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other. The Catholics had reached that extremity of depression which generally announces an improvement of fortune. For two years before, there had not been even a petition presented to Parliament. The name of agitation was detested. The aristocracy had shrunk back into that dull repose of servility, which they attempted to veil under the name of moderation and dignity. The mercantile interest shared in their conduct; and the people, left without hope, kindled the fires of insurrection. Government was employed in forging new chains. Special commissions swept the country, and sought to cure, by sanguinary depletion, the national debility. It was in this state of things the Catholic Association was formed. We have heard O'Connell himself state the circumstances of the first day of its existence. One of the rules required ten persons to form what, in Parliamentary phrase is called a House. Such was the deplorable apathy, that, for two three previous Saturdays, the meeting had been dissolved, the requisite number not being present. On the day alluded to, it was nearly three o'clock, the hour of counting; and no more than eight persons were in the rooms. There was a law which made clergymen of all persuasions, eo facto, members of that Association. Mr. O'Connell ran down into the shop; he found there four or five students from Maynooth, who had just received orders, and asked them to come up to form a meeting. They hesitated, refused ; and he pushed them up stairs. The thing began. Mr. O'Connell drew up the report of the rent. Orange processions nad lately trampled, as usual, on the north of Ireland; two or three Catholics had been killed; a servile war was raged in the South, a smothered discontent and active misery through the whole kingdom. He set before them all the advantages of the rent; he proved it the lever of justice and relief; and subscribed for all those of his family then in Ireland. The next Saturday, several . persons attended; a few subscribers appeared; the rent existed; there was a discussion
--and the Association was on the waters. The want of a Treasury had been felt. Petitions cannot be got up without expense. Agents were necessary to refute the calumnies with
which the press swarmed; but the bold scheme of a National Treasury was formed. It was resolved to raise a revenue. The Association was to supply the place of Government to the people ; it was to protect them—to procure justice for them, to coerce every species of delinquency—to establish a system of education, and encourage a liberal press. The subscription to the Catholic Board was five pounds : that to the Association, only one. Here was an improvement: but the grand stroke of policy was the contribution of one penny a-month. This was the Catholic Rent.
Thus, in 1823, appeared the first dawn of political and religious liberty. From that period to the enactment of the Emancipation Bill, no country in the world ever exhibited such a civil phenomenon -never were such mighty results produced from means so seemingly inadequate to the end. Ireland deviated from the example of other nations in recovering her liberty; and became, in turn, a glorious model to such as would achieve a similar victory. Trusting to the justness of her cause, and with a steady virtue, she enlarged the sphere of her action; and, with assertion-national re-assertion, she cried—“ Liberty with England—but, at all events, Liberty !" The logic of Goulburn was but a poor match for the skill and caution of O'Connell; and the unheeded denunciations from St Stephens were drowned in the angry thunders of the Association.
'This body has no precedent in history—it contains in itself both the principle and precedent: of gigantic magnitude in numbers and influence—daring and baffling, by turns, all the vigilance and vigour of succeeding and close-observing administrations-it arose from a begining unostentatious and unobtrusive. It has been well said that “the idolatry of love produces, or provokes the rancour of opposition;" and as this body has been as much reviled by its enemies as loved by its friends interested only for the truth and sandour of history, we shall proceed to develope it from its commencement. It is a su! ject neither unimportant nor uninteresting-it contains one of the proudest chapters in the civil history of Ireland, and has
contributed to give one of the most brilliant on the historic rolls of England. The Political Unions—the hardy offspring of the Association-worked the vessel of Reform into the haven of liberty.
The leaders of the Association had two objects in view—to attach the people to themselves, and defeat the Government. The first was to be effected by rendering actual services to the people, by giving them that protection, which Government was established to afford; the second, by a merciless exposure of the system upon which the Administration acted. All classes were aggrieved—to all, the prospect of redress was held out, and the wisdom of the course proposed for that purpose demonstrated. Men naturally looked to the body which really extended to them the advantages of government. They smarted under insult-it promised to remove it. They coinplained of general distress-it took the honest and rational modes to national prosperity, by extinguishing national dissensions. Former Boards had failed, because no direct interest was offered to the people. The fault was now completely avoided. Protection of the people was the great object. If an Orange magistrate was guilty of an oppression, the facts were instantly investigated, and a lawyer and attorney sent to bring him to justice, If a Catholic was killed at any of those unfortunate processions in the north of Ireland, the execration and contempt of civilized Europe were poured out by the Association upon the head of the government which upheld this murderous system; but, at the same time, lawyers and reporters were despatched to the place of trial; and though justice might not be obtained, the feelings of the murdered man's children or brothers were soothed by the sympathy of their country. If a judge, placed formerly on the Bench for his Orange principles and ignorance of law, attempted any species of oppression, the torch of exposure was at once held up to his conduct by the Association. A petition also was presented to Parliament, and the talons of Brougham were soon in his body. These efforts were not confined to individual concerns. General abuses were dragged, notwithstanding their struggles, into the light of day. The corruptions of religion and justice were demonstrated. Oligarchical rapacity was assailed in all its forms of plunder, whether tithes, grand juries, or church cesses. The hand of jobbing was seized in the pocket of the peopleit was caught in the fact, and held there until the world saw it. The whole system, with its brood of insurrections, midnight outrage, and murders, was exposed. Accordingly, the people, who are subjected by their condition to the far severest form of this government, rushed round the body that they felt took the proper course for the removal of the manifold political, social, and religious oppressions that smote them. Placed on the very edge of the great wheel of subsistence, and, therefore, exposed to the strongest repulsive force, it requires but a slight jar in the revolution to fling them off altogether, and leave them to be crushed by the machine. Long, regarding Government as their enemy, the moment the Association shewed the will and power to protect them, they took their allegiance and placed it in its hands. It was with unmitigated astonishment the world saw those excluded, by express statute, from power, possessed of all the real power of the kingdom, obeyed with a promptitude that the most iron despotism could not produce and levying taxes, that were paid with a zeal which confounded the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They saw men, incapable of some of the meanest offices in the state, launching the undiminished thunderbolt of its authority at the head of every oppression-sucking into the centre of a mighty organization they whole of Ireland.
The strength of Government was withered. Its throne in the affections and respect of the millions-of which the material throne is the mere, and not very permanent type—was occupied by another. Notwithstanding some instances of the precipitation and want of decorum, incident to a popular assembly, which marked its rival, there was yet such a fine display of judgment, evidenced by the desired results-viz., the perfect concurrence of the people in the measures of the Association, and the almost unbounded extent of its authority that the deliberations of Parliament began to be subjected to comparisons which were not likely to redound to its credit, while it made the most childish complaints that the forms of its committees were stolen-as if the assumption of these forms would not have been truly ridiculous, but for the power to which they adhered.
The next step was to shame the Government—to render it impossible for any prudent, pious, or honest man, to place confidence in it. This was done simply by detailing its conduct Government sought every means of quarrel. It sent its reporters from London to the Association. The proceedings were read every morning by the Attorney-General; but as Government could not avow that the statement of truth was injurious to it, the Ministry licked its chops in vain. Meanwhile, the ground was cut from under its very feet, without the means of resistance. Its incasacity was demonstrated to the world. The gross and wicked perversion of the ends for which it was instituted were shewn. A legislature, sacrificing the majority to the minority, violating the rights of conscience, robbing, oppressing, and insulting in the name of God, could not stand comparison with a body that only demanded impartial justice and the liberty to worship God according to their consciences. The diviner feelings of men were awakened. The great names of freedom and honour were on the side of the Association. The unjust measures of Parliament were contemptible beside those of its rival; and the star of its oratory grew pale before the volcanic blaze of an eloquence fed by the feelings of seven millions. The very partisans of the ministry grew ashamed of it. It was vain to calculate on its instruments. They would not butcher their fellow-creatures for its pleasure. A noble contagion reached the army; and the very chance of a contest, as soon as that became ascertained, was at an end,
The general shame and contempt were not confined to home, they spread abroad, but under a different form, and deeply wounded the British character. In almost every quarter of the globe, the oppressions of Ireland became the subject of discussion, and as their gigantic figures rose round the crater of the Association, the name of England was made the sub