HC Deb 02 April 1821 vol 4 cc1523-46

On the motion, "That the Bill be now read the third time,"

Sir William Scott

rose. He confessed that, as far as he was able to form a judgment of the bill, the expectations of any improvement of it, so as to obviate the objections to which it had been open, had not been realized. After commitments and re-commitments, and all the elaborate attention which had been bestowed upon it, the bill came before them worse, than it was before. In the instances of former bills, for the same purpose, they had dissatisfied one party only; but by this bill all sides were dissatisfied; the party who objected to it, and those whom it was intended to conciliate. The other party, the House, had an equal reason to be dissatisfied. They had had no success in the manufactory of conci- liation which they had set up. Their machinery had totally failed; and it had turned out a bankrupt adventure. The measure including the intercourse bill, appeared to him to be very much Misunderstood. It seemed to be an experiment, as to what portion of religious faith might be given up for the purpose of procuring political privileges. No person mote highly respected than he did those illustrious persons connected with the most ancient families in the kingdom, whose sentiments had been laid before parliament. He admitted their claims to the greatest consideration; but he could not admit that their opinion on matters connected with the Catholic faith should guide the decision of the House. He maintained, that their faith was open to the examination of the legislature, who had a right to judge for themselves. They had an opportunity of forming an opinion of the effects of the Catholic faith as well from a perusal of the histories composed by clergymen of that church, as by an examination of the works of Protestant writers. He could not look on an assembly of Roman Catholic noblemen and gentlemen who were devising the means of finding their way back 10 those privileges and immunities which they had lost, as the fair expositors of the Catholic faith. No: for that exposition he would rather look to an assembly of persons regularly convoked by the acknowledged Catholic authorities. What had passed in some of those assemblies showed pretty clearly that the bill was not viewed by the Catholic clergy with approbation. With respect to Ireland, he was much deceived if the clergy had not, almost unanimously agreed to resolutions condemnatory- of the measure. Amongst those who petitioned against it, was a Catholic clergyman of rank and influence, whose name had been treated with a considerable degree of asperity by the supporters of the bill. He did not mean to undertake the defence of that individual; he knew him not: but he would say, that he respected him for his learning, for his ingenuity, and for the integrity he had shown in avowing the sentiments of the religion he professed.

Upon looking over this bill, he found that clause which had given rise to all the argument about the celebrated explanation or exposition of which so much had been said. Upon this subject we had fortunately a document coeval with the Reformation, to show what was then the legislative understanding of that interference, whether spiritual or temporal, against which the oath of supremacy attempted to guard. But, after every device which had been contrived, to explain away the mischievous tendency of the proposed measure, with all the screwing and wrenching which had been put in practice, unfortunately the experiment had totally failed. This was the first experiment which had yet been made to attempt, by legislative means, to alter that: inviolable oath, and to remove that important protection which had been set up by the wisdom of our ancestors; and he hoped and trusted that, for the honour of parliament, it would be the last. He could not help saying that he was not more surprised at the attempts which had been; made to introduce the declaration contained in the present bill, than he was at the arguments which had been offered in support of it. The very, authority to which the right hon. framer of the bill had appealed was against, him. Bishop Burnet described the measures of queen Elizabeth's court as being intended to separate the church from the Papists altogether, and as having, with that view, laid the whole weight of the question of difference on the obedience exacted from Catholics to the authority of the pope. Another argument had been used, to show how much Catholics, as well as Protestants, were delighted with the measures of queen Elizabeth, namely, that both parties resorted to the same places of worship. On this point he would refer to two very eminent Roman Catholic authorities—the one, Mr. Dodd, the celebrated author of a History of the Reformation; the other, Mr. Butler, a gentleman of great learning and ability. Mr.Dodd's account was that, "during the first year of queen Elizabeth's reign, a great division arose among the Catholics; the cause being, that many of them appeared, for some time, in Protestant churches; but this they did merely to screen themselves from the rigour of the laws then in force against the Papists." Now, here was not one word about the satisfaction which this exposition had given to all parties; but the cause assigned was, that they were solicitous to screen themselves from the operation of certain penal laws. The historian went on to say, that several tracts were published on the subject, and that it was ar- gued in different councils, until it was proposed as a question of propriety to the council of Trent, who declared the practice to be unlawful. Next there was the book of Mr. Butler. After mentioning the severe fines, which were imposed on persons for not attending divine worship in the Protestant churches, he observed—"These amounted to a very large sum; and out of them the queen got 20,000l. During the first year of her reign a great number of Roman Catholics in order to avoid the extreme rigour of these laws, frequently went to Protestant churches." This, then, was the whole effect of the argument, the whole amount of the historical facts, upon which the House was told that the exposition of that day, similar to that which was now proposed, was an arrangement by which the lacerated consciences of the Catholics were entirely healed. Was it upon principles like these, or arguments thus founded, that they were to undermine the venerable basis upon which the Protestant constitution of this country had so long reposed in strength and security?

He begged to intrude upon the serious attention of the House for a short time, while he gave an outline of the opinions which had been entertained on this subject by men of far greater eminence and distinction than himself. The learned Mr. Selden, who possessed an intimate acquaintance with these matters, had said—"The papists must acknowledge the pope; they must have some supreme prince, and some homage to do to him, even in this world; and for this reason it is that they cannot enjoy the same privileges which are vested in the other subjects of this realm." Mr. Locke carried this principle still farther. He said, that the Catholic had a right to participate in all the privileges of a free citizen of the state, if his faith did not justify his exclusion: "they have, however, thought fit to deliver themselves up to the jurisdiction and dominion of a foreign prince, who not only has the power to require the members of his church to do what he may think fit for the welfare of his ecclesiastical state or temporal benefit, but to enjoin them to do it under pain of eternal fire." Lord Clarendon, a man who to extensive information and great judgment United an intimate knowledge of the human heart, observed, that it was just, seeing that the Catholics had renounced the Protestants, that the Protest- ants should renounce them. If they would give up their doctrine of supremacy, all their other errors might be looked upon as not dangerous to the state. The last authority was Blackstone, who observed "as to papists, what has been said of the Protestant Dissenters, would hold equally strong for a general toleration of them; provided their separation was founded only upon difference of opinion in religion, and their principles did not also extend to a subversion of the civil government. If once they could be brought to renounce the supremacy of the pope, they might quietly enjoy their seven sacraments, their purgatory and auricular confessions, their worship of relics arid images, nay even their transubstantiation. But while they acknowledge a foreign power superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects."

The right hon. and learned gentleman then commented on the momentous nature of the step which the House was called upon to take—which was no less than a removal of the constitution from that basis on which it had stood from he Reformation to the present day. He entirety agreed with Dr. Milner and the other Catholic clergy of Ireland who found themselves unable to take the oath prescribed in the second bill. That oath recognised, on their part, the free and undivided allegiance winch was due to the king. Now, what in law was that allegiance but an allegiance in spiritualibus, as well as in temporalibus? Could, then, any Catholic consistently take such an oath? This bill, moreover, acknowledged the pope in terms; whereas it had been the universal policy of all our statutes to call arid consider him only as the bishop Of Rome. As to the oath of supremacy, if it had been the intention of the legislature to recognise any spiritual power whatever, there would have been an expressed exception to that effect. Another inconsistency was, that this bill recognised the Romish church in Ireland; so that we were to have two establishments, the Protestant church and the Romish church in Ireland—a double-headed monster, hitherto unknown to the constitution, the legislature, ot the country. He should like to know what was the provision which it was intended to make against the monastic orders. He called upon the House to remember, that they were now conceding that 'vantage ground which they had preserved through two centuries; but which they had acquired not without years of slavery and bloodshed. Determined as he was never to deviate, in the course of his public duty, from those ancient landmarks which the wisdom of the legislature had erected, and the safe experience of time had consecrated, he must persevere in his decided opposition to the bill.

Sir George Hill

considered this bill to be most revolutionary in its character, as it went to put down the ancient landmarks of the constitution, and to recognise, for the first time, a right of interference with the subjects of this country on the part of the see of Rome. He had heard it argued on this occasion, that the constitution of this country was not essentially Protestant. Taking the constitution as it was established at the Revolution, he showed that the Bill of Rights had been particularly directed against popery. In that bill the oaths of allegiance and supremacy were enacted which were now to be altered. It was provided by that bill, that this country must be governed by a Protestant prince, and also, that that Protestant prince must have Protestant counsellors. But the bill before the House went to do away with Protestant counsellors by opening the door to Catholics. It put both the property and the religion of the country in peril: it admitted Catholics to be members of the privy council, to be governors of colonies, and what was still more tremendous, it allowed them to act as sheriffs, and gave them seats in parliament. He felt alarm for the use that might be made of the power given to the Catholics acting as sheriffs in Ireland: they would have the right of selecting juries, and, above all, they would be authorized to return members who were elected to sit in that House. He thought the danger of admitting Catholics to parliament had been undervalued, and considered the measure to be revolutionary, because, while it relieved the Catholic from the old oath of supremacy, it required the Protestant to take it. No Catholic was to take the old oath; and after this bill had passed, he did not see how any Protestant could conscientiously swear, "that the pope neither had nor ought to have any power in this realm." His conviction was, thus this bill would not prove a measure of conciliation. The Roman Catholic clergy and laity were united against it. They called it "the slavery bill,"—"the bill of insults;" and there was no epithet too insulting to be applied to those whom they sneeringly called "their advocates."—In Dublin, last week, the titular archbishop, Dr. Troy, had assembled the clergy; and they had come to certain resolutions, declaring that they could not assent to the provisions of the bill for regulating the intercourse of the see of Rome, or to that which sanctioned the intermeddling of the government with the appointment of their bishops. In Limerick, the Roman Catholic bishop had called the clergy together, and they had come to certain resolutions disapproving of the bill, which were stronger than those come to at Dublin. Similar meetings were announced to be held at Cork, Galway, Tuam, and Kerry. The sentiments of Dr. Coppinger, the titular bishop of Cloyne, were also strongly opposed to the bill. He had distinctly declared, that the oath amounted to an abjuration of the Catholic faith, and ought to be indignantly rejected by every Catholic. The right hon. baronet insisted that there was an identity of interest between the Catholic clergy and laity; that their faith was held by them to be immutable, infallible, and the only road to salvation, and that the fixed purpose of both classes was the aggrandisement of their church; This was the leading object of all the Catholics of Ireland, and it had been so for the last fifteen years. Another purpose, with a large body of them, was to procure a dissolution of the Union. He called the attention of the House to the sentiments of another eminent Catholic, who considered such a restriction as that proposed inadmissible, inasmuch as its obvious tendency was to prevent proselytism. The distinguished individual to whom he alluded was Dr. Dromgoole. He must object to the measure both in its principle and detail, as one which, by sanctioning the interference of the see of Rome, went directly to subvert the essential Protestantism of the British constitution.

Mr. O'Grady

supported the bill. Alluding to the aggregate meeting which had been held on the subject of the bills in Limerick, he observed, that the resolutions there carried in opposition to them were not of native growth; they had been introduced by individuals who were not residents of the county, and originated in factious opposition. He could not consi- der the resolutions to which they had come as the sentiments of the county. He held in his hand a protest against the proceedings of that meeting, signed by 39 most respectable Roman Catholics, who declared, that they approved of the bill, and were satisfied with such restrictions as would conciliate their Protestant fellow-subjects, without doing violence to their own consciences. This protest was signed by the only four Catholic magistrates in the county.

Mr. Fitzgibbon

supported the opinions and the statements of his hon. colleague. He considered the resolutions read by the right hon. baronet to have been partially selected, and did not regard them as giving a correct idea of the sentiments of the Catholics of Ireland.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that however unpalatable it might be to the House to hear the merits of one class of gentlemen or another canvassed in that place, yet he was driven into the present discussion by the want of candour which had been evinced by the right hon. baronet. Why did he not, when he produced the resolutions to the House, go also into the protest which accompanied them. He had merely adverted to the number of signatures, without acknowledging one fact as to the respectability and character of those who affixed them. The meeting at Limerick was not a meeting of the clergy of the diocese, but of those Roman Catholic clergymen who happened to be assembled in that town. With the permission of the House he would read a letter which he had received from one of the very persons who signed the violent resolutions, to show that the sentiments spoken by them were not generally entertained. The writer of the letter owned that many of his Catholic brethren were willing to receive emancipation upon the terms provided by Mr. Plunkett's bill. This was not the opinion of one who supported that measure, but who had signed those violent resolutions which had been quoted to the House. In another letter which he had received from Ireland, it was stated, that if the measure were passed into a, law, those troublesome spirits and tools of faction who now agitated the country, would be at once put down. He begged to remind the House, that the dissatisfaction of the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland had arisen, in a great measure, from a clause in the original bill, by which they were subjected, in certain cases, to the penalty of transportation. That clause was, in fact, a blunder in the bill as it originally stood, and it was now removed. He did not mean to say that the present bill would satisfy all the Roman Catholics. To expect it, would be to expect the occurrence, of a moral and political miracle. If the Roman Catholics of Limerick had shown any irritation oh this subject, it was very natural. They recollected the treaty of Limerick, which guarantied the free exercise of their religion. If that treaty had been strictly observed, there would be no occasion for the House being now occupied with the present measure. He considered it his duty to vote for going on with the measure. The House should legislate for, and not treat with, the Roman Catholics. His own opinion was, that no security was necessary; but be looked upon the present measure as a compromise between the demands of the Catholic and the extravagant fears of the Protestant. Between both he would do his duty; and he had no doubt that in the result they would be all satisfied.

Mr. Hutchinson

said, that standing there as the unworthy representative of a i family who had always stood up in support of flip Catholic claims—advocating that great and righteous cause upon the principles of entire and unqualified emancipation—he wished to offer a few observations to the House, in explanation of the line of conduct which he meant to pursue. It was impossible but that a measure carrying with it heavy penal enactments, should meet with some who objected to it; and he could not, while he had a seat in that House, submit that such persons should be charged, as tools of faction, as riotous spirits, and public agitators. Because, if they were to be so denominated, he also must be a tool of faction and an agitator; for he had joined in the objections which had called down upon them those reproachful epithets. Could it be said, that Mr. Roche, the gentleman who presided at the Limerick meeting, was one of this description of persons? The hon. member here eulogised the character of, that gentleman. He thought it very likely that all the Irish clergy might eventually object to take the required oaths; therefore, he could not suffer that those gentlemen should by anticipation be aspersed, because they opposed what he apprehended was a highly penal enactment. He believed that it was quite in the newer of the noble lord, and the right hon. member for Liverpool, still to modify the aggrieving clauses, so as to make the measure in every way unexceptionable. It was not his intention to submit any motion, or any regular proposition to the House, but he did hope that the bill would yet be re-committed, so as to go through the modifications which he had pointed out. He should not vote for the amendment, because that would go, if carried, to throw out the whole measure; and there was no man who would be less willing to do that than himself. But he did wish that the bill could be recommitted. If it was not, though he should not vote against the measure, yet he would not vote for it. He was ready to acknowledge, that the Protestants had given up a great deal; and he thanked them for it. They had given up what was most difficult for man to resign,—they had given up their prejudices. But all was rendered almost valueless by oaths required of the clergy. Supposing, as he had a right to suppose, the, Catholic clergy should refuse to take the oaths—such refusal was declared to he a misdemeanor. To those who should hereafter receive orders, this penalty would not be so great; because they would have the choice of taking them upon such terms, or of choosing some other profession. But then there were many who bad been in possession of their livings and cures for years, who had not the choice, and must either take the oaths, or if they had conscientious scruples, be dragged to a gaol. Supposing all the Catholic clergy throughout Ireland should refuse to take the oath,—was the noble lord and his colleagues, and even his friends around him,; prepared to say that if they did so refuse, the whole body of the clergy were to be sent to gaol? What would be, the consequence of such a proceeding? If, besides the 20,000 soldiers now in Ireland, they should send all the troops in England and Scotland thither, they would not be able to quell the indignant spirit of the people, if such an enactment were carried into effect.—The hon. member then argued, that if the oath should be generally taken, there was no need of a Protestant board for deciding upon clerical appointments. It was first making, them take the oath, and then saying, we did not believe them and would not trusts them. He held in his hand an extract of a letter from a Catholic, who was favourable to the general measure. Although he was excessively anxious that it should pass, yet he could not withhold his feelings against the clauses objected to. He stated, that he admitted the unjust severity with which they would press upon the clergy, but must rely upon the generosity of the executive, and the mild exercise; of the power vested in them. Now he (Mr. H.) would not so trust, in a case Of such momentous importance, to the1 humanity of an indefinite government. Supposing the clergy to subject themselves to the penalty provided by the enactment, would the magistrates act against them? If they did, they would have the whole country up in rebellion; and if rebellion could be justified, it would be under such circumstances.

Mr. Ellis,

of Dublin, expressed his anxiety to deliver his sentiments on a bill, the latter part of which, by a curious infelicity in legislation, went to deprive the measure of all the advantages promised in the first part. He apologised to the House for going over again a track which had already been so beaten: to him it was an unpleasant task, and nothing but his veneration for the Protestant establishment, and his anxiety for the connexion of Ireland with this country, could force him to trespass on the attention of the House. He professed that in ardent wishes for the welfare of every class of his fellow-countrymen, he was not inferior to the right hon. gentleman who brought the measure before them; and he would further say, that he brought with him a degree of experience of the wishes and feelings of the Protestants of Ireland, which the retired habits, or the fastidious taste of that right hon. gentleman prevented his acquiring. In the name of that profession to which they both be longed, and whose sentiments the right hon. gentleman had misrepresented, he disclaimed his unauthorized advocacy. That this was not mere assertion would be seen by a reference to the petitions on their table—and particularly by the Protestant petition from the second city of the empire, which he had the honour to represent. If those petitions were looked into, the House would see not only noblemen and gentlemen of the highest respectability, but several members of the profession of the law, equal in talents and reputation to the right hon. gentleman himself; and in their names he protested against declarations contrary to their sentiments.—The hon. and learned member then proceeded to argue against the bill on the grounds of expediency, as the abstract right had been already abandoned by its proposer, and contended that none of the dangers apprehended were averted by a bill which had already been rejected by the Catholics themselves—a bill which, at the same time that it gave power, withheld confidence, and placed a sword in the hands, of those whom it irritated to use it. That the Catholics were really hostile to the bill, was, he conceived, clear, from the opposition which it had met with from art eminent barrister, who was always considered as speaking their sentiments. He would not mention his name, although it had been mentioned in the course of the present discussion. Why was that gentleman the acknowledged organ of the Catholic body? It could not be on account of his family, which, though respectable; was of yesterday, compared with some of the aristocracy of Ireland. Neither was it for his talents—for his eloquence was but of mushroom celebrity, and was far outshone by the talents opposed to him. What, then, was it that gave him the confidence of the Catholic body? It was that he really and truly expressed their feelings and sentiments. The House, however, had been told that they were to legislate; and not to consider what would be acceptable to the Catholics. But this was an argument not very consistently urged by those who advocated measures of prudence and conciliation. Neither the Catholic nor the Protestant was satisfied—yet was it proposed to enforce content upon the one, and inflict liberty upon the other. He objected to the bill upon its principle. But, supposing that objection to be removed he did not think the security offered-was sufficient. The loyalty of the Catholics depended upon the loyalty of their priest', and yet the bill proposed in effect to increase his power. If, however, it was denied that the priest had such extensive power, then the proposed security was a delusion, so that the fact might be taken either way by the supporters of the bill. He was compelled to refer to a period of history which he would willingly have blotted from his recollection. It was to the insurrection of 1798. It had been contended, that that was not a Catholic insurrection, because one of its leader was a Protestant dissenter; but, when it was recollected how many hundred thousand persons were concerned in it, it was impossible to believe that it was any thing but a popish insurrection; and he put it to the House, whether they would place still more dependence on those who had betrayed former confidence? Looking at the provisions of the bill, the powers which it proposed to give, and the powers which, under its operation, would be still withheld, he could view it only as a solemn humbug. What could be said of a measure which gave to the Catholic the right of voting in the election of members of parliament, and denied him that franchise in the choice of a churchwarden—which refused him a hand in the repairs of the parish church, and yet committed to his care the whole fabric of the constitution? He might preside in a court of common law, but not in an ecclesiastical court, where the same questions were tried. He was not to be allowed to be lord lieutenant of Ireland, but he might be the premier of the cabinet by which the lord lieutenant was appointed. The whole was one great mockery. He expected to be accused of prejudice. If he was prejudiced, however, his prejudice was one of somewhat extraordinary growth. He had himself been nursed in all the bosom of popery; he had at one time cherished the warmest desire to give liberty and equality to creeds of every class; and nothing less than a firm conviction of the dangers to be apprehended from the unrestrained freedom of the Catholic faith, had compelled him at length to adopt a different opinion.

Mr. Robinson

said, he had no intention of vindicating the right hon. gentleman who introduced this measure, from what he conceived a most unreasonable attack which the hon. and learned gentleman had made upon him in his absence. He declared himself to be no more disposed to take the feelings of the Protestants of Ireland from the hon. and learned gentleman, than he was to take the feelings of the Catholics from that, nameless barrister, that mushroom orator, as the hon. and learned gentleman had called him—who, eloquent as he might be—active as they all knew he was—he was persuaded did not, in the ravings of his eloquence, speak the true and honest feelings of the Irish Catholics. It was on that account that, although he knew Mr. O'Connell was dissatisfied—although he knew that Mr. O'Connell had always been dissatisfied—although he believed that Mr. O'Connell would always be dissatisfied—be had no doubt that, if the present measure were passed, it would be highly satisfactory to the great body of the Catholics of Ireland. He confessed that he had heard the hon. and learned gentleman with much regret, departing as he had done, from the wise and dignified course of his right hon. friend, the member for the University of Oxford—a course which, if any thing could add to the respect which he felt for his right hon. friend, would certainly have had that effect. Indeed, the only misfortune which had attended these discussions was, that the hon. and learned gentleman who had last spoken, had endeavoured to rake up the ashes of what he had hoped was a for-ever-extinguished fire. It was with deep regret that he had heard from the hon. and learned gentleman a speech which was in direct opposition to the feeling which had prevailed on every side of the House, and which, if pronounced in an earlier stage, might have done infinite mischief to the discussion of the measure; and although he might not express himself with quite so much zeal as that hon. and learned gentleman, yet he might also claim attention as a convert; for he, too, had formerly held opinions hostile to those which he was at present supporting. The House had been referred to the history of the country, for internal quarrels and for foreign wars arising out of the dissention between Catholic and Protestant. True, this might have been the case at a remote period of our history; but let members look at our domestic disturbances and our foreign contests for the last hundred and thirty years, and they would find their character entirely changed. Under William the 3rd, and Anne, England was leagued with the Catholic house of Austria, and fought to establish upon the throne of Spain a descendant of that very Phillip the 2nd, who was so implacable a foe to the Protestant faith. Let the House look at the continental wars in which England had been engaged during the last fifty years; at the war which arose out of the French revolution. Which of these contests had been produced as effected by the influence of the pope? In which of them had the thunders of the Vatican animated or disheartened the contending parties? Had those thunders been heard at all? They might perhaps have been heard, like the rattling of the chariot of Salmoneus; but not like the true thunder of Heaven. Those restrictions which it might have been most prudent and politic to impose 140 years ago, it would be most impolitic and unjust to continue at the present day. Could any man at this time even pretend a fear of the influence of the pope And yet it was only upon the apprehension of such influence, that the continuance of the existing restrictions could for a moment be sustained. He trusted that he was a good Protestant; but he saw nothing in the oath of supremacy to be taken by the Catholics, which might not conscientiously be taken by the members of his own creed. To say that the pope had no jurisdiction or superiority in England, was, as it appeared to him, merely to say, no jurisdiction or superiority over, and surpassing that, of the Crown. It could not possibly mean that the pope should have no jurisdiction whatever; because the very toleration of the Catholics at all was a recognition of the existence of his power. The dreams of Dr. Dromgoole had been referred to—a gentleman of whom he had heard it said that he was a doctor without a degree, and with no patient but his country. But, to take the ravings of Dr. Dromgoole for the feelings of the Catholics of Ireland, would be like taking the nonsense of Mr. Hunt for the sense of the people of England. The right hon. baronet, however, had used one argument which ought to be conclusive with the House as to the fate of the present measure: he had said, that even if the bill, against his opinion, was passed, he would endeavour to soften down the asperities which he anticipated. He (Mr. R.) firmly believed, that the same course would be generally adopted; he believed that the nobility and gentry of Ireland were too manly, too candid, too generous, to be piqued at the success of the bill, even though in opposition to their own efforts; that they would exert themselves for the maintenance at home, of amity and good feeling, and that they would meet in parliament as hearty co-operators in the object important alike to all—the happiness and prosperity of their country.

Mr. Goulburn

said, he opposed the admission of the Catholics to political power, on the same principles which had led him for the first fourteen years to resist their claims to the utmost of his power. To show the danger which might arise to the Protestant establishment from the concession of these claims, he referred to the mode in which they had been pursued. Trusting to the march of time for producing occasions favourable to their views, and availing themselves of the opportunities which arose in. the course of the discussion of the subject from time to time in parliament, the Catholics had advanced step by step, towards the attainments of a full share in the rights and privileges of the constitution. By pursuing a similar course of conduct, a time might hereafter arrive, when they would be enabled to effect any object which they might entertain hostile to the Protestant establishment. Suppose it should again occur, that we should have a king, who, though professedly a Protestant, secretly favoured the views of the Catholics—he might select a Catholic ministry, who would naturally seek to strengthen the party on which they could most rely; and contemplating their wealth, their rank, their illustrious descent, and the length of time during which they had remained excluded from all share in the honours and privileges of the state, it could be considered but fair; that some of the Catholic gentry should be raised to the peerage. By these and other corresponding measures, he argued, that in course of time it would be perfectly feasible for them to effect the overthrow of the Protestant establishment. They had been told, that this measure was to be one of conciliation—that it was to knit together in a bond of union, the hearts of both Protestants and Catholics; but he should like to know whether the consequences which had been pointed out by the hon. member for Cork, as likely to result from this measure, were calculated to effect conciliation. He appealed to all who had heard that hon. member, and who knew his intimate acquaintance with the sentiments of the Catholics, whether, as a measure of conciliation, the bill before the House was not altogether nugatory? He called upon the House to bestow the most serious reflection upon the importance of this measure, and to consider that in passing it, they were about to take a step which could not be recalled.

Lord Binning

said, that his hon. friend had alluded to the danger that might result from this bill, if at any future period there should be a monarch oh the throne who, though professing the Protestant religion, had no feeling of regard for it; but he had yet to learn that the personal character of a king of England, though by no means a consideration of trifling moment, was so important to the nation as to involve the safety of the constitution. While the parliament of the country remained attached to the Protestant religion, and the people continued to be jealous of every circumstance that threatened it with danger, it would not be in the power of any monarch to subvert it. He defended the restrictions contained in the bill, and the form of the oaths to which so many captious objections had been made.

Mr. Peel

commenced by alluding to an argument advanced by the hon. member for Limerick, who had called upon them, as they valued their good faith, to observe the articles of the capitulation of Limerick. That was the first time he had ever heard such an argument brought forward. If that were made the ground of the question, the House had no discretion to exercise; but he would maintain, that, up to the present moment, they were unfettered by the question of good faith. There was but one article in the treaty of Limerick which referred to the state of the Roman Catholics generally, and that was the first. But what did it amount to? Their majesties undertook to engage that the Roman Catholics should enjoy every privilege with respect to the exercise of their religion which they possessed in the reign of Charles 2nd, and to exert themselves to obtain for them from parliament such further indulgence as they might be willing to concede. There was not a word in this of political privilege; the privilege alluded to, referred, according to the terms of the article itself, to the exercise of their religion. There were two considerations upon which he chiefly rested his objections to the bill. In the first place, fie objected to it, because it was a material change in the constitution of the country. He did not consider that objection as fatal in itself; but he felt that every change of so extensive a nature was to be regarded with alarm and anxiety. They could not name a succession of kings, or an important event since the Reformation, which did not bring the Roman Catholic religion before their minds; therefore, it was not unimportant to consider what relation that religion should bear to the state in future. There were three great periods to which he would call upon the House to direct their attention—that before the Reformation, that since the Reformation, and that which it was now proposed to commence. The relation which the Roman Catholic religion bore to the state previous to the Reformation, was similar to that which the Protestant religion bore to it now; but even then the strictest exclusion of foreign authority was insisted on. After the Reformation, an attempt was vainly made to extirpate the Catholic Church; but that being abandoned, the state took a security for their exclusion from political power, which existed up to the present period. Now that they were about to adopt a new system, and to grant political power, he was forced to consider what relation the Catholics ought to bear to the state. It was a mistake to imagine that the present bill would be a final compact between Protestant and Catholic: it was more likely to become a permanent source of legislation. The first question arising out of the Bill would be, what establishment, or whether any establishment, should be provided for the Catholic clergy? They were not now about to legislate for an obscure sect—the greater part of Europe professed that religion. Besides, in Ireland there was an archbishop to every province, and he believed a consistorial court to every diocese. It was a religion supported by voluntary contributions; and was in every respect calculated to give the priesthood a powerful influence over the minds of the people. The question, therefore, was one of the utmost importance, and he thought they would be legislating in the dark, if they agreed to recognise episcopal functions, without knowing what the oath was which the episcopacy made to the pope. If the principle of the bill was to he recognised, the best course for parliament to pursue, would be to inquire into the manner in which the Catholic church was established in other countries; for it was in vain to conceal the fact, that they would soon have to meet claims for the open exercise of the rites, and the partial establishment of that religion. The manner in which its connexion with the state should be settled, should have been fixed at the moment of opening the door of power to its members. The indefinite nature of the provisions of the bill in this respect, was one principal ground of his objection to it. Another was, the relation of this country to Ireland. He had been asked, whether he apprehended danger from the power of the pope; and splendid declamation, and polished ridicule had been employed against this supposed apprehension? He apprehended ho such thing. It was asked, where was the power of the pope now? He would ask, where was it in 1688? In that very year, the French ambassador had threatened to march against the pope with 500 men, and his holiness declared that he should have no defence but in the very unsatisfactory expedient of martyrdom. It was against domestic danger that king William and lord Soraers undertook to guard. If we had one kingdom with an immense majority of Protestants, it might be a question, whether the Catholic minority might not be safely admitted into office. But we had two countries—two kingdoms, one of which had been politically united to the other only for twenty years;—two islands, one divided from the other by a greater span than that which had for ages divided us from what had been called our hereditary enemy. In the Catholic island we had to maintain a Protestant establishment. Could that be done, if we admitted the Catholics to a complete participation in the administrative and legislative power? He assumed, that the representation of Ireland would be, if the bill passed, ultimately Catholic. He apprehended nothing from that circumstance, for the Protestant establishment of England. But as to Ireland, it was known that all measures affecting that country were proposed, influenced, and in fact, decided by the Irish part of the representatives. Questions respecting the tithes in Ireland and other subjects of that kind, would come before the House; and they would be decided by the Catholic representatives of Ireland. If it was said, that to the Catholic representatives of Ireland, they might oppose the overwhelming power of Protestant members, he could only foresee inconvenient and dangerous conflicts, very different from that tranquil settlement which the friends of the bill anticipated. But these concessions were accompanied by securities. The securities he thought reasonable enough; he thought also that they might be conscientiously submitted to by the Catholic clergy; but the Catholic clergy had shown that they disapproved of them, and he ventured to prophecy that the bill could not be executed. If they attempted to put it in force, they must be prepared to meet with willing victims. As a matter of prudence—as a mere question how to secure the tranquillity of Ireland—he thought the non-enactment of the bill much better than the enactment of it. After remarking, that in this bill, which, after the number of skilful artists to whom it had been submitted, might be considered a masterpiece, in the manner as well as matter, there was an error in the four first lines. The act of William and Mary was cited as the act for the further settlement of the throne, and the better securing the rights and liberties of the people, instead of the subject; and, drawing a comparison between the inconsistency of the per-ambulatory and enacting parts of the bill, he concluded by stating, that as he believed that the bill would not have the effect of consolidating England and Ireland, or of uniting and knitting together his majesty's subjects, he could not consent to the third reading.

Mr. Canning

observed, that his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel) who had taken so active a part against the bill, complained, that those who took the same side as himself laboured under great disadvantages; seeing that they were unfairly called upon to become the champions of those laws which had existed against the Catholics from the Reformation to the present time. But he (Mr. C.) felt, on the other hand, that those who took that part in favour of the bill, which, from conviction, he had found himself compelled to take, were placed in a situation equally difficult; for it was assumed, that every argument Which they brought forward was an attempt to disturb the peace which had hitherto prevailed, and to launch out into an untried sea of speculation. He claimed then for the advocates of the bill, that the system which they wished to introduce should be compared, not with an uniform and recognised system, but with admitted anomalies, with the state of things which had produced the recent innovations. His right hon. friend deprecated a recurrence to that period when the laws against the Catholics had been in their full force. He would not resist the appeal, because he felt unwilling at the close of a debate which had been marked by such unexampled moderation, to create any new source of contention, or to send forth the bill to the country as a firebrand instead of an extinguisher of discord. If, like his right hon. friend, he could believe that religious animosities would be more likely to be healed, and the excluded Catholic more likely to be contented, if this bill should not pass, he should be satisfied not to press the House to a completion of the present measure; forasmuch as the great object which he had at heart in the support which it was in his limited power to give to, it would then be accomplished. Nay, if the question were as to a system of which the reason was well matured, or the antiquity long established, as to laws which had not been continually changed, and as to circumstances which had not gradually varied—if it had been proposed to destroy that which was tolerable in favour of a fancied amelioration, he admitted that in such case, a heavy burthen of proof would indeed be thrown upon the supporters of the bill. But the measure proposed was to be compared only with imaginary content and fictitious tranquillity; it was another change in laws which had been continually changing; it was-not the first of a series, but a crowning act of mercy to complete the improvements of half a century.

The right hon. gentleman then examined the view which Mr. Peel had taken of the different eras of legislation, respecting the Catholics; he denied that even at the time of the Revolution the dangers were such as warranted the system pursued towards the Catholics, but surely, the dangers which then did exist, now existed no longer. Religion bad then mingled in the political concerns of Europe, and directed the course of wars, and changed the dynasties of kingdoms. Now struggles of a quite different nature had begun, which were destined, perhaps, to produce effects as stupendous as the wars which followed the Reformation.

The right hon. gentleman then went on to argue, that it was to be gathered from the murmurs of the Roman Catholic clergy, that at least this bill might be considered a boon to the laity; that its provisions were not of that character which some of its enemies represented; and that the, Catholic clergy did not look upon the bill as causing so much evil to the established Protestant church of Ireland, as the House was called upon to apprehend from it. Depend upon it, if the character of the bill was what its adversaries represented it, and if the Roman Catholic clergy were also as ardent for the properity of their own church, and as wise in their genera- tion, as they were argued by the same authority and admitted by him, to be,—any little discontent which they might have felt from the fear of a diminution of their influence over their flocks, would have been more than counterbalanced by the contemplation of the advantage to be derived from the operation of, the bill, to the exaltation of the Popish, at the expense of the Protestant establishment and hierarchy. The murmurs of the more violent Roman Catholic prelates were, therefore, to him (Mr. C.) one conclusive indication of the probable tendency of the bill, to confirm and consolidate the Protestant church in Ireland.

He next touched upon the number pf Catholic members that were likely to be introduced by it into parliament, contending, in contradiction to the opponents of the measure, that instead of 70 from Ireland and 30 from England, the utmost that would probably be returned would be a dozen in the whole. Admitting, bow-ever, as he had in a former debate, for argument's sake, that, more might obtain entrance, allowing even that the vision of the hundred knights was to be realised, still he asked in what way would they be able to set about the destruction of the constitution The other side, who talked so much of danger, was bound to show from whence it would proceed, and how it would operate—in what way the Catholic representatives would succeed in corrupting the rest of the 563 members, or at least the whole of the minorities on the late divisions on this subject, and the greater part of the supporting majorities [Hear!].

He contended that the measure was eminently calculated to conciliate the Irish, and to cement the union; the recentness of which was to be considered as an advantage instead of an objection, inasmuch as expectations indulged since that event were now to be realised; promises and pledges were to be fulfilled before hope should have been so delayed as to make sick the heart. In the Union, then, he found one of the strongest reasons for enacting the bill. For what was the state of Ireland in its relation to this country? Of 15 millions of subjects, 5 were separated from the rest, divided from, the general body by the channel. "How," said the hon. gentleman, "are we to deal with them?"—Yes, that is the question on which depended all. To that consideration we must come at last, whether this bill were thrown out here or elsewhere [Cheers]. In that separated island were to be found four millions of Roman Catholics; and one million of Protestants, placed as garrisons in on enemy's territory; of which last million, one-half were the dreaded Dissenters, from whom so much danger had been feared.—Should we, then, incorporate the hearts and feelings of four millions of Catholics in the same manner as we had incorporated their laws, their commerce, and their institutions? Should we unite them to Great Britain firmly and effectually? or, by a mistaken policy, Coerce then in proportion to our danger? [Hear!] After half a century of concessions, should we now stop short; and, referring to the wisdom of our ancestors in the period preceding those concessions, should we, after having again conquered the Irish, again degrade them into helots, in order that we might fear nothing, unless a servile war? No man had openly avowed that policy. The system of laws formerly devised to bring to completion that odious project, and the effects produced by it, no human being was willing to revive. That time was past. The question was not now, as in the beginning of the reign of Geo. 3rd, between the maintenance of that system, and a beginning of a milder policy; but between the memory of that system, and the completion of the benevolent legislation of the reign of Geo. 3rd, by raising those who were its victims to the level of ourselves [Loud cheers].

The right hon. gentleman who had introduced this bill with an eloquent precision that would not have disgraced Tacitus, pointed out in his speech, as in a funeral procession, the statues of those great orators who had distinguished themselves in this question. Among the names he (Mr. Canning) had missed one now no more, never second in the zeal of his resistance, but whose place had this evening, for the first time, been amply supplied by an hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Ellis of Dublin, we understood) from the same country; indeed, so amply and efficiently, so much in the spirit and manner of the great original, that little was left to be desired. As applied to that honourable substitute, he might, perhaps, be allowed to parody two well-known lines:

The tone, the topics opening to my view, Methinks I see my Duigenan here anew!" [Laughter.] He must observe, however, that in one part of his argument, in one only, that hon. and learned gentleman had been somewhat unfair. He had objected to the bill as a fault, that it contained a clause, excluding Roman Catholics from several parochial offices; a petty species of legislation in the hon. and learned gentleman's view, and altogether unworthy of so great a subject. Now, surely, surely, the hon. gentleman who had watched the progress of the bill with so much solicitude, must know that this fault, if it be one, was not the fault of the framers of the bill;—that this merit, if merit it were, was wholly attributable to the zeal of his right hon. friend,—the hon. and learned It was, however, leader in these combats—(Mr. Peel); who, foreseeing with admirable prescience that danger to all the affairs of the parish, to which the hon. and learned gentleman appeared most unaccountably insensible, had provided by this special clause for their protection. His right hon. friend (Mr. Peel) would, he was sure, give him (Mr. C.) due credit for his forbearance in not having before taken any notice of this mighty effort of legislation. It was very, very tempting; but he had purposely forborne; though certainly nothing since the famous Memoirs of P. P. clerk of the parish, had exhibited so fine a specimen of parochial politics. But to have this clause fathered upon the framers of the bill, and by one of its own near relations, was more than flesh and blood could bear. His right hon. friend must forgive him, if, upon such a provocation, he could not abstain from swearing it to its true parent.

It was, however, a consolatory circumstance to see how his right hon. friend's arguments against the measure before the House had dwindled. Formerly, nothing was heard of in conjunction with this measure, but a tottering throne, a trembling crown, a shaking sceptre; but now the chief danger was described as threatening parish officers; formerly, the appaling question was, how, after such a bill had passed, should we be able to support the church establishment? now, it is only how shall we repair the parish church? Comparative trifles now occupied one who before had dealt only with the most magnificent declarations.

—"Nunc reges, atque tetrarchas, "Omnia magna loquens;—Nunc"—Vestries atque Churchwardens! [A laugh.] He trusted that a grateful