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THE following account of the late meeting in Wiltshire is published in consequence of various animadversions on what passed on that occasion. As the circumstances which led to the requisition, have been as much misrepresented as what occurred at the meeting, it may be useful to state the facts. At the Quarter Sessions held at the Devizes in January last, several gentlemen and magistrates expressed a wish to sign a requisition to the sheriff for calling a meeting to consider of a petition against the
Roman Catholic claims. To this plan others objected, either from a difference of opinion on the main subject, or from a sense of the impropriety of expressing any decided judgment in a requisition for a meeting to deliberate. The requisition was consequently drawn up to take into consideration the Catholic claims. It originated, however entirely, and it was chiefly signed by persons hostile to the claims. Those who signed the requisition attended the meeting, and most of them supported the resolution of
petitioning Parliament against all alterations whatever in the laws relating to Roman Catholics, which was negatived by a large majority of freeholders.
NUMEROUS and most respectable meeting of
the freeholders of the County of Wilts was held in the Town Hall of Devizes, on Wednesday the 27th ult., for the purpose of considering the Catholic claims. The Duke of Somerset, the Marquis of Lansdown, Lord Viscount Andover, Lord Holland, Mr. Long, Mr. Methuen, (members for the county) Sir J. Poore Methuen, Mr. Humphries, Mr. Estcourt, sen. Mr. Estcourt, and Mr. Joshua Smith, (the two members for Devizes) Mr. Robert Gordon, M. P. Mr. A. Baring, M. P. Mr. N. Calley, M. P. the Rev. Mr. Ogle, the Rev. Mr. Bowles, the Rev. Mr. Goddard, and many other gentlemen of rank and property were present.
Colonel Penruddock stated to the Meeting, that he took the chair in the absence of the High Sheriff, from whom he had a letter of excuse for his non-attendance on account of indisposition. The present meeting had been called on the requisition of several gentlemen of the county, most of whom were then pre
sent, for the purpose of taking the Catholic claims into consideration.
Mr. Calley, the member for Cricklade, then rose and said, “That as he was at the head of the requisition, it became necessary for him to submit a few remarks to the meeting: He would not attempt to enter into the subject of the Catholic claims, in so far as related to the interest of the Catholics themselves, for that was what he had never studied.
The only point which he considered of importance to advert to at present, was the safety of the church and state of this country. If the Catholics could not shew them that the concession of their claims would be beneficial to the constitution, and would promote the · peace and unanimity of the country; or if it could not be shewn by them that what they requested would not be detrimental to the interests of the country, the legislature was not authorized to yield a concession to their claims. Entertaining such sentiments, he conceived it was necessary for the other party to shew that what they asked would not be dangerous to the constitution. He, for his own part, was satisfied with the constitution as it at present stood. The Catholics were not more than one-fourth of the population of the empire; and it was therefore too much in this fourth part to expect that any alterations should be agreed to by which the rest of the country might be endangered. He had a resolution framed in conformity with these sentiments in his pocket, which he should read
* That an address be presented to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, and petitions to both Houses of Parliament, praying that no alterations whatever, under the present cir. cumstances, might be made in the laws which relate to the Roman Catholics." Having moved this resolution, Mr. Hardiny rose to second it.
Every Protestant ought now to come forward in support of the privileges which we inherited from our ancestors, and which we were bound to hand down to our posterity unimpaired. If the Catholics were to be admitted to the privileges of the constitution, the laws would be impaired, and the constitution, as established at the Revolution, departed from. The King was by law bound to be a Protestant. Since the union with Ireland, the admitting Catholics to the possession of the elective franchise, had operated very strongly in favour of their power and influence. If they were next to be admitted into the legislature, there was no saying what consequences might be the result. if, however, concession of their claims was to be yielded, for God's sake let it go hand in hand with security, and let not the boon, on any account, precede the security. It had been urged in the House of Commons, that their table was not loaded with petitions against the Catholics; but this was not then necessary, as the country depended on the wisdom of their representatives. It behoved, however, the country now to stand forward in defence of that constitution, which had been cemented by the blood of Englishmen,