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PETER PLYMLEY’S LETTERS

BY SYDNEY SMITH

(LETTERS II.‚ VI.‚ VII.‚ IX.)

LETTER II.

Dear Abraham ­The Catholic not respect an oath! why not?  What upon earth has kept him out of Parliament, or excluded him from all the offices whence he is excluded, but his respect for oaths?  There is no law which prohibits a Catholic to sit in Parliament.  There could be no such law; because it is impossible to find out what passes in the interior of any man’s mind.  Suppose it were in contemplation to exclude all men from certain offices who contended for the legality of taking tithes:  the only mode of discovering that fervid love of decimation which I know you to possess would be to tender you an oath “against that damnable doctrine, that it is lawful for a spiritual man to take, abstract, appropriate, subduct, or lead away the tenth calf, sheep, lamb, ox, pigeon, duck,” etc., etc., etc., and every other animal that ever existed, which of course the lawyers would take care to enumerate.  Now this oath I am sure you would rather die than take; and so the Catholic is excluded from Parliament because he will not swear that he disbelieves the leading doctrines of his religion!  The Catholic asks you to abolish some oaths which oppress him; your answer is that he does not respect oaths.  Then why subject him to the test of oaths?  The oaths keep him out of Parliament; why, then, he respects them.  Turn which way you will, either your laws are nugatory, or the Catholic is bound by religious obligations as you are; but no eel in the well-sanded fist of a cook-maid, upon the eve of being skinned, ever twisted and writhed as an orthodox parson does when he is compelled by the gripe of reason to admit anything in favour of a dissenter.

I will not dispute with you whether the Pope be or be not the Scarlet Lady of Babylon.  I hope it is not so; because I am afraid it will induce His Majesty’s Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce several severe bills against popery, if that is the case; and though he will have the decency to appoint a previous committee of inquiry as to the fact, the committee will be garbled, and the report inflammatory.  Leaving this to be settled as he pleases to settle it, I wish to inform you, that, previously to the bill last passed in favour of the Catholics, at the suggestion of Mr. Pitt, and for his satisfaction, the opinions of six of the most celebrated of the foreign Catholic universities were taken as to the right of the Pope to interfere in the temporal concerns of any country.  The answer cannot possibly leave the shadow of a doubt, even in the mind of Baron Maseres; and Dr. Rennel would be compelled to admit it, if three Bishops lay dead at the very moment the question were put to him.  To this answer might be added also the solemn declaration and signature of all the Catholics in Great Britain.

I should perfectly agree with you, if the Catholics admitted such a dangerous dispensing power in the hands of the Pope; but they all deny it, and laugh at it, and are ready to abjure it in the most decided manner you can devise.  They obey the Pope as the spiritual head of their Church; but are you really so foolish as to be imposed upon by mere names?  What matters it the seven-thousandth part of a farthing who is the spiritual head of any Church?  Is not Mr. Wilberforce at the head of the Church of Clapham?  Is not Dr. Letsom at the head of the Quaker Church?  Is not the General Assembly at the head of the Church of Scotland?  How is the government disturbed by these many-headed Churches? or in what way is the power of the Crown augmented by this almost nominal dignity?

The King appoints a fast-day once a year, and he makes the bishops:  and if the government would take half the pains to keep the Catholics out of the arms of France that it does to widen Temple Bar, or improve Snow Hill, the King would get into his hands the appointments of the titular Bishops of Ireland.  Both Mr. C ­’s sisters enjoy pensions more than sufficient to place the two greatest dignitaries of the Irish Catholic Church entirely at the disposal of the Crown.  Everybody who knows Ireland knows perfectly well, that nothing would be easier, with the expenditure of a little money, than to preserve enough of the ostensible appointment in the hands of the Pope to satisfy the scruples of the Catholics, while the real nomination remained with the Crown.  But, as I have before said, the moment the very name of Ireland is mentioned, the English seem to bid adieu to common feeling, common prudence, and common sense, and to act with the barbarity of tyrants and the fatuity of idiots.

Whatever your opinion may be of the follies of the Roman Catholic religion, remember they are the follies of four millions of human beings, increasing rapidly in numbers, wealth, and intelligence, who, if firmly united with this country, would set at defiance the power of France, and if once wrested from their alliance with England, would in three years render its existence as an independent nation absolutely impossible.  You speak of danger to the Establishment:  I request to know when the Establishment was ever so much in danger as when Hoche was in Bantry Bay, and whether all the books of Bossuet, or the arts of the Jesuits, were half so terrible?  Mr. Perceval and his parsons forget all this, in their horror lest twelve or fourteen old women may be converted to holy water and Catholic nonsense.  They never see that, while they are saving these venerable ladies from perdition, Ireland may be lost, England broken down, and the Protestant Church, with all its deans, prebendaries, Percevals, and Rennels, be swept into the vortex of oblivion.

Do not, I beseech you, ever mention to me again the name of Dr. Duigenan.  I have been in every corner of Ireland, and have studied its present strength and condition with no common labour.  Be assured Ireland does not contain at this moment less than five millions of people.  There were returned in the year 1791 to the hearth tax 701,000 houses, and there is no kind of question that there were about 50,000 houses omitted in that return.  Taking, however, only the number returned for the tax, and allowing the average of six to a house (a very small average for a potato-fed people), this brings the population to 4,200,000 people in the year 1791:  and it can be shown from the clearest evidence (and Mr. Newenham in his book shows it), that Ireland for the last fifty years has increased in its population at the rate of 50 or 60,000 per annum; which leaves the present population of Ireland at about five millions, after every possible deduction for existing circumstances, just and necessary wars, monstrous and unnatural rebellions, and all other sources of human destruction.  Of this population, two out of ten are Protestants; and the half of the Protestant population are Dissenters, and as inimical to the Church as the Catholics themselves.  In this state of things thumbscrews and whipping ­admirable engines of policy as they must be considered to be ­will not ultimately avail.  The Catholics will hang over you; they will watch for the moment, and compel you hereafter to give them ten times as much, against your will, as they would now be contented with, if it were voluntarily surrendered.  Remember what happened in the American war, when Ireland compelled you to give her everything she asked, and to renounce, in the most explicit manner, your claim of Sovereignty over her.  God Almighty grant the folly of these present men may not bring on such another crisis of public affairs!

What are your dangers which threaten the Establishment? ­Reduce this declamation to a point, and let us understand what you mean.  The most ample allowance does not calculate that there would be more than twenty members who were Roman Catholics in one house, and ten in the other, if the Catholic emancipation were carried into effect.  Do you mean that these thirty members would bring in a bill to take away the tithes from the Protestant, and to pay them to the Catholic clergy?  Do you mean that a Catholic general would march his army into the House of Commons, and purge it of Mr. Perceval and Dr. Duigenan? or, that the theological writers would become all of a sudden more acute or more learned, if the present civil incapacities were removed?  Do you fear for your tithes, or your doctrines, or your person, or the English Constitution?  Every fear, taken separately, is so glaringly absurd, that no man has the folly or the boldness to state it.  Every one conceals his ignorance, or his baseness, in a stupid general panic, which, when called on, he is utterly incapable of explaining.  Whatever you think of the Catholics, there they are ­you cannot get rid of them; your alternative is to give them a lawful place for stating their grievances, or an unlawful one:  if you do not admit them to the House of Commons, they will hold their parliament in Potatoe Place, Dublin, and be ten times as violent and inflammatory as they would be in Westminster.  Nothing would give me such an idea of security as to see twenty or thirty Catholic gentlemen in Parliament, looked upon by all the Catholics as the fair and proper organ of their party.  I should have thought it the height of good fortune that such a wish existed on their part, and the very essence of madness and ignorance to reject it.  Can you murder the Catholics?  Can you neglect them?  They are too numerous for both these expedients.  What remains to be done is obvious to every human being ­but to that man who, instead of being a Methodist preacher, is, for the curse of us and our children, and for the ruin of Troy and the misery of good old Priam and his sons, become a legislator and a politician.

A distinction, I perceive, is taken by one of the most feeble noblemen in Great Britain, between persecution and the deprivation of political power; whereas, there is no more distinction between these two things than there is between him who makes the distinction and a booby.  If I strip off the relic-covered jacket of a Catholic, and give him twenty stripes ...  I persecute; if I say, Everybody in the town where you live shall be a candidate for lucrative and honourable offices, but you, who are a Catholic ...  I do not persecute!  What barbarous nonsense is this! as if degradation was not as great an evil as bodily pain or as severe poverty:  as if I could not be as great a tyrant by saying, You shall not enjoy ­as by saying, You shall suffer.  The English, I believe, are as truly religious as any nation in Europe:  I know no greater blessing; but it carries with it this evil in its train, that any villain who will bawl out, ’The Church is in danger!’ may get a place and a good pension; and that any administration who will do the same thing may bring a set of men into power who, at a moment of stationary and passive piety, would be hooted by the very boys in the streets.  But it is not all religion; it is, in great part, the narrow and exclusive spirit which delights to keep the common blessings of sun and air and freedom from other human beings.  ’Your religion has always been degraded; you are in the dust, and I will take care you never rise again.  I should enjoy less the possession of an earthly good by every additional person to whom it was extended.’  You may not be aware of it yourself, most reverend Abraham, but you deny their freedom to the Catholics upon the same principle that Sarah your wife refuses to give the receipt for a ham or a gooseberry dumpling:  she values her receipts, not because they secure to her a certain flavour, but because they remind her that her neighbours want it: ­a feeling laughable in a priestess, shameful in a priest; venial when it withholds the blessings of a ham, tyrannical and execrable when it narrows the boon of religious freedom.

You spend a great deal of ink about the character of the present prime minister.  Grant you all that you write ­I say, I fear he will ruin Ireland, and pursue a line of policy destructive to the true interest of his country:  and then you tell me, he is faithful to Mrs. Perceval, and kind to the Master Percevals!  These are, undoubtedly, the first qualifications to be looked to in a time of the most serious public danger; but somehow or another (if public and private virtues must always be incompatible), I should prefer that he destroyed the domestic happiness of Wood or Cockell, owed for the veal of the preceding year, whipped his boys, and saved his country.

The late administration did not do right; they did not build their measures upon the solid basis of facts.  They should have caused several Catholics to have been dissected after death by surgeons of either religion; and the report to have been published with accompanying plates.  If the viscera, and other organs of life, had been found to be the same as in Protestant bodies; if the provisions of nerves, arteries, cerebrum, and cerebellum, had been the same as we are provided with, or as the Dissenters are now known to possess; then, indeed, they might have met Mr. Perceval upon a proud eminence, and convinced the country at large of the strong probability that the Catholics are really human creatures, endowed with the feelings of men, and entitled to all their rights.  But instead of this wise and prudent measure, Lord Howick, with his usual precipitation, brings forward a bill in their favour, without offering the slightest proof to the country that they were anything more than horses and oxen.  The person who shows the lama at the corner of Piccadilly has the precaution to write up ­Allowed by Sir Joseph Banks to be a real quadruped, so his Lordship might have said ­Allowed by the bench of Bishops to be real human creatures....  I could write you twenty letters upon this subject; but I am tired, and so I suppose are you.  Our friendship is now of forty years’ standing; you know me to be a truly religious man; but I shudder to see religion treated like a cockade, or a pint of beer, and made the instrument of a party.  I love the king, but I love the people as well as the king; and if I am sorry to see his old age molested, I am much more sorry to see four millions of Catholics baffled in their just expectations.  If I love Lord Grenville, and Lord Howick, it is because they love their country; if I abhor ... it is because I know there is but one man among them who is not laughing at the enormous folly and credulity of the country, and that he is an ignorant and mischievous bigot.  As for the light and frivolous jester, of whom it is your misfortune to think so highly, learn, my dear Abraham, that this political Killigrew, just before the breaking-up of the last administration, was in actual treaty with them for a place; and if they had survived twenty-four hours longer, he would have been now declaiming against the cry of No Popery! instead of inflaming it.  With this practical comment on the baseness of human nature, I bid you adieu!

LETTER VI.

Dear Abraham ­What amuses me the most is to hear of the indulgences which the Catholics have received, and their exorbitance in not being satisfied with those indulgences:  now if you complain to me that a man is obtrusive and shameless in his requests, and that it is impossible to bring him to reason, I must first of all hear the whole of your conduct towards him; for you may have taken from him so much in the first instance that, in spite of a long series of restitution, a vast latitude for petition may still remain behind.

There is a village, no matter where, in which the inhabitants, on one day in the year, sit down to a dinner prepared at the common expense:  by an extraordinary piece of tyranny, which Lord Hawkesbury would call the wisdom of the village ancestors, the inhabitants of three of the streets, about a hundred years ago, seized upon the inhabitants of the fourth street, bound them hand and foot, laid them upon their backs, and compelled them to look on while the rest were stuffing themselves with beef and beer; the next year the inhabitants of the persecuted street, though they contributed an equal quota of the expense, were treated precisely in the same manner.  The tyranny grew into a custom; and, as the manner of our nature is, it was considered as the most sacred of all duties to keep these poor fellows without their annual dinner.  The village was so tenacious of this practice, that nothing could induce them to resign it; every enemy to it was looked upon as a disbeliever in Divine Providence, and any nefarious churchwarden who wished to succeed in his election had nothing to do but to represent his antagonist as an abolitionist, in order to frustrate his ambition, endanger his life, and throw the village into a state of the most dreadful commotion.  By degrees, however, the obnoxious street grew to be so well peopled, and its inhabitants so firmly united, that their oppressors, more afraid of injustice, were more disposed to be just.  At the next dinner they are unbound, the year after allowed to sit upright, then a bit of bread and a glass of water; till at last, after a long series of concessions, they are emboldened to ask, in pretty plain terms, that they may be allowed to sit down at the bottom of the table, and to fill their bellies as well as the rest.  Forthwith a general cry of shame and scandal:  ’Ten years ago, were you not laid upon your backs?  Don’t you remember what a great thing you thought it to get a piece of bread?  How thankful you were for cheese parings?  Have you forgotten that memorable era, when the lord of the manor interfered to obtain for you a slice of the public pudding?  And now, with an audacity only equalled by your ingratitude, you have the impudence to ask for knives and forks, and to request, in terms too plain to be mistaken, that you may sit down to table with the rest, and be indulged even with beef and beer:  there are not more than half a dozen dishes which we have reserved for ourselves; the rest has been thrown open to you in the utmost profusion; you have potatoes, and carrots, suet dumplings, sops in the pan, and delicious toast and water in incredible quantities.  Beef, mutton, lamb, pork, and veal are ours; and if you were not the most restless and dissatisfied of human beings, you would never think of aspiring to enjoy them.’

Is not this, my dainty Abraham, the very nonsense and the very insult which is talked to and practised upon the Catholics?  You are surprised that men who have tasted of partial justice should ask for perfect justice; that he who has been robbed of coat and cloak will not be contented with the restitution of one of his garments.  He would be a very lazy blockhead if he were content, and I (who, though an inhabitant of the village, have preserved, thank God, some sense of justice) most earnestly counsel these half-fed claimants to persevere in their just demands, till they are admitted to a more complete share of a dinner for which they pay as much as the others; and if they see a little attenuated lawyer squabbling at the head of their opponents, let them desire him to empty his pockets, and to pull out all the pieces of duck, fowl, and pudding which he has filched from the public feast, to carry home to his wife and children.

You parade a great deal upon the vast concessions made by this country to the Irish before the Union.  I deny that any voluntary concession was ever made by England to Ireland.  What did Ireland ever ask that was granted?  What did she ever demand that was not refused?  How did she get her Mutiny Bill ­a limited Parliament ­a repeal of Poyning’s Law ­a constitution?  Not by the concessions of England, but by her fears.  When Ireland asked for all these things upon her knees, her petitions were rejected with Percevalism and contempt; when she demanded them with the voice of 60,000 armed men, they were granted with every mark of consternation and dismay.  Ask of Lord Auckland the fatal consequences of trifling with such a people as the Irish.  He himself was the organ of these refusals.  As secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, the insolence and the tyranny of this country passed through his hands.  Ask him if he remembers the consequences.  Ask him if he has forgotten that memorable evening when he came down booted and mantled to the House of Commons, when he told the House he was about to set off for Ireland that night, and declared before God, if he did not carry with him a compliance with all their demands, Ireland was for ever lost to this country.  The present generation have forgotten this; but I have not forgotten it; and I know, hasty and undignified as the submission of England then was, that Lord Auckland was right, that the delay of a single day might very probably have separated the two peoples for ever.  The terms submission and fear are galling terms when applied from the lesser nation to the greater; but it is the plain historical truth, it is the natural consequence of injustice, it is the predicament in which every country places itself which leaves such a mass of hatred and discontent by its side.  No empire is powerful enough to endure it; it would exhaust the strength of China, and sink it with all its mandarins and tea-kettles to the bottom of the deep.  By refusing them justice now when you are strong enough to refuse them anything more than justice, you will act over again, with the Catholics, the same scene of mean and precipitate submission which disgraced you before America, and before the volunteers of Ireland.  We shall live to hear the Hampstead Protestant pronouncing such extravagant panegyrics upon holy water, and paying such fulsome compliments to the thumbs and offals of departed saints, that parties will change sentiments, and Lord Henry Petty and Sam Whitbread take a spell at No Popery.  The wisdom of Mr. Fox was alike employed in teaching his country justice when Ireland was weak, and dignity when Ireland was strong.  We are fast pacing round the same miserable circle of ruin and imbecility.  Alas! where is our guide?

You say that Ireland is a millstone about our necks; that it would be better for us if Ireland were sunk at the bottom of the sea; that the Irish are a nation of irreclaimable savages and barbarians.  How often have I heard these sentiments fall from the plump and thoughtless squire, and from the thriving English shopkeeper, who has never felt the rod of an Orange master upon his back.  Ireland a millstone about your neck!  Why is it not a stone of Ajax in your hand?  I agree with you most cordially that, governed as Ireland now is, it would be a vast accession of strength if the waves of the sea were to rise and engulf her to-morrow.  At this moment, opposed as we are to all the world, the annihilation of one of the most fertile islands on the face of the globe, containing five millions of human creatures, would be one of the most solid advantages which could happen to this country.  I doubt very much, in spite of all the just abuse which has been lavished upon Bonaparte, whether there is any one of his conquered countries the blotting out of which would be as beneficial to him as the destruction of Ireland would be to us:  of countries I speak differing in language from the French, little habituated to their intercourse, and inflamed with all the resentments of a recently conquered people.  Why will you attribute the turbulence of our people to any cause but the right ­to any cause but your own scandalous oppression?  If you tie your horse up to a gate, and beat him cruelly, is he vicious because he kicks you?  If you have plagued and worried a mastiff dog for years, is he mad because he flies at you whenever he sees you?  Hatred is an active, troublesome passion.  Depend upon it, whole nations have always some reason for their hatred.  Before you refer the turbulence of the Irish to incurable defects in their character, tell me if you have treated them as friends and equals?  Have you protected their commerce?  Have you respected their religion?  Have you been as anxious for their freedom as your own?  Nothing of all this.  What then?  Why you have confiscated the territorial surface of the country twice over:  you have massacred and exported her inhabitants:  you have deprived four-fifths of them of every civil privilege:  you have at every period made her commerce and manufactures slavishly subordinate to your own:  and yet the hatred which the Irish bear to you is the result of an original turbulence of character, and of a primitive, obdurate wildness, utterly incapable of civilisation.  The embroidered inanitiés and the sixth-form effusions of Mr. Canning are really not powerful enough to make me believe this; nor is there any authority on earth (always excepting the Dean of Christ Church) which could make it credible to me.  I am sick of Mr. Canning.  There is not a ‘ha’porth of bread to all this sugar and sack.’  I love not the cretaceous and incredible countenance of his colleague.  The only opinion in which I agree with these two gentlemen is that which they entertain of each other.  I am sure that the insolence of Mr. Pitt, and the unbalanced accounts of Melville, were far better than the perils of this new ignorance: ­

    Nonne fuit satius, tristes Amaryllidis irás
    Atque superba pâti fastidia? nonne Menalcan? 
    Quamvis ille niger?

In the midst of the most profound peace, the secret articles of the Treaty of Tilsit, in which the destruction of Ireland is resolved upon, induce you to rob the Danes of their fleet.  After the expedition sailed comes the Treaty of Tilsit, containing no article, public or private, alluding to Ireland.  The state of the world, you tell me, justified us in doing this.  Just God! do we think only of the state of the world when there is an opportunity for robbery, for murder, and for plunder; and do we forget the state of the world when we are called upon to be wise, and good, and just?  Does the state of the world never remind us that we have four millions of subjects whose injuries we ought to atone for, and whose affections we ought to conciliate?  Does the state of the world never warn us to lay aside our infernal bigotry, and to arm every man who acknowledges a God, and can grasp a sword?  Did it never occur to this administration that they might virtuously get hold of a force ten times greater than the force of the Danish fleet?  Was there no other way of protecting Ireland but by bringing eternal shame upon Great Britain, and by making the earth a den of robbers?  See what the men whom you have supplanted would have done.  They would have rendered the invasion of Ireland impossible, by restoring to the Catholics their long-lost rights:  they would have acted in such a manner that the French would neither have wished for invasion nor dared to attempt it:  they would have increased the permanent strength of the country while they preserved its reputation unsullied.  Nothing of this kind your friends have done, because they are solemnly pledged to do nothing of this kind; because, to tolerate all religions, and to equalise civil rights to all sects, is to oppose some of the worst passions of our nature ­to plunder and to oppress is to gratify them all.  They wanted the huzzas of mobs, and they have for ever blasted the fame of England to obtain them.  Were the fleets of Holland, France, and Spain destroyed by larceny?  You resisted the power of 150 sail of the line by sheer courage, and violated every principle of morals from the dread of fifteen hulks, while the expedition itself cost you three times more than the value of the larcenous matter brought away.  The French trample on the laws of God and man, not for old cordage, but for kingdoms, and always take care to be well paid for their crimes.  We contrive, under the present administration, to unite moral with intellectual deficiency, and to grow weaker and worse by the same action.  If they had any evidence of the intended hostility of the Danes, why was it not produced?  Why have the nations of Europe been allowed to feel an indignation against this country beyond the reach of all subsequent information?  Are these times, do you imagine, when we can trifle with a year of universal hatred, dally with the curses of Europe, and then regain a lost character at pleasure, by the parliamentary perspirations of the Foreign Secretary, or the solemn asseverations of the pecuniary Rose?  Believe me, Abraham, it is not under such ministers as these that the dexterity of honest Englishmen will ever equal the dexterity of French knaves; it is not in their presence that the serpent of Moses will ever swallow up the serpents of the magician.

Lord Hawkesbury says that nothing is to be granted to the Catholics from fear.  What! not even justice?  Why not?  There are four millions of disaffected people within twenty miles of your own coast.  I fairly confess that the dread which I have of their physical power is with me a very strong motive for listening to their claims.  To talk of not acting from fear is mere parliamentary cant.  From what motive but fear, I should be glad to know, have all the improvements in our constitution proceeded?  I question if any justice has ever been done to large masses of mankind from any other motive.  By what other motives can the plunderers of the Baltic suppose nations to be governed in their intercourse with each other?  If I say, Give this people what they ask because it is just, do you think I should get ten people to listen to me?  Would not the lesser of the two Jenkinsons be the first to treat me with contempt?  The only true way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is by showing to them, in pretty plain terms, the consequences of injustice.  If any body of French troops land in Ireland, the whole population of that country will rise against you to a man, and you could not possibly survive such an event three years.  Such, from the bottom of my soul, do I believe to be the present state of that country; and so far does it appear to me to be impolitic and unstatesman-like to conceed anything to such a danger, that if the Catholics, in addition to their present just demands, were to petition for the perpetual removal of the said Lord Hawkesbury from his Majesty’s councils, I think, whatever might be the effect upon the destinies of Europe, and however it might retard our own individual destruction, that the prayer of the petition should be instantly complied with.  Canning’s crocodile tears should not move me; the hoops of the maids of honour should not hide him.  I would tear him from the banisters of the back stairs, and plunge him in the fishy fumes of the dirtiest of all his Cinque Ports.

LETTER VII.

Dear Abraham ­In the correspondence which is passing between us, you are perpetually alluding to the Foreign Secretary; and in answer to the dangers of Ireland, which I am pressing upon your notice, you have nothing to urge but the confidence which you repose in the discretion and sound sense of this gentleman.  I can only say, that I have listened to him long and often with the greatest attention; I have used every exertion in my power to take a fair measure of him, and it appears to me impossible to hear him upon any arduous topic without perceiving that he is eminently deficient in those solid and serious qualities upon which, and upon which alone, the confidence of a great country can properly repose.  He sweats and labours, and works for sense, and Mr. Ellis seems always to think it is coming, but it does not come; the machine can’t draw up what is not to be found in the spring; Providence has made him a light, jesting, paragraph-writing man, and that he will remain to his dying day.  When he is jocular he is strong, when he is serious he is like Samson in a wig; any ordinary person is a match for him:  a song, an ironical letter, a burlesque ode, an attack in the newspaper upon Nicoll’s eye, a smart speech of twenty minutes, full of gross misrepresentations and clever turns, excellent language, a spirited manner, lucky quotation, success in provoking dull men, some half information picked up in Pall Mall in the morning; these are your friend’s natural weapons; all these things he can do:  here I allow him to be truly great; nay, I will be just, and go still further, if he would confine himself to these things, and consider the facete and the playful to be the basis of his character, he would, for that species of man, be universally regarded as a person of a very good understanding; call him a legislator, a reasoner, and the conductor of the affairs of a great nation, and it seems to me as absurd as if a butterfly were to teach bees to make honey.  That he is an extraordinary writer of small poetry, and a diner out of the highest lustre, I do most readily admit.  After George Selwyn, and perhaps Tickell, there has been no such man for this half-century.  The Foreign Secretary is a gentleman, a respectable as well as a highly agreeable man in private life; but you may as well feed me with decayed potatoes as console me for the miseries of Ireland by the resources of his sense and his discretion.  It is only the public situation which this gentleman holds which entitles me or induces me to say so much about him.  He is a fly in amber, nobody cares about the fly; the only question is, How the devil did it get there?  Nor do I attack him for the love of glory, but from the love of utility, as a burgomaster hunts a rat in a Dutch dyke for fear it should flood a province.

The friends of the Catholic question are, I observe, extremely embarrassed in arguing when they come to the loyalty of the Irish Catholics.  As for me, I shall go straight forward to my object, and state what I have no manner of doubt, from an intimate knowledge of Ireland, to be the plain truth.  Of the great Roman Catholic proprietors, and of the Catholic prelates, there may be a few, and but a few, who would follow the fortunes of England at all events:  there is another set of men who, thoroughly detesting this country, have too much property and too much character to lose, not to wait for some very favourable event before they show themselves; but the great mass of Catholic population, upon the slightest appearance of a French force in that country, would rise upon you to a man.  It is the most mistaken policy to conceal the plain truth.  There is no loyalty among the Catholics:  they detest you as their worst oppressors, and they will continue to detest you till you remove the cause of their hatred.  It is in your power in six months’ time to produce a total revolution of opinions among this people; and in some future letter I will show you that this is clearly the case.  At present, see what a dreadful state Ireland is in.  The common toast among the low Irish is, the feast of the passover.  Some allusion to Bonaparte, in a play lately acted at Dublin, produced thunders of applause from the pit and the galleries; and a politician should not be inattentive to the public feelings expressed in theatres.  Mr. Perceval thinks he has disarmed the Irish:  he has no more disarmed the Irish than he has resigned a shilling of his own public emoluments.  An Irish peasant fills the barrel of his gun full of tow dipped in oil, butters up the lock, buries it in a bog, and allows the Orange bloodhound to ransack his cottage at pleasure.  Be just and kind to the Irish, and you will indeed disarm them; rescue them from the degraded servitude in which they are held by a handful of their own countrymen, and you will add four millions of brave and affectionate men to your strength.  Nightly visits, Protestant inspectors, licenses to possess a pistol, or a knife and fork, the odious vigour of the evangelical Perceval ­acts of Parliament, drawn up by some English attorney, to save you from the hatred of four millions of people ­the guarding yourselves from universal disaffection by a police; a confidence in the little cunning of Bow Street, when you might rest your security upon the eternal basis of the best feelings:  this is the meanness and madness to which nations are reduced when they lose sight of the first elements of justice, without which a country can be no more secure than it can be healthy without air.  I sicken at such policy and such men.  The fact is, the Ministers know nothing about the present state of Ireland; Mr. Perceval sees a few clergymen, Lord Castlereagh a few general officers, who take care, of course, to report what is pleasant rather than what is true.  As for the joyous and lepid consul, he jokes upon neutral flags and frauds, jokes upon Irish rebels, jokes upon northern and western and southern foes, and gives himself no trouble upon any subject; nor is the mediocrity of the idolatrous deputy of the slightest use.  Dissolved in grins, he reads no memorials upon the state of Ireland, listens to no reports, asks no questions, and is the

    “Bourn from whom no traveller returns.”

The danger of an immediate insurrection is now, I believe, blown over.  You have so strong an army in Ireland, and the Irish are become so much more cunning from the last insurrection, that you may perhaps be tolerably secure just at present from that evil:  but are you secure from the efforts which the French may make to throw a body of troops into Ireland? and do you consider that event to be difficult and improbable?  From Brest Harbour to Cape St. Vincent, you have above three thousand miles of hostile sea coast, and twelve or fourteen harbours quite capable of containing a sufficient force for the powerful invasion of Ireland.  The nearest of these harbours is not two days’ sail from the southern coast of Ireland, with a fair leading wind; and the furthest not ten.  Five ships of the line, for so very short a passage, might carry five or six thousand troops with cannon and ammunition; and Ireland presents to their attack a southern coast of more than 500 miles, abounding in deep bays, admirable harbours, and disaffected inhabitants.  Your blockading ships may be forced to come home for provisions and repairs, or they may be blown off in a gale of wind and compelled to bear away for their own coast; and you will observe that the very same wind which locks you up in the British Channel, when you are got there, is evidently favourable for the invasion of Ireland.  And yet this is called Government, and the people huzza Mr. Perceval for continuing to expose his country day after day to such tremendous perils as these; cursing the men who would have given up a question in theology to have saved us from such a risk.  The British empire at this moment is in the state of a peach-blossom ­if the wind blows gently from one quarter, it survives; if furiously from the other, it perishes.  A stiff breeze may set in from the north, the Rochefort squadron will be taken, and the Minister will be the most holy of men:  if it comes from some other point, Ireland is gone; we curse ourselves as a set of monastic madmen, and call out for the unavailing satisfaction of Mr. Perceval’s head.  Such a state of political existence is scarcely credible:  it is the action of a mad young fool standing upon one foot, and peeping down the crater of Mount AEtna, not the conduct of a wise and sober people deciding upon their best and dearest interests:  and in the name, the much-injured name, of heaven, what is it all for that we expose ourselves to these dangers?  Is it that we may sell more muslin?  Is it that we may acquire more territory?  Is it that we may strengthen what we have already acquired?  No; nothing of all this; but that one set of Irishmen may torture another set of Irishmen ­that Sir Phelim O’Callaghan may continue to whip Sir Toby M’Tackle, his next door neighbour, and continue to ravish his Catholic daughters; and these are the measures which the honest and consistent Secretary supports; and this is the Secretary whose genius in the estimation of Brother Abraham is to extinguish the genius of Bonaparte.  Pompey was killed by a slave, Goliath smitten by a stripling.  Pyrrhus died by the hand of a woman; tremble, thou great Gaul, from whose head an armed Minerva leaps forth in the hour of danger; tremble, thou scourge of God, a pleasant man is come out against thee, and thou shall be laid low by a joker of jokes, and he shall talk his pleasant talk against thee, and thou shall be no more!

You tell me, in spite of all this parade of sea-coast, Bonaparte has neither ships nor sailors:  but this is a mistake.  He has not ships and sailors to contest the empire of the seas with Great Britain, but there remains quite sufficient of the navies of France, Spain, Holland, and Denmark, for these short excursions and invasions.  Do you think, too, that Bonaparte does not add to his navy every year?  Do you suppose, with all Europe at his feet, that he can find any difficulty in obtaining timber, and that money will not procure for him any quantity of naval stores he may want?  The mere machine, the empty ship, he can build as well, and as quickly, as you can; and though he may not find enough of practised sailors to man large fighting-fleets ­it is not possible to conceive that he can want sailors for such sort of purposes as I have stated.  He is at present the despotic monarch of above twenty thousand miles of sea-coast, and yet you suppose he cannot procure sailors for the invasion of Ireland.  Believe, if you please, that such a fleet met at sea by any number of our ships at all comparable to them in point of force, would be immediately taken, let it be so; I count nothing upon their power of resistance, only upon their power of escaping unobserved.  If experience has taught us anything, it is the impossibility of perpetual blockades.  The instances are innumerable, during the course of this war, where whole fleets have sailed in and out of harbour, in spite of every vigilance used to prevent it.  I shall only mention those cases where Ireland is concerned.  In December, 1796, seven ships of the line, and ten transports, reached Bantry Bay from Brest, without having seen an English ship in their passage.  It blew a storm when they were off shore, and therefore England still continues to be an independent kingdom.  You will observe that at the very time the French fleet sailed out of Brest Harbour, Admiral Colpoys was cruising off there with a powerful squadron, and still, from the particular circumstances of the weather, found it impossible to prevent the French from coming out.  During the time that Admiral Colpoys was cruising off Brest, Admiral Richery, with six ships of the line, passed him, and got safe into the harbour.  At the very moment when the French squadron was lying in Bantry Bay, Lord Bridport with his fleet was locked up by a foul wind in the Channel, and for several days could not stir to the assistance of Ireland.  Admiral Colpoys, totally unable to find the French fleet, came home.  Lord Bridport, at the change of the wind, cruised for them in vain, and they got safe back to Brest, without having seen a single one of those floating bulwarks, the possession of which we believe will enable us with impunity to set justice and common sense at defiance.  Such is the miserable and precarious state of an anemocracy, of a people who put their trust in hurricanes, and are governed by wind.  In August, 1798, three forty-gun frigates landed 1100 men under Humbert, making the passage from Rochelle to Killala without seeing any English ship.  In October of the same year, four French frigates anchored in Killala Bay with 2000 troops; and though they did not land their troops they returned to France in safety.  In the same month, a line-of-battle ship, eight stout frigates, and a brig, all full of troops and stores, reached the coast of Ireland, and were fortunately, in sight of land, destroyed, after an obstinate engagement, by Sir John Warren.

If you despise the little troop which, in these numerous experiments, did make good its landing, take with you, if you please, this precis of its exploits:  eleven hundred men, commanded by a soldier raised from the ranks, put to rout a select army of 6000 men, commanded by General Lake, seized their ordnance, ammunition, and stores, advanced 150 miles into a country containing an armed force of 150,000 men, and at last surrendered to the Viceroy, an experienced general, gravely and cautiously advancing at the head of all his chivalry and of an immense army to oppose him.  You must excuse these details about Ireland, but it appears to me to be of all other subjects the most important.  If we conciliate Ireland, we can do nothing amiss; if we do not, we can do nothing well.  If Ireland was friendly, we might equally set at defiance the talents of Bonaparte and the blunders of his rival, Mr. Canning; we could then support the ruinous and silly bustle of our useless expeditions, and the almost incredible ignorance of our commercial orders in council.  Let the present administration give up but this one point, and there is nothing which I would not consent to grant them.  Mr. Perceval shall have full liberty to insult the tomb of Mr. Fox, and to torment every eminent Dissenter in Great Britain; Lord Camden shall have large boxes of plums; Mr. Rose receive permission to prefix to his name the appellative of virtuous; and to the Viscount Castlereagh a round sum of ready money shall be well and truly paid into his hand.  Lastly, what remains to Mr. George Canning, but that he ride up and down Pall Mall glorious upon a white horse, and that they cry out before him, Thus shall it be done to the statesman who hath written ‘The Needy Knife-Grinder,’ and the German play?  Adieu only for the present; you shall soon hear from me again; it is a subject upon which I cannot long be silent.

LETTER IX.

Dear Abraham ­No Catholic can be chief Governor or Governor of this kingdom, Chancellor or Keeper of the Great Seal, Lord High Treasurer, Chief of any of the Courts of Justice, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Puisne Judge, Judge in the Admiralty, Master of the Rolls, Secretary of State, Keeper of the Privy Seal, Vice-Treasurer or his Deputy, Teller or Cashier of Exchequer, Auditor or General, Governor or Gustos Rotulorum of Counties, Chief Governor’s Secretary, Privy Councillor, King’s Counsel, Serjeant, Attorney, Solicitor-General, Master in Chancery, Provost or Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, Postmaster-General, Master and Lieutenant-General of Ordnance, Commander-in-Chief, General on the Staff, Sheriff, Sub-Sheriff, Mayor, Bailiff, Recorder, Burgess, or any other officer in a City, or a Corporation.  No Catholic can be guardian to a Protestant, and no priest guardian at all; no Catholic can be a gamekeeper, or have for sale, or otherwise, any arms or warlike stores; no Catholic can present to a living, unless he choose to turn Jew in order to obtain that privilege; the pecuniary qualification of Catholic jurors is made higher than that of Protestants, and no relaxation of the ancient rigorous code is permitted, unless to those who shall take an oath prescribed by 13 and 14 George III.  Now if this is not picking the plums out of the pudding and leaving the mere batter to the Catholics, I know not what is.  If it were merely the Privy Council, it would be (I allow) nothing but a point of honour for which the mass of Catholics were contending, the honour of being chief-mourners or pall-bearers to the country; but surely no man will contend that every barrister may not speculate upon the possibility of being a Puisne Judge; and that every shopkeeper must not feel himself injured by his exclusion from borough offices.

One of the greatest practical evils which the Catholics suffer in Ireland is their exclusion from the offices of Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff.  Nobody who is unacquainted with Ireland can conceive the obstacles which this opposes to the fair administration of justice.  The formation of juries is now entirely in the hands of the Protestants; the lives, liberties, and properties of the Catholics in the hands of the juries; and this is the arrangement for the administration of justice in a country where religious prejudices are inflamed to the greatest degree of animosity!  In this country, if a man be a foreigner, if he sell slippers, and sealing wax, and artificial flowers, we are so tender of human life that we take care half the number of persons who are to decide upon his fate should be men of similar prejudices and feelings with himself:  but a poor Catholic in Ireland may be tried by twelve Percevals, and destroyed according to the manner of that gentleman in the name of the Lord, and with all the insulting forms of justice.  I do not go the length of saying that deliberate and wilful injustice is done.  I have no doubt that the Orange Deputy Sheriff thinks it would be a most unpardonable breach of his duty if he did not summon a Protestant panel.  I can easily believe that the Protestant panel may conduct themselves very conscientiously in hanging the gentlemen of the crucifix; but I blame the law which does not guard the Catholic against the probable tenor of those feelings which must unconsciously influence the judgments of mankind.  I detest that state of society which extends unequal degrees of protection to different creeds and persuasions; and I cannot describe to you the contempt I feel for a man who, calling himself a statesman, defends a system which fills the heart of every Irishman with treason, and makes his allegiance prudence, not choice.

I request to know if the vestry taxes in Ireland are a mere matter of romantic feeling which can affect only the Earl of Fingal?  In a parish where there are four thousand Catholics and fifty Protestants, the Protestants may meet together in a vestry meeting at which no Catholic has the right to vote, and tax all the lands in the parish 1d. per acre, or in the pound, I forget which, for the repairs of the church ­and how has the necessity of these repairs been ascertained?  A Protestant plumber has discovered that it wants new leading; a Protestant carpenter is convinced the timbers are not sound; and the glazier who hates holy water (as an accoucheur hates celibacy, because he gets nothing by it) is employed to put in new sashes.

The grand juries in Ireland are the great scene of jobbing.  They have a power of making a county rate to a considerable extent for roads, bridges, and other objects of general accommodation.  ’You suffer the road to be brought through my park, and I will have the bridge constructed in a situation where it will make a beautiful object to your house.  You do my job, and I will do yours.’  These are the sweet and interesting subjects which occasionally occupy Milesian gentlemen while they are attendant upon this grand inquest of justice.  But there is a religion, it seems, even in jobs; and it will be highly gratifying to Mr. Perceval to learn that no man in Ireland who believes in seven sacraments can carry a public road, or bridge, one yard out of the direction most beneficial to the public, and that nobody can cheat the public who does not expound the Scriptures in the purest and most orthodox manner.  This will give pleasure to Mr. Perceval:  but, from his unfairness upon these topics I appeal to the justice and the proper feelings of Mr. Huskisson.  I ask him if the human mind can experience a more dreadful sensation than to see its own jobs refused, and the jobs of another religion perpetually succeeding?  I ask him his opinion of a jobless faith, of a creed which dooms a man through life to a lean and plunderless integrity.  He knows that human nature cannot and will not bear it; and if we were to paint a political Tartarus, it would be an endless series of snug expectations and cruel disappointments.  These are a few of many dreadful inconveniences which the Catholics of all ranks suffer from the laws by which they are at present oppressed.  Besides, look at human nature:  what is the history of all professions?  Joel is to be brought up to the bar:  has Mrs. Plymley the slightest doubt of his being Chancellor?  Do not his two shrivelled aunts live in the certainty of seeing him in that situation, and of cutting out with their own hands his equity habiliments?  And I could name a certain minister of the Gospel who does not, in the bottom of his heart, much differ from these opinions.  Do you think that the fathers and mothers of the holy Catholic Church are not as absurd as Protestant papas and mammas?  The probability I admit to be, in each particular case, that the sweet little blockhead will in fact never get a brief; ­but I will venture to say there is not a parent from the Giant’s Causeway to Bantry Bay who does not conceive that his child is the unfortunate victim of the exclusion, and that nothing short of positive law could prevent his own dear, pre-eminent Paddy from rising to the highest honours of the State.  So with the army and parliament; in fact, few are excluded; but, in imagination, all:  you keep twenty or thirty Catholics out, and you lose the affections of four millions; and, let me tell you, that recent circumstances have by no means tended to diminish in the minds of men that hope of elevation beyond their own rank which is so congenial to our nature:  from pleading for John Roe to taxing John Bull, from jesting for Mr. Pitt and writing in the Anti-Jacobin, to managing the affairs of Europe ­these are leaps which seem to justify the fondest dreams of mothers and of aunts.

I do not say that the disabilities to which the Catholics are exposed amount to such intolerable grievances, that the strength and industry of a nation are overwhelmed by them:  the increasing prosperity of Ireland fully demonstrates to the contrary.  But I repeat again, what I have often stated in the course of our correspondence, that your laws against the Catholics are exactly in that state in which you have neither the benefits of rigour nor of liberality:  every law which prevented the Catholic from gaining strength and wealth is repealed; every law which can irritate remains; if you were determined to insult the Catholics you should have kept them weak; if you resolved to give them strength, you should have ceased to insult them ­at present your conduct is pure, unadulterated folly.

Lord Hawkesbury says, ’We heard nothing about the Catholics till we began to mitigate the laws against them; when we relieved them in part from this oppression they began to be disaffected.’  This is very true; but it proves just what I have said, that you have either done too much or too little; and as there lives not, I hope, upon earth, so depraved a courtier that he would load the Catholics with their ancient chains, what absurdity it is, then, not to render their dispositions friendly, when you leave their arms and legs free!

You know, and many Englishmen know, what passes in China; but nobody knows or cares what passes in Ireland.  At the beginning of the present reign no Catholic could realise property, or carry on any business; they were absolutely annihilated, and had no more agency in the country than so many trees.  They were like Lord Mulgrave’s eloquence and Lord Camden’s wit; the legislative bodies did not know of their existence.  For these twenty-five years last past the Catholics have been engaged in commerce; within that period the commerce of Ireland has doubled ­there are four Catholics at work for one Protestant, and eight Catholics at work for one Episcopalian.  Of course, the proportion which Catholic wealth bears to Protestant wealth is every year altering rapidly in favour of the Catholics.  I have already told you what their purchases of land were the last year:  since that period I have been at some pains to find out the actual state of the Catholic wealth:  it is impossible upon such a subject to arrive at complete accuracy; but I have good reason to believe that there are at present 2000 Catholics in Ireland possessing an income of L500 and upwards, many of these with incomes of one, two, three, and four thousand, and some amounting to fifteen and twenty thousand per annum: ­and this is the kingdom, and these the people, for whose conciliation we are to wait Heaven knows when, and Lord Hawkesbury why!  As for me, I never think of the situation of Ireland without feeling the same necessity for immediate interference as I should do if I saw blood flowing from a great artery.  I rush towards it with the instinctive rapidity of a man desirous of preventing death, and have no other feeling but that in a few seconds the patient may be no more.

I could not help smiling, in the times of No Popery, to witness the loyal indignation of many persons at the attempt made by the last ministry to do something for the relief of Ireland.  The general cry in the country was, that they would not see their beloved Monarch used ill in his old age, and that they would stand by him to the last drop of their blood.  I respect good feelings, however erroneous be the occasions on which they display themselves; and therefore I saw in all this as much to admire as to blame.  It was a species of affection, however, which reminded me very forcibly of the attachment displayed by the servants of the Russian ambassador at the beginning of the last century.  His Excellency happened to fall down in a kind of apoplectic fit, when he was paying a morning visit in the house of an acquaintance.  The confusion was of course very great, and messengers were despatched in every direction to find a surgeon:  who, upon his arrival, declared that his Excellency must be immediately blooded, and prepared himself forthwith to perform the operation:  the barbarous servants of the embassy, who were there in great numbers, no sooner saw the surgeon prepared to wound the arm of their master with a sharp, shining instrument, than they drew their swords, put themselves in an attitude of defence, and swore in pure Sclavonic, ’that they would murder any man who attempted to do him the slightest injury:  he had been a very good master to them, and they would not desert him in his misfortunes, or suffer his blood to be shed while he was off his guard, and incapable of defending himself.’  By good fortune, the secretary arrived about this period of the dispute, and his Excellency, relieved from superfluous blood and perilous affection, was, after much difficulty, restored to life.

There is an argument brought forward with some appearance of plausibility in the House of Commons, which certainly merits an answer:  You know that the Catholics now vote for members of parliament in Ireland, and that they outnumber the Protestants in a very great proportion; if you allow Catholics to sit in parliament, religion will be found to influence votes more than property, and the greater part of the 100 Irish members who are returned to parliament will be Catholics.  Add to these the Catholic members who are returned in England, and you will have a phalanx of heretical strength which every minister will be compelled to respect, and occasionally to conciliate by concessions incompatible with the interests of the Protestant Church.  The fact is, however, that you are at this moment subjected to every danger of this kind which you can possibly apprehend hereafter.  If the spiritual interests of the voters are more powerful than their temporal interests, they can bind down their representatives to support any measures favourable to the Catholic religion, and they can change the objects of their choice till they have found Protestant members (as they easily may do) perfectly obedient to their wishes.  If the superior possessions of the Protestants prevent the Catholics from uniting for a common political object, then danger you fear cannot exist:  if zeal, on the contrary, gets the better of acres, then the danger at present exists, from the right of voting already given to the Catholics, and it will not be increased by allowing them to sit in parliament.  There are, as nearly as I can recollect, thirty seats in Ireland for cities and counties, where the Protestants are the most numerous, and where the members returned must of course be Protestants.  In the other seventy representations the wealth of the Protestants is opposed to the number of the Catholics; and if all the seventy members returned were of the Catholic persuasion, they must still plot the destruction of our religion in the midst of 588 Protestants.  Such terrors would disgrace a cook-maid, or a toothless aunt ­when they fall from the lips of bearded and senatorial men, they are nauseous, antiperistaltic, and emetical.

How can you for a moment doubt of the rapid effects which would be produced by the emancipation?  In the first place, to my certain knowledge the Catholics have long since expressed to his Majesty’s Ministers their perfect readiness to vest in his Majesty, either with the consent of the Pope, or without it if it cannot be obtained, the nomination of the Catholic prelacy.  The Catholic prelacy in Ireland consists of twenty-six bishops and the warden of Galway, a dignitary enjoying Catholic jurisdiction.  The number of Roman Catholic priests in Ireland exceeds one thousand.  The expenses of his peculiar worship are, to a substantial farmer or mechanic, five shillings per annum; to a labourer (where he is not entirely excused) one shilling per annum; this includes the contribution of the whole family, and for this the priest is bound to attend them when sick, and to confess them when they apply to him; he is also to keep his chapel in order, to celebrate divine service, and to preach on Sundays and holydays.  In the northern district a priest gains from L30 to L50; in the other parts of Ireland from L60 to L90 per annum.  The best paid Catholic bishops receive about L400 per annum; the others from L300 to L350.  My plan is very simple:  I would have 300 Catholic parishes at L100 per annum, 300 at L200 per annum, and 400 at L300 per annum; this, for the whole thousand parishes, would amount to L190,000.  To the prelacy I would allot L20,000 in unequal proportions, from L1000 to L500; and I would appropriate L40,000 more for the support of Catholic Schools, and the repairs of Catholic churches; the whole amount of which sum is L250,000, about the expense of three days of one of our genuine, good English just and necessary wars.  The clergy should all receive their salaries at the Bank of Ireland, and I would place the whole patronage in the hands of the Crown.  Now, I appeal to any human being, except Spencer Perceval, Esq., of the parish of Hampstead, what the disaffection of a clergy would amount to, gaping after this graduated bounty of the Crown, and whether Ignatius Loyola himself, if he were a living blockhead instead of a dead saint, could withstand the temptation of bouncing from L100 a year at Sligo, to L300 in Tipperary?  This is the miserable sum of money for which the merchants and landowners and nobility of England are exposing themselves to the tremendous peril of losing Ireland.  The sinecure places of the Roses and the Percevals, and the ‘dear and near relations,’ put up to auction at thirty years’ purchase, would almost amount to the money.

I admit that nothing can be more reasonable than to expect that a Catholic priest should starve to death, genteelly and pleasantly, for the good of the Protestant religion; but is it equally reasonable to expect that he should do so for the Protestant pews, and Protestant brick and mortar?  On an Irish Sabbath the bell of a neat parish church often summons to church only the parson and an occasionally conforming clerk; while, two hundred yards off, a thousand Catholics are huddled together in a miserable hovel, and pelted by all the storms of heaven.  Can anything be more distressing than to see a venerable man pouring forth sublime truths in tattered breeches, and depending for his food upon the little offal he gets from his parishioners?  I venerate a human being who starves for his principles, let them be what they may; but starving for anything is not at all to the taste of the honourable flagellants:  strict principles, and good pay, is the motto of Mr. Perceval:  the one he keeps in great measure for the faults of his enemies, the other for himself.

There are parishes in Connaught in which a Protestant was never settled nor even seen.  In that province, in Munster, and in parts of Leinster, the entire peasantry for sixty miles are Catholics; in these tracts the churches are frequently shut for want of a congregation, or opened to an assemblage of from six to twenty persons.  Of what Protestants there are in Ireland, the greatest part are gathered together in Ulster, or they live in towns.  In the country of the other three provinces the Catholics see no other religion but their own, and are at the least as fifteen to one Protestant.  In the diocese of Tuam they are sixty to one; in the parish of St. Mulins, diocese of Leghlin, there are four thousand Catholics and one Protestant; in the town of Grasgenamana, in the county of Kilkenny, there are between four and five hundred Catholic houses, and three Protestant houses.  In the parish of Allen, county Kildare, there is no Protestant, though it is very populous.  In the parish of Arlesin, Queen’s County, the proportion is one hundred to one.  In the whole county of Kilkenny, by actual enumeration, it is seventeen to one; in the diocese of Kilmacduagh, province of Connaught, fifty-two to one, by ditto.  These I give you as a few specimens of the present state of Ireland; and yet there are men impudent and ignorant enough to contend that such evils require no remedy, and that mild family man who dwelleth in Hampstead can find none but the cautery and the knife.

     ­’Omne per ignem
    Excoquitur vitium.’

I cannot describe the horror and disgust which I felt at hearing Mr. Perceval call upon the then Ministry for measures of vigour in Ireland.  If I lived at Hampstead upon stewed meats and claret; if I walked to church every Sunday before eleven young gentlemen of my own begetting, with their faces washed, and their hair pleasingly combed; if the Almighty had blessed me with every earthly comfort ­how awfully would I pause before I sent forth the flame and the sword over the cabins of the poor, brave, generous, open-hearted peasants of Ireland!  How easy it is to shed human blood; how easy it is to persuade ourselves that it is our duty to do so, and that the decision has cost us a severe struggle; how much in all ages have wounds and shrieks and tears been the cheap and vulgar resources of the rulers of mankind; how difficult and how noble it is to govern in kindness and to found an empire upon the everlasting basis of justice and affection!  But what do men call vigour?  To let loose hussars and to bring up artillery, to govern with lighted matches, and to cut, and push, and prime; I call this not vigour, but the sloth of cruelty and ignorance.  The vigour I love consists in finding out wherein subjects are aggrieved, in relieving them, in studying the temper and genius of a people, in consulting their prejudices, in selecting proper persons to lead and manage them, in the laborious, watchful, and difficult task of increasing public happiness by allaying each particular discontent.  In this way Hoche pacified La Vendée ­and in this way only will Ireland ever be subdued.  But this, in the eyes of Mr. Perceval, is imbecility and meanness.  Houses are not broken open, women are not insulted, the people seem all to be happy; they are not rode over by horses, and cut by whips.  Do you call this vigour?  Is this government?