Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

columns and capitals and various decorations of Grecian architecture! But, alas ! is this all outside ? Is it nothing but bad brick-work within, covered over with cement: run up in such a hurry that the houses will soon be dangerous to dwell in ? And those massive and imposing columns—are they nothing but lath and plaster; not supporting the building, but only hanging upon it? Then is all this a fair specimen of the age in which we live: and when those buildings fall to ruin and decay (as they may do very soon, whenever a time of visitation comes upon this great city), they will form a strange unsightly heap of monuments, to the lasting disgrace and shame of an age of much show and no substance, of much profession and no principle, of much talking and no thinking.

Of this superficial character of the age our enemies have taken advantage. One of the first things which strikes us, upon reading and considering the book before us, is the unaccountable want of consideration and inquiry with which the legislature have set to work; who had actually been legislating for the Papists fifty years, before they once appointed a committee to inquire accurately what Popery was. (See the Digest, part II. p. 253). They framed oath upon oath, to be taken by the Roman Catholics, without observing that some of the clauses, which ought to have been most strong and binding, were so worded as not to bind a Roman Catholic at all; and others were made null and void by previous oaths, which must have been taken by those to whom they were tendered. (See the Digest, part II. chap. viii. pp. 222–254). And when at last committees of inquiry were appointed by both houses, they were evidently incompetent to deal with the witnesses whom they called; they had not among them men of sufficient information and discernment to sift matters to the bottom. We have therefore the more reason to be thankful to the editors and compilers of this Digest ; whose learning, research, and industry have supplied a great mass of important and authentic information, which ought to have been brought forward during the course of the examinations; and would have been brought forward, had the committees been competent to their work.

But against this superficiality of the age we must protest, and earnestly warn our readers. The time when it would serve our turn to look at the outside of things with a hasty glance, is past. We must exercise ourselves again to the same accuracy of discrimination, and profundity of thought and of research, which characterized the Reformers and their immediate successors; and which enabled them, under God's blessing, to detect and expose the subtle abominations of Popery; and thus to deliver a large portion of Europe from Papal thraldom. Without a considerable portion of the same accuracy and diligence, it is not possible to understand or detect the deceptions and impositions of the Church of Rome and its priesthood; every member of which body seems to have been exercised, through the whole course of his education, in mental reservation, deceit, and evasion. An upright, plain-dealing man must exercise suspicion and caution to a degree which is exceedingly painful to him, or he is no match for them.

To those who are disposed to think and study upon a question, on which now more than ever it is important to have clear views and authentic information, we earnestly recommend the attentive perusal of the “ Digest of Evidence.” Not that we agree with the editors on all points. We differ from them, indeed, upon one which is fundamental : for they seem disposed to approve of the admission of the Roman Catholics into the legislature, if once the line could be fairly drawn between the Transalpine and Cisalpine sects, and sufficient securities could be provided against the influence of what may be called the political principles of the Romish church : or, to state it perhaps more clearly, their opposition to the Roman Catholics seems to be founded simply on prudential and political considerations, arising out of a careful review of the facts which they have brought together. Our opposition to their claims is founded upon a religious principle of abhorrence to all such union with idolaters, and anti-Christians, as is implied in admitting such to any share whatsoever in the legislation and government of a Christian and Protestant country. Our decided conviction is, that none ought to be admitted to govern or legislate in such a country, who are not solemnly pledged, before the face of earth and Heaven, to defend and maintain real Protestant principles. We want, not negative, but positive qualifications in this respect. We hope that we do no injustice to the learned editors, in supposing their standard to be sadly too low in this respect. It is possible, indeed, that they might deem it best to take up the question on the lowest ground, and consider it simply with reference to political expediency (the only point of view in which multitudes are able to regard it), while in their private judgment they take higher ground. We have ourselves found the advantage of taking up questions on the lowest ground, with some classes of people, and if then our opponents cannot stand before us, how much less when we take the highest ? If, therefore, the question be asked, “ Is it safe, as a mere matter of political expediency, to grant the claims of the Roman Catholics ?” the volumes before us answer that question, by the production of a mass of evidence, decidedly in the negative. We consider this as important, taking it in connection with the higher views on which we found our opposition, because it tends to prove, that what is wrong in principle never can be prudent in practice. If the measure be not right in a religious view, it must be foolish and hurtful in a political. The path of Christian duty is the only path of safety.

But, in recommending the book before us to the attentive perusal of our readers, it is but fair to allow the editors to speak for themselves : we therefore transcribe the following passages from the preface.

Without meaning to deprecate fair criticism, the editors request that their performance will be considered with reference to the purposes which they had in view. They did not propose to themselves, nor do they profess, to give the substance of all the evidence reported by the Parliamentary Committees ; but have confined themselves to that subject for which the public inquiry was particularly instituted ; namely, the state of Ireland, regarded as a country perpetually harassed by systematic outrage, and by political dissension. The following pages are intended to illustrate the nature and origin of these disorders, and the measures suggested as remedies for them; and the editors conceive, that, if they have discharged their duty with respect to these important topics, in such a manner as to afford satisfactory information, they may be pardoned for omitting the consideration of, or for briefly noticing, other questions.

The causes to which the disturbances in Ireland may be traced, are of three kinds-domestic, political, and religious. To the investigation of these causes, the inquiries of the Parliamentary Committees were particularly directed, and the editors have had as their object, so to classify, and select and abridge the reports of evidence, as that the general reader might not be deterred from seeking information, and that the more careful inquirer might be assisted in his researches. pp. v. vi.

With respect to religious matters, the evidence has been regarded in two lights, as illustrated by the circumstances of Ireland, and by the condition and the character of the Irish people; and as illustrated by the principles of that church, to the structure and influence of which the Parliamentary Committees had directed their attention. The reader who looks for theological discussion of an abstract nature will be disappointed. The Church of Rome is not considered with reference to the purity of its doctrines, but with reference to the manner in which its tenets and discipline are calculated and intended to affect the state. In the first part of the Digest, the system of that church is viewed, principally, as exemplified by its mode of operation ; and, in the second part, The evidence of its ministers is considered in connexion with authorized formularies of doctrine and discipline, and with information derived from authentic and undisputed historical statements......The documents adduced are of that authentic nature which will entitle them to the appellation of evidence; and they relate to questions, which, though of great and abiding interest, have for many years been little regarded by the public. pp. vii. viii.

Such being the purposes which the editors had in view, we proceed to the Digest itself. The first part is divided into four sections, of which the first relates more particularly to the condition of the peasantry, and the disturbances which have so long prevailed in Ireland. The evidence given by different persons is not a little incongruous; and we are at once called upon to observe, with shame and regret, how little dependence is to be placed upon the testimony of men, even the most respectable as to station, rank, and education. How little regard is paid to the sanctity of an oath ! when witnesses, on such an important occasion, either presume to give evidence without having taken any sufficient pains to obtain information; or (which is more probable) when they had only been searching out for facts to support a preconceived opinion, and thus had suffered their judgment to be warped by prejudice and party feelings, in looking upon the facts first of all, and then it must be feared) in stating them also : so that, in many cases, it is evident that the facts must have undergone a double distortion before they were presented to the committees by the witnesses. We know not whom to excuse on this point. The low view of the sacred obligation of an oath, which we lament and condemn, is a general characteristic of the age in which we live, as late events have afforded awful proof; and the comparison of the evidence given by different individuals, as detailed in the volumes before us, too often illustrates and confirms it. We have therefore great reason to be thankful to the editors, whose care and diligence have supplied us with many particulars and important documents, in the notes, by which we are enabled to form some judgment of the weight and value of the testimony given. It is not our intention to dwell upon this first section of the Digest, because we must hasten to other and (to us) more important and interesting parts of the work : but we will merely state, that the sum and substance of the evidence, adduced on the domestic circumstances of the lower classes in Ireland, sufficiently proves that the grand cause of all the disturbances is to be sought, not in the civil disabilities under which the Roman Catholics were placed, but in the poverty, ignorance, misery, and national character of the people. Where the peasantry were in comfortable circumstances, there has been very little disturbance. Where they were miserable and distressed, and multitudes thrown out of employment, the outrages were continual; and incendiaries of different classes, political and religious, found opportunity to work upon the feelings and passions of the people, whom distress and the want of employment had exposed to their artifices. Wherever persons were suddenly thrown out of their ordinary means of subsistence, lawful or unlawful (as labourers or smugglers), outrages soon commenced. But a circumstance worthy of notice is mentioned by J: L. Foster, Esq. (p. 41).

It is remarkable, that, in the eleven counties planted by James I. it has never been considered necessary to apply the Insurrection Act.

It was also evident, from the nature of the disturbances, that they were fomented and directed by persons of higher rank and station than those who were ostensibly engaged in them. So that, evidently, there was an organized conspiracy at work, and various means were made use of to excite and encourage the poor and ignorant people to acts of outrage—and particularly the circulation of Pastorini's prophecies. Of these, indeed, we know from other sources that great use was made in popular songs and ballads, which were printed, along with some of the most inflammatory political songs of Mr. T. Moore, and circulated to a vast extent among the lower orders.

It also appears, that where new measures were adopted for employing the poor and ameliorating their condition, the disturbances subsided. (See the evidence of J. R. Barry, Esq. p. 43). The evidence indeed fully establishes the position maintained by Mr. Sadler in the House of Commons, that "all the commotions which have tormented and desolated Ireland have sprung immediately from local oppression,” and are to be suppressed effectually by well-directed measures for ameliorating the condition of the poor. And the comparison which the same gentleman has drawn between the disturbances in England some years ago, when demagogues persuaded the people in the manufacturing districts to seek relief in Parliamentary Reform, and those in Ireland, in which agitators tell the people that what they want is Catholic Emancipation, is fully supported by the general tenor of the evidence adduced in the first section of the Digest.

The second section relates to the education, conduct, and influence of the Roman Catholic clergy, and the character of the Church of Rome in Ireland. Most important subjects ! and this part of the work we more particularly recommend to the attentive perusal of our readers. We can only briefly state some of the points which are proved by the evidence adduced. And, first of all, to the feeling and conduct of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland towards

the English government. Formerly, it seems, the Roman Catholic priesthood were very generally educated abroad; and while the Stuart family existed they were trained up in a belief of the Divine right of kings-for this doctrine then operated to set them in opposition to the reigning family and existing government; which, it is evident, was the polity of the Romish church. But now the same doctrine would make them loyal subjects : it is therefore given up, and they are instructed in more liberal principles, because these are now the only principles on which, consistently, they can continue

« VorigeDoorgaan »