“The Orangemen, for instance, in the paper headed their ’General Declaration,’ say, ’We associate for the defence of our persons and properties, and to maintain the peace of the country; and for these purposes we will be at all times ready to assist the civil and military powers in the just and lawful discharge of their duty.’
“This, now, is all very plausible, but, perhaps, by looking a little more closely into the circumstances of the case, we may be able to perceive that in this passage, and one or two others of a similar character, the most objectionable part of the system lies disguised—if one can say disguised, because to me, my dear Spinageberd, the matter seems obvious enough. Who, then, are these men that come forward with arms in their hands, to proffer aid to the civil and military powers in the discharge of their duty? A self-constituted body without authority, who have certainly proved themselves to be brave men, and rendered most important services to the state, at a time when such services were, no doubt, both necessary and acceptable. The crisis, however, in which this aid was given and received, being but of brief duration, soon passed away, leaving the party opposed to government—the rebels—broken, punished, flogged, banished, hanged; in fact, completely discomfited, subdued, beaten down. In other words, the rebellion of ’98 having been thoroughly suppressed, this self-elected body of men, tasting the sweets of authority, retain, under different circumstances, these obligations, which, we admit, the previous situation of the country had rendered necessary. They retain them in times of peace, and bring into operation against men who were no longer either in a disposition or capacity to resist, those strong prejudices and that fierce spirit which, originated in tumult and civil war. Why, nobody complains of the conduct of Orangemen, as a, body, in ’98; it is of their outrages since, that the country, and such as were opposed to them, have a right to complain.
“In another passage the declaration is still stronger and more significant: ‘We further declare,’ say they, ’that we are exclusively a Protestant association; yet, detesting as we do, any intolerant spirit, we solemnly pledge ourselves to each other, that we will not persecute, injure, nor upbraid any person on account of his religious opinions, provided the same be not hostile to the state.’
’"That is to say, they will persecute, injure, or upbraid such persons only whose religious opinions are hostile to the state. But, now, let me ask any man of common sense, if he could for a moment hesitate to declare on oath what religion they have alluded to as being hostile to the state? There is, in truth, but one answer to be given—the Roman Catholic. What else, then, is this excessive loyalty to the state but a clause of justification for their own excesses, committed in the name, and on the behalf of religion itself? Did they not also constitute themselves the judges who were first to determine the nature of these opinions, and afterwards the authorities who should punish them? Here is one triumphant party with arms in their hand, who have only, if they wish, to mark out a victim, and declare his religion and principles as hostile to the state; and, lo! they are at liberty, by their own regulations, to ‘persecute’ him!