§ The order of the day being read for taking into consideration the State of the Laws, imposing Civil Disabilities on his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects,
§ Mr. Grattan
rose and said:
Sir; I have changed the question, and instead of a committee to consider the Petitions I propose to move for a committee to revise the laws. Thus every person who thinks that redress should be administered, whether in a greater or loss degree, whether by applying to the executive power to take a leading part in the business, (as was the opinion of a right hon. gentleman, whose opinion deserves every consideration,) or by proceeding ourselves to administer relief, must, I say, concur in this motion.—The present powers of England chiefly regard Ireland and America; your efforts in other places must be chiefly influenced by fortune, but here you can arbitrate your own destinies; here wisdom may save, or folly may undo: and if you err here, you lose deliberately, and by your own fault, your strength in the new world, and your anchor in the old.
The question I shall propose is a new one; it was hitherto debated upon the circumstance, it is on the principle you are now to decide. The doom of Ireland lies before you; and if you finally decide against her Petitions you declare that 729 three-fourths of the Irish, and one-fourth of the empire, shall be disqualified for ever. When you say we will not accede to the wishes of Ireland now, and advance no reason which must not always exist, you mean never, though you did not say "never," because you cannot give to the tremendous sentence its proper denomination—a sentence abominable, unutterable, unimaginable.
The sentence purports to disqualify for ever three-fourths of the people of Ireland for adhering in their own country to the religion of their ancestors; recollect that Ireland is their country, and that your power in that country is founded on her liberties; that religion is their right, and the gospel is their properly;—revelation is the gift of God, given to man to be interpreted according to the best of that understanding which his Maker has bestowed. The Christian religion is the property of man, independent of the state: the naked Irishman has a right to approach his God, without a licence from his king; in this consists his duty here, and his salvation hereafter; the state that punishes him for the discharge of that duty, violates her own; and offends against her God, and against his fellow-creature; you are the only civilized nation who disqualify on account of religion.
I allow that where religion is accompanied with any circumstance that tends to disaffection, the state has a right to interfere; but in that case, it is not the religion that the state touches, but the disaffection, and here that circumstance does not exist, because here we have practical proofs of allegiance; you have read the public papers, you have seen the Gazette: with every repugnance to enquire into the state of the people of Ireland, there are some things which you must know; you know they are fighting and dying in your service, and in this knowledge you learn the falshood of the calumnies which were once offered against their pretensions; and what is more—Oh shame to relate it! admitted as evidence; their opponents said that no Irish Catholic could be loyal to a prince of the House of Hanover; they said, that the Irish Catholic must ever hate an Englishman. They were not aware that they implied that the British government had made itself hated in Ireland, and had misgoverned our country from the beginning; they said that the Pope claimed in these realms a temporal power, that he claimed a deposing power, that he 730 claimed a power to dispense with moral obligations; they said that oaths did not bind the Catholic, and that Protestants and Catholics could never amalgamate; their charges were calumnies, the common calumnies of a scolding sect; they were received as evidence notwithstanding, they were answered by the impossibility of their truth; had they been true, the Christian religion could not have existed an hour; had they been true, the Catholic states must have come long ago to moral and political dissolution: they were also answered, (they need not have been answered,) by six Catholic universities, Paris, Douay, Alcala, Valladolid, Louvain, Salamanca, the best authority upon the subject. I need not refer to the answers, they refuted their calumniators, to silence them was impossible; they state that the Pope had no temporal power in these countries; they state that he has no deposing power, and regarding the charge of no faith with heretics, they repel the imputation with horror and contempt. These charges are also refuted by the oaths of the Catholics, which the Protestant legislature had made the test of their loyalty. See the oath of 1793; and by another, by the best possible answer, by an answer that sets misinterpretation at defiance, and refutes false logic by sound fact;—by the practical allegiance of the Catholic: you have that evidence before you, you see it in the dispatches which recite your battles; you yourselves, without knowing, have decided upon the fact. What are your votes of parliament returning thanks to the Catholics in the army and navy? What are they but the verdict of the English parliament in favour of their allegiance? But those votes of parliament that pronounce the Catholic to be innocent, pronounce the legislature that disqualifies them to be guilty. Here stand, on one side the parliament, with a penal sentence in its hand, and on the other, the Catholic, with an acquittal by that very parliament; thus under your own authority is the Catholic acquitted, and the parliament convicted.
With this practical evidence of their allegiance, and this your own seal and sanction, you have divers Protestant Petitions in their favour; these Petitions are prayers for their privileges, and evidences for their character: and, first, where are the Petitions against them? Where are the Petitions from the city of London? Where are those instruments that were to have overlaid your table? Your countrymen have 731 not come here to mock the calamities of the state, by Petitions to defend England at this perilous moment against the Pope and his seven sacraments; they have not aggravated the calamities of the state, by denouncing an eternal hostility to the civil privileges of three-fourths of the people of Ireland: they have not petitioned for the perpetual weakness of the empire, by demanding an everlasting separation of interest.—The Church too; I have not seen, in any great degree, its interference; I have not heard the ecclesiastical horn of discord and sedition. Where are the ministers of the gospel, who have left their God to follow the court to damn their fellow creatures for pay? Where are the numerous pulpits blasted by the flag of ecclesiastical prostitution? Instead of one religion damning another for stipend and promotion, in the person of dull divines, instead of an ill advised-people coming down to Parliament with Petitions against their fellow subjects, in the character of mad metaphysicians, I see but three Petitions against the Catholics.
I see, on the other hand, the address of the livery of London, with a clause, expressing a desire that civil disabilities should be removed. I see the sense of this the great capital favourable, or not adverse to Irish liberty and English justice. I see wisdom and justice, truth and security, speaking in the voice of many thousand Englishmen, petitioning in their favour. I see a Petition from the Protestants of Ireland, denominated a Protestant Petition, and signed by the greater part of the Protestant proprietors in Ireland. That Petition, unaccompanied by any counter Petition, may be called the Protestant interest of Ireland. The first name is Mr. David Latouche; that gentleman had originally voted against the Catholics: but seeing the changes of time, and weighing well the public exigency, he now comes forward in their favour: ever a foe to violence; and checking, by turns, the errors of the crowd, and the crimes of the court, independent equally of the king and the people, aloof from all party, and attached solely to the public good, he asserts to the last the integrity of his character; and gives the authority of his name, and his house, to the service of his country. You have, in addition to this, the names of the house of Leinster, of Ormond, &c.
You have the Protestant merchants, the Presbyterians, and coupled with the Catholics, 732 this Petition may be said to comprehend the property and population of Ireland; in fact, the Petition of Ireland lies upon your table. I congratulate my Protestant brethren in Ireland; they have asserted the true principles of the gospel, they have asserted the principles of civil liberty, and they give a warning voice to the British empire. If any misfortune should happen, they must share the evil, but they avoid the dishonour.
Before you dismiss the Petitions, let us see who is the petitioner. The kingdom of Ireland, with her imperial crown stands, at your bar; she applies for the civil liberty of three fourths of her children. She pays you in annual revenue about six millions; she pays you in interest of debt about three; in rent of absentees about two; and in commerce about ten. Above twenty million of money is comprehended in that denomination called Ireland, besides the immeasurable supply of men and provisions; you quadruple her debt, you add three-fold to her taxes, you take away her parliament, you send her from your bar without a hearing, and with three-fourths of her people disqualified for ever. You cannot do it; I say you cannot finally do it. The interest of your country would not support you; the feelings of your country would not support you: it is a proceeding that cannot long be persisted in. No courtier so devoted, no politician so hardened, no conscience so capacious; I am not afraid of occasional majorities. I remember, in 1782, to have been opposed by a court majority, and to have beaten down that majority. I remember, on a similar occasion, to have stood with twenty-five, opposed to a strong majority, and to have overcome that immense majority. A majority cannot overlay a great principle. God will guard his own cause against rank majorities. In vain shall men appeal to a church-cry, or to a mock-thunder: the proprietor of the bolt is on the side of the people.
Should you however, finally resolve upon such a measure, such a penal sentence, recollect how much you will be embarrassed by engagements; recollect the barrier is removed that formerly stood against the measure I propose. However we may lament the cause, we must acknowledge the fact, and perceive, that the time is now come, in which the Catholics were to expect a gracious predilection. They were taught to expect that their 733 wounds would be healed, and their disabilities were to cease; that a great deliverer was on his way, that would wipe the tears of the Irish, and cast upon the royal family a new ray of glory everlasting. They gave themselves up to a passion that was more than allegiance, and followed the leading light that cheered their painful steps through the wilderness, until they came to the borders of the land of promise; when behold the vision of royal faith vanishes, and the curse, which blasted their forefathers, is to be entailed upon their children. In addition to this immeasurable disappointment, you must consider another—you may remember the Union.
Without enquiring whether the repeal of Catholic disability was actually promised, it was the expectation of the measure which carried the Union. It is the price for the Union; and an essential part thereof: you will now pay the purchase of that measure. National honour is power, in trade it is capital, in the state it is force. The name of England has carried you through a host of difficulties; we conjure you by that name to accede to these Petitions; should you finally refuse, you repeal the Union; you declare the Irish and the English to be a distinct people; you not only declare it, but you do it; you dissolve the incorporation; they were kept together by hope, and you divide them by despair; you make them two distinct nations, with opposite and with hostile interests; the one with civil privileges, the other without; the one in the act of disqualifying the other; the oppressor and the oppressed.
The idea of the union is two-fold; a union of parliament, and a union of people. I see the union of Parliament; and in that I see the measure which makes the legislature more handy to the minister; but where are the people? Where is the consolidation? Where is the common interest? Where is the heart that should animate the whole, and that combined giant that should put forth his hundred hands for the state? There is no such thing; the petitioners tell you so; they tell you that it is impossible such a policy should last; a policy that takes away the parliament of Ireland, and excludes the Catholics from the Parliament of England; a policy that obtained the Union by the hope of admission, and now makes the exclusion everlasting.
The Catholics now come to you; they 734 have brought their Protestant neighbours along with them, and they both call upon you for the civil capacities of the Catholics, and for the integrity of the British empire.
Thus you perceive, it is no longer a question between the different sects, of Ireland, no longer a question regarding the security of the Protestant property or the Protestant Church. Far from looking for that security in civil disqualifications, they deprecate those disqualifications, as their principal danger, and they reduce the subject to a question between the people of Ireland, and the ministers of the crown.
So it now stands: but should you wish to support the minister of the crown against the people of Ireland, retain the Union and perpetuate the disqualification, the consequence must be something more than alienation. When you finally decide against the Catholic question, you abandon the idea of governing Ireland by affection, and you adopt the idea of coercion in its place. National disqualification, national litigation, informations, attachments, an angry press, an angry prosecution. Errors on both sides: men discharged for their virtuous sentiments in favour of the people; such was the case of Mr. Stanhope; domestic feud added to foreign war; such must be the situation of Ireland; a situation which is nothing more nor less than preparation to render the Irish mind completely hostile to Great Britain. This misfortune will be very great to both of us. In what particular way it will break out I know not, but I know it will be ruin; when I say ruin, you must know I mean ultimate separation, separation either in fact, or separation in disposition; either will undo us. Nature protests against it: France, with all her powers, could not achieve it, civil disqualification may. We shall first be destroyed, and your gorgeous empire will follow; you are ruined by the hostility of Ireland, you are ruined by her neutrality. You are therefore pronouncing the doom of England. You, opposed to the population of France, with all her appendages; you, with only sixteen millions of inhabitants, strike out of actual operation four. Never was an instance of human insensibility so fatally displayed. The mad Athenian, when he disqualified for a few bushels of corn a part of his fellow citizens, was not so frantic. The mad Greek who, in the last moments of his existence, refused the assistance of the west, damned 735 the Cardinal, and gave up his empire, was not more frantic.
A nation fighting for her existence, a wise nation, a civilized nation, striking out of operation one-fourth of her people, deliberately, in her senses, for no reason. The Eucharist is no reason, the worship of the Virgin Mary is no reason; arguments of public scorn, if they were not the cause of public ruin;—without any cause, except we suppose that the hand of death precipitates the empire. I say you are pronouncing the doom of England. If you ask how the people of Ireland feel towards you, ask yourselves how you would feel towards us, if we disqualified three-fourths of the people of England for ever. The day you finally ascertain the disqualification of the Cailiolic, you pronounce the doom of Great Britain. It is just it should be so; the king who take away the liberty of his subjects, loses his crown; the people who take away the liberty of their fellow subjects, lose their empire.
The gentlemen who are invited by the call, think, perhaps, they are presiding over a few penal laws affecting the Irish, or exercising a lazy tyranny in the easy chair of pride and security: depend upon it they are mistaken. You are presiding over the fame and fortune of that great renowned empire called Great Britain: the scales of your own destinies are in your own hands; and if you throw out the civil liberty of the Irish Catholic, depend on it, Old England will be weighed in the balance, and found wanting: you will then have dug your own grave, and you may write your own epitaph—"England died because she taxed America, and disqualified Ireland."
It is worthy to enquire, how many rights you violate in order to destroy yourselves and your fellow subjects. You assume a right to make partial laws, or laws against the very principles of legislation. You govern one part of the society by one code, and the other by a distinct one. You make laws as arbitrary as they are partial, that is to say, you disqualify one part of the society for differences, not more essential in a political point of view, than colour or complexion: as if you should say, no man shall be a general, who has black hair; no man shall be a member of parliament, who has brown. You not only make partial and arbitrary laws, but you invade the sacred right of religion; and you with a sentence; which is 736 eternal, invade the sacred cause of liberty.
Tell them they must extend their constitution to their empire, or limit their empire to their Church establishment.
They say you have a power to regulate qualifications; that is, you are a trustee for the privilege; but if under pretence of regulation you destroy the privilege, you exceed your power and violate your trust. Thus, if you enacted, that no man who had less than 3,000l. a year should be a member of parliament, you would disqualify the people of England, and break your trust. Thus when you, on the pretence of regulation, forbid the Catholics to sit in parliament, you disqualify a great part of the people of Ireland, and break your trust.
It is said, parliament may do partial ill for the general good. Yes; but the majority cannot take away the liberty of the minority, for this never can be the general good: still less can the minority, as in the case of Ireland, take away the liberty of the majority; that would be a breach of the principle, by which the society is compacted. You cannot rob one part of the society of her property, to enrich the community; still less can you rob one part of the society of her liberty; and least of all can you do that in the case of Ireland, which is connected with England, as that liberty is protected.
When the general good means the existence of the state, there the ruling power may abandon a part to save the remainder. But what is understood by the general good in its modern application? It means power, as opposed to liberty: such was the case in the American Stamp act, such was the case of the British statutes that restrained the trade of Ireland; such is the case now, it is the power of one sect over the privileges of the other: and what is that but the disqualification of the part, and the dismemberment of the whole. Whenever one sect degrades another, on account of religion, such degradation is the tyranny of a sect. When you enact, that, on account of his religion, no Catholic shall sit in parliament, you do what amounts to the tyranny of a sect. When you enact that no Catholic shall be a sheriff, you do what amounts to the tyranny of a sect. When you enact, that no Catholic shall be a general, you do what amounts to the tyranny of a sect. There are two descriptions of laws: the municipal law, which binds the people; and the law of God which binds the parliament 737 and the people. Whenever you do any act which is contrary to his laws, as expressed in his work, which is the world, or in his book, the Bible, you exceed your right; whenever you rest any of your establishments on that excess, you fest it on a foundation which is weak and fallacious; whenever you attempt to establish your government, or your properly, or your church, on religious restrictions, you establish them on that false foundation, and you oppose the Almighty; and though you had a host of mitres on your side, you banish God from your ecclesiastical constitution, and freedom from your political. In vain shall men endeavour to make this the cause of the Church; they aggravate the crime, by the endeavour to make their God their fellow in the injustice. Such rights are the rights of ambition: they are the rights of conquest: and in your case, they have been the rights of suicide. They begin by attacking liberty; they end by the loss of empire.
In all matters where the legislature interferes, you will take care to distinguish between nomination and eligibility. Nomination is the right of the person who nominates, and eligibility of the person who is nominated.
Eligibility is a common law right; and can only be taken away by act of parliament: but parliament can only take it away for crimes or unfitness: religion is neither. You cannot take away eligibility, which is a common law right, on account of religion, which is a right also.
The clause of disqualifcation consists of three heads. The superstition of the Eucharist; the adoration of the mother of God; and the Papal power. The two first are merely matters of religion, such as the state has no right to investigate, and such as form an objection, which must be, and which is for the most part, entirely abandoned. Two parts of the objection, then, are disposed of; and a third only remains: and that third, namely, the power of the Pope, is reduced to a mere spiritual authority: nor are the arguments founded which say, that spiritual and temporal powers are inseparable; and which instance as proof of their inseparability, marriage and excommunication. Their is no solidity in their observation nor their instance, in as much as marriage is a civil contract: and all its consequences, inheritance and legitimacy, &c. depend on the civil quality of that contract, and cannot 738 be affected by a spiritual connection, of which the law has no conception; and to establish which, no evidence is admissible. This matter has been settled by the act which allows Catholics to be on juries; and therefore allows them safe and competent to try the validity of marriage: the same may be said of excommunication, which is an authority which cannot be enforced; attended by an obedience which cannot be commanded: the ecclesiastic who attempts to enforce such a power, is subject to a prosecution; and the parishioner who is injured, is entitled to damages, and damages have been given accordingly. To this objection there are further answers: the law and the fact. The law, which has made the distinction between temporal and spiritual, and has (see 14th and 15th of the King) reduced that distinction to an oath, to be taken by Catholics, under the authority of an act of parliament. It is remarkable, that in our dealings with the Catholics, the arguments of their opponents have been answered by their laws. They say, the Catholics are not credible on their oaths; and they have made, by act of parliament, their oath the test of their allegiance. They say, that temporal and spiritual power are inseparable; and they have made them distinct by act of parliament. They say, that the disqualifying oath is a fundamental part of the law of the land; and they have declared by the fourth article of the Act of Union, that oath to be provisionary, not fundamental. They say, that by the constitution, the Catholics should have no political power: and they have made them by act of parliament, that is, by the Act of Union, a part of the Commons, that is, of the third estate of the empire. Thus they speak to the Catholics with a double tongue, and then most piteously exclaim, "These Romanists will keep no faith with heretics." In further answer to their objection, which confounds spiritual with temporal power, and which supposes the Pope to divide with the prince the allegiance of his subjects, we have the fact as well as the law. Let the princes of Europe tell how far the Pope has shared or divided the loyalty of their Catholic subjects. Let the Pope declare how far he commanded the allegiance of the Roman Catholics in Europe, when he was dragged from his palace. This dreaded interpreter of the Scriptures, and this joint proprietor of allegiance, dragged to Paris through an immense extent of Catholic country, at the wheels of 739 a car of a Catholic prince, without a sword in his support, or an arm to defend him. Or say, what succour has he, in all his afflictions, experienced, except when on the shoulders of the Protestant government of England. This unhappy old roan was supported an image of frail fortune and extinguished authority, until he was finally resigned to captivity and oblivion, the sole attendants on his state; without an effort to restore, or a partizan to console him. "More formidable than ever," exclaims the Petition of Cambridge; and on this solid observation piously prays the legislature to impose on four millions of her fellow subjects, eternal disabilities. To this learned university how formidable then must the House of Bourbon appear. Like the Pope, that House has lost its dominions. How formidable Ferdinand of Spain, like the Pope, he has lost his liberty, and is possessed of all the resources that proceed from captivity and deposition.
How criminal must our government appear, according to this reasoning, who pay above 20,000,000l. to support in Spain and Portugal the respective governments in Church, as well as State; and of course are contending to set up again the powers of France, in the person of the Pope, now represented to be more formidable than ever, see then how your right stands; of three objections two are abandoned; the third reduced to a spiritual, and that spiritual power now reduced to nothing.
You profess to tolerate religion; yon do not tolerate religion when you punish it. Disability is punishment; it is a punishment in a very high degree. You cannot say, that an application to get rid of that punishment, is an application for power, it is an application for protection. Civil capacities are defence; they are necessary to protect the Catholic against the injustice of a partial trial, they are necessary to protect him against the hardship of being taxed, and bound by a body, of which he constitutes no part; when the Catholics desire eligibility to the office of sheriff, they desire a protection against juries, exclusively Protestant, modelled by a party sheriff, they desire that their lives and properties may not be tried exclusively by those who disqualify them. If this be ambition, it is the ambition of not being hanged by a party jury; the ambition of not being robbed by a party sheriff packing a party jury. On a question touching Catholic claims, the Roman 740 Catholics have not now a fair trial in Ireland; in a case between Catholics and Protestants they have not the benefits even which foreigners possess. I do not say this applies to ordinary cases, but I do say that where there is a question touching their exertions to obtain their civil privileges, they have not a fair trial; how many Catholics were jurymen on the late trials for the violation of the Convention Act? Not one; they are not only deprived of the great executive offices of their country, but of the great protective principles by which their lives and properties should be defended. They are excluded from the office of sheriff by which juries are impannelled, and from that legislative body by which taxes are imposed.
Gentlemen call for security; we call for security; we call for security against a policy which would make the British name in Ireland odious; we call for security against a policy which would make the British faith in Ireland equivocal; we call for security against a policy which would disinherit, disqualify, and palsy a fourth part of the empire.
When gentlemen on the other side call for security, let them state the danger; does the danger consist in the Eucharist? or in the political consequence attending the real presence? does the danger exist in the worship of the Virgin Mary? does the danger exist in an attachment to the House of Stewart? Let the opponents give us some serious reason; let them afford us some apology to after-ages for inflicting on a fourth of our fellow-subjects political damnation to all eternity. They have but one danger to state; let us hear it; it is the Pope, and the influence of France upon that power. He has at present no power; France has no influence over him, and the Irish Catholic no communication. The danger, therefore, is prospective; what securities have they taken against it? Domestic nomination? No, they have declared it to be impracticable and inadequate. You might have had the Veto; you might have had it in 1801, when you had the Pope in your power; you might have had it in 1805, when you rejected Mr. Fox's proposition; and I belive you might have had it in 1808; but you lost it, and they are answerable to the public for the loss of it. Well, domestic nomination they say will not do; the Veto they say will not do; have they any other measure? do they 741 propose a plan for making proselytes? do they propose to discontinue recruiting from the Catholic body? they have no plan but civil disabilities, that is to say national disqualification; but national disqualification is the odium of the British name, and the hostility of the Irish people, and what is that but ultimate separation. Separation in fact, or separation in disposition. They have talked much of the security of the Church, much of the security of the state, and much of the necessity to fortify both, and the only security they propose for either is virtual or actual separation. For this the Church has been expected to preach, and the people to petition. They tell you that there is a great danger in the relative situation of the Pope with regard to France; they suggest to you, of course, that some remedy is necessary, and they produce a remedy which does not act upon the disease, but is of itself another disorder, that goes to the dissolution of the empire. For this has Oxford, for this has Cambridge petitioned with good intentions, I must suppose, but they have petitioned for the dismemberment of the empire.
Sensible of this, the people hare not crowded your table with applications against the Catholics; on the contrary, the property and the Protestant, interest of Ireland have petitioned for them; and, in addition to this, a number of the leading characters in England have declared they cannot accept of office without taking measures for the relief of the Catholics. This is a great security; in this security, with other circumstances, I would advise the Catholics to place much confidence. Nothing could be more fatal to their cause than despair: they may be certain that their application must ultimately succeed, and that nothing can add to its natural strength more than the temper with which it is conducted.
I know the strength of the cause I support: it might appeal to all the quarters of the globe; and it will walk the earth and flourish, when dull declamation shall be silent, and the pert sophistry that opposed it shall be forgotten in the grave. I cannot think that the civil capacities of millions coupled with the cause of this empire, which is involved in their fate, shall owe their downfall to folly and inanition. As well might I suppose the navy of England to be blown out of the ocean by a whirlwind raised by witches, or that your armies in Spain and Portugal 742 should be laid prostrate by Harlequin and his wooden sword, as that such interests as I now support should be overturned by a crew of quaint sophisters, or by ministers, with the aid of a few studious, but unenlightened ecclesiastics, acting under the impulse of interest, and the mask of religion. The people, if left to themselves, and their good understanding, will agree; it is learned ignorance only that would sever the empire.
As the call of the House may have brought together many gentlemen who did not attend the former debates on the subject, I beg to apprize them of some further objections with which they must expect to be encountered. They will be told that the people of Ireland are base and barbarous, and are not equal to the exercise of civil capacities; that is, that the first order of Catholic gentlemen in Ireland, who are to be affected by the repeal of these laws, are base and barbarous; that is to say, that in the course of 600 years, the British government in Ireland has made the people of that country base and barbarous, or, in other words, that your government has been in Ireland a public calamity. They state the Christian religion, as exercised in Ireland by the majority of the people, to be another cause of this evil, and thus they suggest as the only remedy the adoption of a measure which would banish from that island her government and her religion. The folly, the indecency, and the insanity of these objections do not deserve an answer.
They will tell you moreover, that the spirit of the Act of Settlement, which deposed the reigning prince for his attack on civil and religious liberty, commits the very crime it punishes, and goes to deprive of civil liberties one-fourth of your fellow-subjects for ever.
Desire those men who tell you so, to shew the clause in the Act of Settlement of such an import, and ask them why they, in defiance of an express provision in the act, raise foreign Catholics to the highest rank in the army; ask them why the Eucharist, which overpowers the understanding, as they suppose, of lord Fingall or sir Edward Bellew, has no effect on these foreigners, and why they abandon their prejudices in favour of strangers, and advance them only to proscribe the natives of their own country. They will tell you that the disqualifying oath is a fundamental part of the Act of Union; desire them to read the Act of Union; 743 they will there find the disqualifying oath is directly the contrary; that by the fourth article of the Union, it is expressly declared to be provisionary, not fundamental, and you may add, that herein is a provision by act of parliament, declaring that the excluding oath, as prescribed at the Revolution, is not a fundamental part of the constitution. The same declaration will be found in the Scotch Union. Thus all the parliaments of these realms have repeatedly declared, that the disqualifying oath is not a fundamental part of the constitution, and therefore against the argument of the minister on this head you may quote the two Acts of Union, and also the authority of those who voted for the Irish Act of Union, that is to say some of the ministers themselves, and also of those who drew up the Irish Act of Union, who, I apprehend, were some of themselves; ask them, have they set forth in this act of parliament, that the disqualifying oath was provisionary, and after obtaining the Union, will they now belie their own law, and assert that the oath is fundamental; they will tell you, that by the constitution of the country, the parliament is Protestant; ask them, are not the Commons a part of parliament, and are not the Irish electors a part of the Commons, and are not they in no small a proportion Catholic; the persons who argue with you thus against the Catholics, have sworn the oath at your table; desire them to read it, and there they will find no profession of faith whatever, that Christianity itself is no part of the qualification. That any man can take that oath except a Catholic.
Ask them whether that exclusion was not on account of political combinations formerly existing in Europe; ask them whether they continue; and in answer to all their objections and jealousy, ask them why they continue to fill their navy and army in such an immense proportion, with men whose race they affect to distrust, and therefore they presume to disqualify. Ask the generals and admirals bow these men act in the fleet and in the field; read the lists of the killed and wounded, and see in what number these men have died in your service; read the Irish names of wounded officers; recollect that they cannot be generals, and see in their practical allegiance a complete answer to all objections.
Or, if you wish for further information, do not apply to the court, but ask the 744 country; ask the Protestant gentlemen of Ireland; ask the house of Leinster; ask the house of Ormond; ask the great landed proprietors of the country, men who must stand the brunt of the danger; ask their Petition; and do not in the face of their opinion decide against the civil privileges of a fourth of your own people; do not hazard the name of England on such a principle; do not hazard the empire of England on such an experiment.
I appeal to the hospitals, who are thronged with the Irish who have been disabled in your cause, and to the fields of Spain and Portugal, yet drenched with their blood, and I turn from that policy which disgraces your empire, to the spirit of civil freedom that formed it; that is the charm by which your kings have been appointed, and in whose thunder you ride the waters of the deep. I call upon these principles, and upon you to guard your empire in this perilous moment, from religious strife, and from that death-doing policy, which would teach one part of the empire to cut the throats of the other in a metaphysical, ecclesiastical, unintelligible warfare.
I call upon you to guard your empire from such an unnatural calamity, and four millions of your fellow subjects from a senseless, shameless, diabolic oppression. You come on the call of the House to decide, as you suppose, a great question regarding the people of Ireland; you have to say to them, "We are ruined, unless we stand by one another, we are ruined; and they have to say to you, we require our liberties; our lives are at your service." I conclude, Sir, with moving you, "That it be referred to a Committee to consider the State of the Laws, imposing Civil Disabilities on his Majesty's subjects, professing the Roman Catholic Religion."
—Sir, in rising to address the House, I beg to premise to what I am about to say, that I do so for the purpose of opposing this motion, which has been brought forward with so much vehemence. And that I shall be able to shew that the House will depart from its duty if they venture to entertain this question.
I shall take the liberty of stating my opinion as shortly as possible; and on the first instance, I shall give my humble view of the immediate question before the House.
Catholic Emancipation, as it is now demanded, 745 is nothing more or less than the repeal by act of parliament of all the statutes that have been made for the protection of the Protestant Church since the second of Elizabeth to the thirtieth of Charles 2. It goes to annul the Act of Uniformity, and also the Test and Corporation Acts, passed in the reign of the last mentioned prince; and, in short, to break down every bulwark erected since the Reformation, in defence of the established religion. Nothing else will content the Catholics but the total subversion of the constitution in Church and State.
But before their claims can be granted, two Unions must be dissolved; that of England with Scotland, and also that of Great Britain with Ireland; in both of which it is declared, that the Act of Uniformity, and other acts, for the security of the Church, shall be perpetually binding.
All these acts, in their preambles, are declared to extend to England, Ireland, and to the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The House, in short, is called upon by the right hon. gentleman, to repeal acts of parliament which are the great bulwarks of the constitution both in Church and State, particularly against Papists. Now, Sir, will it be said, that the only way of effecting this emancipation is by repealing these very acts? If it is, what then becomes of the constitution?—what becomes of these bulwarks of the Church?—Why every able lawyer, Mr. Justice Blackstone and others, speak of the Act of Uniformity, and the thirteenth of Charles 2, as the bulwarks of the constitution: and this very Act of uniformity was enacted especially and particularly against Papists. Then I say that to effect this purpose you must repeal these acts which are declared to be essential and fundamental articles of the Unions both between England and Scotland, and Great Britain and Ireland.
The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland declares, that the Church of the two countries is to be one and the same Church for ever. Then how is this to be done? Modern philosophers and modern orators make light of these constitutional guards, though their ancestors so highly valued them; and they say that it is absolutely necessary that they should be repealed in favour of the Roman Catholics. What is more, both the king and queen of these realms are bound to swear that they will inviolably maintain the Church and State according to these acts 746 of Union, and yet this motion goes in the first instance to repeal these acts of parliament for the purpose of carrying what is called Catholic Emancipation.
What is it the Catholics have to complain of? Do they not possess all the liberties that the other subjects have, except that they are kept from certain places and emoluments? They say we will not confer upon them civil and political power. I say they have as full and complete religious liberty as any people on the face of the earth. They have the same security for their lives and properties, and what is more, they may sit in parliament if they take the same tests and oaths, which all other people do, that every person in this House takes: and they have their full and entire liberty, the same as enjoyed by any other subjects of the realm. And it is very remarkable, that the Roman Catholics in their present slate enjoy greater security for their liberties, their lives, and their properties, than the most favoured subjects in any country upon the face of the earth. They have at this moment even more political liberty than any the most favoured subjects on earth. Will it be said that the subjects of France have the same liberty? Will it be said that the Germans enjoy the same liberty? Or will it be said that the subjects of any state upon the continent enjoy their lives, their liberties, and their properties with the same security that the Catholics of Ireland do at this moment?
Now, I say, what would be the consequence to the Catholics of the British empire at large? It does not go to Ireland alone. They demand a full equality throughout the empire:—in the army, in the navy, they claim a participation in all the privileges of the empire, and they desire you to admit them to all places of power and emolument whatever. That is their demand; and all this is to be done at the expence of abolishing all the acts that I have mentioned, together with the two acts of Union between Great Britain and Ireland, and between England and Scotland. And we are to do all this to gratify the ambition of a set of subjects whose principles are hostile in a great measure, to the state; and particularly whose religious principles are hostile, as I shall shew directly; and this, too, upon authentic grounds, and not merely from declamation; bat I shall read the particular proof of it, which will shew, that they are directly and essentially hostile to 747 the state in every thing. And I would ask also, who, that is a true Catholic, is not hostile to the state? And pray how are we to be secured if they are to be emancipated, as they are pleased to call it, by their usurpation of our constitution? The first thing they say is, that they have a right to religious liberty. For God's sake do, gentlemen, consider who the people are that call for this religious liberty? The most intolerant set that ever was on the face of the earth in the profession of any religion in any country. The most intolerant set ever heard of in the history of the world, even more intolerant than Mahometans. They allow others no liberty of conscience whatever. Their tenets teach them totally to destroy every person differing from them in faith; and they do not even allow any person to indulge in their own principles. Why, what was done at the establishment of the new constitution of Spain? The very first act of the Cortez—the first article of their proceedings was, that the Roman Catholic religion should be the religion exclusively of the state, and that no other religion should be tolerated. That was the very first article declared, and these are the very people who are continually talking and crying out about religious liberty!—a liberty which they themselves never allow to any one whatever! In Ireland, it is true, they dare not quarrel with the people of another religion, where the people of that religion are thinner than they are. And the advice given to them by their doctrinal councils on the subject of their faith is, "If the heretics are stronger than you, you should not make war upon them, because that may be attended with your ruin." Bellarmine, their great advocate, advises them to submit when they are the weaker party. "Hæreticos non Bello petendos cum sunt nobis potentiores." The short and the long of which is, that their impotence alone is the inference of their humanity. They pretend to claim a right to religious liberty! Why, Sir, that religious liberty, notwithstanding they are so intolerant, is already given up to them. No person gives them any where the least disturbance or annoyance. In Ireland they have just as much liberty in that respect as the Established Church itself; and if that is the case, what right have they to come here, and pretend to demand the right of religious liberty, which is not denied to them, and which they have at this moment, 748 notwithstanding the principles of their religion are such as I have stated? Now, Sir, I do profess myself a great friend to religious liberty; and I say that the principles of any sect of religion do not recommend resistance to the state. I think every denomination of people is entitled to religious liberty.
I never was an enemy to the Catholics where their tenets were not hostile to the state; and in my mind, as far as that goes, they are entitled to a full and absolute enjoyment of their religious liberty; and I think that this Emancipation will never give them more liberty than they have now.
The second reason given for their being entitled to Emancipation is their numbers, their wealth, and their power. Now, Sir, let the truth of that assertion be examined; and do not let us take mere assertion alone. It is insisted that the Catholics of Ireland amount to four millions of the people of that country; and they would have us believe that the Protestants of the Established Church are not as one to ten compared with them. But is this assertion founded upon any report, or any authentic calculation laid upon the table of parliament? No, Sir, they call upon us to take their statement; for they have given us nothing like the appearance of calculation, but mere assertion. Now, Sir, let that be compared with the most authentic calculations that have been made. There is now a Bill in parliament for numbering the people of Ireland, to which I am a hearty friend, and to which I shall give my warmest support, although it comes from the right hon. baronet opposite (sir John Newport). The only thing like an authentic calculation that has been made upon this subject was from the return of the hearth-money collectors in Ireland some years back; and the calculation then made was at an average of six persons to a house, and at this average instead of the Catholics amounting to four millions, the whole population did not exceed 2,600,000; and since that calculation, I have myself procured an estimate of the population in two of the most extensive and fertile parishes in Ireland; parishes which are considered the most populous in all the country. I mean the parishes of Lisburn and Glannevin in the north of Ireland, and there the number of men, women, and children, Protestant and Catholic, were at an average of five and one-fourth persons to a house, and those are the most thriving 749 parishes in all the country; the people are fully employed, and they are almost entirely engaged in the linen manufacture. But in other large parishes the average is not near so great. Surely in the miserable cabins in which the poor Irish peasantry live, and where the still more miserable tenants send out their children to get bread by working for farmers, which is prevalent almost throughout the kingdom, the calculation must be infinitely less than five to a house; and from the returns I received, taking the highest average, I have every reason to think, that the people of Ireland do not now amount to three millions five hundred thousand souls in the whole kingdom. But, Sir, there are other calculations very worthy of remark. In 1731, there was a calculation made by a Roman Catholic bishop. Dr. Burke, titular bishop of Ossory, and published at Antwerp in the year 1762, called Hibernia Dominicana; and that shews that the population of the whole kingdom, even in 1762, did not amount to two millions in the whole. Now it is very probable that this bishop had very exact returns and he not only tells you the amount of the whole population of the country, but the relative numbers of Roman Catholics to Protestants. He says the Roman Catholics amounted to 1,300,000, and the Protestants to 700,000. The calculation of this man was first published at Antwerp, and from this it appears that the proportion of Catholics to Protestants at that time was but as about three to one. Such, Sir, was the calculation in 1762, the proportion not being more than two millions in the whole. And yet it is said that since that time they have, doubled their numbers, in spite of all the emigrations to America, the drains to the army, and the other casualties that have happened since that time.
Will the House believe that the population of Ireland was doubled in 60 years, when they look at the population of Great Britain since the Revolution. Why, Sir, in England and Wales they have not added more than three millions to their numbers since 1689. The return made at the Revolution was at 7,000,000, and the last calculation amounted only to 10,000,000; so that in England and Wales, from 1689 down to about eleven years ago, the gross calculation of the population of the country, was only increased by three millions. I think therefore the House will pause before it believes the prodigious calculation with respect to Ireland! 750 and I am persuaded, when the grounds of the gentleman's calculation come to be examined, they will be found to be extremely fallacious. However, whether I am right and they are wrong, or vice versa, I shall be a friend to the Bill of the right hon. gentleman over the way, which, I have no doubt, will set the matter at rest. For my own part, I only speak of the probability of the thing, and I can find no other foundation for the assertion on the other side except mere assertion; and I hope one assertion is as good as another.
Now, Sir, with respect to the wealth and power of these most formidable Roman Catholics, who, without you indulge them in these wonderful strange privileges they demand, and which their religion disables them, and ought to disable them, from enjoying, as long as they continue to hold the principles they do; and who, it is said, unless you do this, will fly into open rebellion. Their wealth is stated at a prodigious rate indeed; but the statement is not confined merely to personal property, but to real property also. Now, I say, that the statement with respect to both is grossly exaggerated. As to real property, it is notorious that the Catholics do not possess one out of forty-nine parts of the whole kingdom; and with respect to commercial property, notwithstanding the exaggerated and misrepresented statements of their wealth and progress in commerce, it is very wall known from the most judicious calculation, that they have not one out of ten parts of the commercial wealth of the country. So here are forty-eight out of forty-nine parts out of the real property, and nine out of ten of the personal properly in possession of the Protestants; and yet the Roman Catholics ostentatiously hold forth that they are the people of Ireland! and they say, forsooth, that this is a contest between England and Ireland; and that all Ireland is up in arms for this claim of emancipation!
Now, Sir, with respect to these Petitions, I deny that they are any of them older than five days: the majority of them not having had existence for more than two or three days. But some of these Petitions are said to be the Petitions of the Protestants of Ireland in favour of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. For my own part, I can say of my own knowledge, that in many counties in Ireland there have been many attempts made to procure Protestant signatures, but they have always been 751 scouted; and in many instances where they did give them, they were surreptitiously obtained. Two Petitions, I know, were signed at night, by threats. I know Petitions have been signed by the Protestants in parts of the country, where the Catholics are predominant, as in the south of Ireland. There, Sir, the people do not live in towns as they do here, which rendered the prospect of intimidation favourable. Private emissaries, I know, were sent about, and wherever there was a Protestant farmer, there was private intimation sent to him, that if he did not sign the Petition in favour of the Catholics, his house would be set fire to. (Hear, hear! and a laugh from general Matthew.) I am glad to hear so much mirth from the facevious orator opposite, a good bon-fire is a handsome thing, but not so pleasant to the sufferers. The truth, however, of the fact is notorious; and. Sir, I know of my own knowledge, that in the city of Dublin, wherever there was a poor Protestant who followed a retail business, there were messages sent about to him, that if he did not sign the Petition, he should lose all his Catholic customers, and that no Catholic should deal with him; and that, when it is recollected that the lower orders of the society are all Catholics, was a very serious thing to a man in his situation. That sort of conduct had some effect, but very little. I know this Petition, which was said to be the Petition of all the Protestants of Dublin, (but which I totally deny) was signed in a very curious way. A copy of this Petition was left at the Commercial coffee-house in Dublin, in a private room in the house, and when any one went in to take some refreshment, the question was put to him first, "Sir, will you sign a Petition for the emancipation of the Catholics?" The man would say, he was not determined yet,—"I have not seen it." "Sir, that is not the question," was the reply. "But will you sign the Petition." And this was the way throughout the piece. The man was not shewn the Petition, and it was detained from him until he should say he would sign it; and even we were told by the right hon. gentleman who introduced this Petition, that the names attached to it are not the names actually written by the ostensible subscribers, (for they, were taken away) but that they were only fairly transcribed; so that we have only the fair copy; and that rough copy, from which alone we could at all judge of its authenticity, is 752 kept from us. How do we know that this is a genuine Petition? It is not stretching our suspicion too far to doubt it. But yet we are called upon to believe that these are the Petitions of the Protestant proprietors of Ireland—a more fallacious way of judging cannot be found? There may, however, be names of respectability attached to it. There are families, I know, in Ireland, one of whose names was mentioned here to-night by the right hon. gentleman, ill his speech, who have lent their names to these Petitions—The Powers, and others. I do not mean to say that-these are not people of rank and property, but all I mean to say is, that those are not the Petitions of the Protestants of Ireland; and I say that in consequence of the threats that have been used to procure signatures, the manner in which the Petitions were signed, together with the circumstance of our having no opportunity of knowing who the subscribers are—the House is not authorized in paying the least attention to them. I will venture to assert, that not one Protestant in a hundred has signed it. I know for my own part, the Petition was received with the utmost indignation in the north. I did hear that some Presbyterian ministers signed the Petition; and the consequence was, that their congregations turned them out of the meeting-houses, locked up the doors, and excluded them for ever: these persons, I say, were locked out for ever, in consequence of signing this Petition (a loud laugh from general Matthew.) It gives me great pleasure when I can extract a laugh from the hon. gentleman, he is such an incomparable hero, and such an admirable orator.
Sir, there never was so gross an attempt to impose upon the English nation, as the assertion that the Protestants of Ireland are favourable to Catholic claims; and I am sure the right hon. gentleman, if he knew the means adopted to procure the signatures to these Petitions, he would not have brought the subject forward; nothing would have induced him to lend himself to so gross an imposition upon the sober judgments of the people of England.
Why then. Sir, even taking for granted that the signatures to these Petitions are the genuine expression of the sense of the Protestants who are alleged to have signed them (which I conscientiously doubt) still I deny that it is the Petition of the whole Protestant inhabitants of Ireland. I maintain most confidently that it is not. 753 According to the best calculation of the relative numbers of Protestants and Catholics in Ireland, the Roman Catholics bear a proportion to the Protestants, as three to two: that is, the Protestants are two parts out of five; and they are in possession of the property of the country: and as to the Petitions, there is not one sensible man amongst these Protestants who signed them, except those gentlemen to whom I have alluded.
As for the gentlemen on the other side of the House, who have taken up this question, they and their friends, though I admit they are very respectable, have taken it up obviously, to create an influence for themselves in Ireland, I know they are to be ranked amongst the respectable part of the persons who support the Catholic claims, and I know there are several other gentlemen of great respectability in Ireland, who give this question their countenance. I do not pretend to say there are not some gentlemen of considerable property who have signed the Petitions; but I say, the larger proportion of the Protestants of Ireland are absolutely and decidedly averse to Catholic emancipation.
Now, Sir, so much for numbers, which seems to be the strongest argument used on this occasion; and that is the argument upon which I also depend. Now, Sir, I will take the property and consideration of the country into calculation, and putting them against the lower orders, and let the House see whether they can be properly called the nation. Why, Sir, it is a play upon words to talk of setting them in competition with the Protestants of Ireland. Compared with the Protestants of Ireland, they are nothing. Why, Sir, the Protestants of Ireland are able, without any assistance from this country at any time, to keep them down.
In the year 1798, a rebellion broke out in Ireland, under circumstauces of a very violent nature. The Protestants knew that a rebellion was preparing, but they did not know it was so near its explosion. They ran to arms instantly, however, as soon as they knew of it—they put down that rebellion in one month; and though lord Cornwallis was sent from hence to put it down, he nor his troops did not arrive till the battle of Vinegar-hill was fought, which completely discomfited and destroyed the rebels, so far as their numbers were thought considerable. There were 30,000 of them at that place in a body or 754 mob; but they were all dispersed at once by the Irish Protestants; so that lord Cornwallis had no more to do in putting down that rebellion, than any other general officer in this country.
In short, no man would lament more than I, the recurrence of a similar calamity; but I am convinced that the Protestants of the country are alone able to put down any such disturbance, should it happen again; so that the people of England need not be alarmed about the power and consequence of the Roman Catholics of Ireland; for the facts are directly the contrary to what is alleged. The state of the notion is as I state it; and as the British minister thought at the time he sent over the British troops. The first English regiment of militia sent over in 1798, was the Buckinghamshire regiment, commanded by the marquis of Buckingham himself, and his lady in person. That was the first regiment sent, and it did not come over till eight days after the battle of Vinegar-hill, which had put a stop to the rebellion. Now, Sir, so much for the power and numbers of the Catholics in Ireland, which seems to be the sole and chief argument in their favour.
The next argument we hear, Sir, is, that the Catholics are entitled to emancipation on the score of their services in the army and navy; and really, Sir, from the manner in which this part of the subject has been dealt with, one would naturally infer, that all the component parts of the regiments in our pay were Irish Roman Catholics, whereas, in fact, one half the privates of the Irish regiments and all the officers are Irish Protestants. I may venture to say at least one half and more. Now, Sir, because the Irish are willing to shed their blood in defence of their king and country, it is to be said that all these are Irish Roman Catholics. Why the fact is quite the contrary; because the Protestants are more disposed to go into the array than the Roman Catholics. There is scarcely a Protestant in the north—I may say forty out of fifty Protestats in the north who have not served in the army. Pray what is the merit of a Roman Catholic soldier? The man who is a soldier in the army, lives a great deal better than the man who is obliged to work in the field by his daily labour for his living. Besides does he not enlist at his own pleasure? He is not pressed into the service. He lists from an heroic spirit—and prefers the idle life of a soldier, to the more slavish 755 one of hedging and ditching: and pray is there any thing unreasonable that the subjects of the King (of whatever religion they may be) should be called upon to defend these liberties which they enjoy in common with the rest of their fellow subjects? for I maintain that the Irish Catholics enjoy more liberty of person, and-greater protection of property, than the most favoured subjects on the face of the earth. Look at the people of France, of Germany, of the Iberian peninsula, and of Italy, and can you find a more highly favoured people than the Catholics of Ireland. In Ireland you see the people governed under a benign constitution, their lives, their liberties, and their properties secure, whilst in those states, these valuable privileges of the wretched people are at the merciless tyranny of their despotic governors. Will the comparison stand? What is the happy stale of the people of Ireland compared with the miseries of the wretched people on the continent? Pray what reason is there to suppose that the Irish Catholic has any extraordinary merit when he enlists at his own will and pleasure? Or that there is any peculiar hardship in his serving under a Protestant officer? Is there any more duty, or any greater task put upon him than upon any other man who takes his chance in the army, and who enlists rather than be a common labourer? For I know that is the reason many of them do enlist. They are naturally a brave set of men, and when they get into the army, they are as good as any other men; and when they get abroad, and are mixed along with their Protestant fellow soldiers, they do their duty as well as them. But what claims have they from this to what is called emancipation? Are they in a less happy state than any other men of their same rank in life in the kingdom? While on the contrary how mach more happy are they than the rest of their fellow creatures abroad? They are not dragged to the army in chains, as the wretched soldiers are in France and Germany. They enlist voluntarily, and what particular merit have they more than any other men of their rank, in entering the army? They are well clothed, and paid for it, and live infinitely better than as common labourers.
Now with respect to the navy the case with them is the same, except this, that their numbers in the navy are much more over calculated. The shipping ports of Ireland are not at all to be compared with 756 those of England and Scotland, and consequently the navy must be composed of an infinitely greater number of English and Scotch than can possibly be reared in Ireland; and yet Irishmen are admitted into the navy; and indeed we have a memorable instance which gives us information upon that subject, namely, the meeting at the Nore in 1797, where, according to the report laid before the House of Lords, it appeared that almost all the persons concerned in that mutiny were Irishmen, except a few marines. It is impossible for the Catholics of Ireland, even admitting them to be four millions, to turn out one-third of the army and navy of Great Britain, when it is recollected that they are only as four to thirteen millions; and more particularly that one-third cannot be Catholics, from the calculation I have shewn.
As to the complaint of their having no prospect of promotion in the army, it is without foundation, because they may attain the rank of any officer short of generals on the staff and generals in chief; therefore they are out of their reckoning when they say they suffer hardships under this head; for it is really without foundation. And what right have they to call for emancipation at the expence of keeping their Protestant fellow countrymen from a participation in the benefits of the constitution?—or, as I ought to say perhaps, at the expence of a revolution; for I maintain, that there never was a greater revolution in France than would follow front the abrogation of the Acts of Union, and the destruction of the Test and Corporation Acts, as they are all declared to be the bulwarks of the constitution, by the first lawyers.
Therefore, Sir, I say, as they have no more merit for their services, and are entitled to no more favour than the rest of their fellow subjects, it would be the height of injustice to their fellow subjects to alter the constitution, and create a revolution in the stale on their behalf.
Think of the injustice of this. Will you sacrifice the interests and the happiness of thirteen millions of people, and pull down to the ground the venerable fabric of the British constitution in church and state, to satisfy the ambitious desires of 2,500,000 of the lowest orders of the community in another country? And this, too, a people whose spiritual and political opinions persons of the soundest judgment and the deepest knowledge in the law pronounce 757 to be dangerous to the state! If gentlemen really wish to have the Popish religion established again;—if they wish the pure spirit of the constitution to be engrafted upon the intolerant principles of the Roman Catholic religion, in the name of God, if they think it wise so to do, let them do it; but before they do it, let them consult the opinions of 13,000,000 of the British people, before they do all the mischief for the sake of 2,500,000. But if they do not wish the religion of the state to be altered, and if they do not wish to see the power of the Pope again established on the throne of this country, they will set their faces against this question (Here general Mathew laughed loudly.) I certainly have no hope of being able to make any impression upon that facetious orator (A loud laugh throughout the House.)
Now, Sir, I must say a word or two in addition to what I have already said on the subject of the intolerant spirit of the Catliolic religion. The Catholics are the most intolerant set of people in the world. Their religion never allows any toleration to any other religious sect but their own. And I need not say that they indulge that spirit wherever they have the power to enforce it. They cry out loudly for religious liberty! and yet they are the most intolerant set of people themselves that ever infected the world. Look at the works of Dr. Troy, Dr. Hussey, and Dr. Milner! and you'll see what an intolerant set of people they are. You will see what the doctrines of these men are. They have proscribed all schools except Roman Catholic schools; and their children have been proscribed from going to Protestant schools, even though there was no religion taught in them; and although these schools were perfectly open and free to all children whether Catholic or Protestant. Sir, if the House doubts my word upon this subject, let them look at Doctor Coppinger's letter, where they will see a still further instance of this sort of intolerance. In that letter, domestics are forbid to attend prayers in a Protestant family. Let the House also look to the letter of Doctor Moylan, in which he draws an exclusive line of separation between the people of the Protestant religion, and those of the Roman Catholic religion. What is this, Sir, but a proof of their holding no faith with heretics? Now, Sir, let me call the attention of the House to that most extraordinary oath taken by their bishops and inferior clergy. This oath I quote from 758 that very letter of Doctor Troy, to which I have alluded. In that oath they swear religion, loyalty, and obedience to the Pope.
[The learned doctor here read the oath, in which the person taking it swears that he will from henceforth be bound to St. Peter and the church of Rome, and his lord the Pope, his successors and governors; and any attempt that shall be made to offer violence or wrong by any means with his consent, or power created so to do, and shall most willingly discover it to the Papacy of Rome: and concluding, by declaring his sincere determination to maintain the rights, honours, and privileges of the Church of Rome, and of the Pope, his honours and powers, dwelling the particular emphasis on the words 'Hæreticos persequar et impugnabo.']
Now, Sir, see what the nature of this oath is. Every one of the Catholic bishops of Ireland, nay, every one of those bishops who are now making such an outcry about religious liberty, take this identical oath of fealty to the Pope; that very Pope who is now a dependant upon Buonaparté. These are the men, I say, who would have all these claims conceded, without any proviso or provision. What! men who have taken this oath to the Pope and his successors, and the Pope at present a slave of Buonaparté! and his successors likely to be slaves of France!—to be admitted to such a power as they now demand!—As to the temporary imprisonment of the Pope, it is no sort of reason whatever for allowing such an oath to the Catholic prelates. Is that circumstance any reason that they should be admitted into the possession of political power? I never was. Sir, an enemy to the Catholic religion, or an enemy to any of its members; but upon a question of this kind one is bound to consider well their claims to be admitted to an unlimited participation in the benefits of the constitution. Now, Sir, see what the oath of the parish priest is, because it is well worthy of attention. The Catholic priest acknowledges the Holy Catholic Church of all other Chrches to be the only true Church; and he promises and swears true obedience to the bishop of Rome, or vicar of Jesus Christ, Now this every parish priest takes before he is admitted to holy orders; and he also swears to and believes in the infallibility of general councils. But I shall come to general councils presently.
Now, these are the people that call out 759 for religious freedom, who are themselves outrageous and violent in every thing they do and say. I think, from this specimen of their disposition, that they have not much claim to religious freedom, upon the score of liberality in themselves.
Now, Sir, it is said by these people, that the decrees of the Pope and decrees in general councils are infallible rules of conduct. Now Doctor Troy admits that; and he is one of the most prominent of the Catholic advocates. In one of the most celebrated of those decrees, namely, that of the fourth council of Lateran, it is ordered, that all subjects shall be absolved from their allegiance to their princes, who shall deny the spiritual and temporal power of the Pope; and that no temporal lord shall harbour in his house any heretic; and that Catholic princes are bound to exterminate from their dominions all heretics; and refusing so to do, they shall be excommunicated. Now, Sir, this is an article of their faith, and already admitted by one of themselves. These oaths they take in their admission to the priesthood; whether they are bound by these oaths or not, it is not for me to say; but take them they certainly do. Now, Sir, this same decree of the council of Lateran that I have mentioned to you, is confirmed by the councils of Constance, and they more distinctly confirm that part of the council of Lateran which makes it part of their tenets to exterminate all heretics. Now these are the opinions of those men. What can you expect of such a set, coming abroad and talking to us of that dreadful want of religious liberty by which they say they are precluded from, and claim a right to be admitted into the powers of the state?
It is said by the right hon. gentleman who spoke first, that the power of the Pope, whatever it might be, is at an end, and that whatever the opinions of the people might be, it was no matter, because the people had no power to carry those opinions to the dangerous purposes for which they were calculated; and that therefore it seemed to be our policy, in order to keep the people from doing that mischief, not to keep them in that way.
Sir, we are told it is quite enough for us to satisfy our minds that there is no danger of those tenets, or of the capacity of the people who maintain them, to do the mischief we apprehend, if we only look to the history of Catholic countries, and the 760 conduct of Protestant subjects. It is alleged, that Protestants in those countries are loyal. Why are they so? A Protestant may be loyal because he is not bound to look upon his neighbour as a heretic, as the Roman Catholics are with respect to Protestants. But Roman Catholic subjects are bound by their religion to exterminate heretics; but Protestants are not bound to exterminate Catholics, but their religion. What dependance then can you have upon the loyalty of such subjects as Catholics? Let me ask, gentlemen, how it is possible you can admit such men, with safety, to the benefits of a Protestant government, who are under the dominion of the Pope? It may be said that they are loyal subjects, because no man in this country owes his allegiance to a foreign temporal power. I admit they may be peaceable inhabitants, but whatever loyalty they may have, it is from fear rather than from any attachment they have to the government. It is said, that the power of the Pope is now totally void by being under the complete domination of the ruler of France. This is, however, merely asserted, not shewn. No man will deny that at this hour he nominates the Irish bishops. There is not a parish priest in all Ireland that is not appointed by the Pope. Now no person is allowed to be a parish priest in France, but those who are chosen by the prefects of Buonaparté; such jealousy does he show of the power of the Catholic liturgy. With such an example before us, then, what reason is there why the king of this country should not have a similar power over the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland as Buonaparté has over those of France? Buonaparté, who is certainly a very execrable tyrant, and who has trampled upon the boundaries of right and wrong, has yet wisely seen the necessity of having the power of nominating, not only bishops, but of appointing every parish priest. Surely then this is a warning to the supreme ruler of this country to take care that those Irish Catholic priests are kept under the temporal power of the state. Surely this would be more advantageous in a popular state, than in a government where the ruler is a despotic monarch.—The Catholic clergy of Ireland have the power of electing their bishops, and there is a great portion of democracy in the British constitution; surely then if that is the case, it must be much more advantageous to the people of Ireland, if the Roman 761 Catholic persuasion give the power I have just been describing, to the monarch on the throne, than in a despotic country where the people have no power. But these people want to be left as they now are, with all these dangerous objections unremoved. I trust the House, before they suffer them to have any more power than they now possess, will take good care not to be too lavish in their inattention to this branch of the subject.
It has been asserted that these people deny all temporal power in the Pope. Can you believe this, when it is very well known that they have sworn an allegiance to him, infinitely stronger than to the crown? And when it is argued on the other side, that the spirituality he is invested with gives him no temporal power, I completely deny it. Was it ever stated, or ever contended that there was not a great degree of temporal power attached to the spiritual supremacy? Now then, Sir, I deny the truth of this proposition, in as much as the temporal power of the Pope in marriages cannot be denied. That power in many instances, is conclusive against the laws of this land. Why then, Sir, is not this of very great consequence? Because if you controul this power, and the temporal power of the spiritual authority in other things, will you not have endless petitions on your table against the soundest maxims and laws of the land in respect of the adjudication of the right of property? Will it not then be called a religious grievance? Suppose, by the laws of the land, you decree a marriage to be defective, by certain rites of marriage not being duly performed, will it not be said to be an unjust and an intolerable restriction? Will any man pretend to say that it gives that power no temporal influence which claims a right to decide upon the legality of marriages? It is a play upon words if it is contended that the present law of the land does not give such a power to the temporal authority of the state. If, therefore, you were to attempt to take away this power from the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church, will they not complain of it as a grievance? It is said also, that excommunication gives them no temporal power. I say that power must necessarily be a temporal power; because though it is nominally called a religious power, it is nothing without the temporal power to enforce it; and it is impossible for you to separate the spiritual supremacy from the temporal supremacy, because 762 they must necessarily be intimately and immediately connected. Such powers never existed separately, consistent with each other, in any state.
Now, in Papal Rome, the priests and others had a very great temporal influence: and I say that they must always have even a greater power than is permitted by the laws of this state; and they will have that power to a certain degree in opposition to all your laws and all your securities, as long as the doctrine of auricular confession remains a part of their tenets. That doctrine will always have a very great influence in whatever part of his Majesty's dominions it is exercised by the priesthood. I cannot conceive how it is possible, in a religion like this, to separate temporal influence from spiritual autherity, because they are so intimately blended together, that one is nothing without the other.
Sir, I have trespassed a long time on the attention of the House; but I trust that in giving my vote against this motion, I shall not be considered as an enemy to the Catholics; and that I vote against it because I think they cannot, under the present circumstances of the times, be trusted with the possession of political power.
§ Sir J. C. Hippisley.
—The sentiment expressed by the right hon. gentleman who has just sat down, are so much in opposition to my own, "hat I feel myself called upon to give some reply to them I can assure the House that I am disposed to trespass upon their patience as little as possible, considering the extent and importance of the subject, and that it is not my intention to produce, as heretofore, voluminous documents in support of my own opinions. My wish is principally to lead the attention of the House to that kind of investigation, which, in my apprehension, is best suited to reel those prejudices which may be considered, in no small degree, as hereditary, and which in the minds of but too many, will probably be aggravated by the statement of the right hon. gentleman:—my wish is also to endeavour to set the minds of others, as my own is, at rest, as to any dangerous consequences to be apprehended from further concessions to the petitioners, even to the full extent to which the argument of my right hon. friend who moved the question was disposed to carry them:—provided such measures of concomitant 763 legislation are adopted, as do, in fact, constitute a material feature of the state policy of every other nation, and have not been less in the view of our Catholic ancestors, than they ought to be in our own, at the present hour.
The right hon. and learned gentleman has again recurred to the pontifical oath, taken by bishops at their consecration, as pregnant, in his opinion, with every mischief, on account of the unqualified obedience sworn to the Pope; and he emphatically dwells on the words "hæreticos persequar et impugnabo"* as the pledge of ceaseless persecution.—He quotes Dr. Troy's Pastoral Letter of 1793, to substantiate his charge; but at length acknowledges, that the see of Rome did actually admit a qualification of those hostile words, at the instance of the empress of Russia. In this respect he has told the truth, but not the whole truth; for he has omitted the most material facts, namely, that the very words he objects to, are also omitted, in the pontifical oath taken by the Roman Catholic bishops of
§ * In vain do Catholics protest against the interpretation which their opponents insist upon giving to this passage of the Pontifical Oath.—We have seen that Rome, yielding to the prejudice, has withdrawn it altogether, both with respect to the Catholic bishops in the Russian dominions, as well as to those of Ireland:—but, in candour, let us see, also, how far the original Pontifical Oath is countenanced, in this respect, by the words of the Coronation Oath of the kings of Scotland, as taken by king William and queen Mary.
§ "We, William and Mary, king and queen of Scotland, faithfully promise and swear, &c. &c. to maintain the true religion of Christ Jesus, now received and preached within the realm of Scotland, and shall abolish and gain-stand all false religion, contrary to the same," &c.—"We shall be careful to root out all heretics and enemies to the true worship of God, that shall be convicted by the true Kirk of God of the aforesaid crimes, out of our lands and empire of Scotland," &c.—Such is the Oath.
§ On a reference to Steuart of Purdovan's Collections, 1802, we find (book iii. table 2, of Papists, &c.) "that our sovereigns, by their Coronation Oath, are to root out all heretics," (as in the recited Oath) "which only binds them, at least, chiefly, to execute the laws against Papists, who764
§ Ireland, by the express authority of the see of Rome, and that the official notification, authorizing such omission, is given at length in the same pastoral letter of Dr. Troy, on which the right hon. gentleman has grounded his charge. He ought in candour to have told us, that, in 1791, the Roman Catholic bishops of Ireland addressed the see of Rome, representing the prejudices excited by a reference to the oath in question, at the same time expressing their own conviction, that the obedience sworn to by them was merely an abstract canonical obedience, and perfectly consistent with the oath of allegiance to their sovereign. Concerning this oath, nevertheless, and particularly as to the words "hæreticos persequar et impugnabo" they requested an authoritative explanation from the see of Rome, which might tend to remove the prejudices which had been so industriously excited in the public mind, and they stated that this was the more important as they were then on the eve of an application to parliament to be relieved from the pressure of the penal
§ are declared common enemies to all Protestant states." (Jas. vi. par. 16 and 18.)
§ Again "The severity of our laws against Papists will be further justified, if we consider, that by the law of God idolaters were put to death," (Deut. xvii.) and "agreeable thereto. Popish idolaters are to be punished with death." (By the 104 act, par. vii. Ja. 6, &c.)
§ We find, however, that king William recoiled at the letter of his oath, when he came to the clause, "to root out all heretics."—The commissioners quieted his conscience, by leaving it to his own construction; and the king took the oath in his own sense of it, however opposed to the letter of the law which enjoined it: Catholics have claimed the same indulgence for their Pontifical Oath, and with more reason (if we take Purdovan's construction of the Scotch oath,) but they have not been allowed it.
§ So were king William and queen Mary constrained to take oaths recognising the established religions of both England and Scotland to be each, distinctively, the true Protestant religion, though opposed to each other in doctrine and discipline. To those who wish to examine further into the subject, we recommend Steuart of Purdovan's collections, 1802, and the admirable History of Scotland by Malcolm. Laing, esq. M. P.765
§ laws. The right hon. gentleman might also have read in the same work, that on this application being made, the Pope directed the congregation de Propaganda Fide to be convened—a tribunal then consisting of a cardinal prefect, and twenty-two other cardinals—and the result of their determination, sanctioned by the Pope, was immediately transmitted to the archbishops of Ireland. Much surprise appears to have been expressed by that tribunal, at the objections taken to the oath. The titular archbishops were reminded of the explanation formerly given of the same oath, by the late titular archbishop Butler to similar objections raised by the bishop of Cloyne; and the strained persecuting construction of the words "hæreticos persequar," &c. was therein pointedly disavowed by Rome. The official document contains also the memorable words to which I here more than once adverted in former debates in this House, namely, that "the see of Rome never taught that faith is not to be kept with the heterodox; that an oath to kings separated from Catholic communion, can be violated, or that it is lawful for the bishop of Rome to invade their temporal rights and dominions. We too (it adds) consider an attempt against the life of kings and princes, even under the pretext of religion, as an horrid and detectable crime."—It then proceeds to state the legitimate construction of the pontifical oath; but adds, that as that oath has been so grossly misrepresented, the Roman Catholic prelates in Ireland, are allowed in future to make use of the same form of oath as was directed to be taken by the archbishop of Mohælow, in Russia, in which the words "hæreticos persequar et impugnabo," are wholly omitted by express authority of the Pope.—The oath thus substituted, concludes with this pointed declaration, "I will observe all these things the more inviolably, as I am firmly convinced that there is nothing contained in them, which can be contrary to the fidelity I owe to the most serene king of Great Britain and Ireland, and to his successors to the throne." Such is the oath as modified by order of the Pope himself in 1791; which the learned doctor, in candour, ought to have stated to the House; the whole being contained in the pastoral letter of Dr. Troy, which has fallen so much under his animadversion.
§ The House, I trust, will permit me on this occasion, to be somewhat pointed in 766 referring to a document of so much importance to the question, especially as it comprehends a victorious answer to the allegations of the right hon. and learned gentleman, I have ever conceived it to be the duty of every member to afford the House such information as he could give on so weighty a subject; and I have myself not confined my opinions to the walls of the House. Upon a question involving great doubts, at least in the minds of a considerable mass of the public, as proposing a departure from the state policy of our ancestors, I considered the public also to be entitled to the fullest information.
§ It has been stated of the petitioners that they amount to a population of four millions; granted:—such an enumeration leaves, however, a vast majority of the people opposed to them in religious communion, and deeply impressed, for the most part, with strong prejudices, not merely against the religious tenets of Catholics, but also questioning the integrity of their civil principles. To disabuse and counteract those prejudices, should be the object of every good subject who had the means in his power—acting in the letter and spirit of those wise admonitions of the legislature, which prescribe the important duty and advantage of connecting ourselves with our Catholic fellow-subjects by the lies of "mutual interest and affection." In this view also, on a former occasion, I endeavoured to impress the House with a sense of the propriety, and, in my apprehension, even of the necessity of an examination of this subject, in a more satisfactory manner than could be effected by a committee of the whole House. The standing orders of the House, on a question affecting religion, enjoined indeed such a committee as the first step, but the next I would wish to adopt, and it would be in the recollection of the House, that I have repeatedly urged it, is the appointment of a select committee, with the usual powers, where in all the hearings of the existing laws upon the question might be adequately considered: those of our Catholic ancestors, not less than those subsequent to the Reformation. In such a committee also the most important documents might be authenticated:—such as the reference to and answers of the six Universities in 1789, and at former periods; the public declarations, addresses, remonstrances, &c. of the Catholics, avowing their tenets, on various occasions subsequent to the Reformation; the acts likewise of general 767 Councils, as constructively bearing upon civil and social duties and temporal lights; and the interpretation of those acts given in the various class books of their professors and others, as taught in the several Catholic seminaries of education, and particularly in those existing in the United Kingdom. Not least in view of such a committee should be that important document which the right honourable and learned gentleman has so surprisingly overlooked, and which comprehends in itself a most satisfactory answer to the calumnies heaped upon the see of Rome, on reference to the dispensing and deposing doctrines or tenets so continually imputed to her as injuriously affecting other states; keeping in mind, however, the essential distinction between the acts of individual Popes, and those of the see of Rome, acting on the legitimate basis of her spiritual authority. In a committee of the whole House, assertion could only be repelled by assertion, with but little advantage to the question; but in a select committee, documents, such as had been noticed, might be deliberately examined, and those which tended to throw most light on the subject, would necessarily be noticed in the report. The constitution of the ecclesiastical government of the Catholics, with the relation it bears to a foreign jurisdiction, would necessarily form a material feature of such a report; and a reference to such authorities and illustrations as the committee, with its usual powers, could readily command, would enable them to collect a mass of evidence of the most material import, in forming an adequate judgment on such a question. Such a committee as I, in a former debate, observed would necessarily obtain the aid of the most eminent municipal lawyers and civilians, not excepting the, learned and right honourable gentleman himself, and in another place, it might be aided also by all the information of the most enlightened prelates of the establishment. It seemed scarcely necessary to anticipate the advantages to be derived from the extensive circulation of the report of such a committee throughout the United Kingdom—preparatory to the ultimate measure of legislation.
§ The right honouraple gentleman has laid much stress upon the obligation in the pontifical oath of supporting "the royalties of Saint Peter," as inferring an unqualified subjection sworn to the sovereign pontiff. Here also I will beg to refer the right honourable gentleman to the 768 same pastoral letter of Dr. Troy. He expressly avers the obligation to be purely a canonical obedience, qualified with the saving clause of" salvo meo ordine"—which, in the construction of all those who lake the oath, completely shields their civil allegiance; and if such be their own construction, as in fact it is, we have no right to interpose another. "The royalties of St. Peter," Catholics consider merely with reference to the local patrimony of the see of Rome, and so all their schoolmen define it; but at any rate, the concluding clause of the substituted oath of 1791, which has been noticed, carries with it the solemn guarantee of Rome itself, for the allegiance due from the subject to his temporal sovereign, and particularly to the king of Great Britain.
§ The House may think that I am treading too closely on the steps of the right hon. gentleman himself, in a tedious discussion of antiquated documents; but as the learned gentleman has thrown down the polemical gauntlet, and as it is essential to the question that it should be taken up by some one, I accept the challenge. I wish, not, however, to annoy the House with a detailed refutation of those allegations which have been made this night, respecting the councils of Lateran, of Constance, or of Trent. Fully aware, however, that those allegations would be made, I have provided such documents as were best qualified to confute them; and although I determined to enter the House myself, unarmed with them, I have deposited them, however, at no greater distance than the Vote Office: and if the curiosity of an member should be excited to refer to them, I shall regard it as a pleasing duty to assist him in the research. Some observations I will, nevertheless, venture to offer upon what had fallen from the right hon. gentleman, although I am but too sensible that I shall only repeat what I have stated on former occasions on this subject. The 4th Lateran council was convened by one of the most ambitious Popes that ever sat upon the pontifical throne. Innocent 3. The right hon. gentleman has truly stated that it was most numerously attended by the ambassadors or representatives of nearly all the sovereigns in Christendom, as well as by the ecclesiastical members of the council. From this country, in particular, a representative was sent to it. The deposing doctrine, so often and so justly reprobated, is inferred from the 3d canon that 769 council; authorising, as it is contended, the deposition of all heretical princes, and the transfer of their dominions to others. It must be observed, nevertheless, as Catholics invariably urge, that the two first canons only are of general obligation, being canons of doctrinal decision of faith, and as such enjoining the obedience of the whole Church:—the rest are merely of discipline or regulation, and as such, requiring the canonical acceptation of churches and states, to give them validity. This is a principle universally acknowledged, and expressly taught by all the ecclesiastical jurists and schoolmen. In France the discipline of the council of Trent was never canonically received: a great part of its disciplinal regulations, as of useful adoption, have been sanctioned by the state at different periods, acting purely on its own authority; whilst many decrees were wholly rejected, as incompatible with the independency of temporal dominion and of the rights of the Gallican church. These distinctions may perhaps appear of little interest; but they should be carried in memory because they bear most materially upon this question. It is a matter of curiosity, at least, to observe how some Catholic writers speak of this fourth Lateran council—Matthew of Paris, our countryman, a Benedictine monk, and a contemporary writer, speaks of its decisions not a little tauntingly: he considers the council convened principally to get money, and observes, that the Pope having accomplished his purpose, dissolved this "gainful council,' as he terms it, "and the clergy departed mournfully from it;" his words are 'papa jam acceptâ pecuniâ, quæstuosum hoc concilium dissolvit gratis, totusque clerus abut tristis."—Platina, another Catholic writer, also states of this council, "that though much was proposed, nothing was decreed—'Venere multa quidem in consullationem nec decerni quid quam potuit." In fad, the authority of some of the canons of this council are much questioned by Catholic writers and others, as Dupin, and the late Catholic bishop Hay, of Scotland, have obserred: and this offensive one is reject ed as spurious by Father O'Leary. Inno cent 3, is represented by other writers, as well as Platina, as having produced those decrees in the council, but that they were never formally ratified by the council; and the nephew of Innocent, Gregory 9, always spoke of them as his uncle's canons. It is farther particularly stated 770 of this third canon, that it never made its appearance till an hundred years after the date of the council. Be that as it may, it never was received, but on the contrary it has been rejected by every state in Europe, even when Rome was in the zenith of her power, though individual pontiffs have often acted in the spirit of it, even anterior to the date of that council.—Of the other councils cited by the right hon. gentleman, having so often observed upon them, I shall now make no commens further than by saying, that the most satisfactory explanations may be found in all the class books of theology or ecclesiastical jurisprudence which are current in every seminary of Roman education.
§ In the speech of the right hon. gentleman this night, though in some respects more moderate than those anterior to it, he perseveres in rejecting the religion of Catholics, in itself, as a disqualification from exercising the civil offices of the state. He has not confined his sentiments to the walls of this House, but has repeatedly submitted them to the tribunal of the public. I am therefore the less disposed to leave those publications unnoticed, as they have run through repeated editions, and at the present hour are of continual reference by writers of exalted name and character. In one of those works, intituled "An Examination of the Claims of the Roman Catholics," he asserts that "the whole Romanists of Ireland had entered into a conspiracy with the French Directory to overturn the government."
§ In his speech of 1808, which is also before the public, and which I had on a former occasion noticed, he observed that every Catholic reasons thus, "we are from conscience traitors," &c.—[Here sir J. H. was interrupted by Dr. Duigenan, who complained of being misrepresented and partially quoted.]—Sir J. H. replied:—I can assure the House that I have not misquoted the publications of the right hon. gentleman, nor are the passages quoted at all weakened by the context:—I have taken some pains to ascertain their authenticity by the avowal of the publishers, and will answer for the correctness of what I have stated from the right hon. gentleman's tracts and published speeches: I am nevertheless disposed to believe that the right hon. gentleman, however mistaken in his opinions, is actuated by a sincere attachment to his country, and I know that he enjoys the esteem and friendship of many individual Catholics; but if 771 these be his real sentiments, how much are they at variance with the declarations of our recent statutes, in which Catholics are recognized "as good and loyal subjects."—He however maintains this night, as well as in his publications, the impossibility of Cathlics amalgamating with their Protestant fellow subjects, and that the excess of their religious intolerance is the cause, that they regard every person who differs from them in religious communion, as "doomed to eternal damnation."—In one of his tracts the right hon. gentleman indeed expressly slates, that the Irish Romanists look upon Irish Protestants, as only "estrays from hell during their continuance on earth," and "believe them to be the living agents of Satan," and that this is the doctrine propagated by the Roman Irish clergy. Such is his commentary on the doctrine of exclusive salvation as taught in the Church of Rome; and such a construction is, but too generally, thrown in the teeth of our Catholic fellow subjects. Candour, however, should direct us to turn to our own articles. Is not the 18th article of the Church of England apparently no less exclusive of the Jew or the Quaker, and indeed of every sect not received into the Church by Baptism, than any creed of the Roman Catholics is r and can we forget that we hold the Athanasian as well as the Apostles' and Nicene creeds in common with the Catholic? But the right hon. gentleman will say, look at the commentary upon our 18th article. The Catholic will reply, look to ours; and both should, no doubt, be regarded with scrupulous attention by the advocate of Christian charity. To enter into the detailed reasoning of schoolmen on this delicate question, is little suited to the time of the House; yet I cannot but ob serve that there is no imputation that presses more heavily upon the Catholic than this very charge of his uncharitableness towards all others who differ from him in religious tenets. It is in vain, says his opponent, to talk of being united in the "bonds of affection" with those holding such opposed opinions: opinions which must ever be considered as having a practical and sinister operation in social life: in this view, therefore, our time will not be ill bestowed in referring to the construction of those whose authority is most respected in their schools and universities. To this end, I will name the treatises of Hooke, of Bailly, and of De la Hogue,—all of them great theologians 772 and professors heretofore of the universities of Paris, and the latter now professor of divinity at Maynooth*. I will name also the
§ * The object, in enumerating these authors, was to suggest the best means to ascertain Catholic principles by those works of the most accredited theological and ecclesiastical jurists, which were received, as class books, in their universities and other public seminaries of education. Those above named are pre-eminent among their class books. The valuable Institutes of Hooke are now scarce, being out of print. He wrote and taught as a professor of the Sorbonne. Bailly was also a professor of the Sorbonne. His "Tractatus de Ecclesiâ, ad usum Seminarioram," printed at Dijon in 1783, is one of great authority. Since that period he has published a new edition, and has been constrained to insert some articles adapted to the present constitution of the Church of France. The edition of 1783 is likewise published under the official approbation of professor Do la Hogue, of the Sorbonne, at that time Censor. The "Tractatus de Ecclesiâ," of professor De la Hogue himself, is such as was taught by him in the university of Paris, and is now the class book, in theology, of the college of Maynooth, where M. De la Hogue is professor Mr. Foster is also mistaken in calling William Allen the founder of the college of Douay. He supposes him to be the founder of an Irish college. The Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland were not educated in that college, nor in any other seminaries that sprang from it: also, he is mistaken, in contending that the banished Jesuits of England resorted, in the first instance, to the college of Douay; at that time no Jesuits had been in England. A reference to Dodd's History and Particulars of the Seminary Guests, will correct these mistakes in a most able and interesting speech.
§ Mr. Foster in his late speech in parliament, complains, "that though the college of Maynooth has subsisted for seventeen years, he had never met with any person who could ever inform him of the course of studies actually pursued; that the lectures are read from manuscript courses," &c. Mr. Foster seems not aware that professor De la Hogue, in 1809, published three volumes, comprehending the course of theological studies, which embrace also the whole ecclesiastical polity of the Church or Rome, as applicable773
§ works of professor Schrame, a learned Benedictine monk, compiled expressly for the universities of Germany, and sanctioned by the highest ecclesiastical authorities. The works of those theologians have been
§ to foreign states. His works are, "De Religions" "De Sacramentis" and "De Ecclesiâ Christi:" the latter, comprehending a treatise on General Councils, which was referred to, with the book in his hand, by the late Chancellor of the Extchequer, on the debate on Mr. Grattan's motion. And here it may be necessary to mention the circumstance under which Mr. Perceval introduced his observations, which was, by reading the title of section, p. 166, viz. "Concilia, convocatione et celebratione generalia, sunt infallibilia." sir J. H. thereupon calling; across the House to Mr. Perceval, "infallibility in doctrine only," Mr. Perceval, with some air of triumph, turned to the last page of professor De la Hogue's 'Tract, and quoted, speaking of the Council of Trent, "Itaque maximo in pretio illud consilium habere debent omnes Clerici, cum ratione dogmatum sit veluti omnium precedentium Synodorum compendium, et ratione Disciplinæ merito dici possit manuale sacerdotium, vel eorum qui sacerdotio sunt initiandi."
§ After Mr. Perceval bad sat down, sir J. H. stated to him the error of his inference, as he took it, which extended to the whole discipline of every general council, and pointed out to him the chapter, 'De decretis conciliorum, quæ adversus independentem regum potestatem objiciuntur.' In that chapter the councils of Lateran, Constance, and Trent, are particularly discussed, and the same conclusion drawn, as in the answers of the six universities, on every point affecting the independence of civil government. And in a prior chapter, 'circa decrcia conciliorum,' M. De la Hogue quotes the great authority of Bossuet: 'Non docent Catholici, quæcunque gesta sunt in conciliis, ea ad ecclesia fidem pertinere:' and also, Multa etiam sunt decreta quæ non pertinent ad invariabilem fidei regulam, sed sunt accommodata temporibus atque negotiis.'
§ Such is the authotity of Bossuet, bishop of Meaux. Mr. Perceval, on this exposition, very candidly confessed the error of his hasty reference. It is well known that the discipline of the Council of Trent was never received in France, nor in several774
§ long received as accredited class books in the public seminaries of Catholic education, in France and Germany, and also in Great Britain and Ireland. Having merely named these authors for the reference of such as were disposed to resort
§ other states, except partially, by the express authority of the civil power, rejecting all such decrees as were considered as trenching, in the least, on the civil authority. But this question has been sufficiently discussed elsewhere, to satisfy the most jealous mind disposed to take the trouble of enquiry. England has adopted the provisions of the Marriage Act from the Council of Trent; and in Ireland, six dioceses reject the decree concerning clandestine marriages, while all the other dioceses adopt it, with such other parts of the discipline of the Council of Trent as is conformable to the obligations of the Oath of Allegiance, and no other. M. De la Hogue, in holding out the Decrees of discipline of the Council of Trent, has reserved only such as are in perfect unison with that oath, as may be satisfactorily collected from the perusal of his whole tract; and candour protests against conclusions drawn from partial references.
§ The 'Institutiones Juris Ecclesiastici' of Professor Schrame, were published at Augsbourg, in three volumes in 1774, for the use of the Catholic Universities of Germany, under the approbation of the I electoral archbishop of Treves. No tract is of more useful reference in the discussion of this question, and none can be more successfully opposed to all the overstrained inferences in opposition to the due interference of the civil power.
§ A reference also to the German publicists who have written on the stipulations of the "Transaction of Passau," the "Peace of Religion," and lastly, the "Treaty of Osnabrng," (forming part of the Treaty of Westphalia,) will confirm the soundness of the principle contended for by those who are the advocates for regulations on the basis, though not precisely in the words of the resolutions of the Irish prelates in 1799. We know that Innocent 10, in 1649, protested, by a pontifical bull, against the ecclesiastical stipulations of the treaty of Osnabrug. We also know that none of the states of Germany paid any attention to that bull, and that the Catholic stales, nevertheless, remained in perfect communion with Rome.775
§ to their authority, I am more particularly desirous to novice a work republished about two years since in Ireland, under the countenance of the principal Roman Catholic clergy, the names of seven of their archbishops and bishops standing in the list of subscribers to it. The title was, "Charity and Truth, or Catholics not uncharitable in saying that none are saved out of the Catholic Church."
§ The author. Dr. Hawarden, wrote about Seventy years ago; he cites the first authorities of his Church in confirmation of his own exposition. It is the perversely wilful opposer of the faith, as received by the Roman Catholic Church, who in the judgment of that church is pronounced guilty of heresy; it is not the opposer of their communion from ignorance that is so denounced. If the conviction of the mind sincerely resists the exposition of the principles of Roman communion, after a candid search for truth, where that resistance is involuntary, no well informed Catholic will pronounce against him the formidable sentence of eternal exclusion from salvation.
§ This tract cites the high testimony of Saint Augustine in support of this charitable construction. "If they," says Saint Augustine, "who hold an opinion in itself false and perverse, maintain it with no pertinacious obstinacy; if they have not been misled by their own presumptuous audacity, but have received their error from seduced or lapsed parents; if they be serious and diligent enquirers after truth, and manifest a disposition to yield to it, when found by them, such persons are on no account to be set down as heretics." I am not disposed to add any thing further on this point, as the high authority which St. Augustine holds with Catholic schoolmen, indeed little short of apostolical, is decisive upon the erroneous judgment formed by Protestants as to the Ro man Catholic construction of exclusive salvation. Herein, therefore, there is no rational bar opposed to the unity of the Catholic with the Protestant, in "affection as well as interest." Interest may bind the unworthy to each other, but affeciion is the healthful shoot of worthy minds. It is our duty to clear away every obnoxious weed that can impede its growth, and none can be more obnoxious, in the present view, than the misconception now noticed: in a word, the Roman Catholic Church holds, that every person is received within its pale by baptism, by whomsoever 776 administered: "that involuntary error is not exclusive: and that the Church has its concealed children in the sects separate from its unity."
§ Many members of the House cannot but have noticed a series of letters published in the Morning Post in the course of the last week, under the signatures of a "Real Whig" and "Melancthon," arraigning the civil integrity of Catholics, as holding the doctrine of dispensing with oaths, and deposing sovereigns: it is not just to the petitioners to pass by these revived though antiquated charges without notice. That many individual Popes have held and have acted upon such principles is but too well substantiated; but it is contended by the Catholics that no general council, nor the see of Rome, properly recognized as such, 'in cathedrâ,' ever declared such doctrines to be the doctrines of her Church. When individual pontiffs originally acted in the spirit of such principles, they relied upon their temporal strength, chiefly derived from the aid of powerful states supporting them for their own purposes; but in latter times, when Pius 5 fulminated his excommunication and deposition of Elizabeth, who among her subjects were found obedient to his mandates?—A solitary individual, who affixed the impotent bull on the gates of the bishop of London's palace;—and, in consequence, paid the just forfeit of the law, while Elizabeth found herself surrounded with her Catholic subjects with arms in their bands, repelling the menaced invasion of the Catholic Philip. Gregory 13 was indeed ashamed of the impotent rage of his predecessor, and declared his bull, as the subjects of Elizabeth had before interpreted it, a nugatory act. But assuredly the repealed declarations and renunciations upon oath, founded as they are on unquestionable Catholic principles, and most pre-eminently, the solemn official declaration of the see of Rome itself,*
§ * This declaration was made in answer to the application of the Irish bishops on the subject of the Pontifical oath. Mr. Perceval was of opinion that the saving clause, 'salvo meo ordine,' did not sufficiently cover the allegiance of the subject. The Catholic bishops think otherwise; and we may here refer to the construction of Father O'Leary; a character deservedly respected for his loyalty as well as his learning, and whose merits had been repeatedly recognised in the Irish parliament. In the777
§ in the late pontificate, in 1791, which has been already adverted, supply the best answers to such imputations.
§ The dangerous assumption and encroachment of sovereign pontiffs are admitted then to have existed?—doubtless they have existed; and every slate has, in its wisdom, thought it advisable to provide effectual barriers against them,—none more so than this kingdom in the days of our Catholic ancestors. The Catholic still seeks that security in every foreign state of Europe; not less for the independence of his Church than for the safety of his civil establishment. Those wise provisions of cur Catholic ancestors still exist on our statute books; sleeping
§ defence of his conduct and writings, in answer to the bishop of Cloyne's objections drawn from the Consecration oath, he says: "In the midst of it is inserted, in express words, a saving clause, which speaks the dignity of Catholic bishops, and reconciles their allegiance to their respective sovereigns, with the canonical obedience due to their head pastor. 'Salvo meo ordine.' This clause does away every difficulty, and leaves the sceptre in the Prince's hands, whilst it leaves the censor in the hands of the Pontiff 'Salvo meo ordine,' as a subject, bound to give Cæsar his due, and to pay allegiance to the reigning powers in whose states I reside. 'Salvo meo ordine,' as a minister of the Gospel, who is to preach the word, and who takes the oath in no other sense than to prosecute by arguments and impugn by persuasion, reason, and good example, those who are of a different persuasion. Any other prosecution or persecution, let the term be what it may, is inconsistent with humanity, much more with the order of a Christian prelate, who takes not, who cannot take the oath in any other sense. Bishops never lake that oath in any sense injurious to sovereigns, or to civil society. The sovereign Pontiff knows they do not. Before they are consecrated, they are bound to swear allegiance to their respective sovereigns (in Catholic states) who are as jealous of their privileges as any Protestant monarch can be. Were any more jealous of the rights and prerogatives of their crowns than the kings of France were? And yet did they apprehend any danger from this very Consecration oath which is objected to?
§ In the English ordinal, the archbishop asks the bishop elect, "Are you ready to778
§ indeed when the limes call not for their application,—while our later provisions,-, enacted subsequent to the Reformation, are virtually impracticable from their exaggerated and sanguinary penalties. Of the latter description is the statute of 13 Elizabeth still unrepealed, but defeating itself. In deference to this provident wisdom of our Catholic ancestors, let us look back to the constitutions of Clarendon, the statutes of Provisors, of Præmunire, of Mortmain, and to Magna Charta itself. Let us act in the spirit of their wise policy, adapted to the circumstances of the times, and authorized by the corresponding vigilance of every state of Europe, whether Catholic or Protestant. Of this description also were the guards in contemplation
§ banish and drive away all erroneous and all strange doctrines, contrary to God's word, and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to do the same?—Answer "I am ready," &c. But the Coronation oath taken by the kings of Scotland, and particularly as taken by king William and queen Mary, is the best commentary, and of that we shall speak in another place.
§ It will be recollected, that in the last debate on Mr. Grattan's motion, Mr. Yorke produced in the House what is termed the "Blue Books," or the controversy on the interpretation of the oath originally introduced in the act of 1791. That controversy would long since have been buried in oblivion, did not Dr. Milner from time to time take pains to revive it: and it may now be proper to say a few words in relation to it, which sir J. H. also stated to Mr. Perceval and other members on the Treasury bench, while Mr. Yorke was speaking to the point.—Three of the Apostolic vicars, and many of the clergy, dissented from the precise terms of the proposed oath—they contended, that some of the propositions were inaccurately qualified, though they made no opposition to any declaration of the duties of civil allegiance in the most extended moral sense. Without going into details, it is sufficient to observe, that the scruples of the bishops were attended to in the House of Lords, and bishop Horsley became their advocate. The bishop of London and Mr. Pitt were also of opinion, that their scruples were fairly to be maintained; and the oath as it stands at present, in the act of 1791, was substituted in the place of that originally introduced.779
§ concurrently with the measures projected at the period of" the Union with Ireland. Some of these measures have been very ill understood and industriously and wilfully misrepresented, particuiarly that noticed in the debate in 1808, on a question similar to that now before the House.
§ I will now beg to call the attention of the House to some circumstances,—much blended, indeed, with my own conduct as an individual, yet so materially connected with the general policy of the present question, that I would trust to a still further extension of their indulgence by adverting to them. My opinions possibly might diner from those of some of my parliamentary friends, as to the importance of the reservations of which have been uniformly the advocate, they were all nevertheless endeavouring to attain the same salutary ends, though by different means. Some of the petitioners, perhaps, under the influence of misrepresentation, which was so predominant, may, in reference to those reservations, consider my view of the subject as prejudiced and even intolerant: but it is neither: I am only conscious of pursuing their best interests; and if I have not their praise, I am determined to deserve it. Invidious names had been assigned to measures, which duly stated and understood, are, even on Catholic principles, unexceptionable. The "Veto" is a name given to one, as is the repelling denomination of an "inquisition" to another; yet both those guards are considered as practicable and healthful institutions by all Catholic, as well as Protestant Europe. "Give a dog a bad name and hang him," is a vulgar, but strictly applicable adage. That the proposed ratification of the crown, in the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops, or, to give it the name of the day, the Veto, was "forced upon the Catholic prelacy of Ireland in the reign of terror" is a popular assertion. Nothing however is less true; and of its fallacy the noble viscount on the Treasury bench (lord Castlereagh) will doubtless speak.
§ It is well known by many members of this House, that I was not only in correspondence upon the subject of the Catholic arrangements respecting Ireland, at that period, with the noble viscount himself, and with many of the King's ministers, but with some of the most considerable prelates of the Catholic Church at home and abroad. The coatemplation of 780 those arrangements is to be traced much further back than the year 1799. For in the year 1794 it formed the subject of correspondence from Rome, between myself, at that lime residing there, and a right hon. friend, then of his Majesty's councils, one of the brightest ornaments of that House, but now unfortunately no more (Mr. Windham.) By a peculiar combination of circumstances, it is also well known that I then possessed the confidence of the principal ministers of the Pontifical state, and had in consequence been induced to undertake many public negociations of considerable importance, under the sanction of his Majesty's government. It is true, indeed, that my name has never been honoured with a place on the civil list: I trust, however, that the results of my humble efforts, on those occasions, have not been less useful to my country.
§ I will now request the patience of the House, to be permitted to state the nature of a transaction, which though not one of those officially authorised, must yet be considered of great importance as applying to the scope and principle of this question, and evincing also great liberality on the part of the ministers of the Papal government, it is well known that a number of young persons were educated in the three national colleges at Rome, for the purpose of exercising the mission of priests in this kingdom. The superiors of these colleges, having the entire direction of their education, being Italians, the national clergy were naturally anxious to procure a reform in favour of themselves, and applied to me, urging me to exert my influence in their behalf. The national prelates of the Roman communion had, in vain, solicited this reform for a period of more than twenty years: the interest of the several cardinals protectors, (for each nation has one,) who had the nomination of the superior of each college, being obviously opposed to the wsshes of the national clergy, I ventured to urge the reform on this principle, namely, that it was reasonable that the see of Rome should have every security in favour of the ecclesiastical education obtaining in those seminaries, while the state, in which the students were ultimately to exercise their spiritual functions, should be equally secured of their attachment to its civil institutions. Pius the 6th admitted the solidity of this principle, and ultimately decreed that the national institution should be surrendered to the direction 781 of the national clergy. The succeeding troubles resulting from the incursion of the French, dispersed the members of those foundations altogether, and the reform was completely carried into effect in favour only of one of the national foundations before that dispersion.
§ It appeared desirable also that the precarious tenure of the apostolic vicars resident in Great Britain should give place to a class of prelates independent of foreign controul. The apostolic vicars were merely appointed "ad sedis apostolicæ bene placitum," while bishops oidinaries could be removed only for canonical offences, canonically proved. As I have heretofore entered more fully into the reasons for supporting such a change in the internal discipline of the ecclesiastical government of the Roman Catholics, in this part of the United Kingdom. I will now content myself by observing, that this reform appeared equally agreeable to the Catholic clergy and laity, and in a state view, was highly beneficial in its principle, and that I obtained a declaration from the late Pope, as well as his principal ministers, that such a reform should be granted whenever it should be desired by our government:—but it was observed by them, that if such alteration appeared merely as the spontaneous act of Rome, it would be exposed to misrepresentation. Such was the according disposition of Home at that period; and for many other proofs, I have only to refer to facts which have often been stated in the House. It is the principle of these minor arrangements that should be kept steadily in view, in legislating on the more important question now before the House, and in which the Catholic and Protestant have a common and a deep interest. "Without jusiice to the Catlholic," as an eminent prelate of the Church of England, (the late bishop Law) asserted," there could be no security for the "Protestant establishment:" nor is it less an act of justice to the Catholic, to secure his Church from foreign encroachment, than to concede those civil privileges, for which he petitions the legislature, with security to the establishment.
§ In reference to these transactions, the present seems a fit occasion to advert to the extraordinary change which had taken place in the opinions of the vicar apostolic of the middle district, (Dr. Milner,) who had not spared the press in disseminating these opinions, creating great distrust 782 in the minds of those of his own communion, with but little advantage to the cause of the petitioners before the House. The principle of an intercourse with the crown, as an additional security for the civil integrity of those appointed to vacant sees of the Roman communion,—and the institution of practicable guards against the possible encroachment of the see of Rome, such as the provident wisdom of other states had instituted,—had been urged in a tract, supplementary to a speech on the motion of Mr. Fox, in 1805, and which, soon after that debate, had been pretty widely circulated. To the republication of that tract, Dr. Milner had given the most marked approbation, even by defending it in a series of letters, from the criticism of one of the periodical reviews of that day. From the opinions maintained in that tract, I have never swerved. The principal securities against the encroachment of a foreign jurisdiction were therein distinctly stated, with the authorities which sanctioned them. One of the most prominent of those securities, has, in a pastoral address of Dr. Milner to the Roman Catholics of his district, been qualified with the opprobrious epithets of "a new Inquisition, or a Star Chamber." This Inquisition, nevertheless, as he terms it, constitutes a marked regulation in the municipal code of almost every Catholic, as well as Protestant state; and even in Spain, So late as in the year 1761, was strengthened by extended powers, operating against thai literally formidable Inquisition which has been justly held in terror and detestation throughout the world.
§ Sir J. H. then stated particularly the nature of those restraints from the encroachments of foreiogn jurisdictions, by referring to the rescripts of the empress of Russia, of the emperor of Germany, of the kings of Spain and Naples, and the ordinances of the governments of Tuscany, Venice, Milan, and other states. He also referred to the proceedings of the new government of France, which had, almost verbatim, adopted the institutions of the old regime: observing, that although the Pope was prostrated to France, yet had it provided the same barriers against the possible encroachment of Rome, as if she had been in the plenitude of her power.]
§ The principle of all these regulations is domestic security from foreign encroachment. In Russia, soon after the imperial edict which created the episcopal see of 783 Mohilow into an archbishopric, and the empress Catherine had appointed that archbishop and a coadjutor bishop, with an annual stipend, the late Pope Pius 6, commissioned cardinal Archetti expressly to invest the new archbishop with the Pallium, (the badge of his archiepiscopal dignity,) and also to consecrate the new Catholic Church, which was done with great solemnity. Nevertheless, in that very edict, the reception of all bulls and writings, from the Pope or in his name, was interdicted, except such as were on examination permitted to be published within the empire, and no ecclesiastics of foreign appointment were permitted to enter the stale. But these restrictions, whether of Protestant, Schismatic, or Catholic states, I have often noticed, and have adduced unquestionable documents in support of them. I now advert to them merely to demonstrate that Dr. Milner's change of opinion was not authorized by any change of my own. For such were the institutions recorded in the tract of which Dr. Milner was once so warm an eulogist, of which he had written a detailed defence, of which in the year 1806, a large number of copies were transmitted to a metropolitan Roman Catholic prelate of Ireland, at his own request, for distribution, and of which the re-publication has been repeatedly called for, at the instance of some of the most eminent characters of the Irish Catholic prelacy, as well as by others, who, in that part of the United Kingdom, are now the most forward in impugning the principles it inculcated.
§ It was then considered as "a voto ragionato of the most reconciling nature, deli-vered by a character of trust and weight, by one who possessed alone the confidence entirely of the highest order of the (Catholic) teaching body, and of all those who are competent to judge of Catholic affairs." Such was the opinion pronounced upon it by one who solicited its re-publication, on the authority and in the name of a distinguished prelate of the Roman Catholic communion in Ireland.
§ There are many facts and circumstances which ought to be very deliberately weighed, in order to enable parliament to form adequate provisions upon a question of this description, otherwise they would involve themselves in anomalies similar to those of the English act of 1791, which went through the House with a rapidity little suited to permanent and salutary legislation. The unauimity which then prevailed 784 in parliament, was, in fact, injurious to its provisions, and to the object they had in view. The tract just alluded to speaks of some of those anomalies; and I shall beg to avail myself of a future occasion to speak of them more in detail.
§ Of the Irish act, which followed, in 1793, I shall now beg permission to make a few remarks, as a right hon. gentleman, who took a conspicuous part in that proceeding, is now in his place, and its history was not a little remarkable. The oath which constitutes the test, in that act, was framed by that learned gentleman himself, in place of one of a more simple construction. The learned gentleman anticipated that an oath proposed by himself was calculated to meet general approbation, and the government assented to the change. A member of the Irish parliament (the late Mr. Forbes) objected to it "as ridiculous;" the right hon. gentleman nevertheless maintained his ground. "The Catholics," said he," have published a declaration as the ground of Protestant confidence; they have been charged with holding tenets injurious to the social compact by which Slates exist; the belief that this charge was true, has been one great reason for not entrusting them with power; in their declaration, they deny the charge; I am glad they do. I believe them to be honest men, and therefore I desire they will swear to the words of their own declaimion." Such was the opinion of the right hon. and learned gentleman, in 1793, of the estimation in which Catholics held the sacred obligation of an oath. Those who look back to this recorded declaration of the right hon. gentleman, and to his memorable letter to the right hon. mover of the present question, in 1797, when he anticipated, "that in the event of our union all rivalships and jealousies between Protestants and Romanists would cease for ever, and that it would not be necessary to curb Romanists by any exclusive laws whatever," must necessarily exclaim" Quantum mutatus ab illo!"
§ With respect to the proposition of the negative of the crown in the nomination of the Roman Catholic prelates exercising their functions within the realm, I feel great reluctance in so frequently adverting to it; but the almost daily publications, and the sinister influence of the misrepresentations on that subject, necessarily presses it forward. Of the temper of the limes in which it was originally introduced, and of my own correspondence 785 upon it al home and abroad, I have repeatedly spoken. Being very desirous to verify the accuracy of those documents of which he was in possession, and particularly the resolutions of the Roman Catholic prelates in 1799; within a few days past I obtained access to the original papers in the possession of the noble viscount, at that period the chief secretary of Ireland. From these I had the satisfaction to find, that my former statements were in strict conformity to the circumstances which existed, during the negociation which preceded the Union. On the same basis of proposed arrangement, was the communication made to parliament in 1808. Unauthorized at that time, certainly, it appears to have been, on the part of the Roman Catholic prelacy of Ireland; but so far supported on the authority of their agent Dr. Milner, that the right hon. gentlemen who stated it to the House, considered themselves fully justified in holding out a measure to which they justly attached great weight. But though the communication of Dr. Milner was unauthorized,—was his conduct disavowed, or even censured by his constituents? Certainly not, On the contrary, he had every reason to believe, for a considerable time posterior to the debate, that the full assent of the Catholic prelacy of Ireland, to that proposal, would be obtained in a general synod; and letters of thanks, though not specifically adverting to that proposition, were transmitted from Ireland to a noble lord and the right hon. gentleman who were the movers of the question in either House of Parliament. The question was moved on the 25th and 27th of May, 1808, nor was a murmur heard from Ireland, against the proposition of the negative of the crown, till more than two months afterwards, when writers assuming the signatures of Sarsfield, Laicus, Inimicus, Veto, &c. denounced the measure as pregnant with every evil that could befal the Catholic cause; and Mr. Clinch, a barrister, and deeply versed in scholastic divinity, under his own name, entered the list also, deprecating the adoption of such a concession on the part of the Catholic prelacy.
§ It was with no small degree of surprize that I heard of the opposition of that gentleman, as he had been so recent and so warm an eulogist of the tract, printed in 1806, which pointedly recognized the utility of those measures now so much reprobated, and which recited the authorities 786 by which they were supported in other states.
§ Was it possible to suppose that the four Catholic metropolitan prelates, and six ancient bishops of Ireland, could be so little interested in the security and integrity of their Church, as to have themselves proposed a measure of so fatal a tendency as these writers contend? But let us follow the dates of their synodical proceedings. In January, 1799, the resolutions of the bishops, comprehending this arrangement, were presented to his Majesty's government: in May 1808, the proposal was revived, though now admitted to be unauthorised, by their agent, also a Ro man Catholic prelate: and in September, 1808, a synod of the Roman Catholic prelacy was held in Dublin, when they declared that "it was inexpedient to introduce any alteration in the canonical mode hitherto observed in the nomination of Irish Roman Catholic bishops." It is a known fact that that synod was held principally to deliberate on the specific measure proposed by Dr. Milner, their agent, conformably to their resolutions of 1799; no condemnation of the measure itself, nor of the act of Dr. Milner was expressed. Dr. Milner was continued in his agency, and the synod resolved that any alteration was then inexpedient, &c. To ascertain more distinctly, the sentiment" of the prelates on that vote, a letter was addressed to the Roman Catholic primate of Ireland, Dr. O'Reilly, by lord Southwell and sir Edward Bellew, in reply to which the primate declared that "he was certain that in forming their resolution the prelates did not mean to decide that the admission of the Veto, or negative on the part of the crown, with the consent of the holy see, would be contrary to the doctrine of the Church, or to any practice or usage essentially connected with the Roman Catholic religion; but that the concession might eventually be attended with consequences dangerous to the Roman Catholic religion; but that such danger was of a temporary nature, resulting from existing circumstances."
§ These "existing circumstances" were stated, in a variety of letters of the first authority, and in many addressed to myself, to be grounded on an apprehension formed in the minds of the prelates of the sinister influence of a hostile government; but that the subject being open to be taken into consideration at a more favourable moment, no change of opinion whatever 787 was expressed in disfavour of the principle of the negative of the crown.
§ In February, 1810, the Roman Catholic prelates again assembled at Dublin, and published seventeen resolutions: not one of them negatived the principle of the resolutions of 1709, though they strongly object to another measure, which was a very popular one with the majority of the second order of the clergy and of the laity, and was recommended for adoption by the right hon. mover of the question now before the House, in a similar motion in parliament, in 1811, namely, that of domestic nomination in an election by chapters. The bishops profess that "they seek nothing beyond the mere integrity and safety of their religion," but unfortunately, under the influence of erroneous statements, they reprobate the fifth resolution of the English Catholics of the first of the same month; though conceived in the full spirit of their own resolutions, and they record their thanks to Dr. Milner for his apostolical firmness in opposing it!
§ It is a painful but a necessary duly for those who are ultimately to legislate on the question of Catholic claims, to follow the steps of these proceedings,—injurious, as I have said, in the highest degree to the cause of the petitioners, because engendering distrust in the minds of many of their friends, and affording a latitude of triumph to their opponents. But how are we to reconcile this applauding vote with the fact? A noble lord of great consideration at this meeting of the English Catholics on the 2d Feb. 1810, put the question to Dr. Milner, whether he should sign the resolution, and was answered in the affirmative. It is a known fact also that the same prelate declared he should not oppose the signatures of any of the clergy of his district, he himself objecting in his character of agent of the Roman Catholic prelates of Ireland! What is there in such conduct that demands the exalted qualification of" apostolical firmness."
§ That the Catholic, prelates founded this concluding resolution on representations extraneous of the fact is too evident, and cannot be sufficiently lamented. In the spirit of those misrepresentations, most of the later works of Dr. Milner are written, in which the old parliamentary supporters of the Catholics are accused of machinations to subvert the Roman Catholic religion, by requiring security for the religion of the establishment; and these charges have been reiterated with so much industry 788 of misrepresentation and perversion of facts, as to have excited the most serious distrust and discontent in the minds of some of the best disposed-Catholics, even to the length of producing public meetings to guard against visionary dangers. I will, nevertheless, confidently look forward, with anxious expectation, to the period when all these misconstructions will give way to the force of truth, and to the revival of that reciprocal confidence which alone can insure the successful termination of a cause in which the interests and indeed the honour of so many millions of our fellow subjects are so deeply involved.
§ It was well known, that I have very recently stood in a situation most flattering to my own feelings; accredited as. I had been by the whole Catholic nobility of England, and a most respectable body of others professing the Roman communion, to urge their cause in parliament. No man could doubt of the successful termination of their cause, and I could not be insensible of the honourable distinction of having my name coupled with the fame of an act which was to restore so meritorious a class of our fellow-subjects to the full benefits of the constitution: yet as my opinions were not wholly in unison with some of those honourable persons, as to the precise means of attaining the object, and especially as the measures I had proposed, had been so actively discredited by the misrepresentations to which I have alluded, I declined altogether the honourable trust which had so long been confided to me, wishing that it should rather devolve upon one whose opinions had not been questioned as to the provisions of enactment most suitable to the cause, more especially with relation to the Catholics of Ireland, to whom my own opinions had been represented in a light very ill calculated to conciliate their confidence. Such was the answer I gave to a noble lord at the head of a deputation of Catholics, who had done me the honour to request me to revive their Petition to parliament. I had the satisfaction to find that my motives for declining it were approved; and that a right hon. friend (Mr. Elliot) competent in every degree to acquit the trust with advantage, had since accepted it, and who, with myself, must feel no common interest in the cause, but must be impressed with equal reverence and emulation, when treading in the footsteps of the great character now unfortunately no 789 more, our inestimable friend (Mr. Windham,) who was originally charged by the Roman Catholics of England as the advocate of their claims. It is indeed true, that the whole of the obloquy to which I have alluded has not fallen on myself. The most eminent characters, in either House of Parliament, have not escaped it; and the most unworthy motives have been attributed to the support they have so strenuously and unintermittingly given to the cause of the petitioners; till at length, distrust took place of confidence, and every step of their friends, on this side of the water, was from time to time marked with some inculpating declaration or resolution of the associated committees on the other side. Such is the fact, however, I am fully prepared to breast the full surge of popular obloquy, founded, as it is, on misrepresentation, and to console myself with the conscientious discharge of my duty, not less to my fellow subjects of the Catholic communion, than of the establishment.
§ But though, in speaking of the misapprehensions of the committees of Irish Catholics, I may have something to complain of, I feel it not less my duty to speak in their defence when the occasion offers. In a paper of this morning (the Morning Post) under the signature of "Russel," the Catholic Committee and its satellites, as they are contumeliously denominated, are accused of the publication and extensive circulation of Ward's Errata, "the most infamous work," as is stated "which was ever printed:" "and that its re-appearance, it is observed, had given just cause of offence to Protestants of all denominations." Of this imputation I can, in the most decided manner, acquit the Catholic committee. The work in question is of a very antiquated date, and a bookseller considering, some time ago, that the question of Catholic claims might excite the active currency of a new edition, naturally sought his own profit in the extended sale. The names indeed of many of the Roman Catholic clergy stand as subscribers, but not a single prelate of their church is of the number; and in a letter which I sometime since received from the titular archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Troy, he judiciously considers it a very ill-timed publication, and regrets mach that it had appeared:—least of all was the Catholic committee therefore to be accused of that publication.
§ Thus much of this charge; but in the same article, under the same signature. 790 stands another charge, as little supported but not less mischievously directed against the Chancellors of the two Universities, "whose principles are so loose, (it states,) that for the furtherance of party views, the utmost indifference is shewn by them to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a total disregard to the feeling of the individuals they represent." Of the purity of lord Grenville's conduct in this respect, I will say nothing in the presence of the noble lord on the bench near me, who is so nearly related to the high character thus traduced, nor is it necessary indeed that any thing should be said to repel a charge so unfounded. But of the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge I consider it incumbent upon me to say a few words. It has been my good fortune, for many years, to be honoured with the friendship of that illustrious personage, and to be frequently in his society; but I can take upon myself to say that, to the present hour, I can form no opinion of his sentiments on this question, which has been so often agitated, and of which the implied support constitutes the great offence in the apprehension of the writer of this article. It is possible that the illustrious personage may not have made up his mind fully upon the question, but least of all is his Royal Highness open to a charge of "disregard of the feelings of the individuals he represented, or indifference to the fundamental principles of the constitution." The constitution in Church and State has not a more jealous friend, and this assertion I am persuaded will be assented to by the applauding voice of this House.
§ With respect to the universities themselves, it is to be regretted that their proceedings with relation to the present question had not originated at an earlier period, and consequently been more decorously-adopted. Disapproving the object, and conceiving it to be, as they profess, of an injurious tendency, they might naturally be expected to manifest that disapprobation in the constitutional mode they have adopted; but surely the universities would have better consulted their own dignity if they had proceeded with less precipitation. In both universities that precipitation has been but too evident, though not equally so in each. It is a known fact, that the right rev, master of the most considerable college in the university of Cambridge, though resident on the spot, was not apprised of the proposed 791 act of the senate, until the day immediately preceding that upon which the address was voted.
§ That the apprehensions of many members of those learned bodies had been greatly excited in disfavour of the object of the petitioners was but too evident, and the effects also of those apprehensions had extended very widely. Diocesan charges of some prelates of the establishment, discourses from the pulpit, and the daily emanations from the press, adverse to their cause, have all contributed to keep alive the influence of antiquated prejudices, though resisted by other prelates and divines of the most eminent talents and learning, whose attachment to the national Church is above suspicion. Much, however, as that influence, in the extent of its operation, is to be lamented, it certainly ought so far to be respected, as to prompt us to direct every effort to inform the judgment of those who have viewed the question through the prejudices of so many centuries, and at any rate, to avoid precipitation in a measure which involves so considerable a departure from the policy of our ancestors. No man can look forward more confidently than myself, to those constitutional benefits the state would derive from ultimate concessions; but no man can deprecate those concessions, more than myself, if unaccompanied with such securities as may satisfy the minds of the most timid, in a rational view of their nature and extent.
§ When the question is roundly and concisely put, and the answer given, that a repeal of every act of restriction, with unlimited concession, is that which is demanded; alarm is naturally excited, and we are disposed to ask—whether the petitioners really mean that no barriers should be opposed to the possible encroachment of a foreign jurisdiction? From the period of the conquest, at least, our Catholic ancestors did think it incumbent upon them to provide such guards; and such has invariably been the course adopted by every other state. No rational objection can, in a dispassionate view, be made against placing the Catholic subject on the same footing as he stood, anterior to the Reformation, with respect to every essential civil privilege, reserving to the stale that unquestionable security for its establishment, which it never can consistently relinquish.
§ It is a matter of interesting and even entertaining research to look back to the 792 pages of our own history as connected with this subject; when our Catholic ancestors, animated with the jealous spirit of enlightened patriotism, secured their freedom, by raising at once a barrier against the encroachments of the crown and of the tiara. Nor indeed, were the sovereigns of those days (with very few exceptions) more disposed to submit themselves to the papal yoke, than their descendants of the present hour.
§ The historian of William the Conqueror records his resistance against the assumption of Gregory VII.—the most enterprising of the ancient pontiffs, in extending the temporal influence of the see of Rome,—who, with the demand of what is termed Peter-pence, insisted also upon homage for the crown of England. The answer of William is on record. "Of these demands," says he, "one I have granted; the other refused; homage I would not, nor will I do; for I did not promise it myself, nor can I learn that it was ever done by my predecessors."
§ A requisition was also made of Edward the First by Pope Boniface VIII. that he should desist from his expedition against Scotland, as the Pope claimed it as a fief of the Church; the king submitted the Papal demands to the English barons, who resisted the interference of the Pope with the stout independence of the true English character. "Our lord the King" (say they to the Pope) "shall not plead before you, nor submit to any trial or enquiry, or send messengers to your court; especially as such proceedings would be in manifest disinherison of the rights of the crown of England, and the royal dignity; the evident subversion of the sovereignty of the kingdom, and the prejudice of the liberties, customs and laws, which we have inherited from our fathers; to the observance and defence of which we are bound by our oaths, and, with the assistance of God, will defend, with all our strength."—Such was the language held by English Catholics to a Pope, when Papal influence was in its zenith.
§ We find also that William of Gainsborough, bishop of Worcester, in 1302, was fined a thousand marks by the king for receiving a bull of institution from the Pope, which committed him to the charge of the temporalities as well as the spiritualities of his bishopric, and was compelled publicly to renounce the obnoxious clause, and to declare that he held the temporalities of none but the king.793
§ The memorable circumstances, attendant on the promotion of cardinal Adrian by Henry 7, to the bishopric of Bath and Wells, are not to be passed over in this part of the enquiry. The cardinal was then at Rome, and the king named the bishop of Worcester, the dean of St. Pauls, and Hugh Young, professor of divinity, to receive from the cardinal an abjuration of every pretension of the Pope that could constructively militate against the prerogatives of the crown, or the independence of the state.—"I renounce, says he, all and every word, clause and sentence in the apostolic bulles directed to me concerning my aforesaid bishopric, which are prejudicial to my sovereign lord the king, or his heirs, or the rights, customs and prerogatives of the kingdom." This oath was administered to the cardinal at the very foot, as it may be said, of the pontifical throne.
§ [Sir J. H. then adverted to various documents recognizing the antiquity of Catholic allegiance subsequent to the Reformation, referring to Dodd's History of the Church and other authors. He also noticed the adverse opinions of prelates of the establishment; those of bishop Barrington, of bishop Sparke, and of bishop Huntinglord, and opposed to them the contrasted sentiments of bishop Watson, of bishop Horsley, of bishop Law, and of bishop Bathurst, who in their speeches in parliament, or in charges to their clergy, had borne the most honourable testimony to Catholic loyally, and most of them contended in favour of their admission to the full benefits of the constitution.] The speeches of bishop Bathurst in 1801 and 1811, are of particular interest: in the latter speech that liberal and enlightened prelate has referred to the interesting correspondence between archbishop Wake, and the ecclesiastical historian Dupin. The attachment of the archbishop to the Church of England, had been never questioned, (as bishop Bathurst observed,) yet he shrinks not from the candid exposition of his Catholic correspondent in staling the doctrines and discipline of the Church of Rome; still less does he arraign her doctrines as pregnant with "idolatry, and blasphemy, and sacrilege;" nor the Catholics themselves who hold the "confession of the council of Trent, as enemies of all laws, divine and human, and such as should be excluded or driven from our courts and our armies!"
§ It cannot be too much regretted that 794 such opinions have been pronounced by such eminent authorities, and while modern publications are industrious in propagating opinions so injurious to such a vast mass of our fellow subjects, comprehending not less than a fourth of the population of the United Kingdom, I feel it my duty on the present, as I have also on a former occasion, to oppose to them the contrasted sentiments of other prelates, not less eminent for their talents and devotion to the interest? of the establishment. Indeed, so little influenced by such prejudices was archbishop Wake, that he scruples not to avow in that correspondence with Monsieur Dupin, that, "in the doctrine of the Church of Rome, as explained by him, there was no great difference of opinion between them;—still less as to ecclesiastical discipline, and in fundamental principles, whether of doctrine or discipline, they scarcely differed at all," or, in his own words—'In dogmatibus, pro ut à te candidè proponuntur, non admodum dissentimus; in regimine ecclesiasticâ, minus; in fundamentalibus seu doctrinam, seu disciplinam spectes, vix omnino.'
§ Such was the opinion gravely and deliberately expressed, by one of the soundest of our theologians, and one of the brightest ornaments of our Church; but what is of more importance for parliament and the public to ascertain, in the present view of the question, is the real state of Catholic principles, as applicable to the integrity of their allegiance,—and whether the declarations so repeatedly made by Catholics, be, in fact, strictly conformable to the tenets of the doctrine, and essential discipline of their Church.
§ But, says the Catholic—Do we not abjure, on oath, all those obnoxious tenets which are imputed to us?—The answer will probably be given, as it has been but too often given, "Yes, you swear indeed, but the dispensing power in the estimation of your Church will relieve you from the moral responsibility of your oath!" Such, however, I am persuaded, would not, nor could be the answer; if that body of evidence were to be laid before the public, which would unquestionably appear on the report of such a committee, as I have so often, and so earnestly pressed upon the consideration of the House, namely, a select committee, constituted with the usual powers and latitude of investigation. Such a report would shew to the country the basis on which parliament proposed to 795 legislate. How often and how beneficially are such elucidatory reports circulated for the like purpose, even upon ordinary occasions? And where can there be found an object so seriously demanding such an exposition, under all the circumstances, as that great object, at present, before the House. Need I say that it involves a most striking and material departure from a policy which has been the received policy for ages; and the negative side of the question, it must be admitted, is in unison with our earliest prejudices, prejudices sincerely admitted, and with difficulty to be eradicated. The mere act of legislation, however great the parliamentary majorities with which it may be carried, will still be comparatively unsubstantial, till hailed by the according public voice, enfranchised from its prejudices. The human mind is not so readily liberalized as civil franchises can be extended by the mere act of legislation. The Catholic would soon see and impressively feel the justice and prudence attached to such an intervening course as that proposed. At every step, his political character would brighten, and every hour would give new strength to his cause. In a word, he would become convinced that the great object in view was cordially to bind the Catholic to the member of the establishment, by the reciprocal "ties of affection" as well as "of interest," ties, such as the legislature has recognized to be the paramount principle in the laws hitherto modified or abrogated on this subject: And in the full spirit of that principle it is that I shall give my most cordial assent to the preliminary and necessary step, comprehended in the motion of my right hon. friend.
§ Mr. W. Bankes.
—I should be as much overrating my own powers as undervaluing the time of this House, if I were to pretend to expatiate over that wide extent, or to wind through that intricate labyrinth of topics that have from time to time been discussed, as part of the present question; or if, after it has passed so repeatedly under discussion, and through the hands of such men, I could hope to set it in any new point of view. But happily for me (I may perhaps say happily for all who take part in it,) the field of argument lies before us contracted and retrenched, it has shrunk into a narrower basis, its boundaries have been defined, and its defenceless outposts abandoned. There are 796 now but few minds in which this measure confounds itself with a toleration of religious exercise, and as few voices that are raised to urge it as a claim of natural paramount right.
I stay not a moment therefore to demons rate how fully that toleration is enjoyed, how necessary I deem it that it should be, how much I rejoice that it is. Still less will I stay to advert to the glaring inconsistency of talking of the natural rights of citizens, it is the coupling of terms which are in plain opposition to each other, that of a citizen being purely an artificial relation: what may be the rights of man in a savage and unsocial state concerns us not: he who talks of civil rights can mean no more than what the laws and constitution of the state do actually recognize, or, consistent with its security and well being, might admit. Bat I have done with this. These are positions which, in the heat of argumentative contention, were seized on for their loftiness, they have been isolated and untenable, and are abandoned. Stripped of the martyr brightness of persecuted faith, stripped of the tragic mask of outraged humanity, the question has at last approached as in its own proper character, in the simple quiet form of a question of state expediency. We have heard it in the thunder and in the whirlwind, and here at last is the still small voice!
This warning voice appeals not to our compassion, not to our remorse, not to our piety, but to our terrors and our sense of danger. To this altar we are to fly for our own security; this we are to embrace that we may escape: it is to be our palladium; and, like Constantine we are to conquer under the sign of the cross. How! it is said, in times of peril and difficulty like these, how! when every wind under heaven is driving upon us, shall we leave some of the main timbers of our fabric unfastened, to vibrate with every gust; perhaps to crush all in their separation! When the world stands arrayed against us, shall we not strive to be united at home, to stifle all animosities, and heal all divisions? Most assuredly. I do more than admit its truth, I feel and I urge its necessity. It is this very consideration led me to weigh this question the more attentively, it is this very consideration that has decided me in opposing it. With this ardent desire of unanimity, is it possible that I can accede to a measure which seems to sow the seed of new struggles and new 797 rivalships, from which I can augur nothing but tumult and ferment in the outset, and intrigues and jealousies to all aftertimes. It is this I deduce from the experience of all history, and anticipate the future from the retrospect of the past. But we are told that times are changed. What! so changed and so disordered that none of this experience will apply r Then I will ask, are these disordered limes, times for experiments that are doubtful, and innovations that are sudden?
Is this a time to turn state alchymists, to tamper with the crucible, and to mingle ingredients which in their combination may explode?
Four millions; it is urged! "Four millions," is repeatedly dinned into our ears, as if this were per se an irrefragable argument for this concession. Now let those hon. gentlemen remember that if, on the one hand, this may seem to enforce the expediency, so on the other, in a like proportion, it must increase the hazard; and as I am not surprised that those who advocate this cause feel encouragement from those numbers, so let not them be surprised if to him who discerns in it the sources of mischief, it appears just by so much the more formidable. The intimidation may work in opposite directions, if it daunt them from refusing, so it may daunt us from conceding this power. It is a sword that has two edges; it is a colour that will tint and heighten either sketch.
For my own part, I would to heaven I could think it safe to grant their Petition; and this not to much an incitement as a recompense! We hear that our fleets and our armies are full of these brave Irish, and it is this makes me grieve to reject their prayer. It is because they are brave and they are loyal; it is because in spite of their disqualification, we have their services; it is because, at this moment, I am contemplating them, covered with wounds and with laurels, around the walls of Badajoz, that I would fain have seen them in the enjoyment of their heart's desire; and this without diminishing the grace of the boon by proving to how very few any real sensible benefit could result. It is true, they are brave, and they are loyal. But are they above the ordinary passions and interests of human nature? Are they not men? Will they not act as all other men have done in parallel cases? It is notorious that there is a superior degree of zeal and of activity, and a firmer principle of co-operation in all smaller 798 bodies whatever, as distinguished from the community at large; and this is found to obtain the more where a religious difference constitutes the line of separation.
But, for the present, I will wave this last circumstance, and consider this body with whom we have to treat, simply as a numerous class of subjects who have views and interests in common, who are accustomed to think and act collectively, who are recognized as a distinct party, and peculiarly so embodied and organized at the present time. So far, in this view, from imputing any peculiar malignity, it is rather in the social virtues themselves that I trace a source of mischief; in gratitude and fraternal fidelity.
Now, can it be supposed that men thus long accustomed to act in concert, embarked in one common cause, brothers in debate, brothers in risk and in perseverance, in the very hour too when they receive the accomplishment of their wishes, in the hour when their hearts are full, and when success has shewn them the strength of their co-operation, is it to be believed that they (the badge of whose league, let us remember, emancipation will not supersede, nor oblivion wear away,) will, so soon as the pasture is opened to them, mix indiscriminately with the herd? Will they-become one with the mass of the people, and drop as water to water? Will they not continue to feel as a party? Will not the chords of their passions vibrate in unison? Will they not be perpetually, dreaming that they are favoured or discountenanced as Catholics are advanced or passed over? Will it be matter of indifference whether one of themselves or any other be selected? More especially let us consider the lower orders. What exaggeration have they not heard of the importance of this acquisition? What expectations have they not formed? They have been taught to estimate the greatness of the boon by the measure of their own importunity. For my own part, I cannot conceive but that it would be ground of murmur and complaint, if they do not themselves discover some sensible benefit. But how, if it should so happen, that none of their whole body be called into immediate notice? Is it the part of a multitude to consider that (however numerous) yet bearing but a small proportion to the nation at large, the lot can but seldom be expected to fall amongst them? No; they will look to their own numbers; they will reflect upon the four millions, and (as 799 seems to be much the fashion upon that side of the question,) they will forget the eleven. But they will sit down satisfied that they have nothing more to claim. Will they? What! have they none amongst them upon whom their eyes will more particularly be fixed? Will they not be fixed upon those chosen leaders whom they have long supported and obeyed, whose names and services are familiar to them all, whom in gratitude, in allegiance almost, they must feel themselves bound to advance, and whose exaltation must appear their own?
We know how much every faction is disposed to magnify its leaders, and most of all a struggling faction; ultimate success is not likely to diminish this high-conceived opinion. Then surely it will be matter of astonishment to those who think they have among them the most qualified and the most worthy, the most able and the most eloquent, should the door stand open, and yet upon looking in they should behold no brother Catholic welcomed into power. And will not this astonishment turn to suspicion and disgust and resentment? Yes, it will turn, and will turn the most upon those who have laboured to encourage the delusion. For at present this measure seems only likely to take effect in the case of those gentlemen coming into office, who (if we may judge from recent circumstances,) are the most desirous to have it all to themselves. And in that case they will soon discover their ignorance of human nature, if they have conceived that such a multitude has been for years exerting all its strength for the attainment of a bare remote possibility, without any one definite expectation of substantial advantage. Let them congratulate themselves if, for a time at least, the ebb of their Catholic popularity is delayed, For, let the million, (which is most unlikely) be never so fickle, never so forgetful of its leaders, will those leaders be as forgetful of the million? Will they for ever hush the call that could awaken them, and the signal that could bring them together? Such power is too tempting to be always resisted. Such power is too great to be willingly put into the hands of any man. And influence founded on the gratitude and regard of thousands, who could throw aside?
It is in this view that the present moment seems to me so peculiarly inexpedient; now that the ties of fellowship have been drawn so close among the Catholics, 800 now that they are enrolled in a sort of congress or convention, now that they are so so systematically combined, and have so readily the means of keeping up a communication and understanding amongst themselves; at such a moment I say it is most unsafe to set the seal of success to the bond of unity. Do what you will, at such a time, to amalgamate this faction, it will not crumble into mere individuals, it will not melt into the mass of the people. Be the country at never so low an ebb, such a replenishment is hazardous; it will but pass as the Rhone does through the Lake of Geneva, without mingling its waters; it will not indeed taint the purity; it may extend the surface, it may raise the level, it may deepen the shallows; but will it introduce no cross current? Will it slumber in the still calm bosom of the lake, and forget its homage and tribute to the ocean?
But it is a party, now you say it is; and I think I have proved that if its object be attained, it is likely to continue so; but it is now a party without power, and it is then to be a party with power; here is the distinction. I do not say it will necessarily abuse this power, but I ask is such a body nothing thrown in the lump into the one scale or into the other? Nothing for the spirit and intrigue of parly to work upon? May not times come when, on the one side or the other, they will bid high for such a support? May there not be those who would be for keeping such a body in good humour upon any terms? What fatal concessions then may it not be at least in their power to extort from a declining minister or an eager opposition? And all this, let us remember, however eventually pernicious to the state, however fatal in the very outset to our Church establishment, in a cause which, besides that it is their inclination and their interest, it is in them virtue, it is piety to advance.
For let us now consider a little more closely, what is the badge and link of association that is to hold this body together, what this characteristic which no consolidation with the community at large can do away. It is a peculiarity of religion. What does this not promise of perpetuity? What not of zeal and of courage to the cause?
When I add that it is the Popish religion, does nothing more occur to us? It is not the mass; it is not the eucharist; it is not the invocation of saints and angels; 801 it is not the solemn requiem for the dead. These have neither my hatred nor ray ridicule: I venerate their antiquity, I respect their imposing sublimity; for my own part, I would not be ashamed, though my soul were lifted with the stream of their incense, or though I put up a prayer at the sound of the passing-bell. Not all these gorgeous superstitions could dispose me to acquiesce in their exclusion: not all these did actually induce our wiser ancestors to exclude them. I would no more fear a man, simply because he adored the Virgin Mary, than, on the other hand, I would have formerly feared a Puritan, simply because he sickened at an organ, or a surplice.
No, Sir: it is, because the keys of heaven were made to unlock every thing that is valuable upon earth; it is because the tiara is too much made up of terrestrial crowns; and the priestcraft, (as is somewhere well said) has what Archimedes wanted, another world to fix its engines upon, and so can do what it will with this. It is not that the Romish religion is dangerous, is hostile to all civil government. (Whoever maintained so absurd a position?) To some forms of civil government, to monarchy, even to absolute monarchy it is favourable: but it must be a Catholic monarchy; it is dangerous, it is hostile to every other. It is said, even to a proverb, of the element fire, that it is "a good servant and a bad master;" now the very converse is true of Popery; where it has the ascendancy, nothing is to be apprehended from it to the state, where it has not, it is to be dreaded and guarded against.
I will not go through the detail of these doctrines and maxims, which have so fully, at different times, been exhibited to this House, and which, in fact, a very moderate Acquaintance with history must have forced upon every man's attention; I forbear it, because it is superfluous, and I forbear it from inclination; I am not for visiting upon this generation all the usurpation and iniquities of their forefathers, I would not advert to this to render them obnoxious, but ourselves secure. I am not for using retaliation, but I am for using experience.
Now I am aware. Sir, that these doctrines and maxims have been solemnly disclaimed, I am ready to admit they have been disclaimed at the very fountain-head, by those from whom such a disclaimer comes with the most authenticity and the 802 most weight. But upon examining the tenor of those documents, and more especially the most explicit and valuable of them all (Pope Pius's letter) we shall find little reason to be satisfied. They deny and they disclaim too much. It is not "that their Church does not, at this day, hold such and such doctrines, but that it never did, it is not that their Church does not arrogate to itself such and such powers now, but that it never did." Now will history bear them out in this? Will their own councils and decrees bear them out? In this view it is not only as to veracity, that the whole statement becomes suspicious.
But, though the assertion be correct, what do we gain from the protestations of a Church whose practice has been so systematically at variance with its avowed principles? for really is it possible that we can look upon the successive and progressive usurpations (I might almost have said lives) of such a series of Popes, as mere exceptions and carnal deviations from the established tenets of their own Church, and with all their infallibility too? It is true, that the maxims are disowned, but in disowning them no change whatever is professed. It is stillThe milk-white hind unspotted and unchanged.What then is to secure us? We can look back and see what was her conduct in former ages, and when we look forward, what shall assure us that it shall not recur? What, but the want of inclination! A poor security!—Not the want of power and of opportunity, for these we are at once to concede; and to concede, because though their tenets remain identically the same, we are told their practice is reformed ever since these have been in precaution withheld!
Not that I am one of those who are for calling up this apparition in all the terrors with which darkness has invested it, I am ready to grant that these horrors of fire and blood, these plots and persecutions, these engines of excommunication and intolerance, have come down to us greatly heightened by bigotry and prejudice; but I may say in the lines which were originally written of a Popish plot.Some truth there was, though dash'd and brew'd with lies,To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise:Succeeding times did equal folly call,Believing nothing, or believing all.803 If I am asked whether, for my own part, I do not really believe, that these baneful influences are wearing out of themselves, I answer, I certainly do: if I did not, I should think that we had already conceded a great deal too much; for I never can suppose that our ancestors imposed these then novel restrictions without experience of their necessity: we have granted more than many successive ages have thought it prudent to grant; let us remember, if the Catholics have changed their spirit, so have we changed their condition; if they have thrown aside their weapons, so have we laid aside our armour. Let any one compare the present condition of Papists, with that in which they stood at the beginning of the present reign; and I think he cannot but admit that, let their temper be never so much improved, concession has at the least kept pace with that improvement—and so it should be.
But let us not be too precipitate; let this proportion still be observed and graduated. Whilst a spark of this fire remains, there is risk; and let us bear in mind too, that at this moment the eagles of France grips: in their talons the thunders of the Vatican. But when at last, (and pray Heaven that day be not far distant) these baneful influences, these obnoxious principles shall be wholly gone and vanished, as though they had never been, then none will more rejoice than I shall to see Catholic and Protestant all upon one fooling. But, alas! That day is still in the womb of time; these are not yet wholly gone and vanished; from their own writings I could prove it, from their practice I could prove it, nay, if there were no other, I would need to look to no other proof than their refusal of the Veto!
Now I have mentioned the Veto, I would say a few words upon the subject of securities, without which I must confess I can look to no change of times and circumstances under which I could accede to this measure. Even upon the other side of the House a colour of some security is still held out, though in the same breath So much is thrown in about uselessness, and futility, and inadequacy to answer any purpose, that if we may found any conjecture, or form any probable estimate of what this particular project is from their general language, one would not be disposed to expect any thing very substantial or satisfactory, (if even in point of fact 804 there is any project at all). I say conjecture; (without offence I say it) for what other ground have we to go upon? We are to pledge ourselves to the measure before the terms are disclosed. One suspects a buyer of no great liberality who is ashamed to name his offer. It is an odd sort of a bargain, where the receiver is to be paid in full, and afterwards trusted to for an abatement. Here we are to set our hands to a bond, in which (what is most material) the amount of the sum, and the nature of the security, is to be left blank! would any creature upon earth treat upon such terms?
Are Catholic dealings to be as contrary to our reason as Catholic mysteries, and are we to dispute neither one nor the other, because they are above our comprehension? But we are told, in particular with respect to the Veto, that there was a time when we might have had it; that that lime is passed; that we must concede more in proportion as we have deferred longer. What! is there a sort of compound interest gathering upon these claims? Are they like the Sybil, the oftener rejected, the higher in their demand?
In the present state of things there must be no preliminaries; the offer must be altogether upon the part of parliament, the Catholics will make none! Perhaps there may be some prudence in this, since offers have come of late to be considered matters of insult and of aggression. But really in any other times, I should not have thought it unbecoming a petitioner to be explicit. Let us attend to the reason that is assigned for this reserve; their terms are to be kept secret, because they would else be picked and pulled to pieces, and cried down upon this side of the House. Are they then never to be examined and weighed at all? Surely, if they ever are, the hon. gentlemen opposite, feeling so conscious that these securities are so very unsatisfactory, and certain to be rejected, must see in common with the rest of the House, that it is better this should take place in an earlier stage than one more advanced. Besides, that it would be so much a handsomer mode of dealing, both by the Catholic body, and by the parliament. Can any thing be conceived more productive of ill humour and disgust, more likely to bring things to an ill issue, than to hold out the full expectation, and then, from the insufficiency of the security, be obliged to retract?
805 Do not those hon. gentlemen know what clamour and irritation arise from baffled expectation? Alas! they do know it. They know it, and are not ashamed to urge this clamour and irritation as arguments for immediate concession. Their speeches are full of the peculiar state of disappointment that presses on the Catholic body at the present moment, they can magnify its bitterness, and enlarge pathetically upon its frightful consequences. And whom have they to thank for this: whom but themselves? Thinking, as doubt' less they do, the cause they have espoused a rightful one, it does them honour to espouse it, to urge it, to persevere in it: but is it justifiable to resort to this, to raise expectation to make a handle of disappointment? What they held out in prospect, no doubt, they believed at the time: but, be this as it may, why hold: it out at all? What possible good could it do; Instead of quieting, it has quite a contrary effect: does not anticipation increase impatience and restlessness? Does not long expectancy make a boon come, if granted, with the less grace; and if refused, with the more aggravation? And those hon. gentlemen in particular, who are so alive to the terrors of popular disappointment; are they so prophetic that they can venture to pledge futurity r Do they not know that what the multitude looks to, it looks to absolutely? Amid all the chances and revolutions of human events, could they imagine nothing that could revoke or modify this ill timed declaration? No change of times and temper, none of policy and expediency? To some of them I should have thought a change of mind would not hare appeared so very astonishing: lord Grenville could certainly have suggested, that such a thing was not out of the course of human events.
How they may excuse this to their own consciences, how to the illustrious personage, whose confidence they boasted, I know not. But really when they gravely advert to this clamour and irritation, so excited, as a ground of concession, it is carrying the maxim of prophecy working its own completion a little too far. As well might a man be called upon to give up his estate, because some soothsayer, by I know not what prognostics, had raised hopes of it in another.
And surely, if mere clamour and irritation are to be urged on the one hand, as reasons for accelerating this measure, it is wise, at least, to look if there is no clamour 806 and irritation on the other, which ought in prudence to retard it. I will appeal to all those whom the magnitude and importance of this question has drawn together from their retirement in distant counties, from among the "sons of their people," from those opportunities of commerce and communication with the middle and lower classes, which the habits of a populous city-preclude.—Is there not a feeling tremblingly alive upon these subjects? Yes, we know that the electric matter is abroad, we have heard faint thunders growling in the stillness of the evening; and have seen the lambent flashes in the distance: shall we choose such a moment as this to set the spire upon this fabric? such a moment to carry its exaltation into the clouds, and to call down the mad fury of the tempest into its very foundations? If there is nothing in this to intimidate us, there is something at least to make us pause, and be doubly sure that we are in the right. We are the representatives of the nation, and let us reflect that, should this measure in the end prove detrimental, we shall not have the consolation that we were urged to it by the sense of the country, and that if in error, we were but in the error of the people.
I know what I shall hear vociferated a return to this. The Popery cry: the dreadful, the atrocious Popery cry! and with what grace from those benches? Have those gentlemen raised no cry? Have they never played upon the passions and prejudices of the people? Let Ireland tell. Let their discussions in this House bear witness. Let that hecatomb of parchment skins upon our table bear record! And where, we have been triumphantly asked by the hon. member who opened this debate, are our counter-petitions, where our columns of signatures to be set off against these?
I will point to two only: in themselves a host. I will shew him the two universities of this land raising their voice against this measure. "Nos duo turba sumus." The only two bodies in the kingdom perhaps, upon which a popular vulgar cry cannot be supposed to have any influence. And this august pair alone stands forth! What is the inference? When science, when meditation have stepped forward from their calm retreat, who will believe that in such a cause the acclamation of the multitude could not have been stirred up? that ignorance and prejudice could not have been roused to 807 utterance? No, Sir, it is not to tavern meetings, not to club politics that we have resorted. In point of industry and assiduity we must confess that others have gone far beyond us. The cry is all their own. It is theirs to observe the profitable practice of physicians, they have a patient m hand, and they will not withdraw the application long enough for the sore to heal, or the fever of irritation to subside.
In point of fact, if the English peasant dreads he knows dot what, under the name of Popery, so the Irish peasant importunes he knows not what under the name of emancipation: the one dreams that he has all to fear, and the other, that he has all to obtain. Perhaps I have dwelt too long upon this comparison; but it is neither with a view to recriminate nor to palliate, neither to accuse nor to commend. I do not enquire how; much of these opposite cries is imputable to citcumstances, and how much to persons; nor how much culpability may attach to either.
But at least, in my view of the subject, I may infer jointly from both, that we cannot be so sure that divisions and animosities will be put an end to by this measure, that all this strength and unanimity will be gained to the country. I may at least infer jointly from both, that however times may have changed, mankind is still the same; and not so altered as to render all experience useless, and all retrospection absurd.
—Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman who has just sat down, has informed us, that this important question is reduced within a very narrow compass; I did therefore expect, that he would have confined his observations within the limits that he himself had pointed out, and that he would not have expatiated as he has done in the wide field of theological discussion. He has informed us that some of those outposts which in arguing this question, gentlemen had formerly been so fond of defending, have long since been abandoned, and that the supporters of the Catholic claims deserting their untenable positions, must now descend into the plain and contend with their opponents on the narrower basis of political expediency. I am ready to accept the challenge, to meet him in the combat on his own terms, and to consider this as a political question.
As to the question of natural right, one of the out-posts to which he has alluded, I entirely concur with him that it cannot be 808 defended. With regard to the other, the defence of the Catholic claims on the principle of toleration, the hon. gentle man must pardon me if I cannot agree to abandon as untenable, that ground which I think it so easy and so important to maintain.
I will not, however, enter into a dispute with him about the meaning of words. I will content myself with stating at the outset, that I use the word toleration in the sense which has been always put upon it by those who have argued in support of the Catholic Petitions. I use that word not in its narrow and confined sense of mere endurance and protection, but as implying in its more broad and liberal interpretation, a full and entire participation in all the benefits of the constitution; namely eligibility to sit in parliament, and the faculty (without reference to a man's religious opinions) of rising in the state, or in the profession to which he may belong, as high as his talents, his interest, or his services, can carry him.
In all the debates which I have heard upon this question, it is a principle that has been most zealously asserted by the friends of the Catholic claims, that a complete and unlimited toleration ought to be extended to all classes and descriptions of men in a free country, unless when serious apprehensions are entertained that such a state of things will be productive of danger to the religious and political establishments of the land, or to the civil liberties of the majority of the people. I have been always happy to find that this principle has been no less readily admitted on this side of the House, and even by my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, than it has been warmly advocated by his political opponents. From this (as it should seem to he) universally admitted principle, it necessarily follows that no political disabilities ought to be imposed, nor those now in existence continued on the King's Roman Catholic subjects, if it can be shown that such exclusive laws are not essentially necessary for the security of the Established Church and civil liberties of the kingdom. But if, on the other hand, it can be shewn, that so far from being necessary or beneficial, they are detrimental to the public interests;—if it can be proved that so far from constituting the bulwarks of our strength, they are the main sources of our weakness, all must unite in thinking that they onght no longer to encumber our statute book. I 809 am not now arguing that this is the case, but I do contend that such opinions are daily gaining ground, the mists of prejudice are quickly dispersing before the strong light of reason and dispassionate enquiry; year after year the Catholic claims gain fresh proselytes, and many most enlightened men in and out of parliament are of opinion, that they are founded in justice, supported by policy, and can no longer be resisted with safety. Are these things so, and shall we refuse enquiry? and enquiry is all that is called for by the right hon. gentleman in the motion which he has this night proposed to the House. As this is the first occasion on which I have felt myself at liberty to give effect to those sentiments which I have long entertained on this subject, I trust that the House will permit me to preface the reasons which I shall urge in support of the present motion, by a short account of the motives which have hitherto actuated my conduct on this important question. I conceived that an obstacle was thrown in the way of the useful discussion of the Catholic Petitions by the conscientious scruples of a most illustrious and venerable personage. Scruples which, in my opinion, were entitled to the respectful attention of this House from the age, the merits, the character, and the sufferings of the royal person, in whose breast they existed, and which called for the respectful forbearance of the Catholics themselves, considering the many benefits they had derived from his long and paternal reign. I conceived that this obstacle was in its nature insuperable, inasmuch as without the consent of the King, no act of this or the other House of Parliament could be invested with the authority of law, and I believed that necessary sanction would be withheld. I believed that an attempt to force the royal consent would be attended with consequences which I am unwilling even to hint at. I knew that the continued refusal of that assent would draw after it evils so mighty, that to postpone, for a limited time, the discussion of the Catholic claims appeared as nothing in the comparison. A choice of evils was presented to me, and I chose that which on a consideration of existing circumstances, appeared to be the least. Such, Sir, are the motives which actuated me on the different occasions to which I have alluded, and on retrospection, I am so far from incurring the penalty of selfreproach that, did the same circumstances 810 still exist, I should steadily pursue the same conduct. But can any such obstacle be now pleaded in bar of the proposed enquiry? No! By the heavy dispensations of Providence that obstacle has been removed. We have arrived at the commencement of a new æra, and those who are friendly to the Catholic cause are unfettered by the considerations that fettered them before. The time is come to which the Catholics have been taught to look for the indulgent and dispassionate discussion of their claims, and if we refuse to listen to them now, I know not to what new sera we are to refer them—to what new period we are to point as the limit to the duration of the galling restrictions under which they labour.
The question we are now called upon to discuss, derives much of the tremendous importance that belongs to it from the principles by which the ministers of the crown appear to be disposed to meet the claims of your petitioners—principles which, if just, are immutable, and must be considered as of invariable application as long as the government of this empire shall continue Protestant. The opinions of the first minister himself have long been known and always manfully avowed, and his conduct upon this question has been marked by the most perfect consistency; but he has not left us to collect from his former proceedings what his future policy is likely to prove. At the commencement of this new æra he has formed an administration on the very basis of exclusion to the Catholics; he has chosen to mark this aera by bringing into the administration the only public men not belonging to it, who entertain the same sentiments with himself on the Catholic claims. If any doubt then could have existed before as to his probable conduct, that doubt must be banished from every mind by a consideration of the quarter to which he has thought it right to apply for an accession of popularity, reputation and talent to his administration. Would to Heaven, Sir, that instead of thus studying to fortify himself against the Catholics, he had but thought of fortifying the country against the many and pressing dangers that surround it, by seeking to unite the affections of the Catholics to the interests of the state! Such is the ministry selected to meet the claims of four millions of the King's subjects, and such the character of the principles on which they are disposed to act! Is the House prepared to 811 act on those principles? Is it prepared to say not only that the advantages of concession are so imaginary and the dangers of concession so great, but that the very principles of the constitution itself are so exclusive, that without violating them and foregoing ail the benefits entailed upon us by the Revolution, we cannot entertain a thought even of granting the prayer of these petitions? This is a doctrine that does not stop short at the refusal of further immunities, but casts a severe censure on every act of grace or favour that has ever been extended to the Catholics of Ireland.
I not only maintain that the House never has sanctioned such opinions as these, but I maintain that there is nothing in the principles on which the Revolution was founded that can justify this monstrous doctrine of eternal exclusion. If we look back to the history of the Test laws themselves, we shall find that they and the fierce resolutions of this House against Popery kept pace with the alarms entertained by parliament at the illegal designs of Charles 2, and the arbitrary and bigotted notions of his brother the duke of York; backed as they believed them to be, and as they were by Jesuitical intrigues, by the emissaries of the court of Rome, and by the degrading and corrupt influence of the French monarch. They believed in the existence of plans for the subversion of the religion and liberties of the kingdom, and they did not hesitate to attribute to the Papists a participation in these designs. On the death of his first wife in the year 1671, the duke of York declared himself a convert to the Romish faith. Shortly after the king issued his famous declaration of indulgence, where in of his own authority he suspended the execution of the laws against all nonconformists; and it was generally believed that this measure was intended by the court, not so much for the relief of the Protestant dissenters as the Romish recusants. At its next meeting, parliament addressed the king against this declaration, and it ought to be remarked that the principal topic stated in the address is, that his majesty could not legally suspend the law in ecclesiastical matters without the consent of parliament. Soon after this, in 1672–3, they passed the Test Act, by which these whom they thought the advisers and promoters of the arbitrary conduct of the court, were rendered incapable of serving the crown in places or 812 offices of any description. Let it be remembered that the duke of York, himself a Papist, was then about to marry a Popish princess; that the Dutch war, into which commercial avidity had originally impelled the people, had not then been brought to a conclusion; it had become extremely unpopular, and its continuance was attributed to French and Popish influence. From that time down to the year 1678, the Commons contented themselves with votes and addresses against Recusants and Jesuits; and we shall find that these proceedings always accompanied unpopular or corrupt measures on the part of the court, which were invariably attributed to that quarter from which all evil designs were supposed to emanate.
In the year 1678, parliament, moved or pretended to be moved by the alarms that agitated the public mind on account of the Popish plot, undertook to examine into that monstrous fabrication. One consequence of this examination was, the act for taking from Papists their seats in parliament. If any man in these days was to venture to declare himself a believer in the Popish plot, he would be laughed at as a visionary or a bigot—yet are there now to be found men who seriously warn us of the danger of discontinuing a policy that mainly proceeded from this foul and iniquitous source of treachery and falsehood. It is not to be forgotten, that about this time French influence was at its height, and that the king was justly believed to have been lately engaged in a correspondence with that court through Barillon, its ambassador, (a correspondence that has covered his name with the stain of indelible infamy) and that the country panted for war with France to annihilate this corrupt and Popish influence. I say, then, Sir, it was not because the Romanists were believers in a false creed; it was not because they asserted the real presence in the sacrament, or on account of any of the speculative doctrines of their religion that they were subject to this persecution; but it was because that faith was looked upon as the sure symbol of certain political opinions that were inconsistent with the liberty and religion of the country. It was not (to use a remarkable distinction made by the earl of Bristol, himself a Catholic) as Catholics of the Church, but of the Court of Rome, that the public indignation was excited against them, the heavy hand of the law raised to crush them.
813 The Test laws passed under the direction of such feelings were found on the statute-book by the illustrious men who laid the foundations of our settled freedom at the Revolution. Nor can it be wondered at that they never thought of repealing them, when it is recollected how principal a part many among them had taken in procuring that enactment. Every thing that had happened since that time must (with their feelings) have tended to confirm that determined antipathy to Roman Catholic policy; that dread of Popish power, which experience and passion had so deeply rooted in their breasts. But, Sir, I do maintain that there was nothing in the principles laid down by them at that time, nothing in their conduct, to warrant the conclusion, that they considered Catholic exclusion as a fundamental ingredient in the constitution, of invariable and eternal application, and from which no circumstances ought ever to induce a Protestant government to depart. Not only is there no proof of their having held,—but I think there is a strong proof that they did not hold any such opinion. I find that proof in the Declaration of Rights, with which they accompanied their tender of the crown to William and Mary. That immortal document, in which they addressed their new sovereign in the plain and dignified language of rational freedom, contained a full enumeration of all their grievances, a condemnation of the wicked principles of government which occasioned them, and a specific remedy for each. In such a paper we must, I think, be compelled to admit, that they set down every thing they conceived to be of fundamental importance, omitting none of those principles, an adherence to which they believed to be essential at all times, and under all circumstances, to the preservation of the liberlies they were then asserting, of the constitution they were so nobly employed in settling and defining. Here, however, we find not one word about the test laws, and in their enumeration of grievances (it is singular enough, considering the stale of mens' minds at the time, that it should be so,) there is no mention of the Papists, except in a complaint that king James had allowed Papists to go armed, and had disarmed Protestants. What is the remedy proposed for this evil? That Protestants should be allowed to bear arms for their security and defence. Is it possible to conceive that, if these exclusive doctrines, 814 so falsely imputed to them, had really swayed the conduct of such men as Halifax and Somers, they would have neglected to give effect to them in a document that may be considered as a declaration of their principles? No, Sir, no. Those great men knew that the test laws were innovations in the constitution; they believed them, no doubt, to be justified by necessity and the dangers of the times; but they knew them to be innovations. They were occupied in securing the happiness of a great nation and its posterity, not in narrowing the principles of the constitution, for the purpose of perpetuating the power of a sect. The principles they laid down were few and plain; calculated to ensure the freedom of all descriptions of men in this land, without the exception of any, and from them we never can depart if we would not be slaves. But they did no more. They left matters of temporary expediency to be settled as circumstances should require; and among them they reckoned the test laws, wisely judging that the statesmen of succeeding times would deal with them as necessity might dictate, or policy require their continuance or their abrogation. The internal and external dangers of those times flowed from Popery. Religion had been the engine of James 2, and it was also a directing principle in the policy of Louis 14. Like our great enemy of the present day, all his views were directed to the humiliation and subjugation of England, but his ambition was sanctified in the eyes of all good Catholics (on the continent at least,) by his religion, for he was the champion of the holy see, the eldest son of the Church of Rome, who with the sword in one hand and the cross in the other, fought as much for her glory as for his own power. Our ancestors met this mighty danger as it ought to have been met: instead of propping up the throne of the bigoted tyrant James, they placed the crown on the head of a Protestant prince, the best hope and last stay of the Protestant world; and under him they secured the liberty of their own country, and vindicated the honour and independence of Europe. Is it from the same quarter that our dangers proceed? Did the founders of the French Revolution call in the Pope to their aid? They blasphemed their Redeemer, they denied their God, they trampled under foot their altars and their thrones, and having thus broken asunder all the bonds of human society in their own country, 815 they proceeded in their impious fanaticism to declare war against all kings, all people, and all religions. It was not to ancient prejudices they appealed, but to modern scepticism—it was not to old and venerable principles, but to discontent, disloyalty, and infidelity. We all know how tremendous has been their success, and we also know that the one man who now directs with equal ability and hatred all the energies that have arisen from this confusion against our still free and happy country, has never been hampered by zeal for Catholicism, nor been suspected of being the advocate of a Church he has enslaved. The Pope is his prisoner, and he invades Catholic Spain; and the only countries where he has met with an obstinate and successful resistance, are the two kingdoms of the peninsula, always looked upon as the most bigoted in their devotion to the court of Rome. Who are their dearest and their best allies in this great cause? Even our Protestant selves. Why then, is it not monstrous to tell four millions of our countrymen who wish to become more and more identified with us, in interest as in danger, that we cannot trust them because they are Catholics, and that the principles of our constitution, unalterably fixed at the Revolution, forbid us to examine into the justice of their complaints. Such would not have been the conduct of the great man taken from us by an early death, such was not his conduct. We all know what the wishes of Mr. Pitt were on this subject, and I am firmly convinced that, had he been still alive, we should this night have witnessed the exertions of his astonishing eloquence on behalf of his Catholic fellow subjects.
DO not let it be supposed, from what I have said, that looking back from this distance of time, at the transactions that preceded and accompanied the Revolution, I view with pleasure and approbation all the harsh measures adopted against the adherents of the Church of Rome: far from it: precautions might be necessary; but in what was done there was too much passion. The Romanists could not have prevented the Revolution; it was the work of the nation: and all the resistance to it would have been vain and ineffectual.
But, Sir, the genius of Popery is unchanged and unchangeable!! This is a favourite assertion with the opposers on principle of concession to the Catholics. 816 We are told that we cannot admit them to parliament or to office, because they must be bound by their religion to act against the public liberty; because they would not think it necessary to keep their faith with heretics, if any religious consideration tempted them to break it; and because they would think themselves entitled to violate their oath of allegiance, as often as the interests of their faith seemed to require it: and all these accusations are founded on the idea, that as members of an universal and infallible Church they lie under the obligation of the most submissive obedience to the orders of their supreme head. It is most unquestionably true, that the Roman Catholic religion, taken as a system of religious faith, is in its nature unchangeable, and that unchangeableness is founded in the nature of an universal and infallible Church. But this infallibility is declared by every Catholic in existence, to be confined to matters of religious faith and Church discipline, whereas these accusations are every one of them of a moral and political nature. There is not one that can be asserted to be a question of Catholic faith, and these who make such charges must be prepared to contend that, of all human beings, the sons of the Church of Rome alone are incapable of changing as the world changes; and that in spite of the revolutions of ages, they remain eternally and immutably the same. What a doctrine is this for men of common sense to advance in these days of philosophy and liberal enquiry? Sir, the grossest injustice has been done to that unfortunate class of men, by thus confounding together matters of faith, things necessarily unchangeable, with matters of opinion, changeable in their nature, and varying in every age and in every country. The Catholics deny that they now hold, or, as a body, ever did hold, these monstrous doctrines that we impute to them, and I believe them. It is hard to charge upon the Catholics of the present day, the ambitious and antisocial principles of some of their usurping pontiffs and intriguing prelates. It is hard to charge upon them as matters of fixed and received doctrine, the false principles promulgated in the worst times, and in the darkest ages, for the purposes of local ambition, or for the establishment of ecclesiastical tyranny. It is worse than absurd to ransack the history of human crime and human folly, from the Crusades to the 817 Reformation, and from the Reformation to the Revolution, to extract from this disgusting mass certain false doctrines and pernicious heresies, and all this for the liberal purpose of charging them as matters of unchangeable faith on the devoted heads of a large class of our fellow subjects. It is not thus. Sir, that we deal with other classes of men; with respect to them we leave it to Omnipotence (if to him it shall seem fit,) to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children. We should think it the height of injustice to impute to the excellent and respectable clergy of the Church of Scotland any love for the barbarous absurdities that, amidst their many and stern virtues, (for many stern virtues they had) disgraced our early Scottish reformers. No one, I believe, imputes to the modern clergy of that country the smallest desire to revive, or to the people of Scotland, to submit to the vulgar ecclesiastical domination that prevailed in the golden days of the Solemn League and Covenant: yet is it the very same church, with her assemblies, her synods, and her presbyteries, with all her judicatories, unaltered and unalterable! But the times are changed, and with them, the feelings of men. Those days are past; and the taste for such uncouth tyranny is gone for ever.
Who reproaches (as it would be most unjust to do) the university of Oxford, with holding, in these days, all the doctrines enforced in her far famed decree in the reign of James 2? Does any one stigmatize the venerable prelates and enlightened clergy of the English Church, by throwing in their teeth the sins of the court of ecclesiastical commission that domineered over men's consciences in the reigns of Elizabeth, and James, and Charles? No one imagines, for a moment, that the right rev. prelate, now at the head of the bench, (who has proved himself to be the friend of toleration) or his brethren the bishops of England and Ireland, entertain the high flown and exaggerated notions of the well-meaning, but obstinate and bigoted Laud. It would be most absurd to do so. The characters of the men and of the times alike forbid it. It is for the Catholics alone all our illiberality is reserved; they atone are unchangeable; with all the vices of their ancestors, and all their own to answer for, emerged in all the bigotry of the dark ages, and therefore unworthy of credit or countenance in the present day. It is 818 cruel to attempt to palliate our own harshness by such arguments as these; it is unfair and unmanly thus to add calumny to injustice. If such had been the character of the Catholic religion, the human mind could have made no progress in the countries in which it prevailed. But we are all aware, that liberality of sentiment, religious toleration, aye, and rational freedom, too, have flourished in Catholic as well as Protestant soils. Were the Catholic cantons of Switzerland enslaved, and is Calvinistic Prussia free? Learning, and the sciences, all the arts that tend to sweeten life, and to elevate the mind of man, have been brought to the greatest perfection among nations devoted to the religion of the Church of Rome; and we ourselves admit, that under that faith, as under our own, man may improve in virtue here, and be prepared for a belter life hereafter. Let it be remembered (as it was well urged two or three years ago, by the Catholics of England, in one of their petitions) that the very first foundations of our civil liberty were laid at Runnymede, by our ancestors professing the faith of the Romish Church, and that we owe to Catholic valour the triumphs of Poictiers, Cressy, and Agincourt. Had it not been for the free spirit of our Catholic ancestors, that glorious monument of freedom, our Protestant constitution, never would have existed. Far be it from us then to suppose that the Catholics of the present day are so blind to the merits of their forefathers, as to be insensible to the blessings that originated with them, because they have been matured under a Protestant government.
It is impossible not to admit, that those who are adverse to the Catholic claims, on the grounds to which I have adverted, reason in a manner most consistent with their own principles, in regretting the length we have already gone in the path of concession. If their principles are sound, their reasoning is most correct; for it does appear the very height of absurdity to imagine, when all the power that property and influence can bestow, is put into the hands of a great body of men, that its possessors should refrain from exercising it, (as political power always is exercised) for the purpose of promoting their own fair interest, and of removing from themselves the pressure of any hardships, by which they may deem themselves wantonly aggrieved; I cannot therefore but think that those who freed 819 the Catholics from so many of the restrictions under which they laboured, who bestowed on them the power of acquiring and devising real property, the right of voting at elections, and the other political privileges they now enjoy, must have intended to go further, and cannot have viewed these concessions any otherwise, than as the foundation of a system, the object of which was ultimately to grant to that numerous body all that in reason or justice they could require—a participation in all the benefits of the constitution, in common with their Protestant fellow subjects. When we consider who it was that advised his sovereign to recommend to the parliament of Ireland the grant of the elective franchise, and when we advert to his subsequent conduct, can we entertain a doubt that his intentions were such as I have described. Mr. Pitt, endowed as he was with the richest gifts of nature, was incapable of believing that a man could spend the prime of his life in the study of the law; that he could for years gather the laurels, and earn the profits of his profession at the bar of his native country, and yet indulge no wish beyond, no desire to preside in a court he had perhaps adorned by his talents, or enlightened by his knowledge. He was not so ignorant of human nature as to imagine, that the love of military glory could carry a gallant soldier into foreign climes, to brave danger and disease, and death, at the head of his battalion, or his company; and yet that it should not make him pant with all the noble ardour that belongs to such a feeling for the honor of leading a brigade, or heading an army of his victorious countrymen. Mr. Pitt never thought that a great Catholic proprietor could see himself invested with influence enough mainly to contribute to the election of a Protestant member of parliament, without looking forward with eagerness, to the time when that influence might be exercised on his own behalf, or on that of a brother Catholic. He knew full well that the very way to make men grasp at a favourite object, is to put it almost within their reach; and he never would have placed it there, had he not intended that they should obtain it. If the principles of the Catholic faith are incompatible with those of the constitution, why did you ever give them political power? If they are not, for what reason do you withhold from them what yet remains to be granted? You have told the Catholics, over and over again, that 820 they are good and loyal subjects; and you have gone farther than empty words; in consequence of this good opinion of them, you have trusted them. Have they proved themselves unworthy of your trust? If not, why, in the name of consistency, do you refuse them your entire confidence? The situation in which the question now stands is precisely that, in which, consistently with reason and common sense, it cannot be maintained; and by placing it there, we have made a most material difference in the argument to our own disadvantage. As long as the penal laws remained in full force, the Catholics had nothing to hope but from peaceable demeanour and good conduct on their part. The onus probandi lay on them. They had to prove themselves worthy of being admitted within the pale of the constitution. You thought they had succeeded in their proof, and you admitted them accordingly to a very large share of power and influence. By so doing you took the burden of the proof from the Catholics and imposed it on yourselves; and you must now shew that it was just and wise in you to do exactly what you did do, and no more—that the Catholics are worthy of confidence exactly to that extent, and to no greater. You must show that no danger existed up to a certain point in your progress, but that there the danger began; and when you proceed to your proof, you will find yourselves in a dilemma, livery single argument that goes to justify your present conduct, goes equally to condemn your past; and every argument that you can adduce in support of your past policy, goes equally to condemn your present conduct.
Can we maintain for a single moment, that it was fit to trust the great body of the people with all the enormous power that flows from the exercise of the elective franchise, and yet that it is unsafe to allow a Catholic gentleman to be the high sheriff of a county?
Can you prove that it is safe to entrust a regiment to the care of a Catholic colonel, but that it would be eminently dangerous to commit the command of a brigade to a Catholic general? The thing cannot be—if a man is unfit on account of his religion to be a general, he is unfit to be a colonel; if he is unlit to be a judge, he ought not to be allowed to acquire influence as a barrister; if he is unfit to be a member of parliament, or even the sheriff of a county, he ought not to be entrusted with the elective franchise.
821 There is not a question concerning Ireland that comes before us, in which we do not feel the full effect of Catholic influence in this assembly; or do we imagine that it is not Catholic influence, because it acts through Protestant representatives. But I know not what difference this makes in our favour; on the contrary, I fully concur in what fell from a noble friend of mine (lord Castlereagh) on a late occasion, who seemed to think that from the necessity of the situation of these hon. gentlemen, they are compelled to follow Catholic impulse with more devoted zeal than even one of that persuasion would, who might always be enabled to moderate, frequently to lead, where the others are under the necessity of following, in order to prove their sincerity to their constituents. It is scarcely too much to say, that the Irish Catholics have all the power in this House that they ever can have, but that you rather choose they should enjoy it under circumstances naturally irritating to their feelings, and therefore less advantageous to the public peace, harmony, and union.
We are often told, Sir, that to nine-tenths of their population, the admission of the Irish Catholics to a full participation to the rights of British citizens, would be of no manner of consequence; and that in point of fact, they have no feeling upon the subject. To dwell long on such an argument as this, would be to waste the time, and abuse the indulgence of the House. I am at a loss to conceive by what infatuation it is, that gentlemen argue in a way so inconsistent with their knowledge of the first principles of human nature, so at variance with what their own experience must have taught them in their communication with the lower classes in this country. We are told that the Irish are a warm people, not slow in comprehension, and sensibly alive to feelings of national honour. Are such a people incapable of understanding that it is an insult to their faith to exclude all persons professing it from honours and from power, because on account of that faith they are deemed wholly unworthy of trust? If such feelings did not naturally suggest themselves, do gentlemen think that no pains have been taken to make them comprehend that such things are, and are a stigma to them? A Catholic may vote at an election for a Protestant, but he cannot vote for his Catholic landlord, and he knows why he cannot; this 822 surely must come home to the bosoms of them all. But because in a calculation of chances, it appears that not one in ten of the Catholic population of Ireland, would rise in the world in consequence of what is called their emancipation, therefore we suppose that taking a sober and interested view of the question, they are indifferent as to its result. It is not thus that great bodies of men feel and reason. Things of no importance whatever, if estimated according to their real value, trifles light as air, when men's feelings and imaginations have been once interested in them, are too often invested with a consequence which, but for these powerful aids, could never belong to them. How much more then must this principle apply to a question so interesting to national pride, working upon the warm hearts of a lively and generous people.
Well, then, allow that the question of emancipation deeply affects the mass of the Irish people, and we are next told that they are unfit for it. There is something, it seems, in the character of that part of the nation, that renders it eminently unsafe to clothe them with additional powers, at all proportionate to their increased numbers and influence.
They are a lawless, discontented, ignorant and turbulent race. I beg leave to question the accuracy of this account to the extent to which it is carried. I have no personal knowledge of the state of Ireland; but I am inclined to believe, that this picture is considerably overcharged. I am inclined to believe, that the happiest results have flowed from the immunities already bestowed on that people; and I consider this as a great encouragement to us to proceed in the same wise and conciliatory course. There are, I fear, considerable defects in the present character of the commonalty of Ireland, proceeding not from the nature of the men, but from the moral and political disadvantages they have so long been subjected to. But suppose, them to have all the faults that are imputed to them—to whose fostering care are they to be attributed? Under whose tuition have the people of Ireland been reared up in lawless turbulence and ignorance? I fear we must look to our own Protestant statute-book for an answer to this question. I will not detain the House by any attempt to shew the fatal consequences of the infamous infraction of the treaty of Limerick, or to describe the penal laws as they existed in the plenitude of 823 their power. I will only say, that they were peculiarly calculated to mould and form a national character on a model so base, that so far from blaming those on whom they operated for their defects, ones astonishment is exulted at the existence of the many virtues that are by all attributed to the Irish population. The penal code interposed between man and man, in the must private and domestic concerns of human life; it sowed divisions in families; it set the son as a spy upon the father, and made the father jealous of the child the law of God ordained him to protect. The Irish Catholic knew the law of his country only as an avenger, not in its character of a protector. The law that secured to all other men the full possession and free disposal of their properly, restrained him in the use of it, by the most capricious enactments, and deprived him of it on frivolous pretences and infamous informations. His religion was rendered an earthly curse to him, instead of a blessing; and his conscientious adherence to principle was construed into a crime against the state. All this was gravely done (not in days of ignorance and barbarism) but in the 18th century, in the light of day, in a civilized country, by the legislature of a free people; and then, instead of thanking Providence that the Irish still remain a generous and a gallant race, we turn short round upon that devoted class to reproach them with the natural consequences of our own oppression. By so doing, we do them injustice and inflict punishment on ourselves.
I know. Sir, that many sensible and good men, rejecting such arguments as these, still entertain the most serious apprehensions for the safety of our religious establishments, should measures of concession to the Catholics be carried into effect. 'Actum est de Ecclesia,' if any but her own true sons are admitted to power and influence in the state. I look upon this to be a groundless alarm. I have too good an opinion of the faith I profess to consider it in any other point of view. I will maintain against the whole world that the Protestant religion is founded on Scripture and on reason, and it is not in these times that I am much inclined to dread the effects of Catholic logic in turning men from what we deem the truth. All I can say is, that if Protestantism cannot be defended by Scripture and reason, that it must fall, and that all the tests in the world will hot prevent its overthrow. The churches of England 824 and Scotland are deeply rooted in the affections of the people in these parts of the kingdom, and are supported by the endowments of the slate; but the moment they cease to command (which I believe they never will) the affectionate veneration of Britons, it is not a system of exclusion that will give them an hour of life. A passion for Catholicism is not the characteristic of these times—it is not Catholic fanaticism that I dread—the current of danger does not set in from that quarter. But from whatever quarter it may proceed, I am sure that exclusive tests will prove lather a source of weakness than a tower of strength to our religious establishments. Their unnecessary continuance may create danger by creating enemies—their abolition will diminish danger by conciliating good-will. The political, if not the religious affections of men will be won over, and they will become solicitous to support a system under which they will enjoy the most perfect toleration—a blessing which they could not hope for under the dominion of any other form of ecclesiastical government.
Let it be recollected that at this moment we have the question in our own hands, to reject or to grant as to us may seem fit. The time may come, however, when what we shall concede may lie under the suspicion of being wrung rather from our necessities than our good-will. If that time should ever arrive, we may not find it so easy, as I really hope we now should, to provide those guards and securities for our establishments, which I am decidedly of opinion ought to accompany our acts of grace to the Catholic body. With respect to securities, I will content myself with saying, that I am perfectly convinced some safeguards will be found not only politic but necessary; though as a friend to the Catholics on one hand, and our establishments on the other, I beg leave at this time to decline entering into any further discussion about them. Experience has taught us that such discussion can have no effect but to defeat the object I, for one, have in view; and so far from agreeing with the hon. gentleman who spoke last, that we ought not to go into the committee, because we have not previously settled this important matter, my chief inducement to agree to that proceeding is, that we have refrained from any, promulgation of our sentiments on the subject. It is not very usual, before you proceed to negociation, to give the other 825 party the advantage of knowing all you mean to concede, or all you mean to require; and I approve of the motion of the right hon. gentleman (may I not call him the venerable assertor of the claims of his countrymen) because I apprehend that in the committee we need not go further than to ascertain the present state of the penal laws. When we hare done so, it does not follow that we shall do more than report to the House how they now stand, in order that they may be laid at the foot of the throne, with an humble address to his Royal Highness, praying him to take the situation of the Catholic body into his gracious consideration. Leaving the matter of securities to be settled by government in the first instance, preparatory to the ultimate decision of parliament.
I am not one of those. Sir, who expect from a change of system, with respect to Ireland, any sudden or miraculous improvement in the circumstances of that country. Such changes are in their nature gradual; in their progress, slow and imperceptible. It is by kindness and conciliation on the one hand, accompanied by a firm and vigorous execution of the laws on the other, that the state of Ireland is to be ameliorated, and all her most invaluable resources drawn forth. Conciliate the peaceable and loyal, that you may be able to controul the turbulent and refractory. But I do look for one immediate and incalculable advantage from such a policy on our part, a change in the feelings and temper of the Catholics of Ireland, a change that will induce that gallant population to flock in increased numbers to our standard, with the liveliest emotions of gratitude and attachment. We talk of the security of our exclusive system. Show me that we shall recruit our army by an addition of thousands of brave Irish Catholics, available either for our home defence, or for the increase of the force serving under their illustrious countryman in the peninsula; and I shall think we have done more for security, than all the tests can now do that the dread of the Pope ever wrung from the fears, however well founded, of our ancestors. Sir, I believe there is to be found among the Catholics of Ireland wisdom and talent, capable of enlightening your councils, and leading your armies. We know them to possess a valour equal to the glorious task of extending or preserving your empire abroad, and of shielding their native shore from the pollution of 826 foreign invasion. At this awful moment do not refuse to avail yourselves of the means of defence Providence has put into your hands.
I would here address myself to the Catholics, and I would exhort them, as they expect conciliation from us, to be themselves conciliatory. The time is coming for the favourable consideration of their claims. Let them be peaceable, let them be loyal, and they have my warmest prayers for their success. I love them as my countrymen, I honour them as fellow-christians and as freemen, and I look forward with eager expectation to the time when they shall be united with us in interest and affection, as they already are in law and government.
said, that the motion went simply to enquire into the propriety of removing restrictions; and it should therefore have his support.
§ Mr. Owen.
—Sir, I am ready to admit that there is no question, which, from its immense importance, is more entitled to discussion than the present; nor is there any man more ready than I am to admit, that no individual should be called to an account before any human tribunal for his religious faith, nor excluded on account of that faith from civil privileges, unless there was something in his creed injurious to the interest and safety of the state, under which he lives; but I do not consider that any question of that kind is at all connected with the motion before you, and which I conceive purely a question for granting further extension of political power to the Catholics of Ireland, and the policy of such extension is the real question which we have to consider. It has been endeavoured to draw an argument in favour of this extension to the Catholics of Ireland, as if the question was connected with our present contest for the defence of the Catholics upon the continent. But, Sir, I think h is our object to fight the battles of those oppressed nations upon the continent, independent of any question about their religion. Our object is to maintain the independence of those nations, and of Europe, on a field which affords us the opportunity of contending with better effect against the enemy; and this, Sir, I conceive, is not fighting the cause of the Catholic religion, but the cause of the rights and freedom of those nations, with whom we are in alliance, 827 and I am therefore at a loss to conceive I how it can be argued that there is any connection between our battles there, and any extension of political power to the Catholics of Ireland. We have nothing to do with the religious establishments of I other countries, but we are bound to secure our own, and therefore. Sir, I shall dismiss this subject with this short observation, that we are bound to fight the battles of Europe against the common enemy, without that circumstance having any connection with the Catholics of Ireland.
The present question is clearly reduced to one of political expediency, in which our judgments are to be regulated by a consideration of the advantages or disadvantages likely to result from granting or withholding the proposed concessions. In my opinion. Sir, nothing could warrant such concessions at the risk of the security of our own establishment, but the most imperious necessity. I am told. Sir, that the end proposed by these concessions is to tranquilize and unite the people of ire-land in our common cause, and that the measure would conciliate and render unanimous all ranks of his Majesty's subjects in that cause. But, Sir, I do not think that such a consequence would follow; but, on the contrary, I think that the temporary calm which such concessions might produce, would be followed by a tempest more arduous and alarming; and a pretty good proof of this has been advanced from the other side of the House; for it appears from the advocates of the Catholics this night, that expectation naturally increases with power, that the more we have given, the more is asked; and that if you grant what is now required, the Catholics of Ireland will proceed farther, and never be satisfied without a perfect equality in all the powers of the state. The consequence of which will be, that conscious of that power, and heated by religious animosities, Ireland would soon present a struggle for power between contending parties, which would speedily terminate in the ruin of the country. I found, my opinion. Sir, on this ground; that all the great body of the Catholics are intent upon this question, and eager to press forward to the possession of power. But I do not think the measure would be productive of those benefits either to the happiness or the tranquillity of the Catholic body, which its advocates seem to anticipate. The object of the motion, 828 Sir, is to render the higher order of Catholics in Ireland eligible to offices in the state from which they are now excluded; but I do not see how this can affect, or have any reference to the civil or religious liberty of the great body of Catholic population; nor do I think the great body of the Catholics are at all interested. It could confer no benefit upon the great class of Irish peasantry, for their circumstances, like Protestant subjects of the same rank, would exclude them from any participation in those advantages to which it is now proposed to render Catholics eligible. Their habits of life and education must debar them from any advantages likely to accrue to the higher orders. Does any man imagine that the peasantry of that country feel any interest in this question? They now can, in point of fact, have the free enjoyment of the exercise of their religion, and the protection of any property they may acquire. The law does all it can for persons in their condition of life, although they, like others, may sometimes have reason to complain of temporary sufferings. I do not think the situation of the Catholics of Ireland materially different from their Protestant fellow-subjects of the same rank in this respect; but that they are at present fully competent to enjoy with the same freedom, all the comforts and privileges of their rank; and it would, in fact, seem to me, rather offering an insult to the Catholic population to-propose rendering them eligible to situations which they are never likely to enjoy. If the Catholics stand in need of consolation, it must proceed from a very different source than rendering them eligible to hold offices in the state, which they are morally incapacitated from fulfilling; and I think. Sir, the measure is not calculated to conciliate the minds of the Catholics; and I ask, would it be palatable to the great body of Protestants? In answer to this, Sir, I may be referred to some petitions on your table, said to come from a considerable portion of the Protestants of Ireland, in favour of this measure. But, Sir, notwithstanding the arguments I have heard founded on this circumstance, yet I am convinced that a much larger proportion of his Majesty's Protestant subjects in this empire are completely averse to it, contemplate it with alarm, and sincerely deprecate it, as affecting the very existence of their constitution; and therefore. Sir, I am far from thinking it competent to produce the unanimity which gentlemen 829 so confidently anticipate. Having stated my opinion, Sir, that this measure would not produce the consequences so ardently expected from it, I hope I may be indulged with the liberty of stating some of the dangers which think more likely to arise from it. In the first place, Sir, it appears to me, that dangers very alarming to our establishment, may arise from granting political power to so large a portion of his Majesty's subjects, professing such implicit submission to the court of Rome. There is a bigotry and intolerance in the doctrines of that Church hostile to all other religions; and when I consider that the Catholics of Ireland are under the direction of a priesthood who deny all controul from his Majesty's government, and maintain the most abject submission to the Pope as head of their Church; I cannot view that circumstance without serious alarm. A noble lord has referred you to a monarch of France, Louis 14, who, he tells us, was the eldest son of the Church, and the champion of Popery in Europe; but his strength was weakness, and his hostility peace, compared with the power, and avowed hostility of the present ruler of France; and. Sir, when I consider that the Pope himself, to whom the Catholic priesthood and people of Ireland profess the most implicit submission in their ecclesiastical government, is, at this moment, the prisoner and slave of Buonaparté, will any man say, that there is no danger to be apprehended from the influence of the Pope so circumstanced, to our Protestant state, if power be extended to Roman Catholics? This is the quarter. Sir, from whence the great danger is to be apprehended, and therefore, I would ask those gentlemen, who advocate this question, if while such an influenee exists, and that you place Catholic generals at the head of your armies. Catholics representatives in your Houses of Parliament, and Catholics to fill the offices of ministers of state, you can expect permanent safety to your Protestant constitution, or that you may not one day have he crown of England held up as a prize for Catholic adventurers?
Our ancestors, Sir, had woeful lessons of experience, and some respect is sorely due to the weight of that policy by which they were actuated, and which ultimately led to the Revolution, under one of the most illustrious monarchs that ever dignified the throne of these realms. I cannot, therefore. Sir, by voting for this measure cast a 830 censure on the memory of that great monarch, and the memory of those illustrious characters who accomplished that glorious work. I cannot consent to abrogate the policy under which we have flourished for above a century, nor to pull down with unhallowed hands those sound barriers, which have so long defended our constitution. Sir, the question before you is a new experiment upon the constitution, which I thins inadmissible, and to which I therefore avow my resistance in the first stage, and on this account. Sir, I feel it my duty to oppose the motion, and I also think it the most honourable and fair mode of dealing with the Catholics, not to go into the committee, for to do otherwise would be only to disappoint and to irritate.
Surrounded, as we are Sir, on all sides with dangers and with difficulties, yet I turn with confidence to our glorious constitution as a land-mark to guide us safe through the troubled ocean of these times, and I conclude by giving my vote against the motion.
§ Mr. Vernon.
—I am sensible. Sir, that in rising at a time when so many other persons, much more worthy of audience than myself, are desirous of addressing themselves to the House, I may owe it, perhaps, some apology, for obtruding myself at all upon its attention. And, indeed, the subject of our present consideration has been so frequently and so fully discussed, so much argument has been employed upon if, and that argument has been urged with so much eloquence, that a person much more competent than myself might well abstain from the hopeless attempt of adding to it either novelty or interest. But at the same time it is a matter of such high importance, and respecting which opinions so various are entertained even by persons agreeing in their vole; and above all it is a topic which subjects those who think and act as I think and must act upon it, to so much calumny and misrepresentation, that I am desirous of offering a few observations to the House.
The learned gentleman who preceded me has slated upon this subject opinions so singular, that I scarcely know how to enter into any contest with him respecting them. He has asserted that the repeal of these disabilities would be of no value to the lower classes of the Catholics. What, Sir I is it no object to them to be permitted to rise, like their Protestant neighbours, to 831 situations of honour and emolument? Is it no object to them to reap, like others, the fruit of their industry and talents, and to be capable of filling the highest offices in the law, in the army, and in the civil government of the state? It is the pride, the glory, and the advantage of this country, that the avenues to honour and profit are open equally, waving these disabilities, to all; and can it then be said, that to deny them to the Catholics is no grievance to this part of the community? But, Sir, the learned gentleman has argued, that the lower ranks of society labour under what he calls a "moral incapacity" to avail themselves of the proposed concessions. Now, without stopping to shew the absurdity of this assertion, I must say, without, I hope, causing offence to the learned gentleman, that I think, considering the circumstances of his life and history, that he is one of the last persons in this House, from whom I should have expected such an opinion.
The learned doctor who spoke second in this debate, and who told us that Buonaparté has trampled upon the boundaries of right and wrong, has, I think, himself trampled upon the boundaries of sense and nonsense. The learned doctor told us, that he proposed to himself two objects in his speech to-night; the one, to state the merits, the other, the demerits of the Catholics. His view of their merits has consisted in a fruitless attempt to depreciate their wealth and their numbers; and his view of their demerits has consisted in the recital of certain oaths of spiritual allegiance to the Pope, which are taken by their bishops, and of the obsolete doctrines of certain ancient councils, some of which have never been adopted, and others have been formally disclaimed by the Irish Catholics. But upon these points full and satisfaclory explanation has been afforded to the House by the worthy baronet who spoke after him.
The learned doctor has been kind enough to interpret for the Roman Catholics their tenets and principles according to his own judgment and construction; but I suspect that if some Roman Catholic divine were to undertake a similar task for the benefit of the learned doctor, he might perhaps, by too literal an interpretation, so explain the thirty-nine articles which the learned doctor has subscribed as the profession of his own creed, that he might not be very willing to accept such a construction, and might find sufficient occupation in reconciling the difficulties of his own system, 832 without engaging to expound for others, according to an interpretation disclaimed by them, and contradicted by their practice, the tenets and doctrines of their faith. The learned doctor, however, not content with his serious and solemn argument upon this subject, and disclaiming altogether what he calls "apophthegmatical argument," has condescended to be facetious, but has discovered, perhaps, that it requires a skilful fencer to wield the weapons of irony. If, however, he has failed in his attack upon my honourable friend behind me, he has at least the merit of appearing undaunted and unhurt by the recoil of his own artillery—While peals of laughter, Codrus, round thee break,Thou unconcern'd canst hear the mighty crack;Pit, box, and gallery in convulsions burl'd,Thou stand'st unmov'd amidst a bursting world.The learned doctor has argued this question, as if the Catholics were to be the only gainers by the repeal of these disabilities; but I differ from him entirely in this narrow view of the subject, and deem that argument which I unworthily support to-night, the argument and cause of the country; and however anxious I may justly be, that no class of the community should be unnecessarily subjected, as I think the Catholics are, to the grievance of unequal and excluding laws, I am much more concerned at the loss which I feel the state sustains, in the want of their services and the diminution of their affections. It is, no doubt, an enormous evil to the Catholics, to be excluded, as they are in Ireland, by direct and positive law from more than five hundred legal and civil offices, besides seats in parliament, and indirectly from two thousand more; to be excluded also from upwards of three thousand municipal offices, and from all the higher ranks in the army and navy. But the mischief is, not only that you thus disfranchise and degrade a fourth part of your population, but that you do not deal fairly by the state, in thus withdrawing the talents and energy of that fourth part from the competition for public service. What is the operation of these laws upon our army? That army, the sound of whose recent triumph has within these few hours reached our gratified, but now happily not unaccustomed ears. Suppose that upon this occasion an English or Irish Protestant officer should have been the first to 833 mount the rampart, and to plant the victorious standard on the walls of Badajoz; if he be a non-commissioned officer, he may receive a commission as the reward of his valour; or if he have already a commission, he may be promoted. But if a British Catholic should have performed this exploit, to him no such reward can be allotted, no such honour can be assigned, although a Portuguese Catholic fighting for the same cause, under the same banners, might receive in such honourable promotion the tribute due to his exertions. It is difficult to abstain to-night from mentioning lord Wellington: he. Sir, is is an Irishman, to the immortal honour of that country; and while his great achievements shrink from no comparison, they are embellished and exalted by that disinterestedness, which was wanting to the character of that illustrious duke, to whom, in our military annals, he is second rather in time than in glory. But if lord Wellington had been a Roman Catholic, he might indeed have served in Ireland as captain or colonel Wellesley, and instead of assisting the Spaniards, might have marched in aid of an exciseman, and taken some illicit distillery by storm instead of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo; but if captain Wellesley had set his foot on the British shore, he might have been subjected by a common informer to a penalty of 500l. and the loss of his commission.
The learned doctor has told us, that the Catholics have refused to grant the Veto. But in fact they have not refused it; for you have not asked them to grant it; you have not offered them any inducement to grant it. They have determined, indeed, that under existing circumstances it is inexpedient to alter the mode by which their bishops are nominated. But as I know that in other countries such a power has been exercised by a Protestant sovereign, and that it was not objected to a few years ago in Ireland, I have a right to expect that whenever we seriously undertake the great work of national conciliation, there will be little difficulty in forming an arrangement upon this subject, equivalent in substance, however differing in form, which may not be deemed inexpedient to the Catholics. It is no doubt desirable either in this or any other country, that the government should have the means of providing that disloyal men should not be placed in situations of influence and power. This judgment, with respect to all civil and military 834 offices, would of course be exercised by government in regard to Catholics, as it now is in regard to Protestants. No Catholic would be promoted in the army or any other profession, unless he were a good citizen; and when it is said that without the Veto or some equivalent, the government would have no controul over the nomination of their bishops, I reply, that they have now no controul over their nomination; and if they were disposed to use their influence disloyally, which they are not, as was shewn by their exemplary conduct in the two recent rebellions, they might address it to much more willing ears, than they could do, if you removed these sources of jealousy and discontent. When this subject has been formerly agitated, I have abstained from slating my opinion upon it, partly from a general unwillingness to trouble the House at any time with the sentiments of so unimportant an individual, and partly from a feeling, that although if the petitioners chose to bring it under the view of parliament, it was impossible to withhold that vote which a sincere and strong opinion suggested, no success, however, could under the then existing circumstances, be anticipated for the measure in parliament, and that consequently, other and mora favourable opportunities would occur for expressing that opinion, both with respect to the general principle, and to the details which must be considered in its progress. The subject, however, comes now under our consideration in very different circumstances. We cannot be opposed in parliament, nor can a flame be excited in the country, by the conscientious scruples of the Prince Regent; and no one except the learned doctor has urged the invented impediments of the coronation oath. Of his Majesty I am unwilling to speak other-wise than with that delicacy and respect which is due to his misfortunes and to his virtues; but I cannot help remarking, that it is an extraotdinary circumstance in the history of this nation, that the opinion of an individual whose mind has been for twenty-five years constantly liable to the slighter or stronger affections of that disorder under which it now labours, and who we now know has exercised the sovereign authority whilst under its influence, and surrounded by the restraints which it renders necessary, should have had the weight which we know it has had on the public mind in deciding upon the political destinies of four millions 835 of the subjects of this empire. But that day is now past, and the time arrived, which the Catholics, however loyal, however attached to the person, and admiring the virtues of the sovereign, could not but look forward to with the satisfactory anticipation of the fulfilment of those hopes in which they had been encouraged by the Prince of Wales. I abstain from alluding to any rumoured difference of opinion between himself and his present counsellors; because such difference cannot be recognized by parliament, and because it is from responsible ministers only that we can collect the feelings and judgment of the sovereign. I will not imitate in this respect the conduct of the present government, who have formerly most improperly applied the name and personal influence of the King to their political purposes upon this subject. But of the avowed opinions of the Prince of Wales I have a right to speak, and to say this—that the Catholics had just ground to expect, not perhaps that he would exert that personal influence in their favour which his father had exerted against them, not perhaps that he would tell the servile circle of his court, that the throne and the altar with which that throne is connected, stand on a firmer and broader basis than religious Exclusions and disabilities can supply to them, but that he would at least have procured that fair consideration of their petitions, which it is vain and idle to pretend can ever be had while the right hon. gentleman is at the head of the government. I am sure that I have as little personal interest as any individual in the overthrow of the present administration; and I am sure that no man approved more entirely than myself of the rejection by my two noble friends of the otter which the right hon. gentleman advised the Prince Regent to make to them for the purpose apparently of being rejected. The poet says,Desire of greatness is a godlike sin.and, under honourable circumstances, it is surely no sin at all; but under the circumstances attended by which it was suggested to those noble lords, desire of greatness would have been a sin against every honourable principle, the maintenance of which alone can make men either estimable in themselves, or useful to their country. My opinion, however, and my approbation of the conduct of those noble lords, is of little value to them, and of no importance to the country. But if instead 836 of the humble individual who now addresses you, I were a person of illustrious birth and eminent situation; a person on whose decisions the destinies of this country might very essentially depend; and if, being such a person, and having in the year 1809 expressed most strongly and distinctly my approbation of the conduct of those noble lords, in refusing the offer of official situation which was then made to them by his Majesty, I should now, in consequence of their rejection of a similar offer, for similar reasons, withdraw from them my support and approbation, I think that, however some interested individuals might rejoice in such an inconsistency on my part, that even they would not feel very confident of the continuance of this my new opinion, and that the country at large would hereafter be very little solicitous what opinion I might entertain on any subject, or whether I might entertain any opinion at all. The right hon. gentleman, however, twice rejected by those noble lords, whose principles he declares to be ruinous to the country almost in the same breath that he invites their assistance to his government, undeterred by their refusal, and sensible of the inefficiency of his colleagues, goes in quest of their aid, and careless what opinions he may associate to himself, acting apparently upon the principle ofBut ask not to what doctors I apply,Sworn to no master, of no sect am I,As drives the storm at any door I knock,he buckles on the whole armour of intolerance, and thus issues forth to the combat, almost single in opinion, but compelling into his array the convenient principles of his subservient colleagues. And, Sir, what is the argument which they defend to-night? what the proposition of my right hon. friend which the House is de-sired to negative? Is it the precipitate adoption of some undigested measure, which requires caution and delay? Is it, as misrepresentation has described it, an attempt to innovate on the constitution, without security, and without regard to the safety of your establishments? No, Sir! if such it were, if such I conceived it to be, I should be the last man in this House who could afford it support. Connected as I am by the most intimate ties of duty and affection with an individual, eminent among the dignitaries of the English Church, I am perhaps more conversant with the excellencies of its institutions than most members in this House, perhaps even I 837 am disposed to view them with partial eyes, and to overlook defects which may be lamented and criticised by others. But be it a true opinion, or be it prejudice, it is my opinion that no church government can more faithfully fulfil the various ends of its institution than our Church establishment; which avoids equally on the other hand to support those arbitrary notions which have been mostly found connected with the Roman Catholic Church; and on the other hand, the more democratic principles which are attributed to the feelings and doctrines of other sects. Deeming thus highly of our English Church, and confirmed in these sentiments by the esteem and affection in which I hold many of its ministers, I trust I shall obtain credit when I assert that nothing could induce roe to support the Catholic Petition, except a conviction, not lightly formed, for I sat some time in parliament before I would vote upon this subject, that an alteration in these penal laws may be effected in a manner innocuous to the Church, while it will add to the state that vigour, and that consolidation of its interests which the present exigency of our affairs so urgently demands. But, Sir, I ask again, what is the proposition which demands our decision to-night? It is surely the most reasonable, the most mitigated, the most cautious in its tendency, which could be submitted to parliament. For unless it be contended that every thing is right in this system of laws at present, and that we must not entertain the subject at all without the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I cannot conceive how the House can refuse to take, as it is desired, the state of Ireland into its consideration. The learned gentleman who spoke last, denies that this is a fit time to enter upon the question. It is, however, the time which has been long designated in the expectation of all men for the purpose, and I had hoped that this pretence at least would no longer have been relied upon. It is one of the prerogatives of the crown that "Nullum tempus occurrit regi." But it is the misfortune of the Catholics, that every time is opposed to their just Petitions and desires. For my part, I have no hesitation in avowing my opinion, that under a different course of events from that which has recently occurred, a satisfactory arrangement might have been made, which would have opened the Protestant monopoly of political power to the Catholics, with as little or less difficulty 838 than the pending arrangement can be effected for opening the East India trade to the competition of private merchants. But of this I am confident, that the question of that charter, that the claims of private merchants, that the rights of the company; nay, that the loss of that unwieldy empire itself might well be deemed unimportant, when compared with those domestic and suicidal results which our present policy may produce in Ireland.
Let us look, Sir, at the condition of that country; let us see it rising rapidly from that misery and degradation to which our wretched government, during two centuries, had reduced it. Let us see it thriving in arts, in agriculture, and above all in an increasing population; brave, generous, and enthusiastic; willing to serve you, but not as slaves; willing to bleed and conquer in your armies, but demanding the rewards and honours of conquerors. It is I confess difficult, when I look at this part of the subject, to calculate coldly and nicely those dangers of which some persons are so apprehensive. But let those persons tell you, what are those dangers: let them speak out upon this point: it is their business to do so and not ours, for I am not afraid to say, that unless it can be shewn that these claims cannot be granted without danger to the state, that they become claims of right, properly understood; in the only sense at least in which natural claims of political right can be maintained at all. Unless these dangers can be shewn, and not only positive dangers, but greater dangers in concession than refusal, we are no more justified in excluding Catholics from serving the country, than we should be in excluding men of less than six feet in height. We make regulations upon this subject in the army, because tall men are better soldiers, but the right hon. gentleman would not approve of making this qualification general. We should be quite justified in excluding the right hon. gentleman from the ranks of the army, because such soldiers might be dangerous to the state; but not so the Catholic, on account of his creed, unless that creed contain political maxims of dangerous tendency. If indeed they maintained at this day the antisocial opinions of the darker ages, that no faith was to be kept with heretics, and that the Pope has the power of absolving subjects from their allegiance, undoubtedly we should not only be justified in excluding 839 them from office, but from all civil society and intercourse whatever. So that in fact the question of right cannot be of positive right, but conditional, and the condition is, the safety of the state. It is the same right which every man has to his liberty, and to the benefit of the laws; aright not to be divested by caprice, but only by state necessity, and that necessity, I maintain, cannot be proved in defence of these Catholic disabilities.
I recollect what was said of political disabilities in a free conference on the Occasional Conformity Bill in queen Anne's time. The managers for the Lords, among whom were lord Halifax, lord Somers, the duke of Devonshire, and bishop Burnet, declared, "That the Lords thought, that an Englishman could not be reduced to a more unhappy condition, than to be put by law under an incapacity of serving his prince and country; and that therefore nothing but a crime of a most detestable nature ought to put him under such a disability." Bat what then is the danger which it is pretended will arise out of these concessions? Foreign influence, says the learned doctor; no doubt, foreign influence, as far as it may exist, is pro tanto an evil. But what is the remedy? I say, admit the Catholics to the constitution. The foreign influence exists now, happily not in practice, but in possibility. Concession cannot increase ii; but satisfy the Catholics and you deprive the mischief of its sting. For how is this mischief to operate? It is supposed that the Pope, not the present pontiff however, for of his virtuous courage and resistance under persecution there is sufficient evidence, but that some future Pope may be induced to exert his religious influence in Ireland in favour of the French. The danger then is religious connection with the enemy, and the remedy, I say, is political connection with the state. Give the Catholics the same interest in the state as their countrymen have, and they will be as eager to defend it; for it is not bigotry which you impute to them, but madness, and contradiction to human nature, if you suppose that admission to the constitution will not endear it to them, and exclusion make it comparatively indifferent. It is therefore justly said, that concession is the best security; and I am confident that if no other were enacted, the safety of the empire would be infinitely greater than it now is; but I am also confident, that whenever you enter 840 bonâ fide into an arrangement upon this subject, you will have little difficulty in forming such other securities as are generally desired. The learned doctor deprecates, with eager alarm, the mischiefs of innovation; happy would it have been for the Catholics, if this terror had operated a century sooner on the mind of the legislature; if this argument had prevailed when, in the reign of king William, they were first excluded from the Irish parliament; when, in the reign of queen Anne, they were deprived of access to honours and offices by the extension of the English Test Act to Ireland. For those innovations on the constitution there was an apology, the justice of which it is now unnecessary to argue; that apology consisted in the attachment of the Catholics to their dethroned sovereign; to him whom, as far as his religion constituted a part of his offence, they could not consider an offender. Undoubtedly the motives by which the great men who conducted that revolution were actuated, were of a higher and different sort from those by which the populace was stimulated. The mischief which they fought against, was, not the Catholic religion in itself, but the despotic principles which were attempted to be established by the Stuarus, through the assistance of the French court, and the pretence and medium of that religion. But if there had existed then this indefinite and unmeaning terror of innovation, the Catholics would never have been deprived of those rights, the restoration of which, the danger of jacobitism being annihilated, they anxiously, and, in my opinion, most reasonably desire.
So much. Sir, has been already said upon this subject, that I will now only make a few observations on the petition which has been presented to us in the name of the chancellor, masters, and scholars of the University of Oxford. I have the honour of being a member of that learned body, and am attached to it by the recollection of some years spent there not long since, agreeably at least, if not so usefully as they might have been. Anxious therefore for its honour, I feel much satisfaction in reflecting, that I am one of a great majority of its members, who, although included in the form of the petition, are unconsulted and unassenting parties to it. The members of that University exceed 1,000 in number, of whom little more than 100 actually supported or consented to it; and a very respectable 841 portion of the resident members, including the vice-chancellor, the two proctors, and several heads of houses, and others of the most learned and estimable men in the University decidedly opposed it. I cannot however abstain from expressing my deep regret, that in a place dedicated to the study of the liberal arts, feelings and views of policy so little liberal should appear to prevail. And I am sure that those resident members who promoted this petition, would well consult for their own character, and for the reputation of that great seat of national education, if, before they again assemble a hasty and partial convocation for such a purpose, they would reflect how liable they are to the influence of ancient prejudice upon this subject, and would follow the example of the Stagyrite philosopher who is so much studied and celebrated in that place, and like him endeavour,Inter sylvas academi quærere verum.Not however adopting Mr. Pope's translation of this line,And hunt for truth in Maudlin's learned grove.For I am afraid that this is not the grove, where, what I consider the truth upon this subject, would be discovered. That truth, however, is rapidly unfolding and developing itself to the mind and understanding of the people; of which I may say, as Milton describes the English nation, in his Defence of the Liberty of the Press, "Methinks I see it as an eagle, moving its mighty youth, and kindling its undazzled eye at the full mid-day beam, purging and unscaling its long abused sight at the fountain of heavenly radiance, while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble prognosticate a year of sects and schisms."
—Mr. Speaker, I should not have presumed to offer myself to your notice, in a debate which never fails to bring forward a display of the greatest talents in this House, but for one circumstance, which probably is peculiar to myself, that it has happened to me to be an eye-witness of the effect of the two different systems of policy, I mean a liberal and illiberal system, adopted at different periods, towards his Majesty's subjects of the Roman Catholic persuasion.
The island of Grenada, where several of 842 the early years of my life were passed, and where the transactions to which I allude look place, was ceded by France to Great Britain by the treaty of 1763; and the great lord Chatham, then minister, with that liberal policy which distinguished his character, advised his Majesty to admit his adopted French subjects into a participation of political rights and privileges. Accordingly, some of them were called into his Majesty's council, others were elected as members of the House of Assembly, they sat as magistrates, and held commissions in the militia, indiscriminately with their British born fellow subjects. The British constitution being established in the colony, they had the strongest possible inducement to study those laws, in the administration of which they were permitted to share, and to acquire a knowledge of that language which was necessary to qualify them for the discharge of their duly in those public situations which it was their ambition to fill. Thus, by the united force of habit and education, they gradually and imperceptibly became Englishmen; though they still continued Roman Catholics. In 1779, France being again at war with Great Britain, Grenada was attacked by a powerful armament under the command of the marquis de Bouillé, and lord Macartney, then governor of the island, gave all the French inhabitants who served in the militia, the option of returning to their own homes, but many of them, feeling that they enjoyed a constitution and privileges worth fighting for, chose to remain in the ranks. The Hospital hill, which they assisted in defending, was taken by storm, after an obstinate resistance, in which the assailants lost as many men as the garrison consisted of; and then lord Macartney was obliged to capitulate; but not a syllable of complaint was heard of any treachery or disaffection among the French Roman Catholic subjects. Whether, as the right hon. and learned doctor behind me (Dr. Duigenan) asserts, it is part of their creed that no faith is to be kept with heretics, I know not; but this I know, that in the hour of danger, they fought bravely and loyally by the side of their heretic fellow subjects. Whether they had taken the oath, of which the right hon. and learned doctor has told us, to be true to the Pope and the royalty of St. Peter, I know not; but this I know, that they were true to their Protestant sovereign king George 3.
843 Let us now reverse the scene, and see how they conducted themselves under a change of system. Grenada continued under French government till the 1st of January, 1784; and during that period the British subjects were certainly treated in a very arbitrary' and unjust manner. The injuries they received excited a great degree of resentment in their minds against the French inhabitants in general; and some representations were made to his Majesty's ministers, in consequence of which, when the island was restored to Great Britain, instructions were sent out to put the Test Act in force. This act imposed oaths on the French Roman Catholic subjects, as the conditions of their qualification for office, which they could not conscientiously take; and consequently they were excluded from all situations of trust or emolument. They could neither sit in the council, nor the House of Assembly; they could neither act as magistrates, nor bold commissions in the militia; and even the glebe lands attached to their churches were taken away, and given to the Protestant ministers. Exasperated at this treatment, they withdrew from almost all friendly intercourse with the British subjects; they brooded over their wrongs in sullen seclusion, as long as the peace lasted; and when the war was renewed, with the assistance of Victor Hughes, governor of Guadaloupe, who furnished them with arms, ammunition, and some troops, they broke out into open insurrection. At the commencement of this insurrection, a great number of the British subjects were massacred; in the course of it, the whole island was ravaged and laid waste; eleven thousand negroes lost their lives; and in the conclusion, the whole race of French inhabitants was exterminated; they perished almost to a man, either in the field or on the scaffold.
After having witnessed this example of the dreadful extremities to which men may be driven, by political disabilities imposed upon them, on account of their religious opinions, I cannot but look forward with the most serious apprehensions, to the system we are now pursuing towards our Catholic fellow subjects in Ireland; and I felt it my duly to give the House this detail of facts, which bears so strongly and decidedly upon the present question. I was anxious too, knowing the feelings and passions of mankind to be the same in all countries, to relieve myself from that awful responsibility, which, in 844 my opinion, will rest upon those, who, by the vote they give this night, may contribute to call those feelings and passions into action in Ireland, which produced such disastrous results in Grenada.
The example of Grenada, Sir, furnishes a complete refutation to several of the arguments that have been used against taking the Catholic claims into consideration. An hon. member behind me, (Mr. Bankes, jun.) whose speech I heard with great pleasure, as giving a fair promise of future fame, referred us to history and example. But he neither quoted history, nor produced an example; and indeed history and example are both against him; for though history furnishes abundant examples of the misery and ruin that have been brought upon slates by religious intolerance, it furnishes none that I recollect of any state having suffered by indulging toleration to the most unbounded extent.
The same hon. gentleman says, that the Irish Catholics continually rise in their demands; and, (adopting a commercial metaphor), asks, rather jocularly, whether compound interest upon these claims is to go on continually accumulating? If the claims of the Catholics of Grenada had been acceded to, and they had been restored to that participation of political power which they formerly enjoyed, peace and prosperity would have continued to bless the inhabitants of that colony; but the interest they paid for the intolerance of the British government, was the destruction of their property, and the sacrifice of their lives. This, Sir, was no subject of jocularity to the parties concerned, and affords a melancholy and memorable proof, that compound interest, and at a rate most dreadfully usurious too, is sometimes exacted upon the delay in granting just claims.
An hon. member near me, (Mr. Owen,) maintains that the lower classes of the Catholics lake no interest in the question of Catholic emancipation; and that it affects only the few individuals, who from their rank and situation in life, might reasonably hope, under a different system, to fill those offices from which they are at pre-sent excluded. It appears from the example of Grenada, that even the Catholic negroes, who could have no possible expectation of holding public situations of honour or emolument, embraced the cause of their masters: and that with so much zeal, that, as I have already stated, elever thousand of them perished in the contest 845 The truth is, that every individual belonging to a sect, which is subjected to political disabilities, feels himself a member of a degraded class; and considers an injury done to any of his superiors of the same communion, as if done to himself.
It has also been said, that if the claims of the Catholics were granted, they would become a party with power, instead of being, as they now are, a party without power. The case might have been more fairly stated thus: that they would then become a party attached to that constitution, in the advantages of which they participated; instead of being as they now are, a party inimical to that constitution from the advantages of which they are excluded; and this position, too, is fully illustrated by the example of Grenada.
In my humble opinion. Sir, religion is an affair between God and a man's own conscience, with which the secular magistrate has nothing to do, any farther than as the tenets it inculcates may be dangerous to the established government. That some of the tenets imputed to the Roman Catholics have that tendency, I readily admit; and I am no more disposed than the gentlemen who oppose this motion, to grant their claims, unless it can be done with safety to the constitution, in Church and State, as by law established. All I contend for is, that we have no right to put our own interpretation on their creeds; and anathematize them, as it were, for professing doctrines which they disavow. The great object of going into the proposed committee is, to enquire whether they can and will, give such security, or subscribe such a test, as ought to be satisfactory; and this enquiry well deserves our most serious and immediate attention. One of these two good purposes must be answered by going into this committee; either we shall find that satisfactory security can be given, in which case we shall indeed be what we now call ourselves, but are not, an united kingdom; or, at least, we shall have an opportunity of proving to the Catholics of Ireland, and of all Europe, that our refusal to comply with their claims, proceeds from no bigoted prejudice against them as Catholics, but from a conscientious regard to that constitution which we are bound to support.
For these reasons, I cannot do otherwise than vote for going into the committee.
§ Lord Milton.
—Sir, I should not at this late hour of the night have troubled the 846 House but for the extreme anxiety I feel in the cause of the Irish Catholics; and that anxiety has been by no means diminished by the speech of the hon. and learned gentleman, (Mr. Owen,) on the second bench on the other side of the House. I confess that that hon. and learned gentleman did deliver opinions, and broach doctrines of a most extraordinary nature. That hon. gentleman has grossly calumniated not only the Irish Catholics, but the whole of the lower ranks of society. And is it to be borne, that such language as this should go forth to the Catholics of Ireland, and to the lower orders of the people in this united kingdom without comment? That in this country, where it is our boast that we may rise from the lowest situations to the highest honours of the state: that no person, however lowly he may be born, is precluded from the most distinguished remuneration of his country: that in this House of Commons, where there must be persons who, perhaps, in the outset of their lives might not have expected to attain those honours, to which their virtues and their talents have raised them; and that it is asserted, that the lower orders of mankind are necessarily excluded, from a moral incapacity, to hold such offices. For be it remembered that was the assertion of the hon. and learned gentleman.
Sir, it appears to me, upon this subject, that this is one of the many arts used to excite fears and jealousies in the Protestant inhabitants of this country against the Roman Catholics of Ireland. But the most forward argument is, that we are told the Church is in danger. Now, I do not feel, perhaps, that sort of filial reverence for the Church which has been expressed by my hon. friend below me (Mr. Vernon,) but I believe there is no man can feel more sincerely attached to it than I do; and I doubt whether any person can feel more strongly than myself, all the benefits which we derive from it, and which under God, it gives us. If therefore I could imagine that the admission of these Catholics to office, that the admission of half a dozen Roman Catholic peers to the other House of parliament, and, perhaps as many, or a few more Catholic members to this House, would endanger the Church establishment, I believe a great deal of argument would not be required to persuade me to abandon the cause. But those gentlemen who are continually crying out that the Church is in 847 danger, and who are eternally endeavouring to persuade persons out of doors, of this imaginary peril, are never willing to come to close quarters, and tell us how the Church is to be in any greater danger after, the admission of the Catholics to the benefits of the constitution, than it is at the present moment. I do not suppose that it will be contended that the claims of the Irish Catholics will derive greater weight from their sitting in the Houses of Parliament, or their being admitted to municipal offices. Surely, Sir, exclusions are not made to protect religion: they may be very good to protect political establishments; and, under certain circumstances, religion may be a test for the essence and well-being of a state. Now that has been explained by a noble lord on the other side of the House; and to his speech I refer you for detail on that subject—I mean the origin of these tests.
Sir, it is a false assertion that these tests were ever instituted against the Catholics merely because they maintained a particular religious faith. They were made for the protection of the state: but at that time it so happened, that Catholicism and arbitrary power were connected together. Now, you take advantage of that circumstance on the other side of the question, against the Catholics, and make the religious part of the subject a ground of exclusion where it never was meant to apply. That was the true origin of the tests; and other circumstances confirmatory of this, may be found by a reference to the history of the Bill against Occasional Conformity. It will be found that the persons who were most active in bringing about the Revolution, were the constant opposers of that measure; for the fact is, that they were as much the advocates of religious as they were of political liberty; and here again let me call upon the learned gentleman opposite to tell me and the House, why he says that his reverence for the Revolution is the reason why he cannot accede to the Catholic claims. Why, the Revolution was brought about not for the maintenance of the Church of England merely, but for the maintenance of our civil liberties. Let him read the Bill of Rights, and then let him tell if in that he can find any thing to bear out his assertion. And here. Sir, I cannot help deprecating the arguments of the learned doctor, who tells us, that if we accede to the motion of my right hon. friend, we shall destroy the constitution; 848 and he cites to us a long list of acts of parliament, from the first of Elizabeth, for the maintenance of the Church; which, he says, must all be repealed, if you grant the Catholics these concessions. Now, that they must be repealed, or partially repealed, is pretty certain; but that the repeal will destroy the Church Establishment, I utterly deny: and give me also, leave to tell the learned doctor, nor will the repeal of them endanger the constitution. And if the learned doctor knew the true principles of the constitution, he would tell us, as I do confidently maintain, that the bases of the constitution are rather the Habeas Corpus and Bill of Rights, than the Act of Uniformity and the Test Laws. Irish gentlemen would look to the history of these exclusions, and then ask themselves whether the same arguments can be adduced now, which were then adduced in furtherance of these laws? Sir, exclusions of this kind cannot last with justice or propriety, above a certain time. They cannot so last beyond the period when the reasons for passing them have ceased to exist. But, then, it is contended that the present laws do not go to affect the great mass of the people. That I deny: because I must contend, contrary to the assertion of the learned doctor, that these are the Petitions of the population of Ireland; because, without dispute, the majority of that population is Catholic; although it may be difficult precisely to ascertain the relative proportions of the different seets in that country; and yet. Sir, it is said, that these laws have only a very partial effect in that country; and that the paucity of the petitioners is so great, that their complaints are not worth attending to. But I trust, Sir, that these exclusions have run their race. I trust that more liberal notions are now gaining ground every where; and that it will be impossible long to keep the people of Ireland in this state of civil bondage.
We have been told that these restrictions are not continued for political purposes, but for the purpose of maintaining your Church Establishment. The Church is dear to all of us: but I must confess, that if the Church is to be maintained by degrading and stigmatizing the people of Ireland, it is purchased at a very dear rate.
Under all these considerations, and the consideration of the eloquent and powerful arguments, urged on this side of the House in favour, of the motion, I am per 849 suaded that if this House does but consent to entertain the question, you will have gone a great way towards the conciliation of Ireland.
Sir, an hon. gentleman who spoke on the other side of the House, (Mr. Bankes,) has told us, that history and experience were against us. I deny the fact, and he has not brought one proof of his statement. He told us, indeed, that if these materials, (speaking of the various, and, as he contends, clashing interests, in the state) were brought together, they would be more likely to explode. Now, is the hon. gentleman not more afraid of this explosion in the situation in which we now stand; are we not much more liable to the dangers he talks of, as long as you have four millions of irritated people to contend with; than after you have endeavoured to unite and conciliate them? The fact is, that history is against him. Even within the memory of persons here present, he will find powerful arguments against him. Let him look at America; let the House consider well that important lesson. To her small and equitable demands England opposed what we were pleased to terra firmness. America persevered in her demands, and England in her firmness; the pretensions of the former grew with the resistance of the latter, till war and separation terminated the contest. May the parable not be complete! But surely, no man can doubt, but, if England had known how and when to yield, America might, at this hour, have been a British colony. To the same spirit of firmness we owe, in a great degree, our contests with the Irish Catholics; for the fact is, that in cases of this kind, men who have once embarked in a system of error, continue to cherish it, thinking that by perseverance, they may, as it were, turn wrong into right. Now, at the present moment they cannot think of abandoning their erroneous opinions with regard to Ireland, favourable even as the results might be, for fear of encouraging the imputation of contradicting themselves.
Upon all these grounds, therefore, and seeing no danger whatever to the Church, the alarm about which is a mere bugbear to the people, I cannot but give my cordial assent to this motion.
In the cry that has been raised upon this subject in favour of the Church, and to warn us of its dangers, I can assure the right hon. gentleman over the way, that I believe him to be very sincere. He is, 850 perhaps, out of all those who oppose this question, or who make use of it for their own purpose, the only man to whom I do ascribe sincerity. But I much doubt whether the same quality can be ascribed to all of his subservient colleagues, some of whom have accepted office under circumstances the most peculiar. How they, after the testimonies they have given, and the pledges they have tendered, (or implications of pledges equally binding upon honourable minds) can consent to come into a government which is sworn to contend against the Catholics, is what they, perhaps, may, but what I cannot account for. To him, however, I certainly will give the credit of sincerity, because he has told the people of Ireland conscientiously of his scruples, and he has told a higher power, that should he accede to their claims, he must make his bow and retire.
If such persons as those to whom I have alluded, can condescend, after their former conduct, to hold the offices they now occupy, the House and the country will know how to appreciate their future pledges on any other subject.
I believe the right hon. gentleman is sincere; and I am persuaded, that his scruples proceed from a firm attachment to the Church: but, in the opinion which I entertain upon the subject, I think that concession to the Catholics is, in fact, the way to preserve the constitution, and, in preserving the constitution, to preserve the Church also; for without the constitution, the Church is nothing: but if we mean to preserve both, we must gratify the Catholics. Under these circumstances. Sir, I give my hearty vote for the motion of my right hon. friend.
§ Mr. Charles Adams.
—Sir, at this advanced time of the night, I cannot think of troubling the House at any length, with a statement of the grounds upon which I shall give my vote against this motion. Sir, I think this is a question attended with so much difficulty and embarrassment on both sides, that it can be productive of no good consequences to either party in its discussion; and as I think that any change in the laws of Ireland as they affect Catholics, could not be attended with the benefits that, it is suggested, would arise, it would, in my opinion, be better to leave them alone. Besides, in the present political state of the country, it would not be politic to agitate a question which cannot 851 but tend to abstract people's attention from the consideration of objects connected with our foreign relations. Unanimity, both in design and action, are of essential importance to our successful execution against a foreign enemy. Now, Sir, little disposed as I am to go into a discussion upon the religious part of this question, as it respects foreign nomination, I cannot but think that there is in it greater danger than gentlemen seem to apprehend. I would ask what is there to prevent the nomination of a Catholic French bishop to some of the sees in Ireland? and it would be unnecessary for me to point out the inevitable danger that would arise to the country from the nomination of such a bishop.
Now, Sir, for my own part, the religious view of this question in matters of faith, I have always considered by much the most important; and I cannot but complain that in the course of this debate, it has been kept very much in the back ground. The Roman Catholic doctrine, in my opinion, leads to the most erroneous and dangerous conclusions; and I do not hesitate to assert, that some of the tenets of that religion are as abhorrent to the true principles of Christianity as even Judaism itself. What is their zeal for that tenet of their creed called sacerdotal absolution? I would ask is it any thing more or less than a cloak to all sin? Can there be a more dangerous and subversive doctrine than this? And yet we are told that all this is nothing. But will any man of reflection and common sense say, that it is perfectly harmless?
Far be it from me to cast any reflection upon the moral character of the Roman Catholics. I am well aware that there are many individuals of that persuasion who are most worthy and valuable members of the community. I may say I have lived amongst them, and what I have thus observed is not with a view of disparaging those qualities which I know they possess. But on a great national and constitutional question like this, I could never forgive myself, were I to deceive them by holding out any hopes which must be founded upon principles in my humble opinion, subversive of the true interests of the commonwealth.
I shall not say a word upon the policy or expediency of the subject; nor take notice of the many arguments that have been urged under those heads in the course of this discussion. I have one general 852 answer on this subject, and which I shall repeat as often as this question is brought before parliament. Never let us cease for one moment to guard our establishment; and never let us expose it to the possibility of danger at all. And I do not hesitate to say, that it is daily and hourly exposed to danger, even by those who call themselves its friends.
One word more on this point: an hon. gentleman, the son of a right reverend prelate who also has spoken very eloquently in support of this question, has been held out to us as an example to prove that if there was any thing really dangerous in granting this question, he at least would not be likely to give it his support. But, Sir, I beg leave to say, that instance has not sufficient weight with me to lull my apprehensions; for not withstanding the purity and liberality of his sentiments and intentions upon the subject, still I cannot shut my eyes against consequences which to me at least appear obvious. And suppose even that the immediate question for going into a committee should be carried by a very great majority, still there are objects avowedly connected with it so utterly insurmountable, that it would, in my mind, be impossible ultimately to come to a satisfactory understanding.
I sincerely wish well to the Catholics; but being a member of the Established Church, and having a high duty to discharge towards the rest of my fellow-subjects, I must, to be consistent with my views of the constitution, vole against the motion.
—Sir; in this stage of the debate, I am very unwilling to trespass long on the patience of the House; but I feel it my duty shortly to state the grounds of my vote. The right hon. gentleman has declared, that he can see no danger in conceding to the foreign nomination of the Catholic bishops merely in a spiritual sense, provided such securities can be given to us as shall be perfectly satisfacfactory that no danger from such nomination shall arise to our Protestant establishments. In that sentiment I should heartily concur; but I have heard no reason yet assigned to induce me to alter the opinion I entertained when this question was last discussed. We are not now more secure, as much as has been said about the present situation of the Pope, than we were at that time.
I am one of those that conceive, that if 853 the Catholic clergy are suffered to remain under a foreign influence, usually unconnected with and uncontrouled by government, we shall then place the Catholics just in the situation where the Protestants now are; and they will next be desirous of having on the throne a king of their own religion, and of introducing a power hostile to the present form of the constitution.
The hon. baronet on the other side of the House has asked several times where was the danger to the government in the mere spiritual nomination of the Catholic bishops by the Pope, which is allowed in every other government of Europe whether Protestant or Catholic. Why, Sir, he has himself admitted, that even in Catholic governments this power is exercised by the Pope only with the internal controul of those governments, without which his nomination of the bishops can have no effect. How much more necessary then is this controul in our government, where the religion of the state is Protestant, and so intimately interwoven with the frame of our constitution. I cannot therefore agree to go into any consideration of a question having for its object to make any material change in that constitution. I should wish those laws to be left as they are; and however disagreeable they may be thought to some, yet, until some permanent and adequate securities are given to us against the dangers so justly to be apprehended from a change, it were better to leave the matter untouched than run the risk of such fatal consequences.
It being now two o'clock, the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved that the House be adjourned until to-morrow, which was agreed to.