§ The House resolved itself into a committee on this bill. The clause respecting the Declaration of Transubstantiation being read,
Sir T. Lethbridge
said, that he had always looked upon the declaration against transubstantiation as an insurmountable barrier to protect the constitution against Catholics. He would not say that if this bill passed there would be an end to the constitution; but he would say, that if this bill passed they must, injustice to the Catholics, repeal the Corporation and test acts, and then indeed there would be an end to the constitution. He recollected the evils which England had suffered under Catholic domination and trembled at the repeal of laws which provided against their recurrence. It was in vain to talk of general satisfaction with these bills, when, before two stages were gone through, the higher order of the Catholic clergy were protesting against them. He was ready to give the Catholics full credit for an unabated attachment to their religion; but he must be allowed to say it was a religion of absurdity. The best proof of its intolerance would be found in the fashionable new Spanish constitution. This measure was introduced in a vain and false spirit of liberality; and they had now the clearest proof that they could never satisfy the Catholics, without violating the constitution. He had no objection to let Catholic counsel have silk gowns, though he could not suffer them upon the bench. But how would that benefit the great bulk of the people?
, of Galway, contended, that the religion of Roman Catholics of live present day was not of that intolerant character which the hon. baronet attributed to it. He had seen marriages in Ireland between Roman Catholics and Protestants: he had been the Roman Catholic wife bringing up her child in the religion of her Protestant husband. The argument which Dr. Milner and his friends were so fond of putting in the front of their battle was, 1446 that this bill would destroy the Catholic religion; whereas the fears of the hon. baronet went to its too great encouragement and protection.
§ The clause was agreed to.—Upon the reading of the third clause, that nothing in this act should extend to repeal any of the laws in force respecting the Protestant succession to the throne, the uniformity of public prayers, or the administration of the sacraments in the united episcopal church of England and Ireland,
rose to make his promised motion, for the insertion of a clause in addition to the above, providing that nothing in tins act should extend to dispense with or repeal any of the laws now in force, excluding Catholics from sitting or voting in both houses of parliament. There were, he was aware, two parties to whom he had to address himself; one who thought that the measure should be unaccompanied by any qualifications or restrictions; and another, which formed, he hoped, the larger party in that House, who combined with a wish to make every due concession to the Catholics, a desire to obtain adequate securities for the maintenance of the Protestant establishment. Upon the former of these parties, he could not flatter himself with being able to make any impression, and therefore he had only to request their indulgence. But he begged the particular attention of the latter, while he stated the grounds of his motion; because he felt that if the bill were passed into a law, without the provision which he had to submit, all the other restrictions or securities which might be provided would prove utterly nugatory; for if such a degree of political power were put into the hands of the Catholics as this bill proposed, it would be quite absurd to suppose that they would not act upon the maxims and principles which bad always characterised the professors of that religion, or that they would not use this power for the purpose especially of repealing any restrictions disagreeable to their clergy. He was glad to find that the right hon. baronet who had undertaken the patronage of these two bills was disposed to propose, that the bill of Securities should be engrafted upon that for Concession. This, he thought, ought to have been the case from the beginning, in order to guard against the danger of having the concessions passed without those securities, against, which it appeared that some of the Catholic clergy and others, who had a lead among the 1447 Catholic body, were now raising a loud outcry. He was aware that the author of the bill had stated at the outset, that he saw no objection to the incorporation at present proposed; but yet he could not undertake to say, whether the proposition of the right hon. baronet resulted from choice or necessity. His right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) and others, had expressed an opinion, that parliament should pass a measure of this nature without any regard or reference to the judgment of the Catholics, with whom it was not for that or the other House to enter into any treaty or negotiation, but to accede to a measure of necessary public justice and expediency. There might be in such language a vast deal of dignity; but he must with deference say, that it did not appear to him to contain much of common sense. It would be recollected that the Catholics, who composed a large proportion of our fellow-subjects, were partly, at least, under somewhat of foreign influence, and that it was-rather inconsistent to maintain that their judgment or wishes should not be regarded as to the merits of this measure; while it was on the other hand alleged, that that measure was mainly desirable as a means of conciliation, and as calculated to satisfy all parties. Yet it was evident, that many of the Catholics whom it was hoped to conciliate, were now forward to repudiate, condemn, and reject the provisions of the bill for providing some securities for the Protestant establishment. This was the known disposition of the Catholic clergy, who had notoriously more I influence over the laity than those of any other church in the world. Upon the opinion of the Catholic clergy, then, it must depend, whether a measure of this nature would be received as a boon, or regarded as an act of persecution; and that opinion was pretty well understood. Unless, indeed, the Catholic clergy of Ireland should depart from all the principles which they had solemnly declared but a few years ago, it was impossible to doubt of their hostility to the provisions of the second bill; for those clergy declared the most determined objection to give the king any power of original nomination or direct negative upon the appointment of Catholic bishops or other members of the Catholic hierarchy. If, then the Irish clergy had not changed their sentiments, the House should consider, whether, in acceding to the measures tinder discussion, it might not, instead of promoting peace and harmony in Ireland, 1448 contribute rather to produce agitation, dissent, and even tumult in that country.—It would be remembered that the bill of 1813 was abandoned, because the clause was negatived for admitting Catholics into parliament; but that abandonment proceeded from the authors of the bill itself, and rested upon grounds which he could hot at all comprehend; especially as the bill without that clause contained many valuable concessions to the Catholic body. For all those concessions he was a ready advocate: but beyond those concessions, he was not prepared to go one step. He would never agree to have Catholics admitted to either House of Parliament; because he thought their exclusion most essential to the security of the Protestant establishment. He would always act upon the measure of a great statesman long since no more, that those men should not be admitted to partake of the powers of any system, whose principles must prompt them to desire the overthrow of that system. The principles of the Catholic body did not appear to have undergone any change; and if no such change hail taken place, it was absurd to suppose that if the professors of this sect were put in possession of political power now, they would act on different principles from those which had actuated their conduct when in power heretofore. By this bill it was proposed to invest the Catholics with power, which he could not contemplate without alarm. If it were passed, Catholic representatives were likely to be sent to that House from a decided majority of Irish counties, as well as from some English boroughs. When the elective franchise was granted to the Catholics in 1793, that concession was understood to be conclusive. Yet it was now held, that the grant of a right to sit in that House was the necessary consequence of the former concession; and, if Catholics were admitted into parliament, what should prevent the proposition that that religion, which was embraced by the great majority of the Irish people, should be the established religion of that country? It was, indeed, a principle laid down by a number of accredited writers, among whom were some distinguished Protestants, that the religion of the great body of the people in any state ought to be the established religion of that state; and if the Catholics were invested with the political power proposed by the present bill, what was to prevent them from pressing 1449 the adoption of that principle? But, if Catholics were admitted into parliament, what guarantee was there for the continuance of the Test and Corporation acts, which Blackstone called the bulwarks of the constitution? The Catholics would have a common interest with the Dissenters in producing the repeal of those acts; and it would he recollected, that in 1790, when that repeal was last proposed, there was only a majority of twenty against the entertainment of that proposition. Let the committee also consider whether, if Catholics were invested with political power, it was possible that they would be reconciled to the payment of a double ecclesiastical establishment, or that they would not endeavour to get rid of that burthen, especially as in such an endeavour they would be seconded by the other Dissenters? But the dangers likely to result from the adoption of such measures were quite palpable and alarming as to Ireland. He should not, indeed, be much surprised, if this bill were passed, soon to hear of propositions in that country for the alternation of the dignities and emoluments at present enjoyed by the established church between the ecclesiastics of that church and those of the Catholic communion. With respect to the oath itself, as it now stood, a great deal had been said. It should be recollected, that oaths were frequently rendered nugatory, by the mode of interpreting them; and it might not be improper to consider in what way the oath proposed by the Irish parliament in 1793 was explained. The words of that oath appeared too clear to be misunderstood. They were these: "I do solemnly swear not to exercise any privilege to which I am or may be admitted, to the disturbance of the Protestant religion and government of this country." Yet the interpretation given to this oath was, that they were bound not to exercise their privileges in any way which might violate not only the established religion, but the government of the country; because it was contended, that the words religion and government were connected together, without any comma after the word religion. Was it known to the committee, that an order of Jesuits was canonically established at Stoneyhurst, in Lancashire, and another at Castle Brown, in Ireland? That at Stoneyhurst was established by the Pope's authority in 1813, though it was not finally sanctioned till August, 1814. When the House recollected the 1450 way in which the Jesuits had formerly exercised their influence, they must see I the danger which would result from the education of the youth of high families, who were afterwards to take their seats in that House, in such an establishment. Such was the horror in which the Jesuits were held, that they had been driven out of Russia, where they were long tolerated; and in Spain, Piedmont, and Naples, they were either not tolerated, or at least in very great disrepute. The hon. member concluded by deprecating any concession, which, by opening the door of parliament to Catholics, would dispossess the House of those securities which were necessary for the security and permanence of the established institutions; and moved for the insertion of a clause in the bill, excluding Roman Catholics from seats in parliament.
said, that having never before ventured to deliver his opinions upon this subject, he begged leave to trespass for a few moments upon the attention of the House. He had not abstained from addressing the House, because he did not strongly and anxiously feel its great importance, but because he had always seen it in such able hands, as suppressed any wish on his part to offer his sentiments to the House. He confessed, that he was one of those who considered the principle of restraint as of very little consequence; for if he looked only to the obligatory power of enactments; he should think that they had a very slender hold upon the powerful body of the Roman Catholics. When he knew, however, that the Catholics were governed by the same passions and interests as ourselves—that they were men who possessed a great stake in the country—and that they were as sincerely attached as the Protestant part of the community to all that was most valuable in the institutions of the country, he looked to those considerations rather than to any legislative enactments as the best security against the fancied dangers of the hon. gentleman. The hon. gentleman had said, that if the Catholics were admitted into parliament, they would immediately unite and overturn the whole Protestant power of this country. But, did the hon. gentleman really believe that the Protestants were grown so indifferent to the established religion, and had so little regard for all the national institutions, as to stand tamely by and see them overturned by a small 1451 minority in the nation? He hardly expected to be called upon to defend the measures of Mr. Pitt against the hon. gentleman; but he must say upon this occasion, that he had never heard so gross a libel upon the memory of a great man, as that which had fallen from the hon. gentleman in his description of the measure of 1793. He had characterised that measure which extended the elective franchise to the Catholics as a mere political expedient of the day, in which a race for popularity was run between the two contending parties. He denied the fairness of this description. Mr. Pitt, in adopting the measure of 1793, saw that a change of circumstances demanded new concessions: he saw that the time was come, at which the elective franchise might be safely conceded to so large and important a body as the Catholics of Ireland. But, did Mr. Pitt, or the gentleman who supported him, mean to stop there? Unquestionably not; for seven years after, when he proposed the Union, one of his main arguments was, that if the Catholic population were merged in the Protestant population of Ireland, it would then be safe to grant them farther rights and privileges. It was natural that the Catholics having obtained, and fairly exercised, the elective franchise, should require to be admitted to the representation; nor could it be supposed, that having obtained the first concession, they would stop short, and not require more. It would be just as absurd to tell a child he might walk, but must not think of running, as to grant the elective franchise to the Catholics, and deny them that of representation. Equally absurd was the apprehension of the hon. gentleman, that 30 or 10 Catholic members admitted into that House would be capable of obtaining an ascendancy which would prove fatal to the Protestant interest, and to the existing institutions of the country. The hon. member concluded by declaring, that the concessions to the Catholics, to the full extent proposed by the bill, were calculated to promote the essential interests of the country.
§ The Speaker
said, he thought it right to express his sentiments on the present occasion, and to state the reasons which led him to oppose those from whom he had the misfortune to differ on the present occasion He would endeavour to Confine himself to the clause now before the committee, and abstain from going generally into the merits of the bill. He 1452 admitted, with every one who bad spoken, that the exclusion of the Catholics was a great evil—an evil that could not be justified without an adequate reason. But the framers of this bill recognized the principle of exclusion—of absolute unqualified exclusion—from holding ecclesiastical and judicial office connected with the administration of the laws affecting the established church. He did not but say that this might be perfectly justifiable; but, when there was a jealousy of a person professing the Roman Catholic religion participating in the administration of the laws directly affecting the church, he did not know how he was to be answered when he objected to their participation in the framing of laws by which the church was to be governed. This consideration led immediately to that of the clause by which the Catholics were admitted into the two Houses of Parliament. When he looked to the preamble of this bill, in which it was stated, that the laws relating to the ecclesiastical establishment were permanently established, it was a necessary inference, that the Catholics were excluded from judicial offices in ecclesiastical matters, lest any injury should arise from their mal-administration. But, when those laws were said to be permanently established, the meaning of those words could only be, that they were permanent so long as it should not please parliament to alter them. Was it not reasonable, therefore, to feel a jealousy as to the continuance of those laws, as well as to guard against their mal-administration? The hon. member who had just sat down seemed to think that the hon. member for Corfe Castle had carried his views of danger to an unnecessary extent; but it surely behoved them, in legislating on so important a subject, to take the longest view within their reach; for the law once passed was beyond their reach, and if any consequent mischief should arise, it would be no answer to say that the law might be repealed. The hon. member for Corfe Castle said, that there was much ground for alarm; and the hon. member who last addressed the House, thought there was no ground at all; but both the one and the other opinion were mere speculations. They were speculations upon which he did not presume to judge; but he must say, that upon, a question for such paramount importance, he would rather look to the security of the law, than trust 1453 to the results of chance. The hon. member for Bramber had said, the other night, that he felt strongly inclined to believe that if the restrictions upon the Roman Catholics were removed, many of them would abandon their faith, and become Protestants. It was natural for that hon. gentleman, being himself an extraordinary good Protestant, and looking as he did to the intrinsic merits of the Protestant faith, to entertain such an opinion; but he doubted whether a good Catholic would not be equally inclined to say, "only give me admission into the House of Commons, and I will so convince you of the truth of my religion, that you will all turn Catholics." Believing, then, that it was a proper jealousy which excluded Roman Catholics from the administration of certain laws, he must confess that he could not see how the same principle of exclusion should not apply to the present case. In reference to the alterations proposed on a former night, not wishing to disguise his opinions, he would say, that neither the alterations proposed, nor any alterations, could change his opinions—which were unfavourable to the general provisions of the bill; but still he admitted, that the difficulties were accumulated in consequence of the alteration which had been made in the clause originally proposed. It was contended by some hon. gentlemen, that the words proposed to be added, made no difference in the meaning of the clause; but, if that were so, where was the necessity for alteration? He could wish to know why a severer oath was to be imposed on the Protestant than on the Roman Catholic. If that at present in existence was not thought necessary to secure the Roman Catholic, he could understand why it was altered; but he could not understand why a more rigorous oath should be tendered to the Protestant than was administered to the Catholic. The decision of the House on a former night had thrown some difficulty in the way of their proceeding. It was now said, that there would be a sort of breaking faith, if the House adopted the present proposition after deciding as they had done on the oath. He did not see that there would be any inconsistency in adopting the present amendment. The oath which had been decided on, would admit the Catholic to many situations which he did not fill before; and therefore it was not fair to charge the House with incon- 1454 sistency, if, having agreed to the oath proposed on a former day, they should now adopt the amendment. The difficulty that he had from the beginning was this:—He objected to two oaths being tendered; and the more so, as the more rigorous oath was reserved for the Protestants. The hon. gentleman who spoke last had said, that the whole question turned upon three points; whether, on the admission of the Catholics to parliament, the safety of the state could be guaranteed; whether the conduct of the Catholics entitled them to the enjoyment of such a privilege; and whether, supposing those points to be allowed, this was not the most convenient time that the concession should be made? With respect to the last, though he had not the same confidence in the success of the measure, he agreed with the hon. member, that never was there a time when the deliberate judgment of parliament was more likely to be the deliberate judgment of the people. As to the second point, he was most willing to admit that their conduct, for a long time past, and the benefits which they had conferred on the country, entitled them to every thing that could be granted consistently with the safety of the state. He did not doubt their sincerity, but he did not think that their admission to seats in parliament was a privilege which, in conformity with their tenets, they could exercise beneficially to the country and with safety to the constitution. In his conscience he did not believe that such a privilege could be safely granted. This was his sincere and deliberate opinion; and, as an honest man, he felt himself bound to support his hon. friend's amendment.
§ Mr. Canning
said, he agreed with those honourable members who considered this as the most important point of the bill. He agreed that it was that of which, if refused, the refusal would take much from the value of any other concessions, and of which, if conceded, the concession would enhance greatly their importance. He agreed that it was a point, the granting of which would form the key-stone, of that arch which they were erecting, and complete that incorporation of interests which was the object of those who took part in promoting this bill. [Hear, hear, hear!] He agreed, at the same time, that they who, with him, contended for the admission of Roman Catholics into parliament, were not entitled, from any previous 1455 vote to which the House had come in the course of the present discussions, to assume this point as conceded, or to preclude a renewed examination of it in the present stage. Nothing had been conceded, in fact or in argument, that could prevent members from deciding upon the point before them, according to its merits [Hear, hear!]. Differing as he did from the right lion, gentleman who had last addressed the committee, he begged to guard against any misapprehension of what he should say, by offering at the outset the tribute of his acknowledgment for the general candour and liberality with which he (the Speaker) had stated his opinion [cheers], an opinion, it was unnecessary to say, formed most conscientiously [cheering], and not urged by the right hon. gentleman beyond the bounds of fair argument and discretion [Hear, hear!]. Whatever the result might be, he (the Speaker) would have the satisfaction of feeling that he had contributed his full share to the elucidation of the question and to the good temper which had happily pervaded the whole discussion [Cheers].
He would now proceed, first, to state what he might conceive to be the claims (the extent to which he understood the term "claims," he would afterwards explain, in order to guard against misconstruction), the claims of the Roman Catholics to admission into parliament; and 2ndly, he would inquire what dangers, real or imaginary, might obstruct the concession of those claims. Now, as to the term "claims," he was ready to avow his conviction, that neither an individual, nor a body of men, could be properly said to have any natural claims belonging to them as men, to any political franchise or employment. The claims of men in a civilized society were subject, not only to limitation from the circumstances of the times, but to lasting control from the necessity of the state. The exclusion of the Roman Catholics from parliament was just, if it was necessary; and the point now under discussion was, whether such a necessity existed or not [Hear, hear!]. Without reverting, however, to any wild theory of natural right, and under the qualification which he had already explained, he had no hesitation in affirming, that in every civilized society, and in every well-constituted state, wealth, ability, knowledge, station, gave a claim to office; and that eligibility to office had 1456 always been an object of ambition with the most cultivated minds. In this country, for ages past—and he hoped for ages to come—the highest object had been, was, and would be, to obtain a scat in the assembly which governs the counsels of the nation. To be excluded by positive enactment from the pursuit of this object of ambition, he would not say we an exclusion which no circumstances could warrant and no expediency justify, but it was an exclusion so severe as to be justified only by circumstances which could not be mistaken, and an expediency not to be avoided or controlled. [Loud cheers.] The burden of proof rested with those who contended for the exclusion. Exclusion was the exception. The general rule was the other way. Undoubtedly, if we looked back to the time preceding the Reformation, we should find that no class of society was then precluded from the political service of the state. The distinction grew up with the Reformation, a transaction affecting the whole of Europe, and the policy external and internal of every state composing the European commonwealth; which changed the line of demarcation between nations and separated each people among themselves. A Protestant and a Catholic interest grew up, which divided, and classed the nations of Europe; and within each nation took place a correspondent division and classification; which had the double effect of arraying different parts of the same community against each other, and creating in each part respectively a sympathy with foreign states. Similarity of creed was borough into competition with identity of country and in many instances, and on many occasions, it could not be denied, the religious sentiment was too strong for the patriotic. Grant, then, as he might safely do for argument's sake, that during the existence of this struggle in its full force, it might not be safe to admit to political power the professors of any other than the predominant national religion, and that such a state of things justified exclusion. Still, if that state of things no longer existed,—if the struggle between patriotism and religious sympathy was at an end,—if in all the nations of Europe, whatever might be the form of their government or the modification of their faith, that line of demarcation was effaced (with the exception, he would admit, of Spain and Portugal, where the Reformation never made 1457 its way, and where therefore the materials for conflict and subsequent reconcilement had not been created) and if we still saw that line in full force among ourselves [hear, hear]—if we found the only trace of that demarcation in this country, a country blessed with a greater portion of regulated liberty than any other—a country in which every individual, born in whatever station, could rise to the highest honours under the Crown by the exercise of talent, industry, and virtue;—must not we be at a loss to reconcile this Inconsistency; and ought we not to look anxiously to' the time when it would be entirely removed [Great cheering]? He therefore did not contend,—his argument did not require that he should contend—that at the period immediately subsequent to the Reformation those who continued attached to the church and court of Rome, after the bulk of the population of England, as well as its Crown and parliament, had embraced the tenets of the Reformation, and abjured all temporal as well as spiritual allegiance to the pope, might not be just ably excluded from political power. He troubled not himself with any reasoning upon this point; but he did contend for the fact, that whatever disqualification was then imposed on the Roman Catholics by the governing power, was justified on the ground of danger from foreign interference, foreign connexion, and foreign allegiance; and that, without one exception, that danger was stated as constituting the sole necessity for such disqualification [Cheers]]. But where was now the danger of foreign interference, foreign connexion, or foreign allegiance, which justified the maintenance of that distinction in this country which other countries had abolished? [Hear, hear!]. He called upon the House, therefore, to reform so unjust an anomaly if it could with safety be reformed [Cheers]. By the acts which excluded Roman Catholics from parliament, foreign allegiance was distinctly stated as the cause of the ex-elusion. It was stated in the statute of Elizabeth the more distinctly, from the partiality of its operation. The Roman Catholic Commoners were excluded by it from seats in the House of Commons; but the right of the Roman Catholic peers to sit in the House of Peers was not taken away. And why? because the Roman Catholic peers were less Catholic than the Commons?—because the Commons 1458 continued to hold doctrines which the Lords had abjured? No such thing. In this respect there was no difference between them. The reason was avowed to be this: The Queen having other means of ascertaining the fidelity of the peers, it was therefore not necessary to exclude them. It was hot therefore doctrine or dogma; it was not transubstantiation, but political attachment which formed the ground of admission or exclusion. The individual Peers being under the Queen's immediate eyes, she could satisfy herself of their political allegiance and attachment; but the multitude of the Commons precluding any such personal security, it was thought necessary to exclude them from admission to parliament [Cheers].—So much for the principle of the law. And now what was the extent of its operation? A period of about 260 years had elapsed since the statute of Elizabeth was passed. For not much less than one-half of that period Commoners alone were excluded from parliament—Peers continuing to sit there. During that time, therefore, at least there was no change in the policy of the exclusion. It rested on the grounds on which it was originally enacted—dread of foreign allegiance, not danger of popish faith. In fact, the religious reason for the exclusion, dated only from the act of Charles 2nd;—an act passed in a moment of delirious fear and fury; the sure advisers of indiscriminate violence, and comprehensive and unsparing proscription. Then, for the first time, the creed of the Roman Catholic was made the test of life political loyalty. The belief in transubstantiation was taken as equivalent to disaffection, or rather as an unfailing indication of it; and tried by this test, the hitherto unsuspected Roman Catholic peer, could not but be involved in the general disqualification of his Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. Now, he must be allowed to ask, why was the danger so much greater at the present moment than it was in the 5th of Queen Elizabeth,—than it was from that time to the 30th of Charles 2nd? For the present, he left the Commoners out of view; but as we were to go so much by the wisdom of our ancestors—why might he not put our older ancestors against our more recent ones,—the days of good queen Bess, against those of the second of the Stuarts, and humbly inquire, upon what imaginable ground if the peers of Elizabeth's time, who professed the Roman Catholic religion, should have been 1459 suffered to mix in affairs of state, it was unsafe to admit the Peers at the present day? [Cheers]. Upon what strange apprehension or possibility were Catholic peers not only excluded, but deprived of their birthright? [Cheers]. For be it remembered, they continued peers of England; they enjoyed their titles of precedency; but they must not take their seats in parliament. They had been summoned to attend on a late trial, and were obliged to pay the postage of letters inviting them; but they were not allowed to come. It was safe that they should be summoned; but it was not safe to remove the objections to their complying, to their exemption from postage, and admission to take their places. Not a word had been said in justification of this strange inconsistency and injustice. The peers' right to sit in the peers' house, in fact, was only suspended. Was it possible to conceive this suspension necessary? Were the Howards and the Talbots so degenerate from the character of their ancestors that the constitution would not be safe if they were admitted to the seats which they claimed under that constitution? [Cheers]. So much as to the peers, whose case he verily and in all sincerity felt to be quite irresistible.
Now as to the lions who were roaring in our own lobby, who, if we once admitted them, would turn us out of doors. He could not reason with antipathies. Some persons had such an antipathy to cats, that the) were sensible of the entrance of one to a room before they saw where it was perched. He (Mr. Canning) never felt annoyed at sitting, as he often had done in that House, next to a dissenter [Laughter and cheers]. He really could feel no apprehension of that sensitive kind. He would grant, for the argument, that 100 Catholic members might be returned, partly from Ireland and partly from England; he would grant that they would combine; he would grant that they would combine for overturning the ecclesiastical establishment: but, granting all this, he asked how they were to go about it? It must be—1, by force of reasoning; 2, by force of numbers; or, 3, by force alone. Was it that the eloquence of the 100 members would succeed in persuading gentlemen attached to the Protestant establishment to join them in destroying it, in order to make way for the magnificent edifice of mitred popery? [Cheering]. Could any one believe that 1460 the members who might, in consequence of this bill, be admitted to seats in parliament, would move such a project or could any one suppose for a moment, that the slightest motion which had such an end in view, would not be resisted?
An hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Wetherall) had exemplified what the opponents of the Catholics understood by force of reasoning in a singular manner, when he said the other night, with respect to archdeacon Paley's arguments on the subject of the Catholics, that if he were called upon to refute the archdeacon, he would throw his book into the fire. The hon. and learned gentleman was, in this mode of settling a dispute, only, imitating, and imperfectly, the first great disputant of the reformed religion, Henry 8th; who challenged a poor schoolmaster to debate some article of faith with him, on this condition, that if he, the schoolmaster, was worsted in the argument, he should, be burnt as a heretic. It was unnecessary to add, that victory declared for the king; and the poor schoolmaster was accordingly thrown, where the hon. and learned gentleman proposed only to throw, the archdeacon's book,—into the fire. Against such a form of syllogism, he would not answer for it, that the hon. and learned gentleman himself, with all his protest antism, would be proof. But happily, it was a form which could only be applied by those who possessed a superiority of force of another kind, from which he trusted, in this case, there was no apprehension to be entertained.—As to superiority of numerical force in the legislature—it was really visionary to apprehend it. Look at the distribution of property throughout the whole United Kingdom; and whence were the overpowering numbers of Catholic representatives to come? As to physical force,—what tendency had this measure to alter its proportions? And was the rejection of the present measure the best means of calming any ebullition of that kind? Was it the safest remedy to say to the Catholic, that you shut your doors upon him forever? It would be idle to suppose that any scheme of representation could ever be so arranged, as that the sentiments of every individual in the country should be directly represented. Few persons had expressed their opinions to that effect, more frequently or more, decidedly than himself But still, he must admire, there was a difference between that 1461 general or virtual representation which he contended ought to bound the wishes, as it satisfied the wants and protected the interests, of all classes of the community,—and an absolute exclusion of any one class from the capacity of representing. He would ask whether it was not carrying the doctrine of virtual representation a little too far, to say that the Catholics were virtually represented, when the first oath to be taken by every member of the House of Commons, was one of abhorrence of their religion, as incompatible with the safety of the state? The way then to avert the danger of external force (granting for argument's sake, what he denied, that any such danger existed) was, to afford vent to the feelings of the Catholic within the walls of parliament; to give to him the capacity to represent, as well as that of being represented; and thus to cure, with respect to Ireland, where the elective franchise has already been extended to the Catholic, an anomaly in legislation, which cannot, in the nature of things, be suffered long to endure.
But not the elective franchise only, a privilege of the utmost civil importance, but the army arid the navy from their lowest to their highest ranks, had been now opened to the Catholics: a concession after which it was difficult to say whether it was more impolitic or unjust to continue the exclusion from civil power,—to exclude from seats in parliament. An hon. and learned gentleman had been mistaken when, arguing on this subject on a former night, be had spoken of this concession as one growing out of former discussions in parliament. In truth, it had happened, rather than been contrived or foreseen. It had come, as many blessings do come upon mankind, in spite of argument and decision. The dangers of admitting the Catholics to commissions in the army and navy had been argued as strenuously in the last debates on this question, a few years ago, as ever before; but in the mean time, the thing had done itself, without interference or observation. The exclusion of the Catholics from the army and navy had rested upon certain oaths directed by certain statutes, to be administered to all officers in cither force on receiving their commissions. By a lapse, of which no one could trace the date, these oaths which had been always rigidly enforced in the navy, had fallen into desuetude in the army. Upon this 1462 discrepancy in the practice between the two services being quite accidentally discovered, it became a question whether the army should be recalled to the strictness observed in the navy, or the navy should be put on the footing of the army. The latter course was adopted, and thus was the service in both instances thrown equally open to Catholic and Protestant ambition, Such being now the situation of Catholics in this respect, he would beg the committee to consider the grievance which it must be to a Roman Catholic, descended of one of the great families of England, who, following the brave example of his ancestors, had merited the thanks of his country; what a grievance must it be to him, that after earning the reward, he should be deprived of it on account of his religion. He would suppose a Roman Catholic officer to have commanded under Nelson at Trafalgar, or under Wellington at Waterloo: his Protestant leaders and companions are ennobled, and take their seats in the House of Peers, but the Catholic, even though that Catholic were the first in his rank in the kingdom—even though already in the rank of the peerage, must be turned back from the door of that House, into which, if a Protestant, his valour and his services would have opened the way. Now this was a state of things which could not last. It was a monstrous inconsistency in our system; and he conceived that we could not have a better time to remove it than the present. As we had gone so far already in the work of conciliation, sooner or later this too must be done.
His right hon. friend (the Speaker) had supported the present clause for the exclusion of the Roman Catholics from seats in parliament, with the impression that, as the adoption of a similar clause had been fatal to a similar bill on a former occasion, it might prove so at the present moment; but he hoped, whatever might be the result of this motion—however the committee might decide, that it would not stop the progress of the bill [Hear, hear!]. He trusted that, in whatever shape the bill might come from the committee, unless, indeed, it were very materially altered, it would pass the House [Hear, hear!].
It was said in the debate the other evening, that if Catholics were admitted to seats in parliament, they might, be admitted as governors Of colonies Now he should like to know what act it was 1463 which could prevent the Crown from the appointment of Catholics to the colonies at the present moment. He was not a ware of any The 25th of Charles 2nd excluded them expressly and specifically from being governors of Guernsey or Jersey; but if that was the act relied upon the very specification of these places left other commands open. Upon this point, however, he was willing to listen to any suggestion. He thought it of small importance compared with the general scope and provisions of the bill.
With respect to the interference of Roman Catholics in ecclesiastical preferments, this bill, expressly and anxiously provided against it. The office of lord chancellor of England was excepted, because he had ecclesiastical preferment's to bestow; as was, for the same reason, the lord lieutenant of Ireland; and he had no objection to extend the like exception to all places which had ecclesiastical patronage. But it was objected, that a commission for the filling up of ecclesiastical appointments would be a clumsy remedy,—that the nomination to church preferment's rested with the prime minister, and that if he were deprived of it, it would be taking the first feather from his wing. Now, in the first place, it was by no means true, that the dispensation of church patronage was necessarily vested in any particular office; or that any particular office necessarily constituted what, in common parlance, though not in the language of the constitution, is called a prime minister; lord Chatham was prime minister when lord privy seal; and the patronage of the church might, without any violation of form or usage be delegated to any minister to whom the Crown pleased to assign it. Nor was the expedient of a commission to nominate to church preferment's so novel and unprecedented a contrivance as gentlemen seemed willing to believe. There was a precedent for such a commission, and in good times too, in a reign, and by the act of a sovereign whom those who took this objection were particularly bound to reverence, whose every act but this they were never weary of quoting in these debates,—he meant king William. That sovereign the year 1695 (he believed,—but the fact was to be found in all histories of tire time) appointed a commission consisting of an archbishop and four for bishop who had authority to prefer to all ecclesiastical benefices and dignities, 1464 and the reason given for it was, that they were more, versed in those appointments than the Crown A commission therefore for the same object at present could not be considered as a new, nor after such authority had been produced for it, could it again be called a clumsy contrivance.
Another objection, which he heard with some surprise, was, that Protestants would have a conscientious scruple about taking the oath which recognised the existence of Catholic bishops. Hitherto it was said no such order was known to exist. This he considered to be no more than a quibble. We admitted the ordination of a Roman Catholic priest to be valid; and it was difficult to admit that, without acknowledging the existence of a Roman Catholic bishop. Nay more, if a Roman Catholic priest, should become a convert to the Church of England and should be presented to a living in the Protestant church, re-ordination was not considered necessary [Hear, hear, hear!]: so that we not Only admitted the ordination, but we took the man so ordained into the bosom of the church. And how had that ordination been obtained, but at the hands of a Popish Bishop? But the statutes went farther. By the 11th and 12th William 3rd, chap. 4, it was enacted, "that whereas Popish bishops resorted to this country in greater numbers than formerly" (a pretty clear admission of their existence), "a reward of 100l. would be given to any person informing of the residence of such Popish bishop, such bishop incurring the pain of perpetual imprisonment." This surely applied to a description of persons whose existence and character were admitted. It was true, that the Popish bishop would not fetch his 100l. now; for by the 18th Geo. 3rd, this part of the act of William was repealed. We now therefore not only acknowledged the existence of Popish bishops amongst us, but allowed them to be here at full liberty. Under these circumstances, he thought that the Protestant must have a very tender conscience indeed who would riot take an oath which implied the existence of Roman Catholic bishops.
The right honourable gentleman then adverted to the intercourse between this country and the see of Rome, and asked whether any doubt existed as to that intercourse being carried on at the present moment to as great an ex ten as if there never had been any interdiction at all? By the 13th of Elizabeth it was made treason to 1465 receive any bull, rescript, or indulgence from the see of Rome in this country. But did a month or a week elapse in which such things were not received at present? If it was right to prohibit them, in the name of God, let it be done effectually; but if the intercourse were to be permitted, what ground of objection could there be for subjecting it to regulation? Why should it not be so subjected in this, as it was in all other countries? They were told, indeed, that certain Roman Catholic priests said that they would not agree to the measure [Hear, hear!]. He would ask, if any other portion of his majesty's subjects would thus presume to dictate to the parliament? [Hear!] He knew of no sanctity which hedged in a Popish priest, by which he should be authorized to interpose his private judgment, or his private conscience between the benevolence of the legislature, and the wishes of his fellow-subjects [Hear, hear!]. The Roman Catholic peers had expressed their willingness to take the oath prescribed (three of them he understood were prevented by absence from signing the petition), and he would confidently act upon their opinion. The priest might clamour if he pleased; he might roar, like the tyrant of old, in one of his own bulls; but what was the loss of his influence and patronage, compared with the mighty and unspeakable benefit to be derived from bringing under one common bond of union the whole mass of Catholic and Protestant population? [Cheers]. He hoped the House would not be deterred by such attempts, from giving to the Roman Catholic peers of this country their birthright, and admitting the fair claims of the other portion of the Catholic community.
It was his anxious wish to see this great question happily set at rest; the great body of the Roman Catholic clergy and laity were ready to join in the measures necessary for the contentment and satisfaction of Protestant scruples. He admitted that the change was an important one; but it would be a change of progression, not of revulsion: it had for its object the reconcilement of both parties, and in their union the better security of the interests of both [Hear, hear!]—The present period was peculiarly favourable. After a season of storms there was one gleam of sunshine: let the House take advantage of it; and let them not counteract what ought to be its effect, by casting millions 1466 back into gloom and despair [Loud cheering].
§ Mr. Bright
apprehended that the absence of restrictions might be followed by the same dangerous consequences which had in former times attended the free exercise of the Roman Catholic faith. He thought himself justified, upon every principle of the British constitution, in opposing the bill, and should vote for the amendment.
§ Mr. Hart Davis
also gave his support to the amendment. He did not believe if the bill were passed, that the Catholics would cease to demand farther concessions; and thought that the removal of the existing restrictions would be attended with danger to the Protestant succession.
§ Sir T. Acland
said, he entertained the most sincere conviction, that the only issue of the present question which could be favourable to the interests either of Catholic or Protestant, was that for which he intended to vote. He could by no means agree with the hon. member for Corfe-castle, that Catholics, if admitted into parliament, would aim at measures dangerous to the Protestant establishment. In support of his opinion, he would state to the House a fact. At the time when the Test act was sent from the Commons to the Lords, a Catholic peer, the earl of Bristol, was found to advocate that very bill which excluded from office persons of his religion. The argument of the earl of Bristol upon that occasion was, that he was bound to address the House, not as a member of the church of Rome, but as a member of a Protestant parliament; and that although there were some particular points of the bill to which he, as a Catholic, could not conscientiously give his assent, yet he could not but advise the House, as a Protestant House of Parliament, to pass it. There was one other circumstance which the hon. bart, felt it his duty to press upon the House. Every man must feel that the question was a growing question, and one which would eventually succeed. He would ask those gentlemen who apprehended danger from the admission of Catholics to seats in the Houses of Parliament, whether that danger was likely to be lessened by keeping back that which must be eventually conceded.
§ Sir F. Blake
strongly advocated the claims of the Catholics. The boon they asked ought to have been granted twenty 1467 year's ago. Ireland would then hare been held by the strongest tie—the tie of gratitude. It was not, however, too late to do an act of justice.
§ Mr. Grattan
said, he dissented most decidedly from the amendment as being calculated to destroy all the spirit of that measure which, at length, was making rapid progress in the House. He feared that many who opposed the measure were adverse to the claims of the Catholics altogether; that they looked to that body, not as it was, but as it had been; that they had a horror of the Catholics of former times, and extended that feeling to the Catholics of the present day. He did think that the hon. member for Corfecastle had failed to make out such a case against the Irish Catholics as should disqualify them from holding seats in parliament. He did believe that the peace, the harmony, the social feeling of the people of- Ireland, depended upon the result of the measure before the House. Catholics-in the Irish parliament had been found to deserve well of their country. He could not but deplore the system under which, at the present day, Ireland was governed—a system, the tendency of which was, to engender party feeling, to tie a man's success rather to his creed than to his character; to give ascendency to one individual, dependency to another, and liberty to neither. He did believe that the good sense and the good feeling of the gentlemen of Ireland counteracted, in a great measure, the ill effect of the existing system; and that the inhabitants, Catholic and Protestant, had but one object—the improvement of their country. Still the code under which they lived was not the less objectionable. He trusted that the present system would soon terminate, as the evils of it were greater than any persons unacquainted with them could possibly imagine. The hon. member then took a review of the measures which had been enacted both against and in favour of the Catholics from the earliest period of their history down to the present time; and asserted that by such a review he had clearly proved his assertion. He implored the House to allow the present bill to pass; as by so doing its inestimable benefit would be conferred upon Ireland, and peace, harmony, and good-will, would be restored among its inhabitants. Whatever differences of opinion might exist among the Catholics at present he was certain that the day was 1468 not far distant when this measure would be hailed with satisfaction by all parties, as putting an end to a monopoly of power and of place, which had already existed for too long a period.
§ The committee divided: For Mr. Bankes's Amendment, 211. Against it 223: Majority, 12. The Chairman reported progress; and asked leave to sit again.