Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/293

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279
A GROUP OF STATESMEN.

answering: "To make Helots of us is what you cannot do and shall not do." A fair field for each man according to his capacity was all they demanded. It had been insinuated indeed that Catholics should be deprived of political power, because political and religious liberty had been denied in Catholic countries. That meant repealing the Emancipation Act. For his part he would as soon sell his children as slaves, as allow them to live in a country where such a doctrine prevailed. But was it true that political and religious liberty had been denied in Catholic countries? It was as true as that witches ride on broomsticks, that one Englishman could beat five Frenchmen, or any of the hundred other fables of ignorance and prejudice. There had been bigotry and cruelty wherever uncontrolled power had existed, no matter to what creed it belonged. But he could answer unhesitatingly for the Catholics of Ireland and affirm that they never denied civil and religious liberty. When anyone spoke to an Irish Catholic of his creed being the symbol of persecution, and Protestantism the symbol of liberty, he might well think the speaker mad. Why, in the reign of Queen Mary, English Protestants fled to Dublin and were sheltered in that Catholic city, and in the reign of Queen Victoria, a large number of Catholic constituencies elected Protestants as their chosen representatives. For 300 years the Irish Catholics had been robbed and oppressed because they were Catholic, down to that very hour when they were compelled to support the richest church in the world for a handful of the population.[1] It was realising the fable of the wolf and the lamb to raise the cry of intolerance against

  1. Happily Sir Charles Gavan Duffy has lived to see that monstrous injustice swept away by the disestablishment of the State Church in Ireland, thirteen years after these words were uttered.