Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

I am sure they did not then ; I cannot say how far their opinions may have altered since, but from many among them proposing a substitute for tithes, I am led to believe they are not yet gone so far,

Lord Castlereagh. But don't you think they will look to its destruction ?

Emmet.—I cannot pay so bad a compliment to the reasons which have convinced myself, as not to suppose they will convince others. As the human mind grows philosophic, it will, I think, wish for the destruction of all religious establishments, and therefore, in proportion as the Catholic mind becomes philosophic, it will of course entertain the same wishes—but I consider that as the result of its philosophy, and not of its religion.

Lord Castlereagh.—Don't you think the Catholics would wish to set up a Catholic Establishment, in lieu of the Protestant one ?

Emmet. Indeed I don't ; even at the present day, perhaps some old priests, who have long groaned under the penal laws; might wish for a retribution to themselves, but I don't think the young priests would wish for it, and I am convinced the laity would not submit to it, and that the objections to it will be every day gaining strength.

Speaker. -You also mention that a reform would diminish the rents of lands ; how do you think that would be done ?

Emmet.--I am convinced rack-rents can only take place in a country otherwise essentially oppressed, if the value of the people was raised in the state, their importance would induce the landlords to consult their interests, and therefore to better their condition. Thus I think it would take place, even without any law bearing upon the matter.

Mr. Alexander.--Mr. Emmet, you have gone the circuit for many years ; now have you not observed that the condition of the people has been gradually bettering ?

Emmet.--Admitting that the face of the country has assumed a better appearance ; if you attribute it to the operations of any laws you have passed. I must only declare my opinion, that it is post hoc sed non et hoe. As far as the situation of the lower orders may have been bettered in Ireland, it results from the increased knowledge, commerce, and intercourse of the different states of Europe with one another, and is enjoyed in this

X

[ocr errors]

have no doubt that if they could flatter themselves that the object next their hearts would be accomplished peaceably by a reform, they would prefer it infinitely to a revolution and republic, which must be more bloody in their operation, but I am also convinced, when they saw they could not accomplish the object next their hearts, a redress of their grievances, by a reform, they determined in despair to procure it by a revolution, which I am persuaded is inevitable, unless a reform be granted.

Speaker.--You say that a revolution is inevitable unless a reform be granted ; what would be the consequences of such a reform in redressing what you call the grievances of the people ?

Emmet.-In the first place I look to the abolition of tithes. I think a reformed legislature would also produce an amelioration of the state of the poor, and a diminution of the rents of lands would establish a system of national education, and would regulate the mmercial intercourse between Great Britain and Ireland, on the footing of perfect equality, and correct the bloody nature of your criminal code.

Speaker.--You speak of the abolition of tithes, do you include in that the destruction of the Establishment ?

Emmet.—I have myself no doubt of the Establishment's being injurious, and I look to its destruction, but I cannot undertake to say how far the whole of that measure is contemplated by the body of the people, because I have frequently heard an acreable tax proposed as a substitute, which necessarily supposes the preservation of this Establishment.

Speaker.Don't you think the Catholics peculiarly object to tithes ?

Emmet.—They certainly have the best reason to complain, but I rather think they object as tenants more than as Catholics ; and in common with the rest of the tenantry of the kingdom ; and if any other way of paying even a Protestant Establishment, which did not bear so sensibly on their industry, were to take place, I believe it would go a great way to content them, though, I confess, it would not content me ; but I must add that I would (and I am sure so would many others who think of establishments like me,) consent to give the present incumbents equivalent pensions.

Lord Castlereagh.—Don't you think the Catholics look to the accomplishing the destruction of the Establishment ?

Emmet. ---From the declaration they made in 1792, or 1793,

[ocr errors]

I am sure they did not then ; I cannot say how far their opinions may have altered since, but from many among them proposing a substitute for tithes, I am led to believe they are not yet gone so far,

Lord Castlereagh.—But don't you think they will look to its destruction ?

Emmet.—I cannot pay so bad a compliment to the reasons which have convinced myself, as not to suppose they will convince others. As the human mind grows philosophic, it will, I think, wish for the destruction of all religious establishments, and therefore, in proportion as the Catholic mind becomes philosophic, it will of course entertain the same wishes—but I consider that as the result of its philosophy, and not of its religion.

Lord Castlereagh.-Don't you think the Catholics would wish to set up a Catholic Establishment, in lieu of the Protestant one ?

Emmet.-Indeed I don't ; even at the present day, perhaps some old priests, who have long groaned under the penal laws; might wish for a retribution to themselves, but I don't think the young priests would wish for it, and I am convinced the laity would not submit to it, and that the objections to it will be every day gaining strength.

Speaker.-You also mention that a reform would diminish the rents of lands ; how do you think that would be done ?

Emmet.--I am convinced rack-rents can only take place in a country otherwise essentially oppressed, if the value of the people was raised in the state, their importance would induce the landlords to consult their interests, and therefore to better their condition. Thus I think it would take place, even without any law bearing upon the matter.

Mr. Alexander.---Mr. Emmet, you have gone the circuit for many years ; now have you not observed that the condition of the people has been gradually bettering ?

Emmet.--Admitting that the face of the country has assumed a better appearance ; if you attribute it to the operations of any laws you have passed. I must only declare my opinion, that it is post hoc sed non et hoe. As far as the situation of the lower orders may have been bettered in Ireland, it results from the increased knowledge, commerce, and intercourse of the different states of Europe with one another, and is enjoyed in this

[ocr errors]

country only in common with the rest of civilized Europe and America. I believe the lower orders in all these countries have been improved in their condition within these twenty years, but I doubt whether the poor of this country have been bettered in a greater proportion than the poor in the despotic states of Germany.

Speaker.--You mention an improved system of national education, are there not as many schools in Ireland as in England ?

Emmet. I believe there are, and that there is in proportion as great a fund in Ireland as in England, if it were fairly applied ; but there is this great difference, the schools are Protestant schools, which answer very well in England, but do little good among the Catholic peasantry of Ireland. Another thing to be considered is, that stronger measures are immediately necessary for educating the Irish people than are necessary in England ; in the latter country no steps were taken to counteract the progress of knowledge, it had fair play, and was gradually advancing, but in Ireland you have brutalized the public mind, by long-continued operation of the Popery laws, which, though they have been repealed, have left an effect that will not cease these fifty years.

It is incumbent then on you to counteract that effect by measures which are not equally necessary in England.

Speaker.--You mentioned criminal code ; in what does that differ from the English ?

Emmet.--It seems to me that it would be more advisable, in reviewing one criminal law, to compare the crime with the punishment, than the Irish code with the English, there is, however, one difference that occurs to me on the instant, administering unlawful oaths is in Ireland punished with death.

Lord Castlereagh.--That is a law connected with the security of the state.

Emmet--If it is intended to keep up the ferment of the public mind, such laws may be necessary, but if it be intended to allay that ferment, such laws are perfectly useless.

Speaker.--Would putting the commercial intercourse on the footing of equality satisfy the people ?

Emmet, —- I think that equality of situations would go nearer satisfying the people than any of the other equalities that have been alluded to.

Speaker.--Then your opinion is that we cannot avoid a revolution, unless we abandon the English constitution, and the English system in our establishment education, and criminal laws ?

Emmet.--I have already touched on the latter subject, and as to the English constitution, I cannot conceive how a reform in Parliament can be said to destroy that.

Speaker.--- Why, in what way does the representation differ in Ireland from that in England ; are there not in England close boroughs, and is not the right of suffrage there confined to 40s, freeholders ?

Emmet.If I were an Englishman I should be discontented, and therefore cannot suppose that putting Ireland on a footing with England would content the people of this country ; if, however, you have a mind to try a partial experiment, for the success of which I would not answer, you must consider how many are the close boroughs and large towns which contribute to the appointment of 558, and diminish in the same proportion the number of the close boroughs and towns which contribute to the appointment of our 300 ; even that would be a gain to Ireland ; but that there should not be mistake or confusion of terms, let us drop the equivocal words, English constitution, and then I answer, I would not be understood to say, that the government of king, lords, and commons, would be destroyed by a reform of the lower house.

Lord Castlereagh.-- And do you not think that such a house could not co-exist with the government of king and lords?

Emmet.-- If it would not, my lord, the eulogies that have been passed on the British constitution have been very much misplaced ; but I think they could all exist together, if the king and lords meant fairly by the people ; if they should persist in designs hostile to the people, I do believe they would be overthrown.

(It was then intimated, that they had got into a theoretical discussion, and that what they wished to enquire into was facts.)

Sir J. Parnel.—Mr. Emmet, while you and the executive were philosophizing, Lord Edward Fitzgerald was arming and disciplining the people ?

Emmet.--Lord Edward was a military man, and if he was doing so, he probably thought that was the way in which he could be most useful to his country, but I am sure, that if those with

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »