Page images

that Ireland will not be satisfied with liberty, because she is not satis fied with slavery, is folly. I laugh at that man who supposes that Ireland will not be content with a free trade and a free Constitution; and would any man advise her to be content with less?


You are struggling with difficulties, you imagine; you are mistaken, you are struggling with impossibilities. In making laws on the subject of religion, legislators forget mankind, until their own distraction admonishes them of two truths;- the one, that there is a God; the other, that there is a People! Never was it permitted to any Nation, they may perplex their understandings with various apologies, but never was it long permitted to exclude from essential, from what they themselves have pronounced essential blessings, -a great portion of themselves for a period of time; and for no reason, or, what is worse, for such reasons as you have advanced.

Conquerors, or tyrants proceeding from conquerors, have scarcely ever for any length of time governed by those partial disabilities; but a People so to govern itself, or, rather, under the name of Government, so to exclude itself, the industrious, the opulent, the useful, — that part that feeds you with its industry, and supplies you with its taxes, weaves that you may wear, and ploughs that you may eat, to exclude a body so useful, so numerous, and that forever! -and, in the mean time, to tax them ad libitum, and occasionally to pledge their lives and fortunes! for what? for their disfranchisement!-it cannot be done! Continue it, and you expect from your laws what it were blasphemy to ask of your Maker. Such a policy always turns on the inventor, and bruises him under the stroke of the sceptre or the sword, or sinks him under accumulations of debt and loss of dominion. Need I go to instances? What was the case of Ireland, enslaved for a century, and withered and blasted with her Protestant ascendency, like a shattered oak scathed on its hill by the fires of its own intolerance? What lost England America, but such a policy? An attempt to bind men by a Parliament, wherein they are not represented! Such an attempt as some would now continue to practise on the Catholics! Has your pity traversed leagues of sea to sit down by the black boy on the coast of Guinea, and have you forgot the man at home by your side, your brother?


[ocr errors]


THE Kingdom of Ireland, with her imperial crown, stands at your Bar. She applies for the civil liberty of three-fourths of her children. Will you dismiss her without a hearing? You cannot do it! I say you cannot finally do it! The interest of your country would not support you; the feelings of your country would not support you: it is

a proceeding that cannot long be persisted in. No courtier so devoted, no politician so hardened, no conscience so capacious! I am not afraid of occasional majorities. A majority cannot overlay a great principle. God will guard His own cause against rank majorities. In vai shall men appeal to a church-cry, or to a mock-thunder; the proprietor of the bolt is on the side of the People.

It was the expectation of the repeal of Catholic disability which carried the Union. Should you wish to support the minister of the crown against the People of Ireland, retain the Union, and perpetuate the disqualification, the consequence must be something more than alienation. When you finally decide against the Catholic question, you abandon the idea of governing Ireland by affection, and you adopt the idea of coercion in its place. You are pronouncing the doom of England. If you ask how the People of Ireland feel towards you, ask yourselves how you would feel towards us, if we disqualified threefourths of the People of England forever. The day you finally ascertain the disqualification of the Catholic, you pronounce the doom of Great Britain. It is just it should be so. The King who takes away the liberty of his subjects loses his Crown; the People who take away the liberty of their fellow-subjects lose their empire. The scales of your own destinies are in your own hands; and if you throw out the civil liberty of the Irish Catholic, depend on it, Old England will be weighed in the balance, and found wanting: you will then have dug your own grave, and you may write your own epitaph thus: :- "ENGLAND DIED, BECAUSE SHE TAXED AMERICA, AND DISQUALIFIED IRELAND."

69. INVECTIVE AGAINST MR. CORRY, 1800. - Henry Grattan.

A duel, in which Mr. Corry was wounded in the arm, was the sequel to this speech. The immediate provocation of the speech was a remark from Corry, that Grattan, instead of having a voice in the councils of his country, should have been standing as a culprit at her Bar.

HAs the gentleman done? Has he completely done? He was unparliamentary from the beginning to the end of his speech. There was scarce a word that he uttered that was not a violation of the privileges of the House. But I did not call him to order. Why? Because the limited talents of some men render it impossible for them to be severe without being unparliamentary. But before I sit down I shall show him how to be severe and parliamentary at the same time. On any other occasion, I should think myself justifiable in treating with silent contempt anything which might fall from that honorable member; but there are times when the insignificance of the accuser is lost in the magnitude of the accusation. I know the difficulty the honorable gentieman labored under when he attacked me, conscious that, on a comparative view of our characters, public and private, there is nothing he could say which would injure me. The public would not believe the charge. I despise the falsehood. If such a charge were made by an honest man, I would answer it in the manner I shall do before I sit down. But I shall first reply to it when not made by an honest man.

Theight honorable gentleman has called me "an unimpeached traitor." I ask, why not "traitor," unqualified by any epithet? I will tell him; it was because he dare not! It was the act of a coward, who raises his arm to strike, but has not courage to give the blow! I will not call him villain, because it would be unparliamentary, and he is a privy councillor. I will not call him fool, because he happens to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I say he is one who has abused the privilege of Parliament and freedom of debate, to the uttering language, which, if spoken out of the House, I should answer only with a blow! I care not how high his situation, how low his character, how contemptible his speech; whether a privy councillor or a parasite, my answer would be a blow! He has charged me with being connected with the rebels. The charge is utterly, totally, and meanly false! Does the honorable gentleman rely on the report of the House of Lords for the foundation of his assertion? If he does, I can prove to the committee there was a physical impossibility of that report being truc. But I scorn to answer any man for my conduct, whether he be a polit ical coxcomb, or whether he brought himself into power by a false glare of courage or not.

I have returned, not, as the right honorable member has said, to raise another storm, — I have returned to discharge an honorable debt of gratitude to my country, that conferred a great reward for past services, which, I am proud to say, was not greater than my desert. I have returned to protect that Constitution, of which I was the parent and the founder, from the assassination of such men as the honorable gentleman and his unworthy associates. They are corrupt they are seditious and they, at this very moment, are in a conspiracy against their country! I have returned to refute a libel, as false as it is malicious, given to the public under the appellation of a report of the committee of the Lords. Here I stand for impeachment or trial! I dare accusation! I defy the honorable gentleman! I defy the Gov. ernment! I defy their whole phalanx!- let them come forth! I tell the ministers I shall neither give them quarter nor take it! I am here to lay the shattered remains of my constitution on the floor of this House, in defence of the liberties of my country.

70. UNION WITH GREAT BRITAIN, 1800.-— Henry Grattan.

THE minister misrepresents the sentiments of the People, as he has before traduced their reputation. He asserts, that after a calm and mature consideration, they have pronounced their judgment in favor of an Union. Of this assertion not one syllable has any existence in fact, or in the appearance of fact. I appeal to the petitions of twentyone counties in evidence. To affirm that the judgment of a Nation against is for; to assert that she has said ay when she has pronounced no; to make the falsification of her sentiments the foundation of her ruin, and the ground of the Union; to affirm that her Parliament, ▸

Constitution, liberty, honor, property, are taken away by her own authority, - there is, in such artifice, an effrontery, a hardihood, an insensibility, that can best be answered by sensations of astonishment and disgust.

The Constitution may be for a time so lost. The character of the country cannot be so lost. The ministers of the Crown will, or may, perhaps, at length find that it is not so easy, by abilities however great, and by power and corruption however irresistible, to put down forever an ancient and respectable Nation. Liberty may repair her golden beams, and with redoubled heat animate the country. The cry of loyalty will not long continue against the principles of liberty. Loyalty is a noble, a judicious, and a capacious principle; but in these countries loyalty, distinct from liberty, is corruption, not loyalty.

The cry of disaffection will not, in the end, avail against the principle of liberty. I do not give up the country. I see her in a swoon, but she is not dead. Though in her tomb she lies helpless and motionless, still there is on her lips a spirit of life, and on her cheek a glow of beauty:

"Thou art not conquered; beauty's ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips, and in thy cheeks,
And Death's pale flag is not advanced there."

While a plank of the vessel sticks together, I will not leave her. Let the courtier present his flimsy sail, and carry the light bark of his faith with every new breath of wind; I will remain anchored here, with fidelity to the fortunes of my country, faithful to her freedom, faithful to her fall!

71. THE CATHOLIC QUESTION, 1805. — Henry Grattan.

THE Parliament of Ireland! - of that assembly I have a parental recollection. I sate by her cradle, - I followed her hearse! In fourteen years she acquired for Ireland what you did not acquire for England in a century,-freedom of trade, independency of the Legislature, independency of the judges, restoration of the final judicature, repeal of a perpetual mutiny bill, habeas corpus act, nullum tempus act, -a great work! You will exceed it, and I shall rejoice. I call my countrymen to witness, if in that business I compromised the claims of my country, or temporized with the power of England; but there was one thing which baffled the effort of the patriot, and defeated the wisdom of the Senate, it was the folly of the theologian! When the Parliament of Ireland rejected the Catholic petition, and assented to the calumnies then uttered against the Catholic body, on that day she voted the Union: if you should adopt a similar conduct, on that day you will vote the separation. Many good and pious reasons you may give; many good and pious reasons she gave; and she lies THERE, with her many good and pious reasons! That the Parliament of Ireland should have entertained prejudices, I am not astonished; but that you, - that you, who have, as individuals and as conquerors, visited a great

part of the globe, and have seen men in all their modifications, and Providence in all her ways, that you, now, at this time of day, should throw up dikes against the Pope, and barriers against the Catholic, instead of uniting with that Catholic to throw up barriers against the French, this surprises; and, in addition to this, that you should have set up the Pope in Italy, to tremble at him in Ireland; and, further, that you should have professed to have placed yourself at the head of a Christian, not a Protestant league, to defend the civil and religious liberty of Europe, and should deprive of their civil liberty one-fifth of yourselves, on account of their religion,-- this — this surprises me! This proscriptive system you may now remove. What the best men in Ireland wished to do, but could not do, you may accomplish. Were it not wise to come to a good understanding with the Irish now? The franchises of the Constitution! - your ancestors were nursed in that cradle. The ancestors of the petitioners were less fortunate. The posterity of both, born to new and strange dangers, let them agree to renounce jealousies and proscriptions, in order to oppose what, without that agreement, will overpower both. Half Europe is in battalion against us, and we are devoting one another to perdition on account of mysteries, — when we should form against the enemy, and march!



LET us reflect on the necessary limits of all human legislation. No Legislature has a right to make partial laws; it has no right to make arbitrary laws - I mean laws contrary to reason; because that is beyond the power of the Deity. Neither has it a right to institute any inquisition into men's thoughts, nor to punish any man merely for his religion. It can have no power to make a religion for men, since that would be to dethrone the Almighty. I presume it will not be arrogated, on the part of the British Legislature, that his Majesty, by and with the advice of the Lords spiritual and temporal, &c., can enact that he will appoint and constitute a new religion for the People of this empire; or, that, by an order in Council, the consciences and creeds of his subjects might be suspended. Nor will it be contended, I apprehend, that any authoritative or legislative measure could alter the law of the hypothenuse. Whatever belongs to the authority of God, or to the laws of nature, is necessarily beyond the province and sphere of human institution and government. The Roman Catholic, when you disqualify him on the ground of his religion, may, with great justice, tell you that you are not his God, that he cannot mould or fashion his faith by your decrees. When once man goes out of his sphere, and says he will legislate for God, he would, in fact, make himself God.

But this I do not charge upon the Parliament, because, in none of the penal acts, has the Parliament imposed a religious creed. The qualifying oath, as to the great number of offices, and as to seats in

« PreviousContinue »