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they were to be made, it is difficult to say where would have terminated the contradictions of the association. If not, such speeches would necessarily stand as the avowed recorded opinions of the entire catholic community ; the catholic leaders were thus led very precipitately into a dilemma : they found sufficient difficulty a little later in getting out of it.
Doctor Dromgoole was however a champion of the olden times; he scorned to be deterred from the good work by the disapproval of those men of little faith. He persevered unto the end, discharging even in the moment of his retreat from public life, some of those parthian shafts of long nourished hatred, which he had brandished so boldly in the earlier part of his career. His latter days were spent with great propriety in the immediate shadow of the Vatican ; finding few ears for his truths in Ireland, he had retired to Rome, but whether to organise an army of the faith, or to import a second Rinuccini, for the modern catholic confederacy, has not been transmitted to posterity. It was not without a smile that the Irish student sometimes met him in the learned gardens of that capital, ma. turing with his accustomed leisure of thought and manner some new project for “ the salvation of the infidels.” In his large bushy eyebrows bent solemnly to the earth, and his ponderous lips scarcely ever opened but for a dogma, or an anathema, and his broad sallow features spread out over an immense head, the signs of the times seemed visibly imprinted, and fresh hopes, at every time that he struck the ground with his heavy cane, appeared to be conjured up by the modern Thaumaturgus, for the glory and regeneration of Catholic Ire. land.
To this Duigenan of the Catholic cause, might perhaps be very naturally added, at least by its opponents, the few of the prelacy who now, for the first time had the courage or indiscretion of lending their names and exertions to those of their suffering fellow-countrymen; but it would be doing a sort of wrong to such men as Dr. Troy, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, to comprehend him in the list of such public combatants. He was indeed notorious for the ultraism of his ecclesiastical opinions, for no man was more indisposed to any undue display of his faculties than that very moderate dignitary. He had passed through times of doubt and difficulty, through ordeals of every variety, with a character equally respected by friend and enemy. The recollections of the past, and a more than usual intimacy with the Castle, now and then bowed him from that upright and elevated bearing which is so much more natural and easy to the Roman Catholic prelate, as well as to the Roman Catholic layman, of our own times, but the defect and the evil were restricted to the individual; the period was gone by, when by the servility of any one, however distinguished, the general interests of the body could be much injured or affected. In the same period in which three prelates of the Church of Ireland, had left behind them a sum little less than £400.000, Dr. Troy had nothing to bequeath to his family or the public, but the remembrance of his charities, and a debt contracted chiefly in doing good.
We are now about to enter upon a relation of those circumstances which brought Mr. O'Connell immediately into the field of action, and which led to the acquisition of his reputation as one of the most powerful advocates of the Irish bar.
The altercations which had taken place in 1805, and 1809, had principally arisen from two sources of discord, which continued long to affect the body; the contention for leadership, and the apprehension of incurring by any acts of a bold and independent nature, the displeasure of the supe
The first had led to very mischievous consequences, it had prevented the Catholics from adopting for a very considerable period, any steady or well organised body for the transaction of public business or the proper communication with government, or their friends in either House of Parliament; the second produced a very wavering policy in the presentations of their petitions, which instead of being brought forward as the expression of public grievance, in proportion as its pressure began more sensibly to be felt, were offered or withdrawn, with a view only to the accommodation of parliamentary parties, and employed as an instrument of no mean efficacy in the political warfare for power and place. But a principle of discord far more extensive, far more dangerous far more enduring, which continued for nearly eight successive years, to distract and embitter the proceedings of the Roman Catholics, in addition to the evils just noted, unhappily sprung up amongst them. The precincts of a sketch fortunately preclude both the reader and the writer from entering much at length into this celebrated question, but its influence upon Catholic politics, the check, which it gave to the natural progress of their cause; the fatal animosities which it engendered, the difficulty with which they were finally subdued are sufficient apologies for its introduction.
In the year 1808, Lord Fingal was intrusted with the management of the petition, and with whatever communications might become necessary with the friends and advocates of the Catholic cause in either House of Parliament. This petition concerned the interminable controversy of the veto, the history of which is still involved in much obscurity. Lord Fingal had scarcely arrived, when he was invited to a conference with Mr. Ponsonby, and subsequently with other distinguished supporters of the Catholic cause. Their conferences always proved of the most injurious consequence to the catholic community. Whether from inadvertence or zeal, or injudicious submission to the opinions of parliamentary advisers, Lord Fingal appears precipitately to have consented to the proposition of a measure, for which certainly he had no adequate or specific authority from the body itself. Mr. Grattan presented their petition to the House of Commons on the 26th. of May, and in the course of his speech observed, that he was empowered to make a proposition to the House on the part of the petitioners, which would remove all danger that might be apprehended from the admission of Catholics into the constitution, and would fully establish the moral and political integrity of the whole British empire. It was a proposal to allow the crown a direct negative interference, should the prayer of the petition be granted, in the future appointment of their tishops. Mr. Ponsonby went still further and stated, “ that he was authorised to say that the Catholic clergy were willing in the event of the measure before the House being acceded to, that the appointment of every Catholic bishop in Ireland should in future finally vest in the King. The speech of Lord Grenville in the Lords on the 27th. of the same month was still more minute and explicit. He went into the history of the measure, and gave it to be understood, that it was part of the system (the provision for the clergy was another) which was in contemplation at the time of the union. These proffers were however unavailing; Mr. Perceval, the then premier, scornfully rejected them, and the motion for taking the petitions into consideration was lost by large majorities in both Houses.
But this was a very minor portion of the disasters which this fatal proposition soon entailed upon the Roman Catholics. The morning after the debate, May 26th. Dr. Milner, the agent of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland published a protest against the use which had been made of his name in the debate of the preceding evening. In Ireland, the feeling of public reprobation was still stronger. The moment the reports of the parliamentary debates arrived, there was a general burst of indignation throughout the country. The public mind was thrown into the utmost agitation. The laity revolted at the idea of the ministers of their religion becoming exposed to the corruption of the ministers. The clergy were roused by a common impetus to the assertion of their spiritual independence. On the 14th and 15th of May, a national synod was summoned, it passed a condemnatory resolution of the late proposition, signed by twenty three prelates, three only of the entire body, originally subscribers to the resolutions of 1799 having dissented. This impression was ardently seconded by the people. The address attempted to be got up to Lord Fingal, and designed more to sanction the measure, than to exclude that nobleman from the share which he had taken in the late proceedings, did not obtain more than fifty signatures, of whom forty-six afterwards retracted. On the other side the addresses
of thanks to the bishops, were signed by not less than forty thousand persons. The resolutions of Louth followed. Ulster, with the exception of a single individual was unanimous, Munster and Connaught with few disentients, concurred in the same opinion. This demonstration of public opinion produced its effect. In the petition intended to have been presented in 1209, all mention of votes was studiously avoided. In 1810 the bishops again met in synod, and passed resolutions still more clear and desicive. They were intended to be final and accordingly form the great point of reference in all the subsequent discussions. The general committee then seconded and supported these resolutions, and retured the bishops thanks in a meeting assembled at D'arcys on the 2nd of March, without a division or even a debate. In the same year, the petition of the Catholics was again presented to both Houses, and Mr. Grattan in compliance with his instructions, explicitly declared to the House of Commons that the Catholics had refused all concurrence and assent to the securities, which he had originally suggested in 1808. Such declaration of the unalterable resolution of the clergy and laity of Ireland ought to have quenched all further discussion. But this controversy, like all others, which had preceded it, was used chiefly as an instrument for the gratification of private jealousies and the infliction of prirate wrongs. The great mass of the people had unequivocally pronounced against the proposition, and the bishops had directed or followed (it is not quite clear which) the opinion and decision of the people. This perhaps was an additional motive with the aristocracy to persevere in their dissent. Few of their body joined their voices with those of the large mass of their country. They made common cause with Lord Fingal, in whose person they considered themselves insulted, and for many years afterwards were still found in concurrence with the old party of the English Catholics, from whom all these differences had originated, encouraging unfortunately the feud which had so long counteracted the energies and deeply injured the best interests of the country.
But these discussions were on the point of being soon in