ON THE SUBJECT OF
Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,
MY BROTHER ABRAHAM,
LIVES IN THE COUNTRY.
BY PETER PLYMLEY.
LONGMAN, ORME, BROWN, GREEN, AND LONGMANS,
PATERN OSTER- ROW.
THE PUBLISHER'S PREFACE.
BEFORE publishing this Tract, we thought it
right to ask permission to do so from the
Gentleman to whose pen it is commonly
attributed and we received from him the
following answer :
" I AM not the Author of the Tract in
question I have not the smallest wish nor
the smallest objection that it should be re-
published. My general principle is, " Suffi-
cient for the day is the nonsense thereof;"
but, if you think otherwise, it is your affair,
not mine. Some just and honourable men
now alive are attacked in this pamphlet with
very blameable asperity ; and I should feel
remorse for this, if I were the real, as I
vi PUBLISHER'S PREFACE.
am the putative, father of the book. Under
this imputation I am as patient as Par-
tridge in Tom Jones ; believing that the
real father will one day be known.
" &c. &c. &c.
" Messrs. Longman and Co"
We cannot dispute with this gentleman
as to who is the author of the pamphlet,
but we may be allowed to differ from him
as to its character. It seems to us to be a
tract written with great felicity of language,
great force of humour, and with deep feeling
for religious liberty and human happiness :
for these reasons we have used our humble
efforts to rescue it from oblivion.
LETTER 1 1
LETTER II 17
LETTER III 32
LETTER IV 54
LETTER V v 72
LETTER VI 93
LETTER VII , 109
LETTER VIII 125
LETTER IX 138
LETTER X..., . 160
ON THE SUBJECT OF
A WORTHIER and better man than yourself
does not exist ; but I have always told you,
from the time of our boyhood, that you were
a bit of a goose. Your parochial affairs are
governed with exemplary order, and regu-
larity ; you are as powerful in the Vestry as
Mr. Perceval is in the House of Commons,
and I must say, with much more reason ;
nor do I know any church where the faces
and smock-frocks of the congregation are so
clean, or their eyes so uniformly directed to
2 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
the preacher. There is another point, upon
which I will do you ample justice ; and that
is, that the eyes so directed towards you are
wide open ; for the rustic has, in general,
good principles, though he cannot control his
animal habits; and however loud he may
snore, his face is perpetually turned towards
the fountain of orthodoxy.
Having done you this act of justice, I shall
proceed, according to our ancient intimacy,
and familiarity, to explain to you my opinions
about the Catholics, and to reply to yours.
In the first place, my sweet Abraham, the
Pope is not landed nor are there any
curates sent out after him nor has he been
hid at Saint Alban's by the Dowager Lady
Spencer nor dined privately at Holland
House nor been seen near Dropmore. If
these fears exist (which I do not believe),
they exist only in the mind of the Chancellor
of the Exchequer ; they emanate from his
zeal for the Protestant interest ; and though
they reflect the highest "honour upon the de-
licate irritability of his faith, must certainly
LETTER I. 3
be considered as more ambiguous proofs of
the sanity and vigour of his understanding.
By this time, however, the best informed
clergy in the neighbourhood of the metropolis
are convinced that the rumour is without
foundation : and though the Pope is probably
hovering about our coast in a fishing-smack,
it is most likely he will fall a prey to the
vigilance of our cruisers ; and it is certain he
has not yet polluted the Protestantism of our
Exactly in the same manner, the story of
the wooden gods seized at Charing Cross, by
an order from the Foreign Office, turns out
to be without the shadow of a foundation :
instead of the angels, and archangels, men-
tioned by the informer, nothing was disco-
vered but a wooden image of Lord Mulgrave
going down to Chatham as a head-piece for
the Spanker gun- vessel : it was an exact re-
semblance of his Lordship in his military
uniform ; and therefore as little like a god as
can well be imagined.
Having set your fears at rest, as to the
4 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
extent of the conspiracy formed against the
Protestant religion, I will now come to the
You say these men interpret the Scriptures
in an unorthodox manner ; and that they eat
their god. Very likely. All this may seem
very important to you, who live fourteen
miles from a market- town, and, from long
residence upon your living, are become a kind
of holy vegetable ; and, in a theological sense,
it is highly important. But I want soldiers
and sailors for the state ; I want to make a
greater use than I now can do of a poor
country full of men ; I want to render the
military service popular among the Irish ; to
check the power of France ; to make every
possible exertion for the safety of Europe,
which in twenty years time will be nothing
but a mass of French slaves : and then you,
and ten thousand other such boobies as you>
call out " For God's sake, do not think of
"raising cavalry and infantry in Ireland!
" . . . . They interpret the Epistle to Timothy
" in a different manner from what we do !
LETTER I. 5
" . . . . They eat a bit of wafer every Sunday,
" which they call their God !"....! wish to
my soul they would eat you, and such rea-
soners as you are. What ! when Turk, Jew,
Heretic, Infidel, Catholic, Protestant, are all
combined against this country ; when men of
every religious persuasion, and no religious
persuasion ; when the population of half the
globe is up in arms against us ; are we to
stand examining our generals and armies as
a bishop examines a candidate for holy orders ?
and to suffer no one to bleed for England,
who does not agree with you about the 2d of
Timothy? You talk about the Catholics ! If
you and your brotherhood have been able to
persuade the country into a continuation of
this grossest of all absurdities, you have ten
times the power which the Catholic clergy
ever had in their best days. Louis XIV.
when he revoked the Edict of Nantes, never
thought of preventing the Protestants from
fighting his battles ; arid gained accordingly
some of his most splendid victories by the
talents of his Protestant generals. No power
6 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
in Europe, but yourselves, has ever thought,
for these hundred years past, of asking whe-
ther a bayonet is Catholic, or Presbyterian,
or Lutheran ; but, whether it is sharp, and
well-tempered. A bigot delights in public
ridicule ; for he begins to think he is a mar-
tyr ; I can promise you the full enjoyment of
this pleasure, from one extremity of Europe
to the other.
I am as disgusted with the nonsense of the
Roman Catholic religion as you can be : and
no man who talks such nonsense shall ever
tithe the product of the earth ; nor meddle
with the ecclesiastical establishment in any
shape ; but what have I to do with the
speculative nonsense of his theology, when
the object is to elect the mayor of a county
town, or to appoint a colonel of a marching
regiment ? Will a man discharge the solemn
impertinences of the one office with less zeal,
or shrink from the bloody boldness of the
other with greater timidity, because the block-
head thinks he can eat angels in muffins, and
chew a spiritual nature in the crumpet which
LETTER I. 7
he buys from the baker's shop ? * I am sorry
there should be such impious folly in the
world, but I should be ten times a greater
fool than he is, if I refused to lead him out
against the enemies of the state, till he had
made a solemn protestation, that the crumpet
was spiritless, and the muffin nothing but an
human muffin. Your whole argument is
wrong : the state has nothing whatever to do
with theological errors, which do not violate
the common rules of morality, and militate
against the fair power of the ruler : it leaves
all these errors to you, and to such as you.
You have every tenth porker in your parish
for refuting them ; and take care that you are
vigilant, and logical in the task.
I love the church as well as you do ; but
you totally mistake the nature of an establish-
ment, when you contend that it ought to be
connected with the military and civil career
of every individual in the state. It is quite
* This passage has been objected to. I cannot see
why : it is the plain statement of a Catholic tenet which
in my eyes is the consummation of all absurdity.
8 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
right that there should be one clergyman to
every parish, interpreting the scriptures after
a particular manner, ruled by a regular
hierarchy, and paid with a rich proportion of
haycocks and wheatsheafs. When I have
laid this foundation for a rational religion in
the state when I have placed ten thousand
well educated men in different parts of the
kingdom to preach it up, and compelled every
body to pay them, whether they hear them or
not I have taken such measures as I know
must always procure an immense majority in
favour of the established church : but I can
go no farther. I cannot set up a civil
inquisition, and say to one, you shall not be a
butcher, because you are not orthodox ; and
prohibit another from brewing, and a third
from administering the law, and a fourth from
defending the country. If common justice
did not prohibit me from such a conduct,
common sense would. The advantage to be
gained by quitting the heresy, would make it
shameful to abandon it : and men who had
once left the church would continue in such
LETTER I. 9
a state of alienation from a point of honour,
and transmit that spirit to their latest pos-
terity. This is just the effect your disqualify-
ing laws have produced. They have fed Dr.
Rees, and Dr. Kippis ; crowded the congre-
gation of the Old Jewry to suffocation, and
enabled every sublapsarian, and superlaps-
arian, and semipelagian clergyman, to build
himself a neat brick chapel, and .live with
some distant resemblance to the state of a
You sayM?he King's coronation oath will not
allow him to consent to any relaxation of the
Catholic laws. Why not relax the Catholic
laws as well as the laws against Protestant dis-
senters ? If one is contrary to his oath, the
other must be so too : for the spirit of the oath
is, to defend the church establishment, which
the Quaker and the Presbyterian differ from
as much, or more than the Catholic ; and yet
his Majesty has repealed the Corporation and
Test Act in Ireland, and done more for the
Catholics of both kingdoms than had been
done for them since the Reformation. In 1778,
10 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
the ministers said nothing about the royal
conscience ; in 1793 * no conscience ; in 1804-
no conscience : the common feeling of hu-
manity and justice then seem to have had
their fullest influence upon the advisers of the
crown : but in 1807 a year, I suppose,
eminently fruitful in moral and religious
scruples (as some years are fruitful in apples?
some in hops), it is contended by the well
paid John Bowles, and by Mr. Perceval (who
tried to be well paid), that that is now perjury
which we had hitherto called policy and be-
nevolence ! Religious liberty has never made
such a stride as under the reign of his present
Majesty ; nor is there any instance in the
annals of our history, where so many infamous
and damnable laws have been repealed, as
those against the Catholics which have been
put an end to by him : and then, at the close
of this useful policy, his advisers discover that
the very measures of concession and indul-
* These feelings of humanity and j ustice were at some
periods a little quickened by the representation of 40,000
LETTER I. 11
gence, or (to use my my own language) the
measures of justice, which he has been pur-
suing through the whole of his reign, are
contrary to the oath he takes at its commence-
ment ! That oath binds his Majesty not to
consent to any measure contrary to the in-
terest of the established church : but who is
to judge of the tendency of each particular
measure ? Not the King alone : it can never
be the intention of this law that the King,
who listens to the advice of his parliament
upon a road bill, should reject it upon the
most important of all measures ; whatever be
his own private judgment of the tendency of
any ecclesiastical bill, he complies most srictly
with his oath, if he is guided in that particular
point by the advice of his parliament, who
may be presumed to understand its tendency
better than the King, or any other individual.
You say, if parliament had been unanimous in
their opinion of the absolute necessity for
Lord Howick's bill, and the King had thought
it pernicious, he would have been perjured if
he had not rejected it. I say, on the contrary,
his Majesty would have acted in the most
conscientious manner, and have complied most
scrupulously with his oath, if he had sacrificed
his own opinion to the opinion of the great
council of the nation ; because the probability
was, that such opinion was better than his
own, and upon the same principle, in common
life, you give up your opinion to your phy-
sician, your lawyer, and your builder.
You admit this bill did not compel the
King to elect Catholic officers, but only gave
him the option of doing so if he pleased ; but
you add, that the King was right in not trust-
ing such dangerous power to himself or his
successors. Now, you are either to suppose
that the King for the time being has a zeal
for the Catholic establishment, or that he has
not. If he has not, where is the danger of
giving such an option ? If you suppose that
he may be influenced by such an admiration
of the Catholic religion, why did his present
Majesty, in the year 1804, consent to that bill
which empowered the crown to station ten
thousand Catholic soldiers in any part of the
LETTER I. 13
kingdom, and placed them absolutely at the
disposal of the crown ? If the King of Eng-
land for the time being is a good Protestant,
there can be no danger in making the Catholic
elegible to any thing : if he is not, no power
can possibly be so dangerous as that conveyed
by the bill last quoted ; to which, in point of
peril, Lord Howick's bill is a mere joke. But
the real fact is, one bill opened a door to his
Majesty's advisers for trick, jobbing, and in-
trigue , the other did not.
Besides, what folly to talk to me of an oath,
which, under all possible circumstances, is to
prevent the relaxation of the Catholic laws !
for such a solemn appeal to God sets all con-
ditions and contingencies at defiance. Sup-
pose Bonaparte was to retrieve the only very
great blunder he has made, and were to suc-
ceed, after repeated trials, in making an im-
pression upon Ireland, do you think we should
hear any thing of the impediment of a co-
ronation oath ? or would the spirit of this
country tolerate for an hour such ministers,
and such unheard-of nonsense, if the most
14 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
distant prospect existed of conciliating the
Catholics by every species even of the most
abject concession? And yet, if your argu-
ment is good for any thing, the coronation
oath ought to reject, at such a moment, every
tendency to conciliation, and to bind Ireland
for ever to the crown of France.
I found in your letter the usual remark
about fire, faggot, and bloody Mary. Are
you aware, my dear Priest, that there were
as many persons put to death for religious
opinions under the mild Elizabeth as under
the bloody Mary ? The reign of the former
was, to be sure, ten times as long ; but I
only mention the fact, merely to show you
that something depends upon the age in
which men live, as well as on their religious
opinions. Three hundred years ago, men
burnt and hanged each other for these
opinions ; time has softened Catholic as well
as Protestant ; they both required it ; though
each perceives only his own improvement,
and is blind to that of the other. We are all
the creatures of circumstances ; I know not
LETTER I. 15
a kinder and better man than yourself; but
you (if you had lived in those times) would
certainly have roasted your Catholic : and I
promise you, if the first exciter of this re-
ligious mob had been as powerful then as he
is now, you would soon have been elevated
to the mitre. I do not go the length of say-
ing, that the world has suffered as much from
Protestant as from Catholic persecution ; far
from it : but you should remember the Ca-
tholics had all the power, when the idea first
started up in the world that there could be
two modes of faith, and that it was much
more natural they should attempt to crush
this diversity of opinion by great and cruel
efforts, than that the Protestants should rage
against those who differed from them, when
the very basis of their system was complete
freedom in all spiritual matters.
I cannot extend my letter any further at
present, but you shall soon hear from me
again. You tell me, I am a party man. I
hope I shall always be so, when I see my
country in the hands of a pert London joker
16 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
and a second-rate lawyer. Of the first, no
-other good .is known than that he makes
pretty Latin verses ; the second seems to me
to have the head of a country parson, and the
tongue of an Old Bailey lawyer.
If I could see good measures pursued, I
care not a farthing who is in power ; but I
have a passionate love for common justice,
and for common sense, and I abhor and
despise every man who builds up his political
fortune upon their ruin.
God bless you, reverend Abraham, and de-
fend you from the Pope, and all of us from
that administration, who seek power by op-
posing a measure which Burke, Pitt, and
Fox all considered as absolutely necessary to
the existence of the country.
LETTER II. 17
THE Catholic not respect an oath : why not ?
What upon earth has kept him out of Parlia-
ment, or excluded him from all the offices
whence he is excluded, but his respect for
oaths? There is no law which prohibits a
Catholic to sit in Parliament. There could
be no such law ; because it is impossible to
find out what passes in the interior of any
man's mind. Suppose it were in contempla-
tion to exclude all men from certain offices
who contended for the legality of taking
tithes, the only mode of discovering that
fervid love of decimation which I know you
to possess would be to tender you an oath
" against that damnable doctrine, that it is
lawful for a spiritual man to take, abstract, ap-
propriate, subduct, or lead away the tenth calf,
sheep, lamb, ox, pigeon, duck," &c. &c. &c.
18 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
and every other animal that ever existed,
which of course the lawyers would take care
to enumerate. Now this oath I am sure you
would rather die than take ; and so the Ca-
tholic is excluded from Parliament because
he will not swear that he disbelieves the lead-
ing doctrines of his religion ! The Catholic
asks you to abolish some oaths which oppress
him ; your answer is, that he does not respect
oaths. Then why subject him to the test of
oaths? The oaths keep him out of Parlia-
ment; why then he respects them. Turn
which way you will, either your laws are
nugatory, or the Catholic is bound by re-
ligious obligations as you are : but no eel in
the well-sanded fist of a cook-maid, upon the
eve of being skinned, ever twisted and
writhed as an orthodox parson does when he
is compelled by the gripe of reason to admit
any thing in favour of a Dissenter.
I will not dispute with you whether the
Pope be or be not the Scarlet Lady of
Babylon. I hope it is not so ; because I am
afraid it will induce his Majesty's Chancellor
LETTER I. 19
of the Exchequer to introduce several severe
bills against popery, if that is the case ; and
though he will have the decency to appoint a
previous committee of enquiry as to the fact,
the committee will be garbled, and the report
inflammatory. Leaving this to be settled as
he pleases to settle it, I wish to inform you,
that, previously to the bill last passed in
favour of the Catholics, at the suggestion of
Mr. Pitt, and for his satisfaction, the opinions
of six of the most celebrated of the foreign
Catholic universities were taken as to the
right of the Pope to interfere in the temporal
concerns of any country. The answer cannot
possibly leave the shadow of a doubt, even in
the mind of Baron Maseres ; and Dr. Rennel
would be compelled to admit it, if three
Bishops lay dead at the very moment the
question were put to him. To this answer
might be added also the solemn declaration
and signature of all the Catholics in Great
I should perfectly agree with you, if the
Catholics admitted such a dangerous dis-
20 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
pensing power in the hands of the Pope ; but
they all deny it, and laugh at it, and are ready
to abjure it in the most decided manner you
can devise. They obey the Pope as the
spiritual head of their church ; but are you
really so foolish as to be imposed upon by
mere names ? What matters it the seven
thousandth part of a farthing who is the
spiritual head of any church ? Is not Mr.
Wilberforce at the head of the church of
Clapham ? Is not Dr. Letsom at the head of
the Quaker church ? Is not the General
Assembly at the head of the church of Scot-
land ? How is the government disturbed by
these many-headed churches? or in what
way is the power of the Crown augmented by
this almost nominal dignity ?
The King appoints a fast day once a year,
and he makes the Bishops : and if the govern-
ment would take half the pains to keep the
Catholics out of the arms of France that it
does to widen Temple-Bar, or improve Snow-
Hill, the King would get into his hands the
appointments of the titular Bishops of Ireland.
Both Mr. C - 's sisters enjoy pensions
more than sufficient to place the two greatest
dignitaries of the Irish Catholic church entirely
at the disposal of the Crown, Every body
who knows Ireland knows perfectly well,
that nothing would be easier, with the expen-
penditure of a little money, than to preserve
enough of the ostensible appointment in the
hands of the Pope to satisfy the scruples of
the Catholics, while the real nomination re-
mained with the Crown. But, as I have
before said, the moment the very name of
Ireland is mentioned, the English seem to bid
adieu to common feeling, common prudence,
and to common sense, and to act with the
barbarity of tyrants, and the fatuity of idiots.
Whatever your opinion may be of the follies
of the Roman Catholic religion, remember
they are the follies of four millions of human
beings, increasing rapidly in numbers, wealth,
and intelligence, who, if firmly united with
this country, would set at defiance the power
of France, and if once wrested from their
alliance with England, would in three years
22 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
render its existence as an independent nation
absolutely impossible. You speak of danger
to the establishment : I request to know when
the establishment was ever so much in dan-
ger as when Hoche was in Bantry Bay, and
whether all the books of Bossuet, or the arts
of the Jesuits, were half so terrible ? Mr.
Perceval and his parsons forgot all this, in
their horror lest twelve or fourteen old women
may be converted to holy water, and Catholic
nonsense. They never see that, while they
are saving these venerable ladies from per-
dition, Ireland may be lost, England broken
down, and the Protestant Church, with all its
deans, prebends, Percevals and Rennels, be
swept into the vortex of oblivion.
Do not, I beseech you, ever mention to me
again the name of Dr. Duigenan. I have
been in every corner of Ireland, and have
studied its present strength and condition with
no common labour. Be assured Ireland does
not contain at this moment less than five
millions of people. There were returned in
the year 1791 to the hearth tax 701,000
LETTER I. 23
houses, and there is no kind of question that
there were about 50,000 houses omitted in that
return. Taking, however, only the number
returned for the tax, and allowing the average
of six to a house (a very small average for a
potatoe-fed people), this brings the population
to 4,200,000 people in the year 1791 : and it
can be shown from the clearest evidence (and
Mr. Newenham in his book shows it), that
Ireland for the last fifty years has increased in
its population at the rate of 50 or 60,000 per
annum ; which leaves the present population
of Ireland at about five millions, after every
possible deduction for existing circumstances,
just and necessary wars, monstrous and un-
natural rebellions, and all other sources of
human destruction. Of this population, two
out of ten are Protestants ; and the half of
the Protestant population are Dissenters, and
as inimical to the church as the Catholics
themselves. In this state of things, thumb-
screws and whipping admirable engines of
policy, as they must be considered to be
will not ultimately avail. The Catholics will
24 t PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
hang over you ; they will watch for the mo-
ment ; and compel you hereafter to give them
ten times as much, against your will, as they
would now be contented with, if it was vo-
luntarily surrendered. Remember what hap-
pened in the American war : when Ireland
compelled you to give her every thing she
asked, and to renounce, in the most explicit
manner, your claim of sovereignty over her.
God Almighty grant the folly of these present
men may not bring on such another crisis of
public affairs !
What are your dangers which threaten the
establishment ? Reduce this declamation to
a point, and let us understand what you
mean. The most ample allowance does not
calculate that there would be more than
twenty members who were Roman Catholics
in one house, and ten in the other, if the
Catholic emancipation were carried into effect.
Do you mean that these thirty members would
bring in a bill to take away the tithes from
the Protestant, and to pay them to the
Catholic clergy? Do you mean that a
LETTER II. 5
Catholic general would march his army into
the House of Commons, and purge it of Mr.
Perceval and Mr. Duigenan? or, that the
theological writers would become all of a
sudden more acute and more learned, if the
present civil incapacities were removed ?
Do you fear for your tithes, or your doctrines,
or your person, or the English constitution ?
Every fear, taken separately, is so glaringly
absurd, that no man has the folly or the bold-
ness to state rt Every one conceals his ig-
norance, or his baseness, in a stupid general
panic, which, when called on, he is utterly
incapable of explaining. Whatever you think
of the Catholics, there they are you cannot
get rid of them ; your alternative is, to give
them a lawful place for stating their grievances,
or an unlawful one : if you do not admit them
to the House of Commons, they will hold
their parliament in Potatoe-place, Dublin, and
be ten times as violent and inflammatory as
as they would be in. Westminster. Nothing
would give me such an idea of security, as to
see twenty or thirty Catholic gentlemen in
2(j PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
Parliament, looked upon by all the Catholics
as the fair and proper organ of their party. I
should have thought it the height of good
fortune that such a wish existed on their part,
and the very essence of madness and ignorance
to reject it. Can you murder the Catholics ?
Can you neglect them ? They are too
numerous for both these expedients. What
remains to be done is obvious to every human
being but to that man who, instead of
being a Methodist preacher, is, for the curse
of us, and our children, and for the ruin of
Troy, and the misery of good old Priam and
his sons, become a legislator and a politician.
A distinction, I perceive, is taken, by one
of the most feeble noblemen in Great Britain,
between persecution and the deprivation of
political power ; whereas there is no more
distinction between these two things than
there is between him who makes the distinc-
tion and a booby. If I strip off the relic-
covered jacket of a Catholic, and give him
twenty stripes .... I persecute : if I say,
Every body in the town where you live shall
LETTER II. 27
be a candidate for lucrative and honourable
offices, but you, who are a Catholic .... I do
not persecute! What barbarous nonsense is
this ! as if degradation was not as great an
evil as bodily pain, or as severe poverty : as
if I could not be as great a tyrant by saying,
You shall not enjoy as by saying, You shall
suffer. The English, I believe, are as truly
religious as any nation in Europe ; I know
no greater blessing : but it carries with it this
evil in its train, that any villain who will bawl
out " The Church is in danger I" may get a
place, and a good pension ; and that any
administration who will do the same thing
may bring a set of men into power 'who, at a
moment of stationary and passive piety,
would be hooted by the very boys in the
streets. But it is not all religion ; it is, in
great part, that narrow and exclusive spirit
which delights to keep the common blessings
of sun, and air, and freedom from other human
beings. " Your religion has always been
" degraded ; you are in the dust, and I will
" take care you never rise again. I should
28 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
" enjoy less the possession of an earthly good,
" by every additional person to whom it was
M extended." You may not be aware of it
yourself, most reverend Abraham, but you
deny their freedom to the Catholics upon the
same principle that Sarah your wife refuses to
give the receipt for a ham or a gooseberry
dumpling : she values her receipts, not because
they secure to her a certain flavour, but
because they remind her that her neighbours
want it : a feeling laughable in a priestess,
shameful in a priest ; venial when it with-
holds the blessings of a ham, tyrannical and
execrable when it narrows the boon of reli-
You spend a great deal of ink about the
character of the present prime-minister.
Grant you all that you write; I say, I fear
he will ruin Ireland, and pursue a line of
policy destructive to the true interest of his
country : and then you tell me, he is faithful
to Mrs. Perceval, and kind to the master
Percevals! These are, undoubtedly, the first
qualifications to be looked to in a time of the
LETTER II. 29
most serious public danger ; but somehow or
another (if public and private virtues must
always be incompatible), I should prefer that
he destroyed the domestic happiness of Wood
or Cockrell, owed for the veal of the pre-
ceding year, whipped his boys, and saved his
The late administration did not do right ;
they did not build their measures upon the
solid basis of facts. They should have caused
several Catholics to have been dissected after
death by surgeons of either religion ; and
the report to have b*een published with ac-
companying plates. If the viscera, and other
organs of life, had been found to be the same
as in Protestant bodies ; if the provisions of
nerves, arteries, cerebum and cerebellum,
had been the same as we are provided with,
or as the Dissenters are now known to possess ;
then, indeed, they might have met Mr. Per-
ceval upon a proud eminence, and convinced
the country at large of the strong probability
that the Catholics are really human creatures,
endowed with the feelings of men, and entitled
30 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
to all their rights. But instead of this wise
and prudent measure, Lord Howick, with his
usual precipitation, brings forward a bill in
their favour, without offering the slightest
proof to the country that they were any thing
more than horses and oxen. The person
who shows the lama at the corner of Piccadilly
has the precaution to write up Allowed by
Sir Joseph Banks to be a real quadruped :
so his lordship might have said Allowed by
the Bench of Bishops to be real human crea-
tures. ... I could write you twenty letters
upon this subject: but I am tired, and so I
suppose are you. Our friendship is now of
forty years' standing : you know me to be a
truly religious man ; but I shudder to see
religion treated like a cockade, or a pint of
beer, and made the instrument of a party. I
love the King, but I love the people as well
as the King ; and if I am sorry to see his old
age molested, I am much more sorry to see
four millions of Catholics baffled in their just
expectations. If I love Lord Grenville,
and Lord Howick, it is because they love
LETTER II. 31
their country : if I abhor ******, it is because
I know there is but one man among them
who is not laughing at the enormous folly
and credulity of the country, and that he is
an ignorant and mischievous bigot. As for
the light and frivolous jester, of whom it is
your misfortune to think so highly, learn, my
dear Abraham, that this political Killigrew,
just before the breaking-up of the last admi-
nistration, was in actual treaty with them for a
place ; and if they had survived twenty-four
hours longer, he would have been now de-
claiming against the cry of No Popery! instead
of inflaming it. With this practical comment
on the baseness of human nature, I bid you
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS,
ALL that I have so often told you, Mr. Abra-
ham Plymley, is now come to pass. The
Scythians, in whom you and the neighbouring
country gentlemen placed such confidence,
are smitten hip and thigh ; their Benningsen
put to open shame ; their magazines of train-
oil intercepted, and we are waking from our
disgraceful drunkenness to all the horrors of
Mr. Perceval and Mr. Canning .... We shall
now see if a nation is to be saved by school-
boy jokes and doggerel rhymes, by affronting
petulance, and by the tones and gesticulations
of Mr. Pitt. But these are not all the aux-
iliaries on which we have to depend; to
these his colleague will add the strictest at-
tention to the smaller parts of ecclesiastical
government, to hassocks, to psalters, and to
surplices ; in the last agonies of England, he
will bring in a bill to regulate Easter-offerings ;
LETTER III. S3
and he will adjust the stipends of curates*,
when the flag of France is unfurled on the
hills of Kent. Whatever can be done by very
mistaken notions of the piety of a Christian,
and by very wretched imitation of the elo-
quence of Mr. Pitt, will be done by these two
gentlemen. After all, if they both really
were what they both either wish to be, or
wish to be thought ; if the one were an en-
lightened Christian, who drew from the Gos-
pel the toleration, the charity, and the sweet-
ness which it contains ; and if the other really
possessed any portion of the great understand-
ing of his Nisus who guarded him from the
weapons of the Whigs, I should still doubt if
they could save us. But I am sure we are
not to be saved by religious hatred, and by re-
ligous trifling ; by any psalmody, however
sweet ; or by any persecution, however sharp :
I am certain the sounds of Mr. Pitt's voice,
and the measure of his tones, and the move-
* The Reverend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has,
since this was written, found time in the heat of the
session to write a book on the Stipends of Curates.
34 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
ment of his arms, will do nothing for us ; when
these tones, and movements, and voice bring
us always declamation without sense or know-
ledge, and ridicule without good humour or
conciliation. Oh, Mr. Plymley, Mr. Plymley,
this never will do. Mrs. Abraham Plymley,
my sister, will be led away captive by an
amorous Gaul ; and Joel Plymley, your first-
born, will be a French drummer.
Out of sight, out of mind, seems to be a
proverb which applies to enemies as well as
friends. Because the French army was no
longer seen from the cliffs of Dover ; because
the sound of cannon was no longer heard by
the debauched London bathers on the Sussex
coast ; because the Morning Post no longer
fixed the invasion sometimes for Monday,
sometimes for Tuesday, sometimes (positively
for the last time of invading) on Saturday ;
because all these causes of terror were sus-
pended, you conceive the power of Bonaparte
to be at an end, and were setting off for Paris,
with Lord Hawkesbury the conqueror.
This is precisely the method in which the
LETTER III. 35
English have acted during the whole of the
revolutionary war. If Austria or Prussia
armed, doctors of divinity immediately printed
those passages out of Habakkuk, in which the
destruction of the Usurper by General Mack,
and the Duke of Brunswick, are so clearly
predicted. If Bonaparte halted, there was a
mutiny, or a dysentery. If any one of his
generals were eaten up by the light troops of
Russia, and picked (as their manner is) to the
bone, the sanguine spirit of this country dis-
played itself in all its glory. What scenes of
infamy did the Society for the Suppression of
Vice lay open to our astonished eyes : trades-
men's daughters dancing ; pots of beer carried
out between the first and second lesson j and
dark and distant rumours of indecent prints.
Clouds of Mr. Canning's cousins arrived by
the waggons ; all the contractors left their
cards with Mr. Rose ; and every plunderer of
the public crawled out of his hole, like slugs,
and grubs, and worms, after a shower of rain.
If my voice could have been heard at the
late changes, I should have said, " Gently ;
36 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
patience ; stop a little ; the time is not yet
come ; the mud of Poland will harden, and
the bowels of the French grenadiers will
recover their tone. When honesty, good
sense, and liberality have extricated you out
of your present embarrassment, then dismiss
them as a matter of course ; but you cannot
spare them just now ; don't be in too great
an hurry, or there will be no Monarch to
flatter, and no country to pillage ; only sub-
mit for a little time to be respected abroad ;
overlook the painful absence of the tax-
gatherer for a few years ; bear up nobly
under the increase of freedom and of liberal
policy for a little time, and I promise you, at
the expiration of that period, you shall be
plundered, insulted, disgraced, and restrained
to your heart's content. Do not imagine I
have any intention of putting servility and
canting hypocrisy permanently out of place,
or of filling up with courage and sense those
offices which naturally devolve upon decorous
imbecility and flexible cunning : give us
only a little time to keep off the hussars of
LETTER III. 37
France, and then the jobbers and jesters
shall return to their birthright, and public
virtue be called by its old name of fanati-
cism."* Such is the advice I would have
offered to my infatuated countrymen ; but it
rained very hard in November, Brother
Abraham, and the bowels of our enemies
were loosened, and we put our trust in white
fluxes, and wet mud ; and there is nothing
now to oppose to the conqueror of the world,
but a small table of wit, and the sallow Sur-
veyor of the Meltings.
You ask me, if I think it possible for this
country to survive the recent misfortunes of
Europe ? I answer you, without the slight-
est degree of hesitation : that if Bonaparte
* This is Mr. Canning's term for the detection of pub-
lic abuses ; a term invented by him, and adopted by that
sinuous parasite who is always grinning at his heels.
Nature descends down to infinite smallness. Mr. Canning
has his parasites ; and if you take a large buzzing blue-
bottle fly, and look at it in a microscope, you may see 20
or 30 little ugly insects crawling about it, which doubtless
think their fly to be the bluest, grandest, merriest, most
important animal in the universe, and are convinced the
world would be at an end if it ceased to buzz.
38 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
lives, and a great deal is not immediately
done for the conciliation of the Catholics, it
does seem to me absolutely impossible but
that we must perish ; and take this with you,
that we shall perish without exciting the
slightest feeling of present or future com-
passion, but fall amidst the hootings and
revilings of Europe, as a nation of blockheads,
Methodists, and old women. If there were
any great scenery, any heroic feelings, any
blaze of ancient virtue, any exalted death,
any termination of England that would be
ever remembered, ever honoured in that
western world, where liberty is now retiring,
conquest would be more tolerable, and ruin
more sweet ; but it is doubly miserable to
become slaves abroad, because we would be
tyrants at home ; to persecute, when we are
contending against persecution ; and to
perish, because we have raised up worse
enemies within, from our own bigotry, than
we are exposed to without from the unprin-
cipled ambition of France. It is, indeed, a
most silly and afflicting spectacle to rage at
LETTER III. 39
such a moment against our own kindred and
our own blood ; to tell them they cannot be
honourable in war, because they are con-
scientious in religion ; to stipulate (at the
very moment when we should buy their
hearts and swords at any price) that they
must hold up the right hand in prayer, and
not the left ; and adore one common God,
by turning to the east rather than to the
What is it the Catholics ask of you ? Do
not exclude us from the honours and emolu-
ments of the state, because we worship God
in one way, and you worship him in another,
in a period of the deepest peace, and the
fattest prosperity, this would be a fair re-
quest ; it should be granted, if Lord Hawkes-
bury had reached Paris, if Mr. Canning's
interpreter had threatened the Senate in an
opening speech, or Mr. Perceval explained to
them the improvements he meant to in-
troduce into the Catholic religion; but to
deny the Irish this justice now, in the present
state of Europe, and in the summer months,
40 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
just as the season for destroying kingdoms is
coming on, is (beloved Abraham), whatever
you may think of it, little short of positive
Here is a frigate attacked by a corsair of
immense strength and size, rigging cut, masts
in danger of coming by the board, four foot
water in the hold, men dropping off very
fast ; in this dreadful situation, how do you
think the Captain acts (whose name shall be
Perceval) ? , He calls all hands upon deck ;
talks to them of King, country, glory, sweet-
hearts, gin, French prison, wooden shoes, Old
England, and hearts of oak : they give three
cheers, rush to their guns, and, after a tre-
mendous conflict, succeed in beating off the
enemy. Not a syllable of all this ; this is not
the manner in which the honourable Com-
mander goes to work : the first thing he does
is to secure 20 or 30 of his prime sailors who
happen to be Catholics, to clap them in irons,
and set over them a guard of as many Pro-
testants ; having taking this admirable method
of defending himself against his infidel oppo-
LETTER III. 41
nents, he goes upon deck, reminds the sailors,
in a very bitter harangue, that they are of
different religions; exhorts the Episcopal
gunner not to trust to the Presbyterian quar-
ter-master; issues positive orders that the
Catholics should be fired at upon the first
appearance of discontent; rushes through
blood and brains, examining his men in the
Catechism and 39 Articles, and positively
forbids every one to spunge or ram who has
not taken the Sacrament according to the
Church of England. Was it right to take
out a captain made of excellent British stuff,
and to put in such a man as this ? Is not he
more like a parson, or a talking lawyer, than
a thorough-bred seaman ? And built as she
is of heart of oak, and admirably manned, is
it possible with such a captain to save this
ship from going to the bottom ?
You have an argument, I perceive, in com-
mon with many others, against the Catholics,
that their demands complied with would only
lead to farther exactions, and that it is better
to resist them now, before any thing is con-
42 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
ceded, than hereafter, when it is found that all
concessions are in vain. I wish the Chan-
cellor of the Exchequer, who uses this reason-
ing to exclude others from their just rights,
had tried its efficacy, not by his understanding
but by (what are full of much better things)
his pockets. Suppose the person to whom
he applied for the Meltings had withstood
every plea of wife and fourteen children, no
business and good character, and refused him
this paltry little office, because he might
hereafter attempt to get hold of the revenues
of the Duchy of Lancaster for life ; would
not Mr. Perceval have contended eagerly
against the injustice of refusing moderate
requests, because immoderate ones may here-
after be made? Would he not have said
(and said truly), Leave such exorbitant at-
tempts as these to the general indignation of
the Commons, who will take care to defeat
them when they do occur ; but do not refuse
me the Irons, and the Meltings now, because
I may totally lose sight of all moderation
hereafter. Leave hereafter to the spirit and
the wisdom of hereafter ; and do not be nig-
LETTER III. 43
gardly now, from the apprehension that men
as wise as you should be profuse in times to
You forget, Brother Abraham, that it is a
vast art (where quarrels cannot be avoided) to
turn the public opinion in your favour and to
the prejudice of your enemy j a vast privilege
to feel that you are in the right, and to make
him feel that he is in the wrong : a privilege
which makes you more than a man, and your
antagonist less ; and often secures victory, by
convincing him who contends, that he must
submit to injustice if he submits to defeat.
Open every rank in the army and the navy
to the Catholic ; let him purchase at the
same price as the Protestant (if either Ca-
tholic or Protestant can purchase such refined
pleasures) the privilege of hearing Lord Cas-
tlereagh speak for three hours ; keep his
clergy from starving, soften some of the most
odious powers of the ty thing-man, and you
will for ever lay this formidable question to
rest. But if I am wrong, and you must
quarrel at last, quarrel upon just rather than
unjust grounds ; divide the Catholic, and
44 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
unite the Protestant; be just, and your own
exertions will be more formidable, and their
exertions less formidable ; be just, and you
will take away from their party all the best
and wisest understandings of both persuasions,
and knit them firmly to your own cause.
" Thrice is he armed, who has his quarrel
just;" and ten times as much may he be
taxed. In the beginning of any war, how-
ever destitute of common sense, every mob
will roar, and every Lord of the Bedchamber
address ; but if you are engaged in a war that
is to last for years, and to require important
sacrifices, take care to make the justice of
your case so clear and so obvious, that it
cannot be mistaken by the most illiterate
country gentleman who rides the earth. No-
thing, in fact, can be so grossly absurd as the
argument which says, I will deny justice to
you now, because I suspect future injustice
from you. At this rate, you may lock a man
up in your stable, and refuse to let him out
because you suspect that he has an intention,
at some future period, of robbing your hen-
LETTER III. 45
roost. You may horsewhip him at Lady-day,
because you believe he will affront you at
Midsummer. You may commit a greater
evil, to guard against a less, which is merely
contingent, and may never happen. You
may do what you have done a century ago
in Ireland, made the Catholics worse than
Helots, because you suspected that they
might hereafter aspire to be more than fellow-
citizens ; rendering their sufferings certain
from your jealousy, while yours were only
doubtful from their ambition ; an ambition
sure to be excited by the very measures
which were taken to prevent it.
The physical strength of the Catholics will
not be greater because you give them a share
of political power. You may by these means
turn rebels into friends ; but I do not see
how you make rebels more formidable. If
they taste of the honey of lawful power, they
will love the hive from whence they procure
it ; if they will struggle with us like men in
the same state for civil influence, we are safe.
All that I dread is, the physical strength of
4<6 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
four millions of men combined with an in-
vading French army. If you are to quarrel
at last with this enormous population, still put
it off as long as you can ; you must gain, and
cannot lose, by the delay. The state of Eu-
rope cannot be worse ; the conviction which
the Catholics entertain of your tyranny and
injustice cannot be more alarming, nor the
opinions of your own people more divided.
Time, which produces such effect upon brass
and marble, may inspire one Minister with
modesty, and another with compassion ;
every circumstance may be better ; some cer-
tainly will be so, none can be worse ; and,
after all, the evil may never happen.
You have got hold, I perceive, of all the
vulgar English stories respecting the heredi-
tary transmission of forfeited property, and
seriously believe that every Catholic beggar
wears the terriers of his father's land next his
skin, and is only waiting for better times to
cut the throat of the Protestant possessor, and
get drunk in the hall of his ancestors. There
is one irresistible answer to this mistake, and
LETTER III. 47
that is, that the forfeited lands are purchased
indiscriminately by Catholic and Protestant,
and that the Catholic purchaser never objects
to such a title. Now the land (so purchased
by a Catholic) is either his own family estate,
or it is not. If it is, you suppose him so de-
sirous of coming into possession, that he re-
sorts to the double method of rebellion and
purchase ; if it is not his own family estate of
which he becomes the purchaser, you suppose
him first to purchase, then to rebel, in order
to defeat the purchase. These things may
happen in Ireland ; but it is totally impossible
they can happen any where else. In fact,
what land can any man of any sect purchase
in Ireland, but forfeited property? In all
other oppressed countries which I have ever
heard of, the rapacity of the conqueror was
bounded by the territorial limits in which the
objects of his avarice were contained ; but
Ireland has been actually confiscated twice
over, as a cat is twice killed by a wicked
I admit there is a vast luxury in selecting
48 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
a particular set of Christians, and in worrying
them as a boy worries a puppy dog ; it is an
amusement in which all the young English
are brought up from their earliest days. I
like the idea of saying to men who use a
different hassock from me, that till they
change their hassock, they shall never be
Colonels, Aldermen, or Parliament-men.
While I am gratifying my personal insolence
respecting religious forms, I fondle myself
into an idea that I am religious, and that I
am doing my duty in the most exemplary (as
I certainly am in the most easy) way. But
then, my good Abraham, this sport, admirable
as it is, is become, with respect to the Ca-
tholics, a little dangerous ; and if we are not
extremely careful in taking the amusement,
we shall tumble into the holy water, and be
drowned. As it seems necessary to your idea
of an established church to have somebody
to worry and torment, suppose we were to
select for this purpose William Wilberforce,
Esq., and the patent Christians of Clapham.
We shall by this expedient enjoy the same
LETTER III. 49
opportunity for cruelty and injustice, without
being exposed to the same risks : we will
compel them to abjure vital clergymen by a
public test, to deny that the said William
Wilberforce has any power of working
miracles, touching for barrenness or any
other infirmity, or that he is endowed with
any preternatural gift whatever. We will
swear them to the doctrine of good works,
compel them to preach common sense, and
to hear it ; to frequent Bishops, Deans, and
other high Churchmen ; and to appear (once
in the quarter at the least) at some melo-
drame, opera, pantomime, or other light
scenical representation ; in short, we will
gratify the love of insolence and power ; we
will enjoy the old orthodox sport of witness-
ing the impotent anger of men compelled to
submit to civil degradation, or to sacrifice
their notions of truth to ours. And all this
we may do without the slightest risk, because
their numbers are (as yet) not very consider-
able. Cruelty and injustice must, of course,
exist; but why connect them with danger?
50 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
Why torture a bull- dog, when you can get a
frog or a rabbit ? I am sure my proposal will
meet with the most universal approbation.
Do not be apprehensive of any opposition
from ministers. If it is a case of hatred, we
are sure that one man will defend it by the
Gospel ; if it abridges human freedom, we
know that another will find precedents for it
in the Revolution.
In the name of heaven, what are we to
gain by suffering Ireland to be rode by that
faction which now predominates over it?
Why are we to endanger our own Church
and State, not for 500,000 Episcopalians, but
for ten or twelve great Orange families, who
have been sucking the blood of that country
for these hundred years last past? and the
folly of the Orangemen * in playing this game
themselves, is almost as absurd as ours in
playing it for them. They ought to have the
sense to see that their business now is to keep
* This remark begins to be sensibly felt in Ireland.
The Protestants in Ireland are fast coming over to the
LETTER III. 51
quietly the lands and beeves of which the
fathers of the Catholics were robbed in days
of yore ; they must give to their descendants
the sop of political power : by contending
with them for names, they will lose realities,
and be compelled to beg their potatoes in a
foreign land, abhorred equally by the English,
who have witnessed their oppression, and by
the Catholic Irish, who have smarted under
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
THEN comes Mr. Isaac Hawkins Brown (the
gentleman who danced* so badly at the Court
of Naples), and asks, if it is not an anomaly
to educate men in another religion than your
own ? It certainly is our duty to get rid of
error, and above all of religious error ; but
this is not to be done per saltum, or the
measure will miscarry, like the Queen. It
may be very easy to dance away the royal
embryo of a great kingdom ; but Mr.
Hawkins Brown must look before he leaps,
* In the third year of his present Majesty, and in the
30th of his own age, Mr. Isaac Hawkins Brown, then upon
his travels, danced one evening at the Court of Naples.
His dress was a volcano silk with lava buttons. Whether
(as the Neapolitan wits said) he had studied dancing un-
der St. Vitus, or whether David, dancing in a linen vest,
was his model, is not known ; but Mr. Brown danced with
such inconceivable alacrity and vigour, that he threw the
Queen of Naples into convulsions of laughter, which ter-
minated in a miscarriage, and changed the dynasty of the
LETTER IV. 53
when his object is to crush an opposite sect
in religion ; false steps aid the one effect, as
much as they are fatal to the other : it will
require not only the lapse of Mr. Hawkins
Brown, but the lapse of centuries, before the
absurdities of the Catholic religion are
laughed at as much as they deserve to be ;
but surely, in the mean time, the Catholic
religion is better than none ; four millions of
Catholics are better than four millions of wild
beasts ; two hundred priests educated by our
own government are better than the same
number educated by the man who means to
The whole sum now appropriated by Go-
vernment to the religious education of four
millions of Christians is 13,000/. ; a sum about
one hundred times as large being appropriated
in the same country to about one eighth part
of this number of Protestants. When it was
proposed to raise this grant from SOOO/. to
1 3,000/., its present amount, this sum was ob-
jected to by that most indulgent of Christians,
Mr. Spencer Perceval, as enormous ; he him-
54f PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
self having secured for his own eating and
drinking, and the eating and drinking of the
Master and Miss Percevals, the reversionary
sum of 21,000/. a year of the public money,
and having just failed in a desperate and
rapacious attempt to secure to himself for life
the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster : and
the best of it is, that this Minister, after
abusing his predecessors for their impious
bounty to the Catholics, has found himself
compelled, from the apprehension of imme-
diate danger, to grant the sum in question ;
thus dissolving his pearl* in vinegar, and
destroying all the value of the gift by the
virulence and reluctance with which it was
I hear from some persons in Parliament,
and from others in the sixpenny societies for
debate, a great deal about unalterable laws
passed at the Revolution. When I hear any
any man talk of an unalterable law, the only
* Perfectly ready at the same time to follow the other
half of Cleopatra's example, and to swallow the solution
LETTER IV. 55
effect it produces upon me is to convince me
that he is an unalterable fool. A law passed
when there was Germany, Spain, Russia,
Sweden, Holland, Portugal, and Turkey ;
when there was a disputed succession ; when
four or five hundred acres were won and lost
after ten years' hard fighting; when armies
were commanded by the sons of kings, and
campaigns passed in an interchange of civil
letters and ripe fruit ; and for these laws, when
the whole state of the world is completely
changed, we are now, according to my Lord
Hawkesbury, to hold ourselves ready to perish.
It is no mean misfortune, in times like these,
to be forced to say any thing about such men
as Lord Hawkesbury, and to be reminded that
we are governed by them ; but as I am driven
to it, I must take the liberty of observing, that
the wisdom and liberality of my Lord Hawkes-
bury are of that complexion which always
shrinks from the present exercise of these
virtues, by praising the splendid examples of
them in ages past. If he had lived at such
periods, he would have opposed the Revolution
56 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
by praising the Reformation, and the Reform-
ation by speaking handsomely of the Crusades.
He gratifies his natural antipathy to great
and courageous measures, by playing off the
wisdom and courage which have ceased to in-
fluence human affairs against that wisdom and
courage which living men would employ for
present happiness. Besides, it happens unfor-
tunately for the Wardens of the Cinque Ports,
that to the principal incapacities under which
the Irish suffer, they were subjected after
that great and glorious Revolution, to which
we are indebted for so many blessings, and his
Lordship for the termination of so many
periods. The Catholics were not excluded
from the Irish House of Commons, or military
commands, before the 3d and 4th of William
and Mary, and the 1st and 2nd of Queen
If the great mass of the people, environed
as they are on every side with Jenkinsons,
Percevals, Melvilles, and other perils, were to
pray for divine illumination and aid, what
more could Providence in its mercy do than
LETTER IV. 57
send them the example of Scotland ? , For
what a length of years was it attempted to
compel the Scotch to change their religion :
horse, foot, artillery, and armed Prebendaries
were sent out after the Presbyterian parsons
and their congregations. The Percevals of
those days called for blood : this call is never
made in vain, and blood was shed ; but, to the
astonishment and horror of the Percevals of
those days, they could not introduce the book
of common prayer, nor prevent that metaphy-
sical people from going to heaven their true
way, instead of our true way. With a little
oatmeal for food, and a little sulphur for
friction, allaying cutaneous irritation with the
one hand, and holding his Calvinistical creed
in the other, Sawney ran away to his flinty
hills, sung his psalm out of tune his own way,
and listened to his sermon of two hours long,
amid the rough and imposing melancholy of
the tallest thistles. But Sawney brought up
his unbreeched offspring in a cordial hatred of
his oppressors ; and Scotland was as much a
part of the weakness of England then, as
58 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
Ireland is at this moment. The true and the
only remedy was applied; the Scotch were
suffered to worship God after their own
tiresome manner, without pain, penalty, and
privation. No lightnings descended from
heaven ; the country was not ruined ; the
world is not yet come to an end ; the digni-
taries, who foretold all these consequences,
are utterly forgotten ; and Scotland has ever
since been an increasing source of strength to
Great Britain. In the six hundredth year of
our empire over Ireland, we are making laws
to transport a man, if he is found out of his
house after eight o'clock at night. That this
is necessary, I know too well ; but tell me why
is it necessary ? It is not necessary in Greece,
where the Turks are masters.
Are you aware, that there is at this mo-
ment an universal clamour throughout the
whole of Ireland against the Union ? It is
now one month since I returned from that
country : I have never seen so extraordinary,
so alarming, and so rapid a change in the
sentiments of any people. Those who dis-
LETTER IV. 59
liked the Union before are quite furious
against it now ; those who doubted doubt no
more ; those who were friendly to it have ex-
changed that friendship for the most rooted
aversion ; in the midst of all this (which is
by far the most alarming symptom), there is
the strongest disposition on the part of the
Northern Dissenters to unite with the Ca-
tholics, irritated by the faithless injustice with
which they have been treated. If this com-
bination does take place (mark what I say to
you), you will have meetings all over Ireland
for the cry of No Union ; that cry will
spread like wild-fire, and blaze over every
opposition ; and if this is the case, there is no
use in mincing the matter, Ireland is gone,
and the death-blow of England is struck ; and
this event may happen instantly before
Mr. Canning and Mr. Hookham Frere have
turned Lord Howick's last speech into
doggerel rhyme ; before " the near and dear
relations" have received another quarter of
their pension, or Mr. Perceval conducted the
Curates' Salary Bill safely to a third reading.
60 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
If the mind of the English people, cursed
as they now are with that madness of religious
dissension which has been breathed into
them for the purposes of private ambition,
can be alarmed by any remembrances, and
warned by any events, they should never
forget how nearly Ireland was lost to this
country during the American war ; that it
was saved merely by the jealousy of the Pro-
testant Irish towards the Catholics, then a
much more insignificant and powerless body
than they now are. The Catholic and the Dis-
senter have since combined together against
you. Last war, the winds, those ancient and
unsubsidized allies of England; the winds,
upon which English ministers depend as
much for saving kingdoms as washerwomen
do for drying clothes ; the winds stood you
friends; the French could only get into
Ireland in small numbers, and the rebels were
defeated. Since then, all the remaining king-
doms of Europe have been destroyed ; and
the Irish see that their national independence
is gone, without having received any 'single
LETTER IV. 61
one of those advantages which they were
taught to expect from the sacrifice. All
good things were to flow from the Union ;
they have none of them gained any thing.
Every man's pride is wounded by it ; no
man's interest is promoted. In the seventh
year of that Union, four million Catholics,
lured by all kinds of promises to yield up the
separate dignity and sovereignty of their
country, are forced to squabble with such a
man as Mr. Spencer Perceval for five thousand
pounds with which to educate their children
in their own mode of worship ; he, the same
Mr. Spencer, having secured to his own
Protestant self a reversionary portion of the
public money amounting to four times that
sum. A senior Proctor of the University of
Oxford, the head of a house, or the ex-
amining Chaplain to a Bishop, may believe
these things can last ; but every man of the
world, whose understanding has been exer-
cised in the business of life, must see (and
see with a breaking heart) that they will soon
come to a fearful termination.
62 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
Our conduct to Ireland, during the whole
of this war, has been that of a man who sub-
scribes to hospitals, weeps at charity sermons,
carries out broth and blankets to beggars, and
then comes home and beats his wife and
children. We had compassion for the victims
of all other oppression and injustice, except
our own. If Switzerland was threatened,
away went a Treasury Clerk with a hundred
thousand pounds for Switzerland ; large bags
of money were kept constantly under sailing
orders ; upon the slightest demonstration
towards Naples, down went Sir William
Hamilton upon his knees, and begged for the
love of St. Januarius they would help us off
with a little money ; all the arts of Machiavel
were resorted to, to persuade Europe to
borrow ; troops were sent off in all directions
to save the Catholic and Protestant world ;
the Pope himself was guarded by a regiment
of English dragoons ; if the Grand Lama had
been at hand, he would have had another ;
every Catholic Clergyman, who had the good
fortune to be neither English nor Irish, was
LETTER IV. 63
immediately provided with lodging, soup,
crucifix, missal, chapel-beads, relics, and holy
water j if Turks had landed, Turks would
have received an order from the Treasury for
coffee, opium, korans, and seraglios. In the
midst of all this fury of saving and defending,
this crusade for conscience and Christianity,
there was an universal agreement among all
descriptions of people to continue every
species of internal persecution ; to deny at
home every just right that had been denied
before ; to pummel poor Dr. Abraham Rees
and his Dissenters ; and to treat the unhappy
Catholics of Ireland as if their tongues were
mute, their heels cloven, their nature brutal,
and designedly subjected by Providence to
their Orange masters.
How would my admirable brother, the
Rev. Abraham Plymley, like to be marched
to a Catholic chapel, to be sprinkled with the
sanctified contents of a pump, to hear a
number of false quantities in the Latin
tongue, and to see a number of persons oc-
cupied in making right angles upon the breast
64f PETER ELYMLEY'S LETTERS.
and forehead? And if all this would give
you so much pain, what right have you to
march Catholic soldiers to a place of worship,
where there is no aspersion, no rectangular
gestures, and where they understand every
word they hear, having first, in order to get
him to enlist, made a solemn promise to the
contrary? Can you wonder, after this, that
the Catholic priest stops the recruiting in
Ireland, as he is now doing to a most alarm-
ing degree ?
The late question concerning military rank
did not individually affect the lowest persons
of the Catholic persuasion ; but do you
imagine they do not sympathise with the
honour and disgrace of their superiors ? Do
you think that satisfaction and disaffection do
not travel down from Lord Fingal to the
most potatoeless Catholic in Ireland, and that
the glory or shame of the sect is not felt by
many more than these conditions personally
and corporeally affect ? Do you suppose that
the detection of Sir Henry Mildmay, and the
disappointment of Mr. Perceval in the matter
LETTER IV. 65
of the Duchy of Lancaster, did not affect
every dabbler in public property? Depend
upon it these things were felt through all the
gradations of small plunderers, down to him
who filches a pound df tobacco from the
King's warehouses ; while, on the contrary,
the acquittal of any noble and official thief
would not fail to diffuse the most heartfelt
satisfaction over the larcenous and burgla-
rious world. Observe, I do not say because
the lower Catholics are affected by what con-
cerns their superiors, that they are not affect-
ed by what concerns themselves. There is
no disguising the horrid truth ; there must be
some relaxation with respect to tithe : this is
the cruel and heart-rending price which must
be paid for national preservation. I feel how
little existence will be worth having, if any
alteration, however slight, is made in the
property of Irish Rectors ; I am conscious
how much such changes must affect the daily
and hourly comforts of every Englishman j I
shall feel too happy if they leave Europe un-
touched, and are not ultimately fatal to the
66 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
destinies of America; but I am madly bent
upon keeping foreign enemies out of the
British Empire, and my limited understanding
presents me with no other means of effecting
You talk of waiting till another reign, be-
fore any alteration is made ; a proposal full of
good sense and good-nature, if the measure
in question were to pull down St. James's
Palace, or to alter Kew Gardens. Will Bona-
parte agree to put off his intrigues, and his
invasion of Ireland ? If so, I will overlook
the question of justice, and, finding the danger
suspended, agree to the delay. I sincerely
hope this reign may last many years, yet the
delay of a single session of Parliament may
be fatal ; but If another year elapses without
some serious concession made to the Ca-
tholics, I believe, before God, that all future
pledges and concessions will be made in vain.
I do not think that peace will do you any
good under such circumstances : if Bonaparte
gives you a respite, it will only be to get
ready the gallows on which he means to hang
LETTER IV. 67
you. The Catholic and the Dissenter can
unite in peace as well as war. If they do,
the gallows is ready ; and your executioner,
in spite of the most solemn promises, will turn
you off the next hour.
With every disposition to please (where to
please within fair and rational limits is an high
duty), it is impossible for public men to be
long silent about the Catholics : pressing evils
are not got rid of, because they are not talked
of. A man may command his family to say
nothing more about the stone, and surgical
operations ; but the ponderous malice still
lies upon the nerve, and gets so big, that the
patient breaks his own law of silence,
clamours for the knife, and expires under its
late operation. Believe me, you talk folly,
when you speak of suppressing the Catholic
question. I wish to God the case admitted
of such a remedy : bad as it is, it does not
admit of it. If the wants of the Catholics are
not heard in the manly tones of Lord Gren-
ville, or the servile drawl of Lord Castlereagh,
68 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
they will be heard ere long in the madness of
mobs, and the conflicts of armed men.
I observe, it is now universally the fashion
to speak of the first personage in the state as
the great obstacle to the measure. In the
first place, I am not bound to believe such
rumours because I hear them ; and in the
next place, I object to such language, as un-
constitutional. Whoever retains his situation
in the ministry, while the incapacities of the
Catholics remain, is the advocate for those
incapacities; and to him, and to him only,
am I to look for responsibility. But waive
this question of the Catholics, and put a ge-
neral case : How is a minister of this country
to act when the conscientious scruples of his
Sovereign prevent the execution of a measure
deemed by him absolutely necessary to the
safety of the country ? His conduct is quite
clear he should resign. But what is his
successor to do ? Resign. But is the King
to be left without ministers, and is he in this
manner to be compelled to act against his
own conscience ? Before I answer this, pray
LETTER IV. 69
tell me in my turn, what better defence is
there against the machinations of a wicked,
or the errors of a weak monarch, than the
impossibility of finding a minister who will
lend himself to vice and folly ? Every En-
glish Monarch, in such a predicament, would
sacrifice his opinions and views to such a clear
expression of the public will ; and it is one
method in which the Constitution aims at
bringing about such a sacrifice. You may
say, if you please, the ruler of a state is forced
to give up his object, when the natural love
of place and power will tempt no one to assist
him in its attainment. This may be force ;
but it is force without injury, and therefore
without blame. I am not to be beat out of
these obvious reasonings, and ancient consti-
tutional provisions, by the term conscience.
There is no fantasy, however wild, that a
man may not persuade himself that he che-
rishes from motives of conscience; eternal
war against impious France, or rebellious
America, or Catholic Spain, may in times to
come be scruples of conscience. One En-
70 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
glish Monarch may, from scruples of conscience,
wish to abolish every trait of religious perse-
cution ; another Monarch may deem it his
absolute and indispensable duty to make a
slight provision for Dissenters out of the
revenues of the Church of England. So that
you see, Brother Abraham, there are cases
where it would be the duty of the best and
most loyal subjects to oppose the concientious
scruples of their Sovereign, still taking care
that their actions were constitutional, and
their modes respectful. Then you come upon
me with personal questions, and say, that no
such dangers are to be apprehended now
under our present gracious Sovereign, of
whose good qualities we must be all so well
convinced. All these sort of discussions I beg
leave to decline ; what I have said upon con-
stitutional topics, I mean of course for ge-
neral, not for particular, application. I agree
with you in all the good you have said of the
powers that be, and I avail myself of the
opportunity of pointing out general dangers
to the Constitution, at a moment when we
LETTER IV. 71
are so completely exempted from their present
influence. I cannot finish this letter, without
expressing my surprise and pleasure at your
abuse of the servile addresses poured in upon
the Throne ; nor can I conceive a greater
disgust to a Monarch, with a true English
heart, than to see such a question as that of
Catholic Emancipation argued, not with a
reference to its justice or its importance, but
universally considered to be of no farther
consequence than as it affects his own private
feelings. That these sentiments should be
mine, is not wonderful ; but how they came
to be yours, does, I confess, fill me with sur-
prise. Are you moved by the arrival of the
Irish Brigade at Antwerp, and the amorous
violence which awaits Mrs. Plymley ?
72 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
I NEVER met a parson in my life, who did not
consider the Corporation and Test Acts as
the great bulwarks of the Church ; and yet it
is now just sixty-four years since bills of
indemnity to destroy their penal effects, or, in
other words, to repeal them, have been passed
annually as a matter of course. Heu vatum
ignarce mentes. These bulwarks, without which
no clergyman thinks he could sleep with his
accustomed soundness, have actually not been
in existence since any man now living has
taken holy orders. Every year the Indemnity
Act pardons past breaches of these two laws,
and prevents any fresh actions of informers
from coming to a conclusion before the period
for the next indemnity bill arrives ; so that
these penalties, by which alone the Church
remains in existence, have not had one
LETTER V. 73
moment's operation for sixty-four years. You
will say the legislature, during the whole of this
period, has reserved to itself the discretion of
suspending, or not suspending. But had not
the legislature the right of re-enacting, if it
was necessary? And now when you have
kept the rod over these people (with the most
scandalous abuse of all principle) for sixty-four
years, and not found it necessary to strike once,
is not that the best of all reasons why the rod
should be laid aside ? You talk to me of a
very valuable hedge running across your fields
which you would not part with on any account.
I go down, expecting to find a limit imper-
vious to cattle, and highly useful for the pre-
servation of property; but, to my utter
astonishment, I find that the hedge was cut
down half a century ago,, and that every year
the shoots are clipped the moment they appear
above ground : it appears, upon farther inquiry,
that the hedge never ought to have existed at
all ; that it originated in the malice of
antiquated quarrels, and was cut down because
it subjected you to vast inconvenience, and
74 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
broke up your intercourse with a country
absolutely necessary to your existence. If the
remains of this hedge serve only to keep up an
irritation in your neighbours, and to remind
them of the feuds of former times, good nature
and good sense teach you that you ought to
grub it up, and cast it into the oven. This is
the exact state of these two laws ; and yet it
is made a great argument against concession to
the Catholics, that it involves their repeal ;
which is to say, Do not make me relinquish a
folly that will lead to my ruin ; because, if
you do, I must give up other follies ten times
greater than this.
I confess, with all our bulwarks and hedges,
it mortifies me to the very quick, to contrast
with our matchless stupidity, and inimitable
folly, the conduct of Bonaparte upon the
subject of religious persecution. At the mo-
ment when we are tearing the crucifixes from
the necks of the Catholics, and washing pious
mud from the foreheads of the Hindoos ; at
that moment this man is assembling the very
Jews at Paris, and endeavouring to give them
LETTER V. 75
stability and importance. I shall never be
reconciled to mending shoes in America ; but
I see it must be my lot, and I will then take a
dreadful revenge upon Mr. Perceval, if I catch
him preaching within ten miles of me. I
cannot for the soul of me conceive whence
this man has gained his notions of Christianity :
he has the most evangelical charity for errors
in arithmetic, and the most inveterate malice
against errors in conscience. While he rages
against those whom in the true spirit of the
Gospel he ought to indulge, he forgets the
only instance of severity which that Gospel
contains, and leaves the jobbers, and con-
tractors, and money-changers at their seats,
without a single stripe.
You cannot imagine, you say, that England
will ever be ruined and conquered ; and for
no other reason that I can find, but because it
seems so very odd it should be ruined and
conquered. Alas ! so reasoned, in their time,
the Austrian, Russian, and Prussian Plymleys,
But the English are brave : so were all
these nations. You might get together an
76 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
hundred thousand men individually brave;
but without generals capable of commanding
such a machine, it would be as useless as a
first-rate man of war manned by Oxford clergy-
men, or Parisian shopkeepers. I do not say
this to the disparagement of English officers :
they have had no means of acquiring ex-
perience ; but I do say it to create alarm ; for
we do not appear to me to be half alarmed
enough, or to entertain that sense of our
danger which leads to the most obvious means
of self-defence. As for the spirit of the pea-
santry, in making a gallant defence behind
hedge-rows, and through plate racks and hen-
coops, highly as I think of their bravery, I do
not know any nation in Europe so likely to be
struck with panic as the English ; and this
from their total unacquaintance with sciences
of war. Old wheat and beans blazing for
twenty miles round ; cart mares shot ; sows
of Lord Somerville's breed running wild over
the country ; the minister of the parish wound-
ed sorely in his hinder parts ; Mrs. Plymley
in fits ; all these scenes of war an Austrian or
LETTER V. 77
a Russian has seen three or four times over ;
but it is now three centuries since an English
pig has fallen in a fair battle upon English
ground, or a farm-house been rifled, or a
clergyman's wife been subjected to any other
proposals of love than the connubial endear-
ments of her sleek and orthodox mate. The
old edition of Plutarch's Lives, which lies in
the corner of your parlour window, has con-
tributed to work you up to the most romantic
expectations of our Roman behaviour. You
are persuaded that Lord Amherst .will defend
Kew-Bridge like Codes ; that some maid of
honour will break away from her captivity,
and swim over the Thames ; that the Duke
of York will burn his capitulating hand ; and
little Mr. Sturges Bourne give forty years'
purchase for Moulsham-Hall, while the French
are encamped upon it. I hope we shall
witness all this, if the French do come ; but
in the meantime I am so enchanted with the
ordinary English behaviour of these invaluable
persons, that I earnestly pray no opportunity
may be given them for Roman valour, and for
78 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
those very un- Roman pensions which they
would all, of course, take especial care to
claim in consequence. But whatever was our
conduct, if every ploughman was as great a
hero as he who was called from his oxen to
save Rome from her enemies, I should still
say, that at such a crisis you want the af-
fections of all your subjects in both islands :
there is no spirit which you must alienate, no
heart you must avert ; every man must feel he
has a country, and that there is an urgent
and pressing cause why he should expose
himself to death.
The effects of penal laws, in matters of
religion, are never confined to those limits in
which the .legislature intended they should
be placed : it is not only that I am excluded
from certain offices and dignities because I
am a Catholic, but the exclusion carries with
it a certain stigma, which degrades me in the
eyes of the monopolising sect, and the very
name of my religion becomes odious. These
effects are so very striking in England, that I
solemnly believe blue and red baboons to be
LETTER V. 79
more popular here than Catholics and Pres-
byterians ; they are more understood, and
there is a greater disposition to do something
for them. When a country squire hears of
an ape, his first feeling is to give it nuts and
apples ; when he hears of a Dissenter, his
immediate impulse is to commit it to the
county jail, to shave its head, to alter its cus-
tomary food, and to have it privately whipped.
This is no caricature, but an accurate picture
of national feelings, as they degrade and en-
danger us at this very moment. The Irish
Catholic gentleman would bear his legal dis-
abilities with greater temper, if these were all
he had to bear if they did not enable every
Protestant cheesemonger and tide-waiter to
treat him with contempt. He is branded on
the forehead with a red-hot iron, and treated
like a spiritual felon, because, in the highest
of all considerations, he is led by the noblest
of all guides, his own disinterested conscience.
Why are nonsense and cruelty a bit the
better because they are enacted ? If Provi-
dence, which gives wine and oil, had blest us
80 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
with that tolerant spirit which makes the
countenance more pleasant and the heart more
glad than these can do ; if our Statute Book
had never been defiled with such infamous
laws, the sepulchral Spencer Perceval would
have been hauled through the dirtiest horse-pond
in Hampstead, had he ventured to propose
them. But now persecution is good, because
it exists y every law which originated in igno-
rance and malice, and gratifies the passions
from whence it sprang, we call the wisdom of
our ancestors : when such laws are repealed,
they will be cruelty and madness ; till they are
repealed, they are policy and caution.
I was somewhat amused with the impu-
tation brought against the Catholics by the
University of Oxford, that they are enemies
to liberty. I immediately turned to my
History of England, and marked as an histo-
rical error that passage in which it is recorded
that, in the reign of Queen Anne, the famous
decree of the University of Oxford, respecting
passive obedience, was ordered, by the House
of Lords, to be burnt by the hands of the
LETTER V. 81
common hangman, as contrary to the liberty
of the subject, and the law of the land.
Nevertheless, I wish, whatever be the modesty
of those who impute, that the imputation was
a little more true, the Catholic cause would
not be quite so desperate with the present
Administration. I fear, however, that the
hatred to liberty in these poor devoted
wretches may ere long appear more doubtful
than it is at present to the Vice-Chancellor
and his clergy, inflamed, as they doubtless
are, with classical examples of republican
virtue, and panting, as they always have been,
to reduce the power of the Crown within
narrower and safer limits. What mistaken
zeal, to attempt to connect one religion with
freedom, and another with slavery. Who
laid the foundations of English liberty?
What was the mixed religion of Switzerland ?
What has the Protestant religion done for
liberty in Denmark, in Sweden, throughout
the North of Germany, and in Prussia ? The
purest religion in the world, in my humble
opinion, is the religion of the Church of
82 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
England : for its preservation (so far as it is
exercised without intruding upon the liberties
of others), I am ready at this moment to ven-
ture my present life, and but through that
religion I have no hopes of any other ; yet I
am not forced to be silly because I am pious ;
nor will I ever join in eulogiums on my faith,
which every man of common reading and
common sense can so easily refute.
You have either done too much for the
Catholics (worthy Abraham), or too little ; if
you had intended to refuse them political
power, you should have refused them civil
rights. After you had enabled them to
acquire property, after you had conceded to
them all that you did concede in 78 and 93,
the rest is wholly out of your power : you
may choose whether you will give the rest in
an honourable or a disgraceful mode, but it
is utterly out of your power to withhold it.
In the last year, land to the amount of
eight hundred thousand pounds was purchased
by the Catholics in Ireland. Do you think
it possible to be-Perceval, and be-Canning,
LETTER V. 83
and be-Castlereagh such a body of men as
this out of their common rights, and their
common sense ? Mr. George Canning may
laugh and joke at the idea of Protestant bailiffs
ravishing Catholic ladies, under the 9th clause
of the Sun-set Bill ; but if some better remedy
is not applied to the distractions of Ireland
than the jocularity of Mr. Canning, they will
soon put an end to his pension, and to the
pension of those "near and dear relatives,"
for whose eating, drinking, washing, and
clothing, every man in the United Kingdoms
now pays his two-pence or three-pence a year.
You may call these observations coarse, if you
please ; but I have no idea that the Sophias
and Carolines of any man breathing are to eat
national veal, to drink public tea, to wear
Treasury ribbons, and then that we are to be
told that it is coarse to animadvert upon this
pitiful and eleemosynary splendour. If this
is right, why not mention it ? If it is wrong,
why should not he who enjoys the ease of
supporting his sisters in this manner bear the
shame of it? Every body seems hitherto to
84 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
have spared a man who never spares any
As for the enormous wax candles, and su-
perstitious mummeries, and painted jackets of
the Catholic priests, I fear them not. Tell
me that the world will return again under the
influence of the small-pox ; that Lord Castle-
reagh will hereafter oppose the power of the
Court ; that Lord Ho wick and Mr. G rattan
will do each of them a mean and dishonour-
able action ; that any body who has heard
Lord Redesdale speak once will knowingly
and willingly hear him again ; that Lord
Eldon has assented to the fact of two and two
making four, without shedding tears, or ex-
pressing the smallest doubt or scruple ; tell
me any other thing absurd or incredible, but,
for the love of common sense, let me hear no
more of the danger to be apprehended from
the general diffusion of popery. It is too
absurd to be reasoned upon ; every man feels
it is nonsense when he hears it stated, and so
does every man while he is stating it.
I cannot imagine why the friends to the
LETTER V. 85
Church Establishment should entertain such
an horror of seeing the doors of Parliament
flung open to the Catholics, and view so
passively the enjoyment of that right by the
Presbyterians, and by every other species of
Dissenter. In their tenets, in their church
government, in the nature of their endow-
ments, the Dissenters are infinitely more
distant from the Church of England than the
Catholics are ; yet the Dissenters have never
been excluded from Parliament. There are
45 members in one house, and 16 in the
other, who always are Dissenters. There is
no law which would prevent every member
of the Lords and Commons from being
Dissenters. The Catholics could not bring
into Parliament half the number of the Scotch
members ; and yet one exclusion is of such
immense importance, because it has taken
place ; and the other no human being thinks
of, because no one is accustomed to it. I
have often thought, if the wisdom of our an-
cestors had excluded all persons with red
hair from the House of Commons, of the
86 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
throes and convulsions it would occasion to
restore them to their natural rights. What
mobs and riots would it produce ? To what
infinite abuse and obloquy would the capillary
patriot be exposed ; what wormwood would
distil from Mr. Perceval, what froth would
drop from Mr. Canning -, how (I will not say
my, but our Lord Hawkesbury, for he belongs
to us all) how our Lord Hawkesbury would
work away about the hair of King William,
and Lord Somers, and the authors of the
great and glorious Revolution ; how Lord
Eldon would appeal to the Deity and his
own virtues, and to the hair of his children :
some would say that red-haired men were
superstitious ; some would prove they were
atheists ; they would be petitioned against as
the friends of slavery, and the advocates for
revolt; in short, such a corrupter of the
heart and the understanding is the spirit of
persecution, that these unfortunate people
(conspired against by their fellow-subjects of
every complexion), if they did not emigrate
to countries where hair of another colour was
LETTER V. 87
persecuted, would be driven to the falsehood
of perukes, or the hypocrisy of the Tricosian
As for the dangers of the Church (in spite
of the staggering events which have lately
taken place) I have not yet entirely lost my
confidence in the power of common sense,
and I believe the Church to be in no danger
at all ; but if it is, that danger is not from the
Catholics, but from the Methodists, and from
that patent Christianity which has been for
some time manufacturing at Clapham, to the
prejudice of the old and admirable article
prepared by the Church. I would counsel
my Lords the Bishops to keep their eyes
upon that holy village, and its hallowed
vicinity : they will find there a zeal in making
converts, far superior to any thing which
exists among the Catholics ; a contempt for
the great mass of English clergy, much more
rooted and profound ; and a regular fund to
purchase livings for those groaning and
garrulous gentlemen, whom they denominate
(by a standing sarcasm against the regular
88 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
church) Gospel preachers, and vital clergy-
men. I am too firm a believer in the general
propriety and respectability of the English
clergy, to believe they have much to fear
either from old nonsense, or from new; but
if the Church must be supposed to be in
danger, I prefer that nonsense which is grown
half venerable from time, the force of which
I have already tried and baffled, which at
least has some excuse in the dark and
ignorant ages in which it originated. The
religious enthusiasm manufactured by living
men before my own eyes disgusts my under-
standing as much, influences my imagination
not at all, and excites my apprehensions
I may have seemed to you to treat the
situation of public affairs with some degree
of levity ; but I feel it deeply, and with
nightly and daily anguish ; because I know
Ireland ; I have known it all my life j I love
it, and I foresee the crisis to which it will
soon be exposed. Who can doubt but that
Ireland will experience ultimately from
LETTER V. 89
France a treatment to which the conduct
they have experienced from England is the
love of a parent, or a brother ? Who can
doubt but that five years after he has got
hold of the country, Ireland will be tossed
away by Bonaparte as a present to some one
of his ruffian generals, who will knock the
head of Mr. Keogh against the head of Cardinal
Troy, shoot twenty of the most noisy block-
heads of the Roman persuasion, wash his pug-
dogs in holy water, and confiscate the salt
butter of the Milesian Republic to the last
tub ? But what matters this ? or who is wise
enough in Ireland to heed it ? or when had
common sense much influence with the poor
dear Irish' ? Mr. Perceval does not know
the Irish 5 but I know them, and I know that,
at every rash and mad hazard, they will break
the Union, revenge their wounded pride and
their insulted religion, and fling themselves
into the open arms of France, sure of dying
in the embrace. And now what means have
you of guarding against this coming evil, upon
which the future happiness or misery of every
90 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
Englishman depends ? Have you a single ally
in the whole world? Is there a vulnerable
point in the French Empire where the as-
tonishing resources of that people can be
attracted and employed ? Have you a ministry
wise enough to comprehend the danger, manly
enough to believe unpleasant intelligence,
honest enough to state their apprehensions at
the peril of their places ? Is there any where
the slightest disposition to join any measure
of love, or conciliation, or hope, with that
dreadful bill which the distractions of Ireland
have rendered necessary ? At the very mo-
ment that the last Monarchy in Europe has
fallen, are we not governed by a man of
pleasantry, and a man of theology ? In the
six hundredth year of our empire over Ireland,
have we any memorial of ancient kindness to
refer to ? Any people, any zeal, any country
on which we can depend? Have we any
hope, but in the winds of heaven, and the
tides of the sea ? any prayer to prefer to the
Irish, but that they should forget and forgive
their oppressors, who, in the very moment
LETTER V. 91
that they are calling upon them for their ex-
ertions, solemnly assure them that the op-
pression shall still remain ?
Abraham, farewell! If I have tired you,
remember how often you have tired me and
others. I do not think we really differ in
politics so much as you suppose ; or at least,
if we do, that difference is in the means, and
not in the end. We both love the Constitu-
tion, respect the King, and abhor the French.
But though you love the Constitution, you
would perpetuate the abuses which have been
ingrafted upon it ; though you respect the
King, you would confirm his scruples against
the Catholics j though you abhor the French,
you would open to them the conquest of Ire-
land. My method of respecting my Sovereign
is by protecting his honour, his empire, and
his lasting happiness ; I evince my love of
the Constitution, by making it the guardian
of all men's rights and the source of their
freedom ; and I prove my abhorrence of the
French, by uniting against them the disciples
of every Church in the only remaining nation
92 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
in Europe. As for the men of whom I have
been compelled in this age of mediocrity to
say so much, they cannot of themselves be
worth a moment's consideration, to you, to
me, or to any body. In a year after their
death, they will be forgotten as completely as
if they had never been ; and are now of no
farther importance, than as they are the mere
vehicles of carrying into effect the common-
place and mischievous prejudices of the times
in which they live.
LETTER VI. 93
WHAT amuses me the most is, to hear of the
indulgences which the Catholics have re-
ceived, and their exorbitance in not being
satisfied with those indulgences : now if you
complain to me that a man is obtrusive, and
shameless in his requests, and that it is im-
possible to bring him to reason, I must first
of all hear the whole of your conduct towards
him ; for you may have taken from him so
much in the first instance, that, in spite of a
long series of restitution, a vast latitude for
petition may still remain behind.
There is a village (no matter where) in
which the inhabitants, on one day in the year,
sit down to a dinner prepared at the com-
mon expence : by an extraordinary piece of
tyranny (which Lord Hawkesbury would
call the wisdom of the village ancestors),
94* PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
the inhabitants of three of the streets, about
an hundred years ago, seized upon the in-
habitants of the fourth street, bound them
hand and foot, laid them upon their backs,
and compelled them to look on while the
rest were stuffing themselves with beef and
beer : the next year, the inhabitants of the
persecuted street (though they contributed
an equal quota of the expence) were treated
precisely in the same manner. The tyranny
grew into a custom ; and (as the manner of
our nature is) it was considered as the most
sacred of all duties to keep these poor
fellows without their annual dinner : the
village was so tenacious of this practice, that
nothing could induce them to resign it;
every enemy to it was looked upon as a dis-
believer in divine providence, and any nefa-
rious churchwarden who wished to succeed
in his election had nothing to do but to re-
present his antagonist as an abolitionist, in
order to frustrate his ambition, endanger his
life, and throw the village into a state of the
most dreadful commotion. By degrees, how-
LETTER VI. 95
ever, the obnoxious street grew to be so well
peopled, and its inhabitants so firmly united,
that their oppressors, more afraid of injustice,
were more disposed to be just At the next
dinner they are unbound, the year after al-
lowed to sit upright, then a bid of bread
and a glass of water ; till at last, after a long
series of concessions, they are emboldened to
ask, in pretty plain terms, that they may .be
allowed to sit down at the bottom of the
table, and to fill their bellies as well as the
rest. Forthwith, a general cry of shame and
scandal : " Ten years ago, were you not
laid upon your backs ? Don't you remember
what a great thing you thought it to get a
piece of bread ? How thankful you were
for cheese-parings ? Have you forgotten
that memorable aera, when the lord of the
manor interfered to obtain for you a slice of
the public pudding? And now, with an au-
dacity only equalled by your ingratitude, you
have the impudence to ask for knives and
forks, and to request, in terms too plain to
be mistaken, that you may sit down to table
96 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
with the rest, and be indulged even with beef
and beer : there are not more than half a
dozen dishes which we have reserved for our*
selves ; the rest has been thrown open to
you in the utmost profusion ; you have po-
tatoes, and carrots, suet dumplings, sops in
the pan, and delicious toast and water, in
incredible quantities. Beef, mutton, lamb,
pork, and veal are ours ; and if you were
not the most restless and dissatisfied of hu-
man beings, you would never think of aspiring
to enjoy them."
Is not this, my dainty Abraham, the very
nonsense and the very insult which is talked
to and practised upon the Catholics ? You
are surprised that men who have tasted
of partial justice should ask for perfect jus-
tice ; that he who has been robbed of coat
and cloak will not be contented with the
restitution of one of his garments. He
would be a very lazy blockhead if he were
content, and I (who, though an inhabitant
of the village, have preserved, thank God,
some sense of justice) most earnestly counsel
LETTER VI. 97
these half-fed claimants to persevere in their
just demands, till they are admitted to a more
complete share of a dinner for which they
pay as much as the others ; and if they see
a little attenuated lawyer squahbling at the
head of their opponents, let them desire him
to empty his pockets, and to pull out all
the pieces of duck, fowl, and pudding, which
he has filched from the public feast, to carry
home to his wife and children.
You parade a great deal upon the vast con-
cessions made by this country to the Irish
before the Union. I deny that any voluntary
concession was ever made by England to Ire-
land. What did Ireland ever ask that was
granted ? What did she ever demand that
was refused ? How did she get her mutiny
bill a limited parliament a repeal of Poyn-
ing's Law a constitution ? Not by the
concessions of England, but by her fears.
When Ireland asked for all these things upon
her knees, her petitions were rejected with
Percevalism and contempt : when she de-
manded them with the voice of 60,000 armed
98 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
men, they were granted with every mark of
consternation and dismay. Ask of Lord
Auckland the fatal consequences of trifling
with such a people as the Irish. He himself
was the organ of these refusals. As secretary
to the Lord Lieutenant, tfce insolence and
the tyranny of this . country passed through
his hands. Ask him if he remembers the
consequences. Ask him if he has forgotten
that memorable evening, when he came down
booted and mantled to the House of Com-
mons, when he told the House he was about
to set off for Ireland that night, and declared
before God, if he did not carry with him a
compliance with all their demands, Ireland
was for ever lost to this country. The present
generation have forgotten this ; but I have
not forgotten it ; and I know, hasty and un-
dignified as the submission of England then
was, that Lord Auckland was right, that the
delay of a single day might very probably have
separated the two people for ever. The terms
submission and fear are galling terms, when
applied from the lesser nation to the greater ;
LETTER VI. 99
but it is the plain historical truth, it is the
natural consequence of injustice, it is the pre-
dicament in which every country places itself
which leaves such a mass of hatred and dis-
content by its side. No empire is powerful
enough to endure it; it would exhaust the
strength of China, and sink it with all its
mandarins and tea-kettles to the bottom of
the deep. By refusing them justice, now
when you are strong enough to refuse them
any thing more than justice, you will act over
again, with the Catholics, the same scene of
mean and precipitate submission which dis-
graced you before America, and before the
volunteers of Ireland. We shall live to hear
the Hampstead Protestant pronouncing such
extravagant panegyrics upon holy water, and
paying such fulsome compliments to the
thumbs and offals of departed saints, that
parties will change sentiments, and Lord
Henry Petty and Sam Whitbread take a spell
at No Popery. The wisdom of Mr. Fox was
alike employed in teaching his country justice
when Ireland was weak, and dignity when
100 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
Ireland was strong. We are fast pacing round
the same miserable circle of ruin and imbe-
cility. Alas ! where is our guide ?
You say that Ireland is a mill-stone about
our necks ; that it would be better for us if
Ireland were sunk at the bottom of the sea ;
that the Irish are a nation of irreclaimable
savages and barbarians. How often have I
heard these sentiments fall from the plump
and thoughtless squire, and from the thriving
English shop-keeper, who has never felt the
rod of an Orange master upon his back. Ire-
land a mill- stone about your neck ! Why is it
not a stone of Ajax in your hand ? I agree
with you most cordially, that, governed as
Ireland now is, it would be a vast accession of
strength if the waves of the sea were to rise
and ingulph her to-morrow. At this moment,
opposed as we are to all the world, the annihi-
lation of one of the most fertile islands on the
face of the globe, containing five millions of
human creatures, would be one of the most
solid advantages which could happen to this
country. I doubt very much, in spite of all
LETTER VI. 101
the just abuse which has been lavished upon
Bonaparte, whether there is any one of his
conquered countries the blotting out of which
would be as beneficial to him as the destruction
of Ireland would be to us : of countries I
speak differing in language from the French,
little habituated to their intercourse, and in-
flamed with all the resentments of a recently
conquered people. Why will you attribute
the turbulence of our people to any cause but
the right to any cause but your own scan-
dalous oppression ? If you tie your horse up
to a gate, and beat him cruelly, is he vicious
because he kicks you ? If you have plagued
and worried a mastiff dog for years, is he mad
because he flies at you whenever he sees you ?
Hatred is an active, troublesome passion.
Depend upon it, whole nations have always
some reason for their hatred. Before you
refer the turbulence of the Irish to incurable
defects in their character, tell me if you have
treated them as friends and equals? Have
you protected their commerce ? Have you
respected their religion ? Have you been as
102 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
anxious for their freedom as your own ? No-
thing of all this. What then ? Why you
have confiscated the territorial surface of the
country twice over : you have massacred and
exported her inhabitants : you have deprived
four-fifths of them of every civil privilege :
you have at every period made her commerce
and manufactures slavishly subordinate to
your own : and yet the hatred which the
Irish bear to you is the result of an original
turbulence of character, and of a primitive,
obdurate wildness, utterly incapable of civil-
ization. The embroidered inanities and the
sixth-form effusions of Mr. Canning are really
not powerful enough to make me believe this ;
nor is there any authority on earth (always
excepting the Dean of Christ-Church) which
could make it credible to me. I am sick of
Mr. Canning. There is not a happ'orth of
bread to all his sugar and sack. I love not
the cretaceous and incredible countenance of
his colleague. The only opinion in which I
agree with these two gentlemen, is that which
they entertain of each other ; I am sure that
LETTER VI. 103
the insolence of Mr. Pitt, and the unbalanced
accounts of Melville, were far better than the
perils of this new ignorance :
Nonne fuit satius tristes Amaryllidis iras
Atque superba pati fastidia, nonne Menalcam,
Quamvis ille niger ?
In the midst of the most profound peace,
the secret articles of the Treaty of Tilsit, in
which the destruction of Ireland is resolved
upon, induce you to rob the Danes of their
fleet. After the expedition sailed comes the
Treaty of Tilsit, containing no article*, public
or private, alluding to Ireland. The state of
the world, you tell me, justified us in doing
this. Just God ! do we think only of the
state of the world when there is an oppor-
tunity for robbery, for murder, and for plun-
der ; and do we forget the state of the world
when we are called upon to be wise, and
good, and just ? Does the state of the world
never remind us, that we have four millions of
subjects whose injuries we ought to atone for,
* This is now completely confessed to be the case by
104 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
and whose affections we ought to conciliate?
Does the state of the world never warn us to
lay aside our infernal bigotry, and to arm every
man who acknowledges a God and can grasp
a sword ? Did it never occur to this adminis-
tration, that they might virtuously get hold of
a force ten times greater than the force of the
Danish fleet? Was there no other way of
protecting Ireland, but by bringing eternal
shame upon Great Britain, and by making
the earth a den of robbers? See what the
men whom you have supplanted would have
done. They would have rendered the inva-
sion of Ireland impossible, by restoring to the
Catholics their long-lost rights : they would
have acted in such a manner that the French
would neither have wished for invasion, nor
dared to attempt it : they would have in-
creased the permanent strength of the country
while they preserved its reputation unsullied*
Nothing of this kind your friends have done,
because they are solemnly pledged to do no-
thing of this kind ; because to tolerate all
religions, and to equalise civil rights to all
LETTER VI. 105
sects, is to oppose some of the worst passions
of our nature, to plunder and to oppress is
to gratify them all. They wanted the huzzas
of mobs, and they have for ever blasted the
fame of England to obtain them. Were the
fleets of Holland, France, and Spain destroyed
by larceny? You resisted the power of 150
sail of the line by sheer courage, and violated
every principle of morals from the dread of 15
hulks, while the expedition itself cost you
three times more than the value of the lar-
cenous matter brought away. The French
trample upon the laws of God and man, not
for old cordage, but for kingdoms, and always
take care to be well paid for their crimes. We
contrive, under the present administration, to
unite moral with intellectual deficiency, and
to grow weaker and worse by the same action.
If they had any evidence of the intended hos-
tility of the Danes, why was it not produced?
Why have the nations of Europe been allowed
to feel an indignation against this country be-
yond the reach of all subsequent information ?
Are these times, do you imagine, when we
106 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
can trifle with a year of universal hatred, dally
with the curses of Europe, and then regain a
lost character at pleasure, by the parliamentary
perspirations of the foreign secretary, or the
solemn asseverations of the pecuniary Rose ?
believe me, Abraham, it is not under such
ministers as these that the dexterity of honest
Englishmen will ever equal the dexterity
of French knaves ; it is not in their presence
that the serpent of Moses will ever swallow up
the serpents of the magicians.
Lord Hawkesbury says, that nothing is to
be granted to the Catholics from fear. What !
not even justice ? Why not ? There are four
millions of disaffected people within twenty
miles of your own coast. I fairly confess,
that the dread which I have of their physical
power, is with me a very strong motive for
listening to their claims. To talk of not
acting from fear is mere parliamentary cant.
From what motive but fear, I should be glad
to know, have all the improvements in our
constitution proceeded ? I question if any
justice has ever been done to large masses of
LETTER VI. 107
mankind from any other motive. By what
other motives can the plunderers of the Baltic
suppose nations to be governed in their inter-
course with each other? If I say, give this
people what they ask because it is just, do
you think I should get ten people to listen to
me ? Would not the lesser of the two Jen-
kinsons be the first to treat me with con-
tempt? The only true way to make the
mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is
by showing to them in .pretty plain terms
the consequences of injustice. If any body
of French troops land in Ireland, the whole
population of that country will rise against
you to a man, and you could not possibly
survive such an event three years. Such,
from the bottom of my soul, do I believe to
be the present state of that country ; and so
far does it appear to me to be impolitic and
unstatesman-like to concede any thing to
such a danger, that if the Catholics, in ad-
dition to their present just demands, were to
petition for the perpetual removal of the
said Lord Hawkesbury from his Majesty's
108 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
councils, I think, whatever might be the
effect upon the destinies of Europe, and how-
ever it might retard our own individual de-
struction, that the prayer of the petition
should be instantly complied with. Canning's
crocodile tears should not move me ; the
hoops of the maids of honour should not hide
him. I would tear him from the banisters of
the back stairs, and plunge him in the fishy
fumes of the dirtiest of all his Cinque Ports.
LETTER VII. 109
IN the correspondence which is passing be-
tween us, you are perpetually alluding to the
Foreign Secretary ; arid in answer to the
dangers of Ireland, which I am pressing upon
your notice, you have nothing to urge but the
confidence which you repose in the dis-
cretion and sound sense of this gentleman.*
I can only say, that I have listened to him
long and often, with the greatest attention ;
I have used every exertion in my power to
take a fair measure of him, and it appears to
* The attack upon virtue and morals in the debate
upon Copenhagen, is brought forward with great osten-
tation by this gentleman's friends. But is harlequin less
harlequin, because he acts well ? I was present : he
leaped about, touched facts with his wand, turned yes
into no, and no into yes ; it was a pantomime well played,
but a pantomime : Harlequin deserves higher wages than
he did two years ago ; is he therefore fit for serious
110 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
me impossible to hear him upon any arduous
topic without perceiving that he is eminently
deficient in those solid and serious qualities
upon which, and upon which alone, the con-
fidence of a great country can properly re-
pose. He sweats, and labours, and works for
sense, and Mr. Ellis seems always to think it
is coming, but it does not come ; the machine
can't draw up what is not to be found in the
spring ; Providence has made him a light,
jesting, paragraph-writing man, and that he
will remain to his dying day. When he
is jocular he is strong, when he is serious
he is like Sampson in a wig ; any or-
dinary person is a match for him ; a song,
an ironical letter, a burlesque ode, an attack
in the newspaper upon Nicoll's eye, a smart
speech of twenty minutes, full of gross mis-
representations and clever turns, excellent
language, a spirited manner, lucky quotation,
success in provoking dull men, some half
information picked up in Pall Mall in the
morning: these are your friend's natural
weapons ; all these things he can do ; here
LETTER VII. Ill
I allow him to be truly great : nay, I will be
just, and go still farther, if he would confine
himself to these things, and consider the
facets and the playful to be the basis of his
character, he would, for that species of man,
be universally regarded as a person of a very
good understanding ; call him a legislator, a
reasoner, and the conductor of the affairs of a
great nation, and it seems to me as absurd as
if a butterfly were to teach bees to make
honey. That he is an extraordinary writer of
small poetry, and a diner out of the highest
lustre, I do most readily admit. After George
Selwyn, and perhaps Tickell, there has been
no such man for this half century. The
Foreign Secretary is a gentleman, a respectable
as well as an highly agreeable man in private
life ; but you may as well feed me with
decayed potatoes as console me for the
miseries of Ireland by the resources of his
sense and his discretion. It is only the public
situation which this gentleman holds which
entitles me or induces me to say so much
about him. He is a fly in amber, nobody
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
cares about the fly : the only question is,
How the devil did it get there ? Nor do I
attack him from the love of glory, but from the
love of utility, as a burgomaster hunts a rat in a
Dutch dyke, for fear it should flood a province.
The friends of the Catholic question are, I
observe, extremely embarrassed in arguing
when they come to the loyalty of the Irish
Catholics. As for me, I shall go straight
forward to my object, and state what I have
no manner of doubt, from an intimate know-
ledge of Ireland, to be the plain truth. Of
the great Roman Catholic proprietors, and of
the Catholic prelates, there may be a few, and
but a few, who would follow the fortunes of
England at all events : there is another set of
men who, thoroughly detesting this country,
have too much property and too much
character to lose, not to wait for some very
favourable event before they show themselves ;
but the great mass of Catholic population,
upon the slightest appearance of a French
force in that country, would rise upon you to
a man. It is the most mistaken policy to
LETTER VII. 113
conceal the plain truth. There is no loyalty
among the Catholics ; they detest you as
their worst oppressors, and they will continue
to detest you till you remove the cause of
their hatred. It is in your power in six
months' time to produce a total revolution of
opinions among this people ; and in some
future letter I will show you that this is
clearly the case. At present, see what a
dreadful state Ireland is in. The common
toast among the low Irish is, the feast of the
passover. Some allusion to Bonaparte, in a
play lately acted at Dublin, produced thun-
ders of applause from the pit and the galleries ;
and a politician should not be inattentive to
the public feelings expressed in theatres.
Mr. Perceval thinks he has disarmed the
Irish : he has no more disarmed the Irish
than he has resigned a shilling of his own
public emoluments. An Irish* peasant fills
* No man who is not intimately acquainted with the
Irish, can tell to what a curious extent this concealment
of arms is carried. I have stated the exact mode in which
it is done.
114 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
the barrel of his gun full of tow dipped in oil,
butters up the lock, buries it in a bog, and
allows the Orange bloodhound to ransack his
cottage at pleasure. Be just and kind to the
Irish, and you will indeed disarm them ;
rescue them from the degraded servitude in
which they are held by an handful of their
own countrymen, and you will add four
millions of brave and affectionate men to your
strength. Nightly visits, Protestant inspec-
tors, licences to possess a pistol, or a knife
and fork, the odious vigour of the evangelical
Perceval acts of Parliament, drawn up by
some English attorney, to save you from the
hatred of four million people the guarding
yourselves from universal disaffection by a
police; a confidence in the little cunning of
Bow-street, when you might rest your security
upon the eternal basis of the best feelings :
this is the meanness and madness to which
nations are reduced when they lose sight of
the first elements of justice, without which a
country can be no more secure than it can be
healthy without air. I sicken at such policy
LETTER VII. 115
and such men. The fact is, the ministers
know nothing about the present state of
Ireland ; Mr. Perceval sees a few clergymen,
Lord Castlereagh a few general officers, who
take care, of course, to report what is
pleasant rather than what is true. As for
the joyous and lepid consul, he jokes upon
neutral flags and frauds, jokes upon Irish
rebels, jokes upon northern, and western, and
southern foes, and gives himself no trouble
upon any subject: nor is the mediocrity of
the idolatrous deputy of the slightest use.
Dissolved in grins, he reads no memorials
upon the state of Ireland, listens to no reports,
asks no questions, and is the
"JBourn from whom no traveller returns."
The danger of an immediate insurrection
is now, I believe*, blown over. You have
so strong an army in Ireland, and the
Irish are become so much more cunning
from the last insurrection, that you may
* I know too much, however, of the state of Ireland,
not to speak tremblingly about this. I hope to God I am
116 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
perhaps be tolerably secure just at present
from that evil : but are you secure from
the efforts which the French may make
to throw a body of troops into Ireland?
and do you consider that event to be difficult
and improbable ? From Brest Harbour to
Cape St. Vincent, you have above three
thousand miles of hostile sea coast, and
twelve or fourteen harbours quite capable
of containing a sufficient force for the power-
ful invasion of Ireland. The nearest of these
harbours is not two days' sail from the
southern coast of Ireland, with a fair leading
wind ; and the farthest not ten. Five ships
of the line, for so very short a passage,
might carry five or six thousand troops with
cannon and ammunition ; and Ireland presents
to their attack a southern coast of more
than 500 miles, abounding in deep bays,
admirable harbours, and disaffected inha-
bitants. Your blockading ships may be
forced to come home for provisions and
repairs, or they may be blown off in a gale
of wind and compelled to bear away for their
LETTER VII. 117
own coast : and you will observe that the
very same wind which locks you up in the
British Channel when you are got there ;
is evidently favourable for the invasion of
Ireland. And yet this is called Government,
and the people huzza Friar Perceval for
continuing, to expose his country day after
day to such tremendous perils as these j
cursing the men who would have given up
a question in theology to have saved us
from such a risk. The British Empire
at this moment is in the state of a peach-
blossom, if the wind blows gently from one
quarter it survives, if furiously from the other
it perishes. A stiff breeze may set in from
the north, the Rochefort squadron will be
taken, and the friar will be the most holy of
men ; if it comes from some other point,
Ireland is gone, we curse ourselves as a set
of monastic madmen, and caU out for the
unavailing satisfaction of Mr. Perceval's head.
Such a state of political existence is scarcely
credible ; it is the action of a mad young
fool standing upon one foot, and peeping
118 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS. .
down the crater of Mount ^Etna, not the
conduct of a wise and a sober people de-
ciding upon their best and dearest interests :
and in the name, the much injured name of
Heaven, what is it all for that we expose
ourselves to these dangers ? Is it that we may
sell more muslin ? Is it that we may acquire
more territory ? Is it that we may strengthen
what we have already acquired ? No : nothing
of all this 5 but that one set of Irishmen may
torture another set of Irishmen, that Sir
Phelim O'Callagan may continue to whip Sir
Toby M'Tackle, his next-door neighbour, and
continue to ravish his Catholic daughters ;
and these are the measures which the honest
and consistent Secretary supports ; and this
is the Secretary whose genius, in the esti-
timation of brother Abraham, is to extinguish
the genius of Bonaparte. Pompey was killed
by a slave, Goliah smitten by a stripling,
Pyrrhus died by the hand of a woman ;
tremble, thou great Gaul, from whose head an
armed Minerva leaps forth in the hour of dan-
ger 5 tremble, thou scourge of God, a pleasant
LETTER VII. 119
man is come out against thee, and thou
shalt be laid low by a joker of jokes, and
he shall talk his pleasant talk against thee,
and thou shalt be no more I
You tell me, in spite of all this parade of
sea coast, Bonaparte has neither ships nor
sailors : but this is a mistake. He has not
ships and sailors to contest the empire of
the seas with Great Britain, but there re-
mains quite sufficient of the navies of France,
Spain, Holland, and Denmark, for these short
excursions and invasions. Do you think
too that Bonaparte does not add to his navy
every year ? Do you suppose, with all
Europe at his feet, that he can find any
difficulty in obtaining timber ? and that
money will not procure for him any quantity
of naval stores he may want? The mere
machine, the empty ship, he can build as
well, and as quickly as you can ; and though
he may not find enough of practised sailors
to man large fighting fleets, it is not
possible to conceive that he can want sailors
for such sort of purposes as I have stated.
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
He is at present the despotic monarch of
above twenty thousand miles of sea coast, and
yet you suppose he cannot procure sailors for
the invasion of Ireland. Believe, if you
please, that such a fleet met at sea by any
number of our ships at all comparable to them
in point of force, would be immediately
taken, let it be so ; I count nothing upon
their power of resistance, only upon their
power of escaping unobserved. If expe-
rience has taught us any thing, it is the
impossibility of perpetual blockades. The
instances are innumerable, during the course
of this war, where whole fleets have sailed in
and out of harbour in spite of every vigilance
used to prevent it. I shall only mention
those cases where Ireland is concerned. In
December, 1796, seven ships of the line, and
ten transports, reached Bantry Bay from
Brest, without having seen an English ship
in their passage. It blew a storm when
they were off shore, and therefore England
still continues to be an independent kingdom.
You will observe that at the very time the
French fleet sailed out of Brest harbour,
Admiral Colpoys was cruizing off there
with a powerful squadron, and still, from
the particular circumstances of the weather,
found it impossible to prevent the French
from coming out. During the time that
Admiral Colpoys was cruising off Brest,
Admiral Richery, with six ships of the line,
passed him, and got safe into the harbour.
At the very moment when the French
squadron was lying in Bantry Bay, Lord
Bridport with his fleet was locked up by a
foul wind in the Channel, and for several
days could not stir to the assistance of
Ireland. Admiral Colpoys, totally unable
to find the French fleet, came home. Lord
Bridport, at the change of the wind, cruised
for them in vain, and they got safe back
to Brest, without having seen a single one
of those floating bulwarks, the possession of
which we believe will enable us with impu-
nity to set justice and common sense at
defiance. Such is the miserable and pre-
carious state of an anemocracy, of a people
122 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
who put their trust in hurricanes, and are
governed by wind. In August, 1798, three
forty-gun frigates landed 1100 me n under
Humbert, making the passage from Rochelle
to Killala without seeing any English ship.
In October of the same year, four French
frigates anchored in Killala Bay with 2000
troops ; and though they did not land their
troops, they returned to France in safety.
In the same month, a line-of-battle ship,
eight stout frigates, and a brig, all full of
troops and stores, J 5 reached the coast of
Ireland, and were fortunately, in sight of
land, destroyed, after an obstinate engage-
ment, by Sir John Warren.
If you despise the little troop which, in
these numerous experiments, did make good
its landing, take with you, if you please, this
precis of its exploits : eleven hundred men,
commanded by a soldier raised from the ranks,
put to rout a select army of 6000 men,
commanded by General Lake, seized their
ordnance, ammunition, and stores, advanced
150 miles into a country containing an armed
force of 150,000 men, and at last surren-
dered to the viceroy, an experienced general,
gravely and cautiously advancing at the head
of all his chivalry and of an immense army
to oppose him. You must excuse these details
about Ireland, but it appears to me to be of
all other subjects the most important. If we
conciliate Ireland, we can do nothing amiss ;
if we do not, we can do nothing well. If
Ireland was friendly, we might equally set at
defiance the talents of Bonaparte and the
blunders of his rival Mr. Canning ; we could
then support the ruinous and silly bustle of
our useless expeditions, and the almost in-
credible ignorance of our commercial orders
in council. Let the present administration
give up but this one point, and there is
nothing which I would not consent to grant
them. Mr. Perceval shall have full liberty
to insult the tomb of Mr. Fox, and to tor-
ment every eminent Dissenter in Great Bri-
tain ; Lord Cam den shall have large boxes
of plums ; Mr. Rose receive permission to
prefix to his name the appellative of virtuous ;
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
and to the Viscount Castlereagh a round sum
of ready money shall be well and truly paid
into his hand. Lastly, what remains to Mr.
George Canning, but that he ride up and
down Pall Mall glorious upon a white horse,
and that they cry out before him, Thus shall
it be done to the statesman who hath written
" The Needy Knife- Grinder, " and the Ger-
man play ? Adieu only for the present ; you
shall soon hear from me again ; it is a subject
upon which I cannot long be silent.
NOTHING can be more erroneous than to
suppose that Ireland is not bigger than the
Isle of Wight, or of more consequence than
Guernsey or Jersey ; and yet I am almost in-
clined to believe, from the general supineness
which prevails here respecting the dangerous
state of that country, that such is the rank
which it holds in our statistical tables. I have
been writing to you a great deal about Ire-
land, and perhaps it may be of some use to state
to you concisely the nature and resources of
the country which has been the subject of
our long and strange correspondence. There
were returned, as I have before observed, to
the hearth tax, in 1791, 701,132* houses,
which Mr. Newenham shows from unques-
* The checks to population were very trifling from the
rebellion. It lasted two months : of His Majesty's Irish
forces there perished about 1600; of the rebels 11,000
were killed in the field, and 2000 hanged or exported :
400 loyal persons were assassinated.
126 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
tionable documents to be nearly 80,000
below the real number of houses in that
country. There are 27,457 square English
miles in Ireland*, and more than five millions
By the last survey it appears that the in-
habited houses in England and Wales amount
1,574,902, and the population to 9,343,578,
which gives an average of 5 ^ to each house,
in a country where the density of population
is certainly less considerable than in Ireland.
It is commonly supposed that two-fifths of the
army and navy are Irishmen, at periods when
political disaffection does not avert the Ca-
tholics from the service. The current value of
Irish exports in 1807 was 9,314,854/. 17$. Jd.;
a state of commerce about equal to the
commerce of England in the middle of the
reign of George the Second. The tonnage
of ships entered inward and cleared outward
in the trade of Ireland, in 1807, amounted to
1 ,567,430 tons. The quantity of home spirits
exported amounted to 10,284 gallons in 1796,
and to 930,800 gallons in 1804. Of the ex-
* In England 49,450.
ports which I have stated, provisions amounted
to four millions, and linen to about four millions
and a half. There was exported from Ireland,
upon an average of two years ending in
January, 1804, 591,274 barrels of barley, oats,
and wheat; and by weight 910,848 cwts. of
flour, oatmeal, barley, oats, and wheat. The
amount of butter exported in 1804, from Ire-
land, was worth, in money, 1,704,680/. sterling.
The importation of ale and beer, from the im-
mense manufactures now carrying on of these
articles,*- was diminished to 3209 barrels, in the
year 1804, from 11 1,920 barrels, which was the
average importation per annum, taken from
three years ending in 1792; and at present there
is an export trade of porter. On an average
of three years, ending March, 1783, there were
imported in to Ireland, of cotton wool3326 cwts.,
of cotton yarn 5405 Ibs.; but on an average
of three years, ending January, 1803, there
were imported, of the first article, 13,159
cwts., and of the latter 628,406 Ibs. It is
impossible to conceive any manufacture more
flourishing. The export of linen has in-
128 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
creased in Ireland from 17,776,862 yards, the
average in 1770, to 43,534,971 yards, the
amount in 1805. The tillage of Ireland has
more than trebled within the last twenty- one
years. The importation of coals has increased
from 230,000 tons in 1783, to 417,030 in
1804 ; of tobacco, from 3,459,861 Ibs. in
1783, to 6,611,543 in 1804; of tea, from
1,703,855 Ibs. in 1783, to 3,358,256, in
1804 ; of sugar, from 143,117 cwts. in 1782,
to 309,076 in 1804. Ireland now supports
a funded debt of above 64 millions, and it is
computed that more than three millions of
money are annually remitted to Irish ab-
sentees resident in this country. In Mr.
Foster's report, of 100 folio pages, presented
to the House of Commons in the year 1806,
the total expenditure of Ireland is stated at
9,760,013/. Ireland has increased about two
thirds in its population within twenty-five years,
and yet, and in about the same space of time, its
exports of beef, bullocks, cows, pork, swine,
butter, wheat, barley, and oats, collectively
taken, have doubled ; and this in spite of
two years' famine, and the presence of an
immense army, that is always at hand to
guard the most valuable appanage of our
empire from joining our most inveterate
enemies. Ireland has the greatest possible
facilities for carrying on commerce with the
whole of Europe. It contains, within a
circuit of 7^0 miles, 66 secure harbours, and
presents a western frontier against Great
Britain, reaching from the Firth of Clyde
north to the Bristol Channel south, and
varying in distance from 20 to 100 miles ; so
that the subjugation of Ireland would compel
us to guard with ships and soldiers a new
line of coast, certainly amounting, with all
its sinuosities, to more than 700 miles an
addition of polemics, in our present state of
hostility with all the world, which must
highly gratify the vigorists, and give them
an ample opportunity of displaying that
foolish energy upon which their claims to
distinction are founded. Such is the country
which the Right Reverend the Chancellor of
the Exchequer would drive into the arms of
130 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
France, and for the conciliation of which we
are requested to wait, as if it were one of
those sinecure place's which were given to
Mr. Perceval snarling at the breast, and
which cannot be abolished till his decease.
How sincerely and fervently have I often
wished that the Emperor of the French had
thought as Mr. Spencer Perceval does upon
the subject of government ; that he had
entertained doubts and scruples upon the
propriety of admitting the Protestants to an
equality of rights with the Catholics, and that
he had left in the middle of this empire these
vigorous seeds of hatred and disaffection :
but the world was never yet conquered by a
blockhead. One of the very first measures
we saw him recurring to was the complete
establishment of religious liberty ; if his sub-
jects fought and paid as he pleased, he allowed
them to believe as they pleased : the moment
I saw this, my best hopes were lost. I per-
ceived in a moment the kind of man we had
to do with. I was well aware of the mise-
rable ignorance and folly of this country upon
LETTER VIII. 131
the subject of toleration ; and every year has
been adding to the success of that game which
it was clear he had the will and the ability to
play against us.
You say Bonaparte is not in earnest upon
the subject of religion, and that this is the
cause of his tolerant spirit : but is it possible
you can intend to give us such dreadful and
unamiable notions of religion ? Are we to
understand that the moment a man is sincere
he is narrow-minded ; that persecution is the
child of belief ; and that a desire to leave all
men in the quiet and unpunished exercise of
their own creed can only exist in the mind of
an infidel ? Thank God ! I know many
men whose principles are as firm as they are
expanded, who cling tenaciously to their own
modification of the Christian faith, without
the slightest disposition to force that modifica-
tion upon other people. If Bonaparte is
liberal in subjects of religion because he has
no religion, is this a reason why we should be
illiberal because we are Christians? If he
owes this excellent quality to a vice, is that
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
any reason why we may not owe it to a
virtue ? Toleration is a great good, and a
good to be imitated, let it come from whom
it will. If a sceptic is tolerant, it only shows
that he is not foolish in practice as well as
erroneous in theory. If a religious man is
tolerant, it evinces that he is religious from
thought and inquiry, because he exhibits in
his conduct one of the most beautiful and im-
portant consequences of a religious mind,
an inviolable charity to all the honest varieties
of human opinion.
Lord Sidmouth, and all the anti-catholic
people, little foresee that they will hereafter
be the sport of the antiquarian ; that their
prophecies of ruin and destruction from
Catholic emancipation will be clapped into
the notes of some quaint history, and be
matter of pleasantry even to the sedulous
housewife and the rural dean. There is
always a copious supply of Lord Sidmouths in
the world ; nor is there one single source of
human happiness, against which they have
not uttered the most lugubrious predictions.
LETTER VIII. 133
Turnpike roads, navigable canals, inoculation,
hops, tobacco, the Reformation, the Revolution,
there are always a set of worthy and
moderately-gifted men, who bawl out death
and ruin upon every valuable change which
the varying aspect of human affairs absolutely
and imperiously requires. I have often
thought that it would be extremely useful to
make a collection of the hatred and abuse
that all those changes have experienced,
which are now admitted to be marked im-
provements in our condition. Such an
history might make folly a little more modest,
and suspicious of its own decisions.
Ireland, you say, since the Union, is to be
considered as a part of the whole kingdom ;
and therefore, however Catholics may pre-
dominate in that particular spot, yet, taking
the whole empire together, they are to be
considered as a much more insignificant quota
of the population. Consider them in what
light you please, as part of the whole, or by
themselves, or in what manner may be most
consentaneous to the devices of your holy
134 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
mind I say in a very few words, if you do
not relieve these people from the civil incapa-
cities to which they are exposed, you will
lose them ; or you must employ great
strength and much treasure in watching
over them. In the present state of the world,
you can afford to do neither the one, nor the
other. Having stated this, I shall leave you
to be ruined, Puffendorf in hand (as Mr.
Secretary Canning says), and to lose Ireland,
just as you have found out what proportion
the aggrieved people should bear to the
whole population, before their calamities
meet with redress. As for your parallel
cases, I am no more afraid of deciding upon
them than I am upon their prototype. If
ever any one heresy should so far spread itself
over the principality of Wales that the esta-
blished church were left in a minority of one
to four ; if you had subjected these heretics
to very severe civil privations ; if the conse-
quence of such privations were an universal
state of disaffection among that caseous and
wrathful people ; and if at the same time you
LETTER VIII. 135
were at war with all the world, how can you
doubt for a moment that I would instantly
restore them to a state of the most complete
civil liberty? What matters it under what
name you put the same case? Common
sense is not changed by appellations. I have
said how I would act to Ireland, and I would
act so to all the world.
I admit that, to a certain degree, the
government will lose the affections of the
Orangemen by emancipating the Catholics ;
much less, however, at present, than three
years past. The few men, who have ill
treated the whole crew, live in constant terror
that the oppressed people will rise upon them
and carry the ship into Brest : they begin
to find that it is a very tiresome thing to
sleep every night with cocked pistols under
their pillows, and to breakfast, dine, and sup
with drawn hangers. They suspect that the
privilege of beating and kicking the rest of
the sailors is hardly worth all this anxiety,
and that if the ship does ever fall into the
hands of the disaffected, all the cruelties
136 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
which they have experienced will be tho-
roughly remembered and amply repaid. To
a short period of disaffection among the
Orangemen, I confess I should not much
object : my love of poetical justice does carry
me as far as that j one summer's whipping,
only one : the thumb-screw for a short sea-
son ; a little light easy torturing between
Lady-day and Michaelmas ; a short specimen
of Mr. Perceval's rigour. I have malice
enough to ask this slight atonement for the
groans and shrieks of the poor Catholics,
unheard by any human tribunal, but regis-
tered by the Angel of God against their Pro-
testant and enlightened oppressors.
Besides, if you who count ten so often can
count five, you must perceive that it is better
to have four friends and one enemy than
four enemies and one friend ; and the more
violent the hatred of the Orangemen, the
more certain the reconciliation of the Ca-
tholics. The disaffection of J:he Orangemen
will be the Irish rainbow ; when I see it, I
shall be sure that the storm is over.
LETTER VIII. 137
If those incapacities, from which the Ca-
tholics ask to be relieved, were to the mass of
them only a mere feeling of pride, and if the
question were respecting the attainment of
privileges which could be of importance only
to the highest of the sect, I should still say,
that the pride of the mass was very naturally
wounded by the degradation of their superiors.
Indignity to George Rose would be felt by
the smallest nummary gentleman in the king's
employ ; and Mr. John Bannister could not
be indifferent to any thing which happened
to Mr. Canning. But the truth is, it is a
most egregious mistake to suppose that the
Catholics are contending merely for the
fringes and feathers of their chiefs. I will
give you a list, in my next Letter, of those
privations which are represented to be of no
consequence to any body but Lord Fingal,
and some twenty or thirty of the principal
persons of their sect. In the meantime,
adieu, and be wise.
138 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
No Catholic can be Chief Governor or Go-
vernor of this Kingdom, Chancellor or
Keeper of the Great Seal, Lord High Trea-
surer, Chief of any of the Courts of Justice,
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Puisne Judge,
Judge in the Admiralty, Master of the Rolls,
Secretary of State, Keeper of the Privy Seal,
Vice Treasurer or his Deputy, Teller or
Cashier of Exchequer, Auditor or General,
Governor or Custos Rotulorum of Counties,
Chief Governor's Secretary, Privy Councillor,
King's Counsel, Sergeant, Attorney, Solicitor
General, Master in Chancery, Provost or
Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, Postmas-
ter-General, Master and Lieutenant General
of Ordnance, Commander in Chief, General
on the Staff, Sheriff, Sub-Sheriff, Mayor,
LETTER IX. 139
Bailiff, Recorder, Burgess, or any other offi-
cer in a City, or a Corporation. No Catholic
can be a guardian to a Protestant, and no
priest guardian at all : no Catholic can be a
game-keeper, or have for sale, or otherwise,
any arms or warlike stores : no Catholic can
present to a living, unless he choose to turn
Jew in order to obtain that privilege ; the
pecuniary qualification of Catholic jurors is
made higher than that of Protestants, and no
relaxation of the ancient rigorous code is per-
mitted, unless to those who shall take an oath
prescribed by 13 and 14 Geo. III. Now if
this is not picking the plums out of the
pudding, and leaving the mere batter to the
Catholics, I know not what is. If it were
merely the Privy Council, it would be (I
allow) nothing but a point of honour for which
the mass of Catholics were contending, the
honour of being chief-mourners or pall-
bearers to the country : but surely no man
will contend that every barrister may not
speculate upon the possibility of being a
puisne judge j and that every shopkeeper
140 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
must not feel himself injured by his exclusion
from borough offices.
One of the greatest practical evils which
the Catholics suffer in Ireland is their exclu-
sion from the offices of Sheriff and Deputy
Sheriff. Nobody who is unacquainted with
Ireland can conceive the obstacles which this
opposes to the fair administration of justice.
The formation of juries is now' entirely in
the hands of the Protestants ; the lives, liber-
ties, and properties of the Catholics in the
hands of the juries : and this is the arrange-
ment for the administration of justice in a
country where religious prejudices are in-
flamed to the greatest degree of animosity !
In this country, if a man is a foreigner, if he
seUs slippers, and sealing wax, and artificial
flowers, we are so tender of human life that
we take care half the number of persons who
are to decide upon his fate should be men of
similar prejudices and feelings with himself:
but a poor Catholic in Ireland may be tried
by twelve Percevals, and destroyed according
to the manner of that gentleman in the name
of the Lord, and with all the insulting forms
of justice. I do not go the length of saying
that deliberate and wilful injustice is done.
I have no doubt that the Orange Deputy-
Sheriff thinks it would be a most unpardonable
breach of his duty if he did not summon a
Protestant pannel. I can easily believe that
the Protestant pannel may conduct themselves
very conscientiously in hanging the gentle-
men of the crucifix; but I blame the law
which does not guard the Catholic against the
probable tenour of those feelings which must
unconsciously influence the judgments of
mankind. I detest that state of society which
extends unequal degrees of protection to dif-
ferent creeds and persuasions ; and I cannot
describe to you the contempt I feel for a man
who, calling himself a statesman, defends a
system which fills the heart of every Irishman
with treason, and makes his allegiance pru-
dence, not choice.
I request to know if the vestry taxes in Ire-
land are a mere matter of romantic feeling,
which can affect only the Earl of Fingal ? In
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
a parish where there are four thousand Ca-
tholics and fifty Protestants, the Protestants
may meet together in a vestry meeting, at
which no Catholic has the right to vote, and
tax all the lands in the parish Is. 6d. per acre,
or in the pound, I forget which, for the re-
pairs of the church, and how has the ne-
cessity of these repairs been ascertained ? A
Protestant plumber has discovered that it
wants new leading ; a Protestant carpenter is
convinced the timbers are not sound, and a
glazier who hates holy water (as an accoucheur
hates celibacy because he gets nothing by it)
is employed to put in new sashes.
The grand juries in Ireland are the great
scene of jobbing. They have a power of
making a county rate to a considerable extent
for roads, bridges, and other objects of general
accommodation. "You suffer the road to be
brought through my park, and I will have the
bridge constructed in a situation where it will
make a beautiful object to your house. You
do my job, and I will do yours." These are
the sweet and interesting subjects which oc-
LETTER IX. 143
casionally occupy Milesian gentlemen while
they are attendant upon this grand inquest of
justice. But there is a religion, it seems, even
in jobs; and it will be highly gratifying to
Mr. Perceval to learn that no man in Ireland
who believes in seven sacraments can carry a
public road, or bridge, one yard out of the
direction most beneficial to the public, and
that nobody can cheat that public who does
not expound the scriptures in the purest and
most orthodox manner. This will give plea-
sure to Mr. Perceval : but, from his unfairness
upon these topics, I appeal to the justice and
the proper feelings of Mr. Huskisson. I ask
him if the human mind can experience a
more dreadful sensation than to see its own
jobs refused, and the jobs of another religion
perpetually succeeding ? I ask him his opi-
nion of a jobless faith, of a creed which dooms
a man through life to a lean and plunderless
integrity. He knows that human nature can-
not and will not bear it ; and if we were to
paint a political Tartarus, it would be an end-
less series of snug expectations and cruel
144 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
disappointments. These are a few of many
dreadful inconveniences which the Catholics
of all ranks suffer from the laws by which they
are at present oppressed. Besides, look at
human nature : what is the history of all
professions ? Joel is to be brought up to the
bar : has Mrs. Plymley the slightest doubt of
his being chancellor ? Do not his two shrivelled
aunts live in the certainty of seeing him in
that situation, and of cutting out with their
own hands his equity habiliments ? And I
could name a certain minister of the Gospel
who does not, in the bottom of his heart,
much differ from these opinions. Do you
think that the fathers and mothers of the holy
Catholic church are not as absurd as Protestant
papas and mammas ? The probability I admit
to be, in each particular case, that the sweet
little blockhead will in fact never get a brief:
but I will venture to say there is not a
parent from the Giant's Causeway to Bantry
Bay who does not conceive that his child is
the unfortunate victim of the exclusion, and
that nothing short of positive law.could pre-
LETTER IX. 145
vent his own dear pre-eminent Paddy from
rising to the highest honours of the state. So
with the army, and parliament ; in fact, few
are excluded ; but, in imagination, all : you
keep twenty or thirty Catholics out, and you
lose the affections of four millions ; and, let
me tell you, that recent circumstances have
by no means tended to diminish in the minds
of men that hope of elevation beyond their
own rank which is so congenial to our nature :
from pleading for John Roe to taxing John
Bull, from jesting for Mr. Pitt and writing in
the Anti-Jacobin, to managing the affairs of
Europe, these are leaps which seem to
justify the fondest dreams of mothers and of
I do not say that the disabilities to which
the Catholics are exposed amount to such
intolerable grievances, that the strength and
industry of a nation are overwhelmed by
them : the increasing prosperity of Ireland
fully demonstrates the contrary. But I repeat
again, what I have often stated in the course
of our correspondence, that your laws against
146 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS,
the Catholics are exactly in that state in which
you have neither the benefits of rigour nor of
liberality : every law which prevented the
Catholic from gaining strength and wealth
is repealed ; every law which can irritate re-
mains : if you were determined to insult the
Catholics, you should have kept them weak ;
if you resolved to give them strength, you
should have ceased to insult them ; at
present your conduct is pure unadulterated
Lord Hawkesbury says, we heard nothing
about the Catholics till we began to mitigate
the laws against them ; when we relieved them
in part from this oppression they began to be
disaffected. This is very true : but it proves
just what I have said, that you have either
done too much, or too little ; and as there
lives not, I hope, upon earth, so depraved a
courtier that he would load the Catholics with
their ancient chains, what absurdity it is then
not to render their dispositions friendly, when
you leave their arms and legs free !
You know, and many Englishmen know,
LETTER IX. 147
what passes in China ; but nobody knows or
cares what passes in Ireland. At the be-
ginning of the present reign, no Catholic could
realise property, or carry on any business ;
they were absolutely annihilated, and had no
more agency in the country than so many
trees. They were like Lord Mulgrave's elo-
quence, and Lord Cambden's wit ; the legis-
lative bodies did not know of their existence.
For these twenty-five " years last past, the
Catholics have been engaged in commerce :
within that period the commerce of Ireland
has doubled: there are four Catholics at
work for one Protestant, and eight Catholics
at work for one Episcopalian ; of course, the
proportion which Catholic wealth bears to
Protestant wealth is every year altering ra-
pidly in favour of the Catholics. I have
already told you what their purchases of land
were the last year : since that period, I have
been at some pains to find out the actual state
of the Catholic wealth : it is impossible, upon
such a subject, to arrive at complete accuracy;
but I have good reason to believe that there
148 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
are at present 2000 Catholics in Ireland,
possessing an income from 500/. upwards, many
of these with incomes of one, two, three, and
four thousand, and some amounting to fifteen
and twenty thousand, per annum : and this
is the kingdom and these the people, for
whose conciliation we are to wait Heaven
knows when, and Lord Hawkesbury why!
As for me, I never think of the situation of
Ireland, without feeling the same necessity
for immediate interference as I should do if I
saw blood flowing from a great artery. I rush
towards it with the instinctive rapidity of a
man desirous of preventing death, and have
no other feeling but that in a few seconds the
patient may be no more.
I could not help smiling, in the times of
No Popery, to witness the loyal' indignation of
many persons at the attempt made by the last
ministry to do something for the relief of
Ireland. The general cry in the country was,
that they would not see their beloved monarch
used ill in his old age, and that they would
stand b} him to the last drop of their blood :
LETTER IX. 149
I respect good feelings, however erroneous be
the occasions on which they display them-
selves ; and, therefore I saw in all this as much
to admire as to blame. It was a species of
affection, however, which reminded me very
forcibly of the attachment displayed by the
servants of the Russian ambassador, at the
beginning of the last century. His Excellency
happened to fall down in a kind of apoplectic
fit, when he was paying a morning visit in the
house of an acquaintance. The confusion
was of course very great, and messengers were
despatched, in every direction, to find a sur-
geon, who, upon his arrival, declared that his
Excellency must be immediately blooded, and
prepared himself forthwith to perform the
operation : the barbarous servants of the em-
bassy, who were there in great numbers, no
sooner saw the surgeon prepared to wound
the arm of their master with a sharp shining
instrument, than they drew their swords, put
themselves in an attitude of defence, and
swore in pure Sclavonic, "that they would
murder any man who attempted to do him the
150 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
slightest injury: he had been a very good
master -to them, and they would not desert
him in his misfortunes, or suffer his blood to
be shed while he was off his guard, and in-
capable of defending himself." By good
fortune, the secretary arrived about this period
of the dispute, and his Excellency, relieved
from superfluous blood and perilous affection,
was, after much difficulty, restored to life.
There is an argument brought forward with
some appearance of plausibility in the House
of Commons which certainly merits an answer :
you know that the Catholics now vote for
members of parliament in Ireland, and that
they outnumber the Protestants in a very
great proportion ; if you allow Catholics to sit
in parliament, religion will be found to in-
fluence votes more than property, and the
greater part of the 100 Irish members who
are returned to parliament will be Catholics.
Add to these the Catholic members who
are returned in England, and you will have a
phalanx of heretical strength which every
minister will be compelled to respect, and oc-
LETTER IX. 151
casionally to conciliate by concessions incom-
patible with the interests of the Protestant
church. The fact is, however, that you are
at this moment subjected to every danger of
this kind which you can possibly apprehend
hereafter. If the spiritual interests of the
voters are more powerful than their temporal
interests, they can bind down their represen-
tatives to support any measures favourable to
the Catholic religion, and they can change the
objects of their choice till they have found
Protestant members (as they easily may do)
perfectly obedient to their wishes. If the su-
perior possessions of the Protestants prevent
the Catholics from uniting for a common
political object, then the danger you fear
cannot exist : if zeal, on the contrary, gets the
better of acres, then the danger at present
exists, from the right of voting already given
to the Catholics, and it will not be increased
by allowing them to sit in parliament. There
are, as nearly as I can recollect, thirty seats in
Ireland for cities and counties, where the Pro-
testants are the most numerous, and where the
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
members returned must of course be Protes-
tants. In the other seventy representations,
the wealth of the Protestants is opposed to the
number of the Catholics ; and if all the seventy
members returned were of the Catholic per-
suasion, they must still plot the destruction of
our religion in the midst of 588 Protestants.
Such terrors would disgrace a cook-maid, or a
toothless aunt, when they fall from the
lips of bearded and senatorial men, they are
nauseous, antiperistaltic, and emetical.
How can you for a moment doubt of the
rapid effects which would be produced by the
emancipation? In the first place, to my
certain knowledge, the Catholics have long
since expressed to his Majesty's ministers
their perfect readiness to vest in his Majesty,
either with the consent of the Pope, or without
iifit cannot be obtained, the nomination of
the Catholic prelacy. The Catholic prelacy
in Ireland consists of twenty-six bishops and
the warden Galway, a dignitary enjoying Ca-
tholic jurisdiction. The number of Roman
Catholic priests in Ireland exceeds one
LETTER IX. 1.53
thousand. The expenses of his peculiar
worship are, to a substantial farmer or
mechanic, five shillings per annum ; to a
labourer (where he is not entirely excused)
one shilling per annum : this includes the con-
tribution of the whole family, and for this the
priest is bound to attend them when sick, and
to confess them when they apply to him : he
is also to keep his chapel in order, to celebrate
divine service, and to preach on Sundays and
holidays. In the northern district a priest
gains from 30/. to 50/. ; in the other parts of
Ireland from 60/. to 90/. per ann. The best
paid Catholic bishops receive about 400/. per
ann. ; the others from 300/. to 3501. My
plan is very simple ; I would have 300
Catholic parishes at WOL per ann., 300 at 200/.
per ann., and 400 at 300/. per ann. ; this, for
the whole thousand parishes, would amount to
190,000/. To the prelacy I would allot
20,000/. in unequal proportions, from one
thousand to 500/. : and I would appropriate
40,000/. more for the support of Catholic
schools, and the repairs of Catholic churches ;
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
the whole amount of which sums is 50,000/.,
about the expence of three days of one of our
genuine, good, English, just and necessary
wars. The clergy should all receive their
salaries at the Bank of Ireland, and I would
place the whole patronage in the hands of the
Crown. Now, I appeal to any human being,
except Spencer Perceval, Esq. of the parish
of Hampstead, what the disaffection of a clergy
would amount to, gaping after this graduated
bounty of the Crown, and whether Ignatius
Loyala himself, if he were a living blockhead
instead of a dead saint, could withstand the
temptation of bouncing from 100/. a year
in Sligo, to 300/. in Tipperary? This is
the miserable sum of money for which the
merchants, and land-owners, and nobility of
England are exposing themselves to the tre-
mendous peril of losing Ireland. The sinecure
places of the Roses and the Percevals, and
the " dear and near relations," put up to
auction at thirty years' purchase, would almost
amount to the money.
I admit that nothing can be more reason-
LETTER IX. 155
able than to expect that a Catholic priest should
starve to death, genteelly and pleasantly, for
the good of the Protestant religion ; but is it
equally reasonable to expect that he should
do so for the Protestant pews, and Protestant
brick and mortar? On an Irish sabbath, the
bell of a neat parish church often summons
to church only the parson and an occasion-
ally conforming clerk ; while, two hundred
yards off, a thousand Catholics are huddled
together in a miserable hovel, and pelted by all
the storms of heaven. Can anything be more
distressing than to see a venerable man
pouring forth sublime truths in tattered
breeches, and depending for his food upon
the little offal he gets from his parishioners ? I
venerate a human being who starves for his
principles, let them be what they may ; but
starving for any thing is not at all to the
taste of the honourable flagellents : strict
principles, and good pay, is the motto of
Mr. Perceval : the one he keeps in great
measure for the faults of his enemies, the
other for himself.
156 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
There are parishes in Connaught in which
a Protestant was never settled, nor even
seen : in that province, in Munster, and in
parts of Leinster, the entire peasantry for
sixty miles are Catholics ; in these tracts,
the churches are frequently shut for want
of a congregation, or opened to an assem-
blage of from six to twenty persons. Of
what Protestants there are in Ireland, the
greatest part are gathered together in Ulster,
or they live in towns. In the country of
the other three provinces the Catholics see
no other religion but their own, and are at
the least as fifteen to one Protestant. In
the diocese of Tuam they are sixty to one ;
in the parish of St. Mullins, diocese of
Leghlin, there are four thousand Catholics
and one Protestant; in the town of Gras-
genamana, in the county of Kilkenny, there
are between four and five hundred Catholic
houses, and three Protestant houses. In the
parish of Allen, county Kildare, there is no
Protestant, though it is very populous. In
the parish of Arlesin, Queen's County, the
LETTER IX. 157
proportion is one hundred to one. In the
whole county of Kilkenny, by actual enu-
meration, it is seventeen to one : in the
diocese of Kilmacduagh, in the province of
Connaught, fifty-two to one, by ditto. These
I give you as a few specimens of the present
state of Ireland ; and yet there are men
impudent and ignorant enough to contend
that such evils require no remedy, and that
mild family man who dwelleth in Hampstead
can find none but the cautery and the knife,
omne per ignem
I cannot describe the horror and disgust
which I felt at hearing Mr. Perceval call upon
the then ministry for measures of vigour in
Ireland. If I lived at Hampstead upon
stewed meats and claret ; if I walked to
church every Sunday before eleven young
gentlemen of my own begetting, with their
faces washed, and their hair pleasingly
combed ; if the Almighty had blessed me
with every earthly comfort, how awfully
158 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
would I pause before I sent forth the flame
and the sword over the cabins of the poor,
brave, generous, open-hearted peasants of
of Ireland ! How easy it is to shed human
blood how easy it is to persuade ourselves
that it is our duty to do so and that the
the decision has cost us a severe struggle
how much in all ages have wounds and
shrieks and tears been the cheap and vulgar
resources of the rulers of mankind how
difficult and how noble it is to govern in
kindness, and to found an empire upon the
everlasting basis of justice and affection !
But what do men call vigour ? To let loose
hussars and to bring up artillery, to govern with
lighted matches, and to cut, and push, and
prime I call this, not vigour, but the sloth of
cruelty and ignorance. The vigour I love,
consists in finding out wherein subjects are
aggrieved, in relieving them, in studying the
temper and genius of a people, in consulting
their prejudices, in selecting proper persons
to lead and manage them, in the laborious,
watchful, and difficult task of increasing
LETTER IX. 159
public happiness by allaying each particular
discontent. In this way Hoche pacified La
Vendee and in this way only will Ireland
ever be subdued. But this, in the eyes of
Mr. Perceval, is imbecility and meanness :
houses are not broke open women are not
insulted the people seem all to be happy;
they are not rode over by horses, and cut by
whips. Do you call this vigour? Is this
160 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
LETTER X. AND LAST.
You must observe that all I have said
of the effects which will be produced by
giving salaries to the Catholic Clergy only
proceeds upon the supposition that the
emancipation of the laity is effected :
without that, I am sure there is not a clergy,
man in Ireland who would receive a shilling
from Government; he could not do so,
without an entire loss of credit among the
members of his own persuasion.
What you say of the moderation of the
Irish Protestant Clergy in collecting tithes,
is, I believe, strictly true. Instead of collect-
ing what the law enables them to collect, I
believe they seldom or ever collect more
than two thirds ; and I entirely agree with
you, that the abolition of agistment tithe in
Ireland by a vote of the Irish House of
LETTER X. 161
Commons, and without any remuneration to
the church, was a most scandalous and
Jacobinical measure. I do not blame the
Irish Clergy ; but I submit to your common
sense, if it is possible to explain to an Irish
peasant upon what principle of justice, or
common sense, he his to pay every tenth
potatoe in his little garden to a clergyman
in whose religion nobody believes for twenty
miles around him, and who has nothing to
preach 'to but bare walls. It is true, if
the tithes are bought up, the cottager must
pay more rent to his landlord ; but the same
thing, done in the shape of rent, is less
odious than when it is done in the shape of
tithe : I do not want to take a shilling out of
the pockets of the clergy, but to leave the
substance of things, and to change their
names. I cannot see the slightest reason why
the Irish labourer is to be relieved from the
real onus, or from any thing eke but the
name of tithe. At present, he rents only
nine tenths of the produce of the land, which
is all that belongs to the owner ; this he has
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
at the market price ; if the land-owner pur-
chases the other tenth of the church, of course
he has a right to make a correspondent ad-
vance upon his tenant.
I very much doubt, if you were to lay open
all civil offices to the Catholics and to grant
salaries to their clergy, in the manner I have
stated, if the Catholic laity would give them-
selves much trouble about the advance of their
church ; for they would pay the same tithes
under one system that they do under another.
If you were to bring the Catholics into the
daylight of the world, to the high situations of
the army, the navy, and the bar, numbers of
them would come over to the established
church, and do as other people do : instead of
that, you set a mark of infamy upon them,
rouse every passion of our nature in favour
of their creed, and then wonder that men are
blind to the follies of the Catholic religion.
There are hardly any instances of old and
rich families among the Protestant Dissent-
ers : when a man keeps a coach, and lives
in good company, he comes to church, and
LETTER X. 163
gets ashamed of the meeting-house ; if this
is not the case with the father, it is almost
always the case with the son. These things
would never be so, if the Dissenters were, in
practice, as much excluded from all the
concerns of civil life, as the Catholics are.
If a rich young Catholic were in parliament,
he would belong to White's and to Brookes's,
would keep race-horses, would walk up and
down Pall Mall, be exonerated of his ready
money and his constitution, become as totally
devoid of morality, honesty, knowledge, and
civility as Protestant loungers in Pall Mall,
and return home with a supreme contempt
for Father O'Leary and Father O'Callaghan.
I* am astonished at the madness of the Catholic
clergy, in not perceiving that Catholic emanci-
pation is Catholic infidelity ; that to entangle
their people in the intrigues of a Protestant par-
liament, and a Protestant court, is to insure the
loss of every man of fashion and consequence
in their community. The true receipt for
preserving their religion is Mr. Perceval's
receipt for destroying it : it is to deprive every
164 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
rich Catholic of all the objects of secular
ambition, to separate him from the Protestant,
and to shut him up in his castle with priests
We are told, in answer to all our arguments,
that this is not a fit period, that a period of
universal war is not the proper time for dan-
gerous innovations in the constitution : this is
as much as to say, that the worst time for
making friends is the period when you have
made many enemies ; that it is the greatest of
all errors to stop when you are breathless, and
to lie down when you are fatigued. Of one
thing I am quite certain : if the safety of
Europe is once completely restored, the Catho-
lics may for ever bid adieu to the slightest pro-
bability of effecting their object. Such men
as hang about a court not only are deaf to the
suggestions of mere justice, but they despise
justice ; they detest the word right ; the only
word which rouses them is peril ; where they
can oppress with impunity, they oppress for
ever, and call it loyalty and wisdom.
I am so far from conceiving the legitimate
LETTER X. 165
strength of the crown would be diminished by
these abolitions of civil incapacities in conse-
quence of religious opinions, that my only ob-
jection to the increase of religious freedom is
that it would operate as a diminution of poli-
tical freedom : the power of the Crown is so
overbearing at this period, that almost the only
steady opposers of its fatal influence are men
disgusted by religious intolerance. Our esta-
blishments are so enormous, and so utterly
disproportioned to our population, that every
second or third man you meet in society gains
something from the public : my brother the
commissioner, my nephew the police justice,
> purveyor of small beer to the army in Ire-
land, clerk of the mouth, yeoman to the
left hand, these are the obstacles which
common sense and justice have now to over-
come. Add to this, that the King, old and
infirm, excites a principle of very amiable
generosity in his favour ; that he has led a
good, moral, and religious life, equally re-
moved from profligacy and methodistical
hypocrisy ; that he has been a good husband,
166 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
a good father, and a good master; that he
dresses plain, loves hunting and farming,
hates the French, and is, in all his opinions
and habits, quite English : these feelings are
heightened by the present situation of the
world, and the yet unexploded clamour of
Jacobinism. In short, from the various sources
of interest, personal regard, and national taste,
such a tempest of loyalty has set in upon the
people, that the 47th proposition in Euclid
might now be voted down with as much ease
as any proposition in politics ; and therefore,
if Lord Hawkesbury hates the abstract truths
of science as much as he hates concrete truth
in human affairs, now is his time for getting
rid of the multiplication table, and passing a
vote of censure upon the pretensions of the
hypotheneuse. Such is the history of English
parties at this moment : you cannot seriously
suppose that the people care for such men as
Lord Hawkesbury, Mr. Canning, and Mr.
Perceval, on their own account ; you cannot
really believe them to be so degraded as to
look to their safety from a man who proposes
LETTER X. 167
to subdue Europe by keeping it without
Jesuit's Bark. The people, at present, have
one passion, and but one
A Jove principium, Jovis omnia plena.
They care no more for the ministers I have
mentioned than they do for those sturdy
royalists who for 60/. per annum stand behind
his Majesty's carriage, arrayed in scarlet and
in gold. If the present ministers opposed the
Court instead of flattering it, they would not
command twenty votes.
Do not imagine by these observations that
I am not loyal : without joining in the com-
mon cant of the best of kings, I respect the King
most sincerely as a good man. His religion is
better than the religion of Mr. Perceval, his
old morality very superior to the old morality
of Mr. Canning, and I am quite certain he has
a safer understanding than both of them put to-
gether. Loyalty, within the bounds of reason
and moderation, is one of the great instruments
of English happiness ; but the love of the
King may easily become more strong than the
love of the kingdom, and we may lose sight
168 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
of the public welfare in our exaggerated ad-
miration of him who is appointed to reign only
for its promotion and support. I detest
Jacobinism ; and if I am doomed to be a slave
at all, I would rather be the slave of a king
than a cobbler. God save the King, you say,
warms your heart like the sound of a trumpet.
I cannot make use of so violent a metaphor ;
but I am delighted to hear it, when it is the
cry of genuine affection ; I am delighted
to hear it when they hail not only the in-
dividual man, but the outward and living sign
of all English blessings. These are noble
feelings, and the heart of every good man
must go with them ; but God save the King,
in these times, too often means God save my
pension and my place, God give my sisters an
allowance out of the privy purse, make me
clerk of the irons, let me survey the meltings,
let me live upon the fruits of other men's in-
dustry, and fatten upon the plunder of the public.
What is it possible to say to such a man as
the Gentleman of Hampstead, who really be-
lieves it feasible to convert the four million
LETTER X. 169
Irish Catholics to the Protestant religion, and
considers this as the best remedy for the dis-
turbed state of Ireland ? It is not possible to
answer such a man with arguments ; we must
come out against him with beads, and a cowl,
and push him into a hermitage. It is really
such trash, that it is an abuse of the privilege
of reasoning to reply to it. Such a project is
well worthy the statesman who would bring
the French to reason by keeping them with-
out rhubarb, and exhibit to mankind the awful
spectacle of a nation deprived of neutral salts.
This is not the dream of a wild apothecary in-
dulging in his own opium ; this is not the dis-
tempered fancy of a pounder of drugs, deli-
rious from smallness of profits : but it is the
sober, deliberate, and systematic scheme of a
man to whom the public safety is entrusted, and
whose appointment is considered by many as a
masterpiece of political sagacity. What a sub-
lime thought, that no purge can now be taken
between the Weser and the Garonne ; that
the bustling pestle is still, the canorous mortar
mute, and the bowels of mankind locked up
170 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
for fourteen degrees of latitude! When, I
should be curious to know, were all the powers
of crudity and flatulence fully explained to
his Majesty's ministers ? At what period was
this great plan of conquest and constipation
fully developed ? In whose mind was the idea
of destroying the pride, and the plaisters of
France first engendered ? Without castor-oil
they might, for some months, to be sure, have
carried on a lingering war ; but can they do
without bark? Will the people live under a
government where antimonial powders cannot
be procured? Will they bear the loss of
mercury ? " There's the rub." Depend upon
it, the absence of themateria medica will soon
bring them to their senses, and the cry of
Bourbon and bolus burst forth from the Baltic
to the Mediterranean.
You ask me for any precedent in our
history where the oath of supremacy has
been dispensed with. It was dispensed with
to the Catholics of Canada in 1774. They
are only required to take a simple oath
of allegiance. The same, I believe, was the
ase in Corsica. The reason of such exemp-
LETTER X. 171
tionwas obvious ; you could not possibly have
retained either of these countries without it.
And what did it signify whether you retained
them or not ? In cases where you might have
been foolish without peril, you were wise ;
when nonsense and bigotry threaten you with
destruction, it is impossible to bring you back
to the alphabet of justice and common sense :
if men are to be fools, I would rather they
were fools in little matters than in great;
dulness turned up with temerity, is a livery
all the worse for the facings ; and the most
tremendous of all things is the magnanimity
of a dunce.
It is not by any means necessary, as you
contend, to repeal the Test Act if you give re-
lief to the Catholic; what the Catholics ask
for is to be put on a footing with the Protes-
tant Dissenters, which would be done by re-
pealing that part of the law which compels
them to take the oath of supremacy and to
make the declaration against transubstantiation :
they would then come into parliament as all
other Dissenters are allowed to do, and the
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
penal laws to which they were exposed for
taking office would be suspended every year,
as they have been for this half century past to-
wards Protestant Dissenters. Perhaps, after
all, this is the best method, to continue the
persecuting law, and to suspend it every year,
a method, which, while it effectually de-
stroys the persecution itself, leaves to the
great mass of mankind the exquisite gratifica-
tion of supposing that they are enjoying some
advantage from which a particular class of their
fellow-creatures are excluded. We manage the
Corporation and Test Acts at present much
in the same manner as if we were to persuade
parish boys who had been in the habit of
beating an ass to spare the animal, and beat
the skin of an ass stuffed with straw ; this
would preserve the semblance of tormenting
without the reality, and keep boy and beast in
How can you imagine that a provision for
the Catholic clergy affects the 5th article of
the Union ? Surely I am preserving the Pro-
testant church in Ireland if I put it in a
better condition than that in which it now is.
A tithe proctor in Ireland collects his tithes
with a blunderbuss, and carries his tenth hay-
cock by storm, sword in hand : to give him
equal value in a more pacific shape cannot, I
should imagine, be considered as injurious to
the church of Ireland ; and what right has
that church to complain, if parliament chooses
to fix upon the empire the burthen of sup-
porting a double ecclesiastical establishment ?
Are the revenues of the Irish Protestant
clergy in the slightest degree injured by such
provision ? On the contrary, is it possible to
confer a more serious benefit upon that
church, than by quieting and contenting
those who are at work for its destruction ?
It is impossible to think of the affairs of
Ireland without being forcibly struck with
the parallel of Hungary, Of her seven
millions of inhabitants, one half were Protes-
tants, Calvinists, and Lutherans, many of the
Greek Church, and many Jews : such was
the state of their religious dissensions, that
Mahomet had often been called in to the aid
174 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
of Calvin, and the crescent often glittered on
the walls of Buda and of Presburg. At last,
in 1791, during the most violent crisis of dis-
turbance, a diet was called, and by a great
majority of voices a decree was passed, which
secured to all the contending sects the fullest
and freest exercise of religious worship and
education ; ordained (let it be heard in
Hampstead) that churches and chapels
should be erected for all on the most perfectly
equal terms, that the Protestants of both con-
fessions should depend upon their spiritual
superiors alone, liberated them from swearing
by the usual oath, " the holy Virgin Mary,
the saints, and chosen of God ; " and then,
the decree adds, " that public offices and
honours, high or low, great or small, shall be
given to natural-born Hungarians who deserve
well of their country, and possess the other
qualifications, let their religion be what it
may. " Such was the line of policy pursued
in a diet consisting of four hundred members,
in a state whose form of government ap-
proaches nearer to our own than any other,
having a Roman Catholic establishment of
great wealth, and power, and under the
influence of one of the most bigoted Catholic
courts in Europe. This measure has now
the experience of eighteen years in its favour;
it has undergone a trial of fourteen years of
revolution such as the world never witnessed,
and more than equal to a century less con-
vulsed: what have been its effects? When
the French advanced like a torrent within a
few days' march of Vienna, the Hungarians
rose in a mass ; they formed what they call
the sacred insurrection, to defend their sove-
reign, their rights, and liberties, now common
to all ; and the apprehension of their approach
dictated to the reluctant Bonaparte the im-
mediate signature of the treaty of JLeoben?
the Romish hierarchy of Hungary exists in
all its former splendour and opulence ; never
has the slightest attempt been made to
diminish it; and those revolutionary prin-
ciples, to which so large a portion of civilised
Europe has been sacrificed, have here failed
in making the smallest successful inroad.
176 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
The whole history of this proceeding of the
Hungarian Diet is so extraordinary, and such
an admirable comment upon the Protestantism
of Mr. Spencer Perceval, that I must compel
you to read a few short extracts from the law;
itself: "The Protestants of both confessions
shall, in religious matters, depend upon their
own spiritual superiors alone. The Protes-
tants may likewise retain their trivial and
grammar schools. The church dues which
the Protestants have hitherto paid to the
Catholic parish priests, school-masters, or other
such officers, either in money, productions, or
labour, shall in future entirely cease, and after-
three months from the publishing of this law
be no more any where demanded. In the
building or repairing of churches, parsonage
houses, and schools, the Protestants are not
obliged to assist the Catholics with labour, nor.
the Catholics the Protestants. The pious
foundations and donations of the Protestants
which already exist, or which in future may be
made for their churches, ministers, schools and
students, hospitals, orphan-houses and poor,
LETTER X. 177
cannot be taken from them under any pretext,
nor yet the care of them ; but rather the un-
impeded administration shall be intrusted to
those from among them to whom it legally
belongs, and those foundations which may
have been taken from them under the last go-
verment shall be returned to them without
delay. All affairs of marriage of the Protes-
tants are left to their own consistories ; all
landlords and masters of families, under the
penalty of public prosecution, are ordered not
to prevent their subjects and servants,
whether they be Catholic or Protestant, from
the observance of the festivals and ceremonies
of their religion," &c. &c. &c. By what
strange chances are mankind influenced ! A
little Catholic barrister of Vienna might have
raised the cry of No Protestantism, and Hun-
gary would have panted for the arrival of a
French army as much as Ireland does at this
moment ; arms would have been searched for ;
Lutheran and Calvinist houses entered in the
dead of the night ; and the strength of Austria
exhausted in guarding a country from which,
178 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
under the present liberal system, she may
expect, in a moment of danger, the most
powerful aid : and let it be remembered that
this memorable example of political wisdom
took place at a period when many great
monarchies were yet unconquered in Europe ;
in a country where the two religious parties
were equal in number ; and where it is impos-
sible to suppose indifference in the party which
relinquished its exclusive privileges. Under
all these circumstances, the measure was
carried in the Hungarian Diet by a majority
of 280 to 120. In a few weeks, we shall see
every concession denied to the Catholics by a
much larger majority of Protestants, at a
moment when every other power is subjugated
but ourselves, and in a country where the op-
pressed are four times as numerous as their
oppressors. So much for the wisdom of our
ancestors so much for the nineteenth cen-
tury so much for the superiority of the
English over all the nations of the Continent !
Are you not sensible, let me ask you, of
the absurdity of trusting the lowest Catholics
LETTER X. 179
with offices correspondent to their situation
in life, and of denying such privilege to the
higher ? A Catholic may serve in the mi-
litia, but a Catholic cannot come into par-
liament ; in the latter case you suspect
combination, and in the former case you
suspect no combination ; you deliberately
arm ten or twenty thousand of the lowest of
the Catholic people ; and the moment you
come to a class of men whose education,
honour, and talents seem to render all mis-
chief less probable, then you see the danger
of employing a Catholic, and cling to your
investigating tests and disabling laws. If you
tell me you have enough of members of par-
liament, and not enough of militia, without
the Catholics, I beg leave to remind you,
that, by employing the physical force of any
sect, at the same time when you leave them
in a state of utter disaffection, you are not
adding strength to your armies, but weakness
and ruin : if you want the vigour of their
common people, you must not disgrace their
nobility, and insult their priesthood.
180 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
I thought that the terror of the Pope had
been confined to the limits of the nursery,
and merely employed as a means to induce
young master to enter into his small-clothes
with greater speed, and to eat his breakfast
with greater attention to decorum. For these
purposes, the name of the Pope is admirable ;
but why push it beyond ? Why not leave to
Lord Hawkesbury all farther enumeration of
the Pope's powers ? For a whole century,
you have been exposed to the enmity of
France, and your succession was disputed
in two rebellions ; what could the Pope
do at the period when there was a serious
struggle whether England should be Pro-
testant or Catholic, and when the issue
was completely doubtful ? Could the Pope
induce the Irish to rise in 1715 ? Could he
induce them to rise in 1745 ? You had no
Catholic enemy when half this island was in
arms ; and what did the Pope attempt in the
last rebellion in Ireland ? But if he had as
much power over the minds of the Irish as
Mr. Wilberforce has over the mind of a
LETTER X. 181
young Methodist converted the preceding
quarter, is this a reason why we are to disgust
men who may be acted upon in such a
manner by a foreign power ? or is it not an
additional reason why we should raise up
every barrier of affection and kindness against
the mischief of foreign influence ? But the
true answer is, the mischief does not exist.
Gog and Magog have produced as much
influence upon human affairs as the Pope
has done for this half century past ; and by
spoiling him of his possessions, and degrading
him in the eyes of all Europe, Bonaparte
has not taken quite the proper method of
increasing his influence.
But why not a Catholic king, as well as a
Catholic member of parliament, or of the
cabinet ? Because it is probable that the
one would be mischievous, and the other not.
A Catholic king might struggle against the
Protestantism of the country, and if the
struggle was not successful, it would at least
be dangerous ; but the efforts of any other
182 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
Catholic would be quite insignificant, and his
hope of success so small that it is quite im-
probable the effort would ever be made : my
argument is, that in so Protestant a country
as Great Britain, the character of her par-
liaments and her cabinet could not be changed
by the few Catholics who would ever find their
way to the one, or the other ; but the
power of the crown is immeasureably greater
than the power which the Catholics could
obtain from any other species of authority in
the state ; and it does not follow, because the
lesser degree of power is innocent, that the
greater should be so too. As for the stress
you lay upon the danger of a Catholic chan-
cellor, I have not the least hesitation in
saying, that his appointment would not do a
ten- thousandth part of the mischief to the
English church that r t might be done by a
methodistical chancellor of the true Clapham
breed ; and I request to know, if it is really
so very necessary that a chancellor should be
of the religion of the Church of England,
how many chancellors you have had within
LETTER X. 183
the last century who have been bred up in
the Presbyterian religion ? And again, how
many you have had who notoriously have
been without any religion at all ?
Why are you to suppose that eligibility
and election are the same thing, and that all
the cabinet will be Catholics whenever all
the cabinet may be Catholics ? You have a
right, you say, to suppose an extreme case,
and to argue upon it - so have I : and I will
suppose that the hundred Irish members will
one day come down in a body, and pass a law
compelling the king to reside in Dublin. I
will suppose that the Scotch members, by a
similar stratagem, will lay England under a
large contribution of meal and sulphur : no
measure is without objection if you sweep
the whole horizon for danger ; it is not suf-
ficient to tell me of what may happen, but
you must show me a rational probability that
it will happen : after all, I might, contrary to
my real opinion, admit all your dangers to
exist ; it is enough for me to contend that
all other dangers taken together are not equal
184 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
to the danger of losing Ireland from dis-
affection and invasion.
I am astonished to see you, and many
good and well-meaning clergymen beside you,
painting the Catholics in such detestable co-
lours ; two thirds, at least, of Europe are
Catholics, they are Christians, though mis-
taken Christians ; how can I possibly admit
that any sect of Christians, and above all that
the oldest and the most numerous sect of
Christians, are incapable of fulfilling the com-
mon duties and relations of life : though I do
differ from them in many particulars, God
forbid I should give such an handle to infi-
delity, and subscribe to such a blasphemy
against our common religion I
Do you think mankind never change their
opinions without formally expressing and
confessing that change? When you quote
the decisions of ancient Catholic councils, are
you prepared to defend all the decrees of En-
glish convocations and universities since the
reign of Queen Elizabeth ? I could soon
make you sick of your uncandid industry
LETTER X. 185,
against the Catholics, and bring you to allow
that it is better to forget times past, and to
judge and be judged by present opinions and
I must beg to be excused from explaining
and refuting all the mistakes about the Ca-
tholics made by my Lord Redesdale ; and I
must do that nobleman the justice to say, that
he has been treated with great disrespect.
Could any thing be more indecent than to
make it a morning lounge in Dublin to call
upon his lordship, and to cram him with Ara-
bian-night stories about the Catholics ? Is
this proper behaviour to the representative of
Majesty, the child of Themis, and the keeper
of the conscience in West Britain? Who-
ever reads the Letters of the Catholic Bishops,
in the Appendix to Sir John Hippesly's very
sensible book, will see to what an excess this
practice must have been carried with the
pleasing and Protesant nobleman whose name
I have mentioned, and from thence I wish
you to receive your answer about excommu-
186 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
nication, and all the trash which is talked
against the Catholics,
A sort of notion has, by some means or
another, crept into the world, that difference
of religion would render men unfit to perform
together the offices of common and civil life :
that Brother Wood and Brother Grose could
not travel together the same circuit if they
differed in creed, nor Cockell and Mingay be
engaged in the same cause if Cockell was a
Catholic and Mingay a Muggletonian. It is
supposed that Huskisson and Sir Harry En-
glefield would squabble behind the Speaker's
chair about the Council of Lateran, and many
a turnpike bill miscarry by the -sarcastical
controversies of Mr. Hawkins Brown and Sir
John Throckmorton upon the real presence.
I wish I could see some of these symptoms of
earnestness upon the subject of religion ; but
it really seems to me that, in the present state
of society, men no more think about inquiring
concerning each other's faith than they do
concerning the colour of each other's skins.
There may have been times in England when
LETTER X. 187
the quarter sessions would have been disturbed
by theological polemics: but now, after a
Catholic justice had once been seen on the
bench, and it had been clearly ascertained
that he spoke English, had no tail, only a
single row of teeth, and that he loved port
wine, after all the scandalous and infamous
reports of his physical conformation had been
clearly proved to be false, he would be
reckoned a jolly fellow, and very superior in
flavour to a sly Presbyterian. Nothing, in
fact, can be more uncandid and unphiloso-
phical* than to say that a man has a tail,,
because you cannot agree with him upon reli-
gious subjects : it appears to be ludicrous, but
I am convinced it has done infinite mischief
to the Catholics, and made a very serious im-
pression upon the minds of many gentlemen
of large landed property.
In talking of the impossibility of Catholic
and Protestant living together with equal pri-
vilege under the same government, do you
* Vide Lord Bacon, Locke, and Descartes.
188 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
forget the Cantons of Switzerland ? You
might have seen there a Protestant congrega-
tion going into a church which had just been
quitted by a Catholic congregation : and I will
venture to say that the Swiss Catholics were
more bigoted to their religion than any people
in the whole world. Did the kings of Prussia
ever refuse to employ a Catholic ? Would
Frederick the Great have rejected an able
man on this account ? We have seen Prince
Czartorinski a Catholic secretary of state in
Russia : in former times, a Greek patriarch
and an apostolic vicar acted together in the
most perfect harmony in Venice ; and we have
seen the Emperor of Germany in modern
times entrusting the care of his person and
the command of his guard to a Protestant
Prince, Ferdinand of Wirtemberg. But what
are all these things to Mr. Perceval ? He has
looked at human nature from the top of
Hampstead Hill, and has not a thought be-
yond the little sphere of his own vision.
" The snail," say the Hindoos, " sees nothing
LETTER X. 189
but its own shell, and thinks it the grandest
palace in the universe."
I now take a final leave of this subject of
Ireland j the only difficulty in discussing it
is a want of resistance, a want of something
difficult to unravel, and something dark to
illumine ; to agitate such a question is to beat
the air with a club, and cut down gnats with
a scimitar ; it is a prostitution of industry,
and a waste of strength. If a man says I have
a good place, and I do not choose to lose it,
this mode of arguing upon the Catholic ques-
tion I can well understand ; but that any
human being with an understanding two de-
grees elevated above that of an Anabaptist
preacher, should conscientiously contend for
the expediency and propriety of leaving the
Irish Catholics in their present state, and of
subjecting us to such tremendous peril in the
present condition of the world, it is utterly
out of my power to conceive. Such a mea-
sure as the Catholic question is entirely beyond
the common game of politics ; it is a measure
in which all parties ought to acquiesce, in
190 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
order to preserve the place where^ and the
stake for which they play. If Ireland is gone,
where are jobs ? where are reversions ? where
is my brother, Lord Arden ? where are ray
,dear and near relations? The game is up,
and the Speaker of the House of Commons
will be sent as a present to the menagerie at
Paris. We talk of waiting from particular
considerations, as if centuries of joy and pros-
perity were before us : in the next ten years
our fate must be decided; we shall know,
long before that period, whether we ean bear
,up against the miseries by which we are
threatened, or not : and yet, in the very midst
of our crisis, we are enjoined to abstain from
the most certain means of increasing our
strength, and advised to wait for the remedy
till the disease is removed by death or health.
And now, instead of the plain and manly
policy of increasing unanimity at home, by
equalising rights and privileges, what is the
ignorant, arrogant, and wicked system which
has been pursued ? Such a career of madness
and of folly was, I believe, never run in so
LETTER X. 191
short a period. The vigour of the ministry is
like the vigour of a grave-digger, the tomb
becomes more ready and more wide for every
effort which they make. There is nothing
which it is worth while either to take or to
retain, and a constant train of ruinous expe-
ditions have been kept up. Every English-
man felt proud of the integrity of his country :
the character of the country is lost for ever.
It is of the utmost consequence to a com-
mercial people at war with the greatest part
of Europe, that there should be a free entry
of neutrals into the enemy's ports ; the neu-
trals who carried our manufactures we have
not only excluded, but we have compelled
them to declare war against us. It was our
interest to make a good peace, or convince
our own people that it could not be obtained ;
we have not made a peace, and we have con-
vinced the people of nothing but of the arro-
gance of the Foreign Secretary : and all this
has taken place in the short space of a year,
because a King's Bench barrister and a writer
of epigrams, turned into ministers of state,
192 PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
were determined to show country gen-
tlemen that the late administration had no
vigour. In the mean time commerce stands
still, manufactures perish, Ireland is more
and more irritated, India is threatened, fresh
taxes are accumulated upon the wretched
people, the war is carried on without it being
possible to conceive any one single object
which a rational being can propose to himself
by its continuation ; and in the midst of this
unparalleled insanity we are told that the
Continent is to be reconquered by the want
of rhubarb and plums.* A better spirit
than exists in the English people never existed
in any people in the world ; it has been misdi-
rected, and squandered upon party purposes
in the most degrading and scandalous man-
ner ; they have been led to believe that they
were benefiting the commerce of England by
destroying the commerce of America, that they
* Even Allen Park Caccustomed as he has always been
to be delighted by all administrations) says it is too bad ;
and Hall and Morris are said to have actually blushed in
one of the divisions.
LETTER X. 193
were defending their sovereign by perpe-
tuating the bigoted oppression of their fellow-
subject ; their rulers and their guides have
told them that they would equal the vigour of
France by equalling her atrocity; and they
have gone on wasting that opulence, patience,
and courage, which, if husbanded by prudent
and moderate counsels, might have proved
the salvation of mankind. The same policy
of turning the good qualities of Englishmen
to their own destruction, which made Mr. Pitt
omnipotent, continues his power to those who
resemble him only in his vices : advantage is
taken of the loyalty of Englishmen to make
them meanly submissive ; their piety is turned
into persecution, their courage into useless
and obstinate contention ; they are plundered
because they are ready to pay, and soothed
into asinine stupidity because they are full of
virtuous patience. If England must perish at
last, so let it be : that event is in the hands of
God ; we must dry up our tears and submit.
But that England should perish swindling and
stealing ; that it should perish waging war
PETER PLYMLEY'S LETTERS.
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should perish persecuting with monastic bi-
gotry ; that it should calmly give itself up to be
ruined by the" flashy arrogance of one man,
and the narrow fanaticism of another ; these
events are within the power of human beings,
and I did not think that the magnanimity of
Englishmen would ever stoop to such degra-
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