§ Mr. J. Smith
said, that the acts were most absurd, and a disgrace to the Statute-book. He hoped to see more of such petitions, and that, at an early day next session, the subject would be brought before the House.
§ Sir J. Newport
remarked, that dean. Swift, when speaking of the test and corporation acts, had expressed a strong opinion, that if those laws were repealed, the Dissenters would, in a short time, succeed in overthrowing the church establishment in Ireland. They were, however, repealed in the year 1782, by one of the shortest acts on the Statute-book. It was, however, well known, that they had been productive of no such effects as those dreaded by the dean. "To show," continued the right hon. baronet, "how little was known of the repeal of those acts by his majesty's ministers in this country, I may mention that, within these five years, I was speaking to one of his majesty's ministers on the subject of Catholic emancipation, and he told me that one of his greatest objections to that measure was, that if it were carried, it would be impossible to prevent the repeal of the test and corporation acts—a measure by which the Dissenters would be enabled, in a short time, to destroy the Protestant church of Ireland. I told him, that the measure of which he spoke with so much alarm had been already carried; that the test and corporation acts in Ireland had been repealed, so far as Protestant Dissenters were concerned, forty years ago. He would not believe the fact at first, and was only convinced by my producing the statute. Such is the effect of being led by prejudice, rather than by judgment."
§ Mr. W. Smith
concurred with the prayer of the petition; and at the same time gave notice, that soon after the holy-days, he would present a petition on the subject.
§ Mr. Bright
expressed himself favourable to the petition. The case of the Protestant Dissenters was very different from that of the Roman Catholics. The House should recollect how much of their civil liberties they owed to the ancestors of those Dissenters.
§ Lord John Russell
thought it disgraceful to our system of laws, that such degrading stigmas should be fixed upon so highly respectable and inoffensive a class of the community.
§ Ordered to be printed.