our native land, inasmuch as that an alien is under the protection of equal law, which we are not. If an alien be a

(di Witness, amongst others, the decisions, in 1825, of the Lords in council, upon the claims of the British Catholics for the restoration of their confiscated property, by which, though the money was actually paid by the Government of France, it was not permitted to reach its destination, under the plea that it would be employed in superstitious uses.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

delinquent, or a presumed delinquent, he is entitled to a trial by his peers, and half of those peers are his own countrymen, and of his own religion; whereas, our delinquency, imaginary as it is, is tried by men who have no fellow-feeling with us, and who convict us, upon evidence, collected, produced, and attested by themselves. We are condemned to endure the stings of insult and calumny, frequently without either the opportunity of reply, or the hope of redress by law. We are denied the privilege of the meanest malefactor, that of being confronted with our accusers. We are excluded from the places in which the most galling and most influential of the calumnies pronounced against us are uttered ; and, if we dare to answer them elsewhere, our ca. lumniators may sit in judgment upon us, and punish our audacity with imprisonment!!

When the country calls forth the Roman Catholic in her defence, his blood flows as freely as that of his Protestant companion in arms; when our treasure is demanded, we give it in the same proportion as our more favoured fellow subjects: but, when we ask for the same rewards, the same honours, the same privileges, the same rights,-we are repulsed with reproaches, we are rejected, as the refuse of a state which, but for her Roman Catholic subjects, would long, since have been annihilated. Yes, it was Catholic blood which ept the ark of the country afloat in the deluge of

perils from which we have but lately emerged, and in which, be it remembered, we may so soon be plunged again.co What must be the natural consequences of such outrageous injustice, but to wean our affections,—not from our country, for our country we must ever love and cherish, out of respect and veneration for the memory of our ancestors, - but from the government and institutions under which we are doomed to live?

But we are weary of proclaiming our grievances;--suffice it to say, that we are treated with an inhumanity and injustice, such as I hope clearly proves, (and for the honour of human nature be it spoken,) that our oppressors have neither any knowledge of us, or of our sufferings, of our principles, or of our services. We must look to other causes for such a state of things, than a mere love of oppression and cruelty in our rulers. It is ignorance and prejudice, faction and interest, which alone can uphold such a system of absurdity and tyranny. For faction and interest there can be no excuse, save the darkness with which these

(c) If, previous to any one engagement during the late disastrous war, either by sea or land, the Catholic soldiers or sailors had been withdrawn, no victory would ever have been obtained. Without Irish bravery and Irish blood, neither Nelson nor Wellington had ever worn a laurel.

« PredošláPokračovať »