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In the second place, a full repeal of the penal code will greatly conduce to the happiness, the strength, and glory of the British empire.
It will most obviously have this effect on Ireland, by facilitating its moral improvement. It has been remarked more than once in the course of these pages, that one circumstance. which has greatly contributed to retard this improvement is, the discontented spirit which prevails among the inhabitants, and the distraction and disaffection, which this spirit pro- . duces. The removal of this evil, therefore, should form a prominent part of any legislative measure, which has for its object the permanent amelioration of Ireland. To remove this entirely and at once, is, indeed, impossible; since the system of farming agents or middlemen, which has its origin in the low state in which capital exists in the country, and over which government can have no controul, is the fruitful source of much vexa. tion: this arrangement will only yield to the slow but effectual change, which accompanies the progress of wealth. But it is in the power of government to remove one source of grie. vance, that which degrades the native Irish, and renders them the enemies of the English character; that which divides the inhabitants
of a country, and which makes them suspect and dislike one another,—and that from which a thousand other nameless evils, proceed. In-. deed, unless this important revolution is accomplished, the protestant teachers and preachers must continue to encounter very great difficulties in their labours : till then, the prejudices of the people will not subside: they will still conceive themselves oppressed, and regard with distrust the means employed for their improvement: they will still think that as protestants, they must of course he the friends of the government, and the enemies of Catholics. I recollect no question which the native Irish more frequently asked, and this they asked with reserve and solicitude, than whether I were employed by government. They have a propensity to suspect the intentions of benevolence itself, when exercised under such patronage.*
* “ Where popular discontents have been very preva. “ lent, it may be well affirmed and supported, that there “ has been generally something found amiss in the con« stitution, or in the conduct of government. The people 6 have no interest in disorder. When they do wrong it " is their error, not their crime. But with the govern. “ ing part of the state, it is far otherwise. They cer“ tainly may act by ill design, as well as by mistake.”
Burke's Thoughts on the Cause of the present
In reflecting on this circumstance, it is impossible not to regret the existence of causes by which this state of mind may have been occasioned. But why must it last for ever? Why should not the most affectionate people in the world place the fullest confidence in the best of all constitutions? Re. move the penal code-restore them to power, to liberty, to happiness and life, and their murmurings will vanish like the mists of their native isle before the rising sun; their warm affections will cling with enthusiastic ardour to the government which brings them de. liverance; and the remotest glens and recesses of Ireland will pour forth her sons, gallant and free, who with grateful emotions will engage in the combat which must decide the destiny of the world.--Break down this “ middle wall of partition,” the existence of which is more calling to catholic feelings than that which formerly separated Jew and Gentile, could in any circumstances be to the worshipper of Jupiter, “ the stranger to the com“ monwealth of Israel,”—and every facility will be afforded to the universal education of youth, to the moral and religious instruction of the inferior orders of the Irish, and to the successful execution of every plan which has for its object the improvement of this people.
Besides, by the repeal of the penal code, as has been often remarked, a much greater share of talent will be employed in the service of the country: the path to honour, and opu. lence, and fame, will be open to the ambition of aspiring minds. And surely, if a na. tion of free men is more powerful than a nation of slaves, chiefly by its intellectual energies, every plan by which these energies may be enlarged, providing it be consistent with the principles of the constitution, should be zealously adopted. If there ever was one period more than another in which' this duty was imperious, it is the present. And yet, it is common to acknowledge the duty in general, as it regards the emancipation of the catholics, while the immediate propriety of putting it in execution is denied. This reasoning I confess myself unable to comprehend ; indeed, I question much whether it has any meaning. For, the propriety of instantly discharging a duty which is founded on justice and sound policy, seems self-evident. In the present case, not merely the propriety but the necessity of speedily attending to the obligation urges itself on the attention. The distracted state of Ireland demands it, the prostrate nations of Europe demand it,—the power and unprincipled ambition of the Tyrant demands it,
and Britain, amid the general wreck with which she is surrounded-Britain, still raising her head amid the storm, and daring to be free, demands it.-What infatuation! while con- . tending for our lives, our liberties, and for the consecrated land, dearer than all, which contains the ashes of our fathers, in which are the sepulchres of those patriots, and heroes, and legislators, who on the field or on the scaffold poured their blood, an oblation to that Freedom which their sons enjoy :-while the storm seems still gathering, and scarcely leaves in the destructive course through which it moves, one solitary land in which the remains of all that makes man like Him whó made him, may obtain a secure asylum, shall we hesitate whether to allow our brethren, our kinsmen, with the same privileges which we enjoy, to share with us the danger and the glory of saving our country, or perishing 'amid her ruins ? : :
On the question now at issue depends, it may be, the fate of Ireland, and of the whole British empire. Four millions of our , fellow subjects ask for privileges, to which they, together with a large part of the remaining population, conceive themselves fairly entitled. Let the dreadful consequences of irritating so many people, be fairly weighed before their petition