§ Sir Henry Parnell
said:—Sir; I hold in my hand a Petition from the Roman Catholics of Ireland. The gentlemen who intrusted it to my care have informed me, that the Roman Catholics are particularly anxious that the merits of their claims should be taken into consideration during the present session. I think it proper, therefore, to give notice, that I shall move, on this day fortnight, that the House do form itself into a committee, to take into consideration the laws affecting the Roman Catholics. Prior to that period, if the courtesy of the House will allow me, I shall submit certain Resolutions, containing the full extent of the claims of the Catholic body. I do not mean to introduce them for the purpose of provoking a premature discussion; but from a desire to pot the House in possession of every thing relating to those claims. I shall afterwards more the Resolutions in the committee, if it be conceded. At present I shall merely move, "That the Petition be now read."
§ Mr. Tierney
—If I understand the hon. baronet, he has mentioned, that claims of a definitive nature will be submitted to the House, in formal resolutions, if the committee be granted. Now, I wish to know whether those resolutions speak the sense of the whole Catholic body, or only of at part of it? And if the latter be the case of what portion does it speak the sentiments?
§ Sir Henry Parnell.
—I can answer the questions of the right hon. gentleman, I think satisfactorily. This is the petition of certain Roman Catholics of Ireland, whose signatures are affixed thereto, on behalf of themselves and the Catholic body of Ireland. It comes exactly from the same description of persons with whom the other petitions, on the same subjects 247 which have been discussed by the House, originated: and, as far as that opinion can be expressed, under the existing restraint which the law puts on them, and which prevents them from sending delegates to meetings, it does express the sense of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. With respect to the extent of unanimity which the sentiments contained in the resolutions meet with, I can state, from communications I have had on the subject, that they speak the correct and unequivocal opinion of the mass of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. With regard to the claims of the Catholics, and the propriety of laying those claims before the House, in the shape of Resolutions, before the main discussion came on, the reason is this—it appears to be very desirable, that, in entering on a new discussion of the Petition of the Catholic body, the House should be put in possession—and, as far as is practicable, they ought to be put hi exact possession—of all that the Roman Catholics require from the House. I have it in my power to state decidedly to the House, that I shall submit to them resolutions, that express correctly the opinion of the Catholic body, with respect to the extent of their claims; so that if the House accede to what is contained in those Resolutions, they will give perfect satisfaction to that great body of their fellow-subjects.
The Petition was then brought up and read; setting forth, "That the petitioners are excluded from the enjoyment of the free constitution of these realms, and are subjected to the endurance of such exclusion not on account of any imputed deficiency of disposition or of ability in the service of the Crown or support of the State, but solely on account of their conscientious adherence to that religion which was professed by those princes and patriots of Great Britain who originated and matured her justly-boasted constitution; and that the petitioners again implore the House to grant to them the redress of the oppressive grievances of which they so justly complain, and to restore them to the full and unrestricted enjoyment of the rank of free subjects of the empire." On the motion, that the Petition do lie on the table,
§ Sir J. C Hippisley
observed, that he should be very ready to enter into an adequate investigation of the claims of so considerable a body as the Catholics of Ireland, as far as could tend to the fulfil- 248 ment of the resolution of the House in a former session, that of a conciliatory adjustment which might be conducive to the strength and peace of the kingdom, to the stability of the Protestant establishment, and to the general satisfaction and concord of all classes of his Majesty's subjects: but he thought it incumbent upon him, at the same time, thus early to declare, that he should oppose the claims, such as announced in the petition, of unqualified concession.
§ The petition was ordered to lie on the table.
§ Mr. Bankes
gave notice that he should to-morrow move that the House be called over on this day fortnight, as every one must be of opinion that on such an important question as would then come on, a full attendance was requisite.
§ Sir H. Parnell
gave notice, that he should on this day week move the resolutions pro forma, and that on this day fortnight he should move that the House should resolve itself into a committee on the laws affecting his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects.
§ Mr. Bankes
said he did not hold himself bound to give his assent to the previous stage which had been given notice of by the hon. baronet, as the case was not one in which the House was ignorant of what it was required (as the hon. baronet had termed it) they should do. He felt it his duty to resist, on every opportunity, the claims of the petitioners, if they insisted on them in their full extent.