§ Lord Nugent having; moved the order of the day for the second reading of this bill,
§ Sir G. Hill
said, that he rose for the purpose of expressing his unqualified dissent to the measure. Those who advocated the bill did so from an opinion that the peaceable demeanour of the English Roman Catholics entitled them to at least a participation of equal privileges with those of that persuasion in Ireland, whose conduct was the very reverse. He whished, however, to warn the gentlemen of this country against a measure which had produced such injurious consequences in Ireland, where he would assert, they had not enjoyed one year of substantial tranquility since l793, when the elective franchise had been conceded to the Catholics. Whereas, from 1783 to 1793, when they had no such Privilege, the country was at peace. If this bill was passed, he was convinced that energies 1032 which had long lain dormant, would be, roused, and all the ambition which belonged to the Catholic religion would be called into action.
§ Mr. W. Bankes
could not suffer any stage of this bill to pass, without entering his protest against it. He objected to it altogether, notwithstanding the anomaly in the condition of the English and Irish Roman Catholics.
The Attorney General
would not now oppose the bill, but he wished to state his objections to the clause which went to relieve every person from the oath of supremacy.
§ Mr. Peel
said, that in the present bill he saw many objectionable clauses, which he would not, however, discuss in the present stage; but he could not help objecting to the removal of the oath of supremacy on the part of those who were candidates for office. As far as regarded the elective franchise, he had no objection to grant it to the English Roman Catholics without any restriction: but as a qualification for office generally, he considered the oath to be indispensable. The Catholic would otherwise be put on a more favourable footing than the Protestant or Dissenter.
§ Mr. Bankes
thought the bill should not proceed until the House was in possession of better information, as to the object of it, than had yet been afforded. The phraseology of the bill was by no means correct or explicit, even as to the purposes suggested by the noble lord himself. Did the noble lord mean to say, that English Roman Catholic subjects were to take no oath at all? Were those subjects not even to be bound by the same obligations as Protestant Dissenters and Church of England men? He contended, that if the bill now introduced should ever pass the House, it would be necessary very considerably to extend the present list of excluded persons. His main objection to the bill referred mainly to the constitution of the British parliament: for he was decidedly adverse to extending to Roman Catholic subjects the elective franchise in any degree. With respect to Scotland, the principle of the noble lord's bill would embrace the repeal of the act of Union.
§ Mr. Wetherell
said, that he should now content himself with briefly recording his objections to the bill; but in the committee he should feel it his duty to oppose almost every line which it contained. It 1033 was at present so worded, as to exact nothing short Of the dissolution of the principles of the test and corporation acts.
§ The bill was then read a second time.