HC Deb 18 February 1813 vol 24 cc589-93

A Petition of the corporation of Wallingford, Berks, was presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners take leave humbly to express their wishes and opinions upon the great question which at present so much engages the attention and interests the feelings of the public, the demands of the Roman Catholics: that every man should be at full liberty to worship the Divine Being in the way which he is convinced is most acceptable, is a position which the petitioners flatter themselves, is not controverted in this country: toleration to the utmost extent, in matters of religion, they are persuaded ought to exist: they believe it does; if in any instance it does not, they pray the House, as a branch of the legislature, to take such steps as shall supply a remedy; but they beg leave humbly, yet earnestly, to state, that establishment is a matter of quite different consideration; they bear no ill-will to the Roman Catholics, though no man can deny that when they possessed political power they used it oppressively; the petitioners cannot but esteem every attempt to be inauspicious which has confessedly for its object an alteration of any point established and ratified by the glorious Revolution; they have the authority of the parliament which completed that great event to assert, that the grievances which were then complained of and recapitulated by them, and of which they employed themselves in devising the means of preventing a recurrence, were utterly and directly contrary to the known laws, statutes, and freedom of this realm; the execution, therefore, for the future, of the laws in being was their single object, and the single mean which they devised for securing this point, was the exclusion from political power of all such persons as were not friendly to the constitution, and refused to give public pledges of their being so; and that it is a fact which cannot be denied, that since the Revolution the nation has enjoyed internally greater happiness, quiet, and security, and during that period the public functionaries have invariably and exclusively been Protestants; and praying, that the laws for securing the religion established in this kingdom, on which the petitioners presume to think radically depends the Protestant succession to the throne, and the permanent tranquillity of the empire, may undergo no alteration."

A Petition of several inhabitants of Lewes and places adjacent, in the county of Sussex, was also presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners observe with astonishment and alarm the persevering efforts of the Roman Catholics to obtain admission to all offices of trust and authority, both civil and military, and to the exercise of legislative functions; and that it is with unfeigned satisfaction they see their fellow subjects of the Romish Church, freed from all pains and penalties on account of their religion, and in the full enjoyment of the blessings of toleration; but the petitioners feel it their bounden duty not only to themselves, but to posterity to resist their endeavours (notwithstanding the numerous concessions already made to them) to get possession of political power and legislative authority, and thereby to destroy that Protestant ascendancy to which the people of this country are indebted under Providence for the establishment of their liberties on a firm and solid basis, for the petitioners consider it as a fixed and unalterable principle of our glorious constitution, as settled at the Revolution, that the legislative and executive authorities of this Protestant country, can be administered only by Protestants; and they regard the laws by which that principle is established as no less sacred and inviolable than Magna Charta and the Habeas Corpus Act, and implore the House stedfastly to reject all applications for the repeal of those laws."

A Petition of the inhabitants of New Sarum was presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners, justly appreciating the inestimable blessings which they enjoy under the Protestant constitution, by law established at the glorious Revolution, and alarmed at the restless and incessant attempts of the Roman Catholics to be admitted to offices of civil power and military command, notwithstanding the complete toleration which has been already conceded to them, and which, according to their own frequent declarations, left them nothing more to ask, do most humbly, but at the same most ardently, implore the House to protect the Church and the State from those dangers with which they are both of them equally menaced, for should the Petitions of the Roman Catholics, or rather their demands, for what, by a strange solecism in language, is termed Catholic Emancipation, be complied with, the petitioners apprehend that their views and expectations will proceed even farther; and that they may use their augmented influence and authority in the state, even to re-establish that system of civil and religious thraldom from which the wisdom and the virtue of our ancestors so nobly and so happily rescued us; and that to the truly great men who began, and to those who at subsequent and different periods successively perfected and established the Reformation, the petitioners look back with feelings of increased reverence, admiration, and gratitude, they bequeathed us laws, founded in the most consummate wisdom, and the soundest policy, and of those some are not of a temporary nature, but are fitted to ail times and to all circumstances: hence, under the protection of those laws, this nation has enjoyed uninterrupted peace and unexampled prosperity; and that, forcibly impressed with these sentiments, the petitioners do most confidently hope and trust, that the safeguards of the constitution will not be thrown down, but, on the contrary, that they will be transmitted unchanged and unchangeable to the latest posterity."

A Petition of the archdeacon and clergy of the archdeaconry of Middlesex, in the diocese of London, including the parochial clergy (as well exempt as otherwise) of the county of Middlesex, with the deanry of Braughing, Hertford, and the deanries of Harlow, Dunmow, and Heddingham, Essex, was presented; setting forth,

"That the petitioners are informed that a Bill is shortly to be offered to the House for removing the restrictions that are now by law imposed on those who profess the Roman Catholic religion in this United Kingdom, and to admit them to all offices of trust and authority, both civil and military, and even to sit in the imperial parliament, and to legislate for a Protestant Church and State; and that, in their contemplation of a measure so deeply interesting to the welfare of the Church as by law established, the petitioners have been led to consider whether the concessions hitherto made during the present reign in favour of the Roman Catholics, by which the free exercise of their relilion, and other important civil rights, have been granted to them, have produced any relaxation in the principles of that Church; but it is with extreme concern they find that it remains as hostile to the mild temper of Protestantism, that it claims the same spiritual authority, assumes the same infallibility, and considers all Protestants as Without the pale of the Christian Communion; and that it is in all respects the same, whether in doctrine or in discipline, as at the time when these restraints were imposed, the open and undisguised avowal of which has been recently made by many of its most eminent spiritual directors, and, what is particularly alarming to the minds of the petitioners, asserting the supremacy of a foreign power in these realms, a principle not only contrary to the constitution as established at the Revolution, but incompatible with the first principles of all civil government; that the petitioners, whilst they are sincerely anxious that their Christian brethren professing the Roman Catholic religion should enjoy every kind and degree of toleration which is consistent with the safety of the constitution in Church and State, feel it their bounden duty, as ministers of that pure religion, the secure possession of which they regard as the first of blessings, humbly, but earnestly to express the conviction they feel that the laws now subsisting, by which the Roman Catholics are restricted from the exercise of legislative authority and civil power, are not less necessary at this time than they have been heretofore found to be for the maintenance and security of the Established Church; and praying, that the House will in its wisdom continue to preserve those salutary restraints which, through the Divine favour, have hitherto proved the firm support of this nation and constitution in Church and State, to maintain and perpetuate which the family of our revered monarch was placed on the throne of this kingdom."

And the said Petitions were ordered to lie upon the table.