Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Parliament had listened to the sovereign pleading for the emancipation of his subjects, - it was after all this, that such a grudging and discontent was expressed as must justly have alarmed, as it did extremely alarm, the whole of the Catholic body: and I remember but one period in my whole life (I mean the savage period between 1761 and 1767) in which they have been more harshly or contumeliously treated than since the last partial enlargement. And thus I am convinced it will be, by paroxysms, as long as any stigma remains on them, and whilst they are considered as no better than half citizens. If they are kept such for any length of time, they will be made whole Jacobins. Against this grand and dreadful evil of our time (I do not love to cheat myself or others) I do not know any solid security whatsoever; but I am quite certain that what will come nearest to it is to interest as many as you can in the present order of things, religiously, civilly, politically, by all the ties and principles by which mankind are held. This is like to be effectual policy: I am sure it is honorable policy: and it is better to fail, if fail we must, in the paths of direct and manly than of low and crooked wisdom.

As to the capacity of sitting in Parliament, after all the capacities for voting, for the army, for the navy, for the professions, for civil offices, it is a dispute de lana caprina, in my poor opinion, at least on the part of those who oppose it. In the first place, this admission to office, and this exclusion from Parliament, on the principle of an exclusion from political power, is the very reverse of the principle of the English Test Act. If I were

If I were to form a judgment from experience rather than theory, I should

doubt much whether the capacity for or even the possession of a seat in Parliament did really convey much of power to be properly called political. I have sat there, with some observation, for nine-andtwenty years, or thereabouts. The power of a member of Parliament is uncertain and indirect; and if power, rather than splendor and fame, were the object, I should think that any of the principal clerks in office, to say nothing of their superiors, (several of whom are disqualified by law for seats in Parliament,) possess far more power than nine tenths of the members of the House of Commons. I might say this of men who seemed, from their fortunes, their weight in their country, and their talents, to be persons of figure there, -and persons, too, not in opposition to the prevailing party in government. But be they what they will, on a fair canvass of the several prevalent Parliamentary interests in Ireland, I cannot, out of the three hundred members of whom the Irish Parliament is composed, discover that above three, or at the utmost four, Catholics would be returned to the House of Commons. But suppose they should amount to thirty, that is, to a tenth part, (a thing I hold impossible for a long series of years, and never very likely to happen,) what is this to those who are to balance them in the one House, and the clear and settled majority in the other? For I think it absolutely impossible, that, in the course of many years, above four or five peers should be created of that communion. In fact, the exclusion of them seems to me only to mark jealousy and suspicion, and not to provide security in any way.—But I return to the old ground. The danger is not there: these are things long since done away. The grand controversy is no longer between you and them.

Forgive this length. My pen has insensibly run on. You are yourself to blame, if you are much fatigued. I congratulate you on the auspicious opening of your session. Surely Great Britain and Ireland ought to join in wreathing a never-fading garland for the head of Grattan. Adieu, my dear Sir. Good nights to you! — I never can have any. Yours always most sincerely,

EDMUND BURKE.

Jan. 29th, 1795. Twelve at night.

[blocks in formation]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »