* Mr. Gratton
presented eight Roman Catholic and five Protestant petitions, in favour of the Roman Catholic claims; after which, he rose and said:—
I beg leave, Sir, in presenting these petitions, to express my most ardent hope, that they may ultimately succeed; and that, in their success, they will give strength to the Protestant church, to the act of Settlement, and to the Protestant succession to the crown; and that they will form an identification with the people, so as to preserve tranquillity at home, and security and respectability abroad; while the two religions, under the roof of one and the same empire, may exercise their respective privileges with the same God, the same Gospel, and the same Re* From the original edition, printed for J. Ridgeway, Piccadilly.7 deemer; with different sacraments, but the same results; and in their different notes, with all the variety of nature, but with its concord and harmony, offer up their prayers to their common Redeemer.
It is submitted, that the Roman Catholic combination of Europe has ceased, that the race of the Pretender is extinct, that the dangerous power of the Pope is no more, and that the imputed attachments are not only gone, but the objects to which there could be any attachment are annihilated. The Roman Catholics claim a common law right of eligibility, subject certainly to the control of parliament; they formerly sat in parliament and held offices, as you now sit in parliament, by virtue of that right; should you repeal the disabling statutes, you do not give, you only restore; should you please to continue the penal statutes, it is a sentence, where you are to prove their delinquency, before you can call upon them to establish their innocence. There is no doubt that parliament has a right to disqualify; the safety of parliament depends on it; you have done so in the best of times; you have disqualified placemen and pensioners of certain descriptions; you have disqualified revenue officers, and you have ascertained the qualification of members of parliament, with a view to secure its independency; but there is one privilege which you cannot affect; you cannot disqualify on account of religion; the subject worships his God in defiance of his fellow-creature; it is the prerogative of God, as well as the privilege of the subject. The king who would interfere, puts himself in the place of his Maker, and attempts to jostle the Almighty from his throne; he has no credentials from God, and he can have none from man;—all the kings of the earth, and all their artillery, horse and foot, and dragoons, cannot, in the mind of the meanest individual, establish a conviction of any proposition, moral, religious, or mathematical. Indeed, you are too enlightened to doubt this, and therefore it is said, we do not exclude the Roman Catholics on account of their religion, but that we consider what they call their religion, to be evidence of tenets and affections which do not belong to religion, and which amount to a disregard of the obligation of an oath, and the duty of allegiance. Let us suppose sir George Jerningham tried on that charge, and that the arguments tendered in evidence were, the proceedings of the 8 council of Lateran, the revival of the Jesuits, the restoration of the Inquisition, Gandolphy's pamphlet, his reception by the pope, and the politeness of the pope's chamberlain;—the judge who should suffer such evidence to go to a jury, would be impeached, and the jury who found on such evidence would be attainted. Suppose the counsel on the side of the defence should tender in evidence, the diverse oaths which the Protestants had prescribed, and which the Roman Catholics had taken; the answers of the six universities against the imputed slander, the list of the Killed and wounded, the battles won with Catholic blood; and in answer to the objection arising from the appointment of a Roman Catholic prelate by the pope, he should say, that this was the only part of the question which by any pretence came within your jurisdiction, but that the objection was answered by the pope's own letters, containing an offer of the veto; and that you, in refusing that offer, rejected the security of the church, when it came accompanied with the liberty of the people; such a tender by the counsel, the judge would observe to be unnecessary, inasmuch as the other side had made out no case.
Here then I beg to observe on this part of the subject, first, that the Roman Catholics had a common law right to eligibility; secondly, that the parliament had in justice no right to require them to abjure their religion; thirdly, that the Roman Catholic religion is no evidence of perfidy or treason; fourthly, that you reject the Roman Catholics for what they have abjured, and you further require them to abjure that, which does not belong to the cognizance of the civil magistrate, namely, the articles of their religion; and in so doing, you commit that, for which a judge would be impeached, and a jury might be attainted.
In continuing the disqualification of the Roman Catholic, we not only deprive them of the common law right of eligibility, but we affect the foundation of our own faith, and disobey the prime order of natural and revealed religion: when we say the Roman Catholic is affected with circumstances idolatrous, and incapable of moral obligation or political allegiance, we say the Roman Catholic religion is not divine; saying that, we affirm that Christianity does not extend to France, to Italy, to Spain, and a great part of Germany; saying that, we say that Christi- 9 anity has made no way, and of course deprive it of one great proof of its divinity; saying that, we say that the Pope has foiled his maker, that a man proves too strong for Almighty power, save where a few nations have rescued the wreck of his omnipotence from general discomfiture: the atheist hears all this, goes along with each sect, while it attacks the other, and instead of stopping short at Protestantism, proceeds to infidelity.
I say we affect the foundation of our faith, and disobey a prime order of natural and revealed religion; a prime order of natural and revealed religion is to love one another; in no other way can you serve your Maker; prayer is adoration, not service; by serving one another, you become a part of his creation, and an auxiliary member of his system; for this, the Redeemer came among you; he came, supported by miracle, prophecy, and the internal evidence of transcendent morals, to ordain two great truths; the love of God, and love of man: the love of man was not only the order but the object of his coming. You answer you don't obey; that your fellow Christians are in general idolaters, and the object for the most part of moral disapprobation; God then has left mankind so imperfect, as to make his own commands impossible; and accordingly, we disqualify a great portion of our fellow citizens, and denounce a great proportion of our fellow Christians, and disobey our gospel; except you can prove, that the gospel does not comprehend those who believe in seven sacraments, or that its blessings are to be confined to alms, and that the greater part of our fellow Christians are objects of our charity, not of our benevolence.
You answer this, by charges against the Romon Catholics. I have stated those charges to be unfounded, you yourselves do not believe them; you did not believe those charges in the 17th of the king, when you declared the Roman Catholics to be good and loyal subjects; you did not believe those charges when you gave them the right of bearing arms; you did not believe those charges when you gave them in Ireland the election franchise; you did not believe those charges when you gave them the army and navy; you did not believe those charges when you restored the popedom; you carried the pope on your back, the great infallible, whom you supposed would command the allegiance of your fellow subjects, but 10 whom you found a feeble potentate, who could not command a Roman Catholic musket in the region of popery; strapped to the war-horse of a great captain; violated in his own dominions; and whom the Roman Catholic nations had suffered to be deposed until the great Protestant power restored him:—I say, did you restore the mass in Italy, in order to punish your fellow subjects for popery?—no, but you saw the danger came from another quarter, you saw that Christianity of every sort was comparatively safe, but that infidelity of every description was dangerous. You did not believe these charges when you helped to restore the house of Bourbon, and with them to give new strength to the Roman Catholic religion in France; France had claimed to walk with reason, and despised to walk with God, and she stumbled; you saw that the cold acknowledgment of a first cause would ill supply the place of the Jiving God, and glowing devotion; you saw that a Roman Catholic church establishment was a better guide than rueful philosophy, and that Christianity with seven sacraments, was better than infidelity; peace had lost the sweets of affiance, and war the properties of honor; and the reign of the philosopher was a proof of the necessity of religion. Accordingly, you waited for its revival—the revival of the Roman Catholic religion, as a means of faith, and a bond of treaty; and as you endeavoured to restore the principles of order, without disputing the particular government, so you endeavoured to revive the elements of Christianity, without disputing the particular religion; and in so doing, you introduced in Europe, a political conformity on the subject of religion; you cut off the hostile appeal to Roman Catholic princes, and accordingly, the different kings, Protestant and Roman Catholic, have united by the bond of Christian fraternity to support the Christian religion. You have changed the ecclesiastical position of Europe: the two religions, Protestant and Roman Catholic, had been in a state of mutual hostility, they are now in a state of mutual defence, each preferring its own establishment, but both concurring to defend the principle of! government against the anarchist who should depose the king, and the principles of Christianity against the infidel, who would depose the Almighty; but you cannot limit the benefit of these principles to foreign powers; a conformity of religion abroad must be in substance a compre- 11 hension of religion at home; you cannot: set up the pope in Italy, and punish popery in England; you cannot favor the; religion of kings, and punish the same religion in subjects; that were to declare, that religion was an artifice of state, to protect power, and abridge liberty.
But it is said, if you emancipate the Roman Catholics, their clergy will overturn the government, they will use their influence with their laity, and their laity will use their new power, and forfeit their lives in the vain attempt to give domination to their church; they rest this argument on a position which is fundamentally erroneous: it supposes that man struggles for the domination of his church establishment by nature; man is not attached to church establishment by nature; church establishment is a creature of art, and a question in politics, not a work of nature. The argument goes farther, and says, that men would prefer the domination of their church establishment to all considerations, moral or political; that is to say that all men are by nature fanatics: 'tis true, the Deity is a natural impression, but the bishop is not the Almighty: the Deity has come amongst us with the gospel in his hand, and the gospel contains a morality in the face of those ungrateful and rebellious proceedings here apprehended: the moral of the gospel is common to the Roman Catholics, and in this case the argument then would be, that the Roman Catholics would rise against their God, against their gospel, and against their king, to rebel with their clergy. This argument is not only not according to human nature, but the reverse; it supposes Dr. Poynter, an excellent subject, will upon the emancipation of his flock, say to the duke of Norfolk, your grace is now possessed of the privileges of the constitution, you will now of course try to subvert the government; that is to say, lose your head by a fruitless effort to get me made archbishop of Canterbury: it supposes that lord Shrewsbury, lord Fingall, lord Clifford, excellent subjects when deprived of their privileges; on their emancipation, precipitate on treason: with them the moral elements are reversed; kindness revolts; injuries reconcile; strange men! such as human nature never created; you hug your thraldrom; you rebel against your privileges, and you fall in love with death, when it is to be administered by the hands of the common hangman. This argument arrives at last, 12 to the monstrous palliation of two crimes rebellion of the Roman Catholics for the ambition of their church, and pains and penalties imposed on the Roman Catholics for the exercise of their religion; and the gospel, instead of being a system of charity, becomes a scale of ferocity.
The argument I combat, not only goes against the nature of man, but against the drift of the age: the question is not now, which church? but whether any,—church or no church,—God or no God? When you attack the religion of Europe, you attack the religion of England;—when you attack Dr. Troy, you attack the archbishop of Canterbury. In vain shall Oxford come forth and say, we never meant this, we only disapproved of auricular confession,—we abhorred extreme unction,—we petitioned against extending to the Roman Catholics the full benefits of the constitution;—the infidel or the sectary who will succeed the church of Rome will answer,—you swore the religion of Europe was a humbug (to use their low expression), and taught us to suspect your own; you argued that the hierarchy of Europe would overturn the governments that restrained its ambition, and thus you have swore so stoutly, and argued so well, that you have conquered your own religion:—there is a great similitude;—you send for the clergy when you are sick;—you send for the clergy when you are dying;—your sacrament is more than a commemoration, though less than a transubstantiation; there are shades of difference it is true, but if their hierarchy be so abominable, your's cannot be pure, and in your common downfall, you will learn your similitude: I speak of the tendency of their argument, I do not speak of the conduct of our church upon the whole on this question. I think the church appears to be placable: I love the mild government of the church of England;—it is a home for piety; it is a cradle for science; so that by an early alliance with divinity, you guard the majesty of heaven against the rebellion of wit:—those who would send back the clergy to the hair garment, and the naked foot, would be the first to deride;—I like the arched roof, the cathedral state, the human voice, and all the powers of evangelic harmony, to give a soul to our duty, and sway the senses on the side of salvation—the wisest men we know of, Locke and Newton, were Christians and Protestants; it is the minor genius that 13 mutinies against the Gospel; he affords to the universe one glance, and has not patience for the second; but I should think I provided ill for the security of our church, by the destruction of others.
The objection which alleges the growth of demand, naturally connects itself with this part of the subject; if the Roman Catholics get a share in the state, they will demand a share in the church, that is to say, they will desire to become Protestant clergymen;—the law may make a Catholic a member of parliament, but cannot make him a Protestant clergyman, there, the nature of things interposes limits; but, if they mean that he will desire a church establishment of his own, they are mistaken; it is what the Protestants in general wish to give him, and the Roman Catholic declines; he declines, because he does not feel that impulse, charged on nature, in favour of a church ascendency; because they wish to have their pastors a little nearer to themselves, and less connected with the court; the progress of demand does not arise from the unreasonableness of the Catholics, but from the nature of things; in the time of the Pretender, there was a general disability; at the death of the Pretender, some of the penal political provisions were by law to cease; when the emperor Joseph repealed the principal provisions against the Protestant, you naturally proposed a corresponding repeal: when the French made great changes in their religion, and their country ceased to be a champion of popery, a further repeal took place; and now, when you have established a political conformity abroad, a political comprehension at home naturally presents itself; it is not the growth of demand, but the ceasing of the hostile circumstances which were incident, but not essential to the Roman Catholic religion; there was a time perhaps, when less could be said for the repeal of the penal code, and the time has now arrived, when nothing can be said for its continuance.—Your error is, that the circumstances that belong to the times, you annex to the sacraments of their religion.
And now I must add another objection interposed in the way of Roman Catholic emancipation, and that is, a denomination not less respectable than the revolution, a great event, but a human transaction, and the arrangement of man; 14 but what is here claimed, is the dispensation of the Almighty; the revolution does not repeal the New Testament; the revolution, properly understood, is the victory of civil and religious liberty, not over a sect, but over a tyranny. When the Roman Catholics cease to support that tyranny, they are entitled to the benefits of the revolution; it is said, that the oath and declaration framed at the revolution were intended to be final, parliament says otherwise; the House of Lords in its resolution of 1705, says otherwise; in the act of the Scotch Union, it declares that the oath and declaration were not to be final; again, parliament in the act of the Irish Union, declares that the oath and declaration were not to be final. You will observe that this declaration is conventional; in order to obtain the approbation of the Roman Catholics in favor of the Union, they were informed by parliament that their exclusion [was not final; so that instead of a covenant amongst the Protestants against the Roman Catholics for their final exclusion, there is a covenant of the Protestants, with the Roman Catholics, against their final exclusion; therefore the argument is nothing less than a proposal to break that covenant: I have understated the force of the Roman Catholic case on this part of the argument; the oath and declaration were not only not intended to be a final exclusion of the Roman Catholic, but did not purpose to exclude the Roman Catholics finally, but directed its rigour against such as refused to abjure the temporal power of the pope;—such is the act of 1793. Now this description does not comprehend the present race of Roman Catholics, and therefore they do not come within the meaning of the exclusion, such is the act of 1793; it contains three principles: it condemns the oath and declaration; it repeals the oath and declaration in the instance of Scotland; and it declares that Roman Catholics in general did not come within the purview of the act of exclusion. Gentlemen talk of a Protestant constitution;—it seems they prescribe for a Protestant constitution:—What;—for a constitution in favour of the Protestants before the existence of the Protestant religion?—baptism is no title;—you may call your son George Brunswick, but that does not give him the crown;—the component parts of the constitution are not ex- 15 clusively Protestant:—the Peers are not exclusively Protestant;—the Commons are not exclusively Protestant;—the Irish electors are not exclusively Protestant;—and yet they are a part of the Commons: you are not to confound the third estate with the House in which that third estate is represented, or to suppose that the Commons are only the representatives, and not the electors: but Protestant constitution is a good name, and excites the feelings without any meaning annexed; so they answer the Gospel; their evangelical duty is stated; it is said the Gospel ordains that you should love your enemies,—they reply,—the battle of the Boyne;—the Revolution of 88—and the glorious memory of king William; thus they answer the Gospel by toasts, which tickle the brain without reaching the understanding, and produce intoxication instead of conviction.
They speak of Ireland: it is a common case of colonization, except where your policy made it peculiar; you made an exclusive system, and prevented your own amalgamation; when they say the Irish are disaffected, I deny it, but if they are, who made them so?—not their five additional sacraments, it must have been then their oppression; you acquit oppression, and convict their religion, and bearing false witness against the people, their detractors desire two things, to get a monopoly of all the good things in this life, and in the next glory everlasting.
They have been at this work for ages; they have gotten the land, established our religion, and disqualified the majority; we have given them good reason for so doing, by assuring them of the idolatry of their faith, the treason of their politics, and the perfidy of their religion: and unable to reconcile a perverse generation, we desire barracks and an army; this is the account men give of the result of their politics in Ireland, and in this account they do justice neither to the Roman Catholics nor to themselves. The Protestants in Ireland are not tyrants,—the Roman Catholics are not rebels,—and the Protestants and Roman Catholics form a fine race of men: the Protestants have in many instances saved to the Catholics their inheritance, and in general respected their persons, the Irish heart, better than the law, rescued humanity from the barbarity of the statute: make it a point of spirit; and the Irish 16 will yield nothing; refer it to his heart, and he has the softness of a woman; even the most violent have frequently acted with the milk of a Christian, though they have argued with the fury of an idiot. The Protestants have petitioned in great numbers, and in great respectability; it is impossible not to take notice of the good conduct of the chief magistrate of Dublin, the lord mayor, who acted with temper, firmness, and liberality the good conduct of the government, and the chief secretary, who I now see on the opposite bench, and whom I hope long to see in the situation that he holds.
The petitioners against the Roman Catholics,—many of them I know;—many of them I personally regard;—I would ask them, do they really think their fellow-subjects should be excluded on account of extreme unction?—certainly not: for transubstantiation?—certainly not: and yet their application, if strictly taken, would, and for no better reason, deprive them of their civil rights for ever. It would go, as far as concerns two-thirds of their fellow citizens, to a perpetual repeal of the gospel: the standard of constitution which they frame, would be at least as fatal to themselves as to the Roman Catholics; for it is the Revolution of 1688, in which their country was deprived of both trade and the exclusive power of her own parliament; and it was not till one hundred years after, when Ireland recovered her trade and her liberty. They will observe also that there was no law against the admission of Roman Catholics into the Irish parliament at the time of the Revolution, nor did any law take place till near one hundred years after; they have then chosen a period as the standard of their rights, when the Roman Catholics were not excluded from seats in parliament by law, and when the whole country was deprived of trade and liberty, by power.
But it is said, an arrangement is impossible: to take away privilege, it seems then is easy; but to restore,—to retrieve the diabolical course—there is the difficulty. Not the ability and sound judgment of Mr. Ponsonby—(I will name the committee)—not the modest truth of Mr. Elliot's intellect; not the refining genius of Mr. Windham; not the strenuous capacity of Mr. Whitbread; nor the all-enlightened perfection of sir Samuel Romilly's understanding;—these men were of the Committee to frame the bill; they 17 are now great authorities to support it; authorities canonized by death; but I do not despair; my right hon. friend still lives; the trusty constitutional hand that drew the bill still lives;—the noble lord, his enemies must allow him abilities, he lives: the luminary by his side, he lives; and the good ameliorator of the lot of Africa, he lives. What then is the tremendous obstacle, to overcome which we boast our incapacity? It is a declaration that the majority of Christians are idolators; that our good ally, the emperor of Austria, is an idolator; that our good ally the emperor of Russia, is an idolator; that our good ally, the king of France, is an idolator: that the king of Portugal, for whom we have been fighting so brilliantly, is an idolator. Saying this, we announce that we have crowned idolatry in Italy; that we have given idolatry new vigour in France; and have planted idolatry in Canada. This declaration is one obstacle, the oath of supremacy the other. The latter means to abjure any foreign power of any kind, coactive, coercive, or compulsory; affecting any jurisdiction of what sort soever in this realm. The Roman Catholic might take that oath properly explained:—Will you try him? Would you explain that oath so as to give the crown the benefit of what is called his complete allegiance? There are two oaths, then, in the way of their emancipation; the one, the oath of supremacy, which, if properly explained, the Roman Catholic would take; the other the declaration, which every Protestant should wish to repeal: to repeal the one, and to explain the other, with such circumstances and accompaniments as may be held to be necessary, are motions that will be submitted to the committee; refusing them, you will have refused your own security.
It is farther argued, that all this will not satisfy; that is to say, to obey the word of God, commanding us to love one another, will not satisfy; as far as any thing is personal to the Almighty, they are ready; but farther, they beg to decline, and they make a compromise with their maker; they praise God, and damn one another. When gentlemen have said that the bill of a former year gave universal dissatisfaction, they go farther than they are warranted; the laity did not give any general expression of dissatisfaction; some Catholic bishops certainly did, but they had before expressed their satisfaction, and approved of the bill; and you 18 will observe, when the pope objects to the Regium Exequatur, he shows that you may take it if you please, as other princes have done, and he cannot help it.
Gentlemen object that the bill gave every thing. How then could it give general dissatisfaction? Certainly not on account of the two exceptions in it, the seals and the lord lieutenancy, for they are the patrons of Protestant livings. Now to tell a Roman Catholic that he cannot be trusted with an office, is to tell him he is a bad subject; but to tell him he cannot be a Protestant patron, is only to tell him he is a Roman Catholic.
There are those who disapprove of the Veto, and detest emancipation; if you wait until you can reconcile these, you will wait forever; because you cannot satisfy all, you will satisfy none. Recollect that the question here, is not merely a question of public satisfaction, but a question of public service; and not only a question of public service, but a question of religious duty, and then the argument is, you must take the pleasure of the crowd, before you obey the Almighty. When I say the crowd, I mean a crowd of sectaries. When we consider obedience a human law, we ask is it on the roll? But when we consider the law of God, we ask—is it convenient? How will it please the prince? How will it answer our interest in the corporation? How will it serve us on our elections? We try the wisdom of God by the folly of man, as we did his person; and decide against both by a presumption, which is blasphemous.
Gentlemen call this a question of empire; the gospel is not a question of empire; it is the highest possible command pronounced by infinite power; it is the highest imaginable interest pronounced by infinite wisdom; as the empire swerves from it, she falters; as she stands by it, she prospers.
It is objected that the Irish are below the privileges which this emancipation would confer; I scorn to answer it; 'tis you must answer it; it would say that you have governed the Irish so ill, as to put them below the blessings of a free constitution: you have given the elective franchise to those whom you thus describe, and refuse to give the representative to those who do not come within that description: they want bread, you say not privilege, and you give them neither. The objection that they have not a love for a liberty I despise also. What? in these 19 walls to say so? that have witnessed their confirmation of Magna Charta thirty times; and in this city of the Tower, that guards that sacred instrument? There are now extant of those who trace themselves to the signature of the charter two families; they are Roman Catholics; they are petitioners also, and desire to share that liberty which their ancestors gave you; you complain of imperfect allegiance make it perfect, and explain the oath of supremacy; their allegiance is as perfect as that of Austria, that of France, or that of any other Roman Catholic country, who all furnish an experimental proof of ample allegiance: 'tis said, the Protestant church in Ireland is established by the articles of Union, and therefore, that the Roman Catholic people should be disqualified; the framers of the union were not of that opinion; they said, that the Roman Catholic emancipation would be the probable result of the Union—on what ground then do you place the Protestant church by that argument?—You make it incompatible with the civil rights of the people who pay that church; you make it incompatible with your own gospel; you place the Protestant church in direct opposition to the gospel on one hand, and the people on the other; you said, that when we urged the fewness of their numbers to sit in parliament, we allowed their unfitness; no:—it is a question of proportion, not of goodness or badness; you would not have all the members Scotch, or Irish, or English, but a proportion of each representing their respective interests. This question has been now under consideration for forty years, from the right hon. member (Mr. Foster), whom I see opposite, who resisted it with great ability and great temper also, to the other right hon. member, a late secretary, who opposed it on a former occasion, in a speech replete with ability set off by the brightness of his talents, the suavity of his manners, and the excellence of his character: upon that occasion I was not very kindly dealt with by some of our own side; their criticism upon me was not handsome; I answer it by referring to my speech.
In the course of these debates two great points have been obtained which should settle the question for ever; the one is the confession of its antagonists, the other, the experiment of its safety: they have said, that with equal privileges, the population draws power; then there is an end 20 of their opposition, for the population of the two islands is Protestant four to one; the Protestant ascendancy would therefore be established, by the emancipation of the Roman Catholics; and increased, inasmuch as where the different parts of the community have their natural place, the strength of the part is the strength of the whole. You must consider the progress of amalgamation; you must consider also, that in addition to their numbers, the property, particularly the landed property, is beyond comparison Protestant; you are to consider that the crown is exclusively Protestant; you are to consider that the seat of legislature is Protestant; you are to consider that the number of members from the Roman Catholic part of the empire, cannot equal a sixth part of the representation in one House, still less in the other, even were we to suppose that the whole number were Roman Catholics, which is impossible.
But the antagonists say, that in Ireland the Roman Catholic ascendancy will be established; I answer, not unless it be established in England, for there is but one ascendancy, and that ascendancy acts here. Gentlemen say, it would be Protestant England, Presbyterian Scotland, and Catholic Ireland;—not more than it is so now; with this difference, however, that it is now disqualified Ireland, and of course discontented Ireland. Gentlemen say, that the property in Ireland would change, and become Roman Catholic. Why so? Not in consequence of the emancipation; to make them members of parliament, or to make them officers, is not a change of property; if such a change takes place, it must be from the freedom of trade, and the right of purchase; you do not mean to take away that; you do not mean to restore the gavel, and repeal the act of 1781, which gave them the freehold? Their proposition, then, is this:—by the laws which they do not propose to repeal, the property of Ireland must become Roman Catholic;—to guard against the evil consequences, they propose to disqualify the property, and render hostile the landed proprietors of Ireland. I cannot say what would be the best constitution for Ireland, but I am sure that would be the worst.
While gentlemen were talking of the permanency of an imaginary balance, two quantities, and those not very inconsiderable, went out of the scale; the navy and army. In the year 1807, 21 a noble lord then the minister, brought into the House, a bill extending the right of holding certain military commissions to his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects; it was exclaimed,—turn him out! What! a Roman Catholic command a regiment? a Roman Catholic command a ship? The church is undone!—turn out the bill!—turn out the minister, and excite the people! two years ago, another minister brought in a bill, giving the Roman Catholics the navy and army. The bill was read a first time, it was read a second time, committed, reported, read a third time, and passed without any opposition whatever: it was sent to the Lords, read, committed, and passed; the mitre nodded its unanimous approbation, the bill received the royal assent; the next morning, the Tower of London was observed not to have fallen, the spires and steeples of Oxford and Cambridge persisted to stand, the archbishop of York, the bishop of Bangor, were alive, and not only alive, but alive with undiminished health and income. The safety of the state, and the prosperity of the church, proved the futility of our wisdom, the folly of our fears, and the unreality of those alarms that would, for the safety of the state, exclude one-fourth of the people.
You have, in argument, settled the question; or will you spy, that the Roman Catholic cannot be trusted with a vote, but may with the navy of England?—don't give him the pope's comitatus, but he may have the army, he may be commander-in-chief, but don't make him an alderman. The navy and the army consist of * * * * thousand, these he may command; but here draw the line, don't give him political power, nothing, except his majesty's forces by sea and land. I say in argument you have settled the question; and when you shall have settled it in law, you will not only have enfranchised the Roman Catholic religion, you will have ameliorated your own. The tendency of the opposition to the Catholic claims, was to put the Gospel into oblivion,—to narrow universal benevolence to a sect,—to take from the Deity his attributes, to give him their own,—to make him a partial and penal God, the minister of their spleen and their ambition. There were, I say, some, who disposed to mix a little acrimony in their religion, went on their knees with contumelious humility, and held in scorn the publican who prayed at their side.
22 You will now have an opportunity of restoring to God his attributes, and to our sects, the morality, the sublimity, and the amenity of the Gospel: the exclusive system has become peculiar to you: it is not so in France: it is not so in Austria: it is not so in Holland: it is not so in Hungary: but in England: in free, in liberal, in enlightened England: but then you say, aye, let arbitrary countries give civil and religious liberty, but let a free country disqualify a fourth of its people, and assume to the remainder a monopoly of the Godhead. Recollect, that you are forfeiting your great prerogative of taking the lead in liberating the human mind: other nations, in arts which accomplish and grace mankind, excelled you; they danced, they sung; but the stating courageous truths; the breaking political or metaphysical chains; that was the robust accomplishment of your country; we have heard of divers anomalies in your policy, your treaties, your subsidies and your prayers; but the great anomaly is yourself. The continent lay flat before your late rival; the Prussians had dissolved; the Austrians had retired; the iron genius of Russia had retired; the power of France had come to the water edge; when, behold, from a cloudy speck in the West, the avenging genius of this country issues forth, clutching ten thousand thunders: breaks the spell of France: stops the flying fortunes of Europe: sweeps the sea; rights the globe, and retires in a flame of glory: and, while the planet is in admiration and amaze at its genius and originality, England turns school divine, has a bye battle about extreme unction, and swears its friends are a pack of idolators.
Our prince is on the part of his father the supreme head of the church; we are his national council, and have a right to advise him: I avail myself of that privilege, and say to him, My Prince, My Master, you must take the lead in the deliverance of your people; your predecessor, the Plantagenet, conquered on the continent, so have you: but then they confirmed the great charter thirty times: your other predecessor, the Tudor, saved Holland, so have you; but then she passed good laws without number: the Hanover, and under your direction, has carried Europe on his back; but then a great work still remains for the fulfilment of his glory, a fourth part of your subjects are now before you. Come, the destinies of 23 the house of Hanover are waiting for you; come, be the emancipator of the Catholics, as you have been the deliverer of Europe, and look in the face the Plantagenet and the Tudor. I move you, Sir, "That this House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider the state of the laws by which oaths or declarations are required to be taken or made as qualifications for the enjoyment of offices, and the exercise of civil functions, so far as the same affect his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, and whether it would be expedient in any and what manner to alter or modify the same, and subject to what provisions and regulations."
§ Mr. Croker
spoke to the following effect:*
Sir:—I rise to second the motion. I feel that I owe some apology to the House, for venturing to solicit its attention at so early a stage in the debate; but I trust that that apology will be found in the nature of the considerations which I shall have to offer to its attention. These considerations appear to me to be of serious importance; and as I am not aware that they have been hitherto stated in parliament, I am anxious to submit them thus early to the candid examination of the House, and to a fair and full discussion by those who may follow me in the debate.
In tracing, as I have lately had occasion to do, the stream of pains and penalties, from its source in the rugged times of our ancestors down to the present day, it is impossible not to be struck with the gradual character of mildness and mitigation which it has assumed. The law raged in the higher periods of our history with the penal fury of a torrent; but as it descended into the valleys of cultivated life and civilization, it expanded itself into a wide and regular stream of beneficence. So much indeed has been done by gradual concession, and by the silent and conciliatory operation of time, that a great portion of what the Catholic asks, and of what the Protestant hesitates to grant, has been already virtually conceded; and, by complying with the request of our Roman Catholic fellow subjects, we shall now be only perfecting the course in which our ancestors have led the way.
The part of the law to which the right* From the original edition printed for John Murray. Albemarle-street.24 hon. gentleman has called the attention of the House, though latest in point of date, naturally offers itself as the first object of attention. That measure [57 George 3rd, c. 92.] was introduced into the House of Lords about two years ago, by a noble friend of mine (lord Melville); and I had the honour of recommending it to the attention of this House. The right hon. gentleman, my right hon. friend, I hope I may be permitted to call him, has truly stated that this act passed through both Houses without any opposition; and it is also true, as he said, that its virtual operation is to open all the honours and emoluments of the naval and military services to his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. But the right hon. gentleman is a little mistaken, in thinking that the proposition which, at a former period, and in different hands, had excited such a spirit of anxious and successful opposition throughout the whole country, was precisely the same, or, in law, of exactly similar effect, with the late measure. The truth is, that the last act does not alter, nor affect to alter, the law as it stood at the time of passing it; but it recites, that doubts exist as to the state of the law, and that the practice of administering the Test Oaths and Declarations to the officers of the army, having been long disused, though it continues to be enforced against officers of the navy, it is desirable to clear up those doubts, and assimilate, by a distinct enactment, the regulations of the two great branches of our military service.
I, for my own part, doubted, and still doubt, that any legislative measure was necessary for this purpose, and I believed that at most a mere declaratory act would have been sufficient. But other persons, for whose judgments I was bound to feel, on every account, the greatest respect, were of a contrary opinion; and, as the difference between us did not all affect the real object which every one had in view, my noble friend and I could have no difficulty in acceding to their wishes. That act therefore, though it is by some persons considered, erroneously I think, as the sole protection of the Catholic naval or military officer, does not—if I am correct in my view of the general state of the law—place them in a different situation from Catholics aspiring to hold any of the civil or legal offices of the country. I believe, and think I shall be able to show, that they are alike capable of holding civil and military office; and (to put my opi- 25 nion in the strongest possible form) that the same operation of law, under which a Roman Catholic might have become a general officer, would enable him to become lord chancellor of England.
I feel that this assertion may excite some degree of surprise; and I own that I should not venture to make it, if, after the most mature examination of my own, and a communication with several gentlemen highly capable of judging upon such a subject, I were not convinced of the truth of the position; I may be mistaken, but I venture to think (however the law may be ultimately found to stand), that I shall be able to show so much of reason, or at least of colour, for my opinion, as will induce any impartial mind to decide, that there should be an investigation into the subject, and that we ought to be satisfied before we proceed in the angry alternation of claims and refusals, what is the real state of the question on which we are debating. Such an inquiry, the motion, which I have had the honour to second, is meant to obtain; and it is with this object, and not with a view dogmatically to establish any opinions of my own, that I shall proceed in my observations.
I fear that I shall have to apologize to the House for not being able to lay before it, with as much brevity and clearness as I ought, the state of this case; but when I mention that there are, I believe, not less than one hundred and fifty statutes which apply to this subject, some of which, though expired, must be referred to as commentaries upon the rest; others of which are repealed in a small, and others still in a greater part of their enactments; some prescribing one oath, and one declaration, and others, contemporaneous, prescribing other oaths, and other declarations; when, I say, the law is to be traced through such a mass of various, not to say discordant and contradictory materials, it can hardly be expected, that my habits and avocations should enable me to reduce such a chaos into luminous order, or to lay down with confidence what the result of this multitudinous legislation may be at the present day. I can only say, that I have given the subject such a degree of attention as has satisfied my own mind, and I now shall submit my course of argument to the indulgence of the House.
I shall, for the present, pass over all the mass of enactments which took place 26 before the accession of the House of Brunswick; a period, when, if I may use the expression, we took a new lease of the constitution. I need only state, that Roman Catholics, or, as they are universally called in the earlier acts, Papists, are excluded from public office by the operation of certain oaths and declarations which the holders of office are required to take, and which assert certain religious tenets, in which a conscientious Roman Catholic cannot acquiesce. This is so true, that we well remember that a learned doctor (Duigenan), who on former occasions took the lead in opposing all concession to the Catholics, told us, with great simplicity, "that we did not exclude the Catholics, but that they excluded themselves, by refusing to take the oaths which we proffered to them." The disabilities, then, may be considered as caused wholly by these oaths and declarations.
The statute which first prescribed the oaths as they at present exist, and which is, as I believe, the principal one now in force on this point, is the 1st George 1st, stat. 2, cap. 13. This act (amongst a variety of other matter which was merely temporary, and with which I need not trouble the House) provides, that all persons holding any office, civil or military, or any place of emolument or trust (enumerating all possible cases with great care), shall, within three months after they shall have entered upon any such place or office, take and subscribe in one of the courts at Westminster, or at the general quarter sessions of the peace, the oaths in the statute set forth, namely, the oath of allegiance, the oath of supremacy, and the oath of abjuration.
By a subsequent act of the 9th George 2nd, cap. 31, it is provided, that instead of the period of three months given by the statute of George 1st, a period of six calendar months shall be allowed for qualification; and it is farther provided, that the declaration against transubstantiation, enacted by the 25th Charles 2nd, cap. 2, shall also be made at the same time. Thus, then, Catholics are not excluded from any of the offices of the state, but are incapable of continuing to hold them, unless they shall qualify themselves within six calendar months.
And now, Sir, commences a new series of legislation on this subject. From that very year in which this remarkable extension of the period allowed for qualifica- 27 tion was made, the wisdom of parliament has been pleased annually to pass what has been commonly called "The Act of Indemnity." This act recites the acts imposing the oaths of qualification, and the declaration against transubstantiation; and enacts, that any person who may have, before the passing of such act, neglected or omitted to so qualify himself, shall not be liable to any pain or penalty resulting from his omission or neglect, provided he shall qualify before the 25th of March then next ensuing. And, as a benevolent care has been taken that each new act should pass before the day specified in the former act, the whole, taken together, amount to (what it would seem the legislature intended them to be) a complete indemnity, and a virtual suspension of all the acts of penalty.
I am not unaware that these acts would not protect a person who should offend, and be prosecuted to final judgment between the passing of one act and another; but when we recollect that the offence can not be committed before the expiration of six calendar months after the acceptance of office, and that the obtaining of final judgment is the affair, in any case of some months, and in most cases of many months, it is evident that, for all ordinary purposes and cases, the indemnity acts are a perfect and uninterrupted cover. If they are not so, and if a contrary doctrine is now to be established, it will lead to the enforcement of penalties, not upon the Catholics, but upon the great mass of Protestant holders of office, who—under the faith of those acts of indemnity, under the common and uncontradicted opinion of their intent and effect, and under a century of impunity—have exercised their various offices, without qualification on their part, or without question on that of others.
This part of the subject leads me to state to the House a remarkable instance of the mistakes which have existed as to the state of the law, and of the necessity of coming to a clear understanding upon the subject. I must recall to the recollection of the House the able statement by which Mr. Fox introduced for the first time this important subject to the imperial parliament; that statement, Sir, is an instance of the luminous brevity with which that great orator stated his positions, and the abundant eloquence with which he so brilliantly illustrated them.
He states that the disabilities affecting 28 the Catholics might now be reduced to two great heads, 1st, Their exclusion from civil and military offices. 2nd. Their exclusion from parliament. In explanation of the first point, Mr. Fox stated, that, "though the subordinate commissions in the navy and army were open to the Catholic, the ranks of admiral, and general were denied to them."—The confusion of the law misled Mr. Fox. At the time when he spoke, all the honours of the army were, in fact, alike open to the Catholics, and all the ranks of the navy alike closed against them.
Again—in pursuing this subject, Mr. Fox, with that happy and instructive pleasantry with which he sometimes illustrated the gravest subjects, imagined two lords commissioners of the Admiralty assembled at their board for the care of the public interests; "but instead of discussing the propriety of dispatching a fleet to oppose our enemies in the Mediterranean, or to protect our colonies and commerce in the West Indies, imagine," exclaimed Mr. Fox, "our two admirals employing themselves in an argument upon transubstantiation?"—Sir, Mr. Fox knew well the importance of the great office to which he alluded.—He well knew the uncontrolled power of the high admiral over the most disposable and not least effective portion of the national force. He knew that the navy was the first object to which James 2nd, on his accession, attached himself. He knew that he and his popish advisers clung to it to the last. He was aware that is was the first object of the solicitude of king William—and he was well convinced that the loyalty and devotion of the navy is, in all times and circumstances, of the most vital importance to the government of this country. No wonder then, Sir, that Mr. Fox should imagine that if there were any office in the state from which the Papist continued to be excluded; that if there were any department of power which they were or ought to be forbidden to wield, it would be the extensive, the almost unbounded, authority of the lord high admiral. But what is the fact? why, that, within our memory, the commissioners for executing that office—in defiance of all the reasons which I have just stated, and in the teeth of all the penalties which we are told are in vigour—have disregarded both, and have in no one instance qualified themselves according to law.
These observations. I trust, will be a 29 sufficient apology for my endeavour to engage the House to free the Statute book from a state of perplexity which could thus mislead the almost universal information, and almost miraculous sagacity of Mr. Fox. They will also, I hope, serve to excuse any errors or inaccuracies into which I myself may fall, in the examination of so complex a subject. When I call the subject complex, I do not mean to say, that the result is not clear. On the contrary, I have been already able to explain in a few words, and I hope intelligibly, what I consider the present state of the law to be; but, in coming to this result, I have been obliged to wade through a mass of obsolete and antiquated legislation, which I am not sure that I always comprehended, and which I confess that I should be exceedingly puzzled to explain.
Against the plain argument which I; found on the combination of the 1st of George 1st, the 9th George 2nd, and the annual Indemnity bills, corroborated by the facts which I have connected with them, I cannot foresee what solid objection can be made. I do honestly assure the House that I am not talking for victory in the spirit of a party. I am stating, as fairly as I can, the merits of the case; and if my hon. friends who are to follow me should be able to show that my argument is fallacious, and that I have deceived the House, I trust I shall be believed, when I say that I first deceived myself.
This very liability to error is one of my arguments—if, with all the attention which I have directed towards this subject I should have failed in unravelling its details; if no research can guide us, and if no authority will direct us to a clear view of the true state of the law, I ask, confidently ask, is it not high time to have a committee of investigation? It has, indeed, been surmised that some ancient and almost-forgotten statutes may be still in being, though they are not in force; statutes which, when raised from the dead, may be found inconsistent with my view of the question; and I have heard the Qualification act of the 1st of William and Mary, cap. 8. (by which the qualification is made a condition precedent to the acceptance of office, and not, as by the acts of George, a condition subsequent), mentioned, as likely to have this effect. I am ready to meet this argument; and, to meet it more fully, will admit that 30 the act in question has not been expressly repealed; but then I insist that it has been virtually abrogated; and that, to> suppose it in force would lead to a monstrous absurdity.
In the first place, that act (as far as it relates to this subject), specifies only the oath of allegiance and the oath of supremacy: now, both those oaths are (with only an alteration of the sovereign's name, which I shall mention presently), re-enacted, word for word, by the acts of George. Can it be believed that it was the intention of rational legislators to oblige officers to take a set of oaths on their entry into office; and, under the severest penalties, to oblige them to take over again the selfsame oaths, next day, or at latest within three months after? Such a notion is manifestly absurd. But the alteration to which I have alluded, made in the oath of George 1st, sets this in a still stronger light. The oath of allegiance in the 1st William and Mary must be taken "in the express words following," or, as it is in another place stated, "in the following words, and no other:"—" I promise and swear that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance, to their majesties king William and queen Mary." The act of George, as was obviously necessary, alters this oath, so that the officer shall not be obliged to testify his adherence to the deceased king and queen of happy memory, but shall "swear to bear true allegiance to his majesty king George."
Now, Sir, let me observe that the extraordinary and minute accuracy of the statute of William and Mary, in using the terms, "these express words, and no other," is, I believe, wholly unprecedented. I do not recollect any other instance of the use of such a form, nor do I well see what possible use it could have been; except, indeed, it were to guard against the very argument which I am now combating. If the oaths of the statute of William and Mary be in force, they are in force in these express words, "in these express words: 'I promise to 'bear true allegiance to king William and 'queen Mary,' and no other."
There is also, Sir, another important consideration. This act of William and Mary is not mentioned in any of the hundred indemnity bills which have been passed, though these bills profess to cover all the acts which could possibly "disquiet the minds of any of his majesty's 31 subjects," and though they recite act? both prior and posterior to the act in question. If the legislature had considered it as still existing, they could not have failed to enumerate it with all the other acts in the indemnity bills. These considerations appear to me conclusive that the act of William and Mary was not considered as surviving that of Geo. 1st.
But even if I should admit, (which I cannot), that it did survive, I can still show, that though not recited, it is covered by the acts of indemnity;—for those acts protect the parties, not only against the statutes which they recite, but against "all other statutes whatsoever;" so that by no possible construction can it happen that persons shall be liable to be, "disquieted" by any galvanic revival of this statute of William and Mary. The same reasoning will apply, with at least equal force, to the several acts of Elizabeth, and her immediate successors, which prescribed tests and qualifications; and I, therefore, shall not weary the House, and perplex the argument by a detailed examination of them.
But it will be alleged, perhaps, that the Indemnity act, on which I build so much, is but an act of sufferance, granted by the indulgence of parliament, and liable to be interrupted in its discretion: I admit it; and therefore I am far from saying that the state of the law is conclusive and satisfactory. I admit that, even if it be as I represent it, the Catholic would hold the rights, which I consider him to possess, by a precarious tenure; and I further admit that, with such a precarious tenure, he would not be satisfied; but then on the other hand, I shall show to the Protestant of the present day, that this system of indulgence has been growing, by gradual relaxations, for one hundred and thirty years; and that the "wisdom of our ancestors" to which so many appeals have been made on the other side of the question, ought rather to be considered as sanctioning the more liberal views of this subject which I am inclined to take. The act of Indemnity is indeed called an annual act; but when I see it re-producing itself, and, if I may use such a metaphor, flowering for eighty-six years successively and without interruption, I think I may venture to call it rather a perennial than an annual.
Let us see then what the opponents of the Catholics must do, if they wish to exclude them from civil office: they must 32 stop the next indemnity bill; they must interrupt a course of legislation which is almost coeval with the reign of the house of Brunswick,—and they must do so for the purpose of securing the Protestant succession! They must turn back the stream of experience which has run for near a century in this channel of indulgence,—and they must do it under the pretence of adhering to the wisdom of their ancestors!
Upon the excluding oaths and declarations themselves, I shall now make a few observations, which, though they will not affect the legal obligation to take these tests, may yet serve to elucidate and explain the reasons which may have induced the legislature to insist upon them in the earlier times, and to suspend them in the later. The first of these is the oath of supremacy. The meaning and intention-with which we are called upon, now-a-days, to take this oath, must be very different from those with which it was originally enacted. It is no great recommendation of it to state that it owes its origin to that enlightened and beneficient lawgiver king Henry the 8th; and even by him it was only enacted for the purpose of establishing a political principle, which, however dubious in those early days, has been for centuries unquestioned and undenied, viz., that the king is the supreme head of the church of England. During the struggles of the infant church, and when men's minds were unfixed and unformed to any class of ecclesiastical policy different from that of the church of Rome the admission on oath of the king's supremacy may have been a necessary measure. But since it is now only taken by Protestants, and as, without it, the declaration against transubstantiation would suffice to exclude the Catholics, it seems idle to continue to impose it upon us, even if there were no intrinsic objection to it; but, there is, I think, a most serious internal objection, which a conscientious Protestant may have, to take, in the days of king George the 3rd, this oath of king Henry the 8th. In this oath he is now called upon to swear "that he does not believe that the Pope or any other foreign potentate hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm."
This may have been, as I have said very proper in the times in which the law was framed, and even in the succeeding 33 reigns, as long as the original state of things existed—while it was high treason to write or preach the Pope's authority,—while it was high treason for a popish priest to tarry three days in England,—while it was high treason to be reconciled with the church of Rome,—while, in short, pains and penalties, of all denominations and degrees, from the greatest to the lowest, were enacted, to terrify the very name of Roman Catholic out of England;—then undoubtedly the pope had not, and no Protestant would say that he ought to have, "any ecclesiastical or spiritual authority within these realms." But when we have now, by law, tolerated the religion of persons holding communion with the church of Rome,—when we acknowledge them by the names of Papist and Roman Catholic, both of which denominations have a direct reference to foreign authority; when we have established by law and endowed by public money a college for the education of Roman Catholic priests at Maynooth; and when we know that all these persons, and that this establishment, acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Pope, how can we, I ask, assert, nay, swear, as a matter of fact, "that he hath no spiritual authority within these realms?" Is it fit, Sir, in this age, that the Protestants of the church of England should be obliged to swear to that which can only be defended by some casuistical explanation, and by referring back, for the meaning of the words, to days, distant three centuries in point of time, and a thousand years in point of intelligence and civilization. But this is not all; we have a parliamentary contradiction of this oath, which no casuistry can explain away; and, what is very singular, this contradiction,—which may well disturb the conscience of a Protestant,—arises out of a legislative concession made to quiet the conscience of the Catholic!
By the act called Sir J. Mitford's Act, in England, and by the 33rd of the king, in Ireland, an oath is prescribed, by which the Catholic is enabled to testify his allegiance to the king, and entitle himself to certain constitutional privileges. In this oath, framed with great care by the most zealous Protestants, the Catholic is required to swear, in the words (with one important change) of our oath of supremacy, "that he does not believe that the pope, or any other foreign potentate, hath, or ought to have, any tem- 34 poral or civil power or authority within this realm." By this change of the important and emphatical words, "spiritual or ecclesiastical," into those no less important and emphatical, "temporal or civil," the legislature acknowledges, by a direct implication and necessary consequence, that over a great, a tolerated, and a privileged class of our fellow subjects within this realm, the pope hath spiritual and ecclesiastical authority; and thus, Sir, I think I may venture to say, that this oath, first enacted and still maintained as a trap for the conscience of the Catholic, is, in fact, nothing else than a trap for the conscience of the Protestant.
After my right hon. friend below me (Mr. Grant), shall have proposed to the House a grant of public money for the education of Roman Catholic clergymen, how will he be able to reconcile it with his conscientious feelings, to swear that he believes that the pope hath no spiritual authority within this realm? And, above all, how can he or any man be satisfied with such an oath, when I state, that there is a clause in the act of the 40th of the king, chap. 85, for the better government of the Roman Catholic college of Maynooth, which expressly recognises and excepts from the restrictive operations of the act, "the exercise of the Roman Catholic religion, and the doctrine, discipline, and worship thereof." Can it be denied, that the spiritual authority of the pope is a part of the doctrine or discipline of the Roman Catholic religion? and, if it be so, is there common sense in making us forswear, under one act of parliament, what we acknowledge and assert in another? Nay, I recollect, that in a bill introduced into parliament some sessions ago, which was supported by my noble friend on the floor (lord Castlereagh), and which advanced in this House as far as the committee, there were divers provisions for regulating the intercourse of the Roman Catholic clergy with their pontiff. How can those who introduced that bill, who supported that bill, swear, "the pope ought not to have any ecclesiastical authority within the realm.
My noble and my right hon. friends, and I, and all of us, have taken this oath, in a sense which we hope that we understand, but which its words can hardly in fair construction bear; and the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Grattan) very truly stated, as I understood him, that in the sense in which we take it, a Roman 35 Catholic would not refuse it. So far, then, as a mode of exclusion to the latter, it would be even, if it stood alone, inoperative; but, in fact, for that purpose, the declaration against transubstantiation renders it quite unnecessary.—Why, therefore, have I dwelt so long upon this question of the oath of supremacy, which does not affect the Catholics? Sir, I have dwelt upon it, because it does affect the Protestants, and because, unless the objections which I make to it can be clearly and full}' answered, I think that I have stated to the conscience of every Protestant, a strong reason for our going into a committee, in which this contradiction or obscurity may be explained or remedied.
The next of these oaths is the oath of abjuration; of abjuration of what, and of whom? Of a popish pretender, who does not exist? Of the issue of James 2nd, over the grave of the last of whom, we have erected a monument? In former times, these oaths of abjuration were varied according to the occasion; and, as the person of the British sovereign? or of the popish pretender, changed by the course of nature, the good sense of parliament varied the objects of our obligation. It was reserved for our enlightened days to continue to abjure claims which are no more, and to disclaim allegiance to a prince whose very posterity has perished. It is impossible, Sir, that this act can much longer be permitted to subsist. To be satisfied of that, it is not, indeed, necessary to go into a committee; but, combined with the other motives which I have given, and shall give, it is, surely, no unimportant reason for acceding to the present motion.
Next, Sir, comes the declaration against transubstantiation, which is, in truth, the efficient, and, I might add, the sole, obstacle to a Roman Catholic's enjoying all the rights and privileges of a British subject. Abrogate it, and you grant Catholic emancipation. Upon the subject of these declarations, for there are two of them, the law appears to me to be in great confusion. The first of these declarations is prescribed by the act of 25th Charles 2nd, commonly called "The Test Act," and does no more than, in a few words, to deny the real presence in the eucharist; but, in the 30th Charles 2nd, an act was passed to prevent Papists from sitting in parliament; and in this, the second declaration, such as we take it at the table of the House, is enacted.
36 This, to the denial of transubstantiation in the former declaration, adds, "that the invocation or adoration of the Virgin Mary, or any other saint, and that the sacrifice of the mass as used in the church of Rome, are superstitious and idolatrous;" and it then proceeds—with great care and casuistry, but with no great reliance on the good faith of the party (on whose good faith, however, the whole must ultimately rest)—to guard against "evasion, mental reservation, and equivocation." By subsequent statutes, sometimes the one, and sometimes the other, of those declarations, are prescribed to be taken. Some classes of persons seem, at first sight, liable to both, but, by the perplexity of such superabundant caution, the majority of the king's subjects are become liable to neither. Nor does there appear any rational reason for the difference between them. They were framed originally in times of panic, and in times of panic they seem to have been subsequently re-enacted; the little one being employed when the legislature was in little frights, while the greater one was reserved for greater frights.
But even in this point the legislature has not been always consistent. By the 13th William 3rd, which prescribes the oath of abjuration, it is enacted, that this oath shall be taken by all officers at the same time that they shall make and subscribe the little declaration. It happens, unluckily, that officers, naval and military officers at least, are required by the 1st of William and Mary, only to make the great declaration of the 30th Charles 2nd; and thus they are required to take this important oath at the same time that they make a declaration, which they need not make at all. And this mistake is not a mere absurdity. It affects the very question which we are now discussing, namely, whether the oath be a condition, subsequent or precedent; for the great declaration is to be taken previous to the entering into office, and the little declaration within three months after it.
Again,—the act of the 7th and 8th of William 3rd, prescribes that persons of the legal profession shall, before admission, take the oaths, and make the short declaration of the 25th Charles 2nd, though, by this act, three months after admission are allowed for the making such declaration.
And again,—one would naturally suppose that if there were any servants of the 37 Crown, whom it were politic to tie up more strictly than others, it would be those domestic officers called in the statutes the sworn servants of the Crown, who, by their familiar attendance, are the most responsible for the personal safety of the sovereign, and most likely by their intercourse to effect his political opinions; and on the other hand, if there be a class of his majesty's servants least likely to affect the personal safety or public councils of the monarch, and whom, therefore, the law ought, if it made any difference, to look at with the least jealousy, it would be an officer of the navy; and, according to this rational view, we find that naval officers were at first required only to take the short declaration, and the king's sworn servants the great one. But afterwards, by an unaccountable alteration, the stricter declaration was imposed upon the naval officer, and the follower of the court was indulged with the lighter.
One fact more, and I shall have done on this point. Even in the indemnity act which we passed about a month ago, a similar confusion of terms prevails. The act of the 25th Charles 2nd, prescribing the one declaration, and the act of the 30th of the same reign, prescribing the other, are both recited; and yet the declarations are afterwards mentioned as one declaration, and indemnity is granted for not having made "the said declaration."
Surely, Sir, all these contradictions constitute another ground for inquiry. It cannot be denied that we ought, distinctly and without the necessity of a long legal research, to know what and which declarations are in force, and by whom and when they ought to be taken; declarations too of such very different import and extent, that I think it extremely probable that there are persons who might take one, and would refuse the other; declarations differing—I will not say quite so much as day and night—but differing as a very dark day and a very light one.
So far I have considered the state of the tests on the English statute book. The confusion is at least as great on that of Ireland, because the acts which I have principally rested upon as affecting this question, namely, those of the 1st William and 1st George, and the acts of Indemnity are equally the law of Ireland; and to the difficulties which I have stated as arising out of these, the Irish law adds come peculiar perplexities of its own. 38 Thus, for instance, by the act 33 Geo. 3rd, the Irish Roman Catholics are, upon taking the oath of allegiance already alluded to, enabled to enjoy all offices, civil and military, except about twenty specifically reserved, such as lord lieutenant, chief secretary, commmander-in-chief, chancellor, judge, and so forth.
A papist says that act, may not be any of these; but I say, in the words of the law, and on the construction of the general body of the statutes, that a Roman Catholic may be all these.
In the first place, how are we to discover that a person is a papist, for this act does not tell us it? "Oh, but," it will be answered, "the old law provides us with the means of detecting a papist. First, catch your papist, and then offer him the great declaration or the little one; and if he refuses to take them, habes confitentem. These declarations are a kind of chymical tests, which when properly applied, will discolour a papist, look he ever so clear, and render him unfit for use."
But now, Sir, unfortunately for this chymical process, there is no law, that I know of, by which you can apply it to any of the excepted offices:
To none of them can it be applied till six months after the acceptance of the office, and, by that time the officer will be virtually protected from its effect by the act of indemnity. And, in point of fact, some of the most important of these officers never do take any oath or test whatever. I appeal to my right hon. friend behind me (Mr. Peel); I appeal to my hon. friend on the floor (Mr. Grant), the late and the present chief secretaries; whether either of them took any oath or test whatever on their admission to office. I perceive that my right hon. friend behind me intimates that he did when he was sworn a privy councillor; true, I know he did. But, in reply, I will remark that the secretary for Ireland is not of necessity a privy councillor, and that it is not as secretary that he is sworn. But I will go still farther, and I will show him that, even as a privy councillor, he is not bound to take the oaths and declarations in question; and, thirdly, I will show that if, as a privy councillor, he is bound by law to take them, he has not taken them according to law.
In the first place, it is so little a matter of inevitable necessity, that the secretary should be a privy councillor, that my right hon. friend on the door (Mr. Grant), 39 was secretary for a considerable time before he was sworn of the privy council. If some zealous Protestant had laid hold of him, and fancied that he had caught a latent papist—we know, fortunately, that, with regard to my right hon. friend, he would have been mistaken—but, if he had found a real Papist, he would have been still more so; for what could he have done with him? Of course he would have immediately tried his chymical test upon him, and offered him the declaration. The secretary, occupied in the duties of his office, would have had little leisure and less inclination to indulge the political or religious curiosity of the investigator; and, if he made him any answer, would have simply said, that by the act, which imposes those oaths and declarations upon official men, he had six months longer to consider about taking them; and if, at the end of the six months, the inquirer should be so public spirited as to prosecute the secretary, and so happy as to obtain a verdict, the victorious plaintiff would, by the time that he had arrived at final judgment, find himself totally defeated by the previous intervention of the Indemnity act; and thus we should, in spite of our pains and penalties, have a Roman Catholic secretary for Ireland.
Equally dangerous would it be to the Protestant establishment in church and state, to have a popish commander-in-chief. He, indeed, has the power of the sword, which in Ireland is no nearly allied to the power of the state; "no, no, it is quite impossible to permit him to be a Papist, and even the act of indulgence expressly excludes him."—But again I will venture to assert, that the commanders in-chief of late years have not, as such, taken any test whatever; and that, by the laws now in force, they are not compelable to take any. What then is to be done? Alas, Sir, nothing, but to acquiesce, however reluctantly, in having a popish Commander-in-chief', if the Crown should please to select one; unless, indeed, parliament could be persuaded to retrace its steps, to resume indemnities which have lasted for a century, and set out on a retrograde march into the dismal regions of penalty.
But, Sir, it may be said, as I have already intimated, that these officers are generally privy councillors; and now I must endeavour to fulfil my pledge, by showing—as I think I shall most fully do, First, that a privy councillor, is not by 40 law obliged to take these oaths; and secondly, that if he were, the mode in which it is practised does not satisfy the law.
First, I do not any where find enumerated among the offices for which a qualification is necessary, that of privy councillor. It might perhaps be doubted whether it be included under the expression "Place of Trust;" but I must not descend to any chicanery on this subject. I am not here arguing for a paltry victory of words. Impressed with a strong sense of duty, I am endeavouring to convey to the House my honest opinions on the subject; and I do so with the expectation and desire, that what I urge may be fully and candidly examined. I, therefore, Sir, hasten to waive all such verbal objections and subtleties; the place of privy councillor is of great dignity and trust; it is, or ought to have been, included in the general rule; and I will therefore assume that the acts which apply to other great offices of the state apply to this also; but then, Sir, I must deny that such acts are more applicable, or rather I should say, applicable with greater celerity, to this than to other offices; and then, Sir, I am entitled to return to the argument with which I set out, and to assert (until that argument shall be disproved), that a privy councillor, like every one else, is entitled to the indulgence of the combined acts of Geo. 1st, and of the indemnity bills; but if he be not, and if the oaths are specially required from him, then I will say—and with some degree of confidence—that taking the oaths, and making the declaration at the council board is not sufficient; and that if omitting to take them be an offence, the taking of them there is no diminution of such offence.
I am not, Sir, about to deny the power of the king in council to administer these or any other lawful oaths; but I assert, that, when a power superior to that of the crown,—I mean the united act of the three branches of the legislature, directs that oaths shall, for any particular purpose, be taken at a given time and in a stated place, the taking of them at another time, and in a different place, does not satisfy the law. The oaths and declarations of qualification, it will, I think, be admitted upon all hands, must be taken specifically "in one or other of the great courts of law, or at the general sessions of the peace; and though the taking these 41 oaths in any other place, may be innocent, the doing so is mere surplusage, and can neither relieve the taker from any of the penalties, nor entitle him to any of the immunities of the law.
Nay, Sir, this is so undeniable, that great care is taken in all the acts to provide that the subscription to these oaths and declarations shall be of record. It is quite evident, that an oath before the privy council in the supposed case would not be of record, and that not only the letter, but the spirit of the law would be violated. The oaths therefore, which, for along series of years, I believe, have been taken only at the council board by persons admitted to the privy council, are, for the purposes of qualification, wholly nugatory, and as if they had not been made. If then the privy councillors are not indemnified, a great number of the most exalted characters of both countries are in jeopardy; and if they are indemnified, a Roman Catholic not going through the vain form of taking these oaths in an unavailing time and place, would be equally indemnified.
But here, Sir, I am aware an objection will be urged against me, arising out of the old and invariable practice; and I shall be asked, "Why, if I allow so much weight to the custom which has prevailed of omitting the oaths in other cases, I should treat so lightly the invariable custom of taking them in this?"
I think, Sir, I can sufficiently answer this objection, by accounting for the practice; and I shall do so by an argument that applies to the cases of the chancellor and the judges, as well as to that of the privy councillor. Each of these employments has attached to it a distinct oath of office. Those oaths are, gerally of high antiquity; some of them, I believe, are by common law, and others are prescribed by statutes so ancient that they may be almost considered as the common law. They all existed prior to the qualification oaths which are now under our discussion; and for obvious reasons of common sense, it is necessary that such oaths of office should be taken on admission into office. When, therefore (which I have admitted was the case prior to the first George 1st,) the oaths of qualification were also to be taken on admission to office, it followed naturally that all the oaths were taken at the same time and place; and when afterwards the time for taking the qualification oath was 42 postponed, the oath of office would still continue to be administered as before. It therefore, not unnaturally happened, that the postponement of the oath of qualification being granted as a matter of convenience, persons who were forced to take the oath of office on their admission, did, for the same purpose of convenience, take that opportunity of qualifying themselves; and this, Sir, I take to be the true reason; why the chancellors and judges continue to take the oaths of office and the oaths of qualification at the same time; with regard to them the proceeding is strictly legal, for they swear in one of the courts prescribed by" the act, and their oath is of record. But there is nothing that I can discover to prevent a judge, if he should be so inclined, from taking the oath of office on his admission to the bench, and from postponing the other oaths to the longest period the law would allow him; and Town, Sir, if my view of the subject be correct, and if there be not some fallacy in my argument which I cannot myself detect, I should be glad to see some of those learned and eminent persons expounding the law by their practice, and ascertaining that they are not excluded from the same indulgence of time which is allowed to the rest of his majesty's subjects.
In the same way, it may have been, for aught I know, lawful, to the privy councillors, under the ancient acts, to take all the oaths at the council-board; and they having likewise to take what I may call an oath of office, have continued for convenience' sake to take the oaths of qualification at the same time, without adverting to the later provisions of the law which require the taking of the latter in one of the courts of record.
This supposition derives a stronger corroboration from a circumstance of which I have been informed, and which I believe to be correct, though I cannot vouch for it from my own knowledge. I am told that the book from which the oaths are at this day administered to privy councillors, is of so old a date, as to be of the time, if not of king William, at least of queen Anne; and that the words "Our sovereign lord king William," or "Our sovereign lady queen Anne," have been erased, for the purpose of inserting "Our sovereign lord king George." If this fact, Sir, be true, it will be a strong additional proof that the practice of taking all the oaths at the council board existed before the acts of relaxation were passed, and 43 that it is now only the relic of a more ancient custom, which (like many other particulars of our political discipline) has survived the occasion by which it was introduced; and as, since the accession of the house of Hanover, the acts of indemnity have been almost uninterrupted—for the last ninety years absolutely so;—the privy councillors have been protected from any inconvenience which might legally have arisen out of this, I will not say, erroneous, but at best, superfluous practice. In short, Sir, I cannot see in what particular the offices of chancellor, judge, or privy councillor, can be legally distinguished from the commissioners of the Treasury, or the Admiralty, the commander-in-chief, the generals in the army, and so many other official persons, not one of whom have, for a long series of years, qualified themselves according to what the opponents of my argument would state to be the law. I hope indeed, Sir, for my own sake, that their view of the law is incorrect. I have the honour myself, to hold one of those offices for which qualification would be necessary; but I confess that, trusting to the practice of others, and to the Indemnity acts, I have neglected to perform that duty. I can take upon myself to say, with regard, to the office of secretary of the Admiralty, there is nothing in practice to prevent its being enjoyed by a Roman Catholic; I myself had, indeed, the honour of a seat in this House, and therefore had qualified at the table, before I was appointed to the office; but one of my immediate predecessors never was in parliament, and I believe never did qualify, and I am quite sure that my excellent colleague, the second secretary, has never qualified.
This leads me to a consideration of the second branch of the exclusion under which the Catholics labour. I mean their inability to sit in either House of parliament; and though I am, on the whole, clearly of opinion that they cannot, under the existing laws, have that honour, yet I must say, that the law upon this subject, is in some degree obscure; and that the ultimate exclusion of the Roman Catholics appears to me to rest on a clause of the 30th of Charles 2nd, of which I had never thought, till I undertook the present inquiry; which I never saw put into practice, and which, I believe, Sir, the oldest member of this House, never saw enforced; I mean the power which exists 44 of calling up to the table, whenever either House shall think proper, any or all of its members, and administering to them the oaths and declarations.
That power may be executed at any time, and as often as "the House shall see occasion;" and therefore the Indemnity acts could not cover a case in which no hesitation or postponement is allowed, and in which the member might be made to commit the offence the morning after the Indemnity act had passed; so that, of course, final judgment could certainly be obtained against him within the ensuing year. But if a member, to evade the law and orders of the House, should intentionally do, what we all have known many members do unintentionally, sit and vote without having taken the oaths; and that actions for his offence should not be prosecuted to final judgment before the passing of the Indemnity bill, on the 25th of March in any year, he would, in my humble opinion, be thereby—to use the very words of the act—indemnified, freed, and discharged from all penalties, forfeitures, incapacities, and disabilities, incurred, or to be incurred for or by reason of any such neglect or omission; and such person would be and is fully and actually recapacitated and restored to the same state and condition in which he was before such neglect, and he shall be deemed and adjudged to have duly qualified himself according to the above-mentioned acts, and every of them. And that all the elections of and acts done or to be done by such person shall be of the same force and validity as if such person had duly qualified himself according to the said acts, and any or every of them."
And here, Sir, it is important to observe, that one of the "said acts" specially recited and referred to, is the act of the 30th Charles 2nd, which I have mentioned so often, and of which even the title is, in this point of view, remarkable, viz. "An Act for disabling Papists from sitting in either House of Parliament;" and it is still more extraordinary that a person offending, is not only indemnified under this act, but seems to be placed in a better situation than if he had not offended, for "he shall be taken, and adjudged to have qualified for all acts done or to be done;" a large immunity! the full extent of which, I confess, that I do not see—it may go farther than any of us suppose.
But upon all this part of the subject 45 which relates to seats in parliament, Sir, I will lay but little stress: the obvious intent of the legislature was, and is, to exclude them; and the clause which I have before quoted would, I suppose, when enforced, effectually defeat the scheme of any Roman Catholic who should perist in endeavouring to sit or vote in either House.
There is, however, another curious circumstance connected with this part of the subject. By the first act of William and Mary, in the convention parliament, an act which was passed in the exigency of the moment, when the great desire of all parties was bent towards giving some shape and consistency to the government, and when the hurry and anxiety of the crisis render excusable and natural some inaccuracy and inattention to mere matters of form;—by that act, I say, so much of the 30th Charles 2nd as relates to the taking of the oaths, is repealed; new oaths are enacted, and they are directed to be taken in the same manner and form as the old oaths, which manner and form had been just repealed. This way of making a repealed act a commentary and rule to explain an existing one, is somewhat curious, and exceeds the device of the tyrant of antiquity, who tied together a living and a dead body. This act also united the living and the dead; and what is most strange, it was the dead which, in case of difficulty, was to speak for the living.
I have mentioned, Sir, this latter part of the subject, relative to the obscurities in the laws, which exclude the Roman Catholics from parliament—not supposing that the explanation of these obscurities would effect any alteration in our present parliamentary practice—but to show that the system of laws to which our opponents desire us to adhere as the matured wisdom of our ancestors, does not in fact deserve the name of a system, nor the praise of being mature; and to show to the House, that, even upon that part of the subject which may be considered the least doubtful, there is room for some degree of at least formal amendment.
Upon the other branch of the question, Sir, I shall probably be told, that however plausible my statements may be, there has existed all along a clear and evident intention, on the part of the legislature, to continue in force the operation of the laws excluding the Catholics from public office: I shall probably be 46 told (when the argument arising out of the supposed continued existence of the statute of king William or some other antiquated act shall have been found untenable), that the acts of indemnity, however loosely they may have been worded, were intended to apply to a very different class of cases; and that I have no right to conclude that our ancestors ever contemplated that the Roman Catholics could claim, and much less take any benefit from them.
Sir, I might concede all this, without invalidating my argument; I am not stating what the law ought, or was intended to be, but only what it is; and if I could shew that the law is as I have stated, though my opponents could prove that it was otherwise intended, I should have accomplished my object; and that discrepancy would only afford another and still more unanswerable argument, for an inquiry as to the true state of our legislation and which were the wiser—the acts, or the intentions of our ancestors.
But I really, Sir, see great reason to believe that the intentions of our ancestors were consistent with their acts: I fancy that I can trace a certain rule of conduct, a rationale, pervading all their measures.
The oath of supremacy was introduced by Henry at a period when, as I have said, the church of England struggling for life, required such extraordinary support. It was re-enacted by queen Elizabeth, when, after the bloody tyranny of Mary, the new birth of the church required the same measure of legislative assistance.—It was continued during the succeeding reigns, when the efforts of fanatics showed that it was necessary, and when their success proved that it was unavailing. It was revived, together with the oath of allegiance, on the overthrow of the usurper, and the nation; by this double enactment, testified its loyalty to the restored sovereign, and its anxiety for the re-established religion; but it is very remarkable, that in all this time, Sir, so very critical for the church of England when her absolute existence was precarious, and she fought for life from day to day,—in all this important period, Sir, there was no express law to exclude Roman Catholics from parliament.
Nor was there, Sir, until the fury of party, and what has been justly called, "the madness of the nation," inflamed and exasperated by the instant countenance of a Popish successor, precipitated England 47 into the disgrace and horrors of the Popish Plot;—that most extraordinary transaction, which stands alone in the annals of history, as having been alike incomprehensible to its contemporaries, and to posterity: of it a great poet had truly said,Some truth there was, but dash'd and brew'd with lies,To please the fools, and puzzle all the wise:and the enactments which it produced bear a striking resemblance to the character of the original transaction. The first grumblings of the distant storm, produced the short declaration of the 25th Charles 2nd; but as the panic spread, the blind fury of the terrified people* grew more violent, until at last it endeavoured to make assurance double sure by the utter exclusion of the Papists from parliament, by the declaration of the act of the 30th of that reign.
The conduct of James 2nd was not calculated to allay these apprehensions, and it must be confessed, that when the king of England was seen publicly going to mass, and going less, as it seemed, out of regard for the religious than for the political principles of the church of Rome, the fears of that day appear to have been justified, and even the wild apprehensions of the preceding reign excused.
Nor is it surprising, that on the accession of William and Mary—when, as I have stated, the new government was struggling for existence—when the delay or procrastination of an hour might have defeated the whole object of king William and the friends of civil and religious liberty, that these safeguards should be re-enacted, and brought into such immediate operation, that not the smallest postponement could be allowed. How could William venture to intrust his fleets or his armies, or his courts, or his councils to men who should not have previously given him pledges of their loyalty* It was not the people alone who were carried away by this insanity—"I would not said a noble peer in the debate on this bill (30 Charl. 2) "have so much as a popish manor a popish woman to remain here; not so much as a popish dog or a popish bitch; not so much as a popish cat to pur and mew about the king." What is more extraordinary, this speech met with praise and approbation.—Hume's Hist. Eng. Vol. 8, p. 81.48 This was no time to give the admiral or the general six months delay to take the Whig oaths before a bench of Tory magistrates. This was no time to permit Herbert's or Russel's fleet, on which the safety of England depended, to "yawn for orders on the main." The battle of La Hogue might have been anticipated and lost, and king James might have been in Hampshire before the servants of the crown should have enrolled themselves in the service of the new sovereign. This then explains and accounts for the peremptory haste of the test acts of that period.
But when, after an interval of domestic peace, George 1st, succeeded, as he is said to have boasted, as quietly as a son to the inheritance of his father: it was wisely thought that such precipitancy was no longer necessary: a period for consideration was admitted, and three months after the acceptance of office was allowed for qualification: and, on the accession of George 2nd, when a son did really succeed to the inheritance of his father, with the apparently unanimous concurrence of the whole nation; and when the foreign rival to the throne was in truth rather the bugbear of a party than a serious national apprehension, the period was further extended, and a delay of six months was conceded to the sober and steady loyalty of the country. It was then, this extension having produced no ill effect,—that acts of indemnity granting a still further time grew into frequent, and, at last, into constant use. They were renewed from year to year without question or obstacle, and with similar success, until at length they came about as regularly as the year itself, and grew to be a kind of prescriptive suspension of the laws of penalty.
It was not till after the lapse of many years, that our ancestors seemed to have ventured to recite specially, in the act of indemnity, the statute of the 30th Charles 2nd. In truth there are so many of these acts, that I do not profess to have minutely examined each of them, and it would be as superfluous as tedious to quote their several and successive recitations and enactments: it is enough to say, that the indemnity act has grown by progressive amendments into the state in which we now see it. The rebellion in 1745, so far from giving any reason to doubt the policy of the measures adopted by the Hanover family, ascertained be- 49 yond all question, the loyalty of the people of England to the sovereign of the new dynasty, to use a modern phrase, and its fixed devotion to the church of England; and the fear of the pope and the pretender dwindled into nothing.
Then followed the various concessions specifically made to the Catholics in his present majesty's reign: each more liberal than the former, down to the bill to which the right hon. gentleman has alluded and which is understood to give them a legal right to enjoy all naval and military rank without exception.
Here then we see the princes of the house of Brunswick, acting on a plain, clear, and intelligible system of relaxation, placing their strength in the conciliation of their subjects, and endeavouring by their lenity, as Dr. Johnson says of another memorable act of Grace, "to still the flutter of innumerable bosoms." They endeavoured to cool all internal heats, to calm all religious differences, to bury all political animosities, and they, in a great degree, succeeded.
It would be a libel on this great course of policy to suppose, that it was without a meaning; and when we recollect all the separate acts passed since the accession of king William for the relief of Protestant dissenters, it is hardly reconcileable to reason or the facts to suppose, that this series of indemnity acts was also intended for them alone, and in no degree for their Catholic fellow subjects.
It may be said, that in this deduction I have been too fanciful, and have imagined reasons which could not have existed in the minds of the lawgivers. In the reasons, Sir, I may be mistaken, but I cannot be so in the results; and when I see a long series of facts plainly accounted for by an intelligible rule of conduct, I do not think that it is unfair to attribute such facts to such a motive; and, after all, it is upon the facts, and not upon the motive, that I rest my argument.
The hon. gentlemen who oppose the Catholic claims are fond, as I before said, of talking of the "wisdom of our ancestors," and of "the good old times;" and they tell us that they will not now consent even to an inquiry which may lead to any change in our ancient and approved policy. But I would ask those gentlemen, who thus talk of adhering to the present state of the law out of respect to our ancestors, in what former period of our history the law is to be found as it at present 50 stands? What do those gentlemen mean, by the good old times? To what days do they allude? Before the latter end of the reign of Charles 2nd; Catholics sat in parliament. Those then are not the good old times. In the reign of William 3rd, popery was an offence punishable by a variety of strange and monstrous inflictions, which do not now exist, and which no one, I presume, would wish to see reenacted. These inflictions slept on the statute-book during the reigns of the two first Georges, but even in their dormant state the most zealous Protestants were ashamed of them, and voluntarily, and without solicitation on the part of the Catholics, repealed them. These, therefore, cannot be the good old times to which the zealous Protestant of the present day refers, for the zealous Protestant who lived in those times was ashamed of them.
No, Sir, our constitution, like our physical natures, is in a continual course of partial destruction, and partial renovation. It is an edifice, built at. various times, by various hands, and fitted, in the course of successive alterations, to the increased necessities or advanced conveniences, of civilized life. It never before stood as it does to-day, and they who advise us to go back to the forms of any earlier period of our history, are like those who should advise us to pull down a mansion enlarged and beautified by the growing taste of the times, to live in the narrow hovels which originally occupied the site. I therefore, Sir, challenge those hon. gentlemen, who wish to stop the stream of experience and the course of nature, to open our history, and put their finger upon that very year of our annals, and that very state of our constitution, to which they would have us return. If they cannot do that, let us hear no more of adhering to the wisdom of our ancestors, and of resolving to stand on the immutable forms of the constitution.
Thus, Sir, I think I have shown that every argument deduced from reasoning, or arising out of facts, is in favour of the inquiry this night proposed. I have shown, I think, that the Catholic is indemnified from the operation of the acts of penalty; but I am sure that if the Catholic be not so indemnified, the Protestant is not; and therefore, Sir, whether we wish to emancipate or to restrict the Catholic, and whether we wish that the Protestant should be wholly or partially 51 indemnified for the negligences which we all commit, it is in either and in any case absolutely necessary, to proceed to this inquiry.
On the more general question it may be said, that if my view of the subject be correct, the Catholics enjoy the greater part of what they seek. True, Sir, in law, but not in practice; and my argument, so far from asserting that the law is in a satisfactory state, is meant to show that nothing could be more unsatisfactory than a state of things in which the spirit and the letter of legislation are at variance.
I am aware the Catholics will not be satisfied—it is not in human nature that they should be so—to enjoy these privileges upon mere sufferance; they may admit,—the enlightened and liberal amongst them,—that in the reign of George 1st sufferance and toleration was as much as they could expect; but when a century of progressive toleration has been enjoyed without abuse, is it too much that, at the conclusion of so long and so meritorious a course of probation, sufferance should be changed into privilege?
For myself, Sir, I can, in the utmost sincerity of my heart, profess that there is not, and cannot be, in this House, or in this country, a more attached and anxious friend to the church of England than I am. I not only confess, but I am forward to assert, that the glory and stability of our state is inseparably connected with the glory and stability of our religious establishment. The church of England is the most admirable instance of the eternal goodness condescending to adapt itself to mortal necessities, the most wonderful combination of Divine wisdom, and of human expediency, that has appeared upon earth since the revelation of Christianity. For this establishment, to which I am bound alike by my feeling and nay reason, I am now an advocate. Much as I respect the claims of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, I am not ashamed to confess, that my first and greatest object is the security of the established church. I would not diminish, I would not put into peril one jot of her dignity, one jot of her income, one jot of her splendour, one jot of her stability; but to preserve all these, to protect them even against fanatical sectaries, I think it prudent to conciliate the political affections of so large a portion of our community as the Roman Catholics. I do not conceal from myself that this an- 52 cient and venerable structure has many and powerful enemies; but it is that these enemies may not find lurking places under its very walls, that I would clear from about it the trash and ruins, relics of barbarous times, with which it is externally surrounded.
I look upon the church as the citadel of our happiness, founded, as I believe it to be, on the rock of eternal truth, and impregnable (if we have common sense and providence), by any human efforts. I would remove from its vicinity these miserable enclosures which serve not to impede, but to cover, the approach of an enemy; and which may render the defences of the, body of the place more difficult and precarious. I desire that we who inhabit it may be able to look uninterruptedly round the whole horizon, over the whole plain which this magnificent edifice adorns and protects, in order that we may be enabled to guard ourselves from treachery, or surprise, or negligence; and, if we are to fight for our establishment, let us fight for it with all the natural advantages which its exalted position can give us; and let us endeavour to prepare for the day of trial, if it is ever to arrive, by making friends and auxiliaries of the surrounding people.
So deeply am I impressed with these sentiments, that it is not without anxiety that I perceive that the course which I am this night taking, may be attributed to other views; and I may be also allowed to express the most poignant regret, that I feel at differing on this first, and I hope last, and only, occasion, from the opinions of so many of those with whom I have the honour of concurring on all other subjects; and, above all, at differing from my right hon. friend (Mr. Peel), for whose public integrity and eminent abilities, I, in common with the House and the country, entertain the most unfeigned admiration; and for the private virtues of whose heart I may be permitted to say, that I have peculiar reason to feel the liveliest and most unalterable affection.
These considerations, and these feelings, have kept me long silent upon this subject; for ten years I have avoided, out of respect to the very prejudices of the friends of the church, and to the feelings of my right hon. friend, to take any prominent part in the Roman Catholic discussions; but—when it happened to me, in the course of my examination 53 of the statutes, to find, or fancy that I had found, such anomalies, obscurities and contradiction in the present state of the law as I have stated,—I felt, and I feel that I should be guilty of cowardice, and treachery, to my personal honour, and to the public interests, nay, to the interest of the church itself, if I did not state the impressions which I had received, and submit them for refutation, if they should be found erroneous, and, if they should be found correct, for further consideration; and I hope it is no small proof of the sincerity of my motives, that I have taken this the earliest opportunity of exposing my opinions thus explicitly and candidly to the full investigation of parliament.
Here perhaps, Sir, I should end; but feeling still uppermost in my mind an anxiety not to be confounded with those who are indifferent to the supremacy of our church establishment, I am anxious to fortify myself with the opinions of a man whose affection for the constitution in church and state cannot be doubted, and who, by his admirable writings, has done good service, and great honour to both,—I mean Mr. Justice Blackstone. That eminent judge after having enumerated the penal laws, which, even in his enlightened days, still sullied the statute books, proceeds to say:—"This is a short summary of the laws against the Papists, of which the president Montesquieu observes"—
Here we have the greatest authority of France, combining with the greatest authority of England.
—"The president Montesquieu observes, that they are so rigorous, though not professedly of the sanguinary kind, that they do all the hurt which can possibly be done in cold blood; but, in answer to this, it may be observed (what foreigners, who only judge from our statute-book, are not wholly apprized of), that these laws are seldom exerted to their utmost rigour; and, indeed if they were, it would be impossible to excuse them, for they are rather to be accounted for from their history, and the urgency of the times which produced them, than to be approved, on a cool review, as a standing system of law. The restless machinations of the Jesuits, during the reign of Elizabeth, the turbulence and uneasiness of the Papists under the new religious establishment, and the boldness of their hopes and wishes for the succession 54 of the queen of Scots, obliged the parliament to counteract so dangerous a-spirit, by laws of a great and then perhaps-necessary severity."—
—Perhaps necessary severity! Black-stone, we see, speaks doubtingly of the expediency of these measures, even in those times of the crisis and emergency. He proceeds:—"The Powder Treason in the succeeding reign struck a panic into James the 1st, which operated in different ways; it occasioned enacting new laws against the Papists, but deterred him from putting them into execution."—
A valuable admission from this great judge that the severity of such laws defeats their intention, and does not give the security for which they were framed.—"The intrigues of queen Henrietta, in the reign of Charles 1st; the prospect of a Popish successor, in that of Charles 2nd; the assassination plot, in the reign of king William, and the avowed claim of a Popish Pretender to the crown, in that and subsequent reigns, will account for the extension of these penalties at those several periods of our history."—
Heretofore this admirable author has spoken as a lawyer and a statesman; but, in what follows, he is almost a prophet. He supposes a state of things, and recommends a system of measures so applicable to the present day, that had I had his wisdom and his eloquence, I could not have used more appropriate expressions to describe our present situation and to inculcate our actual duties:—"But, if a time should ever arrive, and, perhaps, it is not very distant, when all fears of a Pretender shall have vanished, and the power and influence of the pope shall become feeble, ridiculous, and despieable, not only in England but in every kingdom in Europe, it probably would not then be amiss to review and soften these rigorous edicts; at least till the civil principles"—And here Blackstone marks the word civil with emphasis, in order to show his opinion that their religious principles cannot be a just cause of exclusion:—"Till the civil principles of the Roman Catholics should again call upon the legislature to renew them."*
Such, Sir, are the sentiments which I feel, but could not have so well expressed. Such, Sir, are the sentiments of a man* Commentaries, vol.4, p. 57, 58.55 whose reputation as a lawyer and a philosopher stands high amongst the highest of our country; and, if there be any shade upon that reputation, it is because some persons may consider him as having been too zealously attached to the monarchical and ecclesiastical parts of our constitution.
The latter part of the opinion of this eminent man leads me to say, that I am not an advocate for any concession to the Catholics as a matter of naked right, and of abstract justice. Our whole being, physical, moral, and political, is a system of expediency and compensations; and what are called the natural rights of man must always be merged in the paramount claims of society at large.
We sacrifice to one another, for the good of all, some portion of those powers with which God has physically invested us; and the few, and even the many, must be curbed and restricted in the use of any portion of that natural force, which they should appear disposed to abuse, and which might endanger the general happiness and security of a social and political state.
If, therefore, the case supposed by Blackstone should arise; if, from some unforeseen combination of circumstances, the Catholics should again become dangerous to the constitution, I hold that we should have the right—I am confident we should have the power—of again placing them under all necessary restrictions.
From the pope it seems next to impossible that such a danger should arise; and if they should perversely attach themselves to an archbishop of Jerusalem, or some such ecclesiastical bugbear, we should, I apprehend, find it not more difficult to deal with him and his followers, in these enlightened days, than it was to restrain the Roman Catholics during periods when the pope exercised a respected, a real, and a paramount authority throughout Europe.
What! Sir, in the days of Elizabeth, and of James, and of Charles, and that creature of popery James the second, our young, unexperienced and unassisted church, was able single-handed to control the court of Rome, leading on all the other courts of Europe; and we are now to fear, that the pope—shorn of his spiritual lustre, clipped of his temporal possessions, abandoned, betrayed, or attacked by his former allies—is to be too strong for this great country, which has restored 56 him to his humbler throne, and vindicated the rights and liberties of Europe!
We used formerly, Sir, to hear complaints from the Protestants of the influence of the court of Rome in our internal concerns. The times are altered, and the nature of the lamentation is wonderfully changed; and we have of late years heard of nothing but of the complaint of the Catholics, against the unjustifiable influence of the king of England in the councils of the pope.
The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Grattan), with that candour and magnanimity which distinguish his exertions in this House, has not rested the claims of the Catholics upon their good conduct, or their loyalty, such an asssumption however true it might be, was not necessary to his argument. He boldly meets the whole difficulty of the case, by asking, "And if they be disloyal, who made them so?"
Is it in human nature that exclusion should not produce party, that jealousy should not produce irritation?
The Catholics are men, and they would be more than men if the system under which they have suffered, had not produced uneasiness and dissatisfaction; but if that uneasiness and dissatisfaction have existed in a mitigated and controllable degree under a system of provocation, are we to suppose that it would revive, with irresistible malignity, under a system of conciliation?
What, on all creatures, is the effect of the lash, but to make them pursue their course with a blinder, and more headlong fury? Jealousy and severity may have produced distrust and disaffection, but by the very same operation of our nature, moderation and kindness must generate mutual confidence, and a reciprocity of affection.
I beg pardon of the House for having occupied so much of its time, and I thank it for the favour and attention with which it has indulged me; though I am aware, Sir, that the attention has been paid, not to me, but to the force and interest of the subject on which I have had the honour to address you.
§ Mr. Leslie Foster
said, that if the arguments of his right hon. friend should not completely gratify the Roman Catholics of Ireland, it would at least have the effect of astonishing them. It would discover to them the amazing secret, hitherto unsuspected by any human being, 57 that they had for a century past been in full possession of the object of their pursuit. Even the office of lord chancellor had been quite open to their ambition.—He took leave, as a lawyer, to say, that he differed entirely from his hon. friend. The argument professed to rest itself on the confusion which was imputed to 160 statutes relating to oaths and declarations, but resolved itself finally into the simple proposition that the annual Indemnity act received within its protection the Roman Catholics equally as every other description of Dissenters. He could not agree in this conclusion; the very recital of the act forbade such a construction—"whereas divers persons have, through ignorance, absence, or unavoidable accident, omitted to take the oaths;"—would it be said that it was either ignorance, absence, or accident that prevented Roman Catholics?—Every Roman Catholic, every member of the community knew that they were prevented by a religious and moral impossibility; and was it to be contended, that the legislature alone should be ignorant of the circumstance;—farther, he denied that the annual Indemnity act did afford any practical protection to a person entering into office, and neglecting to take the oaths. It did not receive such a person within its pale until the second year of his official existence: during the first he was at the mercy of every informer, and subjected to the most grievous forfeitures and penalties that every proceeding in the way of information could inflict: for instance, he would suppose a Roman Catholic promoted to the bench of justice, admitting, for the sake of argument, that he could be seated on it without taking any preliminary oath; and supposing, with his hon. friend, that the new judge should insist upon his privilege of postponing the taking of the oath; how long, he would ask, might he postpone it? Only till the next term, or next quarter sessions;—the law of Ireland was express upon that point. And after such term or sessions should have elapsed, where, he-would ask, was the bar to an information? Not in the Indemnity act which had then last passed, for its operation is expressly confined to neglects, absences and accidents, that had occurred prior to the passing of the act. Nor yet in the Indemnity act, which was to follow, for at the time in question, it would by the very supposition, not have been called into existence; the Roman Catholic judge 58 would, therefore, be at the mercy of the informer.—Amongst all the laws referred to by his hon. friend, he would say with perfect confidence, there was not a clause that would afford him a shadow of defence. He admitted, that if the first year should elapse without such information being proceeded on, the annual Indemnity acts, so long as they should be passed, would afford a practical security; but there was no security whatever except in the forbearance of informers, during the first year of the experiment—and here lay the fallacy of the argument of his hon. friend. It made no distinction between the years of safety which the Roman Catholic might ultimately attain, and the year of vital peril through which he was to proceed towards the enjoyment.—The case with respect to parliament admitted of no doubt whatever. Every member whom he addressed, was liable at the pleasure of the House to be called at any moment to the table, and to take the oaths anew; and this was provided for by the statute of Charles 2nd, expressly for the purpose of preventing the possibility of Roman Catholics sitting among them.
He could not pursue this branch of the subject any farther. He really did not feel himself at liberty to endeavour to follow his hon. friend in his ingenious course through the mazes of all the statutes, repealed or unrepealed, that had a reference to the subject; for the purpose of disproving an opinion, which for aught that appeared, had never before been entertained, and which if well-founded would only lead to the conclusion that the Catholics were so unreasonable as to press their petitions upon the legislature, for the attainment of a good which they already, actually possessed. The House was assembled that night in the unusual numbers which he had the honour to address, not for the purpose of being amused by a display of legal ingenuity, but for the graver purpose of determining on the substantial merits of a question of great state policy. Whether the interests of the empire would best be promoted by conceding or withholding the objects of the petitioners.
He opposed the concessions on several distinct grounds. The first was, the actual state of the Protestant feeling in Great Britain on the subject. The symptoms of that feeling were not ambiguous: he felt certain that in that House, at least, be should not be contradicted, when he asserted, that at no period since 1807 were 59 the Protestants of Great Britain so indisposed to the entertainment of the question. The number of their petitions was so great, that he knew not which to select for reference. It was more easily felt than avowed that the House going into a committee was likely to increase this feeling to a degree that Protestants as much as Catholics ought to wish to avert.
His second ground was, the indisposition of what he must consider as the vast majority of the Protestants of Ireland. It was easy to deny that such was their feeling; but he must be permitted to assert, that the number of Protestants in Ireland who wished the success of this petition bore no sort of proportion to those who resisted it. The number of Protestant petitions was certainly considerable in favour of the measure; but the number of petitioners was comparatively few. Such petitions proceeded principally from the Catholic districts of Ireland, where the Protestants were thinly scattered, and for obvious reasons inclined to comply with the wishes of their Roman Catholic neighbours; besides, he was far from denying that very many Protestants sincerely desired their success; still, however, he must consider them as few when compared with those who were of a different opinion. They who wished to estimate the Protestant mind of Ireland, must look to the northern province. Colonised by James the 1st, and possessing at this time far more than its natural share of the population, industry, knowledge, and civilization of the island, the circumstance reflected no discredit on the rest of Ireland. It was the necessary consequence of the more Catholic provinces having been more exposed to the destroying and barbarizing energy of the penal code; a system, of which, on every occasion, he had been foremost in expressing his reprobation, but which had long since been done away. Looking then to the Protestant counties of Ireland, he saw Antrim come forward with 19,000 signatures; Fermanagh, he believed, with 20,000; the counties of Down and Sligo, he knew not with how many thousand.
If other northern counties had not come forward with similar petitions, he asserted in presence of their representatives, that it was only because the gentlemen of most influence among them had interfered to prevent it, on the principle of its being desirable to avoid, as much as possible, every demonstration that 60 might lead to the imitation of the Roman Catholics. A petition, signed by about 400, calling itself the petition of the Protestants of Belfast, had been presented by an hon. baronet in favour of the claim; but he had the authority of the representative of the county for saying, that 4,000 Protestant inhabitants of the same town had signed the petition which had been presented against them. Of the petition which had emanated from the Dublin rotunda, he wished to speak with every respect; it ought not, however, to have denominated itself the petition of the Protestants of Dublin. It was unworthy of either party to assume titles to which they had no claim, and this claim of the Rotunda petition was disproved by a counter petition, with near 6,000 signatures, including the names of 15 peers, and of great numbers of persons, the most influential and respectable in every class and profession of the Protestants of Dublin. The next ground of objection which he felt to the concession was, the feelings of the Roman Catholics themselves; and he confessed, that this operated with him far more than either of the other grounds which he had stated. All the petitions were silent on the point of securities, safe guards, or conditions; but the House was not therefore to assume, that the Catholic mind had undergone any change on that subject. The cause of these important topics being not so much as glanced at, was, the consciousness amongst the petitioners of the wild irritation which the bare mention of them never failed to introduce. Upon this point, however, the House had the benefit of experience. Every thing that could be devised and proposed, had been devised and proposed already. He agreed with the right hon. mover, in the tribute which he had paid to the talents, the knowledge, and the virtues of the authors of the relief bill of 1813; but just in proportion as they possessed all these qualifications, the chances were diminished that a better measure than theirs could be devised; and after all their consideration, all their labours, how did the Catholics view the measures for relief which that bill suggested? The laity in county after county, and meeting after meeting vied with each other in search of expressions to do justice to the extent of their execration of it. They pronounced it to be a law of penalty; that they preferred to it their present state of exclusion; that if persevered 61 in, it would shake the empire to its foundation. While the clergy in their pulpits, and afterwards in a solemn synod of their bishops, declared that they could not submit to it without incurring the guilt of schism, and that, with the blessing of God, they would lay down their lives for it. Would any gentleman assert that the Catholics were now prepared to view the securities proposed by the relief bill of 1813 in any other light; or had any gentleman any other securities to suggest? And here, he would ask, what would have been the situation of the country, if the legislature, in 1813, had thought proper to pass that bill for tranquillizing the Catholics of Ireland. The Protestants dissatisfied, the Catholics indignant, every thing conceded;—and when the first opportunity should arise for carrying into effect the securities provided, the executive government would find it necessary, as a small preliminary, just to inflict martyrdom upon their five and twenty prelates; and all to tranquillize the Catholics of Ireland. He begged not to be understood as approving of the securities provided by the bill of 1813; he considered them perfectly illusory; abundantly able to irritate the Catholics, but completely inefficient, and some of them, he thought, almost ludicrous, when proposed to guarantee the constitution. For himself, he had never heard but of one principle of security that appeared to him worthy of consideration, and that was one which, under the present feelings of the Catholics, was perfectly unattainable. He would not term it a security so much as an arrangement, which, in his view, would go a great way to neutralize the dangers to the establishment which would otherwise result from the concession of political strength to the Catholics. He alluded to the creation of a connexion between the Roman Catholic clergy and the executive government, by the payment of regular stipends to the former, and communicating to the latter a certain degree of power in selecting the individuals who were to fill (he highest stations; not a mere power of rejection, but of positive nomination. It was not a vote, but a vote which he thought likely to prove itself of any practical advantage. There never existed in any country a body of men who had so extensive an influence over the heads, the hearts, and he would add the hands, of the population, as the Roman Catholic clergy possessed in Ireland. 62 They were able to give, and able to take away, the affections of the people from the government, and if at any time these affections had been estranged, it was because, in time past, the government had waged a war upon that priesthood, which had produced an inevitable reaction on their part. He knew that he should be much misrepresented in Ireland upon this point, but he felt that be was not recommending any plan for an improper purchase of their clergy, but only what might be sufficient to create that feeling of good will which he hoped was inseparable from human nature, towards the source from whence benefit proceeded. Nor did he seek to extend, in any alarming degree, the patronage of the crown, but merely to confer on it the power of selection for a few of the sees of greatest consequence, from amongst Roman Catholic prelates, previously nominated, or ordained in whatever manner might be most agreeable to their own wishes.
Such a measure would, in his opinion, soon prove itself more efficacious than all the oaths that his hon. friend had adverted to, or all the securities contained in the relief bill. But it was useless to discuss such an arrangement: there was no term of abomination that would not be now lavished on it by the Catholics—no form of reproach that would not be heaped on the proposers of it. The Irish parliament might have effected it. Perhaps hereafter the united parliament might have to deal with a degree of conciliation, moderation, and good sense, which might warrant the consideration of the question—but at present there was not one of the friends of the Roman Catholics who would seriously desire that it should be entertained.
It was a favourite supposition with many members, that it was possible to assign a limit, to which, if concession were carried, the satisfaction of the Catholics would be complete. The Irish parliament had fallen into this mistake, and he begged of the House to mark the progress of demand. In 1778 the whole penal code was repealed, and all rights of property conferred. No person approved more than he did of that measure of concession. In 1792, the claim for political power was first advanced, and accurately defined by the highest Catholic authority—a regular convention sitting like a parliament in Dublin.
By their secretary they promulgated their declaration that the whole extent of 63 their demand was confined to four objects:—"They think it necessary to declare, that the whole of our late application (I now use their own words), whether to his majesty's ministers, or to men in power, or to private members of the legislature, neither did nor does contain any thing more in substance, or in principle, than the four following objects:—first, admission to the profession and practice of the law,—secondly, a capacity to serve as county magistrates,—third, a right to be summoned and to serve on grand and petit juries,—fourth, the right of voting in counties only for Protestant members of parliament; in such a manner however, as that a Roman Catholic freeholder should not vote, unless he rents a farm of 20l. per annum in addition to his 40s. freehold, or else shall be in possession of a freehold of 20l. a year." They felt themselves called on to publish this resolution, in consequence, as they stated, "of reports having been circulated, that' the application of the Catholics for relief, extended to total and unqualified emancipation."
Well—all this ultimatum of Catholic desire was conceded to them—nay, much more; for the elective franchise was not confined to 20l., but extended to 40s. freeholders;—a fatal mistake of the Irish parliament—introducing into Ireland that universal suffrage, the idea of which you so deprecate in England; and assigning to it religious enthusiasm as its actuating motive. It was worthy of observation, that after this extra measure of concession, so far from being contented, the Catholics in two short years afterwards, approached the Irish parliament with such fervency of entreaty for admission into the two Houses of Parliament, that lord Fitzwilliam, who was then lord lieutenant declared in a speech delivered by him after his recall, that the Irish Catholics would go into rebellion if they were refused; and who can vouch for the future conduct of a vast collective body of men? The friends of the Catholics of 1793 became their sponsors as to the extent of their desires. The Catholics of 1795, disclaimed being bound by their promises. He did not say this as a reflection on the Catholics. It was a principle of human nature to wish to advance, and to consider the good which is attained to-day, only as the means for the attainment of a farther good to-morrow. Yet now, the sponsors of the Catholics assure you, that 64 unrestrained eligibility is all they seek for.—Indeed! will nothing further remain to be desired? Are they to stop precisely at that point which falls short of enjoyment and possession? He could not conceive a greater infatuation than that on which this part of the argument was grounded; and when he was asked, how was this possession to be obtained—by the sword, or through the senate?—he would say, that it never would be acquired in one day, or sought for by any one proposal, but proceed from the silent and gradual operation of causes which must inevitably lead to such a result. It was the very reason which was assigned as inducing the necessity of concession, which also constituted its danger; namely, the predominance of the Catholic population, and the tendency of property to proportion itself to population, and of influence and of power to proportion themselves to property. This was in fact the principal Roman Catholic argument; but it was also the chief ground of Protestant apprehension. When the time should arrive, which the Catholic argument assumed as inevitable, that three-fourths of the county members, three-fourths of the grand juries, three-fourths of the judges, three-fourths of the magistrates, should be of their persuasion, could any one suppose that Catholic feeling would not be the influential principle of the Irish government? Of this at least he was certain, that every Catholic would then feel that it ought, and he believed that many Protestants would find it no easy matter to refute that opinion. Under such circumstances it would be by no one law or vote, much less by an appeal to force, that a real Catholic ascendancy would be established, but by the successive compromises of party in this House with the Catholic interest of Ireland. And could any one suppose that the Established Church of Ireland could be long maintained in such a state of things? How powerful would be the arguments against it! How many even of its present friends, might then begin to think it a question of doubtful policy, whether it ought any longer to be upheld! How strongly would then be felt, and how openly expressed the dissatisfaction of the Catholics, at what they would then assail, as a political anomaly rather than a religious error. Give us but this, they would say, and you shall have Ireland, the most peaceable country in the globe. But if we are 65 to suppose that England should set herself against the progress of Catholic ascendancy, then you introduce a new principle of evil, namely, a desire for the separation of the islands, which must become the general feeling of the Irish Catholics. When once their perfect political equality is acknowledged as a principle, either England must acquiesce in their proceedings to reap the fruits of it in possession, or she must oppose it. If she acquiesces in it, a Catholic ascendancy becomes inevitable, and with it the downfall of the establishment. If she opposes it, she suggests to the Catholics the separation of the islands, as the only measure which can give them the practical enjoyment of every thing that they can wish for. It was long since the union of church and state had been adopted as a vital ingredient of the British constitution. It had been resorted to, not near so much in its character of divine truth, as a principle of civil safety. The constitution, in truth, interfered not in matters of theological dispute, however the oaths which had been referred to that night, might at first sight appear to warrant the supposition. Transubstantiation was required to be denied merely as a test and as a criterion, but it was to the political Catholic, and not to his religious creed that the law objected, and it was merely as a means for ascertaining and, excluding him, that transubstantiation was referred to. For every other purpose, a man's creed might be what he pleased, but the constitution had ever since the reign of Charles the second, closed all the avenues to power against the professors of the Roman Catholic religion, as a necessary means for upholding the establishment of the church of England. The perfect union of church and state a principle of all others the most irreconcileable with Roman Catholic tenets became finally understood at the revolution, and it was through a course of bitter experience that England came to the conclusion that we must assign to the national religion such undisputed pre-eminence as to crush all hopes of rivality in other sects, and further secure to the state the co-operation of its powerful influence on the minds of its followers. During the reigns of our early kings, the disunion of the church from the throne, was a never-failing cause of internal discord and external weakness. When united even by the rude hands of Henry the 8th, the union conferred at least a degree of peace and strength. In 66 the reign of Mary, there was misery, and weakness again. In that of Elizabeth, happiness and glory. The reign of James prepared the downfall of the established church upon a new principle, but the experiment of sacrificing it to the Protestant sectaries answered no better than the restoration of Catholicism, and the quiet which we have enjoyed since the Revolution, the very abstraction of men's minds from all thought upon the subject, ought, if rightly understood, to speak as strongly in favour of the principle of the establishment, as the crimes and misfortunes of the period which preceded it.
The church of England has grown with the growth of our civil freedom, been overcome when it was overcome, and triumphed when it triumphed. Like our civil constitution, it is a happy mixture of whatever there is safe and beneficial in the opposite extremes of liberty and power, adopting the free spirit, though not the tenets, which marks the church of Geneva, but tempering it by retaining the principles of supremacy and episcopacy, which characterised the church from which it separated. And never be it forgotten, that in Ireland it superadds the additional claim to your present protection, that in all times past, it has been your tenure of the island.
rose and said:—Feeling as warmly, and as strongly, as I do upon the present question, I was most anxious at the first opportunity to request, for a short time, the indulgence of the House. I have not the arrogant presumption to suppose, that I could add any weight or authority to that which has been urged by the right hon. gentleman who originated this motion, but I trust that I shall at least do no harm to that cause, whose interests I have much at heart, if I show, by my zeal, in standing forward thus early in defence of this question, that amongst those most unconnected with that right hon. gentleman,—the youngest and the humblest—there is blended with a distant and respectful admiration of his talents, an eager and close emulation of his enthusiasm. Admiring, as I did, the new and brilliant light in which this question was placed by my hon. friend who seconded the motion, I shall, indeed, rejoice if he has prevailed upon any one otherwise hostile to the question, to vote for the committee; for I am convinced, that in obtaining a fair and patient investigation of the case, we should sap the 67 very foundation of that prejudice on which the opposition to the claims of the Catholics mainly rests.
I listened with the utmost attention to the speech of the hon. gentleman who has just sat down, for knowing, that in him we had to encounter one of the ablest and steadiest of our opponents, I expected to hear from him an epitome of all that could be urged against the motion. Had I previously entertained any doubts on the subject, I should now be convinced, by the line of reasoning adopted by the hon. gentleman, that upon no general grounds of justice or policy can the consideration of the question longer be resisted. The hon. gentleman has, in the very front of the battle, in the foremost rank of his arguments, marshalled in dread array, all the petitions which have been presented against this measure. I would tell that hon. gentleman, that this is precisely the subject where these petitions ought constitutionally, to have the least effect in pre-judging the fair examination of the case. Petitions can here afford us no local information which we have not in ourselves the means of appreciating. Petitions can here affect no separate interest which we do not as strongly feel. This is a question of great national policy, which must be left for decision to the unbiassed deliberative wisdom of this House. But there is another class of petitions which the hon. gentleman has passed over in silence, those in favour of the motion, which acquire a double value from the very circumstance which detracts from the weight of the adverse petitions, that they have no individual interest in that for which they pray. The motives of those who come disinterestedly forward to beg a boon in which they have no share, is far above suspicion. Their prayer is equally creditable to all concerned; as honourable to the petitioners, as invaluable to the Catholics. I shall not follow the hon. gentleman through all those arguments founded on the local prejudices and feelings of one particular part of Ireland, but place my support of the motion upon a much wider basis; for I feel, that in advocating the cause of the Catholics as it is now before the House, that we are maintaining those general principles of justice and toleration, which are the brightest ornament, and the best bulwark of that constitution, which we are accused of endeavouring to violate and deface. The remains of this penal 68 system, I consider as the only unbroken link in the chain of British liberties; and for its iron grasp I would substitute that silken bond of social union which entwines our hearts and affections to the preservation of that which is dear to each, because valuable to all. From this sympathy of patriotism, founded upon a common interest in the maintenance of things as they are, the Catholics are alone excluded from a community of feeling, from all equality of pursuit, with those otherwise most closely connected with them by the nearest ties of fate and fortune; they are severed by the dreary chasm of civil disqualification; from every general object of patriotic ambition, the angry current of political exclusion isolates them. Is it too much to say of such a system as this, that unless it can be upheld by the paramount decrees of imperious necessity, that its wisdom and its justice are equally problematical?—that the wisdom of that system must be questionable, which ties the hands, and alienates the hearts, of so large and so respectable a class of our fellow subjects?—that its justice is not defensible, violating as it does those very principles of civil and religious liberty of which we vainly boast the theory, whilst we retain in our practice this stigma of persecution?—I say persecution, because in what does political disqualification on account of religious opinions (provided those opinions do not interfere with the faithful discharge of those duties from which they operate as an exclusion), in what does such disqualification differ from religious persecution, except in the degree of its rigour, or the severity of its enforcement?
Temporary laws may undoubtedly render temporarily necessary, obnoxious expedients. But the continuance of a violent or unnatural remedy, after the cause which occasioned its application is removed, is no less injurious to the political constitution of a state, than the physical constitution of an individual; and weakening and detrimental as the continuance of this system is to this part of the united kingdom, how much more extended and baneful have been its effects upon the other; preying as it did for a century upon her vitals, and poisoning the springs of her existence! But relieved, and revived as she has been in exact proportion to the mitigation of her sufferings, it is not to Ireland that we can trace the commencement of this system: totally distinct causes 69 occasioned the enactment of the penal code against the Catholics in England, from thence forwarded to the servile parliament of Ireland, to be there retailed out like a second-hand garment huddled on an unwilling population, impeding its progress, crippling its exertions, and cloaking its perfections; for at that period, this Orange garb, in the luxuriant folds of which the hon. gentleman has this night so gracefully decked his arguments, was not even pretended to be suited to the taste or disposition of Ireland; it was worn as the badge of servitude, the livery of her mistress. I only refer, Sir, to the origin of this system, for the sake of showing, that if in England, the necessity for its continuance can be proved to have ceased to exist, that necessity can hardly be traced to Ireland: it can hardly be said, that independent of her connexion with England, and her subjection to the same laws, that intrinsically, and separately, her interests require the proscription, and degradation, of four-fifths of her population, or that in the perpetuity of a system which has so long paralyzed her strength, and deadened her energies, is to be found a panacea for all her ills and all her misfortunes.
That the necessity has ceased to exist, we may fairly infer from a retrospect of the causes in which it originated, and in the history of the world there is hardly any state of things of which the changing hand of time has in the same period more altered the appearance, and obliterated the leading traits. We should now look in vain for that virulent spirit of controversy, which maintained by a pertinacious resistance to innovation on the one side, and an overbearing disposition to reform abuses on the other, magnified the errors of both, and widened the breach between them. To this we may attribute the original imputation of those doctrines, and tenets, so long the source of odium to the Catholics, but which are now by none more stigmatised, than by those of their authorities from whom they were formerly deduced, and of which we have the reiterated abjuration of the Catholics, and the disbelief of those even who are opposed to the present question. In what then does the difference between the Catholics and the established church consist—they conscientiously entertain certain opinions purely doctrinal, incompatible with the form of oaths which we now take, but in no degree inconsistent with the faithful discharge of any social or poli- 70 tical duties. Does this call for the perpetual persecution of the British legislature? But if this necessity be not intrinsic in the Catholic himself, and inseparable from his doctrines, it will hardly be found now, in foreign influence or extraneous causes.
The experience of the last twenty years must at least have taught us, that the dangers we have to apprehend are not now as in the days of the Spanish Armada, or the campaigns of Louis 14th, those of religion. But it has been asserted in opposition to the claims of the Catholics, that we have restored the pope! It is true we have restored him to his temporal dominions, but in doing so we have rendered him no more formidable to ourselves than his neighbours, to the south or the north, king of Naples, or the grand duke of Tuscany. It is not in mortal power to restore that spiritual command, that mystic influence, which made him once so formidable to the greatest and most powerful. An attempt to hurl again the thunders of the Vatican, would shake to its foundation the tottering fabric, and bury in its crumbling ruins the empty symbols of departed power.
Collateral reasons, now equally obsolete, tended for a great length of time to the suspicious distrust of the Catholics. It was asserted, that their opinions of the royal prerogative were too arbitrary to be consistent with the safety of a free government; this argument can hardly be successfully urged at present; it is contradicted not merely by their own statements and conducts, but by the support derived to their cause from the exertions of the most distinguished friends of freedom. But to those who oppose this question, I will own, that at the period immediately preceding the enactment of some of those statutes which we now wish to repeal, at that period, the Catholics were distinguished for their loyalty;—not that loyalty which is nursed alone in the smiles of a court and the beams of favour;—but flourishing in the winter of adversity, and prevailing against the storm of rebellion. Then, the life and safety of Charles 2nd were trusted almost exclusively to about ninety Catholic gentlemen.—No temptation of certain reward—no fear of impending punishment which would have followed detection with aggravated violence on their devoted heads, could shake their faith, or stagger their loyalty. Yet the restoration was followed by some 71 of the harshest enactments against the Catholics! They were, as has been stated by the right hon. gentleman, the monstrous offspring of a parliament, whose appetite was pampered by the vilest conspiracy that ever glutted a greedy and infuriated populace; whose thirst was only quenched with the pure and guiltless blood of the most venerable and respected nobleman of his day. Such was the proud origin of the Test and Corporation acts, and the exclusion of Catholics from parliament, So that we have the incontrovertible answer of the experience of a century, to those arguments founded on the incompatibility of a Catholic member of; the legislature, with a Protestant establishment.
Again, to trace the continuance of the exclusive system to the present day,—during the greater part of the last century, the otherwise fading prejudices against the Catholics were retouched and revived by their supposed attachment to the cause or the Pretender. If I were disposed to waste the time of the House, by pursuing that argument, it would, I should think admit of doubt, whether religious feeling was the predominant motive in those abortive rebellions; whether a mistaken spirit of chivalry did not throughout direct the conduct of those ill-fated attempts. Whatever the cause may have been, the result has long been final, and previous to the birch of a large proportion of that assembly, which I am now addressing, the pretensions of the last of the Stuarts were confined to the harmless vanity of an epitaph, or the unattractive pomp of a sepulchre.
I confess, when in examining all the causes in which this system originated, I find them not only' in substance obsolete, but even in recollection obliterated from the minds of the present day, I am at a loss to account for the feelings of those who still undertake the ungracious task of exclusion; I can hardly believe, that the speech which we have this night heard from the hon. gentleman, is that of a representative chosen at this period of the 19th century; I am willing to put the whole question at issue upon the conduct of the Catholics themselves, though I should be ill-disposed to allow that the conduct of any set of men belonging to that body, could be regarded as a ground; for continuing the disabilities which extend to all. But I have no hesitation in saying, that their recent conduct has 72 been such, as to merit the favourable consideration of the House; it has been mild yet firm, steady in the pursuit of their rights, yet loyal in the means by which they have sought to obtain them.
There are some who believe that if the Roman Catholics were made eligible to offices of high trust and importance, that in a short time, those offices would be filled only by them. If so, it would be a strong argument in their favour, for the tide of popular opinion must be strong indeed on their side, if such a consequence could reasonably be expected. For my own part, I entertain no such expectation; I believe that it would be an invaluable act of grace and justice to them without at all affecting the interests, or touching the ascendancy of any set of men in the community.
But we have been told that the Catholics are never content; that having obtained minor concessions, they still desired greater; that if they obtained these, they would be anxious for more. Of all the modes in which the present question has been resisted, I conceive this to be at once the most cruel, and the most unjust; it undervalues the been it refuses to concede, and treats lightly the disabilities it continues to inflict; affecting a sort of innocent astonishment that the Catholics should not be perfectly satisfied to remain a depressed and obscured cast in the midst of liberty the most buoyant, and privileges the most unbounded; that they should repine when they see the benignant rays of the British constitution all around them, gilding talents the most humble, and merit the most obscure, but at one glance, blighting all their budding hopes, and withering their most seasonable expectations; that there should be any peculiar hardship in the anomalous situation of the representatives of some of the first families in the country, possessing the mockery of privilege without the reality,—rank without power, wealth without interest or influence. The lineal descendants of those who fought and conquered at Cressy or at Agincourt, doomed to an ignominious life of listless inactivity. The bare recollection, the mere recital of the heroic exploits of their illustrious ancestry, possessing infinitely more of substance and reality, more of an embodied form, than the shadowy and fleeting existence of their proscribed posterity. Who can refuse to pity the wounded feelings of 73 hereditary nobility of soul, which must lacerate the breast of the father of one of this unfortunate race, when first called upon to check the youthful ardour of his offspring, to damp his glowing patriotism, and stifle all the proudest feelings of his nature with the bitter recital of his country's distrust, and his own nothingness?—"Your station is in obscurity; you are condemned to be a calm spectator of all that passes; an useless bystander in the hour of danger. Those services which from the lowest of your menial servants are accepted with gratitude; from you, are rejected with scorn. That name which animates with proud recollection the canvass on your walls, giving it a current value, a perennial existence; that very name, is in your living person, a blank in the hopes and expectations of your country,—you are exalted but to be excluded,—ennobled but to be degraded."
I have already trespassed too long on the time of the House, or I could proceed to show, that the present state of things is as absurd, as it is unjust; that we have either done too little or too much; but that fact has been sufficiently dwelt upon by my hon. friend who seconded the motion. I could also show by comparitive analogy with almost all the nations of the continent, that the present state of things is utterly foreign to the enlightened spirit of the age in which we live; that it is in the boasted liberality of the British legislature, that intolerance has found its last advocates; that it is in the dominions of the Defender of the faith, that that faith has found its last persecutors.
But I am content in conclusion, to rest the case of the Catholics principally upon this point:—Can any man sincerely, and solemnly affirm, that he believes the safety of the state requires the continuance of the present system?—Let that man, and that man only, vote against the present motion,—for it was upon that ground only that parliament could ever suspend that which could not destroy,—the dormant, but unalienable privileges of the Catholics, because the indisputable birthright of every Englishman. It was for the paramount claims of public security alone, that the legislature could in any instance, however limited, and for any period, however short, render penal that liberty of conscience, and freedom of opinion, which is coeval with the pros- 74 perity of the country, and perishable only with its decay.
I have, in the course of what I have had the honour to offer to the House as my sincere opinion upon this subject, not said any thing about securities, for When I see no danger, I cannot require any protection; but, if it should be the opinion of the sincere friends of the Catholics, that by any measure of this kind, men's minds would be conciliated to the question, I should be the last person to oppose such a consideration.
There is, however, one term frequently used by the ponents of the present question, and alluded to by the hon. gentleman to-night, against which I cannot refrain from protesting—that of an equivalent.—What equivalent can be offered by those from whom every thing has been previously taken, and to those by whom no sacrifice is to be made?—What equivalent can be offered by the Catholics for the restoration of their rights? But if reducing an act of grace to a bare debtor and creditor transaction, they still insist on an equivalent, they will find one—not, it is true, wrung from the hopes and fears of the Catholics;—but an ample equivalent in the union of all classes of their fellow subjects, and their joint co-operation in every common patriotic cause.
One word for myself before I sit down. Had I not been convinced of the paramount importance of the question itself; had I not entertained the most conclusive conviction of the justice of the cause which I have been advocating: I should not have presumed to intrude myself on the time and attention of the House. It is a question which no consideration shall tempt me for a moment to compromise, much less to abandon; nor can my feelings, on the subject be satisfied, until that period shall arrive, which for the credit of the liberality and justice of the country, I hope cannot be far distant, when the claims of the Catholics shall receive the united sanction of every branch of the British legislature.
§ Mr. Brownlow
opposed the motion, and maintained that there was no modification in the Roman Catholic religion which could justify an extension of political privilege to its professors in this country. The principle which he advocated was supported by the practice of all the Catholic powers of Europe. They saw the encroaching influence against which they 75 had to guard, and adopted measures to oppose its progress; those measures were founded upon the system of preventing the dangerous interference of foreign authorities in their states. To those who had seen and known the Roman Catholic church in Ireland, it would be scarcely necessary to say, that it was not weeded of errors which were objected to in other countries. The influence of the see of Rome was still predominant, and could not be eradicated. It was such influence that had occasioned the act of Charles 2nd in this country, and afterwards the similar measures which had been adopted in Ireland; and however much we might be disposed to condemn the policy of our ancestors, nothing had since occurred to justify a departure from the laws which they had established on this subject. He could see no reason why the bosom of the British empire was to be the only place in the Christian world where the influence of the pope was to be without control; and he trusted that it was not reserved for the reign of an illustrious prince of the House of Brunswick at this day to restore in this country that power to the Catholics which the legislature were obliged to expel from these realms for the security of a Protestant government. He was perplexed at the speech of the hon. gentleman on the floor (Mr. Croker), but his answer to it was this, that by all the statesmen who had ever spoken upon this subject, the constitution of England was considered and represented as being Protestant in all its parts.
begged the attention of the House, while he offered a few observations on the question before it: they were those of a well-meaning, and he should hope an independent man; and he trusted, that, as such, they would not be without their effect. He would state, in as short a compass as possible, the reasons why he should vote for the motion; and he would do so, not because he thought the question so important to the Roman Catholics as a body, as to the general interests of the country at large. It was, no doubt, important to the country to which he belonged; but it was also highly important and interesting to England. What could be a more important subject than to consider, that there was a large portion of her subjects whom, after presiding over for such a length of time, she had not succeeded in making better? The question was of importance to Ireland, for it 76 involved one of the most serious subjects connected with its welfare—that the great body of its peasantry had not that respect for the laws, which a similar class in this more favoured country entertained; and why?—Because they did not, in an equal degree, feel their protection. Was it not worthy of consideration, that England had gone on for nearly seven hundred years governing a nation without conciliating its affections; that she had not yet secured their attachment? But the fact was so. He mentioned the circumstance, not as a proof of any Want of feeling in his countrymen, but because he conceived it to be the result of their constant exclusion from the benefits of those laws which they were called upon to obey. The thing was natural; it was what might be expected from a nation so governed. He would suppose a case, that any member of the House was excluded by political disabilities from that arena which was then before him; would not that member feel some abatement of his devotion to those laws which so excluded him? It was natural that he should. A system of proscription never yet produced an admiration of the laws which proscribed. He might be asked, why this should extend to Ireland; why they had not felt the same zeal for the laws as the people of England? He would use the privilege of his country, and answer it by another question;—Why were not the people of Ireland admitted to the same privileges? The Irish, who were so quick and intelligent in other points, would not be so stupid as not to see the benefit and evince their feeling of a similar mode of treatment with the people of England, The conduct of the Roman Catholics had been alluded to: that conduct he. conceived had nothing to do with the question before the House, in the way in which it had been introduced. The conduct of sonic few Catholics had been mentioned, but it was an unfair criterion to judge of a whole sect or class of men by the acts of a few of its members; but supposing the conduct and disposition of those men such as they were represented, would not; that be an argument in favour of the motion? The great body of them were badly treated, and in that bad treatment persons of the description alluded to had a ground to go upon. Under such a system, the speech of this or that man would have an effect which, under other circumstances, it could never produce. Remove the cause, and you deprive them of their only 77 means of doing harm; continue it, and you give them every opportunity of effecting the mischief of which you complain. The great increase of the Roman Catholic religion was urged as an objection. He would admit, that it did increase, and was increasing, in equal proportion to the increase of population; but then he would say, do not give them such a ground as they now have; let it not be spread among them that they are persecuted for their religion, and you will remove one ground of their increase. They have not only Strength in numbers, but in wealth; and if they cannot be opposed, they might be neutralised. To the continuance of the penal code he had also this objection; that it tended to keep alive those dissensions which had so long existed on the ground of difference of religion, that it irritated the Catholic without giving confidence to the Protestant. What must be understood of a church to support which it was found necessary to keep four millions of people, nearly one-fourth of the population of the country, in a state of political degradation? This might be said to be a weak argument; but take it any way, it could not be used in favour of the church, in whose support the system was kept up. It was, in fact, inconsistent with those principles of toleration which that church itself taught. To argue that the church would be in danger from the admission of Roman Catholics to political privileges, would be to repeat an argument which had been long used, but had never been proved to be correct. Arguments somewhat similar had once been urged against the slavetrade. It was said, that it would be the destruction of British commerce; but the time had arrived when such prophecies were found to be erroneous. And here he could not avoid observing upon the inconsistency of two systems so discordant. We had abolished the slave-trade upon the principle that slavery was incompatible with the usages of our constitution; but we still adhered to a code which enacted a species of political slavery, and that, too, for an adherence to a religious opinion. He was glad to see the harmony with which the present discussion had been conducted. It pleased him to perceive, that it was carried on without those animosities, which such a subject was calculated to excite. This was the surest way to come at a fair decision. He had entered into it with strong feelings in favour of the general principles which he had 78 mentioned; but in candour he would admit that he had also a kind of personal feeling in it. He was interested as a Protestant, wishing to enjoy the full benefit of religious toleration; but he was also interested as an Irish subject—he was anxious that his tenantry should have an inducement to a co-operation in the execution of the laws of their country, from a feeling of the benefits which they enjoyed under them. This was a feeling in which every member who resided in that part of the united empire would concur. They would not desire the co-operation of their tenantry in support of the laws from a wish to please or a fear to displease, so much as from a feeling of the benefits which they enjoyed in common with those under whom they acted. In the hope that he might see this feeling fully established among his countrymen, he gave his most hearty and warm concurrence to the motion.
§ Sir R. Wilson
contended, that the best answer to those who asserted that the people of the metropolis were adverse to those claims, was to be found in the fact, that no anti-catholic ground of preference was acknowledged by the electors of London, Westminster or Southwark, during the late elections. On former discussions of this question, when the subject was not so fully understood, petitions signed by 68,000 persons were laid on the table of that House, against concessions to the Catholics. Not a single petition from that great and enlightened body was on the present occasion submitted to parliament. Indeed, it was preposterous to think that after this country had restored or subsidized all the Popish powers of Europe—after we made such struggles for their establishment—that we should turn round on our own countrymen, who co-operated in all our exertions, partook of all our sacrifices, and who contributed to the renown and glory of our arms, and deny them the participation of those constitutional securities which they so patriotically defended and helped to preserve.
was against farther concession, as it tended to weaken the stability of the Protestant establishment.
At the conclusion of the noble lord's speech, the cry of "Question! question!" became loud and general, and it was accordingly put from the Chair. The Speaker having called upon the Ayes and Noes, was of opinion that the Noes had it. 79 There was then a loud cry of "Divide divide!" The Speaker gave the usual order for strangers to withdraw, preparatory to a division. The order was repeated, but without effect. Some of the Strangers under the gallery at length yielded with apparent reluctance, but those in the gallery kept their seats, conceiving from the appearance below that the debate would go on This expectation was founded upon the idea generally entertained, that it would be an adjourned debate, and the disposition shown by several members to address the Chair. Among these were, lord Castlereagh, Mr. Canning, Mr. Plunkett, Mr. Peel, Mr. Colclough, and some others. Mr. Plunkett presented himself twice; Mr. Peel also offered himself to the attention of the House, amidst loud cries of "Question! question!" A discussion then arose, whether, it having been stated from the Chair that the Noes had it, the debate could be resumed. The Speaker gave his opinion in the negative, and that as no member could afterwards speak to the question, any observations to the order of the House could only be delivered in the way of advice to the Speaker, by the member sitting and covered. Mr. C. W. Wynn then put his hat on, and taking his seat, cited a case from the Journals, to show that the debate was finally closed. A division then took place, when the numbers appeared to be, for the Motion, 242, against it, 248. On declaring these numbers at the table, Mr. Croker, one of the tellers, stated that it was his duty to report, that some members had irregularly entered the House after the question had been put, and the decision in favour of the Noes pronounced from the Chair, whose votes must therefore be disallowed. It was accordingly decided that the names of lords Worcester and Rocksavage, Mr. Bankes, Mr. Ure, and general Porter, should be struck off from the Noes, and that of lord Forbes from the Ayes. This left the real numbers,
Ayes 241 Noes 243 Majority against the Motion 2
§ Adjourned at half after one o'clock.