Sidor som bilder

Bishop of Clonfert so warmly approves one particular exhibition of the principle of tenant-right. But then some other “minister of religion,”-an equally orthodox and equally devoted Catholic, -might indefinitely differ from him in this; and we call the question therefore “purely political," and not “sacred.” Here then arises a second inquiry, entirely distinct from that which we have already instituted: we are to inquire how far, on these “purely political" questions—these questions which are thoroughly open among Catholics--a Catholic priest can legitimately become an active partisan.

Before entering on it however, we must make a preliminary statement, which is of vital importance, and to which we would beg our reader's most careful attention.

It is no purely political” doctrine at all, but emphatically a “sacred one,

” that (whether the point at issue be tenant-right or any other) it is the duty of electors to vote according to their own genuine conviction,* and by no means according to that of their landlords as such. This elementary truth was forcibly expressed by the Rev. Mr. Macdonogh, in a passage quoted for reprobation by Judge Keogh, when that priest « said the landlords had no more right to the votes of their tenants than to their souls." There is literally no more reason why tenants should vote for their landlord's candidate as such, than for their apothecary's or their baker's. Doubtless the landlord may most legitimately place before his tenants his political views with their reasons; but so may the apothecary before his patients, and the baker before his customers. Doubtless, again, it may happen, that some voters may have predominant confidence in the judgment of the particular person who is their landlord: but then others may have similar confidence in the judgment of the particular person, who is their apothecary or their baker. Still in all three cases the ultimate decision, as to an elector's vote, rests with the elector himself; and he betrays the trust which God has placed in his hands, if he exercises it otherwise than according to his own sincere conviction, of what will promote his country's highest interests.t

[ocr errors]

* We drew attention in July (pp. 106, 109) to the obvious fact, that an elector's genuine conviction is that which he sincerely and honestly entertains, after consulting those in whose judgment he reposes confidence ; not the opinion which perhaps he would have entertained, if he had had no guide to consult.

+ In July (pp. 104-106) we expressed an opinion, that the relations of landlord and tenant are extremely different in Great Britain and Ireland respectively; and we also disclaimed all admiration of the democratical character of the existing Constitution. We shall not here return to these matters : we only mention them, lest any one who did not read our former article should misapprehend the drift of our remarks in the text.

Suppose the whole body of frieze-coated Catholics in some constituency are firmly convinced, that a certain given measure (say of tenant-right) is most important for their country's religious and temporal well-being; while there is every hope that by uniting they can in due time carry it. Suppose at the same time a certain number of them, through motives of selfinterest, keep themselves aloof from the common movement, or even actually oppose it. It follows from the first principles of religion and morality, that these persons deserve severe moral reprobation. This is no “merely political,” it is a “sacred” doctrine. The practical application of this doctrine no doubt, as we have already said,—the protesting against individual landlords by name, the exposure of any specially base influences which may be attempted, the reprehension of individuals who have either put forth such influences or on the other hand have yielded to them all this should take place "outside the churches ; without tumult; without violation of charity ; with that moderation which entirely befits the clerical order.” But none the less for this, the whole of this vigorous action is included within the scope of a parish priest's duties; though his chapel is not the fit scene for its performance.

But more than this may be said. If landlords were permitted without vehement protest to exercise undue influence in "purely political” questions,-it would be impossible to make a successful stand against them, when they put forth such influence on “sacred questions also; when they put pressure on their tenants, even in such matters as denominational education or some possible divorce bill. Landlord pressure in Ireland is the one chief obstacle, which prevents Irish Catholics from having their due and proportional weight in the political scale. This pressure moreover is now far more open to successful assault, than at any previous time: because (1) Mr. Gladstone's noble land measure has so greatly impeded capricious evictions; and because (2) secret voting is now the law of the land. The priesthood would be false to themselves and to the Church, if they did not use the opportunity which now presents itself, of making a systematic effort radically to extirpate this deadly upas-tree, which has so long poisoned Catholic political action. And we are by no means sure, that this Galway Judgment may not be the best thing which could possibly have happened ; because of the indignation thereby excited against that inveterate tyranny and oppression, which the Judge has not merely absolved but rather canonized. Upwards of £14,000 have been collected for the payment of Captain Nolan's expenses: and considering that comparatively few of the subscribers can belong to the wealthier class, this sum represents a really vast amount of national protest and indignation.

Indeed, if Judge Keogh's views were to prevail,—if the tenant were expected as a matter of course to vote for his landlord's candidate under pain of being treated as an ungrateful rebel, --it would be not only a simpler, but in every respect a preferable process, to disfranchise altogether the tenants themselves, and give each landlord as many votes as he has farms on his estate. In this way those political results would be obtained, which the Judge accounts so desirable; while they would be secured, without the tenants' demoralization and (often) mental anguish being made their necessary means. Moreover, such a course would be far more straightforward; because there would then be no attempt to delude Englishmen into the notion, that an Irish tenant is a free voter. Such is the view expressed by the Archbishop of Tuam, in his admirable letter of July 26th, 1871.

GENTLEMEN,– On the meeting, to be held in Athonry to-morrow, the attention of Ireland will be anxiously fixed; since on its proceedings will in a great measure depend, whether the electors at the coming Galway election will in reality be free and independent voters, as the Constitution means, or only so in name, holding the franchise in exclusive trust for their enemies, and ready to relapse into a state of servitude worse than that of the West Indian slave, from which it cost the people so many years of heroic struggle, to emancipate themselves and the entire tenant class of Ireland.

True, the negro was not amused or insulted with the show of freedom which he was well aware he did not enjoy; whilst the Irish slave, wearing his mask of freedom, was worried to give his vote, for the purpose of prolonging his servitude and riveting more stringently his chains. I hope, thèn, that those who meet to-morrow in Athonry will enter fully into the great issue in their hands, and that by the fixed and uncompromising firmness of their resolve to assert their rights, as well as by the dignified inoffensiveness of their tone, they will persuade the old enemies of the rights and prosperity of the people, to retire in time and good humour from a contest, in which they can gain nothing by persisting but humiliation and discomfiture.--(Evidence, p. 158.)

We now come to "purely political” questions, in the sense we have given to that tcrm; and we will take, as our obvious illustration, some given measure of tenant-right. Now plainly, just as Mr. Cobden was satisfied that corn-law repeal—just as Lord Grey was satisfied that West Indian slavery abolition--was a highly beneficial course;—just in the same way some Irish priest may be thoroughly satisfied, that this tenant-right measure would be highly beneficial. Certainly its beneficialness is not a necessary and indubitable consequence of Catholic dogma, any more than in the parallel cases of Mr. Cobden and Lord Grey; but he may be nevertheless as thoroughly satisfied of the

VOL. XIX.--NO. XXXVIII. [New Series.]


truth of his opinion, as they were of the truth of theirs. Further, he finds this opinion universal, among the priests and among the frieze-coated Catholics of his county. He is confident moreover, that his cause—which (he is thoroughly satisfied) is most importantly the cause of religion and morality-will gradually triumph, if its upholders are but duly organized in its support. It is an unfortunate circumstance—so much we readily admit,-it is an unfortunate circumstance, that there is no class capable of organizing these upholders except the priests. Either the priests must undertake the work,—or it will be left undone, to the grievous detriment of religion, morality, and happiness. And this being so, what reason can be given, why the individual priest whom we are considering should not bear his part in the work of organization? Or rather (for this is the true way of putting it), what excuse could he give for not taking his part ? He has it in his power to confer a highly important service on his country's religion, morality, and happiness : what reason could he plead, for holding back in so pious an enterprise ?

One reason of real force there undoubtedly is : viz., that it is a "purely political" question; in other words, there may be excellent and devoted Catholics among his congregation—for instance, of the landlord class—who take a fundamentally different view from him on the measure which he promotes. There is real danger, lest his influence, and so the influence of religion, over these persons be seriously diminished; and moreover lest they be most unfairly regarded by other members of the flock as disloyal Catholics. For this reason (as we have already admitted) it is a matter for regret, that there is in Ireland no other class except the priests, who are able to give the people this political organization. However, there is no such class; and there remains, therefore, only a choice of evils. But then (as we shall immediately explain) thosc evils which we have just pointed out are capable of indefinite mitigation ; and even otherwise, they cannot be compared in magnitude with the calamity which must result, if the gravest religious and temporal interests of the vast Catholic tenant class were uncared for. Moreover it should be observed, that the very objection alleged tells rather on the opposite side; because, for every single Catholic whose affection might be alienated by a priest taking up these ques. tions, there are ten thousand whose affection would be alienated by his taking a different course.

Those synodical decrees, which we have already quoted at length, afford the best possible guide for lessening such evils, as might result from the priesthood taking part in matters "purely political.” Whatever argument c.g. may be put forth by them for any measure of tenant-right, should be put forth "out. side the churches; without tumult; without violation of charity; with that moderation which entirely befits the clerical order;" and finally,—which is especially to be remembered in things of this kind —"full power being left to every one to think for himself in doubtful matters.” It should be explained repeatedly and impressed on the flock by a priest's whole demeanour, that those who think differently may be as excellent Catholics as any others; and that such differences constitute no justification for the smallest degree of personal reprehension or disapproval. We are supposing, of course, that those Catholics of higher status make no claim to any one's votes except their own, and attempt no particle of undue influence; because if there be anything of this kind, reprehension and remonstrance is the priest's bounden duty.

We have spoken of politically “organizing” Irish Catholics ; and it is very important for our purpose, that our readers should rightly understand what we mean by this expression. We cannot do better as an illustration of this, than refer to the English free-trade “organization” of some twenty years ago.

The backbone of that whole movement was a widely-extending and rapidly increasing conviction, that the corn-law gave landlords a most unfair advantage over other portions of the community. Had this conviction not largely existed, Mr. Cobden and his fellow-labourers would have had no position, no support to rest on. Yet on the other hand, a mere unargumentative and inarticulate conviction is incapable of political action and combination. It was the work then of Mr. Cobden and his friends, to “ organize” the free-trade movement. In other words it was their work, (1) to formulate and state definitely the doctrine itself for which they contended; (2) to elaborate its argumentative grounds, and place them before the country clearly and persuasively; (3) so to guide and direct their followers' practical action, at parliamentary elections, public meetings, and the like, as might produce the most powerful political result. There was throughout the closest mutual interdependence between leaders and followers. Without the former, the latter would have been powerless in giving effect to their deepest and most rooted couvictions. On the other hand the power of the leaders absolutely depended on the confident persuasion of their followers, that their leaders were pursuing those very ends on which they themselves were bent. Let this persuasion once have given way among the rank-and-file, and Mr. Cobden's power would have crumbled away in his grasp.

Now precisely such as this is the relation between Irish priests and the mass of Irish Catholics, on such questions as those relating to tenant-right. To suppose that on such matters th

« FöregåendeFortsätt »