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Correspondence of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke; between the year 1744 and the period of his decease, in 1797 (Volume 2) online

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I think the matter to be important in itself, and
more so in its consequences ; and I am obliged
to act rather from my conviction, than from my
inclinations.



222 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

You tell me that you might easily confute the
arguments I have used in my letter. It is very
probable. I have a very high opinion of your
abilities, and am very conscious how much the
best cause must suffer in such hands as mine.
But weak as my judgment may be, my intentions
are fair and honest ; and this, I believe, those who
are not otherwise very partial to me, are so good
as to allow. I assure you, whatever my abilities
or my intentions may be, there are those of a
capacity infinitely superior to mine, and of equal
integrity to what any of us can pretend, whose
opinion in this affair supports me in my notions.
What I have wrote to you, I hope you will not
consider as an attempt at any controversy with
you, but merely as an explanation of my conduct,
which I owed to my personal consideration for
you, for whom I have a very real esteem ; and to
my general regard for my constituents, to whom
I have the highest obligations. It gives me great
pain to write a line which can tend to keep up a
moment's difference between us.

I am, with the most sincere regard,

Gentlemen,

Your most obedient and humble servant,

EDM. BURKE.



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 223



RIGHT. HON. EDMUND SEXTON PERY 2 , TO EDMUND
BURKE, ESQ.

Dublin, July 1, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

I have received your three letters of the 24th,
25th, and 26th of last month, almost at the same
time. I perceive you had not received, at the
time of writing the last, my letter which went by
the government express, with a copy of the bill 3 .
You may be assured that the liberal example
which you set us in England, had infinite weight
here ; though mentioned amongst other trivial ar-
guments (for in truth there were no others) as an
objection to the measure. It is true we have not

2 The Right Honorable Edmund Sexton Pery, a distin-
guished member of the Irish House of Commons, and at this
time Speaker. He was raised to the peerage in 1785, by the
style of Viscount Pery, of Newtown Pery, in the county of
Limerick.

3 With this bill, which was afterwards passed into a law,
began the relaxation of the penal code affecting the Roman
Catholics of Ireland. It followed a measure of the same kind
introduced into the English House of Commons in this session
by Sir George Savile, and passed through parliament with
wonderful unanimity. The Irish bill did not pass so easily,
for the reasons given in the following correspondence, and
more particularly in the letter of Mr. Luke Gardiner. In both
countries the relaxation obtained at this time, chiefly affected
the disability to hold property imposed by the penal laws.



224 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

done the business as completely, and with as good
a grace, as you have ; but we have done more than
could have been expected against such a weight
of prejudice, confirmed by such long habits : and
I am happy to find that the minds of many, who
were most determined opponents to any alteration
in our popery-laws, are now reconciled to what is
done. If the present bill passes into a law, you
may be assured there will be . no difficulty in ob-
taining whatever we wish upon the subject in the
next session. If the bill is returned to us with
the test-clause, I think it will not meet with any
considerable opposition in our house, but it will
be in much danger in the lords. If it be returned
without the clause, the fate of it will be uncertain
in our house ; and it is feared that the rejection
of it, though a matter of no real benefit, will raise
a dangerous flame in the north. In either case,
you may be assured that to insure success to this
measure, it is necessary that the most explicit
directions should be given, from your side of the
water, to the administration here, and the most
determined language held by them. If this is
done, you need not fear success; unless it is,
it is precarious ; but this I mention in confidence
to yourself only. Mrs. Pery joins me in most
affectionate compliments to Mrs. Burke.

Most faithfully yours,

EDM. PERY.



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 225



HON. CHARLES JAMES FOX TO EDMUND BURKE, ESQ.

(June, 1778.)

DEAR BURKE,

I will certainly dine with you on Tuesday, and
persuade Fitzpatrick to do the same, if possible.
Nothing can be so unlike the life I have been
leading here, as the idea you seem to have formed
of it. It is the very abstract and perfection of all
faineantise ; and nothing has kept me here but the
most complete indolence. I have determined to
go every day, but have found myself in such a
state of happy laziness, lying almost naked upon
my couch all day, that I thought it was quite a
sin to disturb myself. The fact is, that when the
weather is really warm, I want neither amusement,
society, occupation, nor object. My love to every
body. It is said and believed, (but not by me,)
that the frigates 4 are to be restored. Certain it is,
that both the French and English fleets are sailed;
which does not seem to tally with that idea. I
have been reading, these three days past, in the
Esprit des Lowe ; surely there is more nonsense in
that book than is generally thought to be there ;

4 Those detained by Admiral Keppel in June, 1778.
VOL. II. Q,



226 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

but how superior he is to every other writer upon
such subjects, in being never tiresome. What
a fine style of thinking ! Even when it is false,
how grand ! But the post is going out. Adieu !

Yours affectionately,
C. J. Fox.



ALEXANDER WEDDERBURNE, ESQ., TO EDMUND
BURKE, ESQ.

July 2, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

The Irish bills, as I am informed by Lord Wey-
mouth to-day, are arrived, but have not yet
found their way to Lincoln's Inn. I suspect the
passage of the papist-bill will not be so smooth as
I wish ; and that I shall be obliged to break the
silence I meant to observe, and write something
upon the test. You can I know, and I hope with-
out much trouble to yourself, refer me to chapter
and verse for all that part of ecclesiastical his-
tory that regards our tests. Was not occasional
uniformity once prevented in Ireland ? Has it not
since, and when, been connived at or permitted
by some law ? Is not the sacramental test at pre-
sent merely used, as in England, to qualify for



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 227

acceptance, without any obligation to receive it
during the possession of an office ? And is not
there, in fact, an act from session to session to
allow farther time to qualify ? If the answer to
my questions takes up more of your time than
my stating them does of mine, I do not mean to
transfer from myself to you the trouble of consult-
ing an index; but, in subjects of daily observa-
tion, I trust more to the knowledge of one in-
formed by fact as well as reading, (especially when
I know the accuracy of my informer,) than I dare
trust to my own researches.

I ever am, my dear sir,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
AL. WEDDERBURNE.



RIGHT. HON. EDMUND SEXTON PERT TO EDMUND
BURKE, ESQ.

Edmund's-berry, July 10, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

By your letter of the 3rd, which I received yester-
day, I find the bill was not then disposed of ; though
many letters, particularly one from Mr. Macna-
mara, said it had been rejected. If it is still in
suspense, and the same disposition towards the

Q 2



228 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

Roman Catholics prevails in the ministry, as I un-
derstood did when I was in London, they should
consider well before they throw away so favourable
an opportunity. One of the great arts of govern-
ment is to watch opportunities and to make use
of them ; if they are neglected, they are frequently
irrecoverable. Such I take the present time to
be, with respect to the Roman Catholics. It is
inconceivable what a variety of opinions there are
even amongst the persons most disposed to relieve
them. By a great number of fortuitous circum-
stances, almost all parties have united in the pre-
sent bill. If it is lost, I despair of ever seeing the
like combination of circumstances again ; and you
may be assured that every future attempt to re-
lieve them will meet with a much more formi-
dable opposition than the present. It is true the
present bill is open to many just exceptions ; but
it lays a solid foundation for a perfect system, in
accomplishing which I am persuaded there will
be little, if any, difficulty. It is industriously re-
ported here, I know not with what truth, that
the Roman Catholics are satisfied that the bill
should be rejected, and to wait for relief till the
next session. If this be true, I fear they will have
reason to repent their policy. It does not appear
to me, that the returning the bill to us, with the
repeal of the test, could possibly do any prejudice
in this kingdom ; and it would be consistent with



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 229

the conduct of the ministry in this very session ;
for our militia bill passed our house and the privy-
council here, in such a shape as to exclude dis-
senters. I perceived the error, and recommended
it to Mr. Heron 5 to desire an alteration might be
made in England in the bill, which was accord-
ingly done, and an express clause inserted, which
repeals the test so far as relates to the militia.
But, supposing the policy of the ministry to be
such, that they will not consent to repeal the test
generally, until it is first done in England, why
should that prevent them from returning the bill,
so far as it relates to the Roman Catholics ? Is
it reasonable to think that the dissenters will be
less irritated in the one case than in the other,
when they are convinced that prejudice against
them is equally the motive to both ? It were to
be wished that both parties could be satisfied ;
but, if that is impracticable, why not satisfy one ?
With respect to the bill, if returned without the
repeal of the test, I have little doubt of its passing;
but to insure its success, explicit directions should
be sent to the Castle, which, according to their
account, they have not hitherto received. When
I have the pleasure of seeing you, I think I can

s Afterwards Sir Richard Heron, uncle to the present
baronet. He was at this time secretary to the lord-lieutenant.



230 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

give you the private history of this business ; but
I do not think it safe to trust it to a letter by the
ordinary post. I shall be anxious till I know the
decision upon this subject in England ; and am
ever most affectionately

Yours,

EDM. PERY.



RIGHT HON. EDMUND SEXTON PERY TO EDMUND
BURKE, ESQ.

Dublin, July 28, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

I received your letter of the 17th instant, and
deferred acknowledging it till I should receive
another, which you said you would write the
following day, but none such is come to my
hands 6 . The bill arrived yesterday ; and, by
agreement, is to be read the first time on Monday.
It is generally understood here, that there was
much opposition to it in your privy-council, and
that it was carried through with difficulty. This

6 The letter here referred to, dated the 18th July, is given
in the ninth volume of the Works, octavo edition.



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 231

will add considerable strength to the opposition
here. I do not find that any directions are come
to the administration here to act with vigour. If
that be so, I suspect they will act in the same
manner as they did before ; however, they hold a
different language to me. The opposition to the
bill is much increased by an opinion which pre-
vails, that, if the bill is rejected, Lord Bucking-
ham will be obliged to quit this kingdom. Some
gentlemen of weight, who are willing to give the
Roman Catholics the most extensive relief, have
told me that they would oppose the bill upon
that ground alone. Notwithstanding all this,
I remain of the same opinion, that the bill will
be carried by a considerable majority, if the
Castle acts with vigour; otherwise, I think the
fate of it very uncertain. You may be assured
you shall have the earliest intelligence of every
thing material which passes on the subject.
I am, dear sir,

most faithfully yours,

EDM. PERY.



232 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE



RIGHT HON. EDMUND SEXTON PERY TO EDMUND
BURKE, ESQ.

August 11, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

The bill passed the committee in the Lords this
day, and was reported without opposition, and
ordered to be read a third time to-morrow. It
is now safe, and secures to us the power of
making a perfect law, which the present cer-
tainly is not. On this happy event, I sincerely
congratulate you, being fully persuaded that it is
of more real importance to our country, than any
law which has passed during my time. With
respect to future regulations upon this subject,
and many are certainly necessary, I think there
will not be much variety of opinion.

I am, with the sincerest affection and esteem,

Dear sir,

Your most faithful and obedient servant,

EDM. PERY.



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 233



LUKE GARDINER, ESQ. 7 , TO EDMUND BURKE, ESQ.
Phoenix Park, August 11, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

As I know you are a strong friend to the relaxa-
tion of the popery-laws in this country, I suppose
you will be glad to hear of the success of a bill
that was introduced this session into the House
of Commons for that purpose. On its return
from England, it passed the Lower House by
a majority of thirty-eight ; and last night, after
a long debate, the leading question was carried
in the House of Lords by sixteen or seventeen.
A person of your liberal way of thinking will be
surprised to find that the proportional numbers
in favour of this measure were so small ; but
when you consider the principles which men
imbibe here with their first ideas, you will think
even this a great victory over the prejudices of
those who call themselves true Protestants in
this country.

There are two circumstances relative to this
measure, which gentlemen in England, who are

7 At this time under-secretary to the lord-lieutenant of
Ireland, and a member of the Irish House of Commons. He
was made a privy counsellor of Ireland in 1 780, and raised to
the peerage in 1789, by the title of Mountjoy.



234 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

unacquainted with the progress of it, may misin-
terpret, and impute that to the friends and sup-
porters of the bill, which, in fact, arose from the
opponents of it, and from the critical situation of
the times. The first is, that the bill is in itself
very imperfect, both as to its extent and operation ;
and the other is, that it is very inadequate to the
relief which ought to be granted.

My original intention was, to have given the
Roman Catholics free power of taking, both by
purchase and descent, the fee-simple of land ; re-
pealing the gavel-kind clause, the clause allowing
the son to make the father tenant-for-life, the
clause relative to bills of discovery, and leaving
only a power of granting a moderate subsistence
to the conforming child : and a bill was introduced
as near these ideas as the opinions of other gentle-
men, whom I was obliged to consult, would per-
mit. The opposers of the measure found that
they had not force utterly to annihilate it, and
therefore proposed the scheme which was adopted,
of changing the fee-simple into leases for nine-
hundred and ninety-nine years ; which alteration
they carried by a majority of three. The bill,
thus framed, will strike you with numberless ob-
jections ; but you will at the same time observe,
that this bill was the work of the enemies of
relaxation ; and was only accepted of by us, be-
cause we thought it was eligible, at all events, to



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 235

open the ground, and to make even this breach in
the passions and prejudices of men ; so that it was
not from approbation, but from policy, that we
gave our support to this measure thus metamor-
phosed.

The insertion of the clause for the repeal of the
sacramental test, was another manoeuvre for the
purpose of destroying this bill. It was introduced
absolutely in opposition to the opinions of many
of the supporters of the measure ; as we foresaw,
as well as the opponents did, that it would pro-
duce one of these three effects : that it would
either put the king into such a dilemma, as to
oblige him not to return the bill, or if he sent it
with the clause, that it would certainly fail in the
House of Lords, as the whole bench of bishops
was utterly averse from the repeal; if without
the clause, that the bill would not only be subject
to great danger in both Houses of Parliament, on
its return, but probably create great jealousy and
discontent in the minds of the dissenters here.

As to this bill having been confined to property
alone, and not having extended to the most op-
pressive parts of the popery-laws, the immediate
cause of introducing the measure was your liberal
procedure with respect to the Roman Catholics in
England. It was evident that something must be
done here without delay. It then became, not
only a matter of policy and of humanity, but of



236 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

necessity. The lateness of the session prevented
us from going into a revision of the whole of the
popery-laws. You know how difficult an un-
dertaking this is; and how the pains, penalties,
and disabilities regarding papists are interwoven
through our whole code. It occurred then, that
the great object of property might be taken up
simply and separately, and that all the rest of
these laws, many of which are too absurd to be
executed, might remain for the business of a future
session. Thus you see that it was not from want
of conviction of the propriety of the repeal of
most of these laws, that we neglected it, but from
the urgency of the crisis, and the deficiency of
time for entering into so complicated an investi-
gation.

As I apprehend these matters may not be per-
fectly understood in England, I should take it as
a favour if you would explain the conduct of those
gentlemen, who supported this measure, to those
whose good opinion you may think worthy of being
cultivated.

I cannot forego any opportunity of expressing to
you, not only my gratitude but my applause, at
the part you took in the measures relative to the
extension of the trade of this country. I do really
believe that there is not a man in Ireland, who is
at all acquainted with those proceedings, who
does not heartily join with me in this opinion, and



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 237

who is not conscious of your manly conduct,
rendered more conspicuous by the situation and
sentiments of your electors.

It was for this and many other reasons that I
wished to have an occasion offer, to return you
my sincere thanks as an individual ; and to com-
municate to you the circumstances that induced
myself and other gentlemen here to coincide in
a measure which we by no means totally ap-
proved of.

I remain, dear sir, with great esteem,

Your very faithful humble servant,

LUKE GARDINER.



DR. JOHN CURRY 8 TO EDMUND BURKE, ESQ.



Summer Hill, near Dublin, Aug. 18, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

Inclosed you have the act of parliament, to the
procuring of which your firm and unbiassed attach-



* The author of the History of the Civil Wars in Ireland,
and other tracts upon matters of Irish history, and in vindica-
tion of the civil principles of Roman Catholics.

The act of parliament is that referred to in a former note,
" for the relief of his majesty's subjects in Ireland professing
the Popish religion."



238 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

ment to the true interests of your country so
signally contributed. What I hinted at in my
last letter, of your having done more towards the
happy success of this important affair than per-
haps you know, is this : That address and petition
which you may remember you drew up and left
with me, in the year 1764, was found by us here
so excellent a performance in every respect, and
that it set forth our grievances in so affecting a
manner, that we happily resolved to begin our
humble suit, by laying it before our viceroy in due
form, and requesting he would transmit it to be
laid before his majesty; which we are assured was
done, and made such an impression as was, in a
great measure, productive of what has since fol-
lowed, far beyond expectation.

Dimidium facti qui bene ccepit, habet.

I am, my dear sir, with all affection and respect,
Your most obedient humble servant,
JOHN CURRY.

My best and heartiest wishes to all your
family.



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 239



RIGHT HON. EDMUND SEXTON PERY TO EDMUND
BURKE, ESQ.

Limerick, August 26, 1778.

DEAR SIR,

Your very kind letter of the 12th instant followed
me to this place ; before my arrival here, I had
taken every precaution in my power to prevent
the least appearance of triumph or exultation.
My advice was followed ; but the warmest affection
and gratitude appeared in every countenance :
they know their obligations to you, and have the
strongest sense of them. Though they are so
grateful for what we have done, it is yet far short
of justice ; but I hope we shall soon complete
what we have so happily begun, and we cannot
too soon turn our thoughts to the subject. The
points upon which I foresee there may be a diver-
sity of opinion are these : Whether any of the
regular clergy shall be permitted to remain, or at
least to officiate, in this kingdom ? What number
of priests to be allowed, how appointed, and how
provided for? The number and nature of semi-
naries to be allowed for the education of youth ?
for I take it for granted foreign education will be
restrained : and lastly, what is to be done with



240 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

respect to marriages between Protestants and Ro-
man Catholics? for the present system of making
the marriage void is abominable. When you are
at leisure, I should wish much to have your
thoughts upon these subjects. As to all the other
oppressive laws, of which there are a great number,
I have no doubt they will be repealed without
difficulty. I am told most of the clergy have
already taken the oath ; but Dr. Carpenter, titular
Bishop of Dublin, not only declines taking it him-
self, but exhorts others not to take it.

Our trade here is entirely ruined. There is not
a ship in our port, or the least business doing.
Even butter, which the French never took from
us, we are not allowed to export. If any thing is
expected from this country, let its inclination be
what it may, it will be impossible to give.

I am, dear sir,

Your most affectionate and obedient servant,

EDM. PERY.



EDMUND BURKE, ESQ., TO RICHARD CHAMPION, ESQ.

Beconsfield, October 9, 1778.

MY DEAR CHAMPION,

I think your draft of a petition extremely proper
in all respects ; I should wish very few words in



RIGHT HON. EDMUND BURKE. 241

it to receive any alteration. But I greatly doubt
whether, at this time, a solitary petition is likely
to have any weight. I am satisfied that until
there is a good deal of alteration, both in those
who lead opposition and in the people at large,
these movements can have no good effect ; and
though I am not so confident in my own opinion
as to endeavour to put a stop to a measure of
that kind, I cannot prevail upon myself to give it
countenance or encouragement, either in Bristol
or elsewhere. Taken as a part of a system, a
petition may be of great use ; but we are not sys-
tematic at present, and whether we ever shall be
so, is very uncertain : and if, on the part of the
petitioners, there is not a firm resolution to go
a great deal further, even as far as legally they
may go, (and there is much to be done towards the
reformation without attempting the subversion of
government,) they had better lie still and await
the operation of time, or the choice of better
adapted remedies. I do not blame the petitions
which were sent up at the beginning of these
troubles. The thing was worth the experiment ;
but if we should proceed after the experiment has
failed, just as we did before it was tried, in my
opinion we should not act very wisely. You know
how many have not only set their hands to those
petitions, but have taken a lead in promoting them ;
and yet, in the course of the transaction, have
VOL. n. R



242 CORRESPONDENCE OF THE

totally failed us, and abandoned themselves and
their own cause. If we could do nothing in this
way, when we seemed to be carried forward by
one great current, and perhaps the greatest and
strongest of a divided nation, what shall we do
now, when, if there be any current at all in this


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