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I most heartily wish that the deliberate sense of the kingdom on this great subject should be known. When it is known, it must be prevalent. It would be dreadful indeed, if there was any power in the nation capable of resisting its unanimous desire, or even the desire of any very great and decided majority of the people. The people may be deceived in their choice of an object; but I can scarcely conceive any choice they can make to be so very mischievous as the existence of any human force capable of resisting it. It will certainly be the duty of every man, in the situation to which God has called him, to give his best opinion and advice upon the matter: it will not be his duty, let him think what he will, to use any violent or any fraudulent means of counteracting the general wish, or even of employing the legal and constructive organ of expressing the people's sense against the sense which they do actually entertain.
In order that the real sense of the people should be known upon so great an affair as this, it is of absolute necessity that timely notice should be given, — that the matter should be prepared in open committees, from a choice into which no class or description of men is to be excluded, - and the subsequent county meetings should be as full and as well attended as possible. Without these precautions, the true sense of the people will ever be uncertain. Sure I am, that no precipitate resolution on a great change in the fundamental constitution of any country can ever be called the real sense of the people.
I trust it will not be taken amiss, if, as an inhabitant and freeholder of this county, (one, indeed, among the most inconsiderable,) I assert my right of dissenting (as I do dissent fully and directly) from any resolution whatsoever on the subject of an alteration in the representation and election of the kingdom at this time. By preserving this right, and exercising it with temper and moderation, I trust I cannot offend the noble proposer, for whom no man professes or feels more respect and regard than I do. A want of concurrence in everything which can be proposed will in no sort weaken the energy or distract the efforts of men of upright intentions upon those points in which they are agreed. Assemblies that are met, and with a resolution to be all of a mind, are assemblies that can have no opinion at all of their own. The first proposer of any measure must be their master. I do not know that an amicable variety of sentiment, conducted with mutual good-will, has any sort of resemblance to discord, or that it can give any advantage whatsoever to the enemies of our common cause. On the contrary, a forced and fictitious agreement (which every universal agreement inust be) is not becoming the cause of freedom. If, however, any evil should arise from it, (which I confess I do not foresee,) I am happy that those who have brought forward new and arduous matter, when very great doubts and some diversity of opinion must be foreknown, are of authority and weight enough to stand against the consequences.
I humbly lay these my sentiments before the county. They are not taken up to serve any interests of my own, or to be subservient to the interests of any man or set of men under heaven. I could wish to be able to attend our meeting, or that I had time to reason this matter more fully by letter; but I am detained here upon our business : what you have already put upon us is as much as we can do.
are prevented from going through it with any effect, I fear it will be in part owing not more to the resistance of the enemies of our cause than to our imposing on ourselves such tasks as no human faculties, employed as we are, can be equal to. Our worthy members have shown distinguished ability and zeal in support of our petition. I am just going down to a bill brought in to frustrate a capital part of your desires. The minister is preparing to transfer the cognizance of the public accounts from those whom you and the Constitution have chosen to control them, to unknown persons, creatures of his own. For so much he annihilates Parliament. I have the honor, &c.
EDMUND BURKE. CHARLES STREET, 12th April, 1780.
The condition of the Roman Catholics in Ireland appears to have engaged the attention of Mr. Burke at a very early period of his political life. It was probably soon after the year 1765 that he formed the plan of a work upon that subject, the fragments of which are now given to the public. No title is prefixed to it in the original manuscript; and the Plan, which it has been thought proper to insert here, was evidently designed merely for the convenience of the author. Of the first chapter some unconnected fragments only, too imperfect for publication, have been found. Of the second there is a considerable portion, perhaps nearly the whole; but the copy from which it is printed is evidently a first rough draught. The third chapter, as far as it
goes, is taken from a fair, corrected copy ; but the end of the second part of the first head is left unfinished, and the discussion of the second and third heads was either never entered upon or the manuscript containing it has unfortunately been lost. What follows the third chapter appears to have been designed for the beginning of the fourth, and is evidently the first rough draught; and to this we have added a fragment which appears to have been a part either of this or the first chapter.
In the volume with which it is intended to close this posthumous publication of Mr. Burke's Works, we shall have occasion to enter into a more particular account of the part which he took in the discussion of this great political question. At present it may suffice to say, that the Letter to Mr. Smith, the Second Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe, and the Letter to his Son, which here follow in order the Fragment on the Popery Laws, are the only writings upon this subject found amongst his papers in a state fit to appear in this stage of the publication. What remain are some small fragments of the Tract, and a few letters containing no new matter of importance.