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You see by the paper* I take that I am likely to be long, with malice prepense. You have brought under my view a subject, always difficult, at present critical. It has filled my thoughts, which I wish to lay open to you with the clearness and simplicity which your friendship demands from me. I thank you for the communication of your ideas. I should be still more pleased if they had been more your own. What you hint, I believe to be the case ; that if you had not deferred to the judgment of others, our opinions would not differ more materially at this day, than they did when we used to confer on the same subject, so many years ago If I still persevere in my old opinions, it is no small comfort to me, that it is not with regard to doctrines properly yours, that I discover my indocility.
The case upon which your letter of the 10th of December turns, is hardly before me with precision enough, to enable me to form any very certain judgment upon it. It seems to be some plan of further indulgence proposed for the catholicks of Ireland. You observe, that your “general principles are not changed, but that times and circumstances are alterede" : I perfectly agree with you, that times and circumstances, considered with reference to the publick, ought very much to govern our conduct; though I am far from slighting, when applied with discretion to those circumstances, general principles and maxims of policy. I cannot help observing, however, that you have said rather less upon the inapplicability of your own old principles to the circumstances that are likely to influence your conduct against these principles, than of the general maxims of state, which I can very readily believe not to have great weight with you personally.
In iny present state of imperfect information, you will pardon the errours into which I may easily fall. The principles you lay down are; “ that the Roman catholicks should enjoy every thing under the state, but should not be the state itself.” And you add, “ that when you exclude them from being a part of the state, you rather conform to the spirit of the age, than to any abstract doctrine ;" but you consider the constitution as already established that our
The letter is written on folio sheets.
state is protestant. « It was declared so at the revolution. It was so provided in the acts for settling the succession of the crown :-the king's coronation oath was enjoined, in order to keep it so. The king, as first magistrate of the state, is obliged to take the oath of abjuration,* and to subscribe the declaration; and, by laws subsequent, every other magis. trate and member of the state, legislative and executive, are bound under the same obligation.”
As to the plan to which these maxims are applied, I cannot speak, as I told you, positively about it. Because, neither from your letter, nor from any information I have been able to collect, do I find any thing settled, either on the part of the Roman catholicks themselves, or on that of any persons who may wish to conduct their affairs in parliament. But if I have leave to conjecture, something is in agitation towards admitting them, under certain qualifications, to have some sbare in the election of members of parliament. This I understand is the scheme of those who are entitled to come within your description of persons of consideration, property, and character : and firmly attached to the king and constitution, as by “ law established, with a grateful sense of your former concessions, and a patient reliance on the benignity of parliament, for the further mitigation of the laws that still affect them.”—As to the low, thoughtless, wild and profligate, who have joined themselves with those of other professions, but of the same character; you are not to imagine, that, for a moment, I can suppose them to be met, with any thing else than the manly and enlightened energy of a firm government, supported by the united efforts of all virtuous men, if ever their proceedings should become so considerable as to demand its notice. I really think that such associations should be crushed in their very commencement.
Setting, therefore, this case out of the question, it becomes an object of very serious consideration, whether, because wicked men of various descriptions are engaged in seditious courses, the rational, sober, and valuable part of one description should not be indulged in their sober and ration
• A small errour of fact as to the abjuration oath ; but of no importante in the argument.
al expectations? You, who have looked deeply into the spirit of the popery laws, must be perfectly sensible, that a great part of the present mischief, which we abhor in common (if it at all exists) has arisen from them. Their declared object was to reduce the catholicks of Ireland to a miserable populace, without property, without estimation, without education. The professed object was to deprive the few men who, in spite of those laws, might hold or obtain any property amongst them, of all sort of influence or authority over the rest. They divided the nation into two distinct bodies, without common interest, sympathy, or connexion. One of these bodies was to possess all the franchises, all the property, all the education : the other was to be composed of drawers of water and cutters of turf for them. Are we to be astonished, when, by the efforts of so much violence in conquest, and so much policy in regulation, continued without intermission for near an hundred years, we had reduced them to a mob; that whenever they came to act at all, many of them would act exactly like a mob, without temper, measure, or foresight? Surely it might be just now a matter of temperate discussion, whether you ought not to apply a remedy to the real cause of the evil. If the disorder you speak of be real and considerable, you ought to raise an aristocratick interest; that is, an interest of property and education amongst them: and to strengthen by every prudent means, the authority and influence of men of that description. It will deserve your best thoughts, to examine whether this can be done without giving such persons the means of demonstrating to the rest, that something more is to be got by their temperate conduct, than can be expected from the wild and senseless projects, of those, who do not belong to their body, who have no interest in their well being, and only wish to make them the dupes of their turbulent ambition.
If the absurd persons you mention find no way of providing for liberty, but by overturning this happy constitution, and introducing a frantick democracy, let us take care how we prevent better people, from any rational expectations of partaking in the benefits of that constitution as it stands. The maxims you establish cut the matter short. They have no sort of connexion with the good or the ill behaviour of the
persons who seek relief, or with the proper or improper means by which they seek it. They form a perpetual bar to all pleas and to all expectations.
You begin by asserting, that “the Catholicks ought to enjoy all things under the state, but that they ought not to be the state.” A position which, I believe, in the latter part of it, and in the latitude there expressed, no man of common sense has ever thought proper to dispute : because the contrary implies, that the state ought to be in them exclusively. But before you have finished the line, you express yourself as if the other member of your proposition, namely, that « they ought not to be a part of the state,” were necessarily included in the first-Whereas I conceive it to be as different, as a part is from the whole; that is just as different as possible. I know indeed, that it is common with those who talk very differently from you, that is with heat and animosity, to confound those things, and to argue the admission of the catholicks into any, however minute and subordinate, parts of the state, as a surrender into their hands of the whole government of the kingdom. To them I have nothing at all to say
Wishing to proceed with a deliberative spirit and temper in so very serious a question, I shall attempt to analyze, as well as I can, the principles you lay down, in order to fit them for the grasp of an understanding so little comprehensive as mine --State' - Protestant'_ Revolution. These are terms, which, if not well explained, may lead us into many errours. In the word State, I conceive there is much ambiguity. The state is sometimes used to signify the whole commonwealth, comprehending all its orders, with the several privileges belonging to each. Sometimes it signifies only the higher and ruling part of the commonwealth ; which we commonly call the Government. In the first sense, to be under the state, but not the state itself, nor any part of it, that is to be nothing at all in the commonwealth, is a situation perfectly intelligible: but to those who fill that situation, not very pleasant, when it is understood. It is a state of civil servitude by the very force of the definition. Servorum non est respublica, is a very old and a very true maxim. This servitude, which makes men subject to a state without being VOL. III.
citizens, may be more or less, tolerable from many circumstances : but these circumstances, more or less favourable, do not alter the nature of the thing. The mildness by which absolute masters exercise their dominion, leaves them masters still. We may talk a little presently of the manner in which the majority of the people of Ireland (the catholicks) are affected by this situation; which at present undoubtedly is theirs, and which you are of opinion ought so to continue for ever.
In the other sense of the word State, by which is understood the Supreme Government only, I must observe this upon the question : that to exclude whole classes of men entirely from this part of government, cannot be considered as absolute slavery. It only implies a lower and degraded state of citizenship; such is (with more or less strictness) the condition of all countries, in which an hereditary nobility possess the exclusive rule. This may be no bad mode of government; provided that the personal authority of individual nobles be kept in due bounds, that their cabals and factions are guarded against with a severe vigilance, and that the people, (who have no share in granting their own money) are subjected to but light impositions, and are otherwise treated with attention, and with indulgence to their humours and prejudices.
The republick of Venice is one of those which strictly confines all the great functions and offices, such as are truly statefunctions and state-offices, to those who, by hereditary right or admission, are noble Venetians. But there are many of fices, and some of them not mean nor unprofitable, (that of chancellor is one) which are reserved for Cittadini. Of these all citizens of Venice are capable. The inhabitants of the Terra firma, who are mere subjects of conquest, that is, as you express it, under the state, but “ not a part of it,” are not, however, subjects in so very rigorous a sense as not to be capable of numberless subordinate employments. It is indeed one of the advantages attending the narrow bottom of their aristocracy (narrow as compared with their acquired dominions, otherwise broad enough) that an exclusion from such employments cannot possibly be made amongst their subjects. There are, besides, advantages in states so constituted, by