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gradation, are beyond comparison more moral in their habits than the people of England; nor is their ignorance so great as that of thousands here who affect a tone of insulting superiority over them. An immense unemployed population, swarms over the land, without any legal claim to relief: and in such a state of society, where the severest pressure of distress weighs upon so many millions, crime must abound: but is it honest to look into their faith for the causes of it! Is there no source from which her various miseries may be deduced without imputing them to the faith of the people? Suppose that England, regarding the strength of Ireland as injurious to her interests, had made it the leading feature of her policy to degrade, to weaken, and impoverish her, she might be steeped in misery to the very lips, without owing her misery to her faith. Had England proceeded still further : had she mocked by insult, the misery she had created by violence; traduced the morals, as well as the religion of the population ; and then, to complete the climax, had she sent forth her modern apostles with the bible in one hand, and the bayonet in the other, to wean the people from their veneration for a priesthood who, in the worst of times, had laboured to allay irritation; whose influence had always been exercised in the exemplary discharge of their pastoral duties; who had lived with their flocks, been sharers in their privations, and, in the midst of pestilence, had never shrunk from the bed of contagion; if England had acted thus, would there have been need to search into the faith of Ireland for the cause of the deplorable position in which she stands? That position is not, as Captain Gordon states it to be, the work of the Catholic religion: the Roman Catholic religion has taught the miserable victims of English cupidity to submit to in
justice and oppression, and to seek consolation in the hopes of a better world; it has been their only solace, and has effected what was beyond the reach of human power, it has kept them loyal : and let the modern reformist pause before he attempts to rob the poor Irish peasant of these pastors and this religion, lest he remove the only barrier between Ireland and despair.
No calculation of consequences, no estimate of political expediency, no debtor and creditor account of loss or gain, shall prevent me from raising my humble voice to repel such foul slanders on all that men of honour value most. Not that we will be induced by any provocation to retaliate : we know how to respect ourselves; and neither Captain Gordon, nor Mr. Ivimey, shall be able to reproach Catholics with being goaded by the foulest slanders into retaliation. We will not meet the insults cast on our religion, by imputing atrocities to the religion of others. Instances have frequently occurred of persons of other religious persuasions addressing our meetings, and expressing sentiments of hostility to our tenets; they have been always attended to, not only with patience, but with marked attention and courtesy. We violate not the decencies of life; on the contrary, if a person profess his opinions in the singleness of his heart, and from the real conviction of his mind, we can honour his sincerity, though we dissent from his belief.
We take every occa. sion publicly to declare, on the word of men of honour, that we claim equal rights with our fellow-subjects, on the broad principle, that human legislation exceeds its legitimate boundary when it presumes to visit with pains, penalties, or disqualifications, the conscientious followers of any form of christian worship. We appeal from the verdict of violent and enthusiastic men, to a better tribu
nal, to the good sense and honest hearts of our countrymen; we implore them dispassionately to examine our principles and our conduct, and to decide which is the best subject, which best merits the approval of his country, the Catholic who is obedient to the laws, performs with fidelity every relative duty, and disavows on his honour, and his oath, every obnoxious principle or opinion, and sincerely desires to live in harmony with all the world; or the votary of the new reformation, who foments religious acrimony by calumnious imputations, by reviving expiring prejudices, and invoking the continuance of those humiliating laws, that have been too long the bane of Ireland, and the disgrace of England. We court fair and honourable discussion; it is the privilege of Englishmen, and the parent of truth : but we would ask Mr. Ivimey, and Mr. Gordon, and Lord Farnham, whether theirs is this description of discussion, this calm debate, that can alone advance a good cause ; whether these scandalous imputations, bearing falsehood on the face of them, are calculated or intended to promote the cause of truth? We would ask whether christian charity is a Reformation virtue? In one word, we would ask the Protestants of England whether they are parties to such accusations as these? If they are, let them no longer lavish abuse on others. The worst spirit of the darkest and most intolerant times cannot, in the estimation of any sober-minded man, be his faith what it may, cannot have exceeded the virulent and anti-christian spirit that appears to have actuated these persons on this occasion, when they were met to promote the principles of the Reformation. If these are not the principles of the followers of the Reformation, and we should blush for our country if we thought they were, then do we implore them candidly to come forward,
and to disavow being parties to such imputations, and by so doing to rescue the principles of the Reformation from foul disgrace. Other meetings of a similar description will perhaps be held; and we do hope that persons who are not Catholics will be found ready to wipe so foul an aspersion from the character of christianity. We ask the public to examine us with candour, to judge us by our conduct, and not to give credence to the accusations of persons who evidently bear towards us the most rancorous hostility. We call on that large portion of our countrymen who certainly have not the leisure, perhaps not the means, to come to a dispassionate conclusion themselves, and who, from the first dawn of reason, have had their minds perverted with prejudices against us; we call on the well-intentioned portion of the community who cannotjudge but through the eyes of others, to be cautious to whom they give their confidence. The clergy of the establishment, almost to a man, are against us. It is necessary to state the fact in our own defence; their hopes of advancement in their profession have been made to depend on their hostility to us. It is a fact beyond dispute, that no clergyman of the establishment, had his learning, his virtues, his attainments, been almost super-human, would have had a chance of preferment, if he had dared to advocate our cause: whilst, on the contrary, the bitterest rancour against us was the surest road to preferment. And are these the persons to whom those who seek impartial information on the merits of our question, ought to apply for the knowledge of our real principles? Is there no other quarter where impartiality may be more reasonably expected, where may be found as much information and talent, united with as much general reading, more knowledge of the world and of society, and a more perfect
acquaintance with the practice and spirit of British law, and of the various institutions of this country? I mean the bar of England; that bar, the members of which, without any solicitation from us, have become the spontaneous advocates of our claims. On one of the last days of the session, his Majesty's Attorney-General presented a petition to the House of Commons, signed by 239 Sergeants and Barristers-at-law, in favour of the Catholic claims; comprising in their number a weight of legal talent, greater probably than ever before appeared at the foot of any document of a similar character. Can these distinguished persons be suspected of want of knowledge of the subject which their petition embraces ? They must necessarily, from their general communication with the world, and the nature of their reading, be acquainted with it in all its bearings and details. Are they actuated by hostility to the institutions of their country? They are by education, by 'habit, by birth, the firmest supporters of them. Or do they espouse our cause from interested motives? No possible personal advantage can accrue to them from their advocacy of it. What must have been their motive for this voluntary act ? Like honourable men, they scorned to remain parties to a base delusion; they felt that their silent acquiescence in the state of the laws in our regard, stamped a share of the disgrace upon them, and they disdained to wear the imputation any longer. Are these the persons who would consent to lend themselves to the free and unconstrained practice of a religion, “the nature and essence of which is, to plunge the great mass of a people into a state of the most grievous moral degradation,” and, by their criminal delinquency, “ to render necessary a standing army of 30,000 men, and an armed police throughout the country?” I do not hesitate