图书图片
PDF
ePub

pears to have been adopted, and in the interval, this fluctuation between hope and despair, has kept the country in a worse state than could have resulted from the most decisive measures, whether for or against this long-desired objeet. · But in these facts, all parties are agreed, that the great mass of the people, in many parts of Ireland, are in a degraded state ; uninformed, in abject poverty; without sufficient knowlege of any of the arts of life by which support can be obtained ; with minds inflamed against their governors, by the accumulation of those miseries they have so long suffered ; and through these causes, prone to violence, and dangerous to their superiors ; can man be in a worse, a more deplorable condition ? And with nothing to hope, there is nothing to fear; hence arises that readiness to embark in every desperate measure which the ambitious or the designing may hold out. Can we expect attachment to any government, from persons situated as these men are ? Destitute, hopeless, in a state of anarchy and starvation : to them any change may produce some good; they are too wretched to fear an increase of evil.

Are men, so circumstanced, prepared, without any accompanying ameliorations, to be released from all restraint ? You must civilize those whom you would render capable of the rational enjoyment of civil liberty; you must teach them the relative duties of man to man, before you can give them indiscriminately all the immunities of citizens in a well-organized state : would it otherwise be safe to the community at large, or advantageous to themselves ?

In this state of Ireland, the leading members of the RomanCatholic community of that kingdom, would entitle themselves to the gratitude of their country, and at the same time, in the most effectual manner, advance their own cause, by using all the influence they possess, to tranquillize the minds of the lower orders of the people; whilst, by the temperance of their own conduct in all the efforts which they may make for the accomplishment of their views, they would the most clearly demonstrate, that to be relieved from religious disqualifications, and not the undue acquisition of political power, was the primary object of their pursuit. In this manner can they best convince their fellow-subjects, of the safety and the practicability of removing those which yet remain, of the restrictions their ancestors, in more turbulent times, had regarded as necessary to the security of the Protestant church, and the Protestant succession.

But it is deeply to be lamented, that, of late, irritation has again rapidly increased, and thereby overclouded the most favorable opportunity which has ever presented itself to the Catholics of Ireland, for attaining, through amicable measures, this avowed object of their wishes. It is well worthy their deep and serious consideration, what an awful responsibility they will incur to those of their own faith, and to the empire at large, if, by intemperance and yiolence, they blast every prospect of consolidating the peace of the country, and, through renewed anarchy and insurrection, lose all they have so long songht, at the very moment when their cause was daily gaining ground, and its final success seemed to have been placed within their reach.

Will, then, the wise, the moderate, and the bumane of that community, forego this, perhaps the greatest and the last opportunity which may present itself, to heal the wounds of many ages? Will they, at such a moment, become instruments in the hands of the violent and the ambitious, to close the door on conciliation, and lend their aid to deluge their country in blood ? On their present conduct, the amicable attainment of more than their ancestors ever hoped or required, and the lives of tens of thousands of their fellowcitizens will unquestionably depend. Before it be too late, let every true friend of his country pause, ere he take a part in measures wbich may lead to such fatal results : he cannot be a real friend to Ireland, who would thus rashly and desperately lead her on to destruction.

Must religious discord and civil war again spread devastation and misery over that ill-fated land? Are two nations, formed to be the strength and the support of each other, for ever doomed to be involved in fierce contention and bloodshed, to the derision and triumph of the enemies of both ? Can the prosperity or happiness of either kingdom be compatible with such a state of things? But if all better or higher considerations are without avail, in calming the violent feelings which now agitate that country, the utter hopelessness and desperation of an appeal to arms, should make them turn from the thougbt of such a measure, as one which must inevitably postpone the attainment of all their wishes to an incalculable dis.tance, and seal the fate of those who engage in so unnatural a contest. Can men be found so forgetful of the experience of the past, and so blind to the present state of their country, as to entertain even the most remote expectations of accomplisbing those objects which they now seek, by the power of the sword? Has Ireland ever yet found redress from an appeal to arms? Has not every such attempt only furnished ground for witholding those immunities so long and so ardently sought? On the other hand, each succeeding year seemed rapidly to have been wearing away those jealousies and apprehensions which had prevented an amicable and an effectual redress of her grievances, and wbich, in all human probability, another generation of tranquillity and order would have fully accomplished. · At a period when Great Britain was surrounded by enemies, involved in the most arduous war in which she ever was engaged, and by no means tranquil at home; with revolutionary principles, for the time triumphant over half the civilized world : if the insurrection which then took place in Ireland, only served to fill the country with slaughter, and overwhelm with destruction those who engaged in the fatal attempt, what rational man can become so desperate, as to believe that success would attend a repetition of such deplorable measures, at a moment when the British empire has not one foreign foe, and is able, by the concentration of her vast power and resources, to crush any insurrection, however organized or formidable ?

Can it be overlooked by any who now take part in hurrying on their country to such scenes of misery, that those in power are deeply accountable to their sovereign, and to their fellow-subjects, that the allegiance and the tranquillity of Ireland shall be maintained ; that outrage and lawless violence shall not stalk triumphant over that kingdom? They must be conscious, that the attempt to enforce their objects by intimidation and open insurrection, must and will be steadfastly and uniformly opposed, by any government which has the honor and the permanent prosperity of the empire at heart.

In this eventful crisis, the British government stand in the most awful situation, in which those who have in charge the happiness of millions can be placed, from their duties as statesmen and their feelings as men, however they may differ in their opinions as to the means, firmly to establish the tranquillity and the prosperity of Ireland must, in these times, be a paramount object in their minds; but however sincere may be their desire to grant to the Catholics of that country the redress of their grievances, their duty is imperative not to allow the pursuit of that object to be accompanied by a violation of the public peace, or to become the pretext for engrafting thereon projects of speculative and political reform, leading directly to revolution, and the separation of the two kingdums. The slaughter of thousands on either side, and the devastation of whole districts, would only be the forerunner of still more tremendous calamities; irreconcileable hatred and revenge would take deep root in the land; every hope of amicable arrangement would be banished from the minds of the present generation; and all those fair prospects, which a few years of tranquillity would have realized, would be wrapped in hopeless darkness.

During this dreadful interval, in what a state would the survivors of such sauguinary scenes be placed ? If thousands are now unable to procure employment, tens of thousands would then be in the same situation : if the lower orders of the people are at present wanting food in the midst of abundance, there would then, unquestionably, be actual scarcity, and its inseparable attendants--famine and disease united.

Such would be the consequences to the people, which would result from insurrection or civil war; and when reduced to the lamentable state in which they would then be, however decidedly the British government might have put down opposition, however undisputed their power might then become, over a demoralized and a ruined nation, their difficulties and embarrassments would be fearfully augmented : then would commence their arduous duty, to re-organize a people in the last stage of anarchy and irritation; to find employment for millions, in a devastated country; to preserve the inhabitants from that famine, in this state of wretchedness, which they scarcely could avert in times of comparative tranquillity.

This recapitulation of the miseries which such events would be certain to produce, is not overcbarged: the evidence of but recent days, and the experience of past ages, must strike with conviction all who will recur to the annals of Ireland.

“To hinder insurrection by driving away the people, and to govern peaceably, by having no subjects, is an expedient that argues no great profundity of politics. To soften the obdurate, to convince the mistaken, to mollify the resentful, are worthy of a statesman; but it affords a legislator little self-applause to consider, that where there was formerly an insurrection, there is now a wilderness.".

Is it not then indisputably the true interest, both of the government and the people, to coucur in every measure which can yet be adopted to preserve the tranquillity of Ireland ? Violence, by its natural re-action will only increase the evils it is intended to overcome or remove.

The sword is not yet drawn; the peace of that kingdom may still be preserved. The people of England feel a deep interest, that the miseries which again threaten so fair a portion of the empire, may be averted. But the evils of centuries cannot be remedied in a day; scarcely in one generation ; yet not a moment should be suffered to elapse, or an opportunity to be lost, in undeviatingly pursuing, in all times, and through all circumstances, this object, so deeply important to both nations, even in the present moment of doubt and alarm; nor to let any local consideration arrest the progress of this great work : we should never for an instant lose sight of the fact, that the great body of the people of Ireland are now the beings which centuries of degradation, neglect, or severity, have made them; and that we ought sedulously to persevere in promoting their ultimate good, and through them that of the whole empire ; even in spite of themselves. Yet if we are not to make these efforts when surrounded by turbulence and confusion, but to wait

! Dr. Johnson.

for the return of order and tranquillity, we shall only be commencing our operations where they ought to have terminated.

The further the people have, from these causes, been led away from subordination and obedience to the laws, the more, under such circumstances, is it incumbent on the government of a country to stand on the 'vantage ground, by using every means to remove existing abuses ; to promote the civilization and the prosperity of the kingdom; to be themselves right; to demonstrate that a spirit of religious intolerance has not any part in the course they pursue ; that, though firmly resolved to maintain the tranquillity of the country, they will not be driven to extremities, until all other measures have become hopeless ; thus would they render it self-evident, that, whilst they would meet conciliation by conciliation, they cannot be influenced, through intimidation or violence, to take any measures which a sense of justice, and a conviction of what was important to the substantial good, the tranquillity, and the honor of the empire, would not have prompted them to adopt.

To consolidate the peace of Ireland ; to heal those deep wounds from which she has suffered for more than six hundred years; and to establish the union of the two nations in the hearts of the people, as it has already been done by legislative power, would transmit the present reign, and the age in which we live, recorded in the brightest pages of the annals of our country. It would be an achievement worthy of the highest ambition; and would entitle that administration which should become the instrument of so noble a work, to the gratitude of posterity.

It is greater to conciliate than to subdue; most dignified to concede, in the day of our prosperity and our power : they only are humbled by concession, who, when bowed by the storm, then yield what they had before unjustly refused.

Let Ireland then be treated as she is called a Sister Kingdom; convince her that in our hearts we are her friends; freely and courteously grant to her those inmunities which the present state of the country will allow ;--do this in so decided a manner as to carry conviction of our sincerity and good faith. Let an equal, impartial, but a merciful administration of justice be universally enforced, bearing in mind how long the people have been irritated and misled; put down with a firm band such proceedings, on either side, as may only serve to widen the breach between the parties, and promote disorder and bloodshed; and uniformly proceed, by every regulation of Government and every legislative means, to remove as soon as possible, those obstacles which can interfere with the enjoyment of religious and civil rights; with equal determination, cause the laws to be respected, and punish, as the greatest enemies to their country, all those, of whatever party they may be,

« 上一页继续 »