« AnteriorContinuar »
SPEECH AT LIMERICK, 1812
FEEL it my duty, as a professed agitator, to address the meeting. It is merely in the exercise of my office of agitation, that I think it necessary to say a few words. For any purpose
of illustration or argument, further discourse is useless : all the topics which the present period suggested, have been treated of with sound judgment, and a rare felicity of diction, by my respected and talented friend (Mr. Roche); all I shall do is, to add a few observations to what has fallen from that gentleman; and whilst I sincerely admire the happy style in which he has treated those subjects, I feel deep regret at being unable to imitate his excellent discourse.
And, first, let me concur with him in congratulating the Catholics of Limerick on the progress our great cause has made since we were last assembled. Since that period our cause has not rested for support on the efforts of those alone who were immediately interested ; no, our Protestant brethren throughout the land have added their zealous exertions for our emancipation. They have, with admirable patriotism, evinced their desire to conciliate by serving us, and I am sure I do but justice to the Catholics, when I proclaim our gratitude, as written on our hearts, and to be extinguished only with our lives.
Nor bas the support and the zeal of our Protestant brethren been vain and barren. No, it has been productive of great and solid advantages; it has procured, for the cause of religious liberty, the respect even of the most bigoted of our opponents; it has struck down English prejudice; it has convinced the mistaken honest; it has terrified the hypocritical knaves ; and finally, it has pronounced for us, by a great and triumphant majority, from one of the branches of the legislature, the distinct recognition of the propriety and the necessity of conceding justice to the great body of the Irish people.
Let us, therefore, rejoice in our mutual success; let us rejoice in the near approach of freedom; let us rejoice in the prospect of soon shaking off our chains, and of the speedy extinction of our griev ances. But above all, let us rejoice at the means by which these happy effects have been produced ; let us doubly rejoice, because they afford no triumph to any part of the Irish nation over the other
that they are not the result of any contention among ourselves ; but constitute a victory, obtained for the Catholics by the Protestants — that they prove the liberality of the one, and require the eternal gratitude of the other — that they prove and promise the eternal dissolution of ancient animosities and domestic feuds, and afford to every Christian and to every patriot, the cheering certainty of seeing peace, harmony, and benevolence prevail in that country, where a wicked and perverted policy has so long and so fatally propagated and encouraged dissension, discord, and rancor.
We owe it to the liberality of the Irish Protestants -- to the zeal of the Irish Presbyterians — to the friendly exertion of the Irish Quakers; we owe, to the cordial re-union of every sect and denomination of Irish Christians, the progress of our cause. They have procured for us the solemn and distinct promise and pledge of the House of Commons — they almost obtained for us a similar declaration from the House of Lords. It was lost by the petty majority of one – it was lost by a majority, not of those who listened to the absurd prosings of Lord Eldon, to the bigoted and turbid declamation of that English Chief Justice, whose sentiments so forcibly recall the memory of the star-chamber; not of those who were able to compare the vapid or violent folly of the one party, with the statesman-like sentiments, the profound arguments, the splendid eloquence of the Marquis Wellesley. Not of those who heard the reasonings of our other illustrious advocates ; but by a majority of men who acted upon preconceived opinions, or, from a distance, carried into effect their bigotry, or, perhaps, worse propensities — who availed themselves of that absurd privilege of the peerage, which enables those to decide who have not heard — which permits men to pronounce upon subjects they have not discussed - and allows a final determination to precede argument.
It was not, however, to this privilege alone, that our want of success was to be attributed. The very principle upon which the present
administration has been formed, was brought into immediate action, and with success; for, in the latter periods of the present reign, every administration has had a distinct principle upon which it was formed, and which serves the historian to explain all its movements. Thus, the principle of the Pitt administration was — to deprive the people of all share in the government, and to vest all power and authority in the crown. In short, Pitt's views amounted to unqualified despotism. This great object he steadily pursued through his illstarred career. It is true he encouraged commerce, but it was for the purposes of taxation; and he used taxation for the purposes of corruption; he assisted the merchants, as long as he could, to grow rich, and they lauded him; he bought the people with their own money, and they praised him. Each succeeding day produced some new inroad on the constitution; and the alarm which he excited, by reason of the bloody workings of the French revolution, enabled him to rule the land with uncontrolled sway; he had bequeathed to his successor the accumulated power of the crown
-a power which must be great, if it can sustain the nonentities of the present administration.
The principle of Pitts administration was despotism ; the principle of Perceval's administration was peculating bigotry — bigoted peculation! In the name of the Lord he plundered the people. Pious and enlightened statesman! he would take their money only for the good of their souls.
The principle of the present administration is still more obvious. It has unequivocally disclosed itself in all its movements — it is simple and single – it consists in falsehood. Falsehood is the bond and link that connects this ministry in office. Some of them pretend to be our friends; you know it is not true; they are only our worse enemies for the hypocrisy. They declare that the Catholic question is no longer opposed by the cabinet -- that it is left to the discretior: of each individual retainer. The fact is otherwise --- and their retainers, though not commanded, as formerly, are carefully advised to vote against us.
The minister, Lord Castlereagh, is reported to have said in the House of Commons, that in the year 1797 and 1798, there was no torture in Ireland, to the knowledge of government! Is it really possible that such an assertion was used? You hear it with aston