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this vicw his majesty trusts that the situation of his majesty's Catholic subjects will engage your serious attention, and in the confideration of this subject he relies on the wisdom and liberality of his parliament.”
Early in March the expected Bill of Relief was brought into the house of commons by Mr. Secretary Hobart, and, in its original form, it appeared well calculated to answer the purpose intended. The influence of the executive government was in this instance no less laudably than powerfully and seasonably exerted; but it had strong obstacles in the bigotry and prejudice of a great majority of the house
“ The inveteracy of fome," says a writer well informed on this subject, “ was not to be overcome even in the agonies of their despair. Whatever could be saved to them from this wreck of their monopoly they fecured by exceptions from the broad and liberal relief which the first form of the bill held out."*
Some of these exceptions were admitted ; others were rejected. The chief enacting clause, enabling the Catholics to exercise and enjoy all civil and military offices and places of trust or profit under the crown, was almost paralyzed by the subscquent restri&ions,—that it should not be construed to extend to enable any Roman-catholic to sit or vote in either house of parliament, or to fill the office of lord-lieutenant or lord-chancellor, or judge in either of the three courts of Record or Admiralty, nor keeper of the privy-seal, secretary of state, lieutenant or custos rotulorum of counties, nor privy-counsellor, or master in Chancery, nor a general on the staff, nor sheriff or subsheriff of any county, with a long catalogue of other disqualifications.
Mr. Foster, speaker of the house of commons, declared, on the second reading of the bill, that he considered it as the prelude and certain fore-runner of the overthrow of the Protestant establishment. And the lord-chancellor Fitzgib
* PŁowdeN'S ' Twenty
bon, who was regarded as the head of the Anti-catholic party, declared, “ that it was an absurd and wicked speculation to look to the total repeal of the Popery laws of that kingdom, or to endeavour to communicate the efficient power of the Protestants to the Catholics of Ireland. As long (said his lordship) as the nature of man continues what it is, a zealous Catholic cannot possibly, or with good faith, exercise the powers of government in support of a Protestant establishment, or of the Protestant connection with Great Britain. If, therefore, I am the single man to raise my voice against such a project, I will refift it.”
The opposition of the lord-chancellor was seconded with great vehemence by Dr. Agar, archbishop of Cashel, a prelate who had, on a former occasion, distinguished himself by the memorable declaration, « that the Roman-catholic religion was a religion of knaves and fools.”
The bill at length, clogged with innumerable modifica, tions and restrictions, passed with few diffentient voices into a law: and though it stopped far short of Catholic emancipation, and bore no relation to parliamentary reform, it was supposed to be all that the executive government could, at this time, without too violent an exertion, effect ; and upon this account it was received with gratitude and satisfaction. Mr. Curran, an eminent advocate of the Irish bar, and an eloquent speaker in parliament, declared, in relation to the situation of the Catholics, “ that had the petition passed over last year in contemptuous neglect by the Irish parlia-ment been this year rejected by the throne, there remained only one other throne for misery to invoke. From that last and dreadful appeal the country had now been saved by the paternal benignity of the fovereign and father of his people.” -As a farther concession to the reviving spirit of liberty in Ireland, a Libel Bill pafled, similar to that of Mr. Fox in England ; the power of the crown to grant pensions on the Irish establishment was limited to the sum of 80,000l.; and certain descriptions of placemen and pensioners were ex
cluded from the privilege of sitting in the house of com
Also the king declared his acceptance of a limited sum, fixed at 225,000l. for the expences of his civil lift, in lieu of the hereditary revenues of the crown; sure," as the speaker, in his speech to the lord-lieutenant at the close of the session, justly observed, “ essential for effectuating in that kingdom a similar control over the application of the public money to that which had been long established in Great Britain.”
On the other hand, the court was gratified by the passing of Alien and. Traitorous Correspondence Bills, analogous to those of England; and yet more by an act of an extraordinary nature, “ To prevent the election or appointment of assemblies, purporting to represent the people, or any description or number of the people, under pretence of preparing or presenting petitions, &c. to the king or either house of parliament, for alteration of matters established by law, or redress of alleged grievances in church or state.', This act plainly indicated the apprehensions of government that the Catholics would not be permanently satisfied with the concessions now made to them; and the measure in question was adopted, in order to make it impracticable for them to meet in provincial or national convention. The policy, therefore, of the present session was not to extinguish discontent, but to allay it for the present, and to repress the external symptoms of this political distemperature in future.
The earl of Westmoreland, on proroguing the parliament on the 16th August (1793), informed the two houses, “ that the wisdom and liberality with which they had attended to his majesty's recommendation in favor of his Roman-catholic subjects were highly pleasing to the king.”
-That the sentiments of the British cabinet were not, however, really favorable to the general interests of liberty too plainly appeared from the manner with which the powers of government were exercised at this time both in England and Scotland,
Notwithstanding Notwithstanding the great predominance of the spirit of loyalty, and the numberlefs addresses of duty and allegiance transmitted from all parts of the united kingdom, and the perfect security of the government, a mean and merciless fpirit of revenge displayed itself in the prosecution and punishment of very many petty offenders accused of the vague and indefinable crime of fedition--amongst whom were fee veral printers and booksellers; so that it became extremely dangerous to publish any tract or pamphlet reflecting in any manner upon the measures of government, and the liberty of the press was filently and virtually annihilated.
The prosecutions in Scotland were of a nature more important and interesting. The spirit of political reform had diffused itself very widely in that kingdom, blended, as is too frequently the cafe, with the alloy of enthusiasm and theoretic extravagance. A numerous association of persons of this complexion, sent from various towns and districts, met this summer at Edinburgh, under the pompous title of a Convention of Delegates for obtaining Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments. This was no infraction of
any known existing law; and a similar proceeding had taken place in England in the year 1780-a convention of. delegates from different parts of the kingdom, for the purpose of obtaining a reform in parliament, meeting in London repeatedly, not only without judicial or parliamentary animadversion, but with national approbation and applause Mr. Pitt, now first minister, being himself a delegate to this convention.
The extreme indifcretion of the Scottish association appeared, however, very manifest, in their affected adoption of the modes and forms established in the National Affeinbly of France; and more especially in their habitual use of the obnoxious term “ Citizen.” But although these things. indicated great puerility and want of judgment, it cannot be denied that many persons of great respectability, attending only or chiefly to the object in view, and regardless of these follies which they no doubt disapproved and despised, had accepted the office of delegates, and, with perfect rectitude of intention, entered as members into this affociation. On a sudden, and while the legality of this conventional afsembly was yet unquestioned, divers of the delegates were apprehended (August 1793) on a charge of fedition, and brought to their trial before the High Court of Justiciary, by whom they were found guilty upon evidence which would in the English courts have been held totally inadmissible, and by the judges of that despotic tribunal fentenced to be tranfported beyond the feas for the term of fourteen years, to such place as his majesty should judge proper.
Of this number were, Mr. Muir, one of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh, Mr. Gerald, whose eloquent des fect attracted much notice, Mr. Skirving, and Mr. Margarot, who were soon afterwards, with many circumstances of relentless barbarity, conveyed in a government transport, with a crowd of felons of the vileft defcription, across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans to the settlement of BotanyBay. The same hard fate awaited Mr. Palmer, an English clergyman of moral character, whose zeal for the diffemination of unitarian principles in religion had induced him to fix his residence at Dundee, where he had opened a chapel and collected a congregation. Being a friend to political no less than religious liberty, this gentleman had been engaged in re-printing an address to the people of Scotland on the subject of reform, containing many bold truths and some unguarded expressions ; not, however, more censurable than might easily be found in thousands of papers, the political ephemera of the day, which have in England passed altogether unnoticed.
For this offence Mr. Palmer was tried by the Circuitcourt of Justiciary, and sentenced to seven years' transportation beyond the feas. The amiable qualities of the individuals who were condemned excited a general sympathy for their fuffcrings, and inspired into the breaits of thou