« PreviousContinue »
them wherever good is to be done or evil to be corrected-rearing their mitres in the van of misery, consoling the captive, reforming the convict, enriching the orphan; ornaments of this world, and emblems of a better: preaching their God through the practice of every virtue; monitors at the confessional, apostles in the pulpit, saints at the death-bed, holding the sacred water to the lip of sin, or pouring the redeeming unction on the agonies of despair. Oh, I would hold him little better than the Promethean robber, who would turn the fire of their eternal altar into the impure and perishable mass of this world's preferment. Better by far that the days of ancient barbarism should revive-better that your religion should again take refuge among the fastnesses of the mountain, and the solitude of the cavern-better that the rack of a murderous bigotry should again terminate the miseries of your priesthood, and that the gate of freedom should be only open to them through the gate of martyrdom, than that they should gild their missals with the wages of a court, and expect their ecclesiastical promotion, not from their superior piety, but their comparative prostitution. But why this interference with your principles of conscience? Why is it that they will not erect your liberties save on the ruin of your temples? Why is it that in the day of peace they demand securities from a people who in the day of danger constituted their strength? When were they denied every security that was reasonable? Was it in 1776, when a cloud of enemies, hovering
on our coast, saw every heart a shield, and every hill a fortress? Did they want securities in Catholic Spain? Were they denied securities in Catholic Portugal? What is their security to-day in Catholic Canada? Return-return to us our own glorious WELLINGTON, and tell incredulous England what was her security amid the lines of Torres Vedras, or on the summit of Barrossa! Rise, libelled martyrs of the Peninsula!-rise from your "gory bed," and give security for your childless parents! No, there is not a Catholic family in Ireland, that for the glory of Great Britain is not weeping over a child's, a brother's, or a parent's grave, and yet still she clamours for securities! Oh, Prejudice, where is thy reason! Oh, Bigotry! where is thy blush! If ever there was an opportunity for England to combine gratitude with justice, and dignity with safety, it is the present. Now, when Irish blood has crimsoned the cross upon her naval flag, and an Irish hero strikes the harp to victory! upon the summit of the Pyrenees. EnglandEngland! do not hesitate. This hour of triumph may be but the hour of trial; another season may see the splendid panorama of European vassalage, arrayed by your ruthless enemy, and glittering beneath the ruins of another capital-perhaps of LONDON. Who can say it? it? A few months since, Moscow stood as splendid and as secure. Fair rose the morn on the patriarchal city-the empress of her nation, the queen of commerce, the sanctuary of strangers, her thousand spires pierced the very heavens, and her domes of gold reflected
back the sun-beams. The spoiler came; came; he marked her for his victim; and, as if his very glance was destiny, even before the nightfall, with all her pomp, and wealth, and happiness, she withered from the world! A heap of ashes told where once stood Moscow! Merciful God, if this lord of desolation, heading his locust legions, were to invade our country; though I do not ask what would be your determination; though, in the language of our young enthusiast, I am sure you would oppose him with "a sword in one hand, and a torch in the other;" still I do ask, and ask with fearlessness, upon what single principle of policy or of justice, could the advocates for your exclusion solicit your assistance-could they expect you to support a constitution from whose benefits you were debarred? With what front could they ask you to recover an ascendency, which in point of fact was but re-establishing your bondage?
It has been said that there is a faction in Ireland ready to join this despot-"a French party," as Mr. GRATTAN thought it decent, even in the very senate-house, to promulgate. Sir, I speak the universal voice of Ireland when I say, she spurns the imputation. There is no "French party" here; but there is—and it would be strange if there was not-there is an Irish party-men who cannot bear to see their country taunted with the mockery of a constitution-men who will be content with no connexion that refuses them a community of benefits while it imposes a community of privations --men who, sooner than see this land polluted by
the footsteps of a slave, would wish the oceanwave became its sepulchre, and that the orb of heaven forgot where it existed. It has been said too (and when we were to be calumniated, what has not been said?) that Irishmen are neither fit for freedom or grateful for favours. In the first place, I deny that to be a favour which is a right; and in the next place, I utterly deny that a system of conciliation has ever been adopted with respect to Ireland. Try them, and, my life on it, they will be found grateful. I think I know my countrymen; they cannot help being grateful for a benefit; and there is no country on the earth where one would be conferred with more characteristic benevolence. They are, emphatically, the school-boys of the heart-a people of sympathy; their acts spring instinctively from their passions; by nature ardent, by instinct brave, by inheritance generous. The children of impulse, they cannot avoid their virtues; and to be other than noble, they must not only be unnatural but unnational. Put my panegyric to the test. Enter the hovel of the Irish peasant. I do not say you will find the frugality of the Scotch, the comfort of the English, or the fantastic decorations of the French cottager; but I do say, within those wretched bazaars of mud and misery, you will find sensibility the most affecting, politeness the most natural, hospitality the most grateful, merit the most unconscious; their look is eloquence, their smile is love, their retort is wit, their remark is wisdom-not a wisdom borrowed from the dead, but that with which nature has
herself inspired them; an acute observance of the passing scene, and a deep insight into the motives of its agents. Try to deceive them, and see with what shrewdness they will detect; try to outwit them, and see with what humour they will elude; attack them with argument, and you will stand amazed at the strength of their expression, the rapidity of their ideas, and the energy of their gesture! In short, God seems to have formed our country like our people: he has thrown round the one its wild, magnificent, decorated rudeness; he has infused into the other the simplicity of genius and the seeds of virtue: he says audibly to us, "Give them cultivation."
This is the way, Gentlemen, in which I have always looked upon your question-not as a party, or a sectarian, or a Catholic, but as an IRISH question. Is it possible that any man can seriously believe the paralyzing five millions of such a people as I have been describing, can be a benefit to the empire! Is there any man who deserves the name not of a statesman but of a rational being, who can think it politic to rob such a multitude of all the energies of an honourable ambition! Look to Protestant Ireland, shooting over the empire those rays of genius, and those thunderbolts of war, that have at once embellished and preserved it. I speak not of a former era. I refer not for my example to the day just passed, when our Burkes, our Barrys, and our Goldsmiths, exiled by this system from their native shore, wreathed the "immortal shamrock" round the brow of painting, poetry, and eloquence!