O'leary And The Irish Parliament

On the 26th February, 1782, the following interesting debate took place,

the subject under consideration being a clause in the Catholic Bill

directed against the friars:--

Sir Lucius O'Brien said, he did not approve of the regulars, though his

candor must acknowledge that many men amongst them have displayed great

abilities. Ganganelli (Clement XIV) and the Reverend Doctor Arthur

O'Leary are distinguished
among the Franciscans; and many great men have

been produced in the Benedictine order. He saw no temptation that

regulars had for coming here, if it was not to abandon certain

competence where they were, for certain poverty in this kingdom.

Mr. Grattan said, he could not hear the name of Father O'Leary

mentioned without paying him that tribute of acknowledgment so justly

due to his merit. At the time that this very man lay under the censure

of a law which, in his own country, made him subject to transportation

or death, from religious distinctions; and at the time that a prince of

his own religion threatened this country with an invasion, this

respectable character took up his pen, and unsolicited, and without a

motive but that of real patriotism, to urge his own communion to a

disposition of peace, and to support the law which had sentenced him to

transportation. A man of learning--a philosopher--a Franciscan--did the

most eminent service to his country in the hour of its greatest danger.

He brought out a publication that would do honor to the most celebrated

name. The whole kingdom must bear witness to its effect, by the

reception they gave it. Poor in everything but genius and philosophy, he

had no property at stake, no family to fear for; but descending from the

contemplation of wisdom, and abandoning the ornaments of fancy, he

humanely undertook the task of conveying duty and instruction to the

lowest class of the people. If I did not know him (continued Mr.

Grattan) to be a Christian clergyman, I should suppose him by his works

to be a philosopher of the Augustine age. The regulars are a harmless

body of men, and should not be disturbed.

Mr. St. George declared, notwithstanding his determined opposition to

the regulars, he would, for the sake of one exalted character of their

body, be tolerant to the rest. But he, at the same time, would uniformly

oppose the tolerating any more regular clergy than what were at present

in the kingdom.

Mr. Yelverton said, that he was proud to call such a man as Dr. O'Leary

his particular friend. His works might be placed upon a footing with the

finest writers of the age. They originated from the urbanity of the

heart; because unattached to the world's affairs, he could have none but

the purest motives of rendering service to the cause of morality and his

country. Had he not imbibed every sentiment of toleration before he knew

Father O'Leary, he should be proud to adopt sentiments of toleration

from him. He should yield to the sense of the committee in respect to

the limitation of regulars; because, he believed, no invitation which

could be held out would bring over another O'Leary.

In a more advanced stage of the Catholic Bill, on the 5th of March,

these eulogies gave rise to some words between 'the rival orators,' as

Messrs. Flood and Grattan were then designated in parliament. 'I am not,'

said Flood towards the end of a speech, 'the missionary of a religion I

do not profess; nor do I speak eulogies on characters I will not

imitate.' No challenge of this nature ever was given by either of these

great men in vain. Mr. Grattan spoke at some length to the subject under

debate, and concluded in these words: 'Now, one word respecting Dr.

O'Leary. Something has been said about eulogies pronounced, and

missionaries of religion. I am not ashamed of the part which I took in

that gentleman's panegyric; nor shall I ever think it a disgrace to pay

the tribute of praise to the philosopher and the virtuous man.'