HC Deb 08 February 1813 vol 24 cc408-15

A Petition of several of the clergy, gentry, and inhabitants of Huddersfield, was presented; setting forth,

"That while the petitioners fully confide in the wisdom of parliament, they consider the question relating to the Popish Claims to be one which demands the most anxious attention of every friend to the Protestant religion and to Protestant Britain; and that, notwithstanding the present disturbed slate of their part of the country (a state verging upon open rebellion) might suggest the propriety of forbearing to agitate, in that neighbourhood, any question of great public interest, they conceive that no fear of merely local inconvenience or personal risk ought to prevent the expression of their sentiments on this most important subject; and that, since the despotic principles of Popery are repugnant to the spirit of British freedom, firmly secured and wisely circumscribed by the laws, and since all who differ in religious opinion and practice from the Papists (who themselves, in points essential, are at variance with the Holy Scriptures), are by them declared hereties, and it is an established tenet with them, "That no faith is to be kept with heretics!" it is even held to be a praiseworthy act to put a heretic to death, since absolution from the worst of crimes, crimes most injurious to society, may by them be obtained with ease; since these and other equally dangerous principles have already, in former days, been acted upon to a terrific extent, written in large characters of blood and flame; and as it appears, from their recent declarations, they are still maintained and upheld, because, as it is positively asserted, the Roman Catholic religion always remains the same; and therefore the only assignable reason why they are not now acted upon is the want of power; and that the petitioners look upon the demands now made by the Papists (of admission to places of high trust and power in the state, not only without any pledges of security to the present established order of things in these realms, but followed by a positive refusal of any such pledges,) as destructive if acceded to, of the invaluable privileges which they enjoy—privileges, the sanctioned birthright of Protestant Britons—and that, since the Supremacy of the Pope, and his power to absolve subjects from their allegiance to their lawful sovereign, are still maintained by the Papists, the petitioners cannot formally accede to these demands, which, if granted, would enable them to act upon those principles, without virtually renouncing their allegiance to their lawful sovereign, without forgetting all the virtues which have adorned, with so much splendor, the venerable head of their beloved monarch, that truly firm, conscientious, and undaunted defender of the Protestant faith, who has laboured for the happiness of his people unremittingly during a long reign of more than half a century, and to whose unbending integrity they are indebted, under Almighty God, for the happy exemption which they enjoy from those horrors under which the rest of Europe so deeply groans, that, sensible of the inestimable privileges, both civil and religious, with which we are favoured beyond every other nation upon earth, to secure, if possible, their continuance, is a duty which the petitioners feel that they owe to themselves, who experience their value, to their ancestors, who purchased them with their blood, and to their posterity, who may naturally claim them at their hands; and praying that the House will be pleased to watch with a most jealous eye over every altera- tion of the existing laws, and to shield the civil and religious establishments of these realms from the effects of those plausible professions of liberality and charity which are too often urged to conceal designs to which the state cannot but receive irrepaable damage."

A Petition of the mayor, aldermen, and assistants of Leeds, in common hall assembled, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners entertain a high and grateful sense of the blessings they enjoy under the constitution by law established in Church and State, to the maintenance of which they can look with confidence so long only as the offices of the state are administered by persons attached to the constitution from principle, and ready to submit to those tests of their attachment required by the wisdom of our ancestors; and that under these impressions the petitioners cannot view without alarm the reiterated attempts of a part of his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, to procure the removal of all bars to their filling the highest offices in the various departments under government, in common with his Majesty's Protestant subjects; and that the petitioners have witnessed with satisfaction the repeal of the laws restraining the Roman Catholics in the free exercise of their religion, and the extension to them of many important privileges during his Majesty's mild and beneficent reign, but the petitioners know of no change in their tenets, nothing conciliating in the temper with which they advance their pretensions, no concession which they are willing to make for the security of the established religion, which can justify the Roman Catholics in their claims to further political power; and they humbly conceive that the admission of these would be a virtual acknowledgment that there is no necessary connection between Church and State, that the Act of Settlement ought to be repealed, and that the great pillars on which our ancestors raised our glorious constitution are no longer necessary for its support: and that the petitioners therefore humbly entreat the House to allay the fears of his Majesty's Protestant subjects by refusing to comply with the Claims of the Roman Catholics, and by resisting all encroachments upon that constitution under which these realms have so long and happily flourished."

A Petition of the archdeacon and clergy within the archdeaconry of the East Riding of York, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners, always desirous of expressing their entire confidence in the protection which the wisdom of parliament has uniformly extended to the Church established in this United Kingdom, feel themselves called upon, by the repeated claims of the Roman Catholics, to offer their sentiments, with the greatest deference, concerning a subject of such vast importance to the public welfare; and that they perceive with regret, that although the kindest and most indulgent toleration has been granted, demands are now brought forward of a very alarming nature, no less than an equal participation of power, no less than an unqualified admission into all the offices of state; and that the petitioners humbly represent to the House their decided opinion, that the concession of such demands would be subversive of the first principles of that constitution which was matured at the glorious period of the Revolution, when the Protestant faith and worship were happily preserved by those wise laws which are justly considered as the bulwark of our constitution; and they remark with grateful exultation, that the experience of more than a century has endeared to them a system of religion which has withstood the speculations of modern theory, and which they pray may be perpetuated to them and their latest posterity; and that they entertain no other sentiments than those of charity and affection towards Christians of all denominations; but, judging of the future by the past, they beg leave to intimate their apprehensions of danger to the Protestant religion from any further concessions to our Roman Catholic fellow subjects; and they trust and hope, therefore, that no measures will be adopted that will grant the exercise of political authority to those of his Majesty's subjects who pay implicit obedience to any foreign power."

A Petition of the dean and chapter of the cathedral church of Chester, and the parochial and other clergy of the city and neighbourhood of Chester, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners beg leave to represent respectfully, but at the same time earnestly, their firm opinion, that the statutes which exclude persons living in commu- nion with the Church of Rome from situations of trust and power are to be regarded as the fences of our constitution in Church and State; and that, therefore, those statutes cannot be repealed without extreme danger to both, even if it were certain that the evils which the petitioners should apprehend from such repeal would, in the first instance, directly affect only our Church, yet they are persuaded it would appear to the wisdom of the House, that whatever measure affected the Church directly could not fail to affect at least indirectly the well being of the state, but that the evils to the state would not be felt merely in an indirect manner, as they are persuaded that the repeal of the restrictive statutes, instead of producing union in affections, would in the end widen beyond measure existing breaches, and would, by introducing opposition of interests, introduce confusion into our public councils; and that the petitioners therefore humbly intreat the House, by the distinguished blessings which, through the Divine favour, this nation enjoys under our present unrivalled constitution, the preservation of which is, under Providence, entrusted to the care of the House, that they will be immovable in resisting every attempt to procure the repeal of statutes, on the continuance of which in force the petitioners believe the public welfare and even safety to depend."

A Petition of the magistrates, clergy, and other inhabitants of different denominations of Protestant Christians in the town and neighbourhood of Bolton-le-Moors, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners are deeply impressed with a sense of the happiness and security they enjoy, by the blessing of Divine Providence, under the British constitution, and, with such an impression, they cannot view, without much concern and apprehension, the concession of those unqualified claims so repeatedly and so urgently made by their Roman Catholic fellow subjects; and that the petitioners are not actuated by a spirit of prejudice or of intolerance, yet, mindful of the principles established at the Reformation and the Revolution, they think that they should ill discharge the duty which they owe to themselves, to their country, and to posterity, did they not express their deliberate and decided opinion, that, to admit Roman Catholics to a full participation of political power, under a constitu- tion purely Protestant, would be absolutely inconsistent not only with its spirit, but with its safety and stability; and that the petitioners are led to the above conclusion principally from a consideration of the peculiar nature of the Roman Catholic religion, more especially those doctrines which relate to Papal supremacy, passive obedience, and exclusive salvation; they have observed, that, in consequence of these doctrinos, the Roman Catholic religion has ever been hostile to civil and religious liberty, tolerating no opinions but its own, and persecuting all who subscribe not to its creed; and, knowing that its principles are still unchanged and unchangeable, the petitioners, as Protestants, have nothing to anticipate, should Roman Catholics ever obtain that ascendency, which, when once admitted to political power, they will never cease to seek, but a revival of the intolerance and persecution of former ages; they feel for themselves, and they tremble for their posterity; and therefore, praying earnestly but respectfully, that the House would be pleased not to concede the claims now made by the Roman Catholics, as they conceive no safeguards can be devised for the security of the constitution equal to those which were established by the wise and vigilant precaution of our ancestors."

A Petition of the dean and chapter and clergy of the diocese of Carlisle, and inhabitants of the city of Carlisle and its vicinity, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners beg leave to approach the House with the expression of their most sincere attachment to the Church of England, as it is now by law established, and, at the same time to express their regard for the civil and religious rights of mankind, and their wish that a complete religious toleration may always be enjoyed by every class of their dissenting brethren; and that strongly, however, as they are impressed with these sentiments, they cannot but view with anxiety and dread the renewed and increasing exertions of the Roman Catholics in England and in Ireland, especially as the objects which, by their own confession, they now aim at, are not toleration, but power, not religious emancipation, but political equality, claims which ought never to be conceded, and which would, in, their necessary consequences, undermine the foundations of every Protestant establishment; and that the petitioners, therefore, rely with confidence on the firmness of the House, trusting that they will not consent to remove those boundaries which the piety and the wisdom of our forefathers have erected, boundaries no less necessary now than ever for the protection and existence of the Church, and with it of the State."

A Petition of the mayor, aldermen, common councilmen, bailiffs, and burgesses, of Cambridge, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners are deeply impressed with the conviction, that man, being a free and accountable agent, has a right to liberty of conscience in all matters of religious opinion and worship, provided that he intermixes not with his religious tenets principles which are calculated to subvert the laws and endanger the welfare of society; and that, such being the sentiments of the petitioners, they have witnessed with pleasure the amelioration in the condition of our Roman Catholic fellow subjects, which has been imparted to them in the mild spirit of toleration, during the present reign; and the petitioners hail with satisfaction the prospect of that period when still greater immunities may be granted to them, under those safeguards, which, as Protestants, we are bound to require, and which their warmest advocates admit to be of vital importance for the security of our constitution; and that the petitioners have understood it, however, to have been declared by the heads of the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland, that they cannot assent to any safeguard that may be deemed essential for the protection of our Protestant establishment, for want of that free access to the Pope, which it is impossible for them to have during his present state of duress, and therefore the petitioners most strongly deprecate the agitation of a question which can only tend to irritate and inflame, and the object of which cannot, as the petitioners conceive, under these considerations, be conceded; and that they deeply lament that the Roman Catholics have resolved to urge their request at so inauspicious a crisis, but, as they learn that it will shortly be submitted to the consideration of the House, they feel it a duty that they owe to their country, to themselves, and their posterity, to appear before the House as petitioners against claims which are so injudiciously intended to be preferred under such circumstances, and they rely with confidence that the collective wisdom of the legislature will adopt such measures of internal regulation and provision as may be calculated to increase the comforts of our fellow subjects in Ireland, and enable them to participate to the utmost extent in the blessings which in England we enjoy."

Ordered to lie upon the table.