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Parliament, “ He should be glad to see some means adopted to grant such indulgences to the Roman Catholics of Ireland as might attach that great body of men to the present Government: their affectious had been alienated-he wished to recall them by indulgent behaviour.” This tone of speaking, from the British government was something totally new to the Roman Catholics but they must have smiled when they reflected that the newly-assumed obsequious politeness was produced by fear. Still, it was not till 1778 that an act was passed to repeal some of the penalties incurred under the old act, “ to prevent the growth of Popery.” By this measure, the Roman Catholics were permitted to take long leases, and leases for terms of lives. They could enjoy landed property, and transmit it to their heirs : and the son could no longer, by turning Protestant, seize on the estate of his father. The virulence of the Ascendency in Ireland was displayed to the last. They saw that, if it were once admitted that Papists were fit materials for the operation of justice--if Protestants once admitted the principle that anything should ever be granted in their favour —their just claims to equality would advance day by day. The bill was therefore contested in every stage, and every effort consistent with the constitution was made for “ the suffering Protestant cause.” The heads of the bill (which required, according to the forms in Ireland to be carried before the bill itself) passed by a majority of 9.
Meanwhile, in 1773, the leading Catholics had formed them selves a second time into a committee, speedily possessing far
ore power than the former, from the moral influence of the American revolution. They had before them the picture of a feebler and less united people, who were in the progress of freeing themselves from foreign bondage, and it came more strongly home to them, that, if driven by necessity, they might accomplish the same themselves. This body was on a broader basis than the former committee, professing to unite the aristocracy with the niddle classes but it still wanted the people, and the exclusive spirit of the aristocracy poisoned all its endea
“ The second committee,” says Mr. Wyse," had a
more general, but also a much more aristocratic character than the first. The amalgamation of the nobility aud gentry with the merchants gave additional weight and lustre, in the Protes. tant eye, to their deliberations. Lord Kenmare was the ostensible leader of this body. He had few of those qualities which are necessary to sway or to enlighten a multitude. Affecting to control and to direct popular movements, no man seemed less acquainted with the moral machinery by which popular purposes are usually affected. He was cold, unconciliating, timid, yet fond of petty power, influenced by puny ambition, hanging between the Catholic and the Protestant, and sacrificing alternately, and generally unpropitiously, to the evil genii around the Castle on one side, and the chained spirit of his country on the other.” But, notwithstanding these evil influences, an association embodying the opinions of any united portion of the Catholies could not exist without doing good. In 1782, Mr. Gardiner brought forward his measures to relieve the Roman Catholics of some of the most insulting of their disqualifications; and Mr. Grattan said " that, whatever indulgence was granted, he wished the House to do it handsomely, for the merits and sufferings of the Roman Catholics claimed it from them.”
But a gigantic body had, at this time, formed itself, which, second in power only to the late Roman Catholic Association sunk the difference of creed in the general oppression of their country, and shewed a spirit and power which made the government tremble. The Volunteers—who had originally met to provide for defects in the military defence of Ireland-organized, and, with arms in their hands, as they increased in number, gradually approached a new object of endeavour-that of obtaining for Ireland an unequivocal legislative independence. At a meeting in Armagh, held on the 28th of December 1781, they passed those memorable resolutions, which told the legislature, in words not to be misunderstood, that they would no longer be subject to English influence and intrigue and were powerful enough to shake them off. On the 15th of February 1782, the Ulster Volunteers met in a similar spirit, and among other things, resolved—“ That they held the right of private judgment in matters of religion to be equally sacred in others as in themselves ;” and “that, as men and as Irishmen, as Christians and as Protestants, they rejoiced in the relaxation of the penal laws against their Roman Catholic fellowsubjects; and that they conceived the measure to be fraught with the happiest consequences to the union and prosperity of the inhabitants of Ireland.”
The final triumph of the Volunteers in procuring the repeal of Poyning's law (noticed above,) and making the Irish legis. lature independent of the English, infused a new feeling of freedom through the whole land. Irishmen felt they had a country to struggle for. It was worth their while urging more strongly the repeal of obnoxious laws, and framing good ones; such improvements would become in a manner their own doing, and be no longer dictated by the government of another country Still there was a grand defect in the system pursued. The liberal Protestants saw and regretted the persecutions of the Catholics, and wished to relieve them; but they did not unite with them. They did not take their political influence into the same scale with their own-a measure which would have made them perpetually preponderate against corruption. Hence many of the independent party were soon bound again to government by the chains of corruption-others were driven to rebellion. The resolution of the Volunteers, meanwhile, enabled Mr. Gardiner to conduct his measure through the House with the more firmness. In its discussion, was, for the first time, exhibited the strange picture of a few Protestants urging “ the complete emancipation of the Catholics.” Some of their best friends, however, felt it unsafe to shock the nerves of the Ascendency, and moderated their demands. The measure, when carried, abolished many small but sharp grievances. It removed several penalties from the clergy. Roman Catholics might be guardians to their children, and safely teach them their religion. The fine and imprisonment which any magistrate might infflict against a Papist, refusing to tell when and where he last heard mass, who celebrated it, &c., were abolished. A Papist was allowed to possess a horse of the value of £5, and admitted to many other equally valuable privileges. The bill, however, which permitted marriages between Protestant and Catholic was thrown out.
Before the year 1793, the Catholic Committee had more completely consolidated its powers ; the principle of representation was more generally acted on; and care was taken that if the aristocracy held aloof, they should not do much mischief. - The elections of 1792,” says the writer already quoted, “ which reconstructed, on an improved basis, the Committee of 1760, sent in anew a large infusion from the countries, of the landed influence of the body. Several of the gentry were chosen, and attended with sufficient alacrity the first meetings. But the Catholic peerage and baronetage were still absent. They were still wounded by the encroachments of the middle classes; and attributing to sinister views, and ignorant impatience of their wrongs, the more ardent efforts of their countrymen, at last retired, with few and casual exceptions, from all participation in the vulgar violence,' and sat down at a distance, in stately indifference, at every attempt which was made for their delivery. The general committee held their meetings with great regularity and order, and adopted a series of measures well calculated to bring into general action the dormant energies of the community. There is certainly a marked evidence of the accumulation of intellectual wealth, in the variety and accuracy of the views, and of firm thought and independent habits, in the numerous and conflicting parties by which they were supported.” The head and practical leader of the party at that period, was John Keogh. The same author, who was probably personally acquainted with him, thus describes him : “ John Keogh rose out of the mercantile body, was created by its necessities, adopted its wishes, directed its will, and ruled it, and through it, the entire Catholic community, with very nearly undivided sway, until the period of his death. He was roughly hewn, both in mind and body--endued by nature with the coarser, rather than the nicer faculties of the statesmanhis education solid, rather than elegant, and more to be esteemed
for the ready weapons which it furnished from its armoury for practical and every day purposes, than for any stores of rich classic lore which it presented, or the exuberance of that Irish imagination, which is so much the theme of self-complacent panegyric amongst all classes of his countrymen.”
In 1791, twelve Catholic citizens had obtained an audience of the Irish Secretary, and represented the justice and necessity of removing the still numerous grievances of their body; but in vain. It was resolved to petition the Parliament; but “four millions of subjects could not get one member of Parliament even to present their petition to the House. The select committee of the Roman Catholics was called together by Keogh ; who maintained the propriety of delegating one of their number to represent their grievances to the government. No one but himself would undertake the task. The time was more favourable than, perhaps, either he or his friends had presumed. A second warning voice had come from abroad to the ears of the British ministers, in the commencement of the French revolution : and they saw, still more awfully than in 1776, the danger of rousing masses of men by resisting just demands. In January 1792, the privileges of Catholic education were made more free, the profession of the law was opened to Catholics, and they were permitted to intermarry with Protestants. But these were paltry and insufficient concessions. The Catholic Convention was roused to a conviction that the opportunity offered for redress, in the fears of the government was not to be lost. It issued publications explaining to the world the tenets of the Catholic religion, and shewing how little the state had to fear from it; and, at the same time, displayed to mankind a list of the oppressive laws by which they had been weighed down. “Behold us before you,” said the Catholics" three millions of the people of Ireland, subjects of the same King, inhabitants of the same land, bound together by the same social contract, good and loyal subjects to his majesty, his crown and government—yet doomed to one unqualified incapacityto a universal civil proscription. We are excluded from the