HC Deb 05 March 1823 vol 8 cc436-43
Sir T. Lethbridge

rose for the purpose of presenting a petition from Mr. William Parker, of the city of Cork. He had no acquaintance with the petitioner, but he believed he was well know to the hon. member for Cork. The petition contained various allegations, for the truth of which the hon. member did not intend to vouch; but as it contained information from various quarters, relative to a subject which was shortly to come before the House, he had thought fit to present it. There was contained in it also one charge, which in particular he would not be understood to vouch for: it was against an individual holding an office, and whose name he would not have mentioned if he could have avoided it—he meant Christopher Bird, the colonial secretary at the Cape of Good Hope. The petition set forth, that the petitioner had headed a party of settlers, who, in the year 1819, had proceeded with the authority of government to that colony. He went on to state the petitioner's belief, that most of the calamities which had afflicted the world would appear, if they were properly explained, to have proceeded from the secret and insidious practices of the Jesuits, who, under the pretence of being a religious society, were, in fact, a formidable political sect. That they had been founded by pope Paul 3rd, for the purpose of counteracting the glorious effects of the reformation. The history of the Jesuits proved that they had always been hostile to monarchs, whether Protestant or Catholics. However beneficial the propagation of knowledge might be, the Jesuits must, in the words of the historian Hume, "bear the reproach from posterity, that by the very nature of their institution, they were engaged to pervert learning, the only effectual remedy against superstition, into a nourishment of that infirmity; and as their erudition was chiefly of the ecclesiastical and scholastic kind (though a few members have cultivated polite literature), they were only the more enabled by that acquisition to refine away the plainest dictates of morality, and to erect a regular system of casuistry, by which prevarication, perjury, and every crime, when it served their ghostly purposes, might be justified and defended." The petition concluded by praying, that the House would direct an inquiry at their bar, or in a committee, by which the practices of the Jesuits, not only in England, but in the colonies, and particularly at the Cape of Good Hope, might he exposed. By this proceeding, the petitioner proposed to show the conduct of lieut.-col. Bird (whom he stated to be a Jesuit, and whose brother was the chief priest of the Jesuit etablishment at Stoneyhurst, in Lancashire, by whose baneful influence the petitioner had suffered. The hon. member then proceeded:—It would be in the recollection of many members, that in the year 1814, the pope had established the order of Jesuits. In the same year, an hon. baronet (sir J. C. Hippisley) had stated in his place in that House, that a sum of 30,000l. had been transmitted from Rome, for the purpose of erecting Catholic establishments in Ireland. He had, at the same time, read a letter from one of his correspondents, confirming that statement, and adding, that the learned body were vigorously employed in propagating their doctrines. It had been stated by some Irish county members, on a former occasion, that they knew nothing of the increase of Jesuit establishments in Ireland. He had, however, good reason for believing they had largely increased. The Hardwicke-street chapel, in Dublin, and the school at Harold's-cross, three miles from the city, which had been bargained for by Dr. Murray, the coadjutor of the titular archbishop of Dublin, were sufficient to convince him of this fact. He should, perhaps, be asked, what harm this learned body had done? He supposed they would not so often have been turned out of various nations if they had done no harm; and if this question should be pressed upon him, he would answer it by another; he would ask, what good they had ever done, or were likely to do, to this country? [A laugh.] It might afford merriment to the hon. member for Westminster, but he (sir T. Lethbridge) was in the performance of a solemn duty. As a representative of the people, he was presenting the petition of an aggrieved individual: he did not vouch for its accuracy, but he would not be diverted from the performance of this duty, by any thing but sound argument. He repeated, that the Jesuits would not have been driven from so many communities, in various quarters of the world, if their presence had not been found to be mischievous. Having done harm in other countries, they might also do harm in this. The emperor of China had expelled them from his dominions in 1726. They had been driven from Paraguay, in 1733; from France, in 1763; from Bohemia and Denmark, in 1766; from Naples, Malta, and Purina, in 1768; and from Spain, Venice, and Genoa, in 1797. Buonaparté's opinion of them was expressed in a book lately published. The author, who, it seemed, was in the habit of asking a great many questions, had asked him what he thought of the Jesuits and their doctrines? Buonaparté was a pretty good judge of mankind, and knew most people's doctrines: he said that they acknowledged no supreme government, but that of the general of their own order, from whom all other authorities emanated, and without whose delegation no authority could exist, and therefore, said he, "I would never suffer such people in my dominions." The people of this country ought to know, that this learned society was much more dangerous than the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Plunkett) seemed to suppose. For his own part, it seemed to him that certain recent transactions which had occurred in Ireland were connected with some dark under-hand plot, which he wished to probe and fathom to the bottom. He recollected last year, when the attorney-general for Ireland delivered his sentiments on the Popish Peers' bill, that he spoke of the disturbances in the sister country as being of a partial nature, arising from a feverish irritation, which would be speedily put down. But, what had the right hon. gentleman said since that period? On some recent trials, he had asserted, "that there was a secret Popish association, which would shake the constitution to its centre." A few months before, the right hon. gentleman had made a very different statement. The great cause of the misery of Ireland was the ignorance in which the people were kept by the Catholic clergy. That body proceeded on a system which was at variance with the spirit of the British constitution, and contrary to that toleration of which gentlemen were so fond of speaking. A gentleman who had written a work for the purpose of removing the ignorance, and illuminating the mental darkness which prevailed in Ireland, had stated, that in many places where Hiber- nian schools were instituted, he had known the children to be driven away from them with whips; and, in one case, where some benevolent persons had formed a seminary for the benefit of the poor, a Roman Catholic bishop had comedown, and, in an evil hour, broke up the establishment. No man more sincerely regretted than he did, the necessity which existed for bringing this subject under the notice of the House; but he had a duty to perform, from which he would not shrink. He would now move for leave to bring up the petition.

Mr. Hutchinson

said, he would make a few observations, as he had been particularly alluded to by the hon. baronet. He was acquainted with Mr. Parker, the petitioner, who, in every relation of life, was a most exemplary character. He believed him to be an aggrieved individual; who, when he left this country, had indulged in expectations, which unfortunately were not realized. He proceeded with a very large family and several followers, to the Cape of Good Hope; and certainly he had a claim upon government, because the hopes which had been held out to him and others proved to be fallacious; he lost his property, and was seriously injured. He lamented exceedingly that Mr. Parker had alluded to colonel Bird, the colonial secretary. He had felt it to be his duty to inquire who col. Bird was, and he understood that, for several years, he was employed in the department of the commander-in-chief. He was afterwards placed in a subordinate situation at the Cape of Good Hope, and was ultimately raised to that of colonial secretary. He had been introduced to public life, under the auspices of the late Mr. Windham. The gravamen of the petition was, that to the establishment of the society of Jesuits in Ireland, all the outrages, bigotry, crimes, and miseries, which disgraced that unfortunate country were to be attributed. The hon. baronet had alluded to certain petitions on this subject which had been presented by the hon. member for Armagh. He did not meet the hon. gentleman, as to the assertion of Jesuit or no Jesuit; but he met him broadly on the statement, that the outrages which prevailed in Ireland, were to be traced to that body, and that statement he opposed with the most unqualified contradiction. Nothing could be more impudent, more false, or more unfounded, than the assertion contained in the petitions which had been presented by the hon. member for Armagh. As far as he knew any thing of the state of Ireland, the misery which had afflicted that country for centuries, was not created by the machinations of Jesuits, but arose from other and very different causes. It was disgraceful for any man at all acquainted with the history of Ireland, to attribute the misfortunes of that country to the conduct of the Jesuits. The Jesuits were charged with introducing ignorance, misery, and disaffection into Ireland. Now, for his own part, he did not know of the establishment of any body of Jesuits, as such, in Ireland. In 1819 or 1820, cardinal Gonzalvi stated in his letter to Dr. Poynter, that the pope had not restored the society of Jesuits in Ireland, because the government of this country did not wish it. The cardinal observed, that the society of Jesuits was restored in the Two Sicilies and in Russia, because the emperor Paul and the king of the Two Sicilies had petitioned the pope for its restoration: but that it had not been re-established in Ireland, on account of the hostile feeling of the king and the government towards that body. He had seen paragraphs in the newspapers, relative to an establishment in the county of Kilkenny. That establishment was under the superintendance of Dr. Kenny, a most learned divine, and a most accomplished man in every respect. He believed, that that gentleman had received abroad the education necessary for a Jesuit; but he could not say that he was one of that order. He had, for some years past, established a seminary at Clangoes-wood, where he had several learned individuals under him in the capacity of assistants. So far was his establishment from being calculated to produce disaffection to the government, mental darkness, or brutal ignorance, that it had, during the few years it was in existence, sent to the Protestant university of Dublin several young gentlemen, who had obtained premiums and honours in that university. So far from that seminary being concealed from the public, it was open to the examination of every person. This was known to the duke of Leinster, to lord Cloncurry, and to various other noblemen and gentlemen who had visited it. So distinguished was the answering of the young gentlemen on a recent occasion, that their preceptors received the thanks of two of the fellows of Trinity College, Dublin, for adding so much to the learning of Ireland. It was also a well known fact, that in the neighbourhood of Clangoes, the manners of the people were much improved, and presented a striking contrast to the manners of the population in other parts of the country—a circumstance which was attributable to the formation of that establishment. And yet petitions, daring to charge such an institution with the outrages and miseries under which that part of the empire was suffering, were laid before parliament! He knew not whether the establishment at Clangoes had any connexion with the south of Ireland; but he wished to God it had, for he was sure it would produce much benefit. When the hon. member for Somersetshire, and the hon. member for Armagh, were made the unconscious instruments through which falsehoods were stated to the House—falsehoods affecting five millions and a half of people—it was or moment that the House should be undeceived; and that they should not hurry to the consideration of that important question which would be discussed next month, with all that British ignorance relative to the real situation of Ireland which prevailed to so lamentable an extent. It was absolutely necessary that the ignorance of that House, with respect to Ireland, should be enlightened; until gentlemen became truly informed of the state of that country.

Mr. Wilmot

protested against the discussion which the hon. baronet had introduced, as being wholly irrelevant to the matter immediately before the House. The petition set forth that Mr. Parker went out as a settler to the Cape of Good Hope; that he failed in realizing the expectations he had formed; that he had encountered various misfortunes, and all this he attributed to colonel Bird, whom he accused of being a Jesuit. If either of the hon. members thought Mr. Parker had any reason to complain of the conduct of government, it would be competent for him to present a petition on the subject, and it would then remain for him (Mr. W.) to lay before the House all the information which the colonial department possessed relative to his case. If the two hon. members were to devote the whole of their time till the same hour tomorrow, in the perusal of Mr. Parker's correspondence with the colonial department, they would not be able to get through it. Mr. Parker imputed the failure of the harvest at the Cape, and all his misfortunes, to the circumstance of colonel Bird's being a Jesuit. The petition certainly presented the most extraordinary non sequitur ever heard of since the days of the renowned Partridge. If any clear and plain allegations were brought forward against colonel Bird, it would be the duty of the colonial department to consider them: but it was beyond his comprehension, how the hon. baronet could come down, after a day's notice, to sanction a petition attributing a series of misfortunes, including the rust in wheat, and a variety of unfavourable harvests, to the influence of colonel Bird's Jesuitical principles. One circumstance connected with the petition undoubtedly gave him pleasure. He could not help thinking, that if the hon. baronet could give so much of his attention to the consideration of the affairs of Mr. Parker and the religious principles of colonel Bird, his impression as to the extent of the agricultural distress could not be so powerful as it formerly was.

Mr. Hobhouse

said, he should be very sorry to do any thing which the hon. baronet might consider indecorous; but when he had heard all the misfortunes of the sister isle, even the failure of the crop of potatoes, ascribed to the Jesuits, he could not avoid smiling. The hon. baronet wished the House to imitate the conduct of the emperor of China in 1726; and because his Tartarian majesty had, at that period, expelled the Jesuits, he conceived the British government ought to pursue the same course in 1823. He hoped the petitioner would come to the bar of the House, and bring a Jesuit with him. A Jesuit was a sort of historical creature. He had travelled as far, he believed, as the hon. baronet, and yet he had never once met with a Jesuit. He should really be glad if a Jesuit were produced, that they might see what sort of an animal it was with which they had to contend [A laugh.]

Mr. Hume

said, he conceived that Mr. Parker had good ground of complaint against the colonial government; but he certainly had no right to mix it up with observations on the Jesuits. With respect to the petitions presented by the hon. member for Armagh, they were not, as he had been informed, signed by any respectable individuals. Could that hon. member, of his own knowledge, state where any establishment of Jesuits existed? For his own part, he should have no objection if there were 10,000 Jesuits Ireland, and the colonies full of them.

Mr. Brownlow

said, that when, on former evening, he was asked whether he knew of the existence of Jesuits in Ireland, he had pleaded ignorance. He had, however, since received letters from different parts of Ireland, censuring his ignorance on that point, and stating that there were unquestionably establishments of Jesuits in that country.

Ordered to lie on the table.