—The order of the day being read for resuming the debate on the motion for referring the Irish Catholic Petition to the consideration of a committee of the whole house,
Mr. William Smith
rose and spoke as follows: Sir; as an opinion may prevail that we now resume this debate in circumstances less favourable to the question than those in which it stood last night, I beg shortly to clear myself from all imputation on that account, by declaring that, for every personal reason, it would have, been far more agreeable to me to have proceeded even at that late hour, except, indeed, from the consciousness of a greater disadvantage in proportion as the comparison was more near and immediate between myself and an hon. gent. (Mr. Grattan), whose eloquence 952 every one must have admired, and whose presence in this house is at least one advantage conferred by the union on this country. I know not, however, sir, whether the event to which I have alluded ought not rather to stimulate the friends of this measure to greater exertion. I confess I should think it much to be regretted if the unfavourable decision of another assembly should lead the catholics of Ireland to apprehend that a sentiment adverse to their wishes generally prevails. That decision, indeed, diminishes their prospect of immediate success; —but this house is an independent branch of the legislature; are bound to think and determine for ourselves, and should we resolve to go into the committee, let us hope that, from the investigation which may there take place, arguments may arise, by which the other house of parliament may be led to agree in the result to which we may finally come. Sorry, however, sir, as I shall be if this motion should be negatived, I should be yet more deeply concerned if that determination should be formed on such principles as were last night maintained. Must we reject this petition? at least let it be dismissed with temper and moderation, not in that spirit of harshness, almost of bigotry, which pervaded the declamation of an hon. and learned gent. (Dr. Duigenan) which, with some others on the same side, I hope the chancellor of the exchequer will think it his duty to answer and expose. —The speech delivered on the former part of this debate by the three hon. gentlemen adverse to the measure, may, I think, be thus generally characterised: —the first learned gentleman, though entering largely into every part of the subject, dwelt most on the nature of the Roman catholic religion; the second gentleman (Mr. Alexander) chiefly animadverted on the evils to be feared from the influence of their clergy; and the hon. attorney-general drew his principal objection from the supposition, that if all were granted which the petitioners now ask, they would, not even then be satisfied. To these gentlemen I would reply, in common, that they assume the authorities and facts to be almost exclusively on their side of the question; but that, to their authorities, we claim to oppose many of at least equal weight; and that facts, nakedly taken, divested of all concomitant circumstances, are not only insufficient grounds of argument, but often lead to the most erroneous conclusions; they are like those productions of art, which, 953 to be justly estimated, must be seen in their true point of view, and in proper lights; and many of these supposed facts, if brought into clear day, and shewn, unshadowed by the mists which passion and prejudice have thrown around them, would, I strongly suspect, appear under aspects very different from those in which they are now presented to our view.———"Trifles light as airAre to the jealous confirmations strongAs proofs from holy writ."——It was a fact, that Cassio was as in possession of Desdemona's handkerchief; and though the inference which passion drew was false, yet the consequence was fatal. Such a state of things as has existed in Ireland may be seen too near, as well as from too great a distance. Men, whose persons and families have been exposed to all the miseries of civil discord and insurrection, though of the best abilities, and with the best intentions, possessing, too, every advantage of local information, and so far qualified to form the most accurate opinions, can scarcely claim that other indispensable qualification of a judge, impartiality: their having been interested spectators of the scene, perhaps actors in it, incapacitates them in a great degree for determining as correctly as we may not unreasonably hope to do, with fewer opportunities of observation.—But to apply myself more directly to the argument of the first gentleman I have alluded to, I would remark that it puts an eternal veto on the proposition before us. While catholics remain such, they must, according to him, necessarily be kept in this state of suspicion and degradation!—and why?—because "the religion is unsafe, and its principles are immutable." It is unsafe, because it does not permit complete allegiance to a protestant sovereign, and destroys all the validity of those tests by which confidence is secured, and truth ascertained among men. These allegations, however, the catholics deny; they deny that they hold all the antiquated and absurd notions, which from the musty records of ages long since past, and councils almost forgotten, the hon. gentleman would fix upon them, for no better reason than the pretension of the furnish church to be not only universal, but immutable.—I know, sir, as well as that gentleman, that she has preferred this claim; I, too, have histories of councils and collections of decrees; but I also know that to be unchangeable belongs not to man, nor to his best modelled institutions, far less 954 to those which vainly, attempt to contravene the laws of nature. Nothing sublunary is permanent but those impressions stamped by the Creator on the human heart, which teach us to expect gratitude and love as the general consequences of benefits conferred, and discontent as the equally certain result of oppression:If this fail,
The pillar'd firmament is rottenness,
And earth's base built on stubble: but it cannot fail; nor can those reasonings be just, which assume that theoretical dogmas will, in the mind of man, for ever predominate over just and generous sentiments, over every feeling of integrity and truth. And this, sir, naturally leads me to that point in which the catholics appear to have met with treatment peculiarly uncandid and severe. Objections on the subject of oaths are taken against them, if not contradictory, at least inconsistent. If, from a regard to conscience, they refuse to renounce opinions which appear to them purely religious, they are instantly loaded with the imputation of disloyalty; from which, on the other hand, no protestations are allowed to relieve them, because they are affirmed to be men whom "oaths cannot bind." If this be the case, sir, let the legislature be consistent; if catholics be thus incapable of being bound by moral obligations, if they be unsusceptible of any other restraints but those imposed by violence, let the penal statutes be re-enacted, or at least, let us consider whether it be worth while to keep in forced subjection such an irreclaimable race. But is this character justly ascribe to them? on the contrary, do they not protest against these imputations, and has not their conduct justified their denial? Have not thousands since the revolution endured heavy restraints and severe penalties, rather than take oaths which their principles for bad? Why, in our own days, have such multitudes of priests relinquished their property and their homes to avoid oaths which, if it were innocent to have evaded by a dispensation, it must have been even meritorious to have done so, when the interests of their church had probably been essentially served by their remaining at their posts? Do not such facts under our own eyes speak louder than a thousand arguments drawn from theory and hypothesis? But this As not all: our government has shewn that it entertains far different ideas. The majority of the inhabitants of Canada being, like those of Ireland, of the catholic persuasion, 955 it was deemed the most natural and certain way of securing their allegiance, to infringe as little as possible on their laws and manners, and to allow to their religious opinions, not merely unlimited toleration, but a degree of establishment: and what has been the consequence? Has rebellion, or even uneasiness, been ever once heard of among them? No, surely; under every circumstance they have proved affectionately loyal. And the comparison of this case with that of Ireland almost demonstrates that the causes of disaffection should be sought for elsewhere than in the difference of religion, and that catholics will be good subjects to a protestant government if regarded with confidence, and treated with liberality—Another argument of the same gentleman was, indeed, most wonderful; We Were told that catholics cannot safely be admitted to the capacity of sitting in parliament, because, in that case, all the Irish members would instantly be catholic: that finding themselves unable from the comparative paucity of their numbers to carry any point openly, they would directly form a compacted junto, and compel the British minister to comply with all their demands; to give them, first, all the patronage of their own country, by which they would be enabled to turn the whole strength of it to their own nefarious purposes, and obtain next, the entire subversion of the establishment, civil and ecclesiastical, of the united kingdom! Could a more extravagant idea have been engendered by the most distempered imagination? Not to mention the libel it implies on these supposed Irish members, or rather conspirators, and on the English government; could any minister be weak enough so to comply, While he had five hundred and fifty-eight protestant members remaining, to whom these schemes of destruction might be revealed? If Irishmen could be found foolish and desperate enough to make such an attempt, can it be imagined that a minister could have been chosen by a protestant king, or tolerated by a protestant parliament, who should hesitate for an instant to discover and punish it? But it is mere waste of words to contend against such a chimera; much of what I have already said affords also a strong presumption against the existence of such a priestly influence over the mass of the people as is likely to produce any considerable mischief. Neither is this the present question, but whether any objection is to be thence deduced against acceding to the motion now before us; which, let it be remembered, is only for a 956 committee to examine how far the requests of the petitioners may prudently be granted. Now, supposing it to be doubtful whether catholics might safely be admitted into the great offices of state, it is perfectly obvious that granting the capacity of enjoying all offices, does not confer the possession of one; their actual admission into office would afterwards entirely depend on the pleasure and discretion of the executive government. But, again, if this be too large a boon, is the evil apprehended from the influence of the clergy so enormous, as to render the admixture of a small proportion of catholic members in the imperial parliament an experiment too dangerous to be attempted? Why thus terrify ourselves with shadows, and sacrifice justice at the shrine of an irrational fear? But, "grant all the petitioners ask," says the hon. attorney general, "and they will not then be satisfied; why then risk any thing unless you are determined to go to the full length of establishing their church and clergy?" Perhaps, sir, to grant even this in some degree, might not be unwise; it certainly would not be inconsistent, since a college has already been endowed for their education: at any rate, I should think that the additional power they would gain by our acceding to their present request, would not afford them the slightest chance of forcing from us what farther we might think it unsafe to grant; while, in the mean-time, they would assuredly be better satisfied, more amalgamated into the same mass, more disposed cordially to co-operate in every measure for the common defence, in every thing tending to promote the general welfare. In a word, by such a compliance with their wishes, love and gratitude would be substituted for aversion and fear. By introducing some Irish catholics into this house, misconceptions would be mutually removed, asperities would be gradually softened down. We should come to know each other better, and might expect to reap, at a much earlier period, the advantages of a substantial union, intimate and complete—In maintaining this cause, sir, I cannot be supposed to be actuated by any predilection for catholics or catholicism as such: I am a protestant dissenter, and possibly at the very farthest distance from them in religious sentiment, both as to discipline and doctrine; but, firmly persuaded that every man has a right to enjoy and profess his respective opinions, without being therefore subjected either to reproach or disabilities, I undoubtedly must sympathize with them. Beyond this, I 957 trust, that I have for them a more liberal feeling, as for persons much misrepresented and unjustly calumniated. My personal acquaintance among their body has not been extensive, but in those I have known,.never should I have been able to detect their religion by any immorality in their practice beyond the common frailties of man; and in candour I would desire of their most strenuous adversaries to say, if they have found their catholic acquaintance deficient in the performance of the relative duties, faithless in the daily intercourses of life, men not to be trusted on their words, or even their oaths. Who, sir, will disgrace himself by throwing out such an accusation? —If then, sir, the objections which have been alleged have no more force than I imagine them to possess; if the spectres which have been conjured up to affright us have no real existence; if the petitioners be men of like passions and affections with ourselves; if refusal will embitter, and compliance will soften and attach their minds; and if at the present moment it be of peculiar importance to bind to us by every tie so large a mass of our fellow subjects; let us endeavour to overcome what may remain of prejudice in ourselves or in others, and, by proceeding to the farther consideration of this most important subject with a temperate and prudent liberality, do our utmost to secure to the empire that union of every hand and every heart, on which our quiet, our prosperity, and perhaps our very existence may depend.
§ Mr. Lee.
—The question now under consideration appears, sir, to me, to be the gravest and most important that ever was debated within the walls of parliament. It naturally arises out of the act of union, and should have been maturely considered before that measure was adopted. I will not assert, that while that plan was in agitation, this concession to the catholics was expressly stipulated; but I never heard it denied, that there was at least an understanding on the subject. Not having the same opinion of the benefits of that project, as many others seemed to entertain. I had some hopes that it might have been averted, till I observed that these expectations were held out by the right hon. gent. who proposed this measure, in a speech so replete with reasoning and eloquence, as would have done honour to the brightest æreas of Greece or Rome. The right hon. gent. then said, that the disproportion Which before existed between the persons professing 958 the catholic and protestant religion in Ireland being done away by this measure, afforded a chance that the same objection would not be made to the catholics having a full participation in the British constitution. That speech, many of us knew, made, a very deep impression on the minds of the Irish catholics; and, having carefully attended to all the debates which took place at that time, I could not help observing, that there was no gentleman in this house who made a stand upon that point, or endeavoured to obtain a pledge either way upon it. I was also, present in this house, when the right hon. gent. was questioned as to his reasons for resigning, and recollect his having answered, that he did so in consequence of being unable to carry a measure which appeared to him essential to the public welfare, declaring at the same time, that he owed too much to his royal master to press the subject on him, and that he should think it his duty to oppose it, if it came from any other quarter; and this was, I think fair parliamentary ground. At present, thought I am from principle determined to support the motion since it has been submitted, I must now declare, that I think it Wrong in the Roman catholics to bring it forward at this moment. I should even support the repeal of the test to the dissenters, if that were now the question; though, undoubtedly, the argument of numbers does not apply to them in the same manner as it does to the Roman catholics of Ireland, who in point of rights, must be acknowledge to be one short of their due proportion. When you consider, that, on the lowest calculation, the catholics of Ireland compose three millions out of five of the inhabitants of that country, and are rapidly, increasing in wealth and consequence, you cannot shut your eyes to their situation, and your own, sense must make up your mind to grant at some time what is impossible to be avoided. I freely confess, that I have not the least idea of the measure succeeding at present, and am very well convinced that the Roman catholics themselves do not expect it. In their private conversation, they do not affect to think that their wishes will be immediately complied with. They say, that in time it will work its way, by the force of reason, but that they cannot expect the protestants at once to throw away those bulwarks which they so carefully raised against them. The effect of it is sure, however slowly it may operate. I remember myself, that when a bill was brought into the 959 Irish parliament, for the purpose of indulgence to the catholics, there were only thirteen members in the house who voted in favour of it; and yet such was the general agitation, and such the strong sensations excited by its agitation, that the government was soon convinced that something must be done upon it. The country at that time was not well governed; and, towards the approach of the ensuing session of parliament, when it was expected the measure would again be brought forward, emissaries were sent down by the administration to procure resolutions and petitions from the different county grand juries against it; and they succeeded. But the catholics seeing no hope of success when the Irish government was against them, came over to England and petitioned the throne. Every thing was in readiness for opening the sessions of the Irish parliament. The speech from the throne was prepared, and every resistance to the catholic claims determined on. But his majesty was graciously pleased to favour the petition, and an alteration for the intended speech was transmitted to Ireland, with a recommendation in favour of the catholics. The change of opinion that took place was equally violent and sudden. These very grand juries in the different countries who had assembled, and agreed in resolutions against the claims of the catholics, in a short time after were themselves the first who voted in their favour:—and thus the grand juries and the parliament were disgraced. I remember when I was laughed at for saying the catholic claims must be granted, by many of those persons who in a very short time afterwards voted in their favour. The Irish parliament, in my opinion, acted on that occasion with great prudence, in not granting them the whole of what they asked for at once; and so much inclined am I to this gradual extension of privileges, that, should the house go into a committee on the petition, I should be averse to granting all their demands, though I would agree to members of that religion sitting in both houses. No man, who values the constitution, can approve of three millions of his fellow subjects being unrepresented in the parliament; but it was very well argued by the hon. mover of this question, that the catholic body is not even virtually represented, though the members of it are allowed to possess the elective franchise. I will even put it to the learned and hon. gent. near me (Dr. Duigenan), whether, if his con- 960 stituents were of that persuasion, he could be considered as the organ of the Catholics? My hon. friend may be a Very good protestant; but certainly no very fit representative for the catholics. All the evils apprehended from giving them seats in parliament, are now no more than fanciful and chimerical. It was formerly said, if you give the catholics the elective franchise, the consequence will be that they will vote for no member without putting him to a test that he will be obedient to their purposes. But they have since obtained the franchise, and no such tests or other consequences have been known to happen. It turned out to be no more than a phantom of distant danger, which vanished as you approached it. All the danger that can happen has already been incurred. You have given suffrages to, and put arms into the hands of, persons but slightly educated, and most liable to entertain the prejudices you are so much afraid of; and refuse privileges to the higher orders, whose minds are enlightened, whose principles are more sound, and who possess the greatest stakes in the country—My hon. friend has at all times opposed the catholic claims, not as a question of policy, but as a question of religion, and in support of his opinions he goes back to musty records and obsolete councils, and the ages of ignorance and bigotry. But will any man in his senses seriously compare the opinions of the catholics of the eleventh with those of the nineteenth century? Have not the protestants themselves changed their tenets and opinions with the revolutions of time? Are there not new sects of dissenters springing up every day? In this age of rapid and progressive improvement and cultivation of the intellect, are we to be gravely told, that the catholic mind alone stands still, and that the people of this day are to be convicted because their ancestors 600 years ago were bigots? If so, let me ask again, who is the man amongst us who might not be equally condemned upon the same principle? While arts, sciences, and manufactures, improve, it would be hard if the human mind alone, and peculiarly the catholic mind, remained where it was, and that men in this age should be tried by a few foolish resolutions passed in the council of Lateran. It has been said, that if the catholics were once admitted to an equal participation of rights, their first step would be, to overthrow the protestant government. I, however, am so far of a contrary opinion, that I can. never conceive the union of the 961 two countries, or British connexion, safe while three millions of our fellow-subjects are held in political bondage. The strongest security you can give to the protestant establishment, is to reconcile to it three millions of your fellow-subjects, who conceive that they are unfairly treated. Nothing appears to me so evil, so extravagant, and so unreasonable, as to suppose you can keep such multitudes always quiet, unless you are determined to redress them. Nor was there ever any thing more difficult for you to do, than to legislate for those whom you refuse to reconcile, and to whom, according to the speech of the hon. member, never under any circumstances can further concessions be made, nor any change be effected on the protestant mind in their favour. Many persons have expressed their surprise, that although the reformation extended itself so rapidly in England, it made so little and such slow progress in Ireland; but a little reflection will soon resolve this problem. It is allowed that the same means have not been used in one country as in the other, for making the reformation take root. We have records and testimonies in abundance, to show that in times comparatively remote, Ireland was conspicuous for its civilization and literature; nut the reign of Henry VIII., when the reformation commenced, was one of the darkest ages of that country. There was another cause which did not less operate against the progress of reform. When the monarch already mentioned first attempted to extend it in Ireland, it appeared, from the letter addressed to him on that occasion by the Irish master of the rolls, that the sovereign's government did not extend beyond twenty miles from Dublin, and of course his influence was proportionably contracted. It was bad policy to attempt at the same time the conquest and the reformation of the country; and yet the reformer travelled with the sword in one hand and the reform in the other. It is therefore manifest that the regular order was inverted; for the king should have conquered the country first, and endeavoured to convert the inhabitants afterwards. Here the reformations was propagated by argument and reason. The reformers preached to the people in their own language; they listened to the voice of reason, and were in time convinced. In Ireland the reformed religion was preached in a language not understand the natives. The method taken was, to propagate it by the sword, which has seldom proved the 962 fittest instrument for making proselytes. In England the king had no competitor, and easily diffused his reformation amongst the people; in Ireland he possessed but a very limited authority and the doctrines he wished to enforce were considered as coming from an enemy at open war with the people, their habits, customs, and prejudices, and therefore were opposed and resisted by them. The impolitic oppression exercised in Ireland was a further obstacle to its progress. Henry passed a law prohibiting the English settlers from intermarrying or fostering with the natives. As this word fostering has an application in Ireland different from what it has here, it may be right to explain that it refers to the poorer son of the females suckling the children of the rich, which in that country, is productive of a kind of intimate intercourse and connexion. It is also to be observed, that it was the same parliament of Henry that promulgated the reformation, which also passed this prohibiting act, which violated all the manners and customs of the people. In every respect the proceedings in the two countries were so extremely different, that the reformation was not allowed the same play in the one that it was in the other. When the king thought proper to shut up the monasteries, and destroy the monastic livings in England, he bestowed them, by grant, upon great landed men of considerable property, who commanded the respect of the people. In Ireland, in the contrary, he bestowed them on English settler, and needy adventurers, whose interests were constantly at variance with those of the people.—Though the territory of the government, as I observed before, extended no further than twenty miles from Dublin, yet bishops and other clergy were sent over, who never thought of residing on their benefices; and instead of propagating their doctrines, had, in fact, no connexion whatever with the inhabitants. If the religion then adopted had been at that early period taught in Ireland, it would, no doubts, have had pretty nearly the same effect that it had here; but, in that country, it does not appear that any one ever attempted to teach it; nor was the protestant religion ever tendered to the people, except in the form of an act of parliament. But if Henry failed in the mode which be adopted for propagating the reformation amongst a people who could not understand a word of the English language, Queen Elizabeth bit upon a most notable project to remedy the defect; for, 963 as the native, Irish spoke no language but their own, and could not understand English, she ordered the Bible to be translated for them into Latin, and the church service to be performed in that language. It was well said by lord Clare, that any attempt to force men's consciences only made them hypocrites; and we find that force, instead of argument, was the instrument employed in Ireland. A law was passed, by which the eldest son of a catholic, who had a landed estate, might, by turning protestant, dispossess his father. What could be more detestable than this law, which was so well calculated to revolt the feelings of the people, by an unnatural power given to a son to shake off the dominion of his parent? This bribe, however, was not confined only to the eldest; but the youngest, or any other son, was also, by his conversion, afforded the bribe of seizing on his father's estates, and letting it gavel between him and his eldest brother. In this way it will be allowed, that both the king and his parliament took a most irreligious method of extending their religion, and prepared their converts for being good protestants, by first making them bad men. The free tenets of the protestant religion are of that kind that will always extend themselves with the progress of civilization; but you took the very worst mode of effecting this in Ireland. By prohibiting the education of Roman Catholics at home, and excluding them from the university of Dublin, you have compelled the parents to send their children abroad, to be educated in foreign countries, where they were, of course, brought up in all the prejudices of the catholic religion, or, in other words, of popery. There were also several other acts which had a similar, and, perhaps, an equal tendency; but I shall not detain the house by reasoning on them at present. One great and leading objection which I have heard stated against the admission of catholics into parliament is, that the pope is allowed to have more power in Ireland than he is possessed of in other catholic countries; and by appointing the catholic bishops, he maintains that supremacy in the church which of legal right belongs only to his Majesty. I confess this objection has much weight with me—and I can see no reason why the Catholics should not come prepared to concede some of their prejudices, when they call upon us to concede ours. This, in fact, seems to be the grand obstacle to the concessions they wish for; and I am not without sanguine hopes that it may be re- 964 moved. Upon this subject I made it my business to converse with some catholic gentlemen of no small authority, and asked them whether they would have any objection to the bishops of their persuasion being nominated by his Majesty instead of the pope? And they all agreed that they could have no objection to it. What I should propose would be, that hereafter, whenever a see became vacant, the other bishops should assemble, and choose two or more candidates, whom they would recommend to that appointment, and leave the choice of the person to be determined by the king. Indeed I have good reason to believe, that, if the prayer of the petition was granted, the Roman catholics would cheerfully give up that point (A cry of hear! hear! from Mr. Fox and those members who surrounded him), as well as make whatever other reasonable sacrifices the circumstances of the case may be thought to require; for I must maintain, that they can have no right to seats in parliament, while they continue to take their bishops from the hands of any foreign power. I cannot, however, but think that the Catholics would be very well satisfied with this arrangement, and I make but little doubt that many of the opposers of their emancipation would relax in resistance, and consent to agree to it, upon this condition. To speak plainly, indeed, I should wish to ask of the hon. gent. (Mr. Fox), who must be in the confidence of these gentlemen, by their selecting him to present their petition, to what extent the catholics would go in this respect, and what are the points which they would have no objection to give up? I hope the house will bear in mind, that when these Roman catholic laws were passed, they were not directed against the catholics as such, but were laws enacted against popery and slavery; for James II. who was the source of them all, was himself a tyrant and a bigot. The laws, therefore, wore a double aspect, as intending to protect the subjects of these realms against both. As to the prospects generally attributed to Roman catholics, for the subversion of property in Ireland, I am, in my own mind, perfectly convinced that they do not entertain the most distant idea of ever restoring the estates that were confiscated from their ancestors. The best proof, perhaps, that could be given of this is that since the Roman catholics of Ireland have been allowed the liberty of purchasing lands, they have almost invariably been solicitous of purchasing those that formerly be 965 longed to their forefathers, which they certainly would not do if they cherished the hope of ever receiving them back in any other manner. I once very strictly inquired of a lawyer in Ireland, a Mr. Sankey, who was very much employed in making these purchases of forfeited estates, whether he knew any instance of the descendants making any objection to the tenures by which such forfeited estates were held? His reply was, that he never once knew a single instance of it. It is a vulgar error into which the learned gentleman (Dr. Duigenan) has fallen, when he told us that the Catholics of Ireland had maps, by which they could trace the boundaries of the estates once possessed by their ancestors, in the expectation that they would, on some future day, have an opportunity of reclaiming them. The fact is, sir, that the map of all these forfeited lands is kept by the auditor in the castle of Dublin, is accessible to every man who chooses to inspect it, and is daily produced in the courts, to ascertain disputes respecting boundaries. The history of this map is pretty well known. It was drawn by Sir William Petty, after the old one had been taken away by king James II and carried into France, where an accredited agent from this government (General Vallancy) was some time since sent to procure a copy of it: it is comprised in twenty-four folio volumes: and from this it will be seen, how idle the story is, that catholics are at the trouble of keeping maps privately, with sinister views, when the real one is accessible to any one who applies for it. The great point then, sir, which I have in view, is to show, that, as the reformation, now in existence nearly 300 years, has hitherto made such slow progress in Ireland, (for there are still three millions of catholics in that country unconverted,) hence it is obvious that the system you have adopted has failed of its effects, that it must of course be wrong, and that it is high time to change it. The surest method we can take to advance the reformation is, by treading back the steps of our ancestors, and by undoing much of what they have done. If then we are to measure back the steps of three hundred years, we cannot be surprised if much time shall be required in advancing. One thing, however, is clear; that if we expect to convert three millions of people into good protestants, it must be done by argument, and not by force. This great question has now for the first time come before us, and I trust the full discussion it has undergone, 966 and the moderation and sound argument displayed by its advocates, will not fail to have their due weight, and to conquer in due time here, as they have before done in Ireland, the prejudices existing against a measure, which, I am thoroughly convinced, would consolidate the strength, unite the attachments, and render impregnable the security of these realms.
§ Sir William Scott ,
after some prelimiminary observations, spoke in substance as follows:—The hon. mover of this question has affected to distinguish between the civil and religious institutions of the country, as if they were capable of complete separation: the practice, however, of all civilized states, has fully demonstrated that they are so intimately united, that to attempt to sever them would be in reality to destroy them. A luminous and eloquent political philosopher (Mr. Burke) entertained ideas directly opposed to such a doctrine. "This principle" (that of attachment in the people of England to their religious national establishment) "runs through the whole system of their polity. They do not consider their church establishment as convenient, but as essential to their state; not as a thing heterogeneous and separable; something added for accommodation; what they may either keep up or lay aside, according to their temporary ideas of convenience. They consider it as the foundation of their whole constitution, with which, and with every part of which, it holds an indissoluble union. Church and state are ideas inseparable in their minds, and scarcely is the one ever mentioned without the other." They are so far joined, that the idea of the one almost necessarily impresses upon us the recollection of the other; and church and state so imperceptibly flow into each other, that the connexion, even to the organ of speech, is perfectly familiar. This fraternal relation is not a novelty in our history, it grew up in the most early periods of it, and was firmly combined in those times when the liberties of this nation were effectually secured. After our sacred institution had endured many desperate assaults, it rose with renewed strength from the conflict, and we were destined to enjoy the blessings not only of a free but of a protestant constitution. In the same charter in which the sovereign appointment was given, in which the rights of the subject are declared, it was said, this kingdom shall be for ever protestant. And "esto perpetua" is the earnest prayer I shall offer 967 for the Safety and happiness of my country. But the principles now advanced are calculated not to preserve, but to impair the constitution we have received from our ancestors, and to sacrifice to experiment the invaluable privileges by which we have been hitherto distinguished. By what provisions is this constitution to be secured? By the fundamental laws of the country. What are these laws? The king must be a protestant. He can marry none but a protestant. Was this to lull to repose the conscience of the sovereign? Was it for his personal comfort in this life, or his happiness hereafter, that these restrictions on his very thoughts were ordained? Certainly with no such design: it was for the protection of these realms from the dangerous consequences of catholic innovation. It was, in such a country as this, guarded by such legislative precautions, with regard to, the opinions of the prince, that if no distinct provisions had been made, the general maxims resulting from established law, would be, that all the great officers of state assisting the monarch in the discharge of his high functions should be protestants. It was required, that the supreme magistrate should be of that persuasion; and were not the representatives of his august power to entertain the same religious sentiments? In order to preserve the system inviolable, it is not only expedient, but necessary: whatever may be the situation or the policy of other states in this particular, in England it is prudent, from peculiar circumstances, to preserve this restraint; because, from the nature of our limited monarchy, the incumbent of the throne may be in the exercise of a very small portion of power; almost the whole actual authority, and the responsibility, may be delegated to his ministers; and what would be the perils that might await us, if they were the slaves of the catholic superstition? It is on such grounds that I consider it not a matter of doubt, but of conviction and certainty, that to permit these privileges to be extended to persons of the romish faith, would be to infringe the fundamental maxims of our glorious constitution. A protestant king, surrounded by catholic ministers, would be a solecism in fact, as, well as in law; for their must be a perpetual contradiction between the duties of the one and the other. It is an important function of the great officers of state to attend with zeal and vigilance to the protection of our church establishment; but 968 how could this obligation be discharged by those who deem it to be absurd, pernicious, profane, and fanatical? It is true, I am not enabled, as many others are, from intimate and local knowledge, to speak to the present question; but if the premises I have assumed are at all correct, the objection to the motion before the house is paramount to all the inferior circumstances of accident and locality. The hon. gent. (Mr. Fox), in his introductory address, told the house, that from some unfavourable events, the grants already made had produced the effect that might have been naturally expected; and this disappointment he used as an argument for new concessions. In my mind, it operates in a way precisely the reverse: if what has been already given has not been beneficial to the persons to whom the donation was extended, there is little expectation that by them any future advantage from the proposition will be derived. An hon. member, who is an eloquent advocate of the cause he asserts, (Mr. Grattan), has intimated there would be danger of separation between the sister islands, if this motion were rejected. In such a declaration he may have said much for the courage, but very little in favour of the loyalty, of the people of Ireland. I had hoped we should rather have seen some proofs of their gratitude and attachment for what has been conceded, than any indications of disgust and alienation for what is with-held. If I may make a comparative observation on the feelings of the catholies of the two countries, I should consider the disposition manifested by the English papists as much the more honourable, although the laws now complained of are more onerous to the English than to the Irish of that profession. The proportion of gentlemen of distinguished families, who are catholics, is much greater among the former than among the latter; and hence the laws which restrict them from the executive and legislative situations are to them peculiarly severe. It has been said, that the subjects of that persuasion are deprived of their civil rights. True it is that one of the princes of the house of Stuart has been driven from the throne for misconduct, but upon what principle were his successors excluded? It was because they were attached to the popish religion; the protestant faith has become necessary part of our constitution, and we could not be governed by those who were inimical to it. The house has heard 969 much of virtual representation, and it is pretended the catholics of Ireland are not represented; but nothing is more manifest than that they are admitted to the complete exercise of the elective franchise: and in this respect, at least, they enjoy every privilege possessed by protestants. I have understood that the hon. mover of this question is preparing the history of a very important and eventful period in the annals of this country. The favourite chapter to which I should direct his attention with peculiar pleasure, would be that in which so enlightened an author must contemplate the benign effects of the protestant religion, as conducive to the peace, order, and happiness of the community, and to the integrity and glory of the British constitution. The true question now is, if the privileges granted to catholics are to be extended? The parliament of Ireland has acted with great wisdom in regard to this enquiry, and has granted to them all that was either necessary or discreet. But the hon. gent., on the contrary, says, because we have given so much, we ought liberally to make them a present of the rest. The converse of this I shall rather maintain, because he cannot consider former generosity as a just motive for future prodigality.— However, if more should be fit to be conceded, a reason less inconvenient might be easily discovered for the donation. The discretion of our ancestors has erected a strong barrier to protect the constitution; but we are now required to admit the catholics, and for this purpose to hurl down this stupendous monument of their industry and wisdom, to which I can never agree.
§ Mr. Grattan
explained that he had not intimated the probability of any separation of the two countries, if this motion were rejected.
§ Mr. Grattan.
—I said, if the parliament assented to the calumny propagated, that the catholics were traitors to their king and country, it would lay the foundation of such a separation. It was not the rejection of the petition, but the adoption of the calumny, to which I adverted.
§ Doctor Laurence.
—It is with regret, sir, that I differ on any subject from my right hon. and learned friend, who last addressed you. But whatever satisfaction I should feel in agreeing with him on other occasions, I should indeed be sorry if I did nut differ 970 from him on the question of this night. For I could not look with the same pleasure to our happy constitution, which is justly the pride of this country and the envy of the world, if I could suppose it compatible with its principles, that so great a proportion of my fellow-subjects should be put under the ban of the empire, and eternally excluded from the most valuable of its privileges. It appears to me a most glaring inconsistency on the face of the proposition itself, that an equality of rights and of protection should be, for ever, denied to the catholics, at the same time that an equality of duty and allegiance is demanded from them. My right hon. and learned friend has drawn arguments in support of his opinion from the principles of our constitution, as laid down in the settlement which followed the glorious revolution. But here he has not exercised his usual fairness and candour. He has rested all his reasoning on a single, indefinite, and equivocal word, of negative description, which seems to favour his position, while he has passed over all that part of what he calls the charter of the revolution, which would at once have shewn the fallacy of the whole argument. According to him, the fundamental principle of our constitution, as then established, requires merely that the king should be a protestant, and marry a protestant; and thence is deduced the conclusion, that all the great officers of state to whom the exercise of the royal functions is delegated, and every member of every branch of the legislature must be also protestants. But is not the position with which nay right hon. and learned friend sets out, a plain sophism? It contains indeed the truth, but not the whole truth. Lutherans, Zuinglians and Calvinists, Baptists and Anabaptists, Quakers and Menonites, Muggletonians, Swedenburgians, and I know not how many sects beside, are all of them protestants: but does my right hon. and learned friend mean to say, that a monarch, who should profess himself to belong to any of those protestant sects, could lawfully hold the crown of this realm? I am sure, he does not. By the coronation oath, by the act which settled the succession in his majesty's august house, the king is as much bound to be a member of the church of England as established by law, to the exclusion of all other protestant churches, as he is forbidden to hold communion with the see or church of Rome. The consequences therefore, which follow from those fundamental laws of the state must operate equally 971 against one description of dissenters as against another, against protestant and papist alike. My right hon. and learned friend must push his argument of proscription to the same length against both (and he has not attempted it; he could not attempt it), or the argument is good for nothing against either.—As an authority of the greatest weight in support of his position, my right hon. and learned friend has had recourse to a celebrated work of an illustrious friend of mine, now no more; whose memory will ever be cherished next my heart; whose virtues as well as talents will ever live in my fondest regard and most reverential admiration; a political philosopher, no less enlightened than eloquent, as my right hon. and learned friend has truly described him; a statesman, whose loss his country has every day more and more reason to deplore, as a public calamity. In these feelings I know that my right hon. and learned friend fully participates. He assents to the observation. I would, sir, that I could have had the gratification of tracing what he now avows, in the use, which he has just made, of the beautiful passage extracted from "The Reflexions on the French Revolution." For how is it applied in the context, where it stands? In any I way, that bears upon the present question? No, sir; not in the most remote degree. It merely asserts the close and intimate connexion of a religious national establishment with the civil constitution of the state, in the system of polity derived to us from our ancestors; holding up the example of this country in contrast to the conduct of the demagogues in the national assembly of France, who were systematically plundering, defrauding, vilifying, degrading, and persecuting the ministers of the very religion, Which they at the same time professed to acknowledge as the national church. It has no immediate reference to the peculiar and distinctive character of our religious establishments. But my right hon. and learned friend has violently torn it from its place, to make it the foundation of his objections to the present measure of relief; a measure Which the great authority himself, to whom he appeals, never ceased from his first entrance into public life to the moment of his death, to recommend and to urge as the surest means of improving and consolidating the prosperity and strength of the empire. Nearly half a volume in the collection of Mr. Burke's works is occupied with the discussion of the very subject, on which we are how engaged. My right hon. 972 and learned friend must have known this. He is too sincere an admirer and too diligent a reader of the compositions of his deceased friend (for such he was) to have overlooked so large a portion of his labours. But in truth, sir, he has only manifested his accustomed judgement and discretion in not directing your attention to that quarter. For there you will find the whole speech of my right hon. and learned friend, anticipated, and will he allow me to say? triumphantly confuted: there, while it is again admitted to be a fundamental law of the constitution, that the church of England should be united and even identified with it, yet a just and solid distinction is drawn between fundamental laws themselves, and laws of regulation only, made from time to time for the support of what is fundamental; there, the radical defect of the argument which represents the king as simply a protestant, instead of a communicant of the church of England, is largely examined, detected, and exposed; there in short, the errors, into which my right hon. and learned friend appears to me to have fallen, are attributed to a confusion of reasoning most alien to minds like his, and belonging only "to the metaphysicians of our times, who are the most foolish of men, and who, dealing in universals and essences, see no difference between more and less." Indeed, sir, after all, I very much fear, that my right hon. and learned, friend has only been dressing up in more decent apparel a set of idle vagabond fallacies which have been already more than once whipped through the town as public cheats and impostors. I cannot however dismiss this topic without one word of serious complaint, painful as it is to me to address it where I must, on behalf of him, whose voice is now for ever mute in the grave; I cannot refrain from declaring at once my surprise and my affliction, that, from one, whom he esteemed, and who esteemed him, he should now experience the treatment, which he was too much used to receive during his life from the least respectable of his adversaries; that his opinions should be imperfectly and partially, quoted, to hold him up to the world, as inconsistent with himself —But let us, now, sir, look a little into history: let us see at what period those incapacitating statutes, from Which the catholics most wish to be relieved, had their origin: let us more especially enquire when the doors of this house were first shut against them Was their exclusion from parliament coeval with 973 the reformation itself? Did it take place in consequence of any solemn and enlightend revision of the constitution? No, sir; it was the very reverse of this; and my right hon. and learned friend knows, that it was so. It was not till after the lapse of nearly a century and a half from the rupture between Henry the VIIIth, and the pope; it was not till the latter end of the reign of Charles the IId, when serious danger was apprehended to our civil as well as religious liberties from the expected succession of James to the crown; it was not till the ferment excited by the publication of what is called Oates's plot (which every man of sense and learning now knows to have been a most infamous and barbarous forgery) had let loose a noxious spirit which overcame the reason of some of the best and ablest men in the nation; that, in a moment of insane rage and terror, an act was passed to exclude all catholics from parliament, because the commons could not then obtain, what by the revolution they did obtain, the exclusion of a catholic from the throne. Yet even then the measure was not extended to the catholic of Ireland; to those, be it remembered, whose descendants are the actual petitioners now before the house. And why was it not? We have, sir, the most indisputable testimony on this point. It comes from the lord-lieutenant himself, the duke of Ormond, who informed the earl of Arran, that he did not chuse to assemble the parliament of that kingdom, "chiefly on account of the severity of two bills transmitted against the papists, the one taking away the votes of peers, while they are papists, and the other inflicting death upon a certain sort to the papist clergy if found in Ireland, the one seeming unjust, the other cruel, and neither necessary." [Carte's Life of Ormond, Vol. II. p. 535.] And here, sir, suffer me for one minute to fix your attention on this invaluable document under the hand of a witness so much above all exception. In the first place, it establishes the fact, that catholics did then sit in parliament; otherwise how would it have been unjust to deprive them of that which they did not enjoy? And thus it sweeps away at once all the rubbish of violent and illegal resolutions. Which the learned member who addressed you last night, raked together from the journals of the Irish house of commons in times of intestine confusion, which, if those unjustifiable regulations had even been carried into effect (though they do not appear to have been) would have vitiated all their 974 authority. But, sir, it goes much further. It establishes the more important fact, that the catholics of Ireland, who down to the revolution held seats in both houses of parliament; aye, sir, and high places in the state too, had been found faithful to their trust. The lord-lieutenant, not a stranger sent among strangers, but a man, who during forty years had taken a leading part in the government of that his native land, and who had himself been a conspicuous actor in the suppression of that formidable rebellion and the retaliation of that pretended massacre, which at this distance of time some men affect to consider as an excuse for every mode of legislative persecution; the duke of Ormond, a lord-lieutenant so qualified as I have described him, pronounced "the severity of the law, which first excluded the catholics from parliament, to be contrary to justice, and warranted by no political necessity." Such then was the condition of the catholics in this essential respect at the epoch of the revolution. What then followed? Did the charter of the revolution touch the members of that church in Ireland? It was not till the third year of William, that they were excluded from the parliament of that kingdom; and it is notorious that in measures of penal restriction and prohibition against his catholic subjects, that great and wise prince did not obey his own judgment, but yielded reluctantly to the temper of the times. For his own proper sentiments we must look to his own proper acts. In the articles of Limerick, signed by his favourite general and the lords justices a little before the law which I have mentioned passed here, and in the ratification of those articles by himself, notwithstanding that law, we read the pure dictates of his own policy. He there engages himself to put the catholics, in regard to their religion, on the footing on which they stood in the reign of Charles the IId; and to endeavour, whenever he could summon a parliament in Ireland, to procure new provisions for their greater security. Nor is the sort of relief, which he designed for them, left dubious. There is an express stipulation, that no oath should be administrated to them, save the oath of allegiance alone. Let me not be told that the parliament of England remonstrated against the articles of Limerick; let me not be told that the parliament of Ireland some years after defeated the purpose of them, by superadding the condition of the other oaths, which catholics could not conscien- 975 ciously take. I know it; perhaps I may grant the abstract right of both parliaments to do what they did: but in them I see the operation of popular prejudices; in the conduct of the glorious champion of the protestant cause, and of the eminent statesman who advised him on these occasions, I see a deliberate system of wise and generous policy.— Will will now, sir, with your permission, turn to the other main branch of the argument; it cannot detain us long:— I mean, sir, the exclusion of catholics from the principal offices of state. This was early done by the oath of supremacy enacted in the first year of Elizabeth. But do we discover there the slightest vestige of the high and solemn principle, which my right hon. and learned friend supposed to be recognized in it? Is that oath declared to be required, because in our limited monarchy, almost the whole actual authority of the king, and the "entire responsibility, may be delegated to his ministers?" Alas! sir, in that statute, justice and mayors ate thought of sufficient importance to be particularized, but not a word is there of the great officers of state: they are huddled among the menial servants of the palace, in the general description of "persons having the king's fee or wages." The oath, however, at its original formation, was consistent with its professed object. It had a positive as well as a negative clause. It directly asserted the supremacy of the king, as well as as a negative clause. It directly asserted the supremacy of the king, as well as as abjured the supremacy of the pope. It was calculated to exclude the protestant as well as the papist dissenter. But at the settlement of the revolution, in the charter, whence my right hon. and learned friend concludes that all these immediate representatives of majesty as well as all the members of every branch of the legislature ought to be if the same religious persuasion with the sovereign on the throne, this very oath was new-modelled in compliance with the wished of the protestant dissenters, to make it a simple renunciation of obedience to the pope.—You have already seen, sir, how little importance William the IIId attached to this oath, when in the projected settlement of Ireland on the capitulation of Limerick, he would have exempted his catholic subjects from that test. But Providence has preserved to us a much more perfect and authentic monument of the full scope of his benevolent disposition towards them, than any which has yet been named. It is a paper drawn up from the verbal communications of the king himself, revised 976 by lord Somers, and approved by the united wisdom of the great statesmen, who were his colleagues. It was prepared with the view of being laid before the congress of ministers from all the principal courts of Europe assembled at Ryswick, and it is worthy of its authors, worthy of the dignity of the occasion for which it was designed, worthy of being had in remembrance and veneration in all time to come, as containing the best, the clearest, the soundest, the most accurate, the most convincing exposition, that ever has been written, of the fundamental principles of our happy revolution. Other parts of it, if I mistake not, I have formerly brought to the notice of the house; but my present business is with that only which relates to the subject of this night's debate. Hear then, sir, the leading maxim, which, in this respect, was the guide of William's counsels. "The king (says he) has at all times professed, that it was his fixed principle, that men's consciences ought not to be forced in matters of religion; but that these ought to be left to God. He has always acted pursuant to this rule; because he thinks it just in itself, and that it is a wise measure of government." Yet all this, it may be said, is no more than general profession. Be it so. Listen then to his sentiments on the very identical case now before you. He had been consulted by the late king concerning the repeal of the laws against the catholics: and what was his answer? He tells us that "he declared his thoughts very freely. He liked the motion of repealing them, which might have satisfied all those of that communion, as it did the most moderate of them. He did not indeed, think it adviseable to repeal those other laws, that excluded them from sitting in parliament, and from Offices of trust. This proposition, if closed with, would have made the Roman catholic subjects safe and easy;" and in his estimation, ought to have made their protestant fellow-subjects also safe and easy. [Lord Somers's Tracts, 1st. collection, vol. 1. page 401, &c] Even with the despotic and bigoted James on the throne, he would have deemed our civil religious liberties sufficiently secured against the catholics by the two principal of the restrictions (for there still are many more) under which they day labour. He would immediately have advanced them to a better condition in society, than that, in which the benignity and justice of his present majesty, and the more en- 977 lightend and more generous policy of the present times, have at length tardily placed them, after more than a century of oppression, more especially severe in Ireland under a code devised with wicked ability to extinguish and ancient nobility and gentry, to sow discord among all the relations of civil society, to beggar and barbarise the great mass of the population; a code, of which a faint resemblance can only be found in the persecution, which was begun against the Christian religion by its most subtle and dangerous enemy, Julian the Apostate. But would the liberal clemency of William and his ministers have stopped there? No; for he adds, "if they had behaved themselves so well upon such a favour, as to put an and to the jealousies of the nation, they might after that have pretended to further degrees of confidence with a better grace." To what further degrees of confidence? None would have remained to bestow, but to have admitted them into parliament, and the great offices of state; none, but to have removed what my right hon. and learned friend, considers as strong barriers erected by our ancestors to protect the constitutions, as stupendous monuments of their industry and wisdom never to be broken down, never to be weakened and impaired: yet this would William and his ministers have done. Here then is an irrefragable answer to all the objections drawn from the principles of the revolution. We, who support the motion, have with us the explicit authority of those who planned, who conducted, who settled the revolution: and as my deceased friend once said that he did not wish to be thought a better Whig than lord Somers, so do I now say that I shall never affect to understand the principles of the revolution better than King William, lord Somers, and that band of eminent statesmen his colleagues, whose counsels laid the firm foundation of all which we have since enjoyed of power and glory abroad, or freedom and happiness at home.—In truth, all the topics taken from the distinguishing character of our religious establishment, as applicable to the present question, come much too late. This house, the other house of parliament, his majesty, all have long since and in repeated instance, decided against them. A learned member, who last night led the opposition to the motion of my honourable friend, represented the catholics as guilty of a sort of treason, because they refused to take the 978 old test oaths! But if so, we are accomplices of their treason; for, in compliance with their scruples, we have remodelled those oaths and substituted other, which we consider as satisfactory pledges of their loyalty, expect where we chuse to retain the old oaths in two or three particular cases, not as tests of their allegiance, but as the means of their exclusion. Much to our honour, we gave them the opportunity of publicly disclaiming the principles, dangerous to liberty and civil society, which had been attributed to them so long; and they availed themselves of it. They took, their clergy as well as laity took, the oath which we proposed. We bore fresh testimony to their good conduct by granting new favours, but accompanied by new and more complete tests; which, the house will be satisfied, were not carelessly or ignorantly framed, nor worded with too partial an indulgence to the catholics when I mentioned, that the bill was introduced here by the present lord chancellor of Ireland. They conformed to this additional demand upon them. They did not shrink from these amended and enlarged tests. Whatever we held forth to them on terms which did not touch any point of their religious faith, they have ever cheerfully accepted; and on questions merely spiritual, I am sure, this house will never subscribe to the principle of forcing men's consciences. If then the catholics have satisfied us by every proof, which we have sought to obtain from them with a sincere desire of being satisfied, that they are attached, as we are to the happy constitution of our common country, is not that a powerful argument for giving them a more valuable interest in that constitution? Will you not for that reason think them capable of being admitted sooner of later of the full participation of all the rights and privileges of British subjects? No; says my hon. and learned friend, the attorney-general; never. Too much has been conceded to them already. If that be his opinion, why does he not act upon it? Why does he not move for the repeal of all the measures for relieving the catholics from disabilities, and for the re-enactment of all the restrictive statutes? In consistency he is bound to do so; for the argument he used against the present claims of the catholics, will equally apply in support of a motion for renewing all the former disqualifications. But he is too discreet to make the experiment. He is well aware that the good sense of the house and the country will not go 979 with him. From the reign of Elizabeth down to the present moment, whatever rigorous measures have from time to time been adopted against the catholics, none of them have been considered as fixed, permanent, immutable, fundamental laws, but as temporary securities against some immediate danger of the crisis either real or supposed. Now a practicable breach is made in all of them. Not one is entire. Some part of each has been taken away; and the last act of liberality, which the catholics on the recommendation of the lord-lieutenant obtained from the parliament of Ireland, acknowledged their general right to every thing; whatever was not actually granted, it with-held only as an exception, from the same supposed motive, which has been the declared ground of every relaxation, that of political expediency alone.—My right hon. and learned friend, however, not trusting altogether to his high doctrines of the constitution, endeavours to excite a personal feeling for the situation, in which a compliance with the petition might place his majesty. He tells us, that we should soon witness, what he denominates a solecism in fact as well as in law, a protestant king surrounded by catholic counsellors. I confess I am at a loss to discover the justice or the validity of such an argument. When we unfetter the royal prerogative, does it follow that we force upon his majesty catholics for his ministers and counsellors? Does it follow, that by extending the sphere of his majesty's choice, in the selection of his confidential ministers, or the appointment to places of power and trust, to so numerous a class of our fellow-subjects, we force any description of persons upon the throne? There is another class of dissenters, to which I had supposed that my right hon. and learned friend feels the same objection; I mean the presbyterians. Them, I had imagined, he looks upon as at least equally dangerous with the catholics, if dangerous they be. Now, sir, all the test laws in Ireland. which affected them, have been long since repealed. Yet while that island had an independent parliament and government of her own, how many of the great offices of state were filled by protestant dissenters? The noble lord (lord Castlereagh) whom I see near my right hon. and learned friend, can inform him how few: and if one or two have found the way into his majesty's councils, my right hon. and learned friend, while sitting there, is too polite, whatever I may be, to say that any 980 mighty mischief has been in consequence sustained. Nevertheless, sir, the first rude shock which the protestant monarchy and church of England had to encounter, came from that description of protestants. My right hon. and learned friend has been pleased to anticipate the entertainment which he and all of us may hereafter receive from an imaginary chapter in the history which is believed to employ the pen of my hon. friend who made this motion; but I am a little surprised that he did not rather point out to our notice an important chapter in every history of England, which he seldom overlooks: I mean the reign of Charles the 1st. In consequence of the sad experience of those times, the test laws, in the beginning of his son's reign, were directly opposed to the protestant dissenters. The catholics had a breathing time. They were considered as inclined to the royal cause. But towards the end of the Long Parliament, jealousies and fears, not unwise, if they had not been carried beyond the bounds of reason and justice, were entertained of the catholics, and the protestant dissenters were zealous and active in the defence of civil and religions liberty. New regulations, therefore, of disabilities and incapacities were introduced to strip the former of the power of doing evil; and the latter, when success had crowned their exertions, were relieved and favoured. From whatever quarter the danger menaced, to that our ancestors turned. And certainly to our mixed constitution there are peculiar and characteristic dangers from each of the opposite description of dissenters. The catholics, from the scheme of their ecclesiastical discipline and their habits of obedience to those who are set over them, incline more to attach themselves to the monarchy; the protestant dissenters from their mode of discipline, and their corresponding habits, are more ready and, strenuous in the maintenance of popular rights and privileges; yet I am sure that they may be equally serviceable, and each upon occasion eminently so, in their proper and well-balanced proportions of political weight and influence in this house, and in the state.—An invidious distinction, however, has been taken to the prejudice of the petitioners, because the catholics of this country have not preferred any claims. The situation of the catholics in Ireland is widely different from that of the members of the same communion in this country; and, even if it were not, will it be contended, that if the catholics of 981 this country should never bring forward any claims, their brethen in Ireland should for ever abandon their equitable rights and just pretensions; or that these, in preferring their claims with moderation and submission to the legislature, should be suspected for improper motives, and charged with extravagance in their demands, because another body of catholics had not come forward with a similar application? Permit me, sir, most earnestly to caution you and the house against giving any sanction to the sort of practical dilemma, in which gentlemen are are too apt to place great bodies of men, for the sake of a turn in debate. Are they silent? Do they leave their case wholly to parliament without petitioning? Oh! then there is the old trite maxim, not to disturb what is quiet. There can be no real grievance, or the sufferers would complain. Do they complain? Do they address us in the natural language of men who feel an injury or an indignity? Oh! then they are disaffected, they are factious, they are seditious, they are traitors; they mean by their numbers to overawe the legislature. Our own honour will not permit us to hear them. Oh! sir, there is nothing which so irritates men, which so embitters a refusal, as this sort of treatment, which leaves them no conduct to pursue with a hope of deserving redress. In the present instance, there are enough to shew, that there is among them a sense of the grievances, which they state, and enough to be objects of our voluntary liberality, always the most gracious; for in public, as in private life,Sweet is the love that comes with willingness.However if my right hon. and learned friend is desirous of having petitions from the catholics of England, let him move to adjourn the debate for that purpose, and I doubt not your table will soon be covered with them.—I proceed now to the set of objections, which my right hon. and learned friend, was too well-informed, too candid, and too judicious, to touch upon; I allude what, for the sake of distinction, may he called the polemical objections. These have been left altogether, I think, to the impression made by the speech of the learned member, who first opposed the motion. And here I cannot help first taking notice of what fell from him, in commenting on a passage from a late publication. It is the more necessary to animadvert upon this part of the learned gentleman's speech, because his observations were calculated to cast a reflexion on the character and moral 982 principles of a very respectable member of the catholic body now living, whom I name to honour, the Rev. Dr. Milner; and the charge of that learned gent. is wholly unwarranted either by the letter or spirit of the passage of the publication upon which he commented.* I perfectly concur in the position there laid down, "that every human law and every promise or other engagement, however confirmed by oath, must necessarily turn upon the cardinal virtue of prudence, which implies that it depends as to the obligation of fulfilling it, in such and such circumstances, upon the question of expediency:" but this prudence, in the acceptation of Dr. Milner, and of ethical writers in general, is not a selfish principle which employs itself in weighting interest against duty, but a virtuous principle which weighs one duty with another when they seem to be opposite, and decides which of them, in this place and at this time, is to be fulfilled: a principle not variable with the caprice or interest of a sect, or of the individual, but unchangeably founded upon the eternal basis of truth and justice. The false and wicked deductions drawn by the revolutionary jacobins of France, from the maxim of considering "the immutable laws of nature and of God as paramount to all subsequent obligations," form no argument against the maxim itself; as in fact the conscientious obligation of every human law must rest upon this eternal and immutable law of nature and of God, or it can rest upon no principle at all. Suppose, for instance, in the case of a man having bound himself by oath to deliver a sword or other destructive weapon to his friend, he should, at the moment when he is about to present it, prudently judge that his friend intends to make a fatal use it, either for his own destruction or that of some other innocent person.—[The attorney-general across the table, "I admit that in such a case an oath would not be obligatory."] But I must tell the hon. and learned gent. that this is not a case of my own imagination, but the identical case which Dr. Milner proposed, by way of illustrating his doctrine concerning the prudence to be adopted in considering the obligations of oaths; to*"The Case of Conscience solved, or Catholic Emancipation proved to be Compatible with the Coronation Oath;" published about four years since, when the difficulty which is understood to agitate the royal mind was first impressed upon it.983 which so much objection has been made. This is the expediency (it is his own word in stating the case) of which Dr. Milner speaks. The misrepresentation, however, does not rest here. There follows in the pamphlet a reference to a passage, where the reverend author before had regularly discussed the whole doctrine of promissory oaths and accurately stated the four cased in which canonists deny their validity. And what are they? Why, when the object of the oath is unlawful:—when the object obstructs any good evidently greater:—when it is impossible to be obtained:—and, lastly, when it relates to some ridiculous idle thing which tends neither to the honour of God nor to the benefit of man. Now, will the learned member dispute the principle of any of these exceptions? If he will, I must forewarn him that he will find himself in opposition to some of the brightest luminaries of our church. For bishop Jewell is not the only one who has written huge volumes on that branch of moral science called casuistry, than which, in my judgement, no part of ethics is more important as none is more delicate, though perhaps he is the best man who, where his own good faith and his own interests are concerned, is least ready to have recourse to distinctions in his own favour, and most ready to allow them in estimating the conduct of others towards himself. At present, however, we are to consider the rules themselves and not the application of them; and the propriety of the general rules on which the exceptions proceed, I do not believe that the learned member himself will controvert. What then ought he not to feel of shame and confusion for the unfounded slander, which he conveyed to the apprehension of a great majority of the house, by a false emphasis laid upon one equivocal word, a marked pause after another of the same kind to fix it more deep in the memory of his bearers, and a suppression of all the most material explanation, which the author cautiously added to preclude the possibility of mistake? What, let me also ask, of displeasure and indignation ought not to be felt against the learned gent. by those, who were betrayed by these unworthy tricks of debate, into acclamations, and cries of assent to the calumny of his misconstruction; and how guarded ought they not to be in future, that they may not again suffer their judgments to be led astray on these subjects by garbled and partial extracts from any pamphlets of works whether. [Mr. Pitt 984 here nodded a marked assent to the position.] If I do not misinterpret some indications which I perceive, I flatter myself, sir, I have fully succeeded in satisfying the house that the learned gent. took an unfair advantage of their confidence in his character; and that the passage, when considered with the context, means only, what no moralist can deny, that any obligation of a mere human nature, is not binding when contrary to the fixed and immutable laws of God.—The learned gentleman, sir, has also used the same measure of candour and impartiality in his quotations from the writings of other living characters, Dr. Troy and Mr. Plowden, whose assertions, in their respective productions concerning the unchangeable nature of their church, apply merely to her doctrine and not to her discipline. In fact, truth, which is the subject of doctrines, is ever immutable; whereas rules for men's conduct in certain situations, which are the subject of discipline, must vary with such situations and circumstances. But he was eager to get, and therefore he little regarded how he got, to his old and favourite topics, the fourth council of Lateran, and the council of Constance. For more than a century, the council of Lateran and the council of Constance have been the hackneyed burthen of the song to all the political and polemical disputants, who have argued with the same passion and prejudice on the same side with the learned member. At the mention of the council of Lateran and the council of Constance, we are expected, it seems, at once to surrender our reason, as to some magical panic. The eternal blazon of the council of Lateran and the council of Constance is to throw us into a paroxysm of poetical terror,To harrow up our souls; freeze our warm blood; Make our two eyes, like stars, stars, start from their spheres, Our knotty and combined locks to part, And each particular hair to stand on end Like quills upon the fretful porcupine;It is to diffuse public and universal dismay;And fright our isle from its propriety.Yet really, Sir, if we could but calmly look around us for one moment, we should discover that we may very quietly pursue our own course as we will, without fear of harm either from the council of Lateran or the council of Constance. With regard to the former it might be sufficient to remark, that it took place some centuries before the reformation; and consequently, that its regulations, which were almost exclusively framed for the discipline of the church in those days cannot afford any authority on a 985 question, respecting religious differences which had not any existence then, nor till so long a time after that period: two canons only out of seventy (I believe that is the number) contain any point of doctrine, or in other words, any thing which catholics consider as of a fixed and irreformable nature; and in those two there is not a single sentence that to my apprehension involves any position capable of becoming "dangerous to society and civil liberty;" not a syllable about deposing kings, or not keeping faith with heretics.—However, sir, if upon this slight and distant view, you have a little recovered your natural courage, and can venture to commit yourself to my guidance, we will approach a little nearer, if you please, and endeavour to take a more distinct survey of the features of this hideous goblin. Be assured, we shall find the decent horrors with which the grisly apparition is graced, to be like the battlements of fire, and menacing dæmons, of which we read in romances, that recede and vanish, when you advance upon them with resolution, and sometimes change suddenly to scenes of allurement and delight.—The profession of faith, with which the council of Lateran sets out, keeps in view the model of the Nicene creed, though with considerable additions in a style of discrimination perhaps a little too metaphysical for a standard of popular belief. It begins by acknowledging in effect, "one only God, the Creator of evil as well as of good spirits; the Maker of our bodies as well as our souls; the Giver of the law of Moses, as well as of the law of Christ." Surely, so far there is nothing to startle the protestantism even of the learned member himself. It then proceeds to the incarnation, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, mingling up all with expositions intended, as every part of this creed was intended, to meet the heresies then supposed to prevail; it takes occasion distinctly to assert the doctrine of transubstantion; and, in a parenthesis, declares the Virgin Mary to have been always a virgin. Still, sir, I am persuaded, that, however much there may be in some of these doctrines for our divines to controvert, you will not have perceived any thing, that can serve as an excuse for depriving a single catholic of the meanest civil right. To do so would be to act in that very spirit of persecution, with which the learned gentleman charges the church of Rome. As to the position with which this canon concludes, the house has already pronounced judgement upon it 986 in the reception which it met, when it was glanced at in the speech of an hon. friend of mine, whose presence among us I have long anxiously desired, Who Was heard last night for the first time within these walls; the character of whose eloquence I shall leave to the impression which it visibly made on his audience; for to praise him with justice would require eloquence like his own; and there are very few men indeed in this house, who are entitled to undertake that task. In myself it would be presumption to attempt it. I can only state more plainly, what he sent out of court with a laugh by a lively allusion. The clause in question, sir, merely defines, that "sinners may be pardoned, if truly penitent, and married persons, no less than those who are unmarried, may hope to go to Heaven." The pope was mere good-natured to human frailty, than were the sectaries called Cathari, or puritans of that day, and in this respect the church of England agrees with the pope. This canon is followed by another, which condemns the opinions of two theological writers, the abbot Joachim of Calabria, and a learned student of the faculty of divinity at Paris whose name can hardly, be collected with certainty, though I believe it was Amaury,* and whose works have so totally perished, that the object of the canon with difficulty from cotemporary historians and annalists. And here, sir, terminates all, for which Dr. Troy and Mr. Plowden, were dragged before this house as witnesses to prove that the doctrines of their church are unchanged and unchangeable. You have heard already, Mr. Speaker, how large a portion of the cannons sanctioned by this council was occupied in points of mere discipline. They are, many of them, standing authorities in our own church; indeed, having been confirmed afterwards in a provincial constitution of Stephen Langton, arch bishop of Canterbury, they are at this moment a part of the law of the land, The learned member, as an ecclesiastical judge (for he is at the head of that jurisdiction in his native country) must be intimately acquainted with them. They enter into the matter of his professional duty, and may be a ground of his judicial decrees almost every day in the* He is called by different authorities Amalricus, Almaricus, and Amorricus: by Dupin, Amaury987 week. I cannot therefore but pay a compliment to his dextrous management in concealing the knowledge of them. He appears perfectly to understand his own sort of prudence and expediency. For he was aware that if he had ingenuously informed us what they contained, there would have ended at once all his hopes of working our alarms to his purposes. Had he told us, that they forbade the institution of new orders of friars and nuns, and the veneration of new relics; promoted learning by ordering grammar schools to be every where kept for the instruction of poor scholars out of the revenues of the churches, and protected learning by threatening with punishment all bishops who should ordain ignorant priests; provided for the purity of elections by chapters and other ecclesiastical bodies; discountenanced vexatious appeals from the inferior spiritual courts; prohibited the spiritual judges from encroaching on the temporal jurisdictions, and directed, that no sentence of excommunication should pass, till after admonition in the presence of witnesses, and for a public and reasonable cause: above all, had he suffered it to escape him, that they strictly enjoined the clergy to be always gravely and plainly dressed; not to keep horses and hounds; not to go hunting and hawking; not to play at games of chance; not to frequent theatres or taverns; nor to engage in any secular trade or employment: (Mr. Wilberforce and the attorney-general cried hear! hear!) and finally that the decrees of this council of Lateran are a main support of our canon law of this day against a plurality of benefices; some of the gentlemen who sit near him, and who now will probably vote with him, instead of being scared by this terrible council of Lateran; would have called aloud for it, and have gladly embraced it at the risk of all the brute fulminations against heretics with which it may blaze. It is not my wish however, to dissemble, that there is one canon of great and excessive severity, to which alone all the obloquy which the learned gentleman has levelled at the whole seventy in a mass, is, I believe, intended to apply. But before we can decide upon it, we must see by what authority besides that of the pope, and for what purpose it was made. That council, in consequence of Constantinople being then in the hands of the crusaders, was not only perhaps the largest assembly of prelates and dignitaries of the church that ever met, but was attended by the emperors, 988 both of the East and the West, as well as by the kings of all the principal kingdoms in Europe, either in person or by their ambassadors. They consented to the proceedings; they alone gave validity to them, wherever there was a question of temporal penalties and forfeitures; and so it was understood even in that age. It did not concern them to maintain in his possessions a great feudatory lord, who resisted their opinions by force of arms; but they took care that the rights of the superior, that is, their own rights, should be saved entire. Certainly the popes did on various occasions assume a power of excommunicating and deposing princes; but it was always regarded by many of the most rigid catholics as an evident usurpation of temporal authority; and it has no foundation in the fourth council of Lateran. The emperors and independent princes who assisted at that council were too wise to establish such a dominion against and over themselves, though some of them individually might have recourse to the pope for their own purposes, as one of them our own king, John, is reported to have offered to turn Mahometan, if he could have procured the aid of an army of Moors from Spain. Against whom too was this canon pointed? Against the Albigenses, whose tenets have been the subject of much controversy since the reformation. Their pastors and leaders (it is proved to my conviction at least) held tenets not very remote from our own. Yet with them undoubtedly were mingled many hot-headed and sour-tempered fanatics of furious and impracticable zeal, and a number of Manichees, who having been formerly driven from the East by the Greek emperors, had taken refuge in that country, which had long been, in a great measure, independent of the Roman See. All were confounded together, and the latter in all probability not unwillingly, by their common adversaries: just as in our own country, the sober-minded and reasoning disciples of Wickliff, though innocent, were involved in the merited censure of John Ball, who on Blackheath, by his seditious and atrocious preaching, incited the insurgents of Kent to the murder of every man of rank and eminence in church or state: just as in later times the anabaptists of Germany might have cast a stain on the whole protestant cause, had not Luther himself been active in rousing the neighbouring princes and cities to draw the sword against them not as bad Christians, but as 989 rebels, unsafe neighbours, enemies of all civil society, and disturbers of the public peace. Council after council for more than half a century had thundered against the Albigenses, always attributing to them the errors of the Manichees. Excommunications, fines, and confiscations had been denounced against them. But they were protected by a powerful confederacy of the barons, earls, and princes of the South of France and the neighbouring kingdom of Arragon. They maintained public conferences and disputations with the prelates of the Roman church; as usual, each party retired with increased animosity and embittered disgust. Civil wars ensued. A crusade was preached against them. The country was desolated with mutual slaughter. Upon one side the king of Arragon was killed; upon the other the count of Montford, general of the crusaders, fell in battle. Raymond, count of Thoulouse, the great patron and defender of the Albigenses had been forced to submit, had broken again with the pope, and in spite of his gallant struggles been stripped of his dominions. Massacres produced a desire of revenge, and retaliation gave birth to cruelties which no provocation could justify or palliate. The worst passions of human nature were let loose on both sides. In this state of long continued irritation it was that the violent measure, which it seems, is never to be forgotten or forgiven, was sanctioned by the fourth council of Lateran. Yet even then, at that very council, Raymond obtained a provision for himself and his family out of his lands. But the question is not at present, and in this place, whether this canon was too severe, still less whether it was or was not altogether unjust; it is merely, whether it contains a solemn, deliberate, systematic principle, which catholics respect as a standing and obligatory rule of conduct, or rather, whether it is so evidently such, that we cannot believe them, when they disclaim and abjure it. Sir, it is almost ridiculous to state this; for, never did any measure carry on the surface of it so plainly the form and pressure of the times. And what have we, six hundred years after, to do with Raymond, count of Thoulouse, who, by the way, subsequently recovered his territories at the point of the sword and left them to his son?—Yet, sir, called as this council was for the settlement of Europe as well as the regulation of the church, there vas one subject agitated in it, which might have been thought more interesting to an English 990 house of commons than any connected with the affairs of Raymond, count of Thoulouse; and this, Mr. Speaker, was nothing less than the validity of the GREAT CHARTER. In that same year had this first and most important fundamental law of our rights and liberties been extorted from the reluctant hand of John by the great barons leagued together for this purpose, and guided to this object by the temperate, but firm counsels of Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury; for to that excellent prelate do we principally owe this corner-stone of our free constitution. He it was, who observing, that the tumultous contentions which were perpetually breaking out between the usurpation of an ill-defined monarchy on the one side, and the irregular pretensions of a high-minded aristocracy on the other, only led to alternations of anarchy and tyranny, equally lawless and destructive, conceived and proposed to the confederate lords the project of fixing with precision for ever in a solemn instrument, the franchises, privileges, and immunities of all the estates of the people of the realm. But the wax of his seal was hardly cold, when the perfidious and unprincipled king sent to implore the interposition of the pope, to release him from the obligation of fulfilling his duty, and preserving his faith to his subjects. Innocent the IIId, to whom John had before surrendered his kingdom, issued his bull, declaring the charter void, as derogatory to his rights in his new character of lord paramount. He appointed legates to publish it here. But the primate, though he had been elevated to the see of Canterbury immediately by the pontiff himself, held on his own course in a matter which, he was conscious, no way belonged to the papal tribunal. He encouraged the barons to resist. For this he was himself suspended from the exercise of his functions by the legates. He was formally accused before the council of Lateran. He scorned to deny the charge: the suspension was confirmed; the archbishop of. Canterbury suspended, and the barons of the realm excommunicated by the council of Lateran for having obtained the GREAT CHARTER! and yet, sir, I perceive no cry, no look, no gesture of consternation around me. Not a man among us appears to think the GREAT CHARTER in one title less secure for the violent attempt made to crush it at the council of Lateran. Not a man, I Will venture to say, will suggest to his majesty, that his imperial crown is in the slightest danger 991 from the claims of the pope, derived from Innocent the IIId as lord paramount. Why then, in the name of common sense, should we trouble ourselves about the severe measures pursued, the excommunications and loss of possessions denounced against Raymond, count of Toulouse his confederates, and subjects? But there is one striking lesson to be collect from the passage of our history which I have just related. We have there a most illustrious example, that a catholic clergy can distinguish their civil from their religious duties, and be among the foremost to defend the liberties of their country from papal ambition and usurpation. Permit me also to remark, sir, if it to do not seem too, researched, that we find there signal instance of the beneficent care of Providence in converting what was designed for destruction, into the means of safety and support. That very council, which aimed to annihilate for ever the rising liberties of this country, did incidentally contribute much to consolidate their strongest bulwark, the TRIAL BY JURY. One of its canons strictly enjoined the priests to refuse the aid of their ministry, which was indispensably necessary, to the absurd and superstitious trials by fire and water: and the removal of these barbarous usages made way for the establishment of the trial by jury, one of the most important provisions of the GREAT CHARTER.—And now, sir, as I trust all our public fears of mischief from this gunpowder council of Lateran are pretty well over by this time, I shall employ one or two sentences in offering a little private consolation to the learned member. The council in condemning the opinions of abbot Joachim, declared him to be a good sort of a well-meaning man, though a little wrong-headed, and as the ecclesiastical body over which he had presided, conducted themselves unexceptionably, no disturbance was to be given to them. So, if the petitioners Should succeed; if they should return a hundred members to this house, as the learned gentleman anticipates; and by these hundred members carry all things before them; as he apprehends; they will, I hope remember mercy in that day a their triumph, and pass no harsher judgment on and on the profession, of which now the head. Yet if they should go the uncharitable length the censure on poor Amaury, I doubt not that the learned gentleman bear it with patience and chearfulness in so good a cause even though another general council 992 of Lateran should say, as the former said;—"the father of lies has so confounded his understanding, that his errors have more absurdity than heresy in them." During the two following centuries there were councils in plenty; but the learned member can find none to his taste, till at the end of that interval he comes to that which assembled at Constance. But in What copy of their proceedings does he read the execrable doctrine alleged, that it is lawful to break faith with heretics? oh! he deduces it from the condemnation of Huss, notwithstanding that he had come with a safe-conduct. But from whom? From the council? No; but from the emperor Sigismund, who, as they thought, (and as far as I understand the constitution of those councils, I do think with them) had no right or authority to bind them or prejudice their jurisdiction. And there is, in corroboration of this, a pretty strong fact which the learned gentleman could undoubtedly have told us if he would, The very pope who convened the council of Constance, and who was afterwards deposed by it, though furnished, by the same emperor Sigismund, with a passport of the same tenor with that in the possession of John Huss, nevertheless thought it necessary to have recourse to flight for the security of his person when he stood in the character of an impeached man; being conscious that it could not avail him in case of conviction notwithstandining that the crimes of which he was accused were very different from that of heresy. What, however, will you say, sir, if I assert that the council actually did, though indirectly, decree faith to be kept, instead of broken, with heretics? Indeed I so understand them. For they declare the person * who has engaged his faith, to be only acquitted of the obligation, when he has done all that depended upon himself. The council of Basil and the council of Trent; If examined, would turn out as unfavourable to the learned member, as the council of Lateran or the council of Constance; but since he has only named them as confirming the council of Lateran, I shall pass them over in silence. I have been induced to advert particularly to these points in the hon. and learned member's speech, because from the nature of my professional pursuits, I* The words are—nec sic promittentem, cum fecerit quod in ipso est, ex hoc in aliquot esseobligatum.993 had occasion to attend to such subjects particularly, and because it is not likely that gentlemen should be familiar with them. I have done so for the purpose of exposing to the house the line of argument that has been pursued and so much dwelt upon; and also as a warning to gentlemen in future, to be cautions how they deal thus partially in abstruse learning with the hope of escaping detection; or quote scraps of pamphlets for the purpose of making them the grounds of unfounded charges against bodies or individuals. But, sir quitting those remote ages, let us come down to our times, and recollect that we are not legislating for catholics in the twelfth or fifteenth centuries, whatever might have been their opinions in those times, but for catholics in the present day; and therefore let us judge of them as they really are. Have they not pledged themselves to their loyalty and attachment to your government and constitution, by every test the legislature has proposed to them; by every solemn assertion that can bind the veracity of man? Have they not as solemnly disclaimed and abjured all those abominable and unsocial principles so repeatedly charged against them, in spite of their oaths and protestations? Have we not virtually acquitted them of those odious charges, by all the successive acts that have passed for their relief; and formally pronounced that acquittal in the preambles to some of those acts—and especially in. that of the Irish act of 1793?. Have we not the experience of the good and beneficial effects of the measures hitherto adopted for the relief of the catholics from the disabilities under which they laboured, to guide our judgment on this great question? Have not the catholics proved by their loyalty and good conduct, that they justly merited the alleviations they received; and shall we be told, that their conduct will or can be different, if you remove every remaining disqualification, and make them participators in all the blessings of the constitution? The position is monstrous, and as such I trust will meet no countenance from this house. But, sir, if it be possible that anyl rational doubt can still remain upon the sincerity of the catholics in the solemn tests they have given of their principles, in direct opposition to the unfounded charges against them, upon the pretended authority of ancient councils: if any man can still suppose they hold the monstrous doctrines, that no faith is to be kept with heretics, or persons of a 994 different persuasion; or that the pope may absolve catholic subjects from their allegiance to protestant princes—I can refer to the authority of councils too, that are infinitely better authority on these points than any arguments, assertions, or garbled quotations, that have been urged in the course of this debate, to maintain that the principles of the catholics bely their oaths; or that in taking those oaths they have exaggerated all their other crimes by the addition of perjury. I can refer, sir, to the answers given by the first catholic universities in Europe on these points, to the queries put in 1789, at the particular instance of a right hon. gent. on that side of the house, then and now at the head of his majesty's councils. I mean, sir, the universities of the Sorbonne at Paris, and those of Louvaine, Douay, Salamanea, and Valladolid, some of which express the highest astonishment that such opinions should in this enlightened age and country be conceived to be maintained by the catholic church, and all which deny in the most solemn manner that any such opinions ever were at any time, ancient or modern, any part of the principles of that church.—In the course which I have taken, you, Mr. Speaker, and the house will have observed, that I have confined myself to those objections alone, which, in the language of my right hon. and learned friend, are paramount to all the inferior circumstances of accident and locality; and I have endeavoured to demonstrate fully (it may be thought, I fear, too fully) that in the first place, there is nothing in the principles of the constitution, as modified by the reformation or as settled at the revolution, which is incompatible with the unrestrained admission of the catholics to every civil right enjoyed by their protestant fellow-subjects; and that, secondly, there is no foundation for imputing to their religion any that, secondly, there is no foundation for imputing to their religion any principle dangerous to civil society. If in these points I have sufficiently effected, what I proposed to myself, I have done all that appears to me necessary to the support of the present motion. For the question is not now, whether we shall grant the prayer of the petition in its full extent or indeed in any extent, but whether we shall discuss with the freedom only to be had in a committee, the expediency of granting the whole or any, or at the present moment, no part of the desired relief, on a detailed view, of the principles recognised in the several acts formerly passed both by the British and Irish parliaments 995 in favour of the catholics, of their adversaries, of the actual juncture of our affairs, and in short of all the considerations, by which political action is usually influenced and determined. All who think that any thing should be granted, and even all, who merely on motives of present expediency think that although nothing should be for ever denied, nothing should be now granted, ought to agree in going into a committee for the sake of that discussion; they only can consistently vote against the motion of my hon. friend, who are fixed and resolute to oppose now and for ever against the wishes, affections, and loyalty of their catholic fellow-subjects an impassable bar, an eternal system of exclusion, an irreversible decree of political excommunication and interdict, on account of religion alone; and against the catholics of Ireland in particular, to draw a line of everlasting separation in the outset of that union, which they had been among the most zealous to accomplish, and from which they were encouraged to entertain facther hopes and expectations. When we go into that committee, sir, as I trust we shall, let it be recollected always, that the burthen of proof lies upon those who have to maintain, what stands upon the statute-book itself as a declared exception to a general principle, and is moreover an exception, which, as I believe myself to have shewn, no way corresponds with, but actually extends beyond or falls short of, every principle attempted to be deduced from the letter or spirit of any fundamental law of our constitution. In the main branch of the argument too, they will have to prove the position, the absurdity of which was pointed out in the opening speech of the hon. mover, with his peculiar force, and felicity of rhetorical ridicule; —that because, when the king was suspected of being a catholic and of having formed a design in connexion with catholics to overturn the constitution of the country, it may have been a wise precaution to remove all of that persuasion from situations which would have enabled them to assist him; therefore, when the king is a protestant and liable to no suspicion, he is to be precluded from having the services of his catholic subjects. When this is attempted, I shall listen with becoming attention; but hitherto no man has been hardy enough to undertake it. Let me further counsel the hon. and learned member, who last night ran over an historical catalogue of rebel- 996 lions, assumed that they all arose out of the catholic religion, to come a little better prepared on that subject to the committee, which will be the proper place for those details. For, if he chooses to go back to that of the earl of Desmond in 1576, I warn him that I shall bring no less a witness than Elisabeth. herself, who with expressions of deep sorrow and contrition confessed, that she was in fault, for having committed her flock to the care of wolves, instead of shepherds. Will he select that of the earl of Tyrone towards the end of the same reign? Camden, the co-temporary historian of that reign shall answer him, that it had its origin in private animosities and ambition; and the lord deputy Mountjoy himself shall inform him, that it was continued, because some of the protestant gentlemen had acquired a relish for plunder and free quarters in preference to a quiet harvest; and the catholics, all over the kingdom, feared a persecution for religion, not to mention various other grievances, "the least of which alone," he justly observes, "have been many times sufficient motives to drive the best and most quiet states into sudden confusion." * Beaten out of these, will he have recourse to his favourite massacre of 1641? I will there undertake to show by irrefragible evidence that, although there was much more than enough of cruelty and wanton slaughter on both sides, yet there was no preconceived, preconcerted massacre in the breaking out of that civil war, as is weakly or wickedly asserted. In the meantime, I shall only give the learned gent. notice of one of my witnesses, the royal martyr himself, who will tell him, wise men believed that rebellion to have been kindled "by preposterous rigour, and unseasonable severity, despair being added to the former discontents, and the fears of utter extirpation to the former oppressions of the country." From the same authority also he may learn that "the rebels were exasperated to the most desperate resolutions and actions," by the avowed:menaces of 'over-zealous protestants, who threatened, "to destroy root and branch, men, women, and children, without, any regard to those usual pleas for mercy, which conquerors, not wholly barbarous, are wont to hear from their own breasts " but there is a kind of zeal, as Charles subsequently remarks, which* Letter to the lords of the council in England, 1602.997 would "rather be counted cruel than cold, and is not seldom more greedy to kill the bear for his, skin than for any harm he hath done; the confiscation of men's estates being more beneficial, than the charity of saving their lives or reforming their errors." The zeal of the learned member and of others, like him, I do not suspect of being exactly of that description. The catholics of Ireland have been ground down to poverty; under the system of relaxation and relief they have not yet accumulated enough individually, to be tempting objects of confiscation; but, when I find the distinction of political power so studiously taken, as that in which the catholics are never to participate, I do rather suspect, that the zeal, which blazes so furiously, is a little inflamed with a desire of monopolizing that political power, and the profits and emoluments, which follow in its train.—On the subject of the civil war that grew out of the revolution, the capitulation of Limerick which I have already quoted will he sufficient; if not, I conjure all good Orangemen in the interval to read and digest as they can, the previous declarations of William and his generals, and the complaints which some of them contain of the disorders and robberies committed by their own soldiers. But then comes last, and I am happy to say, least, the recent rebellion. And we shall not have to go far in search of evidence. The striking fact, which was noticed by my hon. friend who rose after the learned member last night, must be decisive to all who are acquainted with the political topography of Ireland. The secret committee of the Irish house of commons reported, but a short time before the rebellion burst forth, that the five northern counties only were organised, as it was called, and those very counties are the smallest number of catholics, and the greatest number of protestants in Ireland; they used to be regarded as the strong holds of the protestant ascendancy. However, if living witnesses should be demanded, I must, in addition to what the learned gent. so elegantly and decently denominated the whole republican, jacobinical, and frenchified faction, call to the bar all his majesty's present and late ministers whom I have heard during their separation and since their coalition, those who are favourable and those who are inimical to the proposed measure, concur in declaring that rebellion not to have been in its essential character a catholic rebellion. —With these impressions of the whole sub- 998 ject befere you, few words, sir, will amply convey the result of my sentiments. I am in general a friend rather to the gradual than to the sudden admission of great bodies of men to political rights from they have been long restricted, and that for the sake of themselves as well as of the community, yet so much has been already conceded, and in a manner so totally unlikely to obtain the good effects of concession, so little remains to give, and the position, in which we are called upon to make a stand, is in itself, so perfectly untenable; that I shall be ready at once to go the whole length of the petition; with what checks and guards, if any shall appear to be necessary, it will be proper to consider in the committee. But above all things, I am most anxious that we should take some step, however inconsiderable may be our progress, that our catholic fellow-subjects may be cheered and animated by the hope of Continuing to acquire more, if they deserve more, till they shall ultimately attain to the full enjoyment, which they pray, of all the benefits of the British constitution. In this momentous crisis of the empire, surely the wisdom of the house will not refuse to stimulate their most active and ardent cooperation in the common cause gratitude and hope, two of the most powerful incentives to good minds; though I am contented to rely on gratitude alone. Indeed if we proceed more minutely to examine the several points of which the petitioners complain, I am confident, that some of them (two especially to which My hon. friend alluded peculiarly oppressive, that this house will never agree to their perpetuation. When I recollect, sir, that two hundred thousand brave Irish catholics defend our empire, and aid in the extension of its power and glory, by sea and land, and who, nevertheless, are the only description of his majesty's subjects that are not now free to serve God according to the dictates of their own consciences; may, who are constrained by the dread of corporal punishment to practise another kind of Worship repugnant to their opinions and their habits,—surely there is no serious Christian of the present age who will approve the existence of such religious intolerance, nor any wise politician who will wish for the continuance of so pregnant a source of discontent in our navies and armies. The catholics of this country, too, labour Under grievances extremely oppressive, in consequence of their 999 religious opinions on one hand, and the state of the laws on the other with respect to the important article of marriage this, in their system, is an awful sacrament, which with peculiar ceremonies, and by the ministers of their own religion. On the other hand, the marriage act does not recognize the legal validity of marriages so performed, however willing and desirous the catholics are to enter into the spirit of that act, by observing all the conditions that have been or may be enjoined to give due publicity to them, or however in fact they may actually observe them. This they must feel in a more sensible manner, in as much as there is an express clause in the marriage act, for exempting Jews and Quakers, who have peculiar ceremonies of their own, from its operation. The mischief, however, of this state of things, it is obvious, does not rest with the catholics, but is a matter of high concern to the general cause of morality; in a word, it constantly occasions much private misery, and frequently much public scandal. On these grounds, sir, I shall most conscientiously vote for the motion of my hon. friend, and I trust that the decision of the house will be such as will be worthy of its liberality, and honourable to the character of the parliament and of this country.
— I feel myself bound, sir, by the importance of the subject, as well as by the part I took in another place upon a formers occasion, for the few minutes during which I shall call upon their attention. From the manner in which the hon. member near me (Mr. Lee) has gone through the whole detail of the penal laws against papists in Ireland, I fear the house may be led to imagine, that they are still in force: the fact is otherwise, and I will tell gentlemen the real situation of the Roman catholics of Ireland at this day. They are as free as the protestant, in the acquisition, in the enjoyment, and in the disposal of property of every species; they can purchase land, settle their estates, and enjoy all the profits of commercial industry equally with him; they possess every benefit of civil liberty as fully as any other subjects. What, then, is the object, of their petition? Political power only:—this is all that remains for you to give, or for them to demand, and every gentleman who has supported the petition acknowledges it (a cry of hear! hear!) I am, glad to see the subject is now 1000 brought to the true point. The grant of political power is the avowed object for us to discuss; of every thing else they are in complete possession (a cry of no, no, from the opposition benches). If I am thought in error, or to have made too strong an assertion, I can go through the whole catalogue of civil rights, and every article of restraint which the laws did impose, and shew that the catholic is fully and completely free; but I see there is no occasion.—Political power is then the sole demand, and what are the inducements held out to us for granting it? The gentlemen tell you it will conciliate Ireland; that it will incorporate four-fifths of the people there, and one-fifth of all your population, at this perilous moment, when you have an enemy to contend with consisting of thirty-six millions of people, and you have only fifteen millions to oppose to him; that, by not granting this petition, you deprive yourselves of one-fifth of your national vigour, and of your physical strength. Such are the arguments of the hon. mover, and of the other hon. gent. (Mr. Grattan) who spoke yesterday on the same side; and that four-fifths of the Irish nation were thus rendered of no use to the empire. But how do their arguments support them? They forget that, almost in the same breath, when they wish to prove the safety of the measure, they tell you, and tell you truly, how much the empire is indebted to the Irish; that the Irish composed a great and illustrious part of that gallant army which conquered Egypt; that they supply a large proportion of the British fleet with sailors; and that to their courage and to their ardour, lord Nelson was indebted for his glorious victory at the Nile. They tell you too, that half your armies in every war, half the militia, and a large portion of the Irish yeomanry which overpowered the late rebellion, and saved Ireland to the empire, were catholics of Ireland. I agree with them in the whole to the honour of my countrymen: and what follows? That we have now, of their own spewing, the full physical force, the full national vigour, which they inconsistently bid us acquire by this unnecessary measure; and I will add more, that if the armies want increase, if the navy requires additional hands, this measure will not add one argument to the recruit, and Irishmen will come forward with the same ardour, and with the same alacrity, which has distinguished the character of their country for its love of military glory, whether you grant the petition or 1001 not.—But if conciliation is to follow, we ought to know whom we are bid to conciliate: is it the lower and middling ranks of the catholic people? I will assert, in presence of the many gentlemen from Ireland, who can contradict me if I am wrong, that the mass of that people there do not know what this claim means. Ask them what catholic emancipation is, and so totally ignorant are they about it, that some say it is an exemption from tithes; others, it is to lower rents; others, that it will save taxes. In short, all who have heard of it (for many neither know nor care about it) will give you their own conjectures of whatever claim, debt, or demand, public or private, they wish to he freed from: scarce any believe it to be what it really is, a struggle for a few offices of political influence, or seats in parliament, which the lower ranks cannot enjoy, and feel no interest in. These lower ranks do not, and cannot, urge what they neither want nor comprehend. It is not, therefore, they who call for this measure. And now let us see how the argument stands as to the superior orders of the catholics.—Do the gentlemen tell you the measure is necessary to secure their loyalty, or to procure their strength in this hour of peril? They pay them a bad compliment indeed, if they represent this boon, or any boon, as necessary to make or keep them loyal; a compliment which I should be ashamed to offer, and which I could not concur in with truth; for I know personally many of those gentlemen who have signed this petition, and I think I can answer for them they would spurn such an idea. Those Of them whom I have either the honour or pleasure of being able to speak of from personal acquaintance, are as loyal men, as good subjects, and have acted With as much zeal and energy to uphold the state against the rebel and against the invader, as any individuals in the kingdom.—I will not then believe that the upper orders of the catholics are only-conditionally loyal, or that they would qualify their attachment to the empire by resting it on claims to be conceded, or stipulations to be bargained for; but if I could believe it, it would form with me an insurmountable bar to giving them that political power which is the acknowleged object of their petition; and it ought to decide us all unanimously and instantly to reject a demand so made. This argument of conciliation, therefore, so far as respects the loyalty or accession of the lower orders to the national strength, is confuted by the facts which the gentle- 1002 men who offer it have themselves urged, and the upper orders cannot admit it without acknowleging a qualified and temporising loyalty only, which their conduct disavows. But to proceed with this favourite argument of conciliation, and it is almost the only one offered. If it is still urged that this measure will give content, and that the catholics will rest satisfied, you are totally mistaken. Let us judge of their future by looking at their past conduct. In 1778, the Irish parliament removed some of the then existing restraints: content was to be the consequence; but they were not satisfied. In 1782 greater indulgence was granted; in 1792 they petitioned for further favours; and, in 1798, much more was given to them than even they asked. I did not agree in that gift: I did not think that political wisdom justified our going so far; but a contrary opinion prevailed; the measure was carried, and I wish it to be at rest for ever. I feared at the time that it would lead to new and further inadmissible demands; and that fear was too well founded; for two years did not elapse in 1795, they again came forward with the same object as they do now: and do you think that if you now acquiesce, they will rest here? I am sorry to say the nature of man Will not allow us to indulge such a hope while his pursuit is power. No, they will not stop on this concession. We all know they look with jealousy to their tithe being paid to the protestant to uphold his church. The interested feelings of their clergy, whose influence over the minds of their flock is peculiarly powerful in the catholic worship, will urge them to continual exertion for a restoration of those tithes. possessed of them, they would not rest; equality in religion would not satisfy; they would look to the weight of numbers, which, their advocates so often dwell on, that the religion of the greater number ought to be the religion of the state. In short, they would look in the end to raise the catholic church in Ireland on the ruins of the protestant. Such will be the natural result of giving them political power, and they would laugh hereafter at our folly, were we to make the concession. Power is and has been so prevalent in their views, that they have connected it in every attempt with every other object. Reform and emancipation have gone together in the whole of their progress. These -two watchwords of discontent were coupled together in all their proceedings, until the union accomplished one of them, 1003 the reform, which otherwise they might have pursued for ages without effect. I know that now tread on very delicate ground; but I trust to the liberality of the house, that if I use any unguarded expression they will correct it, and allow me to explain.—Suppose then, for a moment, that they acquire a power of sitting in parliament by the Vote of this night, would it be a strange conjecture that they would soon feel that their small number, if it were fifty or sixty, or even the whole hundred, would be of little avail among six hundred and fifty-eight; that the union had accomplished the reform they wished for by the destruction of boroughs; and that two hundred seats, all belonging to protestants (for protestants only received the compensation), had been annihilated? Possessed, then, of this reform, and of their power of sitting, it might be natural for them to look to a restoration of the Irish legislature. They Would see the barriers, which the wisdom of ages had erected against their having political power, broken down by. this night's decision. Their exertions would rise in proportion to their hopes of success, and it Would require only a revival of the Irish parliament to give them the consequence and superiority they long for. The hon. mover's doctrine, that seats in parliament are their right, qualified by him, I acknowledge, with the exception of the salus populi suprema lex, would not weaken their endeavours of their prospects. They would consider it a right existing, but with-held from them at the time the union was discussed, and upon it they would endeavour at a dissolution of that measure. They would call for three hundred members to resume their functions in an Irish parliament; and the two hundred seats added in the room of the one hundred protestant boroughs, which we have demolished, would all be filled by popular elections, where numbers, in which their strength consists, would decide. What would not a majority, so constituted, look to? They would see their own aggrandisement, the maintenance and dignity of their clergy, and the consequent superiority of their church, all within their view. I will look no further into so tremendous a prospect. This result may be slow, and I firmly believe the day of its accomplishment would be distant; but is it the less to be guarded against? To me the reasoning seems so strong, that I cannot shut my senses to it, nor to all the mischiefs which must attend the attempt, and the 1004 miseries which must follow it. The seeds of separation would be sown, and Ireland might be torn from her connexion with Britain, without which she is and must be incapable of enjoying wealth, tranquillity happiness, or any of the blessings of human life.—But when you talk of conciliating Ireland you have forgot to tell us where the discontent is. I know the country well, and I do not see it any where. If any gentleman has seen it (and there are Irish representatives present from all parts), I wish he would get up and state it. No, Ireland is content, if you will not agitate her with ill-timed discussions; and I will venture to say, that the rejection of this demand to-night will not cause a discontented thought, except in those very few, whose ambition has been buoyed up by the vain and selfish hopes of power and personal influence.— Further, if by conciliation is meant the giving satisfaction, why do you look to the catholic only, and forget that there is a million of protestants? Will they be satisfied by your breaking down the barriers which secure their protection? Remember that you have settled us in Ireland under the faith of that protection, that on that faith we claim as our inheritance all the blessings of that glorious constitution which our ancestors and yours have fought and bled for—the Hanover succession, the illustrious house of Brunswick on the throne, a protestant king with protestant counsellors, protestant lords, and protestant commons. This is what I call protestant ascendancy in the true sense of the phrase; and while I can utter my voice in this house I will ever demand it for my country.—If then by granting this petition you endanger or even alarm the protestant, dissatisfaction, and not satisfaction, must be the result of the measure; and among whom? Among those who are and ever have been loyal both to church and state, and who swear allegiance to both, which those whom you are desired to admit as legislators decline.—I might rest here, having shewn you the futility of the only argument they dwell on; but I will go further; and when you are called on to give them political power, you are not to consider Ireland only; you must look to the situation of England, where the catholics do not enjoy the same freedom as their brethren in Ireland do. Are they less meritorious? Certainly not; and before you give further privilege to the Irish, you must put them on the same footing, and confer on them in Britain the right of vot- 1005 ing for members, and all the other favours contained in the act of 1793. You must, in the next place, if you accede to this petition for the Irish, make the English catholic admissable also into the highest offices, and to a seat in parliament; and then the catholics of England, Ireland and Scotland may sit indiscriminately for every place throughout the whole empire into which they can find access by any means they may think most likely to obtain for them the favourable opinion of the electors. Will you not pause a little here, and reflect before you proceed? Reflect that you have a protestant church, and how it would tremble under such a change; that men who profess the catholic faith, and acknowledge a foreign potentate to have spiritual authority within the realm, cannot be entrusted with framing laws for that protestant church, and the protection of the protestant establishment. On what foundation does that church stand? Is it not on your laws? Do not its rites, its worship, its possessions, its hierarchy, its pre-eminence, all depend upon the laws of the realm? And are you ready to fill your legislative assemblies with catholics, with persons attached and bound to another church? Do you forget the necessary alliance between church and state, that if you endanger the one you destroy the foundations of the other? And can you be so infatuated as to entertain for a moment the idea of calling on catholic members to make the laws on which both church and state depend, and on catholic counsellors to execute them? I will give the catholics every merit which men can claim, and still the feelings which are incident to human nature would debar them from being able to make such laws as those who profess the established religion, of this country are bound to do.—But a carious argument has been urged by every gent. on the opposite side who has spoke, that What the petitioners desire is little for us to give, and much for them to receive. I say the reverse is the true statement. They have little indeed to receive, compared with the much which we are called upon to give. They are to receive access to a few official situations in the state, and a power of sitting in parliament. We are to give up that on which the vital liberties of our country rest; that, which gives energy to our armies, and superiority to our navies; that, which supports us whole and unimpaired amidst the crash of surrounding nations, and maintains us in the proud preeminence which so:happily and honourably 1006 distinguishes the British name,—the glorious constitution of our country. Little for us to give! do you say? Call you the surrender of the bill of rights, little? a demolition of our church establishment, little? the protestant succession, little? What more have you to give, or what will remain to you worth preserving when your have given it? The hon. gent. tells you there is no danger in a state's having its counsellors or ministers of a different religion, and he instances Sully and Neckar in France; but they were protestants, and they did not acknowledge the authority of a foreign power within the realm, which a catholic does: nor had they the larger portion in the community of their own persuasion, to support them in any innovations which their religious tenets might urge them to attempt. A popish state may safely trust a protestant at the helm, for he acknowledges its supremacy; but the protestant nation cannot with the same security take a catholic who denies it.—The same hon. gent. (Mr. Fox) has adduced Venice as an instance, where both religions equally managed the state. Surely he cannot be serious in offering us such a model. Does he quote her as an example? Venice, where is she now? No longer a nation, but sunk and lost to the world, after all her, pride for centuries! and her fall perhaps accelerated by that very mixture of religious power which he recommends. [Some members smiling, Mr. Foster continued.] I see the gent. is not serious, but if he can laugh so carelessly when the happiness of a country is at stake, I would advise him to spend a few months in Ireland: he would then learn, what the feelings of the honest and the loyal protestant are on seeing his rights made a matter of doubt; and he would, probably abstain from sporting with his happiness and tranquillity, by such impolitic and unprovoked discussions. I shall conclude by reminding the house of an old maxim; principiis obsta. It is a wise one, and bids you oppose this first attempt to break down the barriers which are drawn round the constitution. A strong opinion has been firmly expressed by a great and decided number in another place against this petition; and let us too, with equal manliness ,and wisdom, declare our determination this night, by such a clear and conclusive majority as shall put the matter to rest, and discourage all future attempts to disturb the disturb the public repose, and endanger the national security.
Mr. George Ponsonb.
—Sir, having long been acquainted with the great abilities of 1007 the right hon. gentleman who has just sat down, I might, perhaps, despair of encountering him successfully, if I had not previously received the the assistance of one who is altogether as able as the right hon. gent. and whom I shall always highly respect—it is the fight hon. gent. himself: for I think I can clearly show that one half of the right hon. gentleman's speech has incontrovertibly answered the other. He has told us of the victories of lord Nelson and lord Hutchinson in Egypt, gained by the efforts and assistance of Irishmen, from which he draws a conclusive proof of the loyalty of the lower orders of the catholics; and being also convinced of the loyalty of the higher orders of that body, he is determined to reward it, by—refusing the prayer of their petition. He has also informed us what is the protestant constitution—that it is a protestant king, protestant lords, and protestant commons—and has most emphatically and feelingly pointed out to us the danger of a protestant king surrounded by catholic counsellors. But pray, sir, who is to effect that? The answer is obvious. This very protestant king himself. It is his Majesty, who, of his own free will, is to choose those counsellors, who are to introduce the paramount authority of the pope! Why, sir; if his Majesty Should unfortunately be surrounded by counsellors of such a description, and they should endeavour to intrigue for such a purpose, would it not be the very first act of his Majesty to dismiss from his counsels such wicked advisers?—The right hon. gent. seems to be, in fear for the safety of the Hanoverian succession. Who, sir, is to compel any prince of the house of Hanover to surround himself with catholic advisers and a catholic council? It must be himself alone who can do this—and if ever a prince could be found, who would so far attempt to destroy the high trust reposed in him, by choosing advisers who should endeavour to subvert the constitution, or to change the nature of the government in church and state, I believe there can be no doubt but in this house there would be found many who would take a pride in moving to punish such advisers, The right hon. gent. says, that if you grant the prayer of this petition, they will not be contented; in proof of which he adduces the various concessions heretofore made to the catholics; he says, the assertion made by an honourable gentleman, 'that it was little for us to grant, but much with for them to receive,' ought to be inverted; and he tells us also, that it we give them all 1008 we have, which is now but little, with that little they will overturn the constitution and the government in church and state. the right hon. gent. tells us, that if fifty or sixty catholics obtain seats in parliament, there will be much danger. In what that danger is to consist I am at a loss to discover. But how are these fifty or sixty to obtain seats in parliament? What is to become of the protestant gentry? What is to become of then tenantry? Who are the persons that are to return those catholics? The fear of it is most futile; for my own part, I really believe there would not be ten catholics returned in as many years. The right hon. gent. allows, however, that if even one hundred catholics should obtain seats in this house, their efforts would be nugatory, of very little avail against the other five hundred and fifty-eight. But, finding they have no weight or influence equal to what they expected, they become discontented here too—and what do they do? The right hon. gent. by a peculiar kind of logic, shows that they will dissolve the union. After having used their talents, their unanimity, and adherence to each other, without any avail, they contrive to dissolve the union in spite of the five hundred and fifty-eight, and sent themselves back to Ireland, there to form a popish parliament. There is something ridiculous— I beg pardon, sir, for using that word—I mean not the slightest disrespect to any gentleman, more especially the right hon. gent. to whose argument I am particularly alluding, and for whose personal character I entertain the highest respect and esteem—but I cannot help saying there is something not only ridiculous, but contemptible, to hear gentlemen argue that there is any actual danger to the constitution or the government from admitting a few catholics to have seats in parliament. I have, sir, however, heard argument used in this house which have made on my mind a most deep impression, and from which one would be led to think that some men were sent here only to circulate calumnies against, and to draw the most odious pictures of the character of our common country. I have heard it said, sir, that the mass of the Irish people are so blood-thirsty, ignorant, and ferocious, and this is applied to the lower orders in particular, that no protestant would he safe in living amongst them. I have heard as much said in another place, but I did not feel it with so much pain and indignation there as I did with shame here. I cannot but feel sorry to hear such a character given to a 1009 body of people who, under so many disadvantages as they have had to contend with, are, in my opinion, the very reverse, in every respect, of what they have been thus falsely described. There never was so foul a misrepresentation of the Irish character; and I think one of the strongest proofs of this is, that those who have given this character have before and will again return to Ireland, and walk in the most perfect security in every part of it; and I defy any person living to prove a single instance in which the people who have been thus degradingly traduced have ever expressed the least personal resentment, or inflicted any personal vengeance on them. A right hon. and learned gent. (the attorney-general) said yesterday, that if he had been in his Majesty's councils at the time, he would have objected to the elective franchise being granted to the catholics, and also to the establishment of the college of Maynooth. This latter objection, I own, struck me most forcible. What would the learned gentleman do with the catholics? Would he have them brought up in the grossest ignorance? Would he permit them no place of education, by which they might be rendered useful members of society, and good and loyal subjects? or would be have them sent out of the country to be educated in the seminaries of that pope, of whose principles he has so great a dread, and to whose power he thinks it necessary to oppose such strong and formidable barriers? I am heartily glad, sir, the right hon. and learned gent. did not form a part of his Majesty's councils at the period when those salutary measures took place, and I sincerely and devoutly hope he never will be consulted on any future occasion of a similar kind.—So much having been said, sir, or the danger of a protestant king being surrounded with catholic advisers, I would wish to suppose an instance which may, perhaps, place the subject in a some what different point of view. I will suppose there should be a gentleman born and educated as a catholic, who should be possessed of very superior talents and endowments; that he was an excellent scholar; a good historian; a great financier; an accomplished gentleman; and a complete statesman; and that a protestant king, understanding all this, should choose to employ him—would it not be an act of folly or madness, or both, in this man, after the king had thus taken him into his confidence, if he should advise his sovereign to adopt any measure that might tend to overturn the constitution or the state? It would most un- 1010 questionable; and such an adviser could not possible escape being brought to condign punishment for his attempt. It would be the same if there were more catholics in the council; and it is ridiculous to suppose that they would forfeit the confidence of their king, and draw on their heads the hand of vengeance and punishment, more than protestants would. But it seems, sir, in the opinions of some hon. gentlemen. that catholics are unlike all other men; that they are not to be believed on their oaths. Other dissenters of various classes may be believed on their oaths, but a catholic never; like the lover, 'if he swears, he'll certainly deceive.' The right hon. gent. who spoke last allows that many of those who have signed the petition, he knows to be 'men of worth.' Yet the idea of a catholic not being to be believed on his oath, can surely form no part in the character of a man of worth; nor can any man ever be entitled to that character, of whom such an idea can be seriously entertained. An objection has been urged against this petition, on the ground of its not being signed by any of the catholic clergy. I believe the true reason to be this—the catholics wished to have this measure understood, as it is really meant, a respectful petition for a civil right, unconnected with their religious tenets; and therefore it was not signed by the clergy, because it was considered as an act relating solely to the laity of that persuasion. I have a book in my pocket, sir, out of which I will beg leave of the house to read a few short extracts. I am aware that it is not the most agreeable thing to trespass on the patience of the house, by reading books to them; but there have been so many gross misrepresentations circulated against the tenets of the catholics, in order to raise prejudices against their case, that I must intreat your indulgence. It is, sir, a Roman catholic prayer book, which the clergy put into the hands of their flock, and out of which they perform their devotions. (Here the hon. gent. read a renunciation of the catholics, which went to show, that they do not think the pope infallible, or that they are or can be dispensed by any one, for any act of criminality, or breach or the laws of morality. Also, an oath, which says, in express terms, that they do not believe in the infallibility of the pope, and that they owe allegiance to the king, under whose government they live; that they pope cannot give them dispensation from that allegiance; but they are bound to fight for and protect their king and his govern- 1011 ment against all enemies, even though the pope himself should enter the kingdom at the head of an invading army.) Mr. Ponsonby continued— If these, sir, are not satisfactory renunciations and abjurations of all those absurd tenets which have been attributed to these people, then, I think, no such can be framed. I believe there is not a parish priest in Ireland who has not taken this oath, and God forbid they should think they were not bound to perform and strictly adhere to it! But, sir, if this dreadful character of the catholics were true, I think the protestants in Ireland must be the strangest set of beings that ever were formed. There are, sir, at this very moment, according to the articles of the union, a certain number of noblemen and gentlemen who come over to this country to attend their duty in parliament; there are, perhaps, somewhere about one hundred, and these, most of them, leave their property, their children, and even in some cases their wives, under the care and protection of catholic servants; and if these were the wretches which some persons describe the lower orders of the Irish catholics to be, we should be the most unfeeling and careless guardians of all that is most dear to human nature, to trust them in the care and custody of those who are under the immediate influence of their priests, and these men not to be believed on their oaths! But, sir, I will be bold to say, never was there so foul a misrepresentation, and so grass a Calumny, as this against the Irish catholics. There never was a race of men in Europe who would preserve so much of what is good under so much oppression. I know them. well; and I know, at the some that whatever there is of good in them, they owe to themselves,—whatever there is bad in them, they owe to you. Yes, sir, I will say, it is owing entirely, to your bad government. I have many friends and near connections here for Whom I feel the highest respect, and most affectionate regard. I love this country, sir, and would do every thing in my power to serve it; but I will not flatter it. You have governed Ireland badly. That country has long appeared to you in the light of what has been vulgarly called "a bore." You have viewed it as a cast-off, not worthy your notice or regard, and so ministers got rid of the trouble of it, they did not care how, or in what way. I believe, sir, I can trace the origin of this misgovernment of Ireland to ancient times, and that its rise is to be attributed to commercial jealousy. In days of yore, those who composed the mer- 1012 cantile world were imbued with the notion, that the poorer you could make other countries, the richer would be your oven. England unfortunately imbibed this notion. At the time of the revolution there was a dispute between two families which should possess the government of this country, and Ireland became most unfortunately involved in the contest. I do not mention this, sir, with any intention of throwing the smallest degree of blame or censure on your ancestors. I merely adduce it as a matter of historical fact, to show haw the Irish have been treated for so long a series of years. From those who are mere men, you cannot expect the actions of superior beings. Yon cannot expect the virtues of freemen from slaves; and when I reflect on this, instead of being astonished at the situation of the Irish catholics, I am rather surprised that they have been able to conduct themselves so well as they have done. I am not surprised, however, that they now petition; but I airs very much surprised that a petition has not been presented long before. I own I am surprised the petitioners were catholics, because I think the protestants should have voluntarily brought it forward. That would have produced the happiest effects, and have shown a confidence highly honourable to them. Power, in itself, is at all times dangerous; but when you suffer one sect to lord it over another, you cannot wonder if the feelings become warm and animated, and if discontents and jealousies are the consequence. Let us now, for a moment, sir, consider the policy of France. Fas est et oh hoste doceri. Bonaparté has formed an alliance with the pope, who has been at Paris, and officiated in placing the crown of the empire on that emperor's head. The Roman catholic is the established religion of France, and yet protestants are there admissible to all offices of honour, trust, and profit, as well as catholics. If we were to land an army to-morrow in France, does any man imagine the protestants of that country would join them? Some persons affect to think, and do not scruple to say, they can put more faith in protestants than in catholics. Let us see how far this is, consonant with reason, and justified by the test of experience, so far as relates to ourselves. Prussia and Austria, in the last war, were both our allies. The king of Prussia, a protestant prince, took our subsidy, and cheated us of our money, by withdrawing himself from our alliance and the war; latter, a catholic prince, bravely and honourably stood by us 1013 till he could fight no longer. In the last war, sir, France lost almost all her American or West India possessions; but the rulers of that country, like wise politicians, in order to make themselves amends, turned all their attention to making themselves strong in Europe. They therefore added Holland, Flanders, Italy, and Switzerland to their former territory; and when a peace took place, the greatest part of what we had taken from them in the East and West Indies was restored to them. Bonaparté well knows now that whoever is strong in Europe must ultimately have the East and West Indies. It is that which forms the strength and power of the political tree—it is that which gives the lofty head and magnificent and which enables it to spread its branches to the most distant quarters of the globe. Europe may truly be called magna mater virum; and as our enemy has turned so much of his attention to the consolidation of his power in Europe, we ought to follow so wise a policy and do the the same. Above all, sir, we ought as much as possible to consolidate our strength, by uniting the affections of all ranks and descriptions, of persons among ourselves. And unless you think you will or can overturn the constitution, by admitting a few catholics to sit in parliament, you will do a most politic act by granting the prayer of this petition, and thereby uniting in affection and political harmony every description of his Majesty's subjects, who will cheerfully join heart and hand, and lay down their lives together, should it be necessary, in defence of that constitution and government under which they all enjoy the benefit of equal laws.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose and spoke as follows:—Differing, sir, as I do, from the hon. gent. who proposed this motion, and differing also in, many respects from several of those who have opposed it, I feel it necessary to state shortly, but distinctly, the views, the motives, and the grounds upon which that difference of opinion is founded. But in doing this, sir, I cannot retrain from expressing, in the first instance, the very great satisfaction I feel at the temper and the moderation with which the motion was introduced, and with which, for so many reasons, particularly desirous that the discussion should he conducted. Happy, sir, am I also, that the manner in which subject has been introduced has relieved me from the necessity of entering at large into those general principles and 1014 grounds which, when the question was, discussed before, I felt myself compelled to do. I observe with pleasure that the application made by the petitioners has not been advanced as a claim of right, But of expediency. I observe also, with equal pleasure, that the hon. gent. has argued it upon that ground; not that I mean to infer that the hon. gent. has abandoned the opinion he held upon that subject; but that in the application of the principles which have governed his conduct, he has thought proper to discuss the question upon the ground of expediency. That is the ground upon which I feel the measure ought alone to be discussed:for I cannot allow, that at any time, under any circumstances, or under any possible situation of affairs, it ought to be discussed or entertained as a claim or question of right. I, sir, have never been one of those who have ever held that the term emancipation is, in the smallest, degree, applicable to the repeal of the few remaining penal statutes to which the catholics are still liable. But, possibly, in my view of the grounds of expediency I may think it to be much more contradistinguished from the question of right than the hon. gent. does. He seems to consider that there, is only a shade of difference between the expediency and the right: whereas my view of the difference is broad, evident, and fundamental. I consider right, sir, as independent of circumstances, and paramount to them, whilst expediency is connected with circumstances and, in a great measure, dependent upon them. With regard to the admission of the catholics to franchises, to the elective franchise, or to any of those posts and offices which have been alluded to, I view all these points as distinctions to be given, not for the sake of the person and the individual who is to possess them, but for the sake of the public, for whose benefit they were created, and for whose advantage they are to be exercised. In all times, therefore, sir, and upon every occasion, whether relating to the Roman catholic or the protestant dissenter, to the people of Ireland, or to the people of England, I have always, from a due regard to the constitution, been of opinion, that we are bound to consider, not merely what is desired by a part, but what is best and most advantageous for the whole. And, therefore it is, sir, that I think it not sufficient to shew, that what is demanded is not likely to be prejudicial, but that it is proper to take comprehensive view of all the circumstances connected with it, whe- 1015 ther they relate to the time at which the measure is proposed, the manner in which it is discussed, or the effect that is likely to follow from the discussion. That, sir, is my view of contemplating the propriety of acceding to the wishes of the catholics, or of refusing them. It was upon that principle that I felt satisfaction in the repeal of those laws against the catholics which have been abolished; and from the abolition of which I certainly am not one who infers that danger to the country with which some gentlemen seem to be so deeply impressed. But, sir, deeply as I felt that satisfaction, I also felt ,that in no possible case previous to the union, could the privileges now demanded be given, consistently with a due regard to the protestant interest in Ireland, to the internal tranquillity of that kingdom, the frame and structure of our constitution, or the probability of the permanent connexion of Ireland with this country. It is true, sir, that after the union I saw the subject in a different light; but whilst that event was in contemplation I did state, as the hon. gent. says, that the measure would make a material difference in my opinion; but he has also stated, what is very true, that I did not make a distinct pledge. On the contrary, I believe the line of argument I took was, that if it should be thought right to give what the, catholics required, it might be given after the union with more safety to the empire; or if it were thought proper to refuse giving it, that it might then be refused without, producing those disastrous consequences which might have been apprehended before, the union. I come then, sir, to the present discussion perfectly free and unfettered. I certainly was of opinion, that under a united parliament those privileges, might be granted under proper guards and conditions, so as not to produce any danger to the established church or the protestant constitution. And I remain this day of that opinion, and I still think, if, from other circumstances, there:was no objection to complying with the demands demands of the catholics and if by a wish they could be carried into effect, I own, sir, I see none of those dangers which have been urged by some gentlemen, nor do I think that the introduction of a certain proportion of catholics into the imperial parliament would be likely to be productive of any influence or effect detrimental or injurious to the welfare of the state, or the safety and security of the constitution. But, sir, in delivering this frank opinion, I do not mean wilfully 1016 to shut my eyes to this conviction, that a catholic, however honourable his intentions may be, must feel anxious to advance the interest of his religion; it is in the very nature of man; he may disclaim and renounce this wish for a time, but there is no man who is at all acquainted with the operations of the human heart Who does not know that the catholic must feel that anxiety whenever the power and the opportunity may be favourable to him. But, if these guards and conditions to which I have alluded had been applied, and which, could my wishes have been accomplished, it would have been my endeavour to have applied, I firmly believe no danger would have existed, and no injury could have been apprehended. I thought so on grounds different from those which have been stated by others: not because as catholics they had been engaged in any of the scenes preceding the rebellion: I do not mean, however, to say, that the catholics were not engaged in it in greater numbers for the reasons that have been, state—I go further; thought jacobin principles were the foundation of the rebellion, yet I do not mean to deny, that the influence of the priests, themselves tainted with jacobin principles, might not have aggravated the evil, though they were not the cause of it. My idea, sir. was not to apply tests to the religious tenets of the catholics, but tests applicable to what was the source and foundation of the evil, to render the priests, instead of making them the instruments of poisoning the minds of the people, dependent in some sort upon the government, and thus links, as it were, between the government and the-people. That, sir, Would have been a wise and a comprehensive system; that would have been the system which I should have felt it to be my wish, and thought it to have been my duty, to have proposed. I never thought that it would have been wise or prudent to have thrown down rudely or abruptly the guards and fences of the constitution; but I did think, that if the system I have alluded to had been deemed proper to be adopted, it ought to have been accompanied with those checks and guards, and with every regulation that could have given additional respect and influence to the established church, to the support and protection of the protestant interests, and to the encouragement of every measure that could tend to propagate and spread the example of the protestant religion. These were the general views and intentions. I entertained. And if, sir, it had been pos- 1017 sible to have found that general concurrence which I so anxiously, desired; if I could have carried them into effect its the manner I have stated; if persons of more ability and experience than myself would have digested them, I am still inclined to think, that instead of being attended with those dangerous consequences which some gentlemen apprehend, they would have afforded increased security to the church, and have been favourable to the welfare of the state, to the stability of the constitution, and to the general strength and interest of the empire.—But when I state this, sir, I must also remind the house, that I considered the period of the union as the period favourable for the adoption of such a measure; not because any pledge had been given, but because there was a greater likelihood that the measure might be adopted after the union than before it. The period was favourable also on another account; favourable from the recent impressions that might be expected to be made on men's minds, of the probability a increased security from the union; from being amalgamated and incorporated with the imperial legislature, remote from the dangerous influence that might at times be supposed to operate upon, and overawe the local legislature of Ireland. Sir, I repeat, that it under the recent impression of these circumstances I could have brought forward the measure as the first fruits of the union, I should have hoped there might have been a disposition to have received it Without rekindling those religious animosities, or reviving those contending interests, between catholic and protestant, which, whenever they do exist, are most adverse to the welfare, the prosperity, and the happiriess of the state. This, sir, was the view in which I considered this most important subject; these were the objects which I wished to attain; but circumstances, unfortunate circumstances in my opinion, rendered it at that period impossible to bring forward the measure in the way in which I then hoped it might be practicable to bring it forward—in the only way in which I think it ought at any time to be brought forward—in the only way in which it could be brought forward, With advantage to the claims of those whose petition is now under consideration, or with any hope of reconciling all differences, of burying all animosities, and of producing that perfect union in the advantages of which gentlemen on all sides so entirely concur. What the circumstances were to which I allude,m as having at that time prevented me from calling 1018 the attention of parliament to this subject, in the manner and With the Prospects Which I wished, it it not now necessary for me to state. All the explanation which I thought it my duty to give, I gave at that time—more I do not feel myself now called upon to give; and nothing Shall induce me to enter into further details upon this subject. It shall therefore now content myself with stating, that the circumstances which made me feel that it was then improper to bring forward this question, and which led to the resignation of the then administration, have made so deep, so lasting an impression upon my mind, that so long as those circumstances continue to operate, I shall feel it a duty imposed upon me not only not to bring forward, but not in any manner to be a party in bringing forward or in agitating this question. Having said thus much, sir, upon the opinions I then entertained, upon the principles which then, and I trust always will, govern my conduct, I think it right to add, that the whole of the plan Which I had formed, the whole essence of the system. which I meant to have proposed, was a measure of peace, of union, of conciliation—a measure which I did hope would have had the effect of softening down all religious differences, of extinguishing all animosities, and of uniting all men of both religions in one common zeal for the preservation of the constitution, and for the general happiness and prosperity of the empire. But, sir, desirous as I then was of proposing this measure, and sanguine as I was in my hopes off its success, nothing could be further from my intention than to bring it forward if there did not appear a rational prospect of its being carried, (not with unanimity, for upon such, an important subject that I knew was impossible), but with general concurrence; because I knew, that if it were brought forward under other circumstances, instead of producing the effect I wished, it would only tend to revive those animosities which I wished to extinguish, to aggravate those difficulties which I wished finally to remove. Not being able, from the circumstances to which I have alluded, to propose the measure which I thought likely to be productive of such beneficial effects, I did then form the determination not to press it at any period, unless I thought it could be done with that prospect of success, and with that general concurrence, without which it can never be beneficial. When I use the term general concurrence. I am sure I shall not be supposed ever to have been so visionary as to suppose that a question of such immense 1019 importance, and upon which men's feelings and passions are so strongly excited, could ever be carried with perfect unanimity, but I mean with that general concurrence which would have enabled us to gratify the wishes of one party, without awakening the fears, or exciting the jealousy of the other. Whatever gentlemen may think of the abstract rights of the petitioners, or of the expediency of complying with the prayer of their petition, I am sure they will agree with me in thinking, that the chance of extinguishing all those animosities which have unfortunately prevailed, and of producing that perfect union which we all wish, most depend upon the combination of circumstances under which the measure is brought forward.—Not having in any decree changed my opinion upon this subject, regarding it in the same point of view I did then, and retaining the same feelings, I must say that at the present moment I think I see little chance, I should rather say I see no chance, of its being carried at all, certainly not in that Way which I Meant, and in which way only I think it can be productive of real advantage to the petitioners, or of benefit to the state, I mean as a measure of peace and conciliation.—If then, sir, the question is not now to be carried, I think that to agitate it, under such circumstances, will only tend to revive those dissentions which we wish to extinguish, to awaken all that warmth and acrimony of discussion which has heretofore prevailed, and to excite those hopes, which, if they are to be disappointed, may be productive of the greatest mischief. As to the chance of carrying the question at present with general concurrence, of gratifying the catholic without offending the protestants, of confirming the affections of the one without raising the suspicions and exciting the fears of the other, not only Ireland but in England, I confess there appears to me to be none. I lament it as much as any man can do. I lament that the impression which now prevails has taken place; many circumstances have combined to produce that impression, all of which are to be deplored. I ask any gentleman whether he does not believe, looking to the opinions of the members of the established church, of the nobility, of the men of property, of the middling and respectable classes of society—I ask him, whether he does not believe, looking the sentiments of the mass of the protestants of this country, and of Ireland, that there is the greatest repugnance to this measure, and that 1020 even if it could now be carried, so far from producing conciliation and union, it would tend, on the contrary, to disappoint all the prospects of advantage which under other circumstances would be derived from it Even those gentlemen who have argued the most strongly in favor of this measure have candidly confessed, that in the present state of men's minds, it is not likely to be carried, I am sure I shall not be contradicted when I say, that ever since the union this subject has in a very considerable degree attracted public attention; and that of late, notwithstanding the other events which have occupied the public mind, it has been the subject of much conversation both in public and private, particularly since the catholic petition has been presented, and since the hon. gent. has given notice of his present motion; and I should disguise my real sentiments if I did not say, that at present the prevailing sentiment is strongly against this measure; what circumstances may occur to overcome that sentiment it is not for me to predict or conjecture. In speaking of the probability of carrying this question at this time, I cannot but advert to what fell from the hon. gent. who opened the debate this day, respecting the decision which took place last night in another place. I know perfectly well, that no man can mention the decision of another branch of the legislature [...] purpose of influencing, much less of controlling, the decision of this house. I know there are many instances where difference of opinion have prevailed between this and the other house of parliament, in which the sentiments of this house, in concurrence with the public opinion, properly expressed have ultimately, prevailed. I am as far as any man, sir, from wishing not to hold high the undoubted privileges of this house; but if I am right in my general view of this subject, I think the determination to Which I am alluding ought not to be laid out of our consideration, because it goes to the very essence of the measure itself, I mean as far as relates to the practical advantages that are to be derived from it. Supposing then that we were all agreed as to the propriety of granting the prayer of this petition, is it not our duty to consider what bad effects might be produced by the marked difference which would then subsist between this house and the other branch of the legislature upon this, subject? If carried at all, it ought as I have already stated, to be carried with general concurrence, and when an endeavour is made to carry a measure, the object of 1021 which is to conciliate one part of his majesty's subjects, care must be taken not to shock the feelings of a much larger class of the community. Under such circumstances, when such an opinion has been given by another branch of the legislature, we are bound to take it into our consideration in deciding upon the line of conduct we ought to adopt, because his is a subject in which no man can act wisely or prudently who acts entirely from his own views or his own feelings. It is his duty to his country, to the catholics, and to the community, to look at it in a combined point of view, to consider all the probable effects of carrying it (if it were practicable) with such a strong sentiment prevailing against, or of failing to carry it, may produce. Upon this part of the subject there is one point on which I wish to say a few words. It has been urged by some gentlemen, that we ought to go into committee whatever we may resolve to do at last; and some of the minor grievances under which the catholics are said to labour have been pointed out, upon which it is said there can be no difference of opinion on the propriety of granting them relief—such as the circumstance of catholics engaged in a military life coming over to this Country, and who thereby exposed to the operation of the test act, which they are not at home. Another circumstance which has been mentioned is, that the catholics in the army are not only to be allowed to have mass performed, but they are compelled to attend protestant worship. Sir, I contend that these points are much too unimportant to induce us to go into a committee upon a petition which embraces the whole of this important subject, and which excites the hopes and fears of all the subjects of the united kingdom.—I again repeat, that I do lament this subject has now been brought forward; I lament for the sake of the catholics themselves; I lament for the general interest of the country, that gentlemen, have thought proper to agitate this subject at this moment. That gentlemen have a perfect right to exercise their judgement upon this subject I do not deny: I do not complain of their conduct; I only lament that they have felt it their duty to bring it forward at this period and under the present circumstances; when, if they were to succeed, the consequences would not be such as we all desire; and if they fail, they may be such as we must all regret. And now, sir, let me ask hon. gent. who has brought forward the present motion, and who fairly avows that 1022 his, object is-that every thing should be conceded to the catholics; let me ask the hon. gent. (Mr. Grattan) who supported the motion last night with such a splendour of eloquence, what effect this is likely to produce upon the catholics themselves? When the hon. member, or the hon. mover of the question, talk of the effect of disappointing hopes that have been raised, I trust they have over-rated and exaggerated it. But one of these gentlemen did state, that amongst the possible causes of a religious feeling having mixed and operated in the late rebellion, might be enumerated he hope held out by lord Fitzwilliam, that the claims of the catholics would be taken into consideration. They allege the disappointment of that hope as one of the causes that might have tended to produce the rebellion. If that be their conviction, what must they think who wish to go into a committee upon the petition, and yet are of opinion that they still reserve to themselves the freedom of rejecting it altogether, or of rejecting it in its most important parts? I Submit this to the consideration of the house shortly, but distinctly; it rests upon grounds so obvious and so strong, that it will be taking up your time unnecessarily, to debate upon them. I submit this with a wish that the measure will be brought forward and carried with any thing like a general concurrence. But, tho circumstances which rendered it impossible for me to urge and press it then, make it impossible for me to urge and press it now; feeling as I do, that to press it, and to fail or to press it and even carry it with such a strong opposition, are alternatives, both of them so mischevious, that it will be difficult to decide between them. Seeing, sir, what are the opinions of the times, what is the situation of men's minds, and the sentiments of all descriptions and classes—of the other branch of the legislature, and even the prevailing opinion of this house, I feel that I should act contrary to a sense of my duty, and even inconsistenly with the original ground upon which I thought the measure ought to be brought forward, if I countenanced it under the present circumstances, or if I hesitated in giving my decided negative to the louse going into a committee.
§ Mr. Windham
rose and spoken in substance as follows: Sir, I consider the question now before the house, as one naturally and immediately the consequence of the legislative union established between Great Britain and Ireland, and one to which the catholics of Ireland were certainly taught to look for- 1023 ward in the course of all the arguments urged in favour of that measure, both in and out of parliament. I think, and have long thought, it is that measure by which alone the great union of protestant and catholic can be brought about. When the proposition for the union was first brought forward, I had strong objection to the measure; and I was only reconciled to it upon the idea that all disabilities attaching on the catholics were to be removed, and that the whole population would be united in interests and affections. Believing this to be the case, sir, and finding that impediments were started to this measure much stronger than I was prepared to apprehend, I relinquished the administration, because I thought the measure indispensable to the safety of this empire; and I have seen nothing since to change my opinion on that point. The right hon. gent. has avowed that his opinion was then the same; and surely if it was expedient in 1801; if the circumstances of the country then imperiously called for its adoption; surely it is still loudly called for by the circumstances of the present moment; and I know of no alteration that has taken place in the circumstances of the empire that can be truly said to render it less expedient now. The right hon. gent., in every thing which he has offered as argument against the question itself, has referred to times past, but how those arguments can apply to the present day he has not stated. The right hon. gent. has that many persons are averse to the measure, that the clergy and the nobility are opposed to it, and that the public mind is not unanimous in its favour. Why, sir, if the catholics are to be told they must wait until all the objections which passion, or prejudice, or ignorance, or caprice may suggest, are perfectly silent; and that no man is to be found in or out of parliament opposed to their wishes, I am afraid their hopes of success must be postponed to a very distant day indeed: but, sir, I am not aware of this very general sentiment of the leading clergy, the nobility, or the public at large, against this measure, unless we take the speeches uttered in this or another house of parliament, opposed by other speeches, at least equally strong and independent, for that general sentiment; or unless we consider the declarations of the kingdom, or a few newspaper publications from prejudiced authors, as expressive of that general sentiment. But if arguments drawn from such sources are 1024 insisted on; if no measure is every to pass in parliament which has not the unanimous sense of the country in its favour, prejudice and passion may for every triumph over reasoning sound policy. But, sir, as long as a catholic remains in these countries, such objections will exist. They are founded upon the very essence of opinions, which you can never remove from those minds, on the very first principles of which they are rooted. And so long as they exist, there never will be wanting an outcry against the claims of the catholics. I should be glad to know what public question that ever came forward in this house has had in its favour such unanimity, that there could be no objection to it? While we have to encounter prejudice and oppose confederacy, how is it possible that truth and reason can be victorious with unanimity? But to say that this house is to be deterred by popular clamour or prejudiced objections from exercising its fair judgment, is tantamount to a declaration that no disorders can be removed, no abuses corrected, no tyranny subdued. I therefore must resist and deprecate such arguments coming from the righ hon. gent. against this motion, as unparliamentary, unconstitutional, and dangerous. But, sir, I know of no reason why that measure which his majesty's minister is of opinion was expedient, and ought to have been done four years ago, and may be done hereafter, ought not to be done now: and as to any danger that can arise from bringing forward the question now, as is alledged without the chance of success, the only mischief I can apprehend is from the refusal, which must recoil upon ministers themselves, as the cause of it. The whole of the right hon. member's speech upon this this subject is indefinite, full of mystery, and, to me at least, not clearly intelligible. The right hon. gent. has talked of expediency as distinct from right. But the claim of the catholics if not set up upon what is termed a fantastical claim of right, but a plain and common right to an equal share and participation in the benefits of the constitution under which they live. I am myself disposed to rest the principle part of the claim upon expediency, without excluding right. But the right hon. gent. will bear only of expediency. But this sort of attack upon priciples of right cannot be maintained. Rights, in the strictest sense of the word, as employed by the right hon. gent. no where exist but even on the ground of right as a claim of nature, the catholic petition, I say, is founded in justice. They state that what 1025 they ask is founded on political expediency; and the policy and expediency of acceding to their petition, is only rebutted by alleging, that to grant their claims would be attended with the greatest danger to our protestant establishments in church and state. What this danger is, from the best consideration I have been able to give to the subject, I am utterly at a loss to discover; the onus of proof lies upon those who plead that danger. But, looking to all the dangers; as well these which those who oppose this motion plead, as those which there may be any reasonable ground to apprehend, I think that to grant now the claims of the catholics is by much the less dangerous policy to pursue. For the present, however, I shall not trespass on the attention of the house by arguing the question further; I shall content myself with entering my solemn protest against the species of argument urged by his majesty's ministers against this petition, and declaring my firm resolution to persevere in this object, which I consider as best calculated for the safety of that very protestant establishment to which it is said to be inimical; and I have the strongest hope, anxiety, and confidence, that the period is not far remote when this house will see the justice and sound policy of conceding this salutary, wise, and beneficent measure.
§ Sir John Newport.
—Sir, though I naturally feel solicitous (feeling and thinking as I now and always have done upon this subject) to assign my reasons for the vote I shall this night give on a question of such vital importance to the empire in general, and Ireland in particular; yet even under this impression, the lateness of the hour Will prevent me from trespassing more than a few short minutes on the attention of the house; nor should I now have risen but for the purpose of viewing this subject upon the untrodden ground of an example, so precisely opposite in all its circumstances, and bearing so directly on the temperate requests of the the petitioners as to call forcibly for your notice.—It is the result of an experiment fairly tried upon a great nation, possessing above seven millions of inhabitants, varying most widely in their religious tenets, convulsed by the difference of those tenets, and the restrictions founded upon them during many centuries; yet at length procuring internal peace and tranquillity, and external strength and respect, by the sacrifice of those restrictions. The nation, sir, was Hungary; of her seven millions of inhabitants one half were protestants, Cal- 1026 vinists, and Lutherans; many of the Greek church, and many Jews. Often had even Mahomet been called in to the aid of Calvin, and the crescent glittered on the walls of Buda. At length, in 1791, at the most violent crisis of disturbance, a diet was called, and passed a decree, by which they secured the fullest and freest exercise of religious faith, worship and education; ordained that churches and chapels should be built for all sects without description; that the protestants of both confessions should depend on their own spiritual superiors alone, freed from swearing by the usual oaths, namely—"by the holy virgin Mary, the saints, and chosen of God." And then, sir, came the great and leading clause, granting, in the fullest extent, every point which is in the utmost contemplation of the present petitioners to this house:—"The public offices and honours, whether,high or low, great, or small, shall, be given to natural-born Hungarians, who have deserved well of their country, and posseses the other requisite qualifications, without any respect to their religion." This, sir, was the policy pursued in an Hungarian diet, consisting of nearly 400 members, in a state whose form of government approaches more nearly, to our own than almost any other in Europe, with a Roman catholic establishment of great opulence; adopted, too, at a period when it was to be subjected to the severest trial as to its social and political effects. It has passed that fiery ordeal: it has undergone a trial of fourteen revolutionary years, equal, in fact, to the trial of a century less disturbed and agitated: and what have been its effects? When the French advanced in their course like a torrent, within a few days march of Vienna, the Hungarians, before so divided, and so disaffected to each other, rose en masse, as it is termed, "in the sacred insurrection," to preserve their sovereign, their rights and liberties: and the apprehension of their approach dictated to the reluctant Buonaparté the immediate signature of the treaty of Leoben. Such, sir, have been the effects of such a measure in Hungary. The Romish hierarchy in Hungary exist in all its former splendour and opulence. Never has an attempt been made diminish it: and there, almost alone in civilized Europe, at least in that quarter of it, have revolutionary principles failed of making the smallest successful inroad. Does this case, or does it not, as I have stated, bear directly on the case of the catholics of Iresand? Has a 1027 Roman catholic potentate, not the least attached to his religion in Europe, set you such an example, and given you decided proof of its great and happy effects, by such a trial? And do you, a protestant legislature, fear to submit your religion to a similar test? Will you eternally keep up the wall of proscription, when they have thrown it down? This, sir, affords a direct refutation of the assertion made in the petition from the city of Dublin, (see p. 218) which states that the Roman catholics are at present placed upon a footing of political power not enjoyed by any other dissenters from the established religion in any other state of Europe. Convinced as I am, sir, of the wisdom and sound policy of acceding to this petition, I shall give my most cordial assent to the motion of the hon. member who so ably introduced this debate.
Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald
(Knight of Kerry) protested that the conviction upon his mind upon the present question was, that if the decision was not certain,he would anticipate the most fatal and dangerous consequences arising from it. One point only he wished to direct the attention of the house to. He had uniformly supported this measure, while he had the honour to sit in the Irish house of commons, and gave his vote for the union of the two Countries, with the conviction on his mind, that the present measure would immediately follow. His only hope at present was, and he implored the house most earnestly, that if they should refuse to go into a committee upon the petition, the gentlemen Of this country particularly would obliterate from their minds the gross and scandalous calumnies which had been thrown out against the Catholics of Ireland, and which would only be Cast back with increased disgrace upon the fabricators He spoke as a man of candour, and he again hoped the gentlemen of England would not be led away by such foul calumny and Virulent abuse.
§ Mr. Archdall
said, as the subject was so much exhausted, he should not enter into the discussion at large, but rose only to justify if he could, the opinion on Which he should give his vote, and to advert to some Opinions which other gentlemen had given, and from which, very respectfully, and, Indeed, reluctantly, he confessed he must dissent In this he should avoid every thing which could irritate the catholics; it was sufficient for him if his conviction compelled him to oppose their petition. He never would affront their feelings, which he neither wished nor was 1028 able to do. He said he should not be glad to have the ability to do it, and he should be ashamed to have the wish: but, it was with regret that he adverted to the opinion of a learned gentleman, opposite (Mr. Ponsonby) who, in answer to, what he Called the calumnies of the hon. and learned doctor's speech yesterday, had said that the hon. doctor himself was a contradiction of those calumnies; that they could not be true, and that the Irish were not of the sanguinary temper which had been misrepresented, was proved by the hon. and learned doctor's walking the streets of this metropolis in safety. He said he would not call such an opinion as this a hint, for it was in truth, very broadly expressed, nor was it necessary to notice it, farther than by saying, it reminded him of a familiar and ludicrous story of the quaker and the mad dog."I will not beat thee nor kick thee, but I will turn thee out and give thee an ill name." He was sure, however, that the learned doctor would still continue to walk the streets in safety. He said, he could not agree with, the hon. gent. who introduced the petition; and who had represented the Catholics; as having given support to the union, and as having for that reason a right to claim the object of their petition. He said, on whatever ground their claims might be founded, they could not be founded on that, for it was well known the support they gave the union was a very poor one. He would tell the house what it was It would appear in three instances, which he would mention without any remark:first, however, wishing the house to recollect, that the public affairs of the catholics had been used for many years to be conducted by a select committee, consisting of gentlemen the most distinguished in the catholic body for their property, principles and talents, and in number about sixty, Of these the late lord Kenmare was at the head. A most amiable and respectable nobleman. Who was at the head of it know, He said, when the union was first proposed to the house of commons of Ireland, it was scarcely considered enough to be debated; it was defeated; for,though it was indeed carried through the house by the accidental majority of a single voice, this was defeat sufficient to induce the prudence of government to postpone it to the next session of parliament. On this occasion how did the catholics act? It was an occasion so important that they could not have been indifferent to it, and must have had an opinion one way or the other; but they kept aloof 1029 and kept silence, which might be interpreted either way; they said nothing, and they did nothing,and this was the first instance of such support as they gave to the union. The union, however, was still going on; but while it was uncertain which way it would go, the catholics at last broke through their silence, and one of their select committee came with a message to some of the gentlemen who conducted the opposition to the union, which Message in substance, and he believed in words, was this, "if you, gentlemen, will now join us in insisting on our emancipation, we will join you in opposing the union." Those gentlemen thought it best to decline this overture, and this is the second Instance of the support which the catholics gave to the union. But the next session of parliament was now approaching, and this great measure of the union had now been so much considered, that addresses in its favour came from every county in the kingdom. Among the signatures of the protestants to these addresses, appeared the signatures of Many catholics; catholic noble-Men, and catholic clergy, and some catholic individuals sent addresses from themselves. But, was there any address in favour of this measure from the catholic body? No! Was there any address from the select committee? No! Was there any summons, notice, or advertisement for any public meeting under any denomination, where the influence of respectable catholics, individually or collectively, might have been of use in promoting the union passed into a law in parliament, and this was the third and the last instance of that support which is boasted to have been given by the catholics to the union. How far, on this ground, their claims could be entitled to success, he would leave the house to judge— He said, there were other grounds, on which at another time, those claims might appear more probable to succeed: for, recollecting the concessions which were made to them in the year 1793, and at the express recommendation of government, in which he had concurred with many gentleman then present; recollecting that they had pledged themselves in an address almost unanimous to the crown, that they would consider on such measures as should tend to unite in sentiment all descriptions of his majesty's subjects; recollecting, that to carry this purpose into effect, how much there was still to do, he thought the catholics had good cause to expect that more would be done. He said it might be wise to make 1030 concession gradual; because, all which is right, cannot always be done at once. He said, the embarrassment of the question was not what more was to be done, but that at present we could do nothing; that in this point of view, the catholics had a good cause badly conducted. A cause which the protestants had contributed to make good, and which the catholics had conducted badly. By this he did not mean that the catholics were bad subjects, for he believed them to be loyal; nor that they were bad men, for he believed them as good as the protestants; nor that this was as bad petition, for it was very well and respectfully worded; nor yet that their cause was badly conducted by being placed in the hands of the honourable gentleman opposite. He said, that when the catholics were once determined to apply to that house at that time, which was all the badness of conduct which he meant to mention, and when the king's minister had declined to interfere, there certainly was no interference more powerful or proper for their purpose than that which they had solicited from the hon. gentleman, who, he said, was so much distinguished every where as a friend to religious and civil liberty, whose temper invited confidence and good will from every body to respect him. What he thought bad in conducting this petition was, that it should be introduced at this time by any interference or from any motive; he thought it bad to risk the importance of the precedent, for though in such a case the precedent could not be repeated often enough to become a habit, still it was bad to familiarize the people of England to the circumstance of the house of commons putting a negative on any request from the catholic body of Ireland. He said, it was still worse to risk the importance, or it gentlemen chose, of the catholic body was exhibited in the house of commons, as the ally of a party. He said that the parties in the house of commons were fit only to contend with each other, that the catholic body should look to neither of them, and neither of them should look to the catholic body. The hon. gent. said, that for such reasons as these, and for others which might be mentioned, without entering into a religious or political disquisition of the question, he should concur with the right hon. gent. on the floor in declining to refer it to a committee.
The hon Henry Augustus Dillon
professed his determined support to the petition, 1031 and although he had hitherto generally supported the measures of the right hon. gent. opposite, yet as he had determined to resist this petition he could no longer augur favourably of his intentions towards Ireland and in conscience and in honour could no longer give him his support. He considered the stories Which some gentlemen had been pleased to tell that house, as gross calumnies; meant to mislead them. He disclaimed the charge urged in the course of the debate, that this was a party measure. It was a measure involving the rights and liberties of several millions of his majesty's loyal subjects; and it Would be wantonly to sport with their feelings, that this measure should be considered merely as a measure of party. It was a claim that closely attached to the safety of Ireland. Martial law it had been thought necessary to proclaim in Ireland, and the habeas corpus act was there suspended. The hearts of the Irish people had been alienated by severities and oppressions; and government deemed it impossible to carry on measures but by strength and coercion. But, if this measure was allowed to pass, such expedients would cease to be any longer necessary, and the mass of that brave and grateful people would present a firm an iron bulwark for the protection of this country against the designs of this enemy.
§ Mr. Shaw
(member for Dublin) spoke as follows: Although, sir, I wish I had not to address you on the subject before the house, yet I cannot reconcile to my sense of public duty to give a silent vote upon the occasion; nor, though that duty be painful, will I shrink from its open and manly performance. Intimately connected as I am with the prosperity of my native land, it must be expected that upon any question connected therewith, I shall give a sincere vote. Those who know me will believe that I shall do so this night, in honest accordance with my conscience, my judgment, and what I conceive to. be the Sense of my constituents. In Common cases, profession of principles and independence would only appear superfluous; but, where prejudices are to be combated,and popularity is perhaps divided, I feel it not unnecessary to assert my complete independence, alike of ministerial influence and of popular clamour, should the one be supposed adverse,or the other favourable. to the prayer of the petition.— Having thus far trespassed on the house to disclaim, in my vote, all sinister influence, I now beg its indulgence to a few reasons, 1032 which I shall briefly and plainly advance in support of that vote.—It is impossible that I, in common with every member of this house, must not feel affected by the torrent of eloquence Poured forth by the hon. mover and supporters of the motion; but I have not been convinced; and while I admired, I was awakened to a sense of the necessity of recurring to those obligations which I accepted with the great and honourable trust reposed in me by my constituents; and their sentiments on the subject now before us have been too recently and too strongly expressed in the petition on your table, for me to affect to misunderstand,or with propriety oppose: neither can I be Insensible to the paramount duty pressing upon me to support the constitution, as it hat been entrusted to my care; and unless instructed to the contrary by the express will of my constituents, I shall endeavour, at the appointed season, to yield up my trust as unimpaired as can depend upon my humble but zealous exertions.—I know, sir, that the doctrine has often been advanced, that a member of parliament is not to be limited in his duty by local attachment; that he is the representative not of a part but of the whole. This I reject; and were I to admit it generally, I should feel my own case a strong and overruling exception—A great capital possesses peculiar and commanding influence over the representative; and to attempt to despise its sense, or divert its interests, is that bold and perilous kind of enterprise which I confess I dare not undertake. I feel embarked in one bottom with the city Of Dublin; and I never shall set my opinion above that of its electors; nor wilfully act in contradiction to their wishes. But, sir, while I profess to obey implicitly what I conceive or know to be the will of my constituents,I deprecate the remotest idea that I entertain is feeling hostile to my catholic countrymen, or that I am not as sincerely attached to their real interest as any gent. who this night supports the petition on your table. Sir,I know that if those interests had been honestly and truly consulted, petition Would not now be under discussion; a subject of such importance, involving such a variety of interests, and exciting such warmth of feeling,would never have been brought forward at such a time as this, nor have been made an instrument to embarrass the executive power, when the completest unanimity within and without these doors is necessary to oppose the most formidable and malignant enemy that ever 1033 threatened our political existence.— The petitioners support their claims by the assertion of their loyalty. If that loyalty is questioned, it is not by me. No man has greater confidence in the loyalty of the Irish catholic, when left to the loyalty of the Irish catholic, when left to the genuine influence of his own heart; but I must remark, that the petition on your table holds out an indirect threat to parliament, and by asking you to do away those distinctions which make a foreign enemy rely upon the aid of disaffection, it in some degree admits, that should you not accede, such aid may be given, should the occasion offer. In the event of such a trial,I know the superior strength of Irish loyalty, and that my country, was never better prepared to meet and to crush a foreign or domestic foe. But, sir, I am willing for my own part distinctly to acquit the petitioners of any such meaning; and I wish the Irish catholic better than that he should derive from our fears what our prudence and inclination Would not grant him. I feel an anxiety for his honour as well as his interest; and I trust, that whatever he may receive on a future day from this house, shall be the result of cool, mature, and impartial deliberation, and be given to him in a manner consonant to that dignified weight which I wish every class of my countrymen to maintain in the scale of public opinion— Should the day come when every,civil distinction shall be removed, I Wish the boon unaccompanied by reluctance and distrust; I wish it to be when the,Irish catholic is relieved from the odium and suspicion derived from his foreign connexions and influences, and when the directing head of his church shall not be the instrument and slave of that sanguinary despot, who is the implacable foe of the constitution and liberties of this empire. But,sir, is the house prepared to entertain this petition without going farther? What is to become of the English catholic and English dissenter? Sir,I should he ashamed,to look the latter or either in the face, if I committed such flagrant injustice as to exclude them alone from the privileges now required of us Without intending any invidious comparison, I know that his majesty does not possess a more loyal, sincerely attached, and valuable subject than the Irish dissenter; and the English dissenter may well be supposed not less meritorious. If there are tests to which those professing certain creeds cannot subscribe, are they alone to be bound by the influence of conscience, and its dominion denied where it should most prevail, and where it is the bond of 1034 our liberties and our laws? No, sir; and until some reconciling mean can be adopted, let us remain as we are, and all unite in maintaining against the. comon enemy that constitution so superior to all others, and which is the sole refuge of civil liberty in this quarter of the world.—I ask pardon for having occupied the time of the house so long; but having the honour to represent the capital of that country, whose interests are so vitally involved in the present discussion, I felt it imperative upon me to lay before the house my reasons for voting against the present motion.
§ Mr. Hiley Addington
— I rise, sir, merely to give an explanation on one point, in which I am sure the liberality of the house will go with me; it is too on a point in which I think the hon. gent. who opened the debate will not be disinclined to be set right In the course of yesterday's debate one of his arguments was, the hope that was held out at the time of the union, that catholic emancipation was likely to follow that great measure, and he was pleased to quote a speech from a noble friend of mine(lord Sidmouth) in which he quoted part of a letter written from an hon. and learned gent. (Dr. Duigenan) to an hon. gent.(Mr.Grattan) now a member of this house. The hon. and learned gent. did explain that passage perfectly correct. Now, sir, I will only add one word more. If the hon. gent. had gone further he would have found that what my noble relation did say, was this "that if he was put to the necessity of chusing between the total emancipation of the catholics, or the re-enactment of the penal laws, in such an alternative he would prefer the latter as the lesser evil. He hoped, however, that the legislative union would remove the necessity of such an alternative." I trust I shall be pardoned for making this short explanation. I agree with all that has been said as to the loyalty of the catholics; but, believing that granting the prayer of the petition would occasion a revolution in the laws of the land, and lead to the repeal of some of the wisest of them, I shall certainly give my vote against it.
§ Mr. John Latouche
—Sir; it is with great regret that I differ on this question from a very respectable part of my constituents; men for whose sentiments I shall ever entertain the greatest respect. The corporation of the city of Dublin, who have petitioned against the claims of the catholics, have ever been loyal to their king and constitution; zealous supporters of the protes 1035 tant establishment: and did I conceive that going into the committee would endanger that establishment, there is no one who would be more ready to give a negative to the motion of my hon. friend; but so far from thinking that the measure proposed would weaken that constitution, I am convinced it would not only tend to conform that establishment, but also strengthen the foundations upon which rests the security of the empire. The advantages to be derived from the adoption of this motion have been ably proves to be considerable in number and great in benefit; and, in my opinion, it has not been proved to this house, that any danger is likely to ensue from it. Granting for a moment, what I do not allow, but what the most violent opposers of the catholics could urge against them, that there exists in a part of that body of men a decided animosity to the British constitution, and a violent desire to effect its ruin; granting, for the sake of argument, that such is the disposition, such is the disposition, such is the object of men amongst the catholics, the means of effecting their purpose and accomplishing their wished would be totally destroyed by the measure proposed this night. Will the house consider what are the means by which the disaffected would endeavour to obtain their object? It has been already clearly proved, that admitting catholics to seats in parliament could never, in the opinion of any man in this house, give them sufficient weight in it to carry measures destructive to the constitution. It cannot be supposed that the number of Irish catholics, whether 20, 40, or even 100, that would be returned, could ever prevail on the remaining 558 English and Scotch members to unite with them in the destruction of a constitution they all venerate; which has raised their country to the height it now is placed in; for which their ancestors fought and bled; and for whose defence I trust, if called upon, we are all ready to risk our lives. No, sir, it never could be by parliament itself; but, possessing as they do a population of nearly four millions, would it not be by that physical force, aided and assisted by a foreign power, that they could alone hope for a probability of accomplishing their objects of overturning the constitution and separating the two countries? It is by arraying this population against you that they could alone be formidable: but by adopting this measure you will remove for ever the remotest possibility of their doing so; by giving an equality in 1036 the blessings and enjoyments of the constitution to this population, you will have them ranged not against you but for you. But while distinctions and inequalities exist; while you permit an appeal to their passions and perhaps to their reason, that though they equally contribute their property with their protestant fellow subjects; though they have spent and are daily spending their blood in defence of the constitution; though by their exertions they have added to the laurels and contributed to the safety of the empire; that though they have patiently and cheerfully shared with the protestant equal dangers in time of war; yet they are not allowed to share equal advantages in the hour of peace: such an appeal must have some weight upon the mind; and though it would not separate those who have still many reasons to be attached to the constitution; yet, by destroying the possibility of its being made, you weaken the efforts of your enemies. It is these distinctions that have given rise to a spirit of party, that has been the misfortune of Ireland; that has constantly and uniformly checked its progress towards improvement in time of peace, and I am sure increased its dangers in time of war. By removing the conviction in one man's mind that he possesses superior advantages, in the other that he labours under disabilities and restraints; by taking away this double conviction yoy will give a death blow tom party spirit; for it is by this policy alone that the violent of both parties have been able to agitate and irritate; I should almost have said exasperate the minds of the people against each other, even at times when the situation of the country and the danger of the state imperiously demanded harmony and unanimity. This subject has been so ably argued on this side of the house, and so feebly, in my opinion, on the other, that I feel it is but pressing on the patience of the house to urge any thing more in favour of the motion. But I cannot avoid stating how much will be gained by the destruction of all party spirit. Consider Ireland with a liberal mind you will lament the disunion of her people; but look at the situation of Europe, and the contest in which we are engaged, you will not only look at it with sorrow, but you will see the necessity of endeavouring to harmonize and unite. We may hope to defend Ireland by having the command of the seas, by blockading the fleets of our enemies; this mode of defence has failed already, and may again fail; but give to Ireland, to all its people, an equal interest in the defence of the 1037 constitution equal enjoyments of its blessings, you will then have a defence invulnerable by your enemy, which I doubt if the enemy would dare to encounter; but which should he attempt, I have not the smallest doubt that the result would be defeat to him and security to us.
Sir John Coxe Hippesley
said, that though he had risen very early in the debate with much anxiety, to deliver his sentiments on this important question at some length; he had nevertheless given way, with great satisfaction, to the hon. member, (Mr.Grattan,) from the display of whose splendid talents so much expectation had been justly formed. As he now saw the house, at that late hour, little disposed to prolong the debate, he would trespass on their patience no further that to state two facts of considerable interest, and he would leave gentleman to draw their own conclusions from them. The first was the constitution of Corsica, as ratified by his majesty, and which stipulated that the Roman catholic religion, in all its evangelical purity (which were the words of the act), should be the only national religion of Corsica, and all others tolerated; and that the parliament should concert the discharge of the functions of the bishops with the see of Rome. The other fact was, that a Roman catholic priest, of the name of M'Donnel, had been commissioned by his majesty in the year 1794, as chaplain to a catholic fencible regiment raised in Great Britain. The hon. bart. said, he would leave those who rested so much on the presumed restrictions which appeared to them to grow out of the coronation oath, to form their own estimate how far these gracious acts were reconcilable to their interpretation of it, or whether his majesty was not at liberty thus to gratify the expectations of that description of his subjects, without trenching on the principles of the constitution. As the house was so impatient for the question, he would say no more.
§ Lord De Blaquiere
rose in the midst of much clamour for the question. He said he could not have believed that in a question, wherein the vital interests of Ireland, one in which even her existence might be at stake, that the gentlemen of this country would have shewn so much impatience. He hoped it would turn out to be true as gentlemen asserted, that this was no party question— that public good, and public good alone, was the motive. He could not forbear however to augur ill of the proceeding, when he recollected the manner in which 1038 the business was opened by the hon. gent. (Mr. Fox). Why bring in lord Melville upon this occasion? What had lord Melville to do with this debate? In truth, it led him to fear, that when the house divided, we might, peradventure, see the very same gentlemen walk out in a body who had uniformly voted against the Defence Bill and every other proposition of the present administration— The noble lord spoke in harsh terms against the measure, as calculated to injure our highest interests, and asserted that the petition could not now, nor at any other time be entertained, without manifest danger to the constitution both in church and state— At so late an hour, and after such an ample discussion, he should study to compress the little he had to say in the smallest possible compass. He would not at this moment, enter into the precise merits of the dispute, how far in prudence, of in policy, these claims could be allowed; all he should contend for was, that it made a radical change in the constitution. And such gentlemen who were not satisfied with the constitution we have, would do well to vote for the petition. Are gentlemen prepared, he asked, if they are, let them avow it, to thrown down by one rash resolve the main pillar and support of the first principles of the reformation, purchased by the blood, and confirmed by the virtues, of our ancestors? And are they decidedly ready, to try an experiment, which may cost no less perhaps, than their very existence— This however, he did not wish to press; all he asked, and all he wanted, was decision. Leave not that ill-fated country, said the noble lord, in suspense, groaning between these difficulties. Leave not this question suspended over their heads like a rod of iron, as a scourge for sins which they may not have committed. The difficulty, he admitted, was evidently great. Give the catholics what they ask, and you will not satisfy the protestants. Refuse the catholics what they desire, and as it has been repeatedly asserted, you drive that body to desperation. Whichever way you opine, universal satisfaction was impossible. The difficulties are transcendant; but there is no course so bad as that, which, he feared,the house seemed disposed to take that night; namely, a determination to do nothing at all, for he did in his conscience believe, that so long as that question should be kept afloat, there would be no tranquility, no peace in Ireland He was happy, however, that the question had undergone this long and minute investi- 1039 gation, as it would shew to the catholics, among whom, there were many loyal and good people, that what they asked was impossible.
Colonel Hiley Hutchinson
said, that at that late hour, and after the display of talent on one side, he should have thought it presumption in him to have troubled the house; but a wish to refute the libels and scandal which had been thrown on the petitioners, induced him to offer a few words. It had been said that they were disaffected. It was for those who knew them not to use such language. A learned gent. (the attorney general) had said, that instead of granting indulgences to the Irish catholics, it might be deemed expedient to recur to the penal code! Such sentiments from such a quarter bore with them their own commentary. The hon. colonel here proceeded to read some extracts from the pamphlet of Mr. Scully(an Irish delegate) which were so ill received by the house, that we could not event collect their tenour. Notwithstanding which the hon. colonel proceeded. He said he would not be indecently prevented from delivering his sentiments as an independant member of parliament. If gentlemen were fatigued. let them move an adjournment. Did he not think that he should be disgraced if he were not to offer his sentiments, nothing should have induced him to offer himself to the house. He said the catholics were contending, not for equal power but equal privileges. The hon. colonel animadverted with much severity on the conduct of the noble lord(Castlereagh) who was instrumental in bringing about the measure of a legislative union. He called upon that noble lord to fulfil the pledge that was at that period held out to the catholics. He did hear him say, that a fair system of policy was to be adopted. He now called upon ministers to fulfil the pledge given to the people of Ireland, unless it was their intentionTo palter with them in a double sense,To Keep the word of promise to their ear,But break it to their hope.
The Attorney General
felt it necessary to explain. What he had said was, that if the house expected the catholics would be conciliated, by acceding to their petition, they would be mistaken, as he believed they would want something more. The other point was, that he had been represented to hold out the threat of reviving the penal code. This was a mistake; he thought it a bloody and cruel code. But he had said, 1040 that if he had been consulted he should have opposed granting them the elective franchise and the establishment of a college at Maynooth.
said, that at that late hour he would not intrude upon the exhausted patience of the house by entering at large into the argument; but that he was unwilling to give a silent vote upon so important a question. He freely admitted that it had been his wish that this measure should not have been brought forward, or discussed, unless under the reasonable prospect of success, which in his mind did not exist at present; but those who were so much and so peculiarly interested in the result having judged otherwise, and the discussion having taken place, he had no hesitation in declaring, that he considered the complying with the prayer of the petition to be essentially necessary to the peace and repose of Ireland, the stability of the union between the two countries, and the safety and security of the empire at large; and therefore gave his decided support to the motion.
§ Sir George Hill.
—Sir; I shall not now further trespass on the patience of the house, than to contradict some unfounded assertions made by the hon. mover and a distinguished supporter of this petition (Mr. Grattan); but first I must notice, from the-time and circumstances under which this measure has been brought forward, that I very much question the sincerity of the agitators of it, and for various considerations, do pronounce it a party trick. (A cry of order! order!)I feel, sir, My words are not strictly in order, and I shall change them. I pronounce then, sir, that this question has been brought forward at this time to obtain thereby the weight and support and support of the influence of the catholic body to serve party purposes; this, it is not disorderly for me as a member of this house to state, and it is the truth. The mover of this petition knew full well that obstacles insurmountable stood in the way of its success; that the minister, after consulting the highest authorities, and the judgments of the most experienced Men around him, deemed it expedient to decline bringing it forward himself, and advised that it should not be offered to parliament. The leading and best disposed catholics themselves are believed to have held the same sentiments as to the propriety of withholding their claims for the present; but I charge that opposition, aided by the democratic part of the Catholics,over-ruled this determination, and forced forward this discussion. The hon. mover of the petition 1041 and his friends were impelled by the hope of thereby discharging themselves from an obligation to the catholics, and of fixing against the minister the forfeiture of an alleged pledge he had given to that body; from this, however, the chancellor of the exchequer has been exculpated, although he does still hold opinions favourable to their claims— I have myself been constantly in the habits (I speak it with due humility) of giving for many years my best political support; but I cannot, on the present occasion, consider him altogether blameless, feeling as I do that no individual possessed of great authority, both from his character and situation, ought to announce his opinion and his desire to make such an innovation in the constitution, without in some degree giving the protestants a detail of those guards and securities (Which he alludes to merely in general terms) for their liberties and for their estates.— Previous to the possibility of admitting catholics to sit and vote in parliament with safety to the constitution, there are many alterations which their church and people ought to admit I shall not detail them, because I should still have my doubts;. but sure I am,the catholics themselves ought (if they are anxious to be believed sincere in their professions) to make every change in their church government and discipline which protestant security can require, and which the essentials of Roman catholic faith will permit: such reform would afford more substantial security than reiterated promises, and professions, and tests.— There is one preliminary indispensable; I mean a sufficient establishment, or fund from whence to pay their clergy. The Irish parliament has given them a seminary for the education of their candidate clergy, has endowed it magnificently, induced, to do so from the policy of placing over the ignorant lower orders in Ireland,a well-educated englightened set of gentlemen. Having done so, it appears to me a necessary consequence that a provision should be made for that clergy by the state, than that they should be left dependent on a savage multitude for their means of life, and be reduced to the necessity of flattering the propensities and passions of that multitude, and conniving at, if not encouraging their crimes You must therefore, in order to rescue them from such a thraldom, and render them either good or safe members of the community, give them a moderate independence, and place them above such neces- 1042 sity.—I shall now, sir, content myself with nothing , as I proposed, some mis-statements, and disproving them only at this late hour, by contradicting them without much detail.— The hon. mover has alleged that the ferocious manners of the protestants of Ireland towards the catholics has rendered the latter description barbarous; if true it is that they are babarous, or unfit to enjoy civil liberty in its full extent: and yet both he and one of his friends (Grattan) deprecate any allusion to violences heretofore committed. So do I; but if such assertions are made, truth must be told. Too many proofs exist up to the present hour of the aggressions and savage bigotry of the catholics; the history of centuries past proves it; modern times prove it; the white-boy transactions in the south twenty years before the rebellion prove it; Wexford fatally and lamentably proves it; Dr. M' Nevin proves it, who tells you of their antipathy to protestants and Englishmen, whom they consider to be the same; and that the catholic body could at any time be brought forward to rebellion by the agency of their priests, whom the leaders of the united Irishmen knew they could set in motion at any moment when requisite, and therefore it was that these leaders first directed their efforts to associate the protestants of the north of Ireland by throwing out the lure of parliamentary reform. But I revolt from these allusions as much as opposition, whose unfounded assertions render them necessary— I deny utterly the colouring and statement of the seconder of this motion(Grattan) of the events and occurrences, and their causes, of the last twenty years. but more particularly as applicable to our unfortunate disturbances. I do shortly allege that the party occasioned by the [...] proceedings of parliament in 1789, during the regency, laid the groundwork of the united Irish union, of the commotions, the rebellion, and consequent legislative union between Great-Britain and Ireland.—The king's recovery and discomforture of opposition produced those unconstitutional appeals of the hon. seconder and his friends to the physical force of the country. Too well for the peace of Ireland did he instruct them to reflect and rely upon that force; he and his friends, with this doctrine in their mouths, bid for and misled the protestants of the north,(a gallant race of men devoted to constitutional liberty) by promising them parliamentary reform; the 1043 same gentleman bid for the catholic, by promising them emancipation, Accordingly the united Irish association was formed in 1791–2, and a catholic convention was held in Dublin, and a protestant convention at Dungannon, in furtherance of these objects emancipation and reform. I shall not comment on these events; they were endeavoured to be curbed by lord Clare's convention act, made subsequently with that view. In 1795 lord Fitzwilliam came lord-lieutenant to Ireland, and the mover of this petition asserts that his recal and the breach of promise at this time to the catholics produced the rebellion of 1798. In making this assertion, he pronounces on his friend (Grattan) the most bitter, heart-rending judgement, that most bitter, heart-rending judgement, that could have fallen from the lips of a friend; for he thereby charges him with being the author of that rebellion.—I do positively in proof of this assert and defy contradiction that lord Fitzwilliam was sent to Ireland with an instruction from the cabinet of England to keep back the catholic claims, and further assert, that no autorised promise was made to them. But what did the worthy recorder (Grattan) do? Having been in London with lord Fitzwilliam, to consult and advise with him on his future government of Ireland, he preceded him to that country, and instantly on his arrival set every political engine at work, every channel of influence and flattery he possessed, to urge forward the catholic with their claims from all parts, insomuch that shortly after lord Fitzwilliam did arrive the whole mischief was completed. The cabinet felt he had disobeyed their orders, and he was recalled; the catholics were not gratified. The hon. mover says rebellion was the consequence; if so, the house will estimate the obligation of his friend (Mr. Grattan) to him for his allusion to the fact.—After this period the catholics were advised by public address not to postpone their claims. England was in emphatic language. described to be their enemy; that she must be pressed by them in time of war; the catholics must not postpone their claims to a moment of peace— they must be listened to in a time of distress and pressure to England.— Is it for this reason they are brought forward of 1798 and the union of the two parliaments finish the period on which the two honourable friends have mostly dwelt— I now be g leave to deny their assertions to the proportnate numbers of protestants and catholics; 1044 they are unapproved, and are made only for intimidation.— I must also deny the hon. mover's doctrine of the principle of the British constitution as applied to the claim of power or franchise. I allege the principle to be equal protection to all, and rights of power or franchise to qualified persons. The guards of this constitution in the exercise of power or franchise, are tests and the possession of property.—I must also:notice a very loose proof he offers to us,that the catholics will not, if in power, meddle with property: the gentleman himself does not profess to approve of the act of settlement, but the catholics would not, he says, disturb it, because some of them have lately acquired property secured by it. At best this is no more than an appeal to their forbearance, and quantum of interest in it—I shall, now lastly, make an observation on the property in Ireland. It exceeds, I am confident, in the hands of the protestants that which is in the hands of the catholics by a proportion which far outstrips the population of the latter beyond the former. I dare say it is more than as,twenty to one: for this we have an undoubted right to have a sufficient security. In five or six northern Irish counties there is not one catholic gentleman qualified from estate to be a member of parliament, or indeed that you ever meet in society; and this not from any severity of exclusion, but really that they do exist amongst us. If then catholics were eligible to parliament, and that the lower orders there are, as alleged, three to one, we should either be represented by strangers or by unlettered boors; for most, unquestionably if the freeholders were catholic the priests would carry them for the catholic candidate. Property is the criterion of political power more than the physical force of the self-willed multitude. The protestants possess this superiority, and love the constitutional liberty which accompanies it they have defended and fought for both in 1688 and 1798. I deny that the rebellion of 1798 was put down by other means than the protestant exertions of Ireland; it was overcome and reduced before one English militia regiment landed in that country (I feel at the same time every gratitude for the zeal and succour intended by that force;) and if ever so direful a necessity should occur again, from either invasion or rebellion, I trust to the mutual support of the army and volunteers of both countries, and, in despite of all forebodings, have no doubt of the result.
§ Sir William Dolben.
—I rise, sir, under great infirmity of body to give my negative to the present motion. I am willing to admit that the balance of talent and ingenuity is in favour of the petition. we have had fine speeches on one side, and sound argument and public principle on the other. As to the consequences that may attend the refusal of this committee, I do not deny that the petition is couched in decent, proper terms, but I hope parliament never will discuss any point under apprehension. Let us come to a decision upon the question. After the powerful arguments I have heard, I am firmly convinced, that agreeing to the prayer of the petition would have no good effect. It would occasion a demand for fresh concessions, and we do not know where it might end. In my mind the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer has given us very good arguments for not thinking it would succeed. If it should ever be brought on again, I hope it will be brought on for English as well as Irish catholics. Let us not shew a greater partiality for Irish catholics than for English catholics. I am firmly persuaded by the various arguments I have heard, that the prayer of the petition ought not to be granted, and shall therefore give my negative to the present motion.
§ Mr. Fox
rose to reply and spoke in substance as follows: Sir, before I enter into a general reply to the arguments , or rather the observations that have been made by those who have opposed the motion I had the honour to submit to the house, I feel myself necessarily obliged to submit a few words in answer to a right hon. gent. (Mr. H Addington) on the subject of the speech of a noble viscount, (Sidmouth) in the course of a former debate. If I have not been misrepresented, I believe it will be found, that what I strictly said, was not that the noble lord said that catholic emancipation would be the effect of the union, but that the union was a pledge of catholic emancipation. I stated, that the noble viscount, in his speech, said there were three things to be considered; one, with a view to the former laws against the catholics; another, with a view to catholic emancipation, of both which he disapproved; but would, of the two evils prefer the enactment of the penal laws; and the third, with reference to a legislative union, which he said, would not be productive of any of the disadvantages of either of the other measures. Having stated this as one of the things which did give hopes to the catholics. I thought the 1046 measure proposed in their favour would not be objectionable to the noble viscount.—With regard to the objections against my motion, I shall speak to those which apply in point of time first; for though they came last, they are first in point of order; and, first of all, let me make a remark on the objections which came from a right hon. gent. opposite. Considering the general weight of his abilities, and his experience, considering some additional weight which he derives from the office he holds , I cannot but remark that the objections he has made come singly from him; no one who preceded, no one who followed him, has urged any objections of a similar nature. He stands, as far as this debate goes, perfectly singular, in stating his objections to the petition, in point of time. I shall consider the objections in themselves, and then, as coming from him: and, first of all, in point of time, with regard to myself—I have no defence to make —for I say, let my conduct in bringing the question forward be attended with whatever imputation it may, I an ready to say there is no time of my life when, if any set of men applied to me to support a petition in favour of religious liberty, I should not have complied with the requisition. With regard to what has fallen from an hon. bart. (sir G. Hill) on the subject of this being a party question, I can only say, that if his opinion was to be followed, and we were to consider every thing as a" party trick," as he is pleased to call it, because we did not expect that it would be attended with success, we should render the constitution of this country some what singular, and certainly the whole tenour of my life would have been contrary to the opinion of that hon. gent. With respect to the time, I say, I should at any time have presented this petition, for I always considered that every man had a right to the free enjoyment of his religious liberty, subject to what may arise from considerations of public safety. As I do not believe there ever has been any possible injury to the public safety, by extending religious liberty to those who ask it , I must of necessity think it right to extend it to the catholics. As to the time, with respect to those who have signed the petition, the objection founded on their omitting to have it brought forward before, is most extraordinary; for it is admitted, that in the way the measure of union was argued and defende the catholic had, without a positive pledge, some reasonable 1047 ground to hope that their petition, or the matter of their petition, would be granted. This is not all. Those who were most averse to the catholic claims argued it in a way not like the right hon. gent. opposite, who appeared to me to think that the union would pave the way for the grant of the catholic claims, that it took away the only difficulty which belonged to the discussion of the question, and that, when the union was completed, it would be in the view of many, more safe to grant their claims or less dangerous to resist them. If I am told, that the establishment of the measure of the union will produce a time when the claims can be brought forward with propriety, and cannot be refused without danger, I desire to know whether that is not precisely the period, when men who wish well to their country would naturally be inclined to bring them under discussing the claims of any class of subjects than that in which it is admitted they can be granted without danger? I should therefore, have supposed, that all who thought the union the most certain means of preventing the danger, would have conceived the completion of that union the time peculiarly proper for the catholics to submit, and a member of parliament to recommend, a measure which the friends of it considered right, just, and equitable, to be adopted. But what then? You say to them, "help us in this union; give us that assistance which is necessary to us." Many of the catholics do so; and then your friends, and the friends of the union, tell them they have great hopes their claims may be granted Then the petition comes, as might naturally be expected it would come, after such an assurance; and in return for the assistance given by the catholics, it is proposed to say, "do not discuss the question at all." It may be said, " why did not the catholics come immediately after the union?" I do not wish to enter into an altercation on that subject; it is most probable that the cause of their not coming sooner was, that the right hon. gent's resignation, accompanied with the reasons he gave for that resignation, induced them to adopt the opinion , that they could not with propriety bring their claims forward at that time. Bait the right hon. gent. in a letter written by him gives the catholics a justifiable gro of hope, that it would be a part of his future plan to smooth the way by preparing the public to receive the catholic petition. What must have been the im 1048 pression on the minds of the catholics in consequence of this? They must have thought that the right hon. gent., during the two years he was out of office, would have directed his attention to the subject, and that he was a little negligent of their concerns, if he did not take quite so much pains as he ought to have done. But it was natural for the catholics, when they saw the right hon. gent. returning to office; when they recollected they had heard him say, that, entertaining the opinion he did of the catholics, he could neither, bring their claims forward with safety, or continue in his office with propriety: I repeat it was natural for them to say, that "although we did not consider your conduct as a pledge on your part, or a claim on ours, yet when you declared you could not bring the subject forward with hopes of success, nor continue in office, unless you could do so, we had a right to depend on your support, whenever the opportunity was afforded you of granting it. Thus, when we now see you returning to office, we may reasonably conclude you are in a situation. in which you Play support, encourage, and promote those claims, of which you approved." This was the natural time for the catholics to apply to the right. hon. gent. for srpport, and for him to grant it. I think it is impossible that I can misrepresent what the right hon. gent. said four years ago, in the course of a debate on the state of the nation, and I think that all he has said to-night is a proof that understood him He said, that considering the turn the question had taken, considering the infinite importance of the subject to the empire at large, he thought he could not move it with all the advantages necessary to its success, or atleast to that species of success, as he expressed it, which would be productive of the result Ultimately to be desired; that, under such circumstances, he felt not only that he could not move it himself, but that if it was moved, he should feel it is duty to resist it. If it is true that he told us so, surely it was natural for persons. in the situation of the catholics to suppose, that when he returned to office, he would attend to this Circumstance. It seems to me, that this night he has gone a good way in stating the singularity of his own conduct. He said, that the question could not advantageously be brought forward, unless with the general concurrence of every branch of the legislature. Such was the reason, he tells you, that he did not bring it on. This 1049 I admit is perfectly consistent with his former professions; yet I think, that in the year 1801, as well as if he was to do so in 1805, he did take a further measure of no small importance to his reputation, and the welfare of the country, by putting an end to his own administration. He has stated all he did at that period. He stated his sentiments then, as he has done now; and I cannot but remark that, in giving an account of his conduct, there is a material alteration and difference in his conduct in 1805, with reference to what it was in 1801. with reference to what it was in 1801. Yet, he has so conducted himself, that it was impossible the Roman catholics of Ireland could know that such a difference of opinion existed, or that his opinions and sentiments were not similar to what they had been. They must have concluded, from the very circumstance of his being in office, that it was his intention either to move, or to support the question. I believe that idea was so firmly impressed on the minds of the catholics, that he could not imagine the fact was otherwise. Many persons undoubtedly thought that there might be some circumstances which might make it proper to defer the consideration of the subject to another session; if from prudential motives it had been recommended to them to defer the consideration of the subject to a future period, I have no doubt that, with the opinions they were actuated by, they would have readily acquiesced. But when they found that the right hon. gent. could neither now bring their claims forward, that the objections against them would equally slay at any given time, and that, when he continued in office, contrary to his own example in 1801, they concluded, as justly they might, that he had completely changed his mind. It was under that circumstance, and the impression it excited, they came to me; and now, because they have come to me, is it to be said, that they have made themselves the allies of a party? I wish to know what will become of this house, and eventually of the government, and the constitution of the country, if those, who are refused redress by ministers, and appeal to men who, for good reasons, oppose ministers are to be stigmatised with adhering to a party. Are those who oppose administration to be incapacitated, merely for so doing, as independent members of parliament? Are we, the free, uncontrolled, and independent members of this house, and the representatives of the people of England, 1050 to be excommunicated in our political capacity, because we are in the performance of a duty adverse to the sentiments of those ministers whose conduct we condemn? We talk of the excommunications of the pope, but can his anathemas be more unjust that those which stigmatise those as the allies of a party, who apply to us for the establishment of their undoubted rights, privileges, and civil and religious immunities, denied to them by ministers, who ought to be foremost in granting them? All I can say is, that I have attentively read the history of the country, but I have formed a very imperfect notion of its constitution, if those who oppose ministers, or who bring forward measures which should originate in them, are to be branded as the instruments of party and as hostile to those principles to which our free government owes its existence, and pre-eminence among nations. The catholics came to me, because a better chance of success did not present itself to their hopes. They came to me, because they conceived, and I hope truly, that I would do justice to their cause, and because they thought I would do my utmost to be instrumental in bringing it to a successful issue. Is it to be said, because we are not sanguine in our hoped of success, that therefore we ought not to promote enquiry and investigation upon any subject? Is no man to be justified in moving a question of public concern and importance, merely because he does not conceive it will be carried? I beg leave to say, that I am decidedly of a different opinion. I think the house will judge as members of a British parliament ought to judge, that it is their duty to pursue a question of this kind in spite of every temporary obstacle. I am of opinion, that whatever may be, or may have been in another place, the decision upon this question, the discussion will be productive of the greatest good to the country. The complete refutation of the number of false facts which have been advanced, must, and will be attended with the best effects. I am confident that the arguments we have heard, whatever effect they may have upon this house, will have their due weight with the public, and that every man of common sense will see on which side the weight of the argument lies. I am confident, upon another ground of policy, expediency, and justice, that this discussion will be productive of the utmost benefit, because 1051 I am convinced, that if I had refused to present the petition of the catholics, and the impression had gone over to Ireland, that there was not a member to be found in the British house of commons willing to present their petition, it would have produced a state of despondency and despair in the mind of the people of that country, which would have been fatal to the best interests of the whole empire. They would rightly, but fatally, as to the probable consequences, have judged that there was not only no party, but no individual in England, to whom they could look up with a confident hope of redress. Is it, can it be necessary for me to state to this enlightened house, that a more fatal event cannot happen, or is more to be deprecated, than that three-fourths of the population of Ireland should be justified in the dreadful reflection, that there is not a man in England who sympathises with their sufferings, or who is inclined to exert himself in order to obtain the redress of them? Although such a reflection may be turned to the extreme disadvantage of the empire, I do trust that the people of Ireland will not reason in this manner. I hope they will not say, "we have no friends in England, and therefore we must look elsewhere." Yet the time has been, when such an inference might have been stated with more probability than perhaps at rhe present moment. It has been said, "let us finish the question for ever." When, I would ask, was it known that such a question could be finished for ever? " Man and for ever!" history shews us, that the most visionary notion ever entertained never went the length of implying that a question of this nature could be finished for ever. Will not the catholics look back to the parliament of their own country—refer to the period of the year 1791? That was a period when no member of parliament could be found to present a petition in their favour. In the year 1792, their petition was presented, and it was rejected by a very large majority; the minority consisting, as nearly as I can recollect, of no more than fourteen or fifteen members. It was then said the question was closed for ever. I dare say the gentlemen who stated that, thought the revival of the question would overturn the protestant government, and the established constitution of the country. They undoubtedly thought that the time for agitating the question was improper and dangerous, and therefore it was that they said the question was, and ought to be closed for ever. Was it closed for ever? Did the 1052 event prove that it Was Closed for ever? No. On the contrary, Within twelve Months after the question was said to have been closed for ever, it was resumed, and a majority of that house, which had closed the question for ever, did grant the catholics more in the year 1793, than in the year 1792 the catholics had thought it necessary to ask; and in so doing they did right; for if you look back to the history of this reign, you will find, that, in almost every instance,what has been refused to the humble prayer of any class of subjects, who have considered themselves aggrieved, has been granted afterwards by the fears of government. When this country was engaged in a War with France, it was fear and imperious necessity which induced you to grant that, than which lesser claims were refused in 1792. Let me not be accused of menace, when leave it to the consideration of this house, whether at different periods of the history of this reign, with reference to its. Various dependencies, government has not, by sad experience, found that the best time for granting indulgences, or, to speak more properly, natural rights, would have been when they were first asked for. If this is menace, then I think prudence must be altogether must be altogether banished from our consideration: there is no claim of right which may not be construed into menace. If We are compelled to satisfy the claim, and at the same time, are to be told that the claim is menace, I ask how we ought to have acted at the beginning of the American war? How are we to warn you by the example of the past, unless it is by shewing you that, to avoid danger, you should make concessions in time? I must further observe, with regard to the objections which the right hon. gent. took in point of time, that if his particular object was to conciliate those who were hostile to this measure, not with reference to time, bur principle, his objections, in my opinion, have not been very successful. I do not indeed conceive, that the right hon. gent. has urged the argument in our favour with any other than honourable views; but after all the ingenious language we have heard; after all the illiberal arguments which have been advanced, all the ignorance which has been uttered, all the aspersions which have been thrown out, and all the dangerous principles which have been recommended, and attempted to be maintained, for the purpose of rejecting this question for ever; I say, that although I cannot help lamenting we could not have the benefit of his vote, yet I rejoice that we 1053 have the advantage of his discountenancing what, he must feel, reflects as much honour on his principles four years ago, as disgrace now. His vote undoubtedly would have been of advantage to the country; bur his speech is of much more advantage. It is not merely the vote of the right hon. gent. that would be important, but it is of consequence, that in England, Ireland, and every part of the British empire, it should be known, that the opinion of men in power, or likely to be in power, or whose authority or interest is looked up to with confidence, is favourable to the cause to which the vote of the right hon. gent. is adverse. I wish we could have had his vote, but I thank him for his argument; and this brings me to another part of his conduct. The right hon. gent. says, that he finds not only now, but that three or four years past, the public opinion was contrary to mine. If he had brought forward this question when he was out of office, he might have stated some grounds which would have made it less dangerous to be encouraged than at the present moment. If he had stated that fact, and the public had seen that most of the considerable men in parliament were of one opinion, though his opinion would have done much, yet the argument Would have done more, and the public opinion would not, perhaps, have taken that turn, he tells us it has: whether it has taken that turn, or not, I doubt; I own I see no symptom of it. There are unquestionably very respectable bodies of men, some of whom have given their opinion contrary to the Opinion I profess: but that there is a generally prevailing opinion adverse to mine, I cannot suspect; I cannot think, that, among rational men, the advantages which present themselves on the one hand, and the dangers which menace on the other, can be overlooked. The claims of the catholics are not only consistent with the principles of the constitution, but Consonant to its vial spirit, and I hope and trust the public opinion will ultimately be led by reason to that point, to which, if it is not led, I am sorry to say, we shall not have the full, and effective force, and physical strength of the united empire. If ever there was a time when it was necessary we should have its entire exertion, it is the present. This is a period when all our energies are called into action.Toto certandum est corpore regni.But who can say the country has the effectual advantage of the corpus regni, while 1054 one-fifth of its inhabitants are deprived of those privileges they ought to enjoy, and without which, to them, the country is nothing? But the argument is taken two ways: first, you say you have no fears from the catholics; that if you trusted them they would be loyal; and that, therefore, what danger is to be apprehended from them? I would answer, "give to them, then, what they claim, as the reward of their loyalty." Are we to argue without reference to the general principles of human nature? The proper way to weigh the justice of an argument is by the scale of common sense, and the feelings of mankind upon the subject; but if the argument drawn from the loyalty of the Roman catholics is to be used against them, to their prejudice, I can only say, that it is more disgraceful to the public, than even to the speaker. They say these gentlemen, I mean the Roman catholics, are loyal; I truly believe they are so; nay, I believe that if you refuse their claims, many in their zeal, public spirit, and loyalty, will go far beyond what they can fairly be called upon for; but can I expect as much from the generality of the catholics? Do we not say, that out country being under the freest constitution in the world, the subject enjoys the greatest degree of civil and political liberty, terms which imply no difference, except that the word civil is derived from the Latin, and the word political from the Greek. Do we not enjoy the most important privileges of any nation in Europe We boast that we shall be able to make exertions against the enemy, that the subjects of arbitrary governments cannot be expected to make. Why is this? It is because we are fighting for laws that are our laws, for a constitution that is our constitution, for those liberties and sacred immunities which no other country under heaven possesses the advantages of fighting for. If, sir, such are the grounds on which, under God, we trust so much to for our success, do they not apply with equal force to another country, or rather another part of our own country? And do you not suppose, that those who fight for greater privileges, will exert themselves more than those men who are deprived of the civil and political advantages enjoyed by their fellow-citizens? If the same exertions cannot be expected by those who are deprived of the privileges to which they are entitled, what do we gain by the disabilities we impose on them? You put the country in the situation in which you are compelled, of necessity, to confess, you have no other 1055 expectation than that of comparative exertion. I ask you. whether that is not the true state of the case with regard to the Roman catholics of Ireland? I will not urge further than I did, when I opened this subject, the argument, that the privileges bestowed upon the higher orders of people are, in point of fact, enjoyed by the lower. No answer has been given to the argument, and therefore I must take it as a principle admitted. No one has attempted to contradict the opinion that the lower orders are influenced by the advantages and the privileges bestowed on their superiors. Those who recollect the debates two years ago, may furnish their minds with as strong an illustration on this subject as any argument can possibly produce. It was two years since an hon. member, then secretary at war, brought in a bill for raising an army enmasse. After having explained the details of the bill, as it applied to Great Britain, he did conclude with a short sentence, which every body well understood, and with regard to which no one thought any comment was necessary. The sentence was to the effect, that it was not thought expedient to apply the bill to Ireland. It would certainly have been indiscretion, in the true sense of the word, either to have applied it to Ireland, or to have commented on the reason for not applying it. Why? Because it was well known that the mass of the people of Ireland were not like the mass of the people of England; because they consisted of two divided partied, in the lower of which you could not have the same confidence as in the higher; and therefore it was that in England the levy en masse, which constituted the best security of the country, was in Ireland looked to as its greatest source of danger I will refer gentlemen to the bill for promoting our military force and national defence. I remember, in the course of one day's discussion, relative to the force in Ireland at the time of the debate. compared with the period of the treaty of Amiens, that a statements was made of so much cavalry, so much infantry, so much artillery, and so many fencibles. It was then admitted on both sides, that with regard to such and such regiments, there was a circumstance that made country; that circumstance was, that there were no Irish among them. It was stated and admitted, that for the reason I have mentioned, there were two or three regiments as available as four or five. Apply this to England, or to any other 1056 country that is well governed, would any body say that our military force was strong, because it consisted of foreigners, or that it was weak, because it was composed of Englishmen? Would you not argue, that so much the more would be expected from men, who were fighting for their own country, their homes, their fortunes, and all that was dear to them? Why is the argument different with respect to Ireland? Why do you wish to have the regiments in Ireland with as few Irish as possible? The argument is this, and you may reduce it to a syllogism, of which the major is, every man is most to be depended upon in proportion to his interest in the constitution. The minor is, Englishmen are most interested in their constitution; ergo, the conclusion is, Englishmen are most to be depended upon. Apply this, on the other hand, to Ireland, and, altering the terms of the syllogism, the conclusion will be the reverse; the minor will be, that the Irish catholics are the least interested in the constitution, and therefore they are the least to be relied on to defend it. It is on this principle you would have your regiments in England composed of Englishmen, and in Ireland not composed of Irishmen. Who are so little interested in Ireland as the Irish Roman catholics? None. Yet such is the state of that country, in which you say nothing is to be obtained by gaining over the hearts and energies of three-fourths of the population. It is said, are not those nobleman and gentlemen, who compose the higher class of the people of Ireland, loyal? If they are, why would you give them any thing to make them more so? I would give them the same interest in the constitution of the country which others have, and then I may reasonably expect similar exertions from them. We say it is little for them to gain, and much for us to give. They say it is much for them to gain, and little for us to give. What is it we give? All we give away is political power! To whom do we give that power? To the catholics Who are the catholics? Our fellow subjects. — I come now to the objection as to the particular form. It is objected to giving hopes to the catholics, because it is said, how can I desire the house to go into a committee, if I do not know that the committee will support me in all the points in favour of the catholics? Has not this objection been answered, standing on different grounds; surely no one will say, that we ought not to 1057 go into a committee to see whether we cannot give either, because we cannot give both. These are two very different points in this question. Gentlemen speak as if they thought none but members of the church of England were capable of sitting in parliament. But do not dissenters sit in this house? However, in point of doctrine, the church of England differs from the catholics, yet it does not differ more than from the dissenters. With regard to the maintenance and establishment of the church of England, there cannot be more difference between the catholics, than there is between the dissenters and the churchmen. We have forty-five members in this house, who are of a professed establishment different from our own, and they are not members of the most tolerant sect. It is true, that from the bias of their intellectual attainments, from the improvement of their minds, and from their enlightened understanding, they are above narrow religious prejudices; yet from the profession of their faith, they are not more liberal or tolerant than the Roman catholics. The Roman catholics are charged with saying, there is no salvation for heretics, and the Scots kirk says, it is blasphemy to assert that any can be saved who are not of their faith. Out of these forty-five members, not more than three or four could be persuaded to decide with us in favour of the repeal of the test act. It is said, how can we employ persons in office who are not of the established religion. In Ireland they are acceptable, because there is no test act. If it is said that We want to put the catholics in a better situation than the dissenters, let it be recollected that we are talking of Ireland. But is it supposed that the test act is the means of assuring that every man shall be member of the church of England? Do we not know, that in the reign of queen Anne, bills of occasional conformity were passed; and that in the reign of George I many of the dissenters only took the sacrament to shew their disposition in favour of the established church, however they might not agree as to parts of the liturgy? Will any body say that taking the sacrament proves a man to be a supporter of the church of England? May not a dissenter take the sacrament, and yet consider the liturgy of the church of England as the most consummate bigotry? This leads me to another part of subject, which was stated by a right hon. and learned gent.(Sir W. Scott), who, I flatter myself, I may call my friend. The 1058 principle flower of his eloquence consisted in the repetition of the word "must." He seemed to think, that the fundamental laws of the church of England "must" be repealed by granting the prayer of the catholics. The exclusion of the catholics from seats in parliament, and the existence of the test acts, are the props, according to the right hon. and learned gent., which support the church of England. What, then, was the state of the church of England in the reigns of Elizabeth, of James the first, and Charles the first? Were those princes not the heads of the church as effectually as his present majesty; nay, would it not be deemed the grossest abomination to doubt, even, that Charles, the first fell a martyr,to the church of England? Yet, throughout the reigns of these princes, Roman catholics sat in parliament, and the test act had no existence. Granting the thirty-nine articles of the church of England to be not repugnant to the free principles of the constitution as established in the reign of king William; yet the homilies which follow are by many stated to be an absolute condemnation of the very thing which took place at the time of the revolution. Nay, did not Sacheverel openly attack, and upon the authority of these homilies, stigmatise that great proceeding as impious, and utterly destructive of the church of England?— Now, with regard to those learned places which form a repository for the essential doctrines of religion, I mean the universities, in one of which (the university of Oxford) I had the honour to receive part of my early education, if I was to produce the decree of that university of 1688, against limited government, describing it as one of those things which lead to atheism, what would be said of it? Some of the best of men have come from that university. None more so than the right hon. and learned gent; but I do beg, to use a plain homely phrase, that they will not throw stones whose windows are made of glass I do not advise the high church party to look so narrowly into the history of the catholics, and into all the violence of their decrees, in order to disqualify them from being amalgamated and reconciled to the constitution of this country. It has been said by an hon. and learned gent., that the Roman catholics wish to overturn the established religion of this country. To this I answer, that there are good subjects of all sects and persuasions, in all countries, who dissenting from the established religion, yet pay obedience to the opin- 1059 ion of the majority. I am surprised it should have been said by an hon. and learned gent., (the attorney general) that if he was a catholic in a country where the protestant church was established, and he had the power, he would exercise it to weaken the established religious government. I have too good an opinion to think so of him. If every man was to conceive himself at liberty, because he differed from the established religion of a country, to attempt to overturn it, the general tendency of such a principle would be to destroy all peace in the world. I do not believe any good catholic would so act; I am sure no good subject, who loves his country, ought so to act. The question is this. Here are persons who apply to you, not for exclusive privileges, but simply to be placed on a footing with all the other of his majesty's subjects. It is a claim of justice. If you refuse it, the burthen of proof lies on you, to shew the inconvenience or danger of granting their claim. Nothing of the sort has been proved; you have argued it only by referring to old times, differing from the present. The question comes to this, whether, in the state in which we are, it can be the conduct of a wise and prudent government to separate from itself so large a proportion of the population of the country as the people of Ireland? No statesman, no man Who can judge of the affairs of the world, will think so. I should. hope that those who wish well to the country, will support my motion. If it should however unfortunately fail, we shall all have done our duty in arguing the question, with a view to induce those to adopt our opinion, who are at present under a fatal delusion with regard to this momentous subject. I should notice one thing; it is, that you have raised this question, and not the petition. The petition has nothing of the seeds of turbulence in it. You will, I trust, draw the hopes Of Ireland to this country, make the people of Ireland look to us as their best reliance, and prevent their recurring to any criminal measures.—I should now sit down, but for the observation of an hon. baronet (sir W. Dolben). He says, why should you give all this to the catholics of Ireland, and not grant the same to the catholics of Eng- 1060 land? In the first place, the catholics of England have not petitioned. I have no doubt as to the propriety of putting the catholics of England on the same footing. I have no doubt they would finally obtain the same privileges. Those who know the .catholics of England, who know the character of the lower ranks of the people, are sensible how little danger would result from the catholic peers sitting in the house of lords, or catholic members in the house of commons. Every man must perceive that it would be beneficial to the country, particularly at a time when every man is called upon to shew his zeal in the service, and in the general cause of the empire. I have only to add, in answer to an hon. gent. opposite, that I was in Ireland a great while ago; but it did not appear to me that the condition of the country was calculated to reconcile gentlemen who visited it, to its general laws. The gentlemen of Ireland ought to be listened to With very considerable attention. From what I have seen in the course of this debate, I think I shall find, on the division, that I shall have the honour of dividing with more of the gentlemen of that country, than ever I had on any former occasion. I believe it will be. long before the speeches we have heard from them will be forgotten. The question is important in the highest degree. The only way of putting an end to the hopes of the people of Ireland will be by creating despair, and if ever I hear that they are deprived of those hopes they ought to entertain, I shall despair of those blessings, of that mutual good-will and reciprocal sympathy, Without which England can never rely on the effectual and sincere co-operation and assistance of Ireland against the common-enemy.
The house then divided, when there appeared
For Mr. Fox's motion 124 Against it 336 Majority against the motion 212
Adjourned at five o'clock on Wednesday morning.
§ Since our Report of the Speeches of Lord REDESDALE and the Earl of SUFFOLK in the House of Lords on the 10th and 13th of May, upon Lord Grenville's Motion for a Committee on the ROMAN CATHOLIC PETITION (See pp. 711 and 742) was put to press we have been favoured with the following correct Copies of their Lordships Speeches.
observed that the motion before The house was in point of form, "that the house should resolve itself into a committee to consider of the petition on the table;" and the noble baron who had made the motion had intimated, that in the committee it would be open to any lord to suggest any partial measure: but it was evident that the noble lord himself conceived that nothing short of the entire object of the petition could be suggested; and the petitioners had themselves clearly stated that object to be. "an equal participation, upon equal terms with their fellow subjects, of the full benefits of the British laws and constitution. Of that constitution the maintenance of the protestant religion, as the established religion of the government, and the exclusion of the Roman catholic religion from the administration of that government, had become fundamental principles, long deemed essential to the preservation of the liberty, both religions and political, of the country: and by those laws, of the benefit of which the petitioners sought an equal participation, the strongest provisions were made for the support of the protestant religion, and the exclusion of the Roman catholic from important political power. When, therefore, the petitioners upon their lordships to give them an equal participation of the British laws and constitution, they either proposed to the house be guilty of a gross fallacy, or they called upon their lordships to alter those laws, and to change that. constitution; for, consistently with the existing laws and constitution, the equal participation sought by the petition could not be had. The equal participation claimed by the petition was clearly an equal participation in all powers, as welt as in all benefits: an equal participation in whatever might form the constitution of the country in church and state. That such was their object was manifest; not only from the language of the petition, but from the state in which the Roman catholic church was zealously maintained in Ireland, importantly different from the condition of the Roman catholic church in England, or in any other country in Europe, where the protestant was the established religion of the country. For when the legislature of Ire- 1062 land thought fit to reform what it deemed to be corruption and abuse in the christian church; to abolish the usurped authority of the court of Rome, from which it conceived the corruption and abuse had sprung; and to require the clergy of Ireland, claiming the benefits of the ecclesiastical establishment of the country, to yield obedience to the sovereign power of the state, and to abandon the powers assumed contrary to the ancient laws, and paramount that sovereignty; and when, to inforce obedience to its laws, it required all its subjects to withdraw from communion with the see, of Rome, as inconsistent with the reformation thus attempted: such of the people of Ireland as thought fit, notwithstanding, to persist in holding communion with that see, also thought fit, not only to refuse obedience to the legislature in a point for which they might allege religious scruples, but likewise to refuse, and those who now profess to hold communion with the see of Rome still refuse, to acknowledge the validity of those laws by which the powers and revenues of the church-establishment were transferred to such of the clergy as submitted to the change, and by which all ecclesiastical jurisdiction was made subject (as by the ancient law it had been subject) to the control and coercion of .the sovereign power of the state; denying therefore one essential principle of the constitution, the subjection of the ecclesiastical to the civil power. Accordingly, the Roman catholics of Ireland have ever since maintained, and still maintain, a complete hierarchy, in direct and manifest opposition, not merely to the positive law, but to this essential and fundamental principle of the constitution; representing that hierarchy as the duly lawful successors of the ancient clergy of Ireland, assuming all the powers, and claiming all the revenues, of that clergy, treating the clergy of the reformed religion, placed in the various offices of the church by the laws and in conformity to the principles of the constitution, as usurpers; and refusing obedience to all laws framed to curb the encroachments of the papacy on the sovereign power before as well as since the reformation. Denying, therefore, to the legislature of the country all power over the ranks, dignities, and authori- 1063 ties, and even the revenues of the church; and thus denying one of the most important principles of the constitution, as asserted at all times, even in the darkest ages. To yield to the clams of the petitioners, the house must not only submit to abandon this important principle, which their ancestors had at all times zealously maintained, but must also consent to break the solemn compact so recently entered into by the independent legislatures of Great Britain and Ireland; the compact by virtue of which their lordships were enabled, in that house, to consider the petition before them; they must repeal the fifth article of the union of Great Britain and Ireland, by which the protestant churches of England and Ireland were united, and made for ever the established church of England and Ireland; and by which the maintenance and preservation of that church, as the established church, of England and Ireland was solemnly stipulated as a fundamental article of the union itself. They must therefore hazard the continuance of that union, by a direct breach of what has been thus solemnly declared a fundamental article of the compact by which it was made. But they must do more. The claim by the petition, and the arguments founded upon it, extended in principle, to the whole empire; and their lordships must also repeal that article of the treaty of union with Scotland by which a similar provision was made for the maintenance and preservation of the presbyterian form of church government in Scotland. Even if the petitioners had not so broadly and openly stated their claims, it must be evident that their pretensions went to this extent and it would be absurd to suppose that the Roman catholic clergy in Ireland, claiming to be the lawful successors of the ancient clergy and considering those now in possession as usurpers, would ever be content with less than the possession of the powers, and revenues which they thus claimed as their right, and the ejection of those whom they deemed to be usurpers of that right. To suppose otherwise were to suppose that the nature of man is not what the experience of all ages has demonstrated it to be; and it was absurd to suppose that whilst the powers and revenues of the church were claimed by the Roman catholic clergy, those powers and revenues were not objects of their desires; and that whilst those desires Were nourished by hope, and the gratification of those desires was denied, they would never be content themselves, or ever cease to excite discontent in the minds of the 1064 laity. It was absurd, therefore to suppose that Ireland could be at rest until the Roman catholic clergy had attained those objects of their desires, unless all hopes of attaining those objects were utterly extinguished, and the desire to attain had fallen with the hope by which it had been nourished It was true that the Roman catholic clergy of Ireland could scarcely hopefully-to attain those objects, or, having done so, permanently to retain their acquisition, whilst Ireland remained united to Great Britain. Separation from Great Britain must therefore be in their view, at least as a probable event, so long as they should flatter themselves with the hope of accomplishing their wishes. If the Roman catholic religion had remained the established religion of Ireland; or if it could be now made the established religion of Ireland, consistently with a just observance of the solemn pledge given by the compact of union; or consistently with an observance of the faith so frequently, at various times, and in various ways, pledged to the protestants of Ireland; or consistently with the principles on which the British constitution as it now stands, connected with the title of the family on the throne, can alone be supported; perhaps (though this may well be doubted) Ireland as a Roman catholic country might remain united with Great Britain. But it is too late to consider what might have been done under such circumstances; it is too late to conjecture whether Ireland, as a country wholly Ronan catholic, could probably remain united with the protestant government of Great Britain, By solemn stipulation, which their lordships could not he persuaded to violate, the protestant must ever be the established religion of Ireland, whilst Ireland should remain a part of the united empire: and the Roman catholic could by law become the established religion, only by the most daring breach of faith, and by a shameful abandonment of the principles on which the British constitution stands. The Roman catholic can therefore never be made the established religion of Ireland by a law of the united empire, sanctioned by a prince of the family now on the throne. It can therefore only become the established religion of Ireland by a separation of Ireland from Great Britain, and the extirpation or expulsion of the protestants of Ireland. Considering, therefore, the of the petitioners as utterly inconsistent with the established laws and constitution of the empire; as requiring a complete change, or rather subversion of that constitution in a 1065 fundamental part; convinced that between the two religions there could not, in the nature of things, exist equality; that one must have. ascendency; and that the ascendency of the Roman catholic (an intolerant religion) must finally produce the destruction or expulsion of the protestants, and the separation of Ireland from Great Britain, unless that dreadful conclusion should be prevented by the strength of the protestants of Ireland, and the superior force of Great Britain, in the issue of a bloody and horrible civil war; he must deprecate the yielding any degree of attention to the proposition made to the house.—The arguments in favour of that proposition attempted to be drawn from the establishment of the presbyterian religion in Scotland, by the stipulation for that purpose in the treaty of union with that country, and the comparison attempted to be made between the situation in England of the presbyterians of Scotland, and the situation in the united empire, and in Ireland particularly, of the Roman catholics of Ireland, if the objects of the petition were obtained, appeared to him utterly unfounded. The presbyterian church of Scotland was the established church of the country; it possessed all it could possess in Scotland; it had nothing to claim there; in England it had nothing to hope. By the treaty of union between England and Scotland, its possessing an establishment was solemnly stipulated for, and secured. It had nothing to fear but from a breach of that stipulation; and its best security for a performance of that stipulation was its forbearance to interfere with the establishment in England. It therefore remained in quiet obedience to the laws of the united kingdom, and in perfect harmony with the episcopal church established in England, with which it had no ground of contest, and which a regard for its own preservation taught it rather to protect and defend.—It was true, that it the heat of argument, during the agitation of the union with Scotland, apprehensions were suggested of danger to the episcopal church of England by the introduction of members of the presbyterian church of Scotland into the British parliament: and it was true that those apprehensions had proved ill-founded. They were ill-founded, because it must be manifestly the interest of the presbyterian church of Scotland to attempt nothing which could endanger the stipulation ill favour of that church, which must depend, whilst the members of the episcopal church remain the majority, on the good faith to be ob- 1066 served by the members of both churches in maintaining the articles in favour of each. But the terms of the treaty of union, itself had provided amply against the danger thus suggested: for it must be recollected that for all offices in England, and consequently for all the most important offices of the state, the Scotch must qualify themselves according to the law of England, and must therefore conform to the church established there, to obtain any considerable influence in the executive government of the country; and the extent and power of Scotland, and the number of its inhabitants considered as a part of the whole empire, bore no comparison with the extent, the power, or the population of England, or with the extent, power, or population of Ireland, of which the influence must be strongly felt by the protestant government, if not only the parliament, but all officers of the state (the access to which was refused to the presbyterians of Scotland at the time of the union with that country), should be thrown open to the Roman catholics of all parts of the empire.—That any thing like peace or harmony could subsist in Ireland between the Roman catholics and protestants of that country, if they were placed on an equal footing in political power, whilst the hierarchy of the Roman catholic church there should remain as it stood, must be utterly hopeless. The Roman catholic clergy of Ireland he Viewed in a light very distinct from the laity. The latter he considered as individuals, dissenting in religious faith from the established church, and, except as connected with their clergy, merely as individuals so dissenting. But the clergy were a great and compact body, a species of corporation, with all the forms and gradations of a distinct and firm government; connected by no tie with the government of the country, and utterly incapable of being so connected; standing in open defiance of the law; exercising an authority which the law expressly forbade, and representing those whom the law had placed in possession of the powers, the dignities, and the emoluments of the national church, as usurpers of those powers, those dignities, and those emoluments.—Noble lords affected to doubt the fact: he would venture to reassert it, and to appeal to the most reverend prelate on the bench above him (the primate of Ireland), to whom, amongst themselves, and frequently elsewhere, the Roman catholic clergy would give no other appellation than that of Dr. Stewart. They represented themselves as the only lawful 1067 successors of the ancient clergy of Ireland and required their flocks to consider them as the lawful owners of the ecclesiastical revenues; teaching them, even in their catechisms, that by the commandments of their church, which they boldly represent as equal the commandments of God, the people were bound to pay their tithes to their law pastors, which pastors they represented themselves to be. Accordingly, their parochial clergy were formally instituted rectors of vicars of the several parishes, under the authority of their respective diocesans, according to the titles of rector or vicar, as they stood before the reformation. They had preserved the deans and chapters, and the dioceses and the provinces of the several bishops and archbishops, as they existed before That event, with the difference only of some unions since made by the authority of the pope. Every archbishop and bishop, every inferior dignitary, and every parish priest of the established church, met therefore in his place a rival clergyman, ready and anxious to seize, his benefice, his powers, his dignities, his revenues, whenever the opportunity should offer. The powers of the Roman catholic clergy over their flocks were fully equal to their pretensions; and they exercised those powers without that control of the law of the land to which they were subject before the reformation. Their authority was enforced by the most dreadful of all means—by the power of excommunication, a power very different from that possessed by the established church. Their sentence of excommunication had all the consequences which made it most dreadful in the darkest ages. The wretched victim if not relieved by the charity of protestants. No Roman catholic dared to have any communication with him. A recent instance had been stated to him, on authority which he could not doubt, in which the law of the land, and the character of the established church, had been grossly insulted. Two Roman catholic couples had been married by the, protestant clergyman of their parish, after the usual publication of banns, a duty which by law the clergyman was bound to perform. The Roman catholic parish-priest thought fit to denounce these unfortunate people to his bishop, before whose vicar-general they were summoned to appear to answer for their crime. The protestant clergyman, alarmed at this outrage, and consulting the peace of his parish, the danger of the individuals immediately concerned, and 1068 perhaps his own personal safety, rather than his duty to the laws of his country, advised the parties to make every submission, and endeavour to prevent any further, proceedings. They accordingly waited on the vicar-general, expressed their contrition for their offence, and their readiness to make any submission in their power. The vicar-general was inexorable, and the offenders were excommunicated for the crime imputed to them, of having been married according to the law of the land. The consequence of the sentence was, that all who should have any communication with these unfortunate victims of a power thus assumed in defiance of the law, were liable to the same censure and the situations in which the men happened to be, making it difficult for their neighbours to avoid all intercourse with them, near two hundred men and women were summoned before the vicar-general, at the distance of twenty miles from their habitations, to answer for this offence. They appeared before him, and by their submission avoided the dreadful sentence of excommunication, but were condemned, as a penance, to a pilgrimage, proceeding from one holy well, or stone, to another, a circuit of thirty miles and as so great an assemblage of people, passing in a body through the country, and performing ceremonies of devotion at the appointed places of their pilgrimage, must excite attention, they were ordered to declare to all who should meet them, that they were sentenced to this penance for having dared to hold communication with persons excommunicated for having been married by a protestant clergyman. The fear Which such proceedings must inspire, and the possibility of obtaining any redress, however oppressive and tyrannical those proceedings may be, was the true source of the extravagant power Which their clergy maintained over the Roman Catholics of Ireland; a power much greater than was possessed by the clergy in any state in Europe, where the Roman catholic was the established religion of the country; a power restrained by no law, subject to no control, and utterly inconsistent with the peace, order, and good government of any country; a power which our ancestors, in times of the greatest bigotry, had dared to restrain by various legislative provision, and history had, applauded their spirit and firmness, and the enlightened minds which had directed their measures. But modern liberality (with an inconsistency which has no example, but in the extravagance of modern liberality) has at the same 1069 time joined in that applause, and yet stigmatised as bigotry every attempt to restrain the monstrous proceedings of the Roman catholic clergy of Ireland—an unauthorised hierarchy, lifting themselves up in defiance of the law, and of all constitutional authority. Before the reformation, whilst the clergy established by law were yet considered by the same law as under the spiritual control of the pope, the oppressions of their ecclesiastical courts were in some degree curbed and restrained by law. But now, when the law has rendered the established clergy independent of the see of Rome, and restored to the crown the sovereign authority over the clergy as Well as, the laity, the supreme power over all persons and in all causes, ecclesiastical as well as civil, the only remedy which the Roman Catholics of Ireland, who have unfortunately submitted themselves to the papal power in derogation of the lawful sovereignty of the crown, can have against oppressions which their Roman catholic ancestors successfully resisted by the law of the land, is an appeal to Rome; and what sort of redress could be obtained by such an appeal, he would leave it to the house to judge. Thus reigning uncontroled, their ecclesiastical courts govern the whole people. They dissolve marriages for causes not allowed by law; precontract, consanguinity, or affinity, in degrees beyond those prescribed by the legislature; and they license marriages within those degrees. The evidence of marriage is wholly in their power; and the legitimacy of children, and the succession to property, is under their control.—This extraordinary situation of the Roman catholic clergy of Ireland, the noble lord observed, has proceeded from the same cause which has produced many other evils in that unfortunate country. At the time of the reformation, and long after, a great part of Ireland was not reduced, and perhaps at this moment a great part of Ireland can scarcely be said to be reduced, to due obedience to law: Until some years after the accession of James I. a very large portion of the country did not in any degree acknowledge the king's authority, and in most parts the submission to law was very imperfect. In the reigns of Henry VIII and of his son Edward and daughter Elizabeth, when the reformation was established in England, the authority of the legislature extended with effect over a very small district of Ireland; and therefore although the legislatures of Ireland passed laws for effecting the reform of the papal corruptions and abuses in Ireland, as had 1070 been made in England; and for removing such of the clergy as should refuse to submit to the reform, the laws were very imperfectly obeyed; and the more powerful government finally established by James, though its authority was generally acknowledge, in a greater or less degree, over the whole island, was yet unable, in many parts effectually to enforce obedience to any law. When the government of Charles I. was disturbed in England and Scotland, his authority in Ireland became so reduced that at length the Roman catholic clergy assumed absolute control over a large portion of the country, quieted the protestant clergy seized on the ecclesiastical revennes, and established their hierarchy in the full possession of the powers and emoluments of the ancient church. They were reduced to submission by Cromwell, and their new assumption of authority and revenue was in a considerable degree repressed; but the ejected clergy were not restored. That clergy regained its authority, and a considerable portion of revenue, at the restoration of Charles II. but his government never pursued any effectual measures for their support and they were again ejected by the popish parliament of James II. which repealed the act of settlement, attainted the principal protestant proprietors, and gave to posterity an example of the treatment Which the protestants of Ireland may expect from catholic ascendancy. Until, therefore, the victories of king William had decided the fate Ireland by completing the revolution and fully establishing the protestant religion, the protestant clergy had held only a divided and disturbed possession, openly insulted and violated by the Roman catholic clergy. —These circumstances had produced the marked difference between the Roman catholics of England and those of Ireland. Having occasionally resided in a part of England where there happened to be a larger proportion of Roman catholic inhabitants than in most parts of the country, and having now resided for some time in Ireland, the difference forcibly struck his mind. In the parts of England to which he alluded if Roman catholic farmer or labourer Was to be distinguished by his general conduct and character from protestants of the same rank in life, it was because he was more temperate, more orderly, more generally submissive to the law. He would leave it to such noble lords as had had the opportunity of knowing the fact to say, whether the case in Ireland was not directly the reverse. What could be the cause 1071 of this difference? He would give the answer of an intelligent English catholic.—The Roman catholic clergy in England studiously endeavour to make the people under their care temperate, orderly, and submissive to law; well knowing that in England they could hope for indulgence from good conduct alone. But in Ireland the Roman catholic clergy unfortunately conceived that their power, their emoluments, and still more the final accomplishment of their hopes, depended on their keeping alive a spirit of disobedience to law. Instead of restraining, therefore, they indulge the passion of their people they neglect morals, and make religion principally depend on mere observances. He was so strongly impressed with truth of these observations, that he was convinced that as long as the Roman catholic hierarchy should remain as if then stood, it was in vain to look for peace and tranquillity in Ireland: that the abolition of that hierarchy was essential to the interests of the country, essential to the true interests of the Roman catholics of Ireland; and he had reason to think that some of the better informed amongst the Roman catholic laity, and especially in some parts of the country, were nearly of the same opinion, He did not conceive that the existence of such a hierarchy could be deemed essential to the profession of the Roman catholic religion: it did not exist in England; it did not exist in any other part of Europe; where the protestant was the established religion of the country; yet the Roman catholics of England, and of the other countries to which he had alluded, were equally in communion with the church of Rome, In Canada, where the Roman catholic religion had been made by stipulation of the surrender of the country, in a considerable degree an established religion, and where the clergy were in the undisturbed possession of the ancient ecclesiastical revenues, the province had remained, for a considerable time, without a Roman catholic bishop; and he and the authority of a very learned and very respectable person, who had resided in the country in a considerable official station, and had had opportunities of information, for saying, that the laity of Canada in general, nay, that many of their most respectable parochial clergy, were by no means desirous of having a bishop resident amongst them, or pleased with the authority which the bishop whom it was thought fit to give them, assumed, and more especially as that authority was necessary without controul, and almost 1072 without check of any kind. They conceived they could have had the full enjoyment of their religion without the interference of such an authority and with less danger of disagreement with their protestant fellow-subject. The result, he was authorised to say, justified those who had formed this opinion.—He had reason to think that many of the parish priests in Ireland were disposed to live in harmony with their protestant fellow-subjects, if permitted so to do by those who exercised authority over them, but they were not permitted to indulge their inclination to peace. The late Dr. Hussey, in particular, had, in many instances, by the interposition of his authority, destroyed that harmony which had long subsisted between the Roman catholic parochial clergy, and the protestant clergy and laity of the district over which he assumed episcopal jurisdiction. One instance he could assert on the authority of persons of high consideration in the house. As domestic servants in that part of country were very generally, if not universally. Roman catholics, even the protestant clergy were compelled to have such servants. In discharging the duty of family prayer, they they had generally thought it right to require the attendance of their Roman catholic servants: but to avoid all ground of offence, a form of prayer had been very generally used for the purpose which was well known to the Roman catholic clergy, and acknowledged by them to contain nothing to which they could object. The parochial clergy and Roman catholic servants had therefore chearfully submitted to a practice, praise worthy in itself, and which the character of the protestant clergy seemed to compel them to adopt. Dr. Hussey forbade attendance at this family duty and persisted, in spite of the remonstrances of many of his parish priests, of the entreaties of the protestant clergy, and of the earnest solicitations of the servants on their parts. His objection was not to the prayer, but to any prayer used by an heretic. With such a temper among the superior Roman catholic clergy, was it possible that there should be harmony between the Roman catholics and protestants of Ireland? And yet the person who thus set a whole country in a flame by forbidding servants to hear a prayer, to the contents of which he could not object, read by their master, is said to have been deeply engaged in forming the extraordinary treaty which the court of Rome, in its state of degradation and subjection, has been com- 1073 pelled to conclude with the French government to preserve a remnant of papal power in France, in abject subserviency to that government. —The Roman catholic laity he considered in a very different light from their clergy; and different parts of that laity he considered as standing in very different points of view, materially affecting the question before the house. The laity of the higher ranks in life were of two descriptions. Men of ancient estates, and of acknowledged condition and consequence in the country; and men of recently acquired property, generally inferior in education and manners, as well as in birth, to the former. The first generally felt themselves deeply interested in the permanent peace of the country, and their conduct was generally influenced by a just consideration of their situation. Amongst these, the most distinguished, perhaps, was one whose name was suscribed to the petition on the table (the earl of Fingal) a nobleman of ancient family, of approved loyalty, and of great moderation when left to the operations of his Own mind. But of the men of newly acquired property, not a few had unfortunately adopted very different sentiments from those of that nobleman. They had imagined (as men of newly acquired property were too apt of imagine) that their rank and consequence in the country were not equal to their pretensions; and they were therefore discontented. Unfortunately, too, men of this description had of late gained the lead amongst the Irish Roman catholics, and the influence of the men of ancient rank and ancient possessions had been nearly destroyed. They were put forward to the public view when it answered a purpose to do so; but they had little direction or control of the measures which they were called upon to countenance and support. Many of those who had thus superseded the influence of the ancient nobility and gentry of the country, were supposed to have imbibed principles not very friendly to any church government; but they might still wish to use the power which their clergy assumed for the purposes which they had in view. The laity of the inferior orders were much more numerous than those of the two former descriptions, in proportion to the general Roman catholic population. They had nothing to gain in the avowed objects of the petition. They suffered nothings, individually, from the restrictions of which the others complained; and they were therefore wholly indifferent (when left to the in- 1074 fluence of their own feelings and judgment) to the removal of continuance of those restrictions, and their indifference was so well known, that it was absurd to talk of the removal of those restriction as tending, in any degree, to. conciliate them. They were taught to be discontented on other grounds; and so far were they from being anxious to restore to the Roman catholic hierarchy the revenues of the church, that the abolition of tithes was a principal object of their wishes. This was so strongly felt by the Roman catholic clergy, that any proposition for a commutation of tithes (in, which, as the law stands, they have apparently no interest) has constantly been treated by them with the strongest terms of reprobation; evincing by their eagerness to condemn any such measure, that they still consider the tithes as their property, and any proposal for a commutation as affecting their rights. The forfeited estates, including the property of all the, English settlers in the remotest times, including the property of many Roman catholics, were made a great source of discontent, with those of the lower orders, were, or imagined themselves to be, of the ancient septs or tribes, and considered themselves as labouring for others in those fields which had belonged to their ancestors, and to which they conceived they had still an hereditary, indefeasible right. This source of discontent, injurious even to many Roman catholic families of English blood, was industriously kept alive in the memories of the lower orders of Irish descent, and constantly urged by their priests, of whom the greater part were of ancient Irish families or names; and the claim to the forfeited lands artfully placed by the side of the claim to the ecclesiastical revenues both represented as in the hands of foreign invaders, usurpers of the ancient rights of the Roman catholic clergy and laity. This ground of discontent would long ago have been forgotten, and lost in the minds of the lower orders, if it had not been industriously kept alive by the arts and interests of the clergy.—If the formidable hierarchy thus established in Ireland could be abolished, if all hopes of possessing the revenues, the rank, and the powers of the established church, could be extinguished in the minds of the Roman catholic priests, perhaps, concessions might be made to the Roman catholic laity which some degree of safety, at least comparatively with safety. But whilst that hierarchy remained, nothing could be safely yielded. It might 1075 be said, that this was an argument for going into the committee, where measures Might be suggested to effect this purpose, if it ought to be effected. But the change must be effected, not by any legislative provision, but by the Roman catholics themselves: they must place themselves in a situation which may render concessions safe. It must be their own act. Whatever may be the religious establishment of a country, the political power of that country must be in union with that establishment, or it cannot be long preserved: and those who are adverse to the establishment, cannot, consistently With its security, be admitted to full participation of political power with those who are friendly to it. They have, therefore, no right to complain that they are not admitted to full participation of such political power. In this country, where the establishment of the protestant religion, and the preservation of it by the protestant succession to the crown, are become essential and fundamental articles of the constitution; where both are also essential and fundamental articles of the treaties of union between the three countries now forming one empire; those who are adverse to both have no more right to complain of exclusion from political power, than those who are attached, if any such now remain, to the exiled family, maintaining the hereditary, indefeasible right to the throne, and therefore refusing allegiance to the reigning family, and giving their allegiance to another. The ground on which persons without property are excluded from an equal share of political power with persons of property, (an exclusion which the experience of all countries, in all ages, has found to be necessary for the preservation of any government) applies directly to the subject. As persons without property must ever be the greater number in any state, if they had an equal share of political power with persons of property, it would be to expect from them a forbearance which the nature of man forbids us to expect, if it were hoped that, having the physical power in their hands by their numbers, and an equality of political power, and having therefore superior power as a body, they would not endeavour to possess the property in .the hands of those who in every other respect must, as a body, be their inferiors. So if equal political power were conceded to the Roman catholics of Ireland, it would be to expect from them a forbearance, utterly inconsistent with the nature of man, to suppose that they would quietly suffer the church establish- 1076 ment to remain exclusively with others. Upon this principle the preservation of the protestant religion, by the exclusion from political power of those who were hostile to it, had been long deemed essential to the preservation of our constitution both in church and state; and those who effected the revolution in 1688, and who preserved the liberties then asserted by fixing the succession to the crown exclusively in protestants, had acted on this principle. They had excluded from the throne, not only James the Second, and his descendants, but also all the princes of the royal family to whom the right to the succession would otherwise have belonged in preference to the House of Hanover; imputing to them no objection, as the ground of their exclusion, but that they were Roman catholics. Our ancestors then conceived that difference in religious opinion was a just ground of exclusion from political power; and they judged, from recent experience, that the liberties of the country, civil as well as religious, could not effectually be preserved without such exclusion. —And. here he could not but recur to a marked difference between the Roman catholics of England and the Roman catholics of Ireland, as it materially affected the security of the protestant succession to the crown. The Roman catholics of England swore to the maintenance of that succession. The Roman catholics of Ireland had refused to give the same test of their allegiance, and now desired to be relieved from any test. The oath taken by the English Roman catholics to the protestant succession differing, most importantly in this point, from the oath taken in Ireland, and from the oath first taken by the English Roman catholics, had been the subject of much discussion in 1790 and 1791; and it had fallen to him to bear no small part in that discussion. The Roman catholics of Ireland had many years before, proposed to testify their loyalty by an oath of allegiance, and the laity were generally disposed to manifest their allegiance, not merely to the protestant prince on the throne, but to the law of the land, confining the succession to protestants. But their superior clergy prevented their giving this testimony of their submission to the law, exclaiming, "Are we to be called upon to exclude from succession to the crown, a prince to whom it would hereditarily belong, only because he has embraced the Roman catholic religion: only because he has rendered himself more worthy of that succession?" And this 1077 exclamation, urged with violence, and supported by prejudices nearly allied to their own, prevailed.—The oath proposed was therefore altered, and the Roman catholics of Ireland swore to maintain the succession in the king and his family. The Roman catholics of England following this example, first took a similar oath; but wishing to obtain further concessions, and conscious of the objections which might be made to this oath, they proposed another, in more extensive terms in many respects, and particularly swearing to maintain the succession as limited by law, to the princess Sophia, and the heirs of her body, being protestants. A declaration, containing the effect of the oath proposed, was signed by almost all the principal English Roman catholics, clergy as well as laity; but the court of Rome objected to it, and the apostolical vicars were ordered, not only to withdraw their countenance, but to pronounce the strongest ecclesiastical censures against it. These censures were accordingly promulged in form; and although conceived in very general terms, as probably it was not thought, prudent to use, in England, the very strong language which had been used in Ireland, yet it was manifest that the engagement to maintain the protestant succession formed a principal objection to the oath. For the apostolical vicars proposed to the English catholics, either that the oath before taken by them should not be changed; or that they should substitute, either the oath taken by the Irish catholics, or a new form of oath, framed under the direction of the apostolical vicars, and which they offered to the consideration of their people. On none of these forms the maintenance of the protestant succession formed a part. In all, the obligation of allegiance was to the king and his family. The greater part of the English Roman catholics were, however, steady to their purpose of giving the full test of their submission to the law by which the crown had been placed on the head of the prince on the throne; Considering it as folly, or mockery, or something worse, to swear obedience to the prince, and to refuse obedience to the law by which he became prince. At length the apostolical vicars, fearing, as they acknowledged, a schism which might have been fatal to the general interests of the see of Rome in England, submitted to so much of the proposed oath, obtaining a change in other matters; and they have themseves taken that oath which 1078 the Irish hierarchy thought it monstrous to propose. Nothing could more strongly mark the different tempers and characters of the English and Irish catholic; a difference; principally springing from the unbounded authority exercised over the latter by that hierarchy to Which hierarchy to which he principally attributed the distracted state of the Country. But this was not important only as it marked the different tempers and character of the catholics in the two countries; for this extraordinary consequence might follow. If it should ever be the misfortune of the empire that the prince to whom the succession would otherwise belong should exclude himself from a lawful title to that succession by embracing the Roman catholic religion, the protestants of the whole empire, and the Roman catholics of England would be bound by their oaths to. oppose his succession, and the Roman catholics of Ireland would be bound by their oaths to maintain it. A dreadful state of things, which We must ardently pray may never happen, but which we should, at the same time anxiously endeavour to prevent.—It must be manifest from this circumstance, if no other appeared of similar tendency, that the Roman catholic hierarchy in Ireland still cherish the hope that by some means the Roman, catholic religion may again become the established religion of Ireland; a hope which the English catholics have long abandoned with respect to England, and then first became quiet, orderly, and loyal subjects of the protestant government. To prevent the accomplishment of the hope thus sanguinely entertained in Ireland, the protestant ascendancy must be anxiously preserved. There can be no equality between the two religions; one must hate the ascendancy, and there could be no doubt to which, Consistently with the law and constitution of the empire, and the peace and happiness of Ireland, the ascendancy in Ireland ought to be given. The far greater proportion of the empire had embraced the protestant persuasion; the government was essentially protestant; the protestant church was tolerant in its principles, bearing with every denomination of Christians: the Roman catholic church was intolerant; and the Irish catholic was taught to concede the name of christian to none but those in obedience to the see of Rome. It had been the folly of the time to depress the tolerant, to raise the intolerant religion, and to call the folly toleration. It had been the folly of the time to encourage the hopes of the Roman catho- 1079 lic hierarchy in Ireland, and to give them almost a foretaste of the dignities and revenues which they were anxious to seize, and Ireland had much to attribute to those who had been guilty of this folly. It was absurd to expect that there could be peace hi Ireland whilst hope should remain with the, Roman Catholics of subverting the protestant and establishing the Roman catholic religion; and particularly whilst any hope should remain with the Roman catholic priests of possessing the dignities and revenues of the protestant clergy. The petition, indeed, contained a declaration, "that the petitioners do not seek, or wish, in the remotest degree to injure or encroach upon the rights, privileges, immunities, possessions, or revenues appertaining to the bishops and clergy of the protestant religion as established by law, or the churches committed to their charge, or any of them." Giving credit for sincerity in this declaration to those who have signed the petition, it had been signed by few, even of the laity, and by none of the clergy; and the insertion of this declaration, utterly discordant not only with their pretensions, but with their practice, seemed a more probable cause for the clergy (without exception) declining to sign the petition, than that which had been suggested by a noble lord, which was not founded in truth, but if true, ought of itself to raise no small alarm, as marking the strong distinction which the Roman catholic clergy of Ireland think fit, on all occasions to draw between the rights of clergymen, though unconnected with their clerical character, and the rights of laymen. The disclaimer on the part of the laity might have credit to a certain extent; but it could not be believed that the Roman catholic clergy neither sought nor wished for the right immunities, possessions, or revenues of the established church. To bring them to the state of mind which would lead them to forbear seeking to obtain those rights, immunities, possessions, and revenues, whatever their wishes might be, they must feel that any attempt to obtain such advantages would be utterly vain, and would only bring destruction on those who should engage in it. To produce that feeling in the minds of the Roman catholic clergy, the protestant church must be much more firmly established than it now is in Ireland—it must be put beyond the chance of danger. Unfortunately, little pains had been taken to spread the reformation in that county. In many parts, the Roman catho- 1080 lic priests had retained the possession of the parochial churches as long as the buildings remained in a state to be used as places of worship, and quitted them only when in utter ruin. Many churches have since been demolished in times of disturbance, or had fallen into decay from neglect. Not a few had been destroyed by violence, or had suffered considerably for want of repair, even before the reformation. When churches were in better condition, and the service of the reformed church had been constantly performed, it had been read only the English tongue, and was therefore unintelligible to the greater part of the inhabitants. In Wales the reformation had been completely established, though the inhabitants were generally ignorant of the English tongue; and this had been often attributed, and perhaps justly, to the obligation on the clergy to read the liturgy in the Welch tongue, and to the dispersion amongst the people, and the interior clergy, of a Welch translation of the scriptures. But in Ireland, although propositions had been made for adopting the same policy, and individuals had exerted themselves to effect this purpose, a contrary policy had prevailed, and it was generally understood that the superior influence of the Roman catholic clergy, in many parts of Ireland, was considerably promoted by their acquaintance with -that language in which alone communication could be had With many of the people. The English language having become, more generally diffused, much perhaps might be done by a clergy unacquainted with the Irish language. The state of the church Ireland was truly deplorable. There were about 2,400 parishes, which had been thrown, by unions (many of them very improper, and some very recently made) into about 1,100 benefices some of, which extended over vast tracts of country. Many of the parishes had no church; and this was the case of a parish in Dublin, said to contain 20,000 inhabitants. Many of the benefices had no glebe, the ancient glebe having been Confounded with, and lost in the lands of-lay-proprietors, so that it had become impossible to recover it for the use of the incumbent. Many more of the benefices had no glebe house, so that the clergymen had no means of residence within his parish at least, without building a glebe house, unfortunately too, benefices in this deplorable state had been deemed the most desirable—a parish without a glebe-house, without a church, and (an almost necessary 1081 consequence) without a protestant inhabitant. This called loudly for remedy, and there was ground to hope means might be found by degrees to provide the remedy. But above all, it was necessary to make it safe for a protestant to reside in every part of Ireland. There were many districts in which a protestant, unless man of fortune, or under peculiar circumstances of protection, could not venture to fix his residence. In consequence, it had been observed, and particularly by a distinguished Roman catholic writer, that in many parts of Ireland a protestant day-labourer was not to be found. There were handicraftsmen in towns, were they might be in some degree protected, and might protect each other; but in many parts of the country not a protestant of the lower order could be found. This principally arose from the influence of the Roman catholic clergy, and the hatred which they excited in the minds of their people against the protestants, as Englishmen and heretics, for both of which description they used, in the Irish language, the same word. In consequence, a strong spirit of persecution prevailed; and, strange as it might seem to many of their lordships, he could venture to aver, that the protestant was in truth the persecuted religion in Ireland. And to such a degree was this intolerance carried, that, except in the north, few domestic servants of the protestant persuasion could be found. Even in protestant families, where there was a desire to have protestant servants, it had been found almost impossible to procure them, or to retain them if procured, unless all or nearly all the servants of the family were protestants. Where the Roman catholic servants had once gained the superiority, or where the upper servants were of that religion, the protestants were soon compelled to quit their service, unless protected by extraordinary exertions of the family, or under some very peculiar circumstances. The poorer protestants had therefore great difficulties in putting out their children. As officially a trustee of several charities in Dublin, as well as from the information of others, he had 1082 means of knowing the truth of this assertion; and he could particularly state that the applications for the benefit of charities in Dublin, established, for pitting poor Children apprentices, were astonishingly numerous; and the reason assigned by those who applied was, that they could not get employment for their children as domestic servants, or labourers, and were compelled to bring them, up to handicraft trades.—Viewing he state of Ireland as he did, he could not repeat his conviction, that it was necessary, though the necessity was much to be deplored, to keep with anxious care, the remaining restrictions on the Roman catholics of that country. In his opinion not only the security of the church establishment, but the properties and even the lives of the protestants, and the connexion of Ireland with Great Britain, depended on the preservation of those restrictions, until a great and important Change should be made, in the temper and conduct of the Roman catholics, and their priesthood should be put on a very different footing. To conciliation he had ever been, and ever should be, a warm friend, but the terms of conciliation must be very different from those proposed by the petition. He could not be deluded by pretence of conciliation to increase the power and means of offence of that hierarchy which tyrannised over those of their own persuasion, which set all law at defiance, and threatened at every moment the extirpation of the, protestants of Ireland. The abolition of that hierarchy was in his opinion the first step to that conciliation which he believed could alone produce peace to Ireland: and the Roman catholic laity, desiring a full participation of the benefits of the British law and constitution, one of which, and not the least important is freedom from ecclesiastical tyranny, must first throw off the yoke of their own priesthood; which, whilst it exists in all its force, renders the participation which they require dangerous to themselves, and utterly incompatible with the peace of the country, the safety of the protestants, and the connexion of Ireland with Great Britain.
The Earl of Suffolk
rose and spoke as follows: I rise, my lords, to state the sentiments which occur to me, on the best consideration I have been able to give this important question; and in support of the vote Which I this night mean to give. My lords, if I rightly understand the petition on your table, it goes to the claim of measures which become necessary to the relief of a great body of his majesty's catholic subjects in Ireland, from certain restrictions and disabilities under which they still labour on account of their religion. And, thy lords, I consider that claim not as of a boon, but as of a right which every British, subject in this united kingdom should enjoy, as his birth, right, who is not dis-entitled thereto by any thing exceptionable in his principles, his character or his loyalty! If considered it as a boon I should still say to your lordships 1083 —grant it to them—liberally and generously now, rather than at a future period, when the justice of the claim and the policy of acceding to it, will force itself upon your lordships' wisdom; and therefore, let it rather be granted now, and with the appearance of liberal concession, than at another period, when it will have that of being extorted from you. Much, my lords, has been said with respect to the, expediency or inexpediency of the time for conceding those claims. In my opinion, my lords, this is the best possible time. We are, this moment, and for some time past, have been menaced on all sides by a vigilant, daring, implacable, and adventurous enemy. His fleets, we know, are this moment at sea, with the design of some desperate and hostile attack against the British dominions—and we know not the moment when, or the place where, he may effect a landing on some of our coasts; or, whether in Ireland or the West-Indies. At such a moment, my lords, four millions of his majesty's catholic subjects are suppliants at your bar, for a full participation in those constitutional rights, in which it is our glory and their anxious desire to participate, and which they will then be thus forcibly attached to defend and join in the common cause for our common safety. Is it, or is it not, then, wise to secure their attachments, to unite their hearts and hands with our own against the common foe, and to maintain inviolable our common country? It has been said, by many noble lords who have spoken on the other side of this question, that enough has been, already granted to the catholics, that you cannot grant more with safety to the constitution; and that you ought to make your stand here. I do not agree with those noble lords; for, in my mind, if you do not grant to the full extent, you do nothing, to secure the affections, and the cordial attachment of the catholics. The whole course of your measures toward the catholics, for a series of years, has been only a prelude to their final and complete emancipation. If it is not to be granted now, you disappoint the anxiety and the hopes of the catholic mind. You have taught them to expect it by the whole course of your policy, and by your successive relaxations of the penal Code, in their favour. They have looked, up with earnest expectation to the envent—they have polished their education, they have enlarged their understandings and if it is now withheld, he knows little of the human mind that cannot anticipate the 1084 most dePrecable consequences from the refusal.—My lords, I now proceed to answer some arguments which fell from the noble secretary of state in the course of last night's discussion. My noble friend (lord Grenville) who introduced this subject, very properly, in my mind, deprecated every species of warmth and intemperance, on discussing this question, and a speech more moderate, more cool and dispassionate than his own, I never heard within these walls. But the noble secretary of state commenced his speech with a degree of heat and vehemence, which from him I should not have expected, and which was but ill calculated to procure attention, or give weight to his reasoning. But I appeal to the house, if, in the course of his speech, he stated any one argument which the noble baron did not anticipate and refute. A speech so fraught with justice, with truth, with sound argument, as that of the noble baron, must, I think, have carried conviction to the minds of your lordships, and would, I should hope, induce you to accede to his proposition, 'magna est veritas et prevalebit.' The noble secretary of state accused the noble baron with using threats to intimidate this house into compliance with the measure; but the noble baron so immediately contradicted the assertion, as to make it unnecessary for me to say anything on that head.—My lords, the noble secretary has said, that there was no pledge in terms held out to the Roman Catholics, at the time of the union, that this measure should pass. My lords, I beg to know, then, when were those terms held out? for certainly there was a strong expectation universally entertained upon the subject, which must have had strong grounds somewhere; and if it was not for the implicit acquiescence of the Irish catholics, upon the ground of such an understanding, you could not have carried the union. And, I ask, if this was not the measure held out to secure the acquiescence of the catholics to that union? What other boon has been granted to the people of Ireland since the union? None! that I know of, but additional taxes, and sending abroad a great part of the army that was for their defence. A noble lord, whom I do nit now see in his place, has said the measure could never be granted consistently with the safety of the constitution; and other noble lords thought that some future period would be more applicable. My lords, I think the properest time is now, and that there should be no longer delay, because, if you refuse 1085 the measure now, what is to be said of the future strength of your navies and armies—more than a third of which are manned by Irishmen—much the greater part of whom are catholics: upon this ground then, I am extremely sorry to hear such arguments offered by his majesty's minister, or those who support him, and that this measure is never to be granted: and the point on which I felt most sorrow at his declaration, was, where he said he had no confidence in the principles or professions of the Irish catholics; for it must go to depress all ranks and classes of that people in the sister country, by holding them in so much lower estimation than any other class of their fellow subjects, and, than, I am sure, any other member of this house entertains. I would ask the noble lord, when he talked of the security of our glorious constitution, and glorious it certain is: Was it to protestants eve are indebted for that invaluable jewel? I answer, no! for you obtained that constitution, magna charta, and all those inestimable rights that form the chief bulwarks of British liberty—at a time when the catholic religion was the faith of this country. What danger, therefore, can be apprehended from catholics or their religious principles to that constitution which owes its origin to themselves? With respect to what has fallen from the royal duke, I reverence his respect to that religion, and those principles which introduced his illustrious family to the throne of these realms; and under whose auspices this country has continued to enjoy so many signal advantages. But I always conceived that the Roman catholic prince, to whom his family succeeded, was driven from the throne, not for his religion, but his arbitrary principles, and the despotism he attempted to introduce. But, if a Roman catholic king, upon the throne of these realms, with all the power and influence he possessed, was unable to change the religion, or subvert the constitution of this country, and was hurled from the throne for the attempt; how is it possible that, under a protestant prince of the House of Brunswick, and a protestant legislature, such events have the most distant probability of risk, from any indulgence that now remains to be extended to his majesty's Catholic subjects in Ireland? My lords, it has been said the Roman catholics of Ireland admit their allegiance to a foreign jurisdiction. I deny the fact; and I appeal to the petition on your table, which disclaims and abjures any such jurisdiction in temporal 1086 concerns, as great an extent as can be required. And what danger can arise to the country, from the circumstance of the catholic bishops being named by the pope, I am at a loss to conceive. It has been said they want to secure and monopolize for themselves all the great offices of power and of the state, and not only command your armies and fleets, but to be lord chancellors, judges, and privy counsellors. Why my lords, I appeal to the good sense of this house, whether it is probable that a protestant king, at the head of a protestant state, would chuse, as the keeper of his conscience, a Roman catholic chancellor; of that he would exclude protestant judges from the bench, for the sake of preferring Roman catholics? As well might it be said, that he would deprive of their revenues protestant bishops, in order to confer them on those of the catholic religion; and I am confident, that reverend bench opposite me have no such apprehensions, even if this measure were now passed. With respect to commands in the army, supposing, as I do, the catholics, who would be likely to obtain them, are not only men of tried loyalty, but high honour and talents; I see no reason why a catholic general or privy counsellor may not be as competent to render important services to a protestant king, as a protestant general or counsellor to a catholic monarch. My lords, was not the great Sully, first minister of the catholic prince Henry IV. a strict protestant, and was any incompetence or infidelity to his royal master imputed to him on that account? Was not marshal Turenne, one of the bravest and ablest generals ever the catholic government had in its service, a strict protestant? and were his services on that account less brilliant? I might name many other instances equally illustrious, where the liberality of wise governments has risen superior to the low suspicions of bigotry, and scorned to hold that any man's religious opinions should lead him to violate an high, sacred and honourable trust. Are there not in the empire of Germany many independent states, wherein no difference is made with respect to religion in conferring places or employments? nay, are there not many towns and cities, where the catholics and protestants occupy the same churches, to celebrate their public worship, the catholics one-half of the day, the protestants the other? Is it not the case throughout the United States of America, that every man is left to the religion he chuses to profess, 1087 and no idea of preference, or incapacity for employments in the state attached to one religion more than another? And with respect to the apprehensions expressed, that if this measure passes, the protestants of Ireland will be ousted from the parliament, and all the seats filled by catholics, I ask, has it not been alleged even by the enemies of this measure, that nineteen-twentieths of the landed property of Ireland is in the hands of protestants, and must always command a proportionate share of electioneering influence? How is this property to get out of their hands? But so long as things remain in this state, I have no apprehension of violation to the constitution of Ireland from the admission of catholics to seats in either house of parliament. There were some allusions made to the causes of the late rebellion in Ireland; and it was attempted to be shewn that it was a catholic rebellion. Now I do fully agree with the noble baron near me, (lord Holland) that religion had nothing to do in the causes of rebellion; that its leaders were many of them protestants, and men of all sects were engaged in it, though the majority were necessarily catholics, as that is the religion of five to one of the whole population of Ireland. It has been objected, that by placing 1088 catholics in the offices of sheriffs and under sheriffs, you would give them an inordinate power and influence, which they would use to the subversion of protestant interest. To this opinion I cannot agree. I have been at some pains to obtain information upon the subject, and had some conversation with a respectable gentleman, a Mr. Gregory, who possesses a considerable estate in the catholic county of Galway; and he told me that county was of late very quiet, much much quiet than usual, and the cause to which he attributed this repose was, that many catholic gentlemen had of late been appointed magistrates, and exerted their influence to quiet the county; a proof that catholics are not disposed to use the power placed in their hands to promote insurrection or excite commotion. In a word, my lords, I am convinced the prayer of that petition ought to be complied with. We owe it to the people of Ireland—we owe it to those to whom it was held out as a condition of acquiescence to the union, and to whom, as I said before, no boon has been given since the establishment of that measure, but an increase of taxes. If I were an Irishman, I would say to the legislature of this country,I am not that abject slave you take me for; I'm man, obstinate man, and will not be controll'd.