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and of the Roman Catholics in Great Britain and Ireland; with short Remarks on Catholic Emancipation. By J. W. CROFT. Inscribed to the People of England. Original. London, 1826.
"Principiis obsta, serò medicina paratur."
IN a petition of the Irish Roman Catholics presented to parliament in the sessions of 1825, the privileges and superior advantages said to be enjoyed by the French Protestants are strongly dwelt on, as forming a contrast to what they call their own melancholy situation; and the supporters of their cause, who appear to be totally ignorant of the real situation of the members of the Reformed Church in France, or perhaps, thinking that all means are fair so that they can attain their end, have taken up the assertion for a fact, and have drawn from it the conclusion, that the Irish Roman Catholics are the only persons in the world who labor under disadvantages resulting from religious opinions.
It is, in a political point of view, but little, if at all relevant to the question, which for so many years has agitated our elections and our parliaments, and divided our cabinets, what may be the fate of the French Protestants, whether they are in a situation a degree better or a degree worse than the Catholics at home; but truth, though not always to be spoken, is at least good to be known and since the Irish Catholics and the declaimers in their favor have thought fit, in making the comparison between their own situation, and that of the Reformed Church in France, to draw conclusions favorable to the latter, it may not be altogether useless to expose a few facts, which in the course of some years' residence in France have either come within the scope of my own observation, or been communicated to me by persons worthy of implicit credit; at the same time carefully abstaining from introducing any matter that may have reached my ear in the questionable shape of a report.
Nothing can be farther from the truth than the circumstances alleged by the petitioners for Catholic Emancipation respecting the situation of the French Protestants, and that very fact might satisfy any impartial and unprejudiced mind, that the Irish Catholics are perfectly careless how they obtain their ends,-how they arrive at the object of their wishes, provided they can shake off those restrictions which have hitherto served as obstacles to their arriving at the object of their desires-Place and Power.
It is alleged in the petition alluded to, that it appeared from a calculation made in the year 1822, that the number of Protestants in France amounted only to 542,000: this is again matter of no moment as to the political question of Catholic Emancipation at
home, and therefore need not be dwelt on, farther than to expose two misstatements :-first, the fact of any calculation having been made in 1822. is altogether erroneous; and secondly, the petitioners have stated the amount of the Protestant population with an equal degree of exactitude.
When Mons. Chabaud Latous stated lately in the Chambre des Députés, that their number amounted to 1,500,000, no député rose to contradict him, from whence one may infer, that silence gave consent. That gentleman, was however, considerably within the mark, since the fact is, that their numbers amount to upwards of two millions.
I admit, that since the restoration of the Bourbons, there has existed towards the Protestants a spirit of toleration just sufficient for them to be allowed to rebuild a great number of their churches, and that in some instances government has assisted them with a part of the necessary funds; but these acts of indulgence were only extended to them at the beginning of the period I have alluded to: and with regard to the temples that were taken from them or destroyed at the time of the révocation of the édit de Nantes, very few of them have been either restored to them or rebuilt; consequently, in many parishes, the Protestants are, for want of temples, obliged to assemble for the purpose of divine worship in barns or in the open air.
The Irish Roman Catholic petitioners have stated, that the French Protestants are allowed the free liberty and exercise of their religion, and that they are admissible to all places of honor, confidence, and emolument. Strange indeed would it be if, in the space of little more than ten years, the charter had become so completely a dead letter, that persons of any Christian persuasion should be denied the power of seeking the road to heaven in the manner most satisfactory to their consciences; and surely, the soidisant, ill-used, and unfortunate, Irish Catholics, will not refuse to admit that they enjoy a similar privilege, unmolestedly and uninterruptedly.
That by the charter, octroyée (as it has been since called) by Louis XVIII, the French Protestants are admissible to places of trust and responsibility, cannot be disputed; the door is open to them, but a sentinel is placed at it with a fixed bayonet to prevent their entering in. Were this the only reason, the Irish Catholic is, I contend, in a happier situation than the French Protestant. The former knows his situation, and he educates his sons accordingly, who are in consequence aware from their outset in life, that in whatever profession they embark, thus far can they go, and no farther; but the French Protestant is brought up to believe, and to lull himself with the persuasion, that his religion will be no bar to his advancement in the world; he refers to the charter,
where he finds confirmation strong of all that has been told him, and then, if gifted by nature, favored by talent, and refined by assiduity and instruction, he feels confident that he has only to enter the lists, and that whatever competition he may meet with,-whatever difficulties he may have to struggle with in common with other men, who either embark in political life, aspire to the higher honors of the bar or the bench, or devote themselves either in army or navy to the service of their country,-his religious opinions at all events will not stand in his light, nor draw down on him injustice from his superiors, the prejudices of his government, nor the frowns of his sovereign. Mistaken reliance! Misplaced confidence! He does find in his walk through life that he has constantly this injustice to struggle with, these prejudices to combat, these frowns to endure. In every little town, to be a French Protestant, is to be in bad repute with Messrs. les autorités, who, whatever their private feelings and opinions may be, are instigated by the priest to treat the heretic with oppression and contempt. I have more than once heard it said of a French Protestant, "il ne réuissira pas, il est Protestant." Insensibly does this system of injustice and oppression oppose to them a formidable barrier against advancement in their professions, from which, after finding themselves incessantly the victims of prejudice and of intolerance, they at last turn away in despair and in disgust; preferring to retire within the small circle of their family, and struggle with poverty, rather than continue to pass their lives, victims of persecution on the one side from the inferior officers of government, and of personal attacks on the other from the Catholic pulpit.
Of those Protestants who yet hold public employments in France, there are very few who have been appointed to them since the restoration of the present royal family; and such is the increas ing influence of the Roman Catholic clergy, and such is their hatred towards the members of the Reformed Church, whom, with that spirit of Christian charity which characterises them, they call a secte damnée, that the situation of the French Protestants can only get worse and worse.-What hopes of amelioration can they entertain, what confidence can they feel inspired with, in a government that yields with unexampled weakness to a body of men who brave kings and governments with temerity, and place themselves above the laws with impunity? What can the French Protestants have to look forward to, when that part of the public press, which, is the organ of ministers, calls the Reformed Church an Eglise tolérée, and treats le massacre de St. Barthélemy as a rigueur salutaire! The diabolical spirit conveyed by that one word salutaire, applied as it is, proves more forcibly than any arguments that can be used or urged, what the feelings are of Catholics Pam. NO. LIII. E
towards Protestants; and I will abstain from all comment, all reflection on it, lest I should weaken the effect of it on the minds of those whom I wish to impress with a conviction of the existence of those feelings, and with a sense of the inevitable dangers that must result to England, if her parliaments give way to the claims of the Irish Catholics. To the Protestant supporters of those claims one may well say, "eyes have ye, and ye see not; ears have ye, and ye hear not."
Again, let me ask, is not the true spirit of the Roman Catholic towards the Protestant breathed in the very word tolérée as applied to the Reformed Church in France? The meaning of the word toleration, is sufferance, indulgence in matters where the person or persons so suffering, so indulging, has or have a right to withdraw such sufferance and indulgence. Is not then that most insidiously termed tolérée which exists by law, by right of the charter octroyée by Louis XVIII, and ratified, confirmed and sworn to by his successor on the ceremony of his consecration and coronation? Nevertheless, the Catholic clergy have pronounced the charter to be a "chef-d'œuvre d'impiété"-have declared Louis XVIII. damned for having been the author of it, and have promised a similar reward to Charles X. for having confirmed it. Thus are the noblest intentions and the most beneficent acts of two succeeding fathers of their people thrown into the shade, if not totally obscured, by the bigotry, fanaticism, and intolerance of the Catholic clergy, who, in spite of a charter, the main object of which was to reconcile all opinions, all parties, and to ensure to all religions the most unrestrained freedom in its exercise and the most impartial protection,—have at length thrown aside the mask of toleration which they for a moment wore, and advance with rapid strides towards the overthrow and annihilation of the Reformed Church!
The hatred that is not only inwardly felt, but openly avowed by the Catholic clergy towards the Protestants, and instilled into the minds of all classes, high and low, from the sovereign on the throne down to the beggar in the street, is daily visible and audible to the eye and the ear of the commonest observer, the person the most indifferent to public affairs.-A Protestant minister pelted with stones, whilst reading the funeral service over the corpse of a departed brother, the walls of Protestant temples obscenely scrawled over, and otherwise disgustingly degraded:-a Protestant préfet deprived of his situation on the demand of a Catholic bishop, for the one offence alone of being a Protestant :-a Protestant general proposed and nominated to be governor of the École Politechnique: the ratification refused, because he was a Protestant.-In colleges, prizes refused to scholars who had gained them, because they were Protestants.-In towns, where the majo
rity of the inhabitants are Protestants, every appointment and employment given to Catholics:-Messrs.les Missionnaires declaiming against and insulting them with atrocity and impunity, styling the very laws that protect them impious, and calling in question even to their right of existence.-A bookseller deprived of his brevet for having printed the translation of a German work, wherein the principles of the Reformed Church were defended with decency, moderation, and a spirit of Christianity throughout, truly Christian.
Amidst all these insults and abuses, the members of the Reformed Church are condemned to suffer, if not with patience, at least in silence: they are attacked in the coarsest, in the grossest manner by the Catholic clergy, who, outraging in the most barefaced manner the decency of the press, dare to complain of its licentiousness; and who, at the very moment that they are themselves making it subservient to their own views, and using it as the channel of their base calumnies, and as the means of instilling into the public mind that deadly hatred which will ere long burst out and blaze forth against the Protestants,-are incessant in their hypocritical whinings and lamentations over what they call the abuse of it, and sing loudly and in full chorus the necessity of fettering its hands and of placing on its head the cap of censorship. The journals under the influence of the clergy and of the Jesuits, will be swoln out for weeks with the account of the conversion of a heretic to the Romish Church, (hors de l'enceinte de laquelle il n'y a pas d'espoir de salut, as a bishop lately informed his congregation in a sermon wherein he was thundering fire and flames against the Protestants,) while, at the same time, the sale is forbidden of a pamphlet containing a true and ungarbled statement of the conversion of a Catholic priest from the Romish to the Reformed Church.
In the public schools, the few Protestant functionaries that yet remain are exposed to every species of mortification and of injustice; and dismissal from their places, is daily adding to the injuries that are showering down thick on their heads: indeed, the ministre de l'instruction publique has himself lately said, that "le moment n'est pas loin, où ils seront tout-à-fait exclus de tous les collèges." Thus the undeniable advantages of public education will ere long be impossible to be procured for the children of Protestant families, inasmuch as all schools are placed under the direction of the Catholic clergy, and are on the eve of being confided solely to the charge of the Jesuits. To open a school, a license from the ministre de l'intérieur is necessary; and if granted, the bishop of the department can at his own good-will and pleasure, and without qualifying his objections by any more reasonable argument than the one commonly resorted to by Napoleon when he was expostulated with on any of his acts of tyranny, 'je le veux,' order its immediate suppression.