§ Sir J. Newport
, after regretting the domestic affliction which had deprived this question of the splendid eloquence of Mr. Plunkett, and complimenting the gentlemen who had supported it, moved the order of the day for taking the report of this bill into further consideration.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that when he gave notice of a motion for enabling his majesty to make provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, he did so upon the full conviction that such a measure would tend to the security of the Roman Catholic no less than that of the Protestant interest; and the more he thought of the 1413 subject, the more he was satisfied of its propriety. He was aware, however, that many members, for whose, opinion he entertained a sincere regard, objected that the time for introducing the measure was unfavourable, and he therefore was anxious that the House should be enabled to give its undivided attention to the approaching discussion. With this view, he should postpone the motion of which he had given notice until the bringing up of the report of the committee.
§ The House then resolved itself into the committee. On putting the question, that the first clause be agreed to,
§ Sir W. Scott
said, that the present was one of the many bills which had been brought before parliament by men of great talents, actuated by the best of motives. The present measure he believed to have been introduced by a right hon. gentleman of equal talent, and with motives no less good, and if this bill should ultimately fail, it would show that there were difficulties in its principle which no abilities could surmount. The bill proposed to relieve certain Roman Catholics from the oath of supremacy, and the clause for that purpose, after pointing to the oath, suggested the adding of an explanation. Now, the original oath of supremacy contained two propositions; the first affirmative, as to the kingly authority over the church; the second negative, as to exclusion of papal and all other foreign influence upon matters ecclesiastical or spiritual within the realm. This was an ancient oath; at the Revolution it had been modified, and in that state it continued. It was not matter of concealment, but of notorious history, that anterior to the Reformation, the papal authority did exist, and was exercised, though checked occasionally by the firmness of our princes and our parliament. In one instance, it had been restrained by an act of the legislature; but it remained for the Reformation to decide against the authority altogether. This was the oath required, and taken in the best of times, and which the experience of two centuries had confirmed. It was particularly necessary to observe what was laid down at the time of the Revolution. It was then considered, that a divided religion, a distribution of authority with a foreign power, was inconsistent with the safety of the state. All the intermediate statutes had proceeded upon the same principle; and with reference to the oath itself, he thought no 1414 language could possibly be stronger. The primary object of the oath was, not so much to confer authority upon the Crown, as to divest it from the pope. It was demonstrable that this was the first principle of the constitution, to the exclusion of the pontifical authority even in spiritual matters. It was impossible to possess a greater authority than that which was mentioned in the oath. Give any one a man's conscience, and you give him in some degree the guidance of his actions. But to return to the historical part of the subject. In Elizabeth's reign the oath was qualified by an admonition which contained two propositions:—one was, that the queen enjoyed no other authority than that which was enjoyed by her royal father and brother. Then what was that authority? Why, an authority altogether exclusive of foreign influence. The other proposition was this—a slander had gone abroad, that the queen, as head of the church, claimed the right of performing spiritual functions. This was an error even as to the right; for the being head of the church did not necessarily include a right to perform the spiritual functions. However, against this right the Queen protested, and this was the whole of the admonition. Referring again to the terms of the oath of supremacy, the right hon. member said it was impossible for words to be more exclusive. But then the clause under consideration stated that the Roman Catholics felt scruples upon the subject, lest the oath might be construed into a denial of the spiritual authority of the pope. This he rather conceived to be a gratuitous assumption; though undoubtedly it went to the exclusion of authority in civil matters. The clause, in short, he conceived to be an attempt to explain a modern oath by an ancient explanation, in no way applicable to the question. He now came to consider the enacting part. It was proposed to change the nature of the oath itself. It was proper to consider the terms. The right hon. member then read the proposed explanation; and, referring to the words "in any manner conflicting with the, duty due to his majesty from his subjects," observed, that this again was founded upon a gratuitous assumption; and no reliance, therefore, was to be placed upon the explanation. The interpretation he considered directly contrary to the tenor of the oath; and he called upon hon. gentlemen to consider whether its 1415 introduction would not be the adoption of a dangerous novelty. An oath was now substituted contrary to the tenor of the former; and the person taking the oath was to be informed, that the words of it were to be expounded differently from their, ordinary import. This he thought was holding out a dangerous distinction for the private conduct of individuals.—A distinction which he considered fitter for the casuistry of schools than the dignity of a British parliament. He had other objections to the measure, but he should forbear to state them, and should conclude by observing, that his objections to it in principle as well as in detail, was invincible.
§ Mr. Horace Twiss
said, he should not have presumed to rise immediately after the right hon. gentleman, whose great ability and high character made it so dangerous for almost any man to come into competition with him; but that no other member seemed disposed to speak, and he was anxious, as soon as possible, to bring back the question to the grounds on which the bill had been originally put by the mover. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last had said, that the admonition, of Elizabeth had gone no further than to disclaim any greater power than was possessed by her father and brother. Be it so: but her father and brother had no law entitling them to administer an oath of supremacy to their subjects. When the right hon. gentleman deprecated the danger of a foreign power over a British conscience, it was material to observe, that there was a religious as well as a moral conscience: that a power over conscience in matters of abstract religion, which was all that the Catholics sought to except, was quite distinct from a power over conscience in practical matters, as to which all honest men, whether Catholic or Protestant, were unanimous. The oath of supremacy, explained as Elizabeth had explained it, was the only test thought of for a century and a half. It as not till the comparatively modern date Of Charles 2nd, that any further test was thought of. And when, in that day, the test as to transubstantiation was for the first time imposed, it was the invention not of the monarchy to strengthen their own power, but of the opposition to weaken if. The monarchy resisted the tests then: to be consistent, it should now concur to abolish them. Very different seemed to be the light wherein 1416 the government, which saw, the birth of that measure, regarded its probable tendency, from that wherein it is viewed by those who now seek to continue it. The laws against Catholics undoubtedly grew more and more severe, till after William's establishment on the throne. But did that settle the law? Was it so meant by the whigs of that day? The late dangers of the constitution were too fresh to allow their returning in William's reign to a regimen suiting a state of confirmed, health: and therefore only the laws were for a while endured. Those dangers, it; is said, have often recurred, and may recur again; therefore, the restrictions must be continued. Such an argument would go to any length; to repeal the Habeas Corpus act, because it has been sometimes necessary to suspend it: it would go, in Ireland, to establish martial law for ever, because it has been sometimes necessary to proclaim it there—to give up now all that is valuable within the constitution, lest that constitution be endangered hereafter, "et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas" [Cheers]. If the founders of the constitution had been living now, would not they have been the first to apply that great maxim of all common sense, that the reason of the law ceasing, the law itself ceases also? Or must we take those wise, just, temperate legislators to have held this monstrous language to the Catholics, "We put you under a perpetual ban. Times may alter, may mend, but you shall not profit by the change: in the improvement of all else, your condition shall remain stationary and hopeless. Tranquillity, which this generation has not found, may visit our posterity, but your children shall never share its blessings."—The hon. gentleman then referred to a memorial prepared by William and the whigs for the treaty of Ryswick, expressing their opinion, that the penal part of the code might even then be safely repealed, and that if the Catholics behaved well on that indulgence, further concessions might be granted; but that jealousy was excited in the people, when all was sought at once. This document proved two things; first, that the whigs never meant the restrictions to be permanent; secondly, that this system of solicitation by little and little, which the Catholics were so much blamed for pursuing, was the very course which the founders of the Revolution themselves contemplated, suggested, and preferred.— 1417 The hon. gentleman then argued, that to treat these solicitations as they were treated in petitions to the House, as disturbances of the principles of the constitution for the profit of a few, was an injustice not more to the Catholics and their advocates, than to the Revolution itself; for it assumed that the Revolution had taken for its principle a narrow exclusion, which, in truth, it had but tolerated, as a special exception for a temporary danger. What was now sought was, not to introduce an anomaly, but to remove one. Do you ask, said the hon. gentleman, upon what merits the Catholics request this? I ask, upon what principles you refuse it? For on a question of liability to a penal code, warrantable only while there was danger from Catholic pretenders to the throne, the burthen of proof is not on us who defend, but on you who accuse. You say the code is not penal, but only exclusive; I say, that in principle there is no such distinction. The law is as much a penal one which restrains the advancement of your subjects, as that which restrains their fortune or their freedom. You thought the law penal which disabled the Catholics from holding land! What is the law which disables them from holding office? or where, in principle, is the distinction between the corporeal and the incorporeal freehold? It is said that, as we are a Protestant people, we ought to be represented by a Protestant parliament. Would a few Catholic members alter its character into a Popish one? No man, for instance, would approve a military parliament;—but the most constitutional denouncer of standing armies will not maintain, that the valuable presence of a few gallant members within these walls has given a military character to the House of Commons. What is our Protestant people; universally Protestant? No; Protestant as to the majority, Catholic as to a certain portion. Suppose that portion represented by Catholics; will not the parliament, as a whole, be still a Protestant parliament in the same sense in which the people to be represented are a Protestant people [much cheering]? But I should rely little on the one or the other constitutional theory, if there were danger in practice. You ask, where are we to stop? I answer, at the point which completes to every man the greatest share of freedom and of franchise which he can enjoy, consistently with the general good; there 1418 I will stop, and not sooner. Would I make the Catholic the established religion, of Ireland? If that were expedient for the general good, I would; but if it be not, how does this remission bring that result a step nearer? If the Bill pass to-morrow, how will the subtlest Papist whom a Jesuit ever bred, find himself forwarded in his supposed design to subvert the establishment? I have never yet heard it shown how these dreaded Catholics were to make a beginning, nor even how their means would be augmented by the change. Their political power would be increased of course, but that increase would be more than compensated by the diminution of moral force, by taking from them their Protestant allies, who would have a direct interest in opposing any minority that should attempt the disturbance of the state. Their pecuniary means would be the same afterwards as now. Then, as to their numerical strength, the only other weapon, do you fear that when their religion should become no longer an unprofitable one, they would draw over the majority to their faith? Sir, theirs is not the sort of faith likely to make its way in these days; the tendency of our times is rather to believe too little than too much [Hear, hear!]. But be the times what they may, I should have little fear: for I cannot forget that the Catholic religion did once possess the supremacy which you suppose it to be seeking now, and was too weak to retain it. If the Catholics could not keep the ascendant when they had it, what reason has experience given us to fear that they will be too strong for us now, when beside the inherent force of reason which first overthrew the Catholic establishment, and on which every good Protestant must believe his faith to be founded, we have the additional strength of the establishment and of the monarchy in our favour? But there is no fallacy or injustice which is not pressed against the Catholics.—Sometimes they are called tools of the pope: and though there is now no Pretender, no reigning Buonaparté on whose work these tools can be employed, yet we must not trust men subservient to the pope; and then, when the pope himself has told you he absolves them from such unconstitutional ties, you turn round and say, the pope's permission is nothing, for the Catholics will not be; bound by his authority. Sometimes we have a cloud of dark, dangerous tenets cited from this father, or that council, as 1419 if the doctrines of one set of men could be evidence against the character of another. Sometimes we have a cry about ancient persecutions, as if that excess had been peculiar to Catholic zeal—as if the Cranmers and the Calvins had not slain their tens of thousands—as if the subjects of 1821 were responsible for the blood that was shed in 1557 [great cheering].—The hon. gentleman, after exposing the fallacy bf the notion that the arguments for the Catholics would authorize the admission of a Catholic King, proceeded to disclaim the idea of arguing on any grounds of abstract justice, apart from those of practical expediency. The amount, said he, of power or liberty which I would give to a Catholic or to any other, is just so much as he can enjoy without an overbalancing evil to his fellow-subjects, that is, so much as it is expedient he should enjoy, no more and no less. You say he has enough for conscience, and it is not expedient to give him more, for mere ambition. Sir, it might, perhaps, be questioned, whether the mere attempt to escape from a disqualification, partaking, as most disqualifications do, of the nature of a stigma, can properly be called ambition at all; if it can, it is ambition of a very negative, moderate character. But call it ambition, if you will. Is the political ambition of 4,000,000 of British subjects a sentiment for a British legislature to discourage? What would long ere this have become of our Protestant establishment, nay, of the country itself, but for that honourable ambition of our people, which has armed and protected them alike against foreign- and against domestic oppression? If I thought that the Catholics were without it, I should hardly deem them worth the enfranchisement they seek [long continued cheering]. They are but few, you tell us, whose ambition is thus repressed; but what few are they? The noblemen and gentlemen of the land—the aristocracies of family, of talent, of fortune—the few without whom you govern but inconveniently; against whom, if they really were what your code presumes them to be, you hardly could govern at all; the few who lead the many, and through whom the many are aggrieved. Therefore, substantially and virtually, the many, as well as the few, are affected by your present deprivations [much cheering]. The honourable gentleman then adverted to the inconsistency of the exclusive laws in their present 1420 state; admitting the members of the Scotch Kirk and the Dissenters, all as much opposed to the establishment as the Catholics themselves, yet shutting but the Catholics. The right hon. gentleman behind him had recently expressed surprise to learn that these bills did no more than to place the Catholics on a footing with the Dissenters. The indulgence of the right honourable gentleman, a statesman moderate in all but his talents, must be his excuse for the irregularity of noticing the expression of a former night. The state of the law might be explained in a sentence. The Dissenters, as well as the church members, take freely the oaths of supremacy, and against transubstantiation. It was now proposed so to alter these tests as to let in, with the Dissenters, the Catholics too, the only non-conformists willing to take an oath at all who are now excluded by these oaths. The other test, the taking of the sacrament in Our church, is to be left untouched. At present you relieve Dissenters from this test, by the annual acts to relieve them from the penalties of omission. Those acts will operate equally on the Catholics.—so that, at any moment of danger, you have only to withhold the annual act, and then without any violence or innovation, you bar alike against Catholic and Dissenter, the door of every office in the land, from the Treasury to the town-hall of a borough [continued cheering]. The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) is afraid of introducing inconsistencies. There could be none to parallel those already existing. Your present frame of oaths, excluding Catholics, admits not only, as is fitting, the congregations of the Presbyterian kirk and of the Dissenting chapel, but, which on religious grounds is not so clear, those more philosophical professors who know only the religion of liberty and nature. Did the corporation of Colchester know this, when they petitioned a few days ago, for the preservation of the present system because sedition, treason, and blasphemy were wielding, as they poetically say, their unhallowed sceptres? There is none so seditious, so treasonable, so blasphemous, whom the system they cling to does not admit. The disciple of the author of the "Age of Reason" makes no mouths at the oath about transubstantiation! He who has renounced the whole of Christianity, may quite consistently renounce any particular creed He abjures freely the supremacy of the pope; for though 1421 he would rather be subordinate to a foreigner than to his native prince, all subordination and supremacy are naturally and sincerely odious to him. So, that while the code you uphold shuts out the Catholics, because, though true to their and our king, they, are also true to their own religion, it admits those who are, as has been justly said, "true to no king, to no religion true."—It has been often said, that your oaths exclude only honest men, while they admit dishonest ones. You may say you believe none of their swearing; but what can you say of their refusal to swear? No papal dispensation operates there. You have had an opportunity of trying, the sincerity of those applicants by a double test; by that of the oaths which, they will take, and by that of the oaths which they refuse [Hear, hear!]. It is monstrous in us to say, we deem you men not to be trusted on your oath, and therefore we tender you an oath that we may detect whether you are to be trusted or no. But you are not consistent even in this inconsistency The Catholic oath, which you affect to distrust at the table of this House, you act upon at your assizes, not only by trusting them as witnesses, because that you might explain away the necessity of the thing; but as jurors, upon the life and death of their Protestant fellow-subjects; nay, which some may think stronger yet, in questions of landed property between Protestant and Catholic. You are not more inconsistent as to the occasions of this partial confidence, than as to its objects. You have given the elective franchise to the body of the people; that is, you do already put your faith in the great mass of the uneducated population, influenced as they may be by their poverty, their prejudices, or their priests: they are safe enough. But the dangerous men to be shut out as the arch enemies of order and social polity, are the wealthy and cultivated ranks—whom their circumstances have placed above temptation—whom their intellect has placed above delusion—the followers of a monarchical creed—the hereditary aristocracy of the land. What would you say if any man were now for the first time to embody these contrarieties in a bill; declaring, that whereas it is expedient to exclude from trust and power, all persons not professing the established religion, it be therefore enacted, that no such persons be excluded except only 1422 the Catholics. That whereas the obligation of an oath is not deemed by Catholics to be binding on them, the only security against Catholics be henceforth the obligation of an oath. That whereas, nevertheless, it is expedient to conciliate, as far as possible, those who, are likely to use political power with judgment and moderation, the educated classes be deemed and taken to be for ever incapable of any such participation [repeated cheering]. You would not listen to the very reading of such a bill. And yet the mere sanctity of prejudice, the more than Popish superstition in favour of whatever has been or is, induces men to sanction a heresy against common sense, which originally they never would have countenanced, and to declare, by their solemn votes, that, absurd and inconsistent as this system on the very face of it may be, it is good enough for the appendage of that constitution which yet they profess to adore.—Sir, I will not touch upon the details of these bills; only, I cannot submit silently to be told, that the insertion of securities in the second of them, is a proof that their supporters think there are really dangers to be guarded against. We say there are none; that the securities are precautions against, an impossibility, indemnifications against nothing; but if there be timid men who deem that impossibility possible—who think that nothing something—we give them these boons as securities, not against danger, but against their fears, lest by chance, in the Midland district, about which we have been to-night alarmed, in a spot too central for any light to have reached, in the valley of the shadow of Dr. Milner, there be found, among the weaker brethren of the Protestant communion, any one whose appetite or whose slumber may be disturbed by the terrors of one against seven of the vicars Apostolic; of that, one whose authority is cited to prove that the Catholics will not be satisfied with this concession. I do not wait to inquire whether they will be satisfied or not. Parliament deliberates on their claims, not that it may make a treaty, but that it may make a law. Still less, I hope, will the House be disheartened by the consideration just now urged by the right hon. gentleman, that, former parliaments have refused this boon. I remember that the great historian of our legislation, lord Coke), of whose learning none is, more master than the right hon. gentleman, 1423 has noted, for the encouragement, as he says, of worthy and industrious attempts, and with his words, the result of an unequalled knowledge and observation, I will conclude, "Never any good bill was preferred, or good motion made in parliament; though sometimes it succeeded not at the first, yet it hath never died, but at one time or other hath taken effect."—The hon. gentleman sat down amidst repeated cheers.
§ Sir John Nicholl
said, that all parties must admit that the present bill went to work a great and important change in the constitution. He denied that it lay upon those who thought with himself, to prove the danger that would arise from admitting Catholics to all offices, except those of lord chancellor and lord lieutenant. On the contrary, he thought that danger was already proved by the old and recorded statutes of the realm, and that it lay with the proposers of this measure to show that the bulwarks which their ancestors had raised against strong and serious dangers could now with safety be removed. He denied that the acts excluding Catholics from office were enacted for any temporary occasion; on the contrary, they were permanently directed against the tenets of Roman Catholics. If an anti-catholic spirit did not pervade the whole of these laws, he did not know what their plain meaning was. They all expressly enacted tests against Catholic tenets, and lie held these acts as explanatory of the constitution. It had been said, that this was not a paper constitution: it was a constitution by law established, and he knew not how he could better show what was that constitution, than by showing what was the law by all the great statutes of the realm. He had heard it named a Titus Oates constitution. But, whatever name might be given to it, he knew it was a constitution founded in the glorious reign of king William, whose first speech from the throne in 1701 was drawn up by the great lord Somers. It was this glorious constitution which was now sought to be altered. This was the first time they were called upon to make that alteration which he felt to be a great and fearful change in the law of the land. If they attempted to invalidate this paper constitution as it was called, they might at the same time repeal Magna Charta, and the Act of Uniformity. He contended, that this was a qualified constitution which, from its lowest, up to its highest office, 1424 required tests to the exclusion of Catholics. The alliance of church and state required the religion of the country as an indispensable qualification for holding offices. He concluded by protesting against the admission of this qualified oath, which might be met by a mental reservation, as any security for the constitution, or any justification for the admission of Catholics to an equal eligibility to office with Protestants in a Protestant state.
Mr. C. Grant
said, that upon all former occasions, when the severity of the penal code had been relaxed, there was precisely the same denunciation of danger, and the same cry of alarm for the safety of the constitution in Church and State. The relaxations had, however, happily taken place, and the alarm was eventually proved to be unfounded. If the speech, then, of his right hon. friend were good for any thing, it must be carried much further than he intended it should be; for it went to prove that what they had hitherto done was wrong; that they ought to retrace their steps, and re-enact the whole body of the penal code of those laws which degraded Ireland, and tarnished the glory of an otherwise immortal Revolution. It was the misfortune of the spirit of legislation which characterised the legislature of that day, that it mixed up accidental events with permanent causes, and carried this error through so many of its enactments. The spirit of liberty seemed for a moment to be forgotten in the zeal of its enthusiastic admirers; and even the mild benevolence and charity of religion were for a moment forgotten in the ardour for its protection and support. The result of that mistaken system of legislation was most strongly felt in the two countries. In Ireland, it produced a government by the sword; in England, a government of freedom. In Ireland it ruled by the strong arm of overwhelming power, in England it ruled by the moral force of free opinion. Here it kept faith, and expelled those who had broken it; there it proffered faith, and at the onset, in the treaty of Limerick, violated that solemn pledge by the most flagrant breach of faith which occurred in modern times. His right hon. friend had endeavoured to show that, on the score of religion, that of the Catholic furnished, according to the statute law of the land, a permanent exclusion. But he had omitted to state, that so ineffectual was 1425 the barrier thrown up by these laws for the protection of the religion of the state, that a man possessing no religion was yet admissible to office. His right hon. friend, when he referred to these laws, should pause, to consider if they had been passed at the time with that coolness and deliberation which a sense of their importance should have dictated; or whether they were not carried through parliament in the tempestuous phrenzy of all parties who then had power, with a bustle of general acclamation, which was very ill-suited to calm and statesman-like deliberation. He denied that the period of the Revolution was that which ought to be fixed upon as the bright era of church history in this country. The Protestant church had had, long before that period, its ornaments and its martyrs: its Jewels, its Taylors, its Andrewses, and other great divines had previously written and bled in its service. These great divines never contemplated the permanent exclusion of the Catholics from an eligibility to power, as essential to the firm establishment of the Protestant church. When his right hon. friend talked of Magna Charta he had looked at him with great astonishment. When his right hon. friend was engaged in pronouncing an immutable exclusion of the Catholics from power in this country, on account of their slavish adherence to opinions uncongenial with liberty, be should at least have refrained from naming that great charter, of which Protestant England was so justly proud, by the recollection that it was extorted by a Catholic nobility from a Catholic king, backed by a Catholic pontificate. When the noble lord opposite (lord Nugent), on presenting the petition of the Catholics of England, on a former night, stated that only four of the names affixed to Magna Charta were now existing in England, and that the lineal successors of those four barons had signed his petition, the noble lord's declaration made every heart thrill at the mutability of human events, which brought before them, in the humble attitude of petitioners, as if to avenge the shade of king John, from whom the charter was unwillingly wrung, the successors of four of the great names which were affixed to that charter, humbly craving admission to those rights which their ancestors had nobly won for a whole people, but from which an ungrateful posterity had excluded them. His tight hon. friend had said, it was a novelty 1426 in legislation to introduce an explanation of an oath different from the original sense in which it was understood, and to offer that explanation centuries after the oath was framed. Now, it was an assumption to say, that the explanatory qualification conveyed a different meaning from the original oath. The oath was never intended to deny the existence of a spiritual authority in this realm different from that of the established church. Every body knew, both then and now, that there were Catholics in the empire, and that they acknowledged the spiritual supremacy of the pope. What the Catholics admitted was a voluntary and spiritual jurisdiction of the pope: at the same time with this admission they tendered the most unequivocal proofs of their allegiance, and only called for the explanation which would enable them to take the oath of supremacy.—The right hon. gentleman then proceeded to refer in detail to the acts passed in the reigns of Henry 8th, Edward 6th, and Elizabeth, to show that, even in those days, the legislature only claimed a temporal and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. They never aimed at the extinction of the spiritual power of the pope. They did not claim any thing against the right of "The Keys," which was the spiritual term then given to the spiritual jurisdiction exercised by the pope. As a proof of this, he referred to a work called the Reformatio Legum, which was written in the reign of Edward 6th, to show, that temporal and secular power was merely aimed at by the then laws. The acts of Elizabeth claimed, in fact, no new jurisdiction. Their very title—"For restoring the ancient jurisdiction of the Crown,"—showed that; and lord Coke said, that the act of Elizabeth was merely declaratory; that it conferred no new right, but explained prior enactments. Another authority of equal weight was sir M. Hale, who spoke of the supremacy; of the Crown as a common law branch of its prerogative. He would call the attention of the House shortly to the real object of the measure. Captious objections or the exercise of acumen in the discovery, of faults would in no respect aid its accomplishment: it was to be met with that fairness and candour that became mind duly impressed with the importance of, a subject in which the vital interests, of the empire were involved. The question now was nothing less than this—an what, principle henceforth the connexion between 1427 England and Ireland was to subsist? Was it to remain in that state of concordia discors hitherto preserved, or was it to be a firm, solid, and satisfactory union? He appeared on behalf of Ireland; but implored the House, for the sake of Protestants as well as Catholics—for the sake of peace, order and tranquillity—for the sake of the happiness and security of posterity—to adopt a measure that would be received with gratitude by a generous and suffering people. Ireland and her Catholic population were placed in a peculiar predicament; they were not allowed to plead their own cause on the question; and, while the rights and privileges of foreign nations were acknowledged and preserved, surely the House would not think it less its duty to acknowledge and preserve the rights and privileges of Ireland. He asked, to what her present situation was to be attributed; and why she furnished an example of which history afforded no precedent? Because, in politics, the object of her rulers had so long been domination; in commerce, monopoly; in agriculture, restriction; in religion, intolerance and persecution. In politics, commerce, and agriculture of ate, the system had been most beneficially changed; and though religion might be the last in the career of improvement, it would, perhaps, be the first in the production of amelioration. It was for the legislature to act, to decide, and to accomplish, and now, at length, though late, to fix the stamp of confidence upon the union between the two countries.
§ Mr. Brownlow
said, he was one of those who thought that no securities which the Catholics could offer would be sufficient; but, even to those who were of another opinion, the present bill must be very unsatisfactory. It was said, that the appointment of a commission would be sufficient security against the interference of the Catholics, but he contended that such a commission would be totally inefficient, it would be no more than impanelling a jury of Catholics to decide on the merits of Catholics. The provisions respecting bulls would be equally inefficient. The Catholics would regard the acts of a commission as an interference of unholy hands in religious matters. Was it likely that a country like Ireland, which was almost exclusively Catholic, could be conciliated by such means? He believed that there existed in the breasts of the Catholics of Ireland a longing desire to make their 1428 church the established church of that country; and if they obtained admission to that House there would be one step gained towards their favourite object. If this were the case, as he maintained it was, he begged the House to consider what would be the situation of the Protestant church in Ireland. If he should have the fortune to sit in that House after the admission of Catholics, he should feel himself bound to support what he conceived would be the first motion they would introduce, namely, that the tithes now paid by Catholics to the Protestant clergy of Ireland, should in future be paid to the Catholic clergy only; for there was nothing harder, upon a prima facie view of the case, than that the Catholics should be obliged to support the clergy of a different persuasion. The hon. member (Mr. Twiss) had said, that he would not advocate the eligibility of Catholics, if he thought that there was likely to be a preponderance of Catholic members. Let him look to the population of Ireland, and be would find that the Catholic electors were as four to one compared with the Protestant electors, and therefore it was but reasonable to suppose that the return of Catholics would be in the same proportion. The Catholics possessed both property and influence in Ireland; and if they did not, who could say, in the change which capital was daily taking, where this great qualification was likely to rest? They were legislating for posterity, and to posterity they would be accountable for the vote of that night.
§ Mr. Wetherell
said, that, in resisting the further progress of this bill, he was not about to contend for any factious or unsubstantial point, but for a leading and fundamental principle of the Protestant constitution of this country. In its preamble the bill asserted as a fact that there was a time when Catholics could take the oath of supremacy, and it was proposed therefore to restore that perverted and corrupted oath to its pristine condition, and to put such a construction upon it as to render it again palatable to Papists. This was an historical untruth. There never was a time when the oath introduced by the two statutes of Elizabeth was taken, or could be taken, by Roman Catholics.
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
challenged the learned gentleman to point out in the preamble of the bill any such a statement.
§ Mr. Wetherell
said, it was his intention 1429 neither to understate nor to overstate anything; but he understood the bill to assert, that, the Roman Catholics were always ready to take the oath found in the two statutes of Elizabeth, according to the meaning and interpretation introduced by queen Elizabeth into her admonition. It was further asserted, that it was an oath which at that time might safely be taken by Roman Catholics. After the death of Mary, Elizabeth had reinstated the reformation as it was in the reign of Henry 8th, but some strange gossiping tales got abroad, that the Queen claimed the supremacy in a different kind and quality to that enjoyed by her royal father: accordingly, an admonition was issued, addressed "to simple men," to counteract the notion that prevailed, that she demanded a right of personal ministry in the church—such as the christening of infants, the churching of women, and so forth: in this document she said, that "she did not challenge any power of administering in the church, wherein her subjects had been much abused by evil disposed persons." This was all the alteration made by her admonition and injunction on the oath of supremacy: "simple men" had been duped; and her object was to undeceive them, not to change the nature of the oath, which in the strongest and most comprehensive terms negatived the ecclesiastical supremacy of the pope of Rome. If a Catholic could take the oath then, there was no reason why he should not take it now. Upon this point he threw down the gauntlet, and dared any man to prove that he was incorrect in his assertion. If there were any persons who would be duped or imposed upon by the assertion of the preamble, he was one of the "simple men" who would not be deceived by it. Dismissing the preamble and its historical untruth, what did the clause provide? It ought only to have added to the oath the exception in queen Elizabeth's injunction; but, instead of doing so, it went a great deal further to say that no foreign power has superiority or supremacy which conflicts with the civil duties of the king's subjects, or with the civil rights of the king's courts: it was a direct claimer on the part of the Roman Catholics of what queen Elizabeth had disclaimed. For this reason he preferred the old oath to the new. It was a most preposterous and absurd misstatement.—But it was not merely to the oath, but to 1430 the principle, to the political and general consequences of the bill, that he objected. One political effect was, to admit Catholic legislators, and to enable them to fill the highest departments of the state, with two exceptions; and this could not be allowed without endangering the Protestant community. It was worth while to see how this object was carried into effect; how the Catholic servants of the Crown were to execute the duties imposed upon them. It was admitted that they were not to interfere in ecclesiastical affairs: that they were not to advise the Crown as to any ecclesiastical appointments: so that this enabling, capacitating, authorizing bill, disabled, incapacitated, and unauthorized Catholics with regard to all spiritual concerns. Suppose, for instance, that one of these much-injured and long-suffering noblemen were appointed secretary of state, or premier of an administration, he could not recommend a bishop, or fill up any ecclesiastical preferment within his gift or patronage. The French had a Ministre de Culte; but such an officer was unknown here; and the Catholic premier could only be half a minister, with half the power and half the duties that would belong to a Protestant. Thus this bill, pretending to erect a building, only half completed it, and left it open, naked, and unserviceable. This great and gross defect, this singular absurdity, was not to be laid to the charge of the eloquent gentleman who had introduced the bill: the necessity of the case compelled the insertion of it. True it was that, in such a case, ecclesiastical preferments were to be regulated by a commission, and that commission was to be named by the Crown; but, was it to be supposed, that the premier would not have his influence in this respect, and after all accomplish what it was the intention of this bill to avoid?—He would now direct the attention of the supporters of this measure to the privy councillor's oath. By that oath, the privy councillor was bound not to advise the monarch on this or that particular measure, but on every question connected with the well-being of the state. What was the consequence? Why, if this measure were carried, they must alter, not only; the oath imposed by the statute, of queen Elizabeth, but the privy councillor's oath also. But, if the Roman Catholic did interfere in ecclesiastical matters, what penalty was meant to attach to the infrac- 1431 tion of the law? Was it a fine of 6s. 3d., or of 3s. 4d.? He would contend that the supporters of the bill, who considered those exclusions as contrary to the rights of the subject, and injurious to that fair and honourable ambition which no man more ardently admired than he did, could not give to the Roman Catholic an exalted situation in the state, without expunging the oath of Elizabeth, and entirely altering that administered to a privy councillor. With respect to the interference with ecclesiastical authority, that point could be illustrated in a very easy manner. Suppose a Roman Catholic held the office of lord chamberlain, he could not even appoint a chaplain in ordinary to his majesty: so that whatever ecclesiastical duty was attached to the office, the Catholic liberators took care to transfer from him, and to impose the performance of that duty on others? Again, what would be the effect of the bill with respect to Catholics sent out to govern any of our colonies? It would be described as a very hard tiling that a man who had distinguished himself at Waterloo, should be prevented, on account of his religion, from going out as governor of Jamaica, or of any other of our West India possessions. But if he were sent out under this bill, what must they do with him? Why, he must proceed to his destination in one frigate, and his ecclesiastical coadjutor in another. The governor of a colony represented the sovereign: He had ecclesiastical power; in fact, he was the head of the church in that colony. Whatever power the king possessed in ecclesiastical matters, he, representing the king, had a right to exercise. "But," said gentlemen, "how unjust it is that a brave man, who has lost a limb in your service, should be debarred from proceeding to the colonies—from enjoying a splendid retirement as the reward of his services!" And how did those gentlemen propose to get over this injustice? Why, by placing the Roman Catholic in the possession of an office, the duties of which he could not perform! But what was likely to occur at the council board? It was well known; that various disputes, connected with ecclesiastical matters, were referred to it for decision. The consequence must be, that, whenever a case of an ecclesiastical nature was called on a the council board, Mr. Buller would be compelled to say to any Roman Catholic privy councillor present—"You must leave 1432 the board, or you will be guilty of an infraction of the law." This was the mode in which gentlemen intended to conciliate the feeling of the Roman Catholic! Not a day would pass without the occurrence of some circumstance far more grating to the feelings, of the Roman Catholic than any thing which could happen at present. It would be necessary, drawn up as this bill was, to have two individuals in every office in the state; one to perform the civil, the other to take care of the ecclesiastical duty. They were earnestly called upon to admit the Catholics to political power. But, were they to admit them at the hazard of overturning all the old established offices in the state? As the bill stood, they could not be admitted to the old offices: new ones must be formed for them. Gentlemen who were in favour of their claims would say, "We wish the Catholics to participate in existing offices;" but if they were placed in those offices, they could not perform the duties attached to them.—It must be conceded to him, that no Catholic could come into parliament without possessing the right of originating new laws. He would not stop to inquire what number of Catholics were likely to be elected, although he did not think with a right hon. gentleman that not more than 24 would be likely to gain admission. Those who supported the bill asked, "What danger can be apprehended from a few Catholic members?" The number likely to be returned was described as exceedingly limited—rari nantes in gurgite vasto. But he would remind the House, that 24 members might carry a great question. He would not argue from the vices but from the virtues of the Catholic body; and he would say, that if the same power were given to them which the Protestants enjoyed, if they were honest men, they would endeavour to promote the interests of their own church. They might even conscientiously act against the Protestant church which they were taught to consider less worthy than their own. Gentlemen argued that there was a great inconsistency in granting the elective franchise to the Roman Catholics, and refusing to let them sit in parliament. He could not see any inconsistency in allowing them to elect Protestant representatives, although, for the safety of the constitution, they were themselves excluded from parliament. But the advocates for the bill said, 1433 "You have conceded a great deal, and you must concede a great deal more." Many gentlemen, forming a galaxy of eminent orators and statesmen, had censured lord Somers, who, they observed, had granted something at the Revolution, but not enough. Let those gentlemen, however, take care, lest the same ridicule which was now cast on lord Somers might not hereafter be applied to themselves. Perhaps it would at a future period be said of them—"It is true, they have granted a good deal; but they have not granted all." Such would be the language of those who would not be satisfied unless every thing was conceded to them, and who would exert their utmost power to arrive at the attainment of their wishes—"Nil actum reputans si quid superesset agendum." He had no doubt that those who introduced this bill meant that it should be an ultimatum—a final measure. But who was to bind posterity? He did not think that, in point of fact, they were laying down a fixed and irrevocable settlement; but, on the contrary, that they were laying down a ground on which other demands and concessions were hereafter to be made. At one period, individuals were examined for the purpose of learning what concessions would put an end to all further demand? One of the persons thus interrogated had said, that emancipation was not thought more of than the drop of ink with which the word was written; but if it went to relieve the Roman Catholic from the burden of tithes, it would be considered as worth something. What were gentlemen doing? They were making a bargain between two parties, without knowing whether one of those parties would abide by the arrangement. He would appeal to the noble lord (Castlereagh) whose diplomatic talents had been so serviceable to his country, whether, in the course of his experience, he had ever heard of a contract having been drawn up between two states, when it was not known whether one of the two contracting parties would agree to the terms proposed? Looking to the papers connected with this question, he found that there was no one to represent the pope, no one to represent the cardinals, no one to represent the bishops; in short, no person to represent one of the parties, namely, the clergy, who were deeply interested on this occasion: So that when parliament put the wax on one side of the agreement, the party who had 1434 not been consulted might turn the other side to the fire.—Under all these Circumstances he looked upon the work not as done, but only as beginning to be done. Those who opposed the bill were taunted as narrow-minded and illiberal men; but he would quote individuals; and the man could scarcely be accused of illiberality who thought as they did. Mr. Locke, a writer of sober mind, never hesitated to say that the profession of the Catholic religion in this country was a matter of toleration. Again, if they looked to writers of a different class, who indulged in visionary and theoretical systems of government—such men, for instance, as Hobbes, Sidney, and Harrington, all of whom were liberal in their sentiments—they would find that every one of them laid it down as a principle, that a non-conformist to the national church was not to be admitted to the national councils or to the national parliament. Every one was aware that in republican Athens a non-conformist to the national religion was not allowed to sit in the senate; and in republican Rome, the man who did not profess the national religion was not employed in the business of the state. Whether they examined the sober opinions of lord Somers and Mr. Locke, or the less sober sentiments of those visionary writers to whom he had referred, it would be found, that the same principle of exclusion was maintained by them all. Such was the opinion of every respectable writer on the subject—with one exception. He alluded to Dr. Paley, who observed, that Roman Catholics and Protestants might meet in parliament in as friendly a manner as if they assembled to discuss questions of history or philosophy. Now, he could not conceive that Protestants and Catholics could meet in parliament precisely in the same way as if they assembled to form a hortus siccus, or to discuss some point relative to the natural history of birds, beasts, and fishes. Such questions as these were not calculated to excite those passions which questions connected with station, property, rights, and immunities must produce. In addition to those whom he had mentioned as holding the doctrines which he professed, he might also name lord Rosslyn, lord Auckland, and lord Bolton; the two latter noblemen having held the office of secretary for Ireland—individuals, on whose opinions he would place as much reliance as on those of the right hon. gentleman below him. They 1435 were informed that Mr. Fox, Mr. Whitbread, sir S. Romilly, and sir A. Piggott, were favourable to the Catholic cause; but when he mentioned lord Somers, Mr. Locke, and the different writers he had previously adverted to, the balance as far as names went, was entirely on the other side. The hon. member for Knaresborough, whom they all considered, on subjects of history, as a sort of professor in that House, told them, that in speaking of the power of the pope, they were not to argue from occurrences that had taken place in barbarous times. He would not detain the House with any allusion to the Spanish Armada, to Titus Oates's plot, or to matters which had happened at a very remote period; but he would refer to what had occurred in 1768, only about twenty years before the French Revolution, when the pope excommunicated the council of the prince of Parma. The French government took up the subject, and the French parliament in 1768, and the French king in 1772, made it high treason to hold any communication with the see of Rome. Now, what were they going to do? They were going, by the other bill, to legitimate, in the sec of Rome, that right of communication—that right Jo carry on a secret correspondence—which, in 1772, was made high treason in France. In 1791, the French National Assembly decreed, that no such correspondence should be carried on with the see of Rome. So that they were about to declare, that no danger was to be apprehended from a system, which one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe deemed it necessary to forbid, lest it should operate prejudicially to the state. He considered this bill as eradicating from the British constitution a principle, the rooting out of which would sooner or later involve the country in disturbance. He said sooner or later; for it would be found, that, because they had given a great deal, much more would be demanded from their posterity. The principle of this bill evidently was, that it should go to a given length, and that hereafter this given length would be enlarged and amplified. He saw nothing like finality in the bills on the contrary, he viewed it as, an opening through which future demands were to be made.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, that if ever a right existed to complain of the course of a debate, it certainly was on the present occasion. They were now called on to 1436 discuss an oath intended to be administered to his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects, and, in the course of four hours discussion, not a remark had been made on the question before the Horse, except what had fallen from his right hon. friend who spoke first. The other clauses of the bill had been discussed; the general principle had been discussed; even the other bill, though not before the House, had been discussed; but the clause which ought to have been considered had been passed over almost in silence. Now, this clause, if carried, did not open the door to the admission of Roman Catholics to seats in that House; for insuperable difficulties still remained. It did not decide from what offices Catholics should be excluded: it left to the House a full right to exclude them from parliament, and also from office, as far as the necessity required, and good policy warranted. But he demanded what would be the effect of this attempted conciliation, if the clause were negatived? It would immediately close the door on all conciliation. They could not then take office in this country; and, let it be remembered, that they could not take office, even if it were carried, except under such regulations as parliament chose to impose. The clause pledged the House to nothing; but its defeat would close the door to all concession, however just and necessary. He would not follow the learned gentleman through the excursive range which he had taken. He would not consider what the pagan establishments of Athens and of Rome had done. He did not think it was right to state the conduct pursued by those who prevented all Christians, merely because they were Christians, from holding office, as a fit example for the imitation of a Christian community. He did not mean to touch on the mass of information which the learned gentleman had extracted from the folio report of an lion, baronet (sir J. C. Hippesley); and he believed that the learned gentleman was the only man in England who had the patience to read the work of that individual. But he was sure that it the learned gentleman had read Mr. Burke's letter to Mr. Baron Smith, he never would have stated, that Mr. Burke was opposed to the claims of the Roman Catholics; and the learned gentleman, had thought fit to quote visionary writers, as he termed them, on the occasion; which 1437 was rather extraordinary for one who professed himself to be a practical man. He had called the attention of the House to the opinion of Mr. Hobbes, who was undoubtedly a very ingenious man. The learned gentleman had, however, spoken of him as an individual of great liberality, and as a determined friend of liberty. This certainly was the first time he had ever heard him so represented. He had, on the contrary, reduced despotism to a system, and made slavery a philosophical creed. He was the advocate of the most pernicious principles. In his Leviathan, le had treated every departure from the religion of the sovereign as a political crime. He had reduced to a system, not only persecution, but persecution of the worst kind. And the learned gentleman called on the House to depend on those visionary and speculative writers, instead of being guided by the opinions of all the great statesmen who had flourished in this age! Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, sir G. Savile, Mr. Burke, Mr. Windham, and lord Melville (who, above all men, was untainted by any visionary or theoretical views), were all favourable to the claims of the Roman Catholics. The last-mentioned individual had measures of conciliation near his heart, and contributed, in 1793, to their success. Every statesman of the first class, who had flourished in this country for the last fifty years, had been devoted to the cause of the Catholics; and yet these were the authorities against whom the learned gentleman had arrayed a body of political speculators! The learned gentleman had alluded to the examination of an individual who had delivered a very bold opinion with respect to Catholic emancipation? Who was that individual? Was he a Catholic bishop? Was he a Catholic at all? No, he was a Protestant, and no other than Dr. Macnevin, a member of a proposed directory, of an intended Irish republic. This was the gentleman who, with the liberal Hobbes and the practical Harrington, was opposed to the great men whom he had mentioned! The learned gentleman had also alluded to certain noblemen whom he stated to have supported the doctrines he laid down. One of those noble lords (lord Bolton) was, he supposed, a wise man; and of course, being referred to by the learned gentleman, was a man of some celebrity; though, for his own part, he was inclined to doubt the fact, since he had heard of him for the first time that night. Much 1438 curiosity was excited on that side of the House to learn who this Unknown celebrated personage was, with whom the learned gentleman had met in the course of his reading; but little information had been obtained on that subject. The learned gentleman was guilty of great negligence in reading a clause oh which he had descanted, as well as of great dogmatism, in making the observations which he had offered on it. If he had read the preamble carefully, he would have found that it contained no such matter as he had stated. It was there set forth, that his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects were always ready to take the oaths of allegiance and abjuration, but that they entertained scruples with respect to the oath of supremacy. This was the substance of the passage in question, which the learned gentleman had wholly misrepresented. The learned member had dwelt upon the direful consequences of a Catholic's becoming governor of Jamaica, or of any other British settlement. He would be glad to know what was, even under the present system, to prevent such a consummation. In what chapter of the constitution did the hon. member find that power with which he had thought fit to invest the premier, of advising the Crown in all matters relative to ecclesiastical preferment? The learned member talked of the inconsistencies to which the bill before the House would lead, as if the existing arrangements with respect to the Catholics, were the most complete, entire, and well-Concocted that wisdom could devise, instead of a mere jumble of incongruities—a mass of matter formed from a selection of every legal and constitutional anomaly. Talk of inconsistencies under the régime proposed! Look at the present system. Was not the elective franchise permitted to Catholics in Ireland, and denied to Catholics in England? Were not the highest military offices open to Catholics; and were not the lowest civil offices shut against them? The bill proposed to remove a thousand inconsistencies; and it was objected against it that it would leave half a dozen. Nor was the learned member content with arguing against the Catholics: he had put himself in their place, and judged of their feelings and opinions; and being so in their place, he fancied that the irritation of the Catholic body would be greater under the new system than it was under the old. With infinite 1439 deference to the sentiments of the learned member, he would upon that particular point, prefer taking the opinions of the Catholics in person. He would take the word of the duke of Norfolk in preference to the learned gentleman, who said he would rather be admitted to parliament and to office, under the proposed restrictions, than not at all. Then the House had heard something about the power of four-and-twenty Catholic members, if they thought fit to hang together, to turn the scale upon any division of the House. Why, upon a general question no doubt they might do so; but, upon a general question they could have no interest in doing so; and the moment it came to a question between Protestants as Protestants, and Catholics as Catholics, the little confederacy of 24 would bring a majority of some 620 about their ears. The real question for the consideration of the House was, whether the oath proposed by the bill to be administered to the Catholics did or did not afford as much security for their obedience to the sovereign as supreme head of the church, as an oath could give, or as a civil government was entitled to require.
spoke against the principle and provisions of the bill, and said he conceived the oath of Elizabeth to which the admonition annexed to the injunctions referred, and which was sanctioned by the act passed in the fifth year of her reign, had already received a legislative explanation, but one very different from that which seemed to be given to it by the present bill; because the Irish House of Commons, in 1642, resorted to that very oath to which the admonition referred, for the express purpose of excluding Roman Catholics from holding seats in their House, as fully appeared from the resolutions recorded in their Journals, in June 1642. The hon. member then read an extract from their Journals, reciting, "forasmuch as many members of this House, betraying the trust reposed in them by the commonwealth, have treacherously shown themselves privy conspirators and actors in this horrid rebellion; it is ordered—that no person, now a knight, citizen, or burgess for this parliament, and now present, shall be deemed a member of this House any longer, unless he shall forthwith accept and take the oath, &c. of supremacy of Elizabeth."
§ Mr. Goulburn
thought there was a 1440 great inconsistency in this measure, inasmuch as it went to require from the Catholic, of whom the state might be jealous, a less binding oath than that which was imposed on the Protestant who was not an object of suspicion. A course was thus taken that seemed opposed to all ordinary legislation; as a great security was demanded from the innoxious, while the security exacted from the object of suspicion was limited and diminished.
§ Dr. Phillimore
considered the objections urged against the clause to be, to say the least of them, hypercritical. Much had been done by the mover of the bill originally in consulting the wishes of those likely to be most affected by it; and the alteration which he had proposed in the form of the oath, arose from the disinclination avowed by the Catholics to subscribe to a more general and unrestricted oath. In reply to the learned member who charged the author of the bill with recording an historical untruth in the preamble he would meet the charge with a direct negative. All members of that House were, as well as all high official persons, compellable to take the oaths—first of allegiance and abjuration; 2dly, of supremacy; and 3rdly, that against the doctrine of transubstantiation. Now, the Catholics had never hesitated to take, when circumstances rendered it expedient, the oath of allegiance and abjuration; the difficulty always had been in taking the oath of supremacy. The learned member here took a review of a controversy recorded by bishop Burnet respecting the objections made by Catholics in that day to take the oath of supremacy. Throughout the controversy queen Elizabeth had expressed herself satisfied that the Catholics should take the oath in the qualified sense; which in fact was very nearly the same sense as that in which it was intended they now should take it. The consequence of this liberal line of conduct was, that the Roman Catholics of that day not only frequented the established Church, but actually partook of the sacrament. He felt that he was borne out by this example in supporting the clause.
said, it might appear strange, looking to the arguments which had been addressed to the House, and to the authorities by whom those arguments had been employed, that any doubt should remain upon the question; but he 1441 had not now to learn, that men brought up under a particular system—the advantages of that system by experience being known to them—were slow to exchange it for some novel theory, the merits of which might be problematical. England however, did not now stand alone; and was therefore not entitled to consult exclusively, her own convenience. She was connected with a country in which Catholicism certainly was not upon the decline; and in which, as certainly, the existing system could not be called a beneficial one. That system could scarcely be held beyond improvement under which a vast community laboured under the most galling privations—under which an individual might almost be left in doubt whether his exclusion arose from his being a Catholic, or from his being an Irishman. It was but justice in England to assimilate the state of Ireland as much as possible to her own. It was hard to withhold from that suffering country the constitution which had made England what she was. In addressing committee of that House, he should not be called upon to detail the. aggravated hardships which the operation of the existing laws imposed upon Ireland. He was addressing those who knew and valued the British constitution, and who would hold the privation of a blessing as tantamount to the infliction of a punishment. Since the last time this great question had undergone a discussion, the conduct of the Roman Catholics had been most exemplary. They had thus made good all the predictions of the advocates of their cause. He trusted most sincerely that this bill would pass; or, if it did not, that they who prevented its success would tell the House by what process, short of changing the religion and sentiments of a whole community, they hoped to obtain that concord which this bill, was calculated to effect, and when the period would arrive, at which the unmerited sufferings of the Irish nation were to be terminated.
said, that he should confine his observations to the question immediately before the committee; namely, whether the clause should stand part of the bill? It did not follow, according to his conception, that any objection to this clause applied to the principle of the bill; which, principle might be discussed upon bringing up the report, or upon the third reading. The principle of the bill might, 1442 indeed, be admitted, while the present clause was resisted; and therefore the rejection of this clause could not be fatal to the bill; for this clause contained proposition as to the oath of Supremacy, which was not inserted in the bill of 1813; he meant as to the temporal and spiritual supremacy of the pope. Hence, he argued, that the advocates for the principle of the bill were not pledged to this provision. His serious doubt upon this proposition as to the oath of Supremacy was, that while it consulted the conscience of the Catholic, it was decidedly against the conscience of the Protestant. Since the Reformation, the spiritual as well as the temporal supremacy of the pope had been disclaimed by the Protestants; who had indeed abjured all foreign influence upon the subject of religion. Prom the period of the Revolution, the Catholics were also required to abjure all foreign supremacy. But now it was proposed to establish a different and quite a new system, by omitting the word "spiritual" in the oath of Supremacy. By this omission then, it was proposed for the first time for centuries, to legalise the admission of the pope's spiritual supremacy in the British empire. The insertion of the provision alluded to, would be a direct recognition of that supremacy. By no former, legislative act, had any such recognition been made or implied. Neither in the act of 1792 for granting the Catholics the elective franchise, nor in the act for establishing the Catholic college at Maynooth, had any such recognition appeared. In the latter act, indeed, Drs. O'Reilly and Troy, both of whom held espiscopal stations in the Catholic church of Ireland, were denominated merely doctors of divinity. By the act of 1792, no Catholic hierarchy was acknowledged in Ireland, notwithstanding the extent of civil privileges granted at that time to the Catholic body. There was, indeed, no mention or recognition made of bishops, or, any other Catholic dignitaries. Yet, by the proposition before the committee, parliament was for the first time called upon to recognize the existence of such an authority; and if this proposition were acceded to, how could the Protestants afterwards deny the spiritual or ecclesiastical authority of the pope in this country? So that the very act which was to release the Catholic from the denial of a foreign supremacy, went to subject the 1443 Protestant to its implied admission. But he really could not conceive how any conscientious Protestant could subscribe to such an oath as was at present proposed. The right hon. gentleman then proceeded to observe upon the reference made to the authority of divines by his hon. and learned friend, with respect to the spiritual jurisdiction of the pope. It was said, on the authority of archbishop Bramwell, that the oath of Supremacy in the reign of Elizabeth did not interfere with the spiritual power of the pope, and that in his work called "Schism Guarded," he contended for that opinion; but on the authority of this very Bramwell, that oath always excluded the spiritual authority of the pope. There were three kinds of spiritual authority. The first was the power of orders, in which consisted consecration, ordination, admission to orders, &c. The next was the power of jurisdiction in foro conscientiœ, and it was instanced in this—"that Christ gave Peter a power to bind and loose in foro conscientiœ." There was another power of the pope, which was partly political and partly spiritual, or that in foro externo. The hon. member for Knaresborough said, that the power in foro externo was of a co-active nature. That there were many things which entered into its composition, in the opinion of Catholics, he could not but admit; but he believed they would not allow that part of it belonged to the king, and the other part to the pope. It was said, that whatever our laws divested the pope of, with regard to that third power, they invested the king with; but they never invested the king with the spiritual jurisdiction. If our statutes were appealed to, would it not appear that the power over reservations, commendams, dispensations, licenses, faculties, &c. were taken out of the pope; and would Catholics ever admit this? He knew there was a difficulty, and a melancholy one, on this point. Archbishop Bramwell said, that Henry the 8th committed no schism; that the Church of England was not schismatic in departing from the pope's authority—but the pope had been schismatic, in departing from the original jurisdiction of the church. Was not the difficulty in this case, then, such as to make it very hard for a Protestant to take the oath conscientiously?—The right hon. gentleman then adverted to the act of 1774, called the Quebec act, passed at a time 1444 when lord Thurlow was lord-chancellor and lord Loughborough solicitor-general. By that act the Roman Catholic religion was legally established and recognised in Canada; but it was expressly stipulated that the ecclesiastical authority of the king of England should be recognised. His argument then was, that this oath could not conscientiously be taken. He did say, that they must change the oath of Supremacy, which had been acted upon for so many years, before the Protestant could conscientiously subscribe to it; and that, if they changed that oath, of Supremacy, they must change the whole policy of the constitution.
could not help thinking that, from the manner in which his right hon. friend had treated this clause, he would not contend against the next clause, namely, the repeal of the Test against Transubstantiation. It might be a matter of debate, indeed, whether Catholics could take the Protestant oath of Supremacy, without doing violence to their conscience; but on the test against transubstantiation there could be no doubt at all. As to the oath of Supremacy, it was the same substantially as that now to be taken by the Catholics. His conviction was, that if they could be prevailed on to take the oath of Supremacy, the most weighty objection of all would be removed. The oath as it was originally, or as now modified, was substantially the same. If it could not be disputed that the words of the oath guarded against all mental reservation and equivocation, he did not see that any solid objection could be taken to the clause. He could state positively, that a considerable number of Catholics did take the oath of Supremacy at the late election. After some observations on the power of the pope and the oath of Supremacy, the noble lord said, that nothing ought to interfere to prevent all classes of subjects from paying an undivided allegiance; and above all, they ought to get rid of that bugbear which had had so unhappy an effect upon the public mind during the last century, and which had made the country subject to so much false alarm and unmanly apprehension. They ought now to adopt that wiser as well as more liberal plan, which, instead of separating a large class of the community from the rest of their fellow-subjects in political sentiment and situation, would give the Catholic an interest in the state, 1445 and the state a confidence in the Catholic.
§ The committee divided: For the Clause, 230; Against it, 216: Majority, 14. The chairman then reported progress, and asked leave to sit again.