An excerpt from the beginning of the first letter:
A PEER OF IRELAND
PENAL LAWS AGAINST IRISH CATHOLICS,
THE LATE REPEAL OF A PART THEREOF IN THE SESSION OF THE IRISH PARLIAMENT, HELD A.D. 1782.
CHARLES STREET, LONDON, Feb. 21, 1782
My Lord,—I am obliged to your Lordship for your communication of the heads of Mr. Gardiner's bill. I had received it, in an earlier stage of its progress, from Mr. Braughall; and I am still in that gentleman's debt, as I have not made him the proper return for the favor he has done me. Business, to which I was more immediately called, and in which my sentiments had the weight of one vote, occupied me every moment since I received his letter. This first morning which I can call my own I give with great cheerfulness to the subject on which your Lordship has done me the honor of desiring my opinion.
I have read the heads of the bill, with the amendments. Your Lordship is too well acquainted with men, and with affairs, to imagine that any true judgment can be formed on the value of a great measure of policy from the perusal of a piece of paper. At present I am much in the dark with regard to the state of the country which the intended law is to be applied to. It is not easy for me to determine whether or no it was wise (for the sake of expunging the black letter of laws which, menacing as they were in the language, were every day fading into disuse) solemnly to reaffirm the principles and to reenact the provisions of a code of statutes by which you are totally excluded from THE PRIVILEGES OF THE COMMONWEALTH, from the highest to the lowest, from the most material of the civil professions, from the army, and even from education, where alone education is to be had.
Whether this scheme of indulgence, grounded at once on contempt and jealousy, has a tendency gradually to produce something better and more liberal, I cannot tell, for want of having the actual map of the country. If this should be the case, it was right in you to accept it, such as it is. But if this should be one of the experiments which have sometimes been made before the temper of the nation was ripe for a real reformation, I think it may possibly have ill effects, by disposing the penal matter in a more systematic order, and thereby fixing a permanent bar against any relief that is truly substantial. The whole merit or demerit of the measure depends upon the plans and dispositions of those by whom the act was made, concurring with the general temper of the Protestants of Ireland, and their aptitude to admit in time of some part of that equality without which you never can be FELLOW-CITIZENS. Of all this I am wholly ignorant. All my correspondence with men of public importance in Ireland has for some time totally ceased. On the first bill for the relief of the ROMAN CATHOLICS of Ireland, I was, without any call of mine, consulted both on your side of the water and on this. On the present occasion, I have not heard a word from any man in office, and know as little of the intentions of the British government as I know of the temper of the Irish Parliament. I do not find that any opposition was made by the principal persons of the minority in the House of Commons, or that any is apprehended from them in the House of Lords. The whole of the difficulty seems to lie with the principal men in government, under whose protection this bill is supposed to be brought in. This violent opposition and cordial support, coming from one and the same quarter, appears to me something mysterious, and hinders me from being able to make any clear judgment of the merit of the present measure, as compared with the actual state of the country and the general views of government, without which one can say nothing that may not be very erroneous.
To look at the bill in the abstract, it is neither more nor less than a renewed act of UNIVERSAL, UNMITIGATED, INDISPENSABLE, EXCEPTIONLESS DISQUALIFICATION.