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Constitution, liberty, honor, property, are taken away by her own authority, - there is, in such artifice, an effrontery, a hardihood, an insensibility, that can best be answered by sensations of astonishment and disgust.
The Constitution may be for a time so lost. The character of the country cannot be so lost. The ministers of the Crown will, or may, perhaps, at length find that it is not so easy, by abilities however great, and by power and corruption however irresistible, to put down forever an ancient and respectable Nation. Liberty may repair her golden beams, and with redoubled heat animate the country. The cry of loyalty will not long continue against the principles of liberty. Loyalty is a noble, a judicious, and a capacious principle; but in these countries loyalty, distinct from liberty, is corruption, not loyalty.
The cry of disaffection will not, in the end, avail against the principle of liberty. I do not give up the country. I see her in a swoon, but she is not dead. Though in her tomb she lies helpless and motionless, still there is on her lips a spirit of life, and on her cheek a glow of beauty :
“ Thou art not conquered; beauty's ensign yet
And Death's pale flag is not advanced there." While a plank of the vessel sticks together, I will not leave her. Let the courtier present his flimsy sail, and carry the light bark of his faith with every new breath of wind; I will remain anchored here, with fidelity to the fortunes of my country, faithful to her freedom, faithful to her fall !
71. THE CATHOLIC QUESTION, 1805. — Henry Grattan. The Parliament of Ireland !-- of that assembly I have a parental recollection. I sate by her cradle, - I followed her hearse! In fourteen years she acquired for Ireland what you did not acquire for England in a century, - freedom of trade, independency of the Legislature, independency of the judges, restoration of the final judicature, repeal of a perpetual mutiny bill, habeas corpus act, nullum tempus act, great work! You will exceed it, and I shall rejoice. I call my countrymen to witness, if in that business I compromised the claims of my country, or temporized with the power of England; but there was one thing which baffled the effort of the patriot, and defeated the wisdom of the Senate, it was the folly of the theologian! When the Parliament of Ireland rejected the Catholic petition, and assented to the calumnies then uttered against the Catholic body, on that day she voted the Union : if you should adopt a similar conduct, on that day you will vote the separation. Many good and pious reasons you may give; many good and pious reasons she gave; and she lies THERE, with her many good and pious reasons ! That the Parliament of Ireland should have entertained prejudices, I am not astonished; but that you, - that you, who have, as individuals and as conquerors, visited a great part of the globe, and have seen men in all their modifications, and Providence in all her
ways, that you, now, at this time of day, should throw up dikes against the Pope, and barriers against the Catholic, instead of uniting with that Catholic to throw up barriers against the French, this surprises ; and, in addition to this, that you should have set up the Pope in Italy, to tremble at him in Ireland; and, further, that you should have professed to have placed yourself at the head of a Christian, not a Protestant league, to defend the civil and religious liberty of Europe, and should deprive of their civil liberty one-fifth of yourselves, on account of their religion, -- this — this surprises me!
This proscriptive system you may now remove. What the best men in Ireland wished to do, but could not do, you may accomplish. Were it not wise to come to a good understanding with the Irish now? The franchises of the Constitution ! your ancestors were nursed in that cradle. The ancestors of the petitioners were less fortunate. The posterity of both, born to new and strange dangers, — let them agree to renounce jealousies and proscriptions, in order to oppose what, without that agreement, will overpower both. Half Europe is in battalion against us, and we are devoting one another to perdition on account of mysteries, — when we should form against the enemy, and march!
72. RELIGION INDEPENDENT OF GOVERNMENT, 1811. - Henry Grattan. LET us reflect on the necessary limits of all human legislation. No Legislature has a right to make partial laws; it has no right to make arbitrary laws — I mean laws contrary to reason; because that is beyond the power of the Deity. Neither has it a right to institute any inquisition into men's thoughts, nor to punish any man merely for his religion. It can have no power to make a religion for men, since that would be to dethrone the Almighty. I presume it will not be arrogated, on the part of the British Legislature, that his Majesty, by and with the advice of the Lords spiritual and temporal, &c., can enact that he will appoint and constitute a new religion for the People of this empire; or, that, by an order in Council, the consciences and creeds of his subjects might be suspended. Nor will it be contended, I apprehend, that any authoritative or legislative measure could alter the law of the hypothenuse. Whatever belongs to the authority of God, or to the laws of nature, is necessarily beyond the province and sphere of human institution and government. The Roman Catholic, when you disqualify him on the ground of his religion, may, with great justice, tell you
you are not his God, that he cannot mould or fashion his faith by your decrees. When once man goes out of his sphere, and says he will legislate for God, he would, in fact, make himself God.
But this I do not charge upon the Parliament, because, in none of the penal acts, has the Parliament imposed a religious creed. The qualifying oath, as to the great number of offices, and as to seats in
Parliaments, scrupulously evades religious distinctions. A Dissenter of any class may take it. A Deist, an Atheist, may likewise take it. The Catholics are alone excepted; and for what reason? If a Deist be fit to sit in Parliament, it can hardly be urged that a Christian is unfit! If an Atheist be competent to legislate for his country, surely this privilege cannot be denied to the believer in the divinity of our Saviour! If it be contended that, to support the Church, it is expedient to continue these disabilities, I dissent from that opinion. If it could, indeed, be proved, I should say that you had acted in defiance of all the principles of human justice and freedom, in having taken away their Church from the Irish, in order to establish your own; and in afterwards attempting to secure that establishment by disqualifying the People, and compelling them at the same time to pay for its support. This is to fly directly in the face of the plainest canons of the Almighty. For the benefit of eleven hundred, to disqualify four or five millions, is the insolent effort of bigotry, not the benignant precept of Christianity; and all this, not for the preservation of their property,— for that was secured, — but for bigotry, for intolerance, for avarice, for a vile, abominable, illegitimate, and atrocious usurpation. The laws of God cry out against it; the spirit of Christianity cries out against it; the laws of England, and the spirit and principles of its Constitution, cry out against such a systein.
73. SECTARIAN TYRANNY, 1812. — Henry Grattan. WHENEVER one sect degrades another on account of religion, such degradation is the tyranny of a sect. When you enact that, on account of his religion, no Catholic shall sit in Parliament, you do what amounts to the tyranny of a sect. When you enact that no Catholic shall be a sheriff, you do what amounts to the tyranny of a sect. When you enact that no Catholic shall be a general, you do what amounts to the tyranny of a sect. There are two descriptions of laws, — the municipal law, which binds the People, and the law of God, which binds the Parliament and the People. Whenever you do any act which is contrary to His laws, as expressed in His work, which is the world, or in His book, the Bible, you exceed your right; whenever you rest any of your establishments on that excess, you rest it on a foundation which is weak and fallacious; whenever you attempt to cstablish your Government, or your property, or your Church, on religious restrictions, you establish them on that false foundation, and you oppose the Almighty; and though you had a host of mitres on your side, you banish God from your ecclesiastical Constitution, and freedom from your political. In vain shall men endeavor to make this the cause of the Church; they aggravate the crime, by the endeavor to make their God their fellow in the injustice. Such rights are the rights of ambition; they are the rights of conquest; and, in your case, they have been the rights of suicide. They begin by attacking liberty; they end by the loss of empire !
74. THE AMERICAN WAR DENOUNCED, 1781. - William Pitt. William Pitt, second son of the great Earl of Chatham, entered Parliament in his twentysecond year. He was born the 28th of May, 1759 ; and took his seat in the House of Commons, us representative for the borough of Appleby, on the 234 of January, 1781. He made his first oratorical etfort in that body the 26th of February following; and displayed great and astonishing powers of eloquence. Burke said of him, “ He is not merely a chip of the old block, but he is the old block itself.” At the age of twenty-four, Pitt became the virtual leader of the House of Commons, and Prime Minister of England. He died January 23, 1806. The subjoined remarks were made in reference to a resolution declaring that immediate measures ought to be adopted for concluding peace with the American Colonies.
GENTLEMEN have passed the highest eulogiums on the American war. Its justice has been defended in the most fervent manner. A noble Lord, in the heat of his zeal, has called it a holy war.
For my part, although the honorable Gentleman who made this motion, and some other Gentlemen, have been, more than once, in the course of the debate, severely reprehended for calling it a wicked and accursed war, I am persuaded, and would affirm, that it was a most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unnatural, unjust and diabolical war! It was conceived in injustice; it was nurtured and brought forth in folly; its footsteps were marked with blood, slaughter, persecution and devastation; - in truth, everything which went to constitute moral depravity and human turpitude were to be found in it. It was pregnant with misery of every kind.
The mischief, however, recoiled on the unhappy People of this country, who were made the instruments by which the wicked purposes of the authors of the war were effected. The Nation was drained of its best blood, and of its vital resources of men and money. The expense of the war was enormous, – much beyond any former experience. And yet, what has the British Nation received in return? Nothing but a series of ineffective victories, or severe defeats ; — victories celebrated only by a temporary triumph over our brethren, whom we would trample down and destroy ; victories, which filled the land with mourning for the loss of dear and valued relatives, slain in the impious cause of enforcing unconditional submission, or with narratives of the glorious exertions of men struggling in the holy cause of liberty, though struggling in the absence of all the facilities and advantages which are in general deemed the necessary concomitants of victory and success. Where was the Englishman, who, on reading the narratives of those bloody and well-fought contests, could refrain fron lamenting the loss of so much British blood spilt in such a cause ; or from weeping, on whatever side victory might be declared ?
76. ON A MOTION TO CENSURE THE MINISTRY.- William Pitt.
This noble and dignified reply to the animadversions of Mr. Fox was made in 1783, when Mr. Pitt, then Prime Minister, was only twenty-four years old.
Sir, revering, as I do, the great abilities of the honorable Gentleman who spoke last, I lament, in common with the House, when those abilities are misemployed, as on the present question, to inflame the imagination, and mislead the judgment. I am told, Sir," he does not
envy me the triumph of my situation on this day;" a sort of language which becomes the candor of that honorable Gentleman as ill as his present principles. The triumphs of party, Sir, with which this selfappointed Minister seems so highly elate, shall never seduce me to any inconsistency which the busiest suspicion shall presume to glance at. I will never engage in political enmities without a public cause. I will never forego such enmities without the public approbation ; nor will I be questioned and cast off in the face of the House, by one virtuous and dissatisfied friend. These, Sir, the sober and durable triumphs of reason over the weak and profligate inconsistencies of party violence, — these, Sir, the steady triumphs of virtue over success itself, - shall be mine, not only in my present situation, but through every future condition of my life; triumphs which no length of time shall diminish, which no change of principles shall ever sully.
My own share in the censure pointed by the motion before the House against his Majesty's Ministers I will bear with fortitude, because my own heart tells me I have not acted wrong. To this monitor, who never did, and, I trust, never will, deceive me, I will confidently repair, as to an adequate asylum from all the clamor which interested faction can raise. I was not very eager to come in; and shall have no great reluctance to go out, whenever the public are disposed to dismiss me from their service. It is impossible to deprive me of those feelings which must always spring from the sincerity of my endeavors to fulfil with integrity every official engagement. You may take from me, Sir, the privileges and emoluments of place; but not, and you shall not, take from me those habitual and warm regards for the prosperity of my country, which constitute the honor, the happiness, the pride of my life; and which, I trust, death alone can extinguish. And, with this consolation, the loss of power, Sir, and the loss of fortune, though I affect not to despise them, I hope I soon shall be able to forget :
“ Laudo manentem; si cēlēres quatit
76. ON AN ATTEMPT TO COERCE HIM TO RESIGN. - Id. Certain resolutions were passed by the House, in 1784, for the removal of his Majesty's ministers, at the head of whom was Mr. Pitt. These resolutions, however, his Majesty had not thought proper to comply with. A reference having been made to them, Mr. Pitt spoke as follows, in reply to Mr. Fox.
Can anything that I have said, Mr. Speaker, subject me to be branded with the imputation of preferring my personal situation to the public happiness? Sir, I have declared, again and again, Only prove to me that there is any reasonable hope -- show me but the most distant prospect — that my resignation will at all contribute to restore peace and happiness to the country, and I will instantly resign. But, Sir, I declare, at the same time, I will not be induced to resign