HC Deb 10 February 1813 vol 24 cc419-25

A Petition of the dean and chapter of the cathedral church of Rochester, was presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners, although they concur in approving the measures adopted by preceding parliaments in abrogating certain disqualifying statutes which were stated to be grievous to their Roman Catholic fellow subjects, have nevertheless observed, with feelings of regret, the repeated applications which have subsequently been preferred by them for the removal of all such remaining restrictions as are deemed by the petitioners to be essentially necessary to the preservation of their civil and religious liberties, and which, if acceded to by parliament, without limitation, will, in their opinion, endanger the existence of both; and that Catholic emancipation, which the petitioners understand to mean nothing less in substance and effect than to render such persons as profess Romish tenets admissible to situations of political power, they consider not only to be repugnant to the principles and the system of government established at the Revolution, but peculiarly calculated in its bearings and relations to affect the whole frame of ecclesiastical polity; and further the petitioners, conceiving it to be a truth confirmed by the testimony of long experience, that the re- formed religion established in these realms has been, under Providence, a powerful instrument in diffusing the gospel in its genuine purity, they cannot contemplate any measures which may tend, whether in the immediate or remote results, to revive the influence of the Church of Rome otherwise than as pregnant with danger to Protestant interests and that national Church of which they are ministers; and that the petitioners are friends to religious toleration, but being firmly of opinion that their Roman Catholic fellow subjects enjoy that privilege in its utmost extent, they should deem themselves wanting to the duties of their functions, and the sacred trusts committed to their care, if they failed to express, at this awful crisis, the conviction which is deeply impressed on their minds, that unqualified concession to the claims of the Roman Catholics would lead to consequences which would prove detrimental to the present constitution in Church and State; and praying, that the House will be pleased to resist such applications, on the part of the Roman Catholics, as shall have for their object the unlimited repeal of all restrictive laws which are still in force against them, on the maintenance of which, in the judgment of the petitioners, depend the security of the Established Religion, and the general interests of this Protestantnation."

A Petition of the archdeacon and the clergy of the diocese of Rochester, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners, fearing that many dangerous consequences may ensue to the civil and religious establishment of this country by yielding to the Claims of the Roman Catholics as they are now insisted upon, beg leave to submit to the wisdom of parliament their serious apprehensions on the subject; and they are conscious that, in their endeavours to resist these claims, they are actuated by no other motive than by a sense of duty; and that the petitioners wish for no restriction on their Roman Catholic fellow subjects but what may be deemed absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the Protestant faith, and for the security of the Protestant succession;' and that, while they have been taught to revere the wise and temperate precaution of their ancestors, in introducing such laws as tended to preserve the unrivalled constitution of this country both in Church and State, they cannot see that any such change in circumstances has occurred as will justify the total repeal of them; it cannot be denied that the supremacy of the Pope is still zealously maintained by those who oppose the right of the sovereign of this kingdom to interfere in the appointment of episcopal governors; for, reduced as the Papal power may now be, yet the Papal authority is and must continue to be acknowledged, so long as the Roman Catholics themselves are true to their religious principles; but the petitioners conceive that submission in any respect to a foreign jurisdiction is utterly incompatible with the fidelity and obedience that are due to the British government from all its subjects; nor can they persuade themselves that the removal of subsisting restraints will produce in any part of the dominions of this realm that unanimity which the Roman Catholics hold out as the certain effect of a compliance with their demands; the petitioners are rather inclined to fear an increase of dissentions from such a compliance, a revival of obsolete claims and of pretensions, which, though they have not yet been brought forward, may not unreasonably be apprehended; and that, unwilling as the petitioners are to suppose that those obnoxious tenets are still retained which were sanctioned by the Council of Trent, and which are equally subversive of every principle of morality and religion, yet, as this council is still holden in reverence by those who persist in their submission to the Papal See, they know not how to rely upon individual declarations, which are at variance with general ordinances, authoritatively established, and never yet formally disavowed; and that the petitioners therefore presume to express their fear and their conviction that the proposed indulgence to their Roman Catholic fellow subjects will have effects that may be fatally injurious to the civil and religious constitution of this kingdom, may renew and augment controversies irreconcilable to Christian charity, and may corrupt that pure and undefiled religion with which the interests of all their Protestant brethren, as well as the safety of the state, are identified, and which it is the duty of the petitioners to teach, to maintain, and to preserve inviolate; and praying, that the House will be pleased to resist such applications on the part of the Roman Catholics as shall have for their object the repeal of all restrictive laws which are still in force against them."

A Petition of the gentry, clergy, merchants, and principal inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Rochdale, Lancaster, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners contemplate with the utmost solicitude the reiterated efforts of persons professing the Roman Catholic Religion to procure still further indulgences, notwithstanding the ample concessions already granted them; and that the restrictions and disabilities to which the Roman Catholics are subject are, in the humble opinion of the petitioners, indispensably necessary for the maintenance and security of the Protestant religion as by law established; and that the Roman Catholics maintaining the same pernicious doctrines in every respect at this day as their ancestors did at the time when those laws, by the wisdom of our forefathers, were enacted, the petitioners humbly hope that those securities will be continued to them which experience has shown to be, under Providence, the great support of our excellent constitution in Church and State."

A Petition of the, archdeacon of the county of Berks and the clergy of the same archdeaconry, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners are apprehensive that the Protestant establishment of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland may be endangered by further concessions to our fellow subjects of the Roman Catholic Church; and, in the true spirit of Christian charity, they rejoice at the unlimited toleration they enjoy in the free exercise of their religious worship; but they are alarmed at the idea of admitting them into situations of high trust and power, and of granting them authority to become members of the legislative body of the united kingdom, the character of their Church being, according to their own declarations, unchanged and unchangeable; and they humbly implore, that the barriers which our ancestors, in their caution and wisdom, erected to protect the Protestant establishment, may not be removed, as they have hitherto proved sufficient to support our admired constitution in Church and State; and that, truly anxious as the petitioners are to deliver down to succeeding generations the civil and religious liberties they enjoy, they are still more anxious to protect our holy faith and the pure doctrines of our apostolical Church."

A Petition of the noblemen, gentlemen, clergy, freeholders, and others, inhabitants of the county of Flint, agreed upon at a full and respectable meeting of the county, held at Mould, the 15th of January 1813, and convened by the high sheriff, in pursuance of several requisitions, was also presented; setting forth,

"That it is with concern the petitioners observe their fellow subjects, the Roman Catholics, dissatisfied with the many blessings they enjoy under our mild and tolerant government, and with a degree of perseverance which seems scarcely consistent with a due respect to the repeated decisions of the House, endeavouring to obtain a repeal of the test laws, the last remaining bulwarks of the Protestant constitution; and that these laws were enacted by our ancestors, not from any narrow views of a selfish policy, not from a blind and bigotted zeal for their own religion, but from a conviction, founded on long experience, that power could be safely committed to those only who acknowledge, without reservation, the supremacy of the King, and are members of the established Church; and that, under the wise and salutary restrictions of these laws, our country has enjoyed, with little interruption, the greatest of all national blessings, internal peace and tranquillity for more than a century, and in our own times of extraordinary difficulties and dangers, while almost every other nation of Europe has been reduced by a wily and powerful tyrant, to the most abject state of political slavery, our own has not only baffled his stratagems, repelled his assaults, and preserved its freedom, but has risen to a degree of glory power and prosperity hitherto unexampled; and that the petitioners therefore cannot consider the repeal of these laws, from which the country has derived such substantial benefits, as an act of sound policy, and that it seems to them to be calculated only to gratify the intemperate ambition of men, whose allegiance is confessedly divided, and consequently whose loyalty may be doubtful, but whose hostility to our Church, and the very existence of Protestantism, is unequivocal and indisputable; and that, for these reasons, the petitioners earnestly intreat the House to preserve to themselves and posterity the blessings of the British constitution as it now is, unimpaired and unaltered."

A Petition of the mayor, aldermen, assistants, common council, gentlemen, clergy, and other inhabitants of the borough of Colchester, and its vicinity, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners view with unfeigned satisfaction all their fellow subjects of this united kingdom in unrestricted possession of civil liberty, and in full enjoyment of religious toleration, but, whilst they rejoice that this blessing is so universally diffused, they cannot but feel, and humbly express, their serious apprehension at the extended claims which, as the petitioners understand, are about to be preferred to the House by the members of the Romish Church, who, not satisfied with a perfect liberty of conscience, are seeking to be admitted into all offices of trust and authority, both civil and military, and to the exercise of the legislative functions; that the petitioners, considering the admission of such claims as a measure of great political danger, feel it to be a bounden duty, not only to themselves but to posterity, earnestly to pray the House to maintain inviolate that essential principle of the British constitution, that the legislative and executive authority of this Protestant country shall be administered only by a Protestant government."

A Petition of the high steward, bailiffs, and burgesses, of the borough of Montgomery, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners most cordially concur in that wise and enlightened policy which holds out complete religious toleration to their Catholic brethren; and that they would rejoice in their participation of all civil privileges, were it compatible with the safety of that mild and liberal constitution which protects every description of Christians in the full exercise of their religious rights; but, upon a reference to history, as well as to recent experience, to the fundamental principles and unalterable practice of the Church of Rome, they are convinced that sincere Catholics are still actuated by the same hostile spirit to Protestantism in general, and to the Church of England, Ireland, and Wales, in particular, which hath uniformly marked their political career; and that the petitioners, therefore, justly apprehending the worst consequences from a demolition of those barriers which their forefathers were compelled to erect for the protection of their civil and religious liberties, and conceiving admissibility to office to be a matter of expediency, but not of right, do earnestly beseech the House not to concede such powers to the Catholics as might enable them, by means of foreign or domestic influence, or by any other political possibility, to endanger our present Protestant constitution, and to affect the re-ascendancy of that imperious hierarchy so inimical to the most sacred rights of a free and independent people."

A Petition of the inhabitants and burgesses of the loyal town and borough of Flint, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners beg leave most gratefully to acknowledge the blessings they now receive under the glorious constitution, in Church and State, by which they are governed, and humbly imploring for a blessed continuance of the same, and with every deference to the better opinion of the House, they beg to state their decided hostility to any concession to the Catholic Claims, which cannot be granted without including the full and unequivocal sense of the sacred oath which our most gracious sovereign took at his coronation."

Ordered to lie upon the table.