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LETTER TO THE ELECTORS,

ON THE

CATHOLIC QUESTION.

BY THE REV. SYDNEY SMITH, &c. &c.

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Why is not a Cataw of the land ainst a jurymand your prop

Why is not a Catholic to be believed on his oath ?

What says the law of the land to this extravagant piece of injustice? It is no challenge against a juryman, to say he is a Catholic ; he sits in judgment on your life and your property. Did any man ever hear it said that such or such a person was put to death, or that he lost his property, because a Catholic was among the jurymen ? Is the question ever put ? Does it ever enter into the mind of the attorney or counsellor to inquire of the faith of the jury ? If a man sell a horse, or a house, or a field, does he ask if the purchaser is a Catholic ? Appeal to your own experience, and try by the fairest of all tests, the justice of this enormous charge.

We are in treaty with many of the powers of Europe, because we believe in the good faith of Catholics. Two-thirds of Europe are, in fact, Catholics ; are they all perjured ? For the first fourteen centuries all the Christian world were Catholics ; did they live in a constant state of perjury? I am sure these objections against the Catholics are often made by very serious and honest men, but I much doubt if Voltaire has advanced any thing against the Christian religion so horrible, as to say that two-thirds of those who profess it are unfit for all the purposes of civil life ; for who is fit to live in society who does not respect oaths ? But if this imputation be true, what folly to agitate such questions as the civil emancipation of the Catholics. If they are always ready to support falsehood by an appeal to God, why are they suffered to breathe the air of England, or to drink of the waters of England ? why are they not driven into the howling wilderness ? But now they possess, and bequeath, and witness, and decide civil rights ; and save life as physicians, and defend property as lawyers, and

ce of his a peer of the the execution of Norfolk Is

judge property as jurymen; and you pass laws, enabling them to command all your feets and armies,' and then you turn round on the very man whom you have made the master of the European seas, and the arbiter of nations, and tell him he is not to be believed on his oath.

I have lived a little in the world, but I never happened to hear a single Catholic even suspected of getting into office by violating his oath : the oath which they are accused of violating is an insuperable barrier to them all. Is there a more disgraceful spectacle in the world than that of the Duke of Norfolk hovering round the House of Lords in the execution of his office, which he cannot enter as a peer of the realm ? disgraceful to the bigotry and injustice of his country, to his own sense of duty, honorable in the extreme : he is the leader of a band of ancient and highprincipled gentlemen, who submit patiently to obscurity and privation, rather than do violence to their conscience.' In all the fury of party, I never heard the name of a single Catholic mentioned, who was suspected of having gained or aimed at any political advantage by violating his oath. I have never heard so bitter a slander supported by the slightest proof. Every man in the circle of his acquaintance has met with Catholics, and lived with them probably as companions. If this immoral lubricity were their characteristic, it would surely be perceived in common life. Every man's experience would corroborate the imputation ; but I can honestly say that some of the best and most excellent men I have ever met with 'have been Catholics ; perfectly alive to the evil and inconvenience of their situation, but thinking themselves bound by the law of God and the law of honor, not to avoid persecution by falsehood and apostacy. But why (as has been asked ten thousand times before) do you lay such a stress on these oaths of exclusion, if the Catholics do not respect oaths ? You compel me, a Catholic, to make a declaration against transubstantiation : for what purpose but to keep me out of parliament ? Why, then, I respect oaths and declarations, or else I should perjure myself, and get into parliament; and if I do not respect oaths, of what use is it to enact them in order to keep me our? A farmer has some sheep, which he chooses to keep from a certain field, and to effect this object he builds a wall: there are two objections to his proceeding : the first is, that it is for the good of the farm that the sheep should come into the field ; and so the wall is not only useless, but pernicious. The second is, that he himself thoroughly believes, at the time of building the wall, that all the sheep are in

There is no law to prevent a Catholic from having the command of a British Aleet or a British army.

shiament ? Wantiation

and it is else

ome sheen enact them

the constant habit of leaping over such walls. His first intention with respect to the sheep is absurd, his means more absurd, and his error is perfect in all its parts. He tries to do that which, if he succeed, will be very foolish; and tries to do it by means which he himself, at the time of using them, admits to be inadequate to the purpose: but I hope this objection to the oaths of Catholics is disappearing. I believe neither Lord Liverpool, nor Mr. Peel, (a very candid and honorable man,) nor the archbishops, (who are both gentlemen,) nor Lord Eldon, nor Lord Stowell, (whose Protestantism nobody calls in question,) would make such a charge. It is confined to provincial violence, and to the politicians of the second table. I remember hearing the Catholics from the hustings of an election accused of disregarding oaths, and within an hour from that time, I saw five Catholic voters rejected, because they would not take the oath of supremacy; and these were not men of rank who tendered themselves, but ordinary tradesmen. The accusation was received with loud huzzas ; the poor Catholics retired unobserved and in silence. No one praised the conscientious feelings of the constituents: no one rebuked the calumny of the candidate. This is precisely the way in which the Catholics are treated : the very same man who encourages among his partisans the doctrine, that Catholics are not to be believed on their oaths, directs his agents on the hustings to be very watchful that all Catholics should be prevented from voting, by tendering to them the oath of supremacy, which he is certain not one of them will take. If this is not calumny and injustice, I know not what human conduct can deserve the name.

If you believe the oath of a Catholic, see what he will swear, and what he will not swear: read the oaths he already takes, and say whether in common candor or in common sense, you can require more security than he offers you. Before the year 1793, the Catholic was subject to many more vexatious laws than he now is ; in that year an act passed in his favor, but before the Catholic could exempt himself from his ancient pains and penalties, it was necessary to take an oath. This oath was, I believe, drawn up by Dr. Duigenan, the bitter and implacable enemy of the sect, and it is so important an oath, so little known and read in England, that I cannot, in spite of my wish to be brief, abstain from quoting it. I deny your right to call No Popery, till you are master of its contents.

“I do swear, that I do abjure, condemn, and detest, as unchristian and impious, the principle, that it is lawful to murder, destroy, or any way injure, any person whatsoever, for or under the pretext of being a heretic; and I do declare solemnly before God, that I believe no act, in itself unjust, immoral, or wicked, can ever be justified or excused by or under pretence or color that it was done either for the good of the church, or in obedience to any ecclesiastical power whatsoever. I also declare that it is not an article of the Catholic faith, neither am I thereby required to believe or profess that the Pope is infallible; or that I am bound to obey any order, in its own nature immoral, though the Pope or any ecclesiastical power should issue or direct such order ; but on the contrary, I hold that it would be sinful in me to pay any respect or obedience thereto. I further declare, that I do not be. lieve that any sin whatsoever committed by me can be forgiven at the mere will of any pope or any priest, or of any person whatsoever; but that sincere sorrow for past sins, a firm and sincere resolution to avoid future guilt, and to atone to God, are previous and indispensable requisites to establish a well-founded expectation of forgiveness; and that any person who receives absolution, without these previous requisites, so far from obtaining thereby any remission of his sins, incurs the additional guilt of violating a sacrament : and I do swear, that I will defend, to the utmost of my power, the settlement and arrangement of property in this country, as established by the laws now in being.--I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present church establishment, for the purpose of substituting a Catholic establishment in its stead ; and I do solemnly swear, that I will not exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb and weaken the Protestant religion and Protestant government in this kingdom. So help me God.”

This oath is taken by every Catholic in Ireland, and a similar oath, allowing for the difference of circumstances of the two countries, is taken in England.

It appears from the evidence taken before the two Houses, and lately printed, that if Catholic emancipation were carried, there would be little or no difficulty in obtaining from the Pope an agreement, that the nomination of the Irish Catholic bishops should be made at home constitutionally by the Catholics, as it is now in fact,' and in practice, and that the Irish prelates would go a great way in arranging a system of general education, if the spirit of proselytism, which now renders such a union impossible, were laid aside. This great measure carried, the Irish Catholics would give up all their endowments abroad, if they received for them an equivalent at home ; for now Irish priests are fast re

"The Catholic bishops, since the death of the Pretender, are recommended either by the chapters or parochial clergy to the Pope, and there is no instance of bis deviating from their choice.

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