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DEAR SON,- We are all again assembled
in town, to finish the last, but the most laborious, of the tasks which have been imposed upon me during my Parliamentary service. We are as well as at our time of life we can expect to be. We have, indeed, some moments of anxiety about you. You are engaged in an undertaking similar in its principle to mine. You are engaged in the relief of an oppressed people. In that service you must necessarily excite the same sort of passions in those who have exercised, and who wish to continue that oppression, that I have had to struggle with in this long labor. As your father has done, you must make enemies of many of the rich, of the proud, and of the powerful. I and you began in the same way. I must confess, that, if our place was of our choice, I could wish it had been your lot to begin the career of your life with an endeavor to render some more moderate and less invidious service to the public. But being engaged in a great and critical work, I have not the least hesitation about your having hitherto done your duty as becomes you. If I had not an assurance not to be shaken from the character of your mind, I should be satisfied on that point by the cry that is raised against you. If you had behaved, as they call it, discreetly, that is, faintly and treacherously, in the execution of your trust, you would have had, for a while, the good word of all sorts of men, even of many of those whose cause you had betrayed, - and whilst your favor lasted, you might have coined that false reputation into a true and solid interest to yourself. This you are well apprised of; and you do not refuse to travel that beaten road from an ignorance, but from a contempt, of the objects it leads to.
When you choose an arduous and slippery path, God forbid that any weak feelings of my declining age, which calls for soothings and supports, and which can have none but from you, should make me wish that you should abandon what you are about, or should trifle with it! In this house we submit, though with troubled minds, to that order which has connected all great duties with toils and with perils, which has conducted the road to glory through the regions of obloquy and reproach, and which will never suffer the disparaging alliance of spurious, false, and fugitive praise with genuine and permanent reputation. We know that the Power which has settled that order, and subjected you to it by placing you in the situation you are in, is able to bring you out of it with credit and with safety. His will be done! All must come right. You may open the way with pain and under reproach: others will pursue it with ease and with applause.
I am sorry to find that pride and passion, and that sort of zeal for religion which never shows any wonderful heat but when it afflicts and mortifies our neighbor, will not let the ruling description perceive that the privilege for which your clients contend is very nearly as much for the benefit of those who refuse it as those who ask it. I am not to examine into the charges that are daily made on the administration of Ireland. I am not qualified to say how much in them is cold truth, and how much rhetorical exaggeration. Allowing some foundation to the complaint, it is to no purpose that these people allege that their government is a job in its administration. I am sure it is a job in its constitution; nor is it possible a scheme of polity, which, in total exclusion of the body of the community, confines (with little or no regard to their rank or condition in life) to a certain set of favored citizens the rights which formerly belonged to the whole, should not, by the operation of the same selfish and narrow principles, teach the persons who administer in that government to prefer their own particular, but well-understood, private interest to the false and ill-calculated private interest of the monopolizing company they belong to. Eminent characters, to be sure, overrule places and circumstances. I have nothing to say to that virtue which shoots up in full force by the native vigor of the seminal principle, in spite of the adverse soil and climate that it grows in. But speaking of things in their ordinary course, in a country of monopoly there can be no patriotism. There may be a party spirit, but public spirit there can be none. As to a spirit of liberty, still less can it exist, or anything like it. A liberty made up of penalties! a liberty made up of incapacities! a liberty made up of exclusion and proscription, continued for ages, of four fifths, perhaps, of the inhabitants of all ranks and fortunes! In what does such liberty differ from the description of the most shocking kind of servitude ?
But it will be said, in that country some people are free. Why, this is the very description of despotism. Partial freedom is privilege and prerogative,
and not liberty. Liberty, such as deserves the name, is an honest, equitable, diffusive, and impartial principle. It is a great and enlarged virtue, and not a sordid, selfish, and illiberal vice. It is the portion of the mass of the citizens, and not the haughty license of some potent individual or some predominant faction.
If anything ought to be despotic in a country, it is its government; because there is no cause of constant operation to make its yoke unequal. But the dominion of a party must continually, steadily, and by its very essence, lean upon the prostrate description. A constitution formed so as to enable a party to overrule its very government, and to overpower the people too, answers the purposes neither of government nor of freedom. It compels that power which ought, and often would be disposed, equally to protect the subjects, to fail in its trust, to counteract its purposes, and to become no better than the instrument of the wrongs of a faction. Some degree of influence must exist in all governments. But a government which has no interest to please the body of the people, and can neither support them nor with safety call for their support, nor is of power to sway the domineering faction, can only exist by corruption; and taught by that monopolizing party which usurps the title and qualities of the public to consider the body of the people as out of the constitution, they will consider those who are in it in the light in which they choose to consider themselves. The whole relation of government and of freedom will be a battle or a traffic.
This system, in its real nature, and under its proper appellations, is odious and unnatural, especially when