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old age, the shocking and unnatural act about ments, from which, as they stand, they experience marriages, which tended to finish the scheme for no material inconvenience to the repose of the making the people not only two distinct parties country,-quieta non movere.-I could say a great for ever, but keeping them as two distinct species deal more ; but I am tired ; and am afraid your in the same land. Mr. Gardiner's humanity was lordship is tired too. I have not sat to this letter shocked at it, as one of the worst parts of that a single quarter of an hour without interruption. truly barbarous system, if one could well settle It has grown long, and probably contains many the preference, where almost all the parts were repetitions, from my total want of leisure to digest outrages on the rights of humanity, and the laws and consolidate my thoughts; and as to my exof nature.
pressions, I could wish to be able perhaps to meaSuppose an atheist, playing the part of a bigot, sure them more exactly. But my intentions are should be in power again in that country, do you fair, and I certainly mean to offend nobody. believe that he would faithfully and religiously administer the trust of appointing pastors to a church, which, wanting every other support, stands in tenfold need of ministers who will be dear to the Thinking over this matter more maturely, I see people committed to their charge, and who will ex- no reason for altering my opinion in any part. ercise a really paternal authority amongst them? The act, as far as it goes, is good undoubtedly. But if the superiour power was always in a dispo- It amounts, I think, very nearly to a toleration, sition to dispense conscientiously, and like an up with respect to religious ceremonies; but it puts right trustee and guardian of these rights which a new bolt on civil rights, and rivets it to the old he holds for those with whom he is at variance, one, in such a manner, that neither, I fear, will be has he the capacity and means of doing it? How easily loosened. What I could have wished would can the lord lieutenant form the least judgment of be, to see the civil advantages take the lead ; the their merits, so as to discern which of the popish other, of a religious toleration, I conceive, would priests is fit to be made a bishop? It cannot be : follow (in a manner) of course. From what I the idea is ridiculous. He will hand them over to have observed, it is pride, arrogance, and a spirit lords lieutenants of counties, justices of the peace, of domination, and not a bigotted spirit of reliand other persons, who for the purpose of vexing gion, that has caused and kept up those oppressive and turning to derision this miserable people, will statutes. I am sure I have known those who have pick out the worst and most obnoxious they can oppressed papists in their civil rights, exceedingly find amongst the clergy to set over the rest. Who- indulgent to them in their religious ceremonies, ever is complained against by his brother will be and who really wished them to continue cathoconsidered as persecuted : whoever is censured by licks, in order to furnish pretences for oppression. his superiour will be looked upon as oppressed: These persons never saw a man (by converting) whoever is careless in his opinions, and loose in escape out of their power, but with grudging and his morals, will be called a liberal man, and will regret. I have known men, to whom I am not be supposed to have incurred hatred, because he uncharitable in saying, (though they are dead,) was not a bigot. Informers, tale-bearers, perverse that they would have become papists in order to and obstinate men, flatterers, who turn their back oppress protestants ; if, being protestants, it was upon their flock, and court the protestant gentle- not in their power to oppress papists. It is injusmen of the country, will be the objects of prefer- tice, and not a mistaken conscience, that has been ment. And then I run no risk in foretelling, that the principle of persecution, at least as far as it has whatever order, quiet, and morality you have in fallen under my observation. However, as I bethe country, will be lost. A popish clergy, who gan, so I end. I do not know the map of the are not restrained by the most austere subordina- country. Mr. Gardiner, who conducts this great tion, will become a nuisance, a real publick and difficult work, and those who support him, grievance of the heaviest kind, in any country that are better judges of the business than I can preentertains them : and instead of the great benefit tend to be, who have not set my foot in Ireland these which Ireland does and has long derived from sixteen years. I have been given to understand, them, if they are educated without any idea of that I am not considered as a friend to that coundiscipline and obedience, and then put under try: and I know that pains have been taken to bishops, who do not owe their station to their lessen the credit that I might have had there. good opinion, and whom they cannot respect, that nation will see disorders, of which, bad as I am so convinced of the weakness of interfering things are, it has yet no idea. I do not say this, in any business, without the opinion of the people as thinking the leading men in Ireland would in whose business I interfere, that I do not know exercise this trust worse than others. Not at all. how to acquit myself of what I have now done.No man, no set of men living are fit to administer I have the honour to be, with high regard and the affairs, or regulate the interiour economy, of a esteem, church to which they are enemies.
My Lord, As to government, if I might recommend a pru
Your Lordship's most obedient, dent caution to them,-it would be, to innovate
And humble servant, &c. as little as possible, upon speculation, in establish
EDMUND BURKE. A LETTER
SIR H. LANGRISHE, BART. M. P.
ON THE SUBJECT OF THE
ROMAN CATHOLICKS OF IRELAND,
THE PROPRIETY OF ADMITTING THEM TO THE ELECTIVE FRANCHISE,
CONSISTENTLY WITH THE
PRINCIPLES OF THE CONSTITUTION AS ESTABLISHED AT THE REVOLUTION.
My Dear Sir,
Your remembrance of me, with sentiments I should be still more pleased if they had been more of so much kindness, has given me the most sin- your own. What you hint, I believe, to be the cere satisfaction. It perfectly agrees with the case; that if you had not deferred to the judgfriendly and hospitable reception which my son ment of others, our opinions would not differ and I received from you, some time since, when, more materially at this day, than they did when after an absence of twenty-two years, I had the we used to confer on the same subject, so many happiness of embracing you, among my few sur- years ago. If I still persevere in my old opinions, viving friends.
it is no small comfort to me, it is not with I really imagined that I should not again inte- regard to doctrines properly yours that I discover rest myself in any publick business. I had, to the my indocility. best of my moderate faculties, paid my club to the
The case, upon
letter of the 10th of society, which I was born in some way or other December turns, is hardly before me with precision to serve; and I thought I had a right to put on enough, to enable me to form any very certain judgmy night-gown and slippers, and wish a cheerful ment upon it. It seems to be some plan of further evening to the good company I must leave behind. indulgence proposed for the catholicks of Ireland. But if our resolutions of vigour and exertion are You observe, that your general principles are so often broken or procrastinated in the execution, “ not changed, but that times and circumstances I think we may be excused, if we are not very are altered.” I perfectly agree with you, that punctual in fulfilling our engagements to indo- times and circumstances, considered with reference lence and inactivity. I have indeed no power of to the publick, ought very much to govern our action; and am almost a cripple, even with regard conduct; though I am far from slighting, when to thinking : but you descend with force into the applied with discretion to those circumstances, stagnant pool; and you cause such a fermentation, general principles, and maxims of policy. I cannot as to cure at least one impotent creature of his help observing, however, that you have said rather lameness, though it cannot enable him either to run less upon the inapplicability of your own old or to wrestle.
principles to the circumstances that are likely to You see by the paper * I take that I am likely to influence your conduct against these principles, be long, with malice prepense. You have brought than of the general maxims of state, which I can under my view a subject, always difficult, at present very readily believe not to have great weight with critical. It has filled my thoughts, which I wish you personally. to lay open to you with the clearness and simpli- In my present state of imperfect information, city which your friendship demands from me. I you will pardon the errours into which I may easily thank you for the communication of your ideas. fall. The principles you lay down are, “ that the add,
* This letter is written on folio sheets.
“ Roman catholicks should enjoy every thing un- of all sort of influence or authority over the rest. “ der the state, but should not be the state it- They divided the nation into two distinct bodies, self.” And
“ that when you exclude without common interest, sympathy, or connexion. “ them from being a part of the state, you rather One of these bodies was to possess all the fran“ conform to the spirit of the age, than to any ab-chises, all the property, all the education : the “ stract doctrine;” but
you consider the constitu- other was to be composed of drawers of water and tion as already established--that our state is cutters of turf for them. Are we to be astonished, protestant. “ It was declared so at the Revolu- when, by the efforts of so much violence in con
It was so provided in the acts for settling quest, and so much policy in regulation, continued “ the succession of the crown ;—the king's coro- without intermission for near an hundred years, “ nation oath was enjoined, in order to keep it so. we had reduced them to a mob; that, whenever “ The king, as first magistrate of the state, is they came to act at all, many of them would act “ obliged to take the oath of abjuration,* and to exactly like a mob, without temper, measure, or " subscribe the declaration; and, by laws subse- foresight ? Surely it might be just now a matter
quent, every other magistrate and member of the of temperate discussion, whether you ought not to
state, legislative and executive, are bound un- apply a remedy to the real cause of the evil. If “ der the same obligation.”
the disorder you speak of be real and considerable, As to the plan to which these maxims are ap- you ought to raise an aristocratick interest ; that plied, I cannot speak, as I told you, positively about is, an interest of property and education amongst it. Because, neither from your letter, nor from them: and to strengthen, by every prudent means, any information I have been able to collect, do I the authority and influence of men of that defind any thing settled, either on the part of the scription. It will deserve your best thoughts, to Roman catholicks themselves, or on that of any examine whether this can be done without giving persons who may wish to conduct their affairs in such persons the means of demonstrating to the parliament. •But if I have leave to conjecture, rest, that something more is to be got by their something is in agitation towards admitting them, temperate conduct, than can be expected from the under certain qualifications, to have some share wild and senseless projects of those who do not in the election of members of parliament. This I belong to their body, who have no interest in their understand is the scheme of those who are entitled well being, and only wish to make them the dupes to come within your description of persons of of their turbulent ambition. consideration, property, and character; and firmly If the absurd persons you mention find no way attached to the king and constitution, as by “ law of providing for liberty, but by overturning this “ established, with a grateful sense of your former happy constitution, and introducing a frantick de“ concessions, and a patient reliance on the benig- mocracy, let us take care how we prevent better "nity of parliament, for the further mitigation of people from any rational expectations of partak“ the laws that still affect them.”—As to the low, ing in the benefit of that constitution as it stands. thoughtless, wild, and profligate, who have joined The maxims you establish cut the matter short. themselves with those of other professions, but of They have no sort of connexion with the good or the same character; you are not to imagine, that, the ill behaviour of the persons who seek relief, or for a moment, I can suppose them to be met with with the proper or improper means by which they any thing else than the manly and enlightened seek it. They form a perpetual bar to all pleas, energy of a firm government, supported by the and to all expectations. united efforts of all virtuous men, if ever their You begin by asserting, that “ the catholicks proceedings should become so considerable as to “ ought to enjoy all things under the state, but demand its notice. I really think that such asso- “ that they ought not to be the state.” A position ciations should be crushed in their very com- which, I believe, in the latter part of it, and in the mencement.
latitude there expressed, no man of common sense Setting, therefore, this case out of the question, has ever thought proper to dispute : because the it becomes an object of very serious consideration, contrary implies, that the state ought to be in them whether, because wicked men of various descrip- exclusively. But before you have finished the line, tions are engaged in seditious courses, the rational, you express yourself as if the other member of sober, and valuable part of one description should your proposition, namely, that “they ought not not be indulged in their sober and rational expec- to be a part of the state," were necessarily intations? You, who have looked deeply into the cluded in the first-Whereas I conceive it to be as spirit of the popery laws, must be perfectly sensi- different as a part is from the whole; that is, just ble, that a great part of the present mischief, as different as possible. I know, indeed, that it is which we abhor in common (if it at all exists) has common with those who talk very differently from arisen from them. Their declared object was to you, that is, with heat and animosity, to confound reduce the catholicks of Ireland to å miserable those things, and to argue the admission of the populace, without property, without estimation, catholicks into any, however minute and subordiwithout education. The professed object was to nate, parts of the state, as a surrender into their deprive the few men who, in spite of those laws, hands of the whole government of the kingdom. might hold or obtain any property amongst them, To them I have nothing at all to say.
* A small errour of fact as to the abjuration oath ; but of no im- portance in the argument.
Wishing to proceed with a deliberative spirit | nate employments. It is indeed one of the advanand temper in so very serious a question, I shall tages attending the narrow bottom of their aristoattempt to analyze, as well as I can, the principles cracy, (narrow as compared with their acquired you lay down, in order to fit them for the grasp of dominions, otherwise broad enough,) that an exan understanding so little comprehensive as mine. clusion from such employments cannot possibly
- State'- Protestant'— Revolution. These be made amongst their subjects. There are, beare terms, which, if not well explained, may lead sides, advantages in states so constituted, by which us into many errours.
In the word State, I con- those who are considered as of an inferiour race, ceive there is much ambiguity. The state is some- are indemnified for their exclusion from the gotimes used to signify the whole commonwealth, vernment and from nobler employments. In all comprehending all its orders, with the several pri- these countries, either by express law, or by usage vileges belonging to each. Sometimes it signifies more operative, the noble casts are almost univeronly the higher and ruling part of the common- sally, in their turn, excluded from commerce, wealth ; which we commonly call the Government. manufacture, farming of land, and in general from In the first sense, to be under the state, but not all lucrative civil professions. The nobles have the the state itself, nor any part of it, that is, to be monopoly of honour. The plebeians a monopoly nothing at all in the commonwealth, is a situation of all the means of acquiring wealth. Thus some perfectly intelligible : but to those who fill that sort of a balance is formed among conditions ; a situation, not very pleasant, when it is understood. sort of compensation is furnished to those, who, in It is a state of civil servitude by the very force of a limited sense, are excluded from the government the definition. Servorum non est respublica, is a of the state. very old and a very true maxim. This servitude, Between the extreme of a total exclusion, to which makes men subject to a state without being which your maxim goes, and an universal unmodicitizens, may be more or less tolerable from many fied capacity, to which the fanaticks pretend, there circumstances : but these circumstances, more or many different degrees and stages, and a great less favourable, do not alter the nature of the variety of temperaments, upon which prudence thing. The mildness by which absolute masters may give full scope to its exertions. For you exercise their dominion, leaves them masters still. know that the decisions of prudence (contrary to We may talk a little presently of the manner in the system of the insane reasoners) differ from which the majority of the people of Ireland (the those of judicature : and that almost all the former catholicks) are affected by this situation ; which are determined on the more or the less, the earlier at present undoubtedly is theirs, and which you are or the later, and on a balance of advantage and of opinion ought so to continue for ever.
inconvenience, of good and evil. In the other sense of the word State, by which In all considerations which turn upon the
quesis understood the Supreme Government only, I tion of vesting or continuing the state solely and must observe this upon the question : that to ex- exclusively in some one description of citizens, clude whole classes of men entirely from this part prudent legislators will consider, how far the geneof government, cannot be considered as absolute ral form and principles of their commonwealth slavery. It only implies a lower and degraded render it fit to be cast into an oligarchical shape, state of citizenship; such is (with more or less or to remain always in it. We know that the gostrictness) the condition of all countries in which vernment of Ireland (the same as the British) is not an hereditary nobility possess the exclusive rule. in its constitution wholly aristocratical; and, as it is This may be no bad mode of government; pro- not such in its form, so neither is it in its spirit. If vided that the personal authority of individual it had been inveterately aristocratical, exclusions nobles be kept in due bounds, that their cabals might be more patiently submitted to. The lot of and factions are guarded against with a severe one plebeian would be the lot of all; and an habivigilance, and that the people (who have no share tual reverence and admiration of certain families in granting their own money) are subjected to but might make the people content to see government light impositions, and are otherwise treated with wholly in hands to whom it seemed naturally to beattention, and with indulgence to their humours long. But our constitution has a plebeian member, and prejudices.
which forms an essential integrant part of it. A pleThe republick of Venice is one of those which beian oligarchy is a monster : and no people, not strictly confines all the great functions and offices, absolutely domestick or predial slaves, will long ensuch as are truly state-functions and state-offices, dure it. The protestants of Ireland are not alone to those who, by hereditary right or admission, are sufficiently the people to form a democracy; and noble Venetians. But there are many offices, and they are too numerous to answer the ends and pursome of them not mean nor unprofitable, (that of poses of an aristocracy. Admiration, that first chancellor is one,) which are reserved for the source of obedience, can be only the claim or the Cittadini. Of these all citizens of Venice are imposture of a few. I hold it to be absolutely capable. The inhabitants of the Terra firma, impossible for two millions of plebeians, composing who are mere subjects of conquest, that is, as you certainly a very clear and decided majority in that express it, under the state, but “not a part of it,” class, to become so far in love with six or seven are not, however, subjects in so very rigorous a hundred thousand of their fellow-citizens (to all sense as not to be capable of numberless subordi- outward appearance plebeians like themselves, and
many of them tradesmen, servants, and otherwise | leged body have not an interest, they must but inferiour to some of them) as to see with satisfaction, too frequently have motives of pride, passion, or even with patience, an exclusive power vested petulance, peevish jealousy, or tyrannick susin them, by which constitutionally they become picion, to urge them to treat the excluded people the absolute masters; and, by the manners de- with contempt and rigour. rived from their circumstances, must be capable of This is not a mere theory; though whilst men exercising upon them, daily and hourly, an insult- are men, it is a theory that cannot be false. I do ing and vexatious superiority. Neither are the not desire to revive all the particulars in my memajority of the Irish indemnified (as in some mory; I wish them to sleep for ever; but it is imaristocracies) for this state of humiliating vassalage, possible I should wholly forget what happened in (often inverting the nature of things and relations,) some parts of Ireland, with very few and short inby having the lower walks of industry wholly termissions, from the year 1761 to the year 1766, abandoned to them. They are rivalled, to say both inclusive. In a country of miserable police, the least of the matter, in every laborious and passing from the extremes of laxity to the extremes lucrative course of life; while every franchise, of rigour, among a neglected, and therefore disevery honour, every trust, every place down to the orderly, populace--if any disturbance or sedition, very lowest and least confidential, (besides whole from any grievance real or imaginary, happened professions,) is reserved for the master cast. to arise, it was presently perverted from its true
Our constitution is not made for great, general, nature, often criminal enough in itself to draw and proscriptive exclusions ; sooner or later it upon it a severe, appropriate punishment; it was will destroy them, or they will destroy the consti- metamorphosed into a conspiracy against the state, tution. In our constitution there has always and prosecuted as such. Amongst the catholicks, been a difference between a franchise and an as being by far the most numerous and the most office, and between the capacity for the one and wretched, all sorts of offenders against the laws for the other. Franchises were supposed to be- must commonly be found. The punishment of low long to the subject, as a subject, and not as a people for the offences usual among low people member of the governing part of the state. The would warrant no inference against any descrippolicy of government has considered them as tions of religion or of politicks. Men of considerthings very different; for whilst parliament ex- ation from their age, their profession, or their cluded by the test acts (and for a while these test character ; men of proprietary landed estates, subacts were not a dead letter, as now they are in stantial renters, opulent merchants, physicians, and England) protestant dissenters from all civil and titular bishops; could not easily be suspected of riot military employments, they never touched their in open day, or of nocturnal assemblies for the purright of voting for members of parliament or pose of pulling down hedges, making breaches in sitting in either house ; a point I state, not as park walls, firing barns, maiming cattle, and outapproving or condemning, with regard to them, rages of a similar nature, which characterise the the measure of exclusion from employments, disorders of an oppressed or a licentious populace. but to prove that the distinction has been ad- But when the evidence, given on the trial for such mitted in legislature, as, in truth, it is founded in misdemeanours, qualified them as overt acts of
high treason, and when witnesses were found (such I will not here examine, whether the principles witnesses as they were) to depose to the taking of of the British (the Irish) constitution be wise or oaths of allegiance by the rioters to the king of not. I must assume that they are; and that those, France, to their being paid by his money, and emwho partake the franchises which make it, partake bodied and exercised under his officers, to overof a benefit. They who are excluded from votes turn the state for the purposes of that potentate; (under proper qualifications inherent in the consti- in that case, the rioters might (if the witness was tution that gives them) are excluded, not from the believed) be supposed only the troops and persons state, but from the British constitution. They can- more reputable, the leaders and commanders in not by any possibility, whilst they hear its praises such a rebellion. All classes in the obnoxious decontinually rung in their ears, and are present at scription, who could not be suspected in the lower the declaration which is so generally and so bravely crime of riot, might be involved in the odium, in made by those who possess the privilege--that the the suspicion, and sometimes in the punishment, best blood in their veins ought to be shed, to pre- of a higher and far more criminal species of offence. serve their share in it; they, the disfranchised | These proceedings did not arise from any one of part, cannot, I say, think themselves in an happy the popery laws since repealed, but from this cirstate, to be utterly excluded from all its direct and cumstance, that when it answered the purposes of all its consequential advantages. The popular an election party, or a malevolent person of influpart of the constitution must be to them by far ence, to forge such plots, the people had no protecthe most odious part of it. To them it is not an tion. The people of that description have no hold actual, and, if possible, still less a virtual, repre-on the gentlemen who aspire to be popular representation. It is indeed the direct contrary. It sentatives. The candidates neither love, nor reis power unlimited, placed in the hands of an spect, nor fear them, individually or collectively. adverse description, because it is an adverse de- I do not think this evil (an evil amongst a thouscription. And if they who compose the privi- sand others) at this day entirely over; for I con