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taking in the benefits of that constitution as it stands. The maxims you establish cut the matter short. They have no sort of connection with the good or the ill behavior of the persons who seek relief, or with the proper or improper means by which they seek it. They form a perpetual bar to all pleas and to all expectations.
You begin by asserting, that "the catholics ought to enjoy all things under the state, but that they ought not to be the state." A position which, I believe, in the latter part of it, and in the latitude there expressed, no man of common sense has ever thought proper to dispute : because the contrary implies, that the state ought to be in them exclusively. But before you have finished the line, you express yourself as if the other member of your proposition, namely, that “they ought not to be a part of the state,” were necessarily included in the first-whereas I conceive it to be as different, as a part is from the whole; that is, just as different as possible. I know indeed, that it is common with those who talk very differently from you, that is, with heat and animosity, to confound those things, and to argue the admission of the catholics into any, however minute and subordinate, parts of the state, as a surrender into their hands of the whole government of the kingdom. To them I have nothing at all to say.
Wishing to proceed with a deliberative spirit and temper in so very serious a question, I shall attempt to analyze, as well as I can, the principles you lay down, in order to fit them for the grasp of an understanding so little comprehensive as mine,“ State .“ Protestant" " Revolution." These are terms, which, if not well explained, may lead us into many errors. In the word State, I conceive there is much ambiguity. The state is sometimes used to signify the whole commonwealth, comprehending all its orders, with the several privileges belonging to each. Sometimes it signifies only the higher and ruling part of the commonwealth ; which we commonly call the government. In the first sense, to be
, under the state, but not the state itself, nor any part of it,
that is to be nothing at all in the commonwealth, is a situation perfectly intelligible: but to those who fill that situation, not very pleasant, when it is understood. It is a state of civil servitude by the very force of the definition. Servorum non est respublica, is a very old and a very true maxim. This servitude, which makes men subject to a state without being citizens, may be more or less tolerable from many circumstances : but these circumstances, more or less favorable, do not alter the nature of the thing. The mildness by which absolute masters exercise their dominion, leaves them masters still. We may talk a little presently of the manner in which the majority of the people of Ireland (the catholics) are affected by this situation; which at present undoubtedly is theirs, and which you are of opinion ought so to continue for ever.
In the other sense of the word State, by which is understood the Supreme Government only, I must observe this upon the question : that to exclude whole classes of men entirely from this part of government, cannot be considered as absolute slavery. It only implies a lower and degraded state of citizenship; such is (with more or less strictness) the condition of all countries, in which an hereditary nobility possess the exclusive rule. This may be no bad mode of government; provided that the personal authority of individual nobles be kept in due bounds, that their cabals and factions are guarded against with a severe vigilance, and that the people, (who have no share in granting their own money) are subjected to but light impositions, and are otherwise treated with attention, and with indulgence to their humors and prejudices.
The republie of Venice is one of those which strictly confines all the great functions and offices, such as are truly state-functions and state-offices, to those who, by hereditary right or admission, are noble Venetians. But there are many offices, and some of them not mean nor unprofitable, (that of chancellor is one) which are reserved for the Cittadini. Of these all citizens of Venice are capable. The inhabitants of the Terra firma, who are mere subjects of conquest, that is, as you express it, under the state, but “not a part of it," are not, however, subjects in so very rigorous a sense as not to be capable of numberless subordinate employments. It is indeed one of the advantages attending the narrow bottom of their aristocracy (narrow as compared with their acquired dominions, otherwise broad enough, that an exclusion from such employments cannot possibly be made amongst their subjects. There are, besides, advantages in states so constituted, by which those who are considered as of an inferior race, are indemnified for their exclusion from the government and from nobler employments. In all these countries, either by express law, or by usage more operative, the noble casts are almost universally, in their turn, excluded from commerce, manufacture, farming of land, and in general from all lucrative civil professions. The nobles have the monopoly of honor. The plebeians a monopoly of all the means of acquiring wealth. Thus some sort of a balance is formed among conditions; a sort of compensation is furnished to those, who, in a limited sense, are excluded from the government of the state.
Between the extreme of a total exclusion, to which your maxim goes, and an universal unmodified capacity, to which the fanatics pretend, there are many different degrees and stages, and a great variety of temperaments, upon which prudence may give full scope to its exertions. For you know that the decisions of prudence (contrary to the system of the insane reasoners) differ from those of judicature : and that almost all the former are determined on the more or the less, the earlier or the later, and on a balance of advantage and inconvenience, of good and evil.
In all considerations which turn upon the question of vesting or continuing the state solely and exclusively in some one description of citizens; prudent legislators will consider, how far the general form and principles of their commonwealth render it fit to be cast into an oligarchical shupe, or to remain always in it. We know that the government of Ireland (the same as the British) is not in its constitution wholly aristocratical; and, as it is not such in its form, so neither is it in its spirit. If it had been inveterately aristocratical, exclusions might be more patiently submitted to. The lot of one plebeian would be the lot of all; and an habitual reverence and admiration of certain families, might make the people content to see government wholly in hands to whom it seemed naturally to belong. But our constitution has a plebeian member, which forms an essential integrant part of it. A plebeian oligarchy is a monster: and no people, not absolutely domestic or predial slaves, will long endure it. The protestants of Ireland are not alone sufficiently the people to form a democracy; and they are too numerous to answer the ends and purposes of an aristocracy. Admiration, that first source of obedience, can be only the claim or the imposture of a few. I hold it to be absolutely impossible for two millions of plebeians, composing certainly, a very clear and decided majority in that class, to become so far in love with six or seven hundred thousand of their fellow-citizens (to all outward appearance plebeians like themselves, and many of them tradesmen, servants, and otherwise inferior to some of them,) as to see with satisfaction, or even with patience, an exclusive power vested in them, by which constitutionally they become the absolute masters; and by the manners derived from their circumstances, must be capable of exercising upon them, daily and hourly, an insulting and vexatious superiority. Neither are the majority of the Irish indemnified (as in some aristocracies) for this state of humiliating vassalage (often inverting the nature of things and relations) by having the lower walks of industry wholly abandoned to them. They are rivaled, to say the least of the matter, in every laborious and lucrative course of life; while every franchise, every honor, every trust, every place down to the very lowest and least confidential (besides whole professions) is reserved for the master cast.
Our constitution is not made for great, general, and proscriptive exclusions; sooner or later it will destroy them, or they will destroy the constitution. In our constitution there has always been a difference between a franchise and an office, and between the capacity for the one and for the other. Franchises were supposed to belong to the subject, as a subject, and not as a member of the governing part of the state. The policy of government has considered them as things very different: for whilst parliament excluded by the test acts (and for awhile these test acts were not a dead letter, as now they are in England,) protestant dissenters, from all civil and military employments, they never touched their right of voting for members of parliament, or sitting in either house ; a point I state, not as approving or condemning, with regard to them, the measure of exclusion from employments, but to prove that the distinction has been admitted in legislature, as, in truth, it is founded in reason.
I will not here examine whether the principles of the British (the Irish] constitution, be wise or not. I must assume that they are; and that those who partake the franchises which make it, partake of a benefit. They who are excluded from votes (under proper qualifications inherent in the constitution that gives them) are excluded, not from the state, but from the British constitution. They cannot by any possibility, whilst they hear its praises continually rung in their ears, and are present at the declaration which is so generally and so bravely made by those who possess the privilege—that the best blood in their veins ought to be shed, to preserve their share in it; they, the disfranchised part, cannot, I say, think themselves in an happy state, to be utterly excluded from all its direct and all its consequential advantages. The popular part of the constitution must be to
. them, by far the most odious part of it. To them it is not an actual, and, if possible, still less a virtual representation. It is indeed the direct contrary. It is power unlimited, placed in the hands of an adverse description, because, it is an adverse description. And if they who compose the privileged body have not an interest, they must but too frequently have motives of pride, passion, petulance, peevish jealousy, or