HC Deb 17 April 1823 vol 8 cc1106-23

The Speaker then called on Mr. Plunkett. Upon which, sir F. Burdett Mr. Hobhouse, lord Sefton, Mr. Bennet, sir R. Wilson Mr. Creevey and several other members on the Opposition benches left he House. After a short interval,

Mr. Plunkett

rose. He commenced by observing, that it was his intention to have that day presented a petition from the Roman Catholics Ireland, which had been agreed to by a considerable number of gentlemen—considerable, not merely with reference to their numbers, but also With reference to the rank and station which they held in society. Owing, however, to some mistake in furnishing the names of the petitioners, it was impossible for him, that night, to lay the document before the House. This circumstance did not, however, conclude him from introducing the Catholic question, because he was authorized by the Catholics of Ireland to appear in that Mouse as their advocate. Never in his life did he address the House under circumstances of such extreme difficulty as those under which he was placed at the present moment. He found he had to sustain the cause of the Catholics, not only against those who had been always opposed to them, but also against a considerable portion of those who had been ever looked upon as their friends. The cause had sustained a severe loss by the Secession of a large portion of hon. members who were in the habit of giving it their support, and who had very ostentatiously withdrawn themselves, for the purpose of marking their sense of the impropriety of the manner in which it was brought forward. But, if the cause had sustained a loss from the secession of those hon. members who had retired, it had suffered a still heavier loss from the speech of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Tierney) who remained within the House, with the intention of giving his vote in its favour. That right hon. gentleman had always been the friend of the Roman Catholic claims; he had always acted so; and he did not mean to impeach his sincerity. But he would say, that the greatest enemy which that cause ever had, never gave it so deep a wound as had that night been inflicted upon it by its antient friend. It was in vain that the right hon. gentleman and others endeavoured to throw on him the responsibility of the failure of the question. The responsibility of that failure lay upon those who had foretold in such ominous tones, its defeat, and who treated the subject as a mockery, a farce, a delusion, while they animadverted on the personal demerits of the individual who was to bring it forward. Under these circumstances, he felt that he should not be considered, in the just and honest minds of the Roman Catholics either of England or of Ireland, as acting an insincere part, when he introduced this question; and he was not at all afraid of encountering, and throwing aside, those imputations which hon. gentlemen had been pleased to level at him. He was really at a loss to furnish himself with any plausible reason why the right hon. gentleman should think that this question was not now entitled to support from every member of that House, because it was in the hands of a divided administration. The right hon. gentleman had, in his recollection, from the year 1807, supported the Catholic cause, though the administration was divided. The cause, during that period, had made regular and daily advances, though only a portion of the cabinet was in favour of it. He did, not find, when the question was brought forward by any individual on the right hon. gentleman's side of the House, that he had ever damped the cause, or thrown out such disheartening presages of failure as he had indulged in on the present occasion. He would ask the right hon. gentleman how he could reconcile it to his feelings as a patriot—as a man who viewed this question, not as it referred to party, but as it respected the people—to embarrass the proceedings of those who were friendly to it, merely because the individual who brought forward the motion sat on the ministerial, instead of the opposition side of the House? He had always considered the Catholic cause as being too high for party. He ever considered it as separate from all petty interests; and he was proud to say that his coming over from one side of the House to the other, had not injured him in the opinion of the Catholics of Ireland as the advocate of their cause; and he could state that it had not in the least effaced the impressions of unalterable zeal with which he had ever come forward to support their claims. The right hon. gentleman appeared to think that there was something extraordinary in the circumstance of his having moved from one side of the House to the other. He was not aware that there was any thing in this alteration which ought to surprise the right hon. gentleman; for if his recollec- tion did not fad him, the right hon. gentleman himself had performed the figure of moving from one side of the House to the other and back again, as gracefully and adroitly as it could be executed by any hon. member. He did not, however, know but his votes might afterwards have been very correct. Doubtless, he could give a very satisfactory reason for them. But, if he were asked, why he was not now sitting on the same side of the House with the right hon. gentleman, he thought he could make out a case that would be equally satisfactory. Words which he had used ten years ago, had been quoted in the course of the debate, and had been introduced with much sarcastic observation. He had on that occasion expressed strongly the feelings which he strongly felt, and he did not think his present conduct was inconsistent with those expressions. He did then certainly point out in strong terms the dangerous consequences of a divided cabinet on this question; for he believed a large portion of the cabinet of that time were utterly and entirely insincere. He thought so from the manner in which that administration had come into office, and other circumstances; and he did not hesitate to express what he felt. He might, however, remind the right hon. gentleman, that he had the honour of holding office under an administration of which the right hon. gentleman was a distinguished member. That was a divided cabinet. They were content to bring forward a very contracted measure on this subject, and even that they would have abandoned at the time, if the feelings of his majesty could have been propitiated, and the necessity for their going out of office avoided. He did not censure them for that conduct; indeed, he thought they had acted wisely on that occasion. In making the change which the right hon. gentleman had alluded to, he had not been influenced by any mean or mercenary motives. He came to that side of the House on which he now sat, feeling that he was perfectly justified towards the Catholics in doing so; knowing that those members of the cabinet who advocated the Catholic claims were decidedly and conscientiously sincere in their opinions; and seeing that the Catholic cause was making rapid strides under that portion of the administration, so divided, who were favourable to it. The right hon. gentleman did him too much honour, if he supposed that his (Mr. P.'s) conduct: was of such extreme importance to the views and objects of the Catholics of Ireland: but he would say, that, humble as he was, if he thought his coming over to the ministerial side of the House was likely to injure the Catholic cause in the slightest degree, the right hon. gentleman would never have seen him where he then was. He had made sacrifices in that cause. He had not rested on theatrical words or rhetorical flourishes; but he had willingly consented to sacrifices, which gentleman ought to have remembered. Yes! he had made sacrifices which rendered, him invulnerable to the attacks that had been that night directed against him.

He feared he had too long trespassed on the House, in referring to a matter which was personal to himself. He would here drop it, and proceed with the important motion itself. He owed it to the House, perhaps, to offer some explanation, why he had not brought forward this question during the last session, and also why he refrained from postponing it now. With respect to the motives of his own conduct, he was always ready to sacrifice his own views and his personal feelings to the paramount interest of the great question itself; and he could not help feeling that on the present occasion, the cause which he had so much at heart was perhaps placed at some risk by the secession as well as by the forebodings of some of the hon. gentlemen opposite. Notwithstanding this untoward circumstance, he owed it to the country to redeem the pledge he had given, and he felt he should do essential injury to the cause itself were he, because some ten or twelve gentlemen chose to pronounce a funeral elegy upon it, and then withdraw, to abandon that ground, the maintenance of which honour and duty had imposed upon him. His reasons for postponing the question last year were simply these. The friends of the question, whose views he was bound to consult, were, from the then state of Ireland, divided in opinion as to the propriety of agitating the subject at that moment, and the Catholics of Ireland were disposed to leave the decision in the hands of their friends. Thus placed, he yielded to the wishes of some, and postponed the renewal of the discussion. And here he must beg leave to deprecate the idea, that he was bound to make this an annual question. He had never looked upon it in that light, nor had his great predecessor, Mr. Grattan. He had never considered it as strictly an annual topic of discussion; but rather thought that great advantages were derived from giving the people of England time for periodical reflection upon the subject, an opportunity of which, to their honour, they had amply availed themselves. His own opinions had been early formed upon it—long before he had a prospect of taking a part in public life; and the opinions which he had at first instinctively formed, had been confirmed by his education and professional studies, and fixed and strengthened by a thirty-five years' residence in Ireland. Indeed, he thought the question rested upon principles so demonstratively clear, so congenial with the principles of the constitution, and so cogent upon grounds of public necessity, that he was astonished to find it still in any quarter pertinaciously opposed. He by no means meant to say that the refusal of emancipation would be followed by any thing like insurrection or rebellion in Ireland. The Roman Catholics were too sensible of the value of the privileges they had already received, to put them in risk by any such intemperate and ill-advised proceeding. They were grateful for what had been bestowed upon them; they were aware of the progress of public opinion in their favour; they were satisfied that, sooner or later, the question must be carried. No man could say that the question could remain where it was. To retrograde was impossible: the march must be progressive. Let no man say that the subject only affected one class of the community. It was impossible such an exclusion could fail to be felt as a degradation, by the humblest as well as the highest individual of the class affected by it. The history of Ireland showed that the consequence of perpetuating these disabilities must always be felt in the perpetual watching and feverish vigilance attendant upon a state of discontent, which kept that country out of its natural place in society, affected the resources of the British empire both in peace and in war, and diminished her consequence in the scale of Europe.

The right hon. and learned gentleman then took a rapid review of the parliamentary history of the Catholic question, and adverted to the sanction by the House of "Commons of the principle of concession in the year 1821, and in the bill of last year. The numbers and property of the Catholics had; he said, been exaggerated in their reference to the result of the measure; and he was convinced that, were the bill passed, the youngest man now alive would not in his time see twenty Catholics returned to parliament. However, although the danger from their admission to the House of Commons was, in his opinion, visionary, yet he was ready to declare, that were the bill in a committee, he would not abandon it, if any gentleman thought proper to limit the number of Catholics to be admissible into parliament. Twice, then, by specific bills, had the House of Commons sanctioned the principle of concession; but those bills had been stopped elsewhere. It was irregular for him to allude to the cause of that obstruction; but the alleged reasons had gone abroad, and he might be permitted to notice them. It was said, that these bills introduced a new principle, hostile to the Protestant establishment of the country, and subversive of the settlement laid down at the Revolution, and to which the House of Brunswick owed their security upon the throne. But, was it true that the House of Commons had twice sanctioned a principle of so alarming and unconstitutional a nature: or were they to be told that the throne rested on a separate parliamentary basis, of which the House of Commons formed no part? He positively denied that the throne was exposed to such a risk; and contended with great earnestness that the principle which he advocated was not only congenial with, but inseparably involved in the great principles which were declared and established at the Revolution.

Before he proceeded to speak of the bill, for leave to bring in which he should wish to move, he was desirous of making two or three further preliminary observations. And first with respect to securities. Securities had hitherto been the subject of much difference and discussion. By some they had been considered useless; by others those which had been offered had been deemed insufficient. For himself, he had always been decidedly of opinion that some securities were absolutely and indispensably necessary; so much so, indeed, that he should object to passing any bill without them. Another objection to former bills was, that they did not contain any provision in favour of Protestant Dissenters; but that they relieved the Roman Catholics from disabilities to which they left the Protestant Dissenters. He was glad of an opportunity to disabuse the public mind on that point. Nothing could be less true. The tendency of the bills was, to put the Roman Catholics on the footing of the Protestant Dissenters, and nothing more. It was singular how uninformed the public were in many respects. It was generally imagined that the Protestant Dissenter had no right to sit in the House of Commons. On the contrary, he had as much right to sit in that House and in the House of Lords, as the member of the Protestant establishment. It was also contended that if the measure which he proposed were carried, the Test and Corporation acts must also be repealed. That he denied. There was no necessary connexion between Catholic Emancipation and the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts. Besides, the Test act had been repealed in Ireland for forty years; and that repeal had not only failed in increasing, but had actually very much cut down the Dissenting interest in that country. If at some future period, the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts were proposed, he would most cordially support the proposition; but he must decline mixing it up with the Catholic question.

He would now call the attention of the house to the argument founded on the principles connected with the reformation. He admitted that from the reformation must be justly dated the rights and liberties of the people. But he claimed it as an admitted position, that the exclusion of the Roman Catholics or the Dissenters from office, or from constituting any part of the government, rested on statutable prohibition, and was in direct contradiction to any presumption founded on constitutional principles. They must look at the statute law alone, then, as the ground of the exclusion. The act of uniformity oft, Elizabeth must be regarded as an isolated statute, to be construed by the light of history. At the period of the Reformation three principles were operative: The first was the unalienable establishment of the Protestant religion in these realms as far as human regulation could affix permanence—The second was to put down and prevent the exercise of all religious professions, as contumacious, which were at variance with the religion so established—The third was, to give the state a power of distinguishing the well-affected from the disaffected, and to disable and dis- qualify the latter from being admitted into its high offices. Of those principles, the first was the most important, and was inalienable; the second, after having been contended against for three hundred years, was at length abandoned by the repeal of the law against recusancy; the third was intended as a test to separate the well-affected from the disaffected, and for that purpose the oath of supremacy was framed. What the friends of emancipation sought was, a qualified oath of supremacy, such as might be taken by a conscientious Roman Catholic, who must always acknowledge a certain degree of spiritual authority in the head of his church. The right hon. and learned gentleman then referred to three documents; at the period of the Reformation, to show the sense in which the spiritual jurisdiction of the Crown was understood at that time. The first was the act of Supremacy, by which the Crown was invested with the jurisdiction over its subjects which was claimed by a foreign power. Now, he contended, that interference in the spiritual concerns of a sect was not claimed or given by that act; and even if the Roman Catholics gave it at the present day, it could not be exercised by the Crown. The only authority which that act gave to the sovereign, was the power over the Established Church, which was claimed by the pope, and which was denied to him. The next document was the declaration of the queen, by which, in explanation of the act, she claimed only such a jurisdiction, as would exclude the admission of any foreign authority over her subjects. The third document was the act dispensing with the taking of the oath in certain instances by Roman Catholics; the queen being, as was stated, otherwise assured of their loyalty. This, then was all the act required; it was not looked upon as a test of religion, but as a guarantee of loyalty. The oath of supremacy required the person who took it to declare, that no foreign prince, prelate, state, or potentate, bath or ought to have any jurisdiction, ecclesiastical or spiritual, or any authority whatsoever within these realms. Now, the oath in the bill of 1821 (and which he proposed to continue) was to the same effect, but it added—"hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, &c. contrary to the allegiance due to the sovereign of this country." The Roman Catholic was now ready to take this oath; and he would ask what further would be required of him as a test of his loyalty?

The right hon. gentleman then went on to cite several authorities, for the purpose of showing that this was the sense in which that test was understood at its first enactment; that it applied, not to religion, but to loyalty; and that several noblemen and gentlemen took the oath in Elizabeth's time, not conceiving it to compromise their religion. This was further proved by the act of the 27th of Elizabeth, in which severe penalties were enacted against Jesuits and priests exercising their clerical functions; but these penalties were dispensed with in the cases of suet as took the oath. Now, it was clear that these priests were Roman Catholics, and the legislature of that time could not have been so absurd, could not have added insult to injury, by requiring them to purchase their exemption from penalties, by taking an oath which no Catholic could take, if it had the meaning which was now sought to be put upon it. It was not until there was added to the oath a declaration, that the Catholic worship was superstitious and idolatrous, that it was understood to be against the religion, and that Catholics, generally, refused to take it. The pope, at the time of passing the act of supremacy, claimed an authority over the whole English church—the power of appointing to bishoprics—of receiving the profits of the sees while vacant—of deposing the king—of excommunicating him and the people. The act denied to him any such authority: and the Roman Catholics were all ready to swear, that he neither had nor ought to have such authority, and they were willing to take any stronger oath to the same effect if it could be devised.

The right hon. gentleman then went on to answer many of the usual objections urged against the measure; amongst others, that the dispensing with the oath to Catholics, while it continued it to Protestants, would be inconsistent. But, the Protestants would not be in a worse situation than they were at present. They all took it; but none took it in the sense that the pope had no authority in these countries, for it was clear he had some spiritual power; but it was ready to be sworn by ail Roman Catholics, that he neither had or ought to have, any which was inconsistent with the power and sovereign authority, and supreme jurisdiction of the king of England, or in any manner opposed to it. All the researches which had been made in connection with this subject, had produced but one solitary case in which the head of the Roman Catholic church could act in opposition to the law of the state. Persons of that degree of consanguinity, which admitted of their marrying without offending the laws of the Protestant church, could not marry by the laws of the Roman Catholic church. From this circumstance, in a particular case where the restoration of conjugal rights might be decreed by our laws, the laws of the Roman Catholic church might oppose it. But those laws could not deny the validity of the marriage, nor the legitimacy of the children of such marriage, nor could they do any thing that might affect the rights, liberty, or property of the subject. They could merely exclude the parties from participation in the rights of their church. The power of the pope was no longer what it used to be. His devouring hon, as it had been called when the oath of supremacy was framed, had become tame and harmless in our time—had in fact been rendered innocent as a suckling lamb. Whatever danger might be supposed to attach to the influence which the pope, as head of the Catholic church, might exercise in his realm, that danger existed now in as great a degree as it could rationally be expected to exist after the claims of the Catholics should have been granted. If the Catholic were disposed to trifle with his conscience, what could prevent him from misconstruing the oath which he was now called upon to take. If he were honest, the new oath to be proposed to him would bind him, if dishonest, the oath at present proffered would not.

The right hon. gentleman again referred to the reign of Elizabeth, and quoted the letter of lord Burleigh to her majesty, in 1583, in which he stated, that considering the urgency of the oath of supremacy must in some degree beget despair, for many Catholics must in taking it either do that which they thought unlawful or be deemed traitors, be submitted to her majesty's consideration, whether it would not be better for her security, and for the satisfaction of the Catholics themselves, to let the declaration be, that whoever refused to swear that he was ready to bear arms in her majesty's defence against all foreign powers or states opposed to her, should be deemed traitors; this would be a better proof of their loyalty. But (lord Burleigh added) if it should be said, that in an oath of this kind they might dissimulate, or expect that the pope would absolve them from its observance, he would reply, so they might in the oath of supremacy; and they who would keep one, might be trusted with the observance of the other. These were the sentiments of that great and wise statesman, above two hundred years ago; but it seemed we grew wiser as the world grew older, and refused to have any reliance upon the faith of oaths. We, who admitted that the whole security of the state—the safety of society—depended upon the sanctity of oaths, now refused to place any reliance upon them. To be consistent, if we distrusted the oaths of the Catholics, we should undo what had been already done in their behalf—we should go back to the full severity of the penal laws, and proceed against them even to extermination; we should wield the iron rod of conquest, and when we had got the strong man down, we should not content ourselves with cutting off his hair, which would grow again, but should cut off his head, which could not be replaced.

He now proceeded, with reluctance, to notice the arguments drawn from the Revolution against Catholic emancipation. There was no greater mistake than that which was fallen into by those persons who supposed that the Revolution and Settlement had any thing to do with the system established by the 25th and 30th of Charles 2nd. So far from this being the case, the Revolution was at right angles with that system. The fact was, Charles 2nd had ceased to be the protector of the state; the Crown had formed the project of overturning the established religion. The acts of the 25th and 30th of that reign were not intended to make the throne fundamentally Protestant, but were framed as a substitute for such protection. It was obvious that such a system could not be lasting. The parliament, in effect, said to the king, "we cannot trust you; we will keep you on the throne, yield you dutiful obedience; but we will not suffer you to change the religion of the state." The first measure of the Revolution was in direct opposition to the system of Charles 2nd. It altered the law by making the throne fundamentally and essentially Protestant. King William's parliament altered the oath of supremacy, and proposed to repeal the Test and Corporation acts. Now, his (Mr. P's) measure proposed no such innovations on the act of William, as William had made on those, of Charles 2nd or as Charles 2nd had made upon those of the Reformation. These alterations were made according to the altered circumstances of the times; and it, was upon the alteration in the circumstances of the country at the present period, that he founded the expediency of the proposed measure. It was said, that the settlement at the Revolution ought not to be shaken—that the principles then established were principles of toleration, of civil and religious liberty, and of equal protection to all. The Revolution was not marked by any such principles of pure and religious toleration. It quite shut out the Roman Catholics of England and Ireland: it enacted severe penalties against priests being engaged as schoolmasters; so that the Roman Catholics were not made objects of toleration, but victims of persecution. The age of pure and religious toleration did not in fact begin until the 18th of the late king; and then were the true foundations of civil and religious liberty first laid. Those who opposed these claims on what they called the principles of the Revolution, by a perverse sort of chemistry, extracted from it, for the sake of their argument, all that was bad and intolerant, and left behind all that was great, glorious, and free in it, as a useless residuum. It had been often argued, that Mr. Locke was good authority against the admission of Catholics to the full enjoyment of the constitution; it was urged that Mr. Locke had laid it down as a principle, that so long as the Roman Catholics delivered themselves up to the supremacy of a foreign prince, whose commands they held themselves bound to obey, even to the prejudice of the state, they were not entitled to the privileges of toleration. Mr. Locke was right in stating, that any portion of the community who were leagued with a foreign power against the interests of their own country, were not entitled to a participation in its constitution. But, who would venture to say, that the Roman Catholics of the present day were not entitled upon such ground? And if so, what became of the argument of Mr. Locke? Mr. Locke went on to say, that while the Roman Catholics acknowledged a foreign power superior to the laws of the country, they were not deserving of toleration, and could not complain of not being considered good subjects. Now, he would ask, who would venture to say, that the Roman Catholics of these realms were not good subjects? Were they to consider the concessions which already appeared on the Statute. Book as mere flattery, and not at all deserved by the parties to whom those concessions were made?—But, if the Roman Catholics were considered to be good subjects, then he would ask, what became of the authority of Mr. Locke? It was natural for the great men, who watched as it were the cradle of the constitution, to feel considerable alarm at the conduct of the Roman Catholics, and to consider them as bad subjects, in consequence of their readiness to join a foreign power. This was the doctrine of lord Somers among others. But if the Roman Catholics of the present day were loyal and firm supporters of the constitution, why should they go back to former periods for a justification of a line of conduct which, though perfectly right and reasonable then, was perfectly wrong and unreasonable at present? It was true that the great men of that period, such as lord Clarendon, lord Somers, Mr. Locke, and others, were decidedly hostile to the Catholics; but then gentlemen who referred to the writings of those men should take into consideration the circumstances of the times in which they wrote.—He would next call the attention of the House to the doctrines held by Blackstone with respect to the Catholics. That great writer, speaking upon the subject, said, "the sin of schism, as such, is by no means the object of temporal coercion and punishment. If through weakness of intellect, through misdirected piety, through perverseness and acerbity of temper, or (which is often the case) through a prospect of secular advantage, in herding with a party, men quarrel with the ecclesiastical establishment, the civil magistrate has nothing to do with it; unless their tenets and practice are such as threaten ruin or disturbance to the state. He is bound indeed to protect the Established Church; and if this can be better effected by admitting none but its genuine members to offices of trust and emolument, he is certainly at liberty so to do; the disposal of offices being matter of favour and discretion. But, this point being once secured, all persecution for diversity of opinions, however ridiculous or absurd they may be, is contrary to every principle of sound policy and civil freedom." This was exactly the doctrine upon which he now called upon the House to act. The same author went on as follows:—"As to Papists, what has been said of the Protestant Dissenters, would hold equally strong for a general toleration of them: provided their separation was founded only upon difference of opinion in religion, and their principles did, mot also extend to a subversion of the civil government. If once they could be brought to renounce the supremacy of the pope, they might quietly enjoy their seven sacraments; their purgatory, and auricular confession; their worship of reliques and images; nay, even their transubstantiation. But while they acknowledge a foreign power superior to the sovereignty of the kingdom, they cannot complain if the laws of that kingdom will not treat them upon the footing of good subjects." So that if it appeared that the Roman Catholics were at present good subjects, as he contended they were, then there was at once an end to all the arguments both of Mr. Locke and Blackstone. Was it not a formidable argument to set up, that out of a populalation of seven millions in Ireland, five millions were bad subjects, disaffected to the government, and undeserving of a participation in the constitution? If it could be shewn that there were in Ireland five millions of men disaffected to the government, then he would say, that the right hon. the secretary for foreign affairs would be furnished with a stronger argument in favour of neutrality, than any which even his own powerful and argumentative mind had been able to urge. If they were obliged to employ the forces of the country in watching over a disaffected population of five millions in Ireland, then adieu to the power and glory which had hitherto distinguished this country. They might live on in a state of feverish discontent and uncertainty; but it was impossible that great or permanent good could be effected in such a state of things.—The right hon. and learned member went on to quote lord Hardwicke, for the purpose of shewing that the real security to the Established Church of this country, was to be found, not in the oath of supremacy, not in the declaration, but in that wise and salutary law which made the Crown of these realms essentially Protestant.

Before he sat down he owed it to Scotland to say a few words upon the law upon this subject as it now stood in that country. The measure which he proposed only went to remove the oath of su- premacy, and the declaration. But, there was a Scottish law which went to disable Catholics from being electors or elected, in choosing or being elected to serve in certain public offices. This law he believed was still unrepealed; and he should feel happy if any hon. representative of that country would propose a clause in the bill, for the repeal of this law of disqualification. By the eleventh article of the Scottish union, it was provided, that the British parliament was competent to abolish any Scottish law, for the purpose of assimilating the constitution of both countries, and every alteration of private law was admitted which tended to the advantage of that country. Having gone through the various topics, he could not sit down without saying a word or two upon the declaration. It was satisfactory to know, that neither clergyman nor layman had opened his lips in favour of it. He hoped that this blot would not much longer be allowed to remain upon the Statute Book; for he did not believe that a single human being existed, who would assert, that it was warranted by any principle of religion. The enemies of the Catholic claims feared those who worshipped the same God, and acknowledged the same Redeemer—for his part he dreaded only those who worshipped no God, and acknowledged no Redeemer. They feared that the Roman Catholics were disloyal—he only dreaded lest severity and injustice should make them so. The right hon. gentleman concluded with moving, "that this House do resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to consider the state of the laws by which oaths or declarations are required to be taken or made, as qualifications for the enjoyment of offices, or for the exercise of civil functions, so far as the same may affect his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects; and whether it would be expedient, in any and what manner, to alter or modify the same, and subject to what provisions or regulations."

After the motion had been read from the chair, a loud and general cry of "Question, question!" was raised.

Mr. G. Bankes

addressed the House, and with some difficulty obtained a hearing. He said, he could not help feeling that danger was to be found under the right hon. gentleman's motion. The body of Protestant clergy was deeply interested in the question. If Roman Catholics were once admitted to a share in the legislature they would contend that their church was the only right church, and would endeavour to overthrow the Protestant establishment. It had been said, that the House had gone too far in the way of concessions to the Catholics to recede. He did not see the strength of that argument. If they could not go back, they might stand still. There was danger in giving up those securities, which our ancestors had so dearly purchased. He should give the motion his decided negative. [Loud cries of "Question!"]

Mr. Becher

contended strongly, that, although the efforts of the lord lieutenant might do much to restore harmony, complete and permanent tranquility could only be given to Ireland by a measure which would give equality of rights and privilege to all parties. It was the true and only remedy for Orangeism, and the other evils by which Ireland was now so grievously afflicted. [Cries of "adjourn!"]

Mr. Lambton

, in rising, was interrupted by cries of "Question, question!" "Adjourn, adjourn!" He observed, that if those gentlemen who were so clamorous below the bar, had but been silent for one minute, he should have delivered all he meant to say upon this question. His only object in rising was, to prevent his constituents and the country generally, from mistaking the motives which actuated him in giving his vote. All he intended to say at present was, that he should not vote for the present motion, not in consequence of any change of opinion upon this point; but because he conceived from the manner in which the question was brought forward by the right hon. the attorney-general for Ireland, it was a gross deception upon the Roman Catholics, and one to which he could not in any way lend his countenance. [Cries of "Hear, hear! Mixed with loud and repeated cries of "Question, question"—"Adjourn, adjourn"—"Clear the gallery," &c.]

Strangers were then excluded, and the house remained with closed doors for nearly an hour and a half. It was first moved, "That this House do now adjourn"; but this motion was afterwards, with the leave of the House, withdrawn. It was next moved, "That the debates be adjourned till the following day." Upon this the House divided; Ayes 134. Noes 292. It was after wards moved, "That the debate be adjourned till Monday next." This motion being negatived without a division, it was afterwards mo- ved, "That the debate be adjourned till this day six months," whereupon a motion was made, and the question put, "That this I louse do now adjourn." The House divided, Ayes 313. Noes 111. The House accordingly adjourned at half after one in the morning.