Sir Francis Burdett
moved the order of the day, for resuming the adjourned debate on the amendment proposed to be made to the question, "That the bill be now read a second time; which amendment was, to leave out the word 'now, and at the end of the question to add the words 'upon this day six months,'"
§ Mr. Goulburn
proceeded to address the chair. He said he had, on the former evening, endeavoured to impress on the minds of gentlemen, that the contents of the bill now before the House afforded evidence that they would incur danger by adopting the course that they were now called upon to pursue. He had stated then, and he would repeat it, that he could not comprehend the necessity of introducing all these securities, unless danger was apprehended. He proposed now to examine the nature of those securities, to see how far they were applicable to meet the danger which they were intended to guard against, and to inquire in what degree they were calculated to afford protection against the risks which were likely to be incurred. Those securities were of three descriptions:—first, the declarations which were contained in the preamble of the bill; second, the oaths required to be taken in certain cases; and thirdly, that which was considered the great security, the commission for the purpose of assuring the Crown of the loyalty of those who were hereafter to hold high situations in the Roman Catholic church, by superintending and controlling the correspondence between the catholic bishops and foreign powers. With respect to the first class of securities—those contained in the preamble of the bill—they did not appear to him to be in any degree valid. The first part of the preamble relates to the Protestant Succession to the throne of these realms, which it sets forth was "established permanently and inviolably." At present, the Protestantism of the throne, and also the Protestantism of parliament, were provided for; but, the moment this bill was passed, the Protestantism of the Crown being preserved, it was declared, that it would be of no consequence what was the religious persuasion of those who filled high politi- 72 cal offices in the state. It, was important to know how far this arrangement was satisfactory to those with whom they were now treating. They ought to consider how far this established Protestantism of the Crown, on which they so much relied, was likely to be attended to: they ought to examine into the degree of dependence which they could fairly place on those who called for this bill. He thought he saw, in this measure, no slight indication of the feeling, on this point. of those who were to be benefitted by this bill. In his opinion, so far from this Protestantism of the Crown being viewed by this measure as inviolably fixed, it was considered as a matter that had its limits. It was quite clear, that those who were connected with the measure, cast forward their views to that period when the Crown would be no longer Protestant. This was apparent from the letter of a gentleman, whose opinions on this question had very great weight, and whose evidence before the committee had tended to alter the sentiments of the hon. member for Armagh on this subject. He alluded to Mr. O'Connel, who had taken care to guard himself most sedulously in his expressions on this point. That gentleman said, "that the inviolability of the Protestant Succession would be maintained in the present succession. There was not one, he observed, amongst the Roman Catholics, who would wish to see it altered—in that feeling the Roman Catholics all concurred." But, did not this point at a period, when the present family might become extinct?—a contingency to which he adverted with the most anxious desire and feeling that such a period might be far distant. Did not this seem to suppose that a period might arrive, when Roman Catholics might become eligible to the throne? The next point to which the preamble adverted was the discipline of the Protestant episcopal church of England and Ireland, which was to be permanently and inviolably established, in conformity with the act of union. If he correctly understood the act of Union, the fair construction of that act was, that the only establishment should be, the Protestant episcopal church of England and Ireland, as it existed at the time of the Union. He did not think it was intended, at any period whatever, to place any other religion on a level with the Protestant episcopal church of England and Ireland; but, he had no difficulty in saying, that there was, 73 in the bill before the House, the first recognition of the Roman Catholic church of Ireland. He had heard his right hon. and learned friend, the Attorney-general for Ireland, discuss this question. And what had he said? He had stated, that so long as individuals remained merely bishops of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland, it was legal and proper; but that when they denominated themselves bishops of the Roman Catholic church of Ireland, it was illegal and improper. And yet, what were they now called upon to do? They were asked to recognize permanently a body of bishops of the Roman Catholic church of Ireland, who were to be paid out of the general funds of this country. There was no one provision which he could discover, that went to preserve the established Protestant episcopal church of England and Ireland, as it was recognized at the Union. The Protestant church of Ireland was, at the Union, permanently fixed, as the established church of that country. But now an attempt was made to place on a level with it the Roman Catholic church of Ireland. When they saw this, could they be idle enough to suppose that any confidence could be placed in the pompous declarations with which the measure was accompanied?
He came, in the next place, to the supposed security which would be derived from the oaths that were to be administered to Roman Catholics. And here he agreed with the hon. member for Corfe Castle in the view which he had taken of those oaths. They applied only to temporal matters, but left untouched the spiritual and ecclesiastical authority of a foreign power. He would ask gentlemen, as that honourable member had done, to look at the situation in which they would be placed, if this bill passed. They were obliged to take the oath of supremacy, declaring that the ecclesiastical and spiritual authority of the pope was not, and never should be recognized in this realm. And yet, by this act, other persons would be allowed to sit in parliament who did recognize that spiritual and ecclesiastical dominion. He thought that the hon. baronet, and those who drew up the bill, ought not to have placed the House in such a difficult situation as this. Gentlemen were called on, either to perjure themselves, or to alter the plain and evident meaning of words. A considerable portion of those oaths was, he knew, taken 74 from the acts already passed for the general relief of the Roman Catholics; but, notwithstanding that, he could not help looking at the measure with very great jealousy and suspicion. He conceived that those concessions were fraught with danger to the church establishment; and, in his opinion, the oaths attached to the bill afforded the Protestants but very little security. The Roman Catholics were called on by the oath, to disclaim and disavow any intention to subvert the established church. That was clear and decisive; but, when it was accompanied with the words "for the purpose of substituting a Roman Catholic establishment in its stead," he would ask, whether it did not allow a considerable degree of latitude for invading the rights of the Protestant establishment, so long as there was not, in the mind of the invader, a desire to establish the Catholic church in its room? He could acquit the Roman Catholics of any wish to overturn the Protestant church; but, for all that, he could easily conceive, that a conscientious Catholic might think himself justified in removing an establishment which he looked upon as a monstrous heresy and a great evil. Such a man might think it a moral duty, intimately connected with moral principle, to remove a church, which appeared to him to produce no benefit, but to create evil.
And while he was on this point, he wished the House to look at the sentiments promulgated by an individual who was highly respected by the Catholic body. He meant Dr. Doyle. Gentlemen had, in the course of the debate, referred to that reverend prelate, and he wished them to examine the terms in which he had spoken of the Protestant establishment. He had stated, that such an establishment did not exist in any other civilized country, and that it was peculiarly unsuited to a nation almost exclusively devoted to tillage. He had asked, what did the Protestant clergyman give to the peasant for the tithes he received from him? Speaking of the Protestant church, he exclaimed, "From what heaven have you fallen! Tell us the names of the bishops by whom your establishment was founded. Turn over books, and point out to us the names of the apostles who were members of your church—a church jointly formed, in its early history, of laymen and ecclesiastics, whose hypocrisy, lies, and crimes, were most disgraceful." 75 But, there was another circumstance to which he begged to call the attention of the House. In the bill which had been formerly introduced into this House by his right hon. friend, the Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, some efficient security had been proposed by means of an oath. The oath prescribed by that bill was to be administered to all ranks of the clergy; but, in the bill now before the House, the oaths substituted for that to which he alluded was only required to be taken by persons who were admitted to the office of dean or bishop. As far, therefore, as an oath could be obligatory, the one contained in the former bill bound all the Roman Catholic clergy of the kingdom against any attempt towards subverting the established religion. The present bill, however, seemed to be in this respect framed rather with a deference to Catholic prejudices, than with any view towards the feelings of the Protestants, or towards providing a protection against any possible danger.
He came now to the third security which the bill proposed to establish. This was the appointment of a commission of four Catholic bishops, for the purpose of regulating the intercourse of the see of Rome with his majesty's subjects in Ireland. But, even here the bill did not provide that they should disclose all that might be contained in such intercourse, nor, indeed, any part of it, unless they should be of opinion that it was injurious to the tranquillity of the kingdom; thus leaving them to be the sole judges of the question. He did not know by whose advice, nor at whose suggestion, this new cabinet had been formed, or upon what principle of constitutional policy it was, that a commission of four Catholic bishops was thought necessary to advise his majesty on matters of such importance as the tranquillity and safety of the state. Still less could he perceive what great advantages might be expected to result from this commission, whose chief, if not sole duty would be, to report only such matters as would be perfectly innoxious. That much mischief might he done by a commission intrusted with such powers, he saw too plainly; and, if he were a person desirous of carrying on an intercourse dangerous in time of peace, or traitorous in time of war, he would wish for no more efficient engine than this commission. He congratulated England upon the protection which had been thus provided for 76 her establishments, for the security of her religious and civil liberties, and upon the appointment of four Catholic bishops to be the guardians of the Protestant religion! So much for the protection which it was said bad been raised against the possibility of innovation! so much for the premium which was held out for making concessions to the Catholics!
But, he should perhaps be told, that not only these but other advantages were afterwards to spring up and to be introduced, when the law now proposed should have been carried into full effect. He knew that it was the favourite policy of those gentlemen who advocated this bill, to keep out of sight many of the ulterior measures with which, if it should once be carried, they hoped to follow it up. On such, however, as met the public view, he should make a very few observations. In the first place, it was offered to give up the franchise of the forty-shilling freeholders; and this was presented as a sort of bonus, either to induce the House to pass this bill, or to reward them for having done so. He wished, however, to ask the hon. members who had espoused that proposition, whether they intended to effect this disfranchisement at once? They admitted that the existence of the forty-shilling freeholders was an evil in the system of Ireland, and that it ought to be abolished. Could they abolish it at present; or, must they not wait the expiration of leases now in existence? One of these two things they must be prepared to do. The first, for his own part, he thought practicable; and if they proposed to do the second, then, he asked the hon. members for Armagh and for Downe, what became, in the mean time, of the security against the evils which they admitted? To the proposition for paying the Roman Catholic clergy in such manner as befitted their rank and utility, he had no hesitation in agreeing. But, to recognize the several dignities which they enjoyed in their own church, and to give to them all the character and station of a regular establishment, he could not consent, because he thought that to do so would be to inflict a great evil on Ireland. To have in every diocese two bishops of opposite principles in religion, would give rise to frequent disputes, and still more frequent inconveniencies, and must, ultimately, be attended with danger to the country. Such a course, too, would be directly at variance with the principles of the Reformation. 77 If, as had been said more than once on recent occasions, the Catholic religion had lost some of those features, which used to be its distinguishing characteristics—if it was so altered as to have nearly approximated to the church of England, as some of the persons who had given evidence on the committee would have it believed, why should not steps be taken to unite them, to reconcile opinions now so nearly the same, and to remove that odium theologicum, which an hon. and learned gentleman had said became always more violent in an inverse proportion, as the disputants approached nearer to each other. But, had gentlemen who advocated the creating an establishment for the Roman Catholic clergy well considered whether the country would be disposed to pay additional taxes for the support of that church? If the Protestants of England, and the episcopalians of Scotland, even were content to do so, what feeling would be entertained upon the subject by the numerous body of dissenters? If the Catholic clergy permitted their flocks to consult the Scriptures as the rule of their moral conduct, then, perhaps, some of the danger with which the present measure appeared to be fraught would be removed; but while, by the authority of the pope, that which was obviously a crime in morals, was held to be no crime in religion, it was impossible to deny the existence of that danger. The objections which the Catholics had against the differences of the Scriptures could not be forgotten; and, notwithstanding the explanations which had been attempted on this point, the fact remained sufficiently proved. Even Dr. Doyle, in his recent examination, had said, in answering a question as to the infallibility of the church, that it was held to be infallible on all the articles of faith, and with respect to the moral virtues.
The bill before the House gave to the Catholics a power of combining, which they did not possess at present; and, since the church was believed by them to be infallible on all points of moral duty, they might not only be induced but compelled to combine for any purpose which might seem desirable to the head of the church. Without attempting to magnify this danger, it was enough for him to point out its existence, for the purpose of justifying his refusal to assent to any thing which might by a possibility, however remote, bring the established church 78 of England into jeopardy. Attempts had already been made to invade the property of the church, and particularly the possessions attached to it in Ireland. The hon. member for Montrose, whose activity would prevent him from letting slip any advantage that might offer for effecting that system of reduction of which he was the advocate, would find his efforts countenanced and fortified by Catholic members, who could not be expected to have any other feelings than those of hostility towards the church establishment. It was impossible to foresee what might be the success of a renewal of those attempts which had been hitherto defeated, when they should be backed by the influence to which he alluded. Looking, therefore, at the bill in the various points of view which presented themselves, he believed that it would aggravate the evils which it pretended to remedy. Such were the objections which he felt against this measure; and a sense of the duty which rested upon him, and an earnest desire to preserve the established religion and the liberties of the country from all crafty devices and open attacks which should be attempted against them, compelled him to express those objections. From a sincere belief that the bill now before the House was only the opening to a series of measures, the ultimate object of which was the subversion of those principles on which the Reformation was effected, and the Revolution was established, he offered it his decided opposition, and he trusted that he should have the support of the House in the vote which he intended to give.
Mr. J. W. Maxwell
rose at the same time with Lord Binning, but the latter gave way. We understood the hon. member to say, that he had changed his opinion upon the question of granting further concessions to the Catholics, and that under that feeling he should give his vote in favour of the bill.
said, that although he had given way to the hon. member who had just sat down, under the mistake that it was the first time he had risen to address the House, he was not sorry for it, because it gave him an opportunity of seeing how much the power of conviction had gained upon the gentlemen of Ireland, in reference to the question now before the House. In the course of his parliamentary life, he had never experienced more pleasure than that which he had derived from the speech 79 of the hon. member for Armagh, who had commenced the debate on the former evening—a speech not more distinguished for the talent which that hon. member displayed whenever he addressed the House, than it must be admired for the candour, the courage, and the ingenuousness with which it was delivered. With the same pleasure did he hear the speech of the gallant officer (colonel Forde) who, after a long absence in the discharge of his duty, returned to his native country, and, overcoming all the prejudices of early associations, came down to the House to act upon the conviction of his conscience, that such a measure was demanded by actual necessity, and give his support to this bill. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland, in the conclusion of his speech, had given an alarming but a true picture of the state of Ireland. In that picture he agreed with the right hon gentleman, but not in the conclusion which he had drawn from it.—The right hon. gentleman had described the established church as not being the church of the great body of the people; and he had stated, that the people were discontented with, and hostile to, that church. And, what was the conclusion to which the right hon. gentleman had come from this picture? What was his remedy? Why, to leave things as they were. In this he differed with the right hon. Secretary. He looked at the subject differently. He thought the church insecure: his object was to strengthen it; and this he would effect, by taking away those ramparts which only tended to weaken it. He would, as well as the right hon. gentleman, retain to the church the support of the law; but he would superadd to it the chance of extending itself in the affections of the people, by the respect it would command. The best security of the church was the truth of its doctrines. In these he believed; as well as in the respectability of its ministers; and, if they but broke away the disadvantages under which it laboured, by the handle with which it furnished its enemies, they would thereby give it more security, than could be given to it by all the laws now in existence, or which might be hereafter enacted. Of all the remarkable circumstances which attended the discussion of this question, none was more remarkable than the change of the grounds upon which it was opposed. Those who, like himself, had sat long enough in parlia- 80 meet to hear the good old "No popery" cry, must recollect the time then a learned member of that House (Dr. Duigenan) used to come down with a load of old documents and books, to abuse and anathematise all the popes, and the councils of the darkened ages of popery, and to impute to the Catholics of the present day, the absurd doctrines which he then exposed. They must also recollect how that learned doctor was followed on the other side by an hon. baronet (sir J. C. Hippesley), who, too, used to come down loaded with old books, to impugn and refute the doctrines advanced on the opposite side. Fortunately, all that rubbish was now at an end. It was no longer imputed to Catholics, that it was a principle of their religion, that they could not hold faith with heretics; or that Catholics were compelled, at the command of the pope, to disobey their lawful princes. The evidence of Dr. Doyle had been frequently made the subject of allusion, and its importance made it worthy of such distinction. It had always been the habit of the opponents of the Catholics o say, "It is very well for you Protestants to disclaim the doctrines which we impute to the Catholics, but let us hear a Catholic bishop do so." Now, the friends of the Catholics had given the evidence of a Catholic bishop; and yet their opponents were not satisfied with it. It had, much to his surprise, been made a matter of complaint, that the oath contained in the bill, pledged the Catholics to deny the temporal authority of the pope. He said, that this objection surprised him; because it was always on the ground of the interference of the pope in temporal concerns, that concession to the Catholics had been declared to be dangerous. And, whilst he was on the subject of oaths, he must declare, that he thought some change was necessary to be made, with respect to those oaths which Protestants were obliged to take on entering parliament. It was not civil to call people idolators; particularly when it happened not to be true. It had been stated, by the hon. member for Derry, that the opinions contained in the evidence of Dr. Doyle, and in the letters published under the signature or I. K. L., of which Dr. Doyle was the author, were at variance. He had read the letters in question, as well as the evidence of the reverend gentleman and he must confess that he could not discover any inconsistency between them. The noble 81 lord here read several passages from the evidence and the letters of Dr. Doyle, to corroborate his opinion. The denial of the doctrines which had hitherto been supposed to form part of the Catholic creed did not rest with Dr. Doyle, but was also made by the titular archbishop of Dublin, the titular archbishop of Armagh, the primate of Ireland, and Mr. Blake. Surely, archbishop Murray could not be answerable for the writings of his brother, Dr. Doyle. He believed that the respectable individuals to whom he had alluded were incapable of telling a lie to the committee of the House of Commons, or of perjuring themselves before the House of Lords. He joined with the hon. member for Armagh in placing complete reliance upon the evidence which had been given before the committees.—He would now say a few words with respect to the two measures which it was understood were to be consequent upon the passing of the bill before the House. First, with regard to the disfranchisement of the forty-shilling freeholders. He would not willingly consent to deprive any man, however humble, of a privilege which he possessed. But, it was necessary to consider who were the forty-shilling freeholders. It was in evidence that they felt no attachment to the privilege in question; but, on the contrary, that they would gladly resign it. He could not conceive that their disfranchisement would ever be drawn into a precedent; because, before a similar measure could be adopted, it would be necessary that there should be a country or district placed in precisely the same circumstances as Ireland; and, in addition, that there should exist the same motive for the measure. That motive was the tranquillity and happiness of the country. Under these circumstances, he was disposed to consent to the measure which the Protestants of Ireland called for, and which the Catholics were disposed to agree to.—The hon. member for Corfe Castle objected to the expense which would be caused by making a provision for the Catholic clergy. He could not stop to argue the point. Economy on such an occasion was misplaced. If he were convinced, that it was necessary for the safety of the state to pay the Roman Catholic priesthood, he would do it without caring for the expense. Whether the expense would be one, or two, or three hundred thousand pounds, it was not worthy of a great and 82 wealthy country to consider. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland had said, that it would be extremely hard to make the Presbyterians of Scotland, and the dissenters and the members of the established church in England, pay for the support of a church which they did not approve of. That was the very thing of which six millions of Catholics in Ireland complained. They were compelled to support a church to which they did not belong, and of which they did not approve. The Roman Catholic church existed in Ireland, and could not be got rid of; and the only question to be determined was, whether it should exist in a way which was safe and advantageous for the country, or in a way which must be the source of constant danger.—He had now, he believed, gone through most of the material topics which had been adverted to by his right hon. friend. He could not help congratulating the House and the country, on the great progress which this question had made. He was persuaded that this bill, or a bill similar to this, would be found to be the most effectual remedy for the evils under which Ireland laboured. It had been said, that it would be only a sedative; but, admitting it to be only a sedative, it was a matter of no slight importance to conciliate the hearts and minds of the people of Ireland; for they might then apply themselves with effect to the consideration of such other measures as the wisdom of parliament might deem necessary for the perfect re-establishment of the peace and prosperity of that country. The misery of the present state of things was, that while the Catholics of Ireland were excluded from a participation in the constitution, no efforts of the legislature could be effectual; while their feelings were thus outraged, every thing came poisoned to their taste; even the fountains of justice were embittered, so long as they considered themselves a degraded, stigmatized, and excluded sect. He hoped, most sincerely, that the House would proceed in the course of legislation which it had so conspicuously begun, that it would send this bill to the other House of parliament; and, finally, that the united sense of the legislature would impose on the government of the country the necessity of carrying into execution the measures which parliament, in its wisdom, policy, and justice, had enacted.
§ Mr. Wallace
said, that, upon a question of so much importance as that which was 83 now under the consideration of the House, he could not permit himself to give a silent vote. No man could be more anxious than he was to put, an end to the dissensions which had so long unhappily prevailed in Ireland, and to restore peace and prosperity to that country; but, he did not think that these objects were likely to be in any degree accomplished by the present measure. If he had really thought that those desirable objects would be effected by the concession of the Catholic claims, it would have been much more gratifying to him to give a cordial assent to this measure, even at the expense of a constitutional sacrifice, than to give it, as he felt it his duty to do, a reluctant opposition. If the claims of the Catholics were conceded at another time, it might be supposed that they were conceded in consequence of the respectful solicitations of that body; but, when he reflected on the tone and temper of the Catholic Association; when he considered, that the legislature had, in this very session, found it necessary to put down that Association, what would be the inference, if at such a moment, the disabilities under which the Catholics of Ireland laboured were removed? At another time they might have deliberated calmly, and dispassionately on this question: at another time they might have conceded, without compromising the dignity and character of that House; but if they passed the bill at the present moment, it would be considered as a peace-offering, on the part of the House, for having put down the Catholic Association; and a virtual surrender of the dignity of Parliament to the leaders of that Association. When a great change was proposed, it ought to be clearly shewn, that there was a fair and rational ground to expect that the advantages held out to them were likely to accrue from it. There were two views in which this measure might be considered: it might either be considered as a measure intended to give satisfaction to a great proportion of the population of Ireland, or as a practical measure directed immediately to the removal of the evils under which Ireland laboured. In neither of those views did he conceive that the measure was calculated to produce any beneficial effect. On the other hand, he could not but apprehend much danger to the constitution of the country; for, unless it could be shewn that the spirit of hostility to Protestant 84 institutions, which characterized the Roman Catholic religion, was changed, he was not prepared to give his assent to any further concessions. But, it was said, that the Catholic religion, had entirely changed its character, and that the Catholic Church had renounced its high pretensions? Where and how, he should be glad to know, had those pretensions been renounced? Was it on the occasion of the re-establishment of the Jesuits? The only security that would satisfy him would be a substantial interference in the appointment of the Catholic bishops. The right hon. member went at length into the various topics connected with the question; but the noise in the House prevented us from catching his observations.
§ Mr. Portman
gave his support to the measure, because he felt that it was called for by imperious necessity. In Ireland there was no encouragement for industry. The Catholic peer, or Catholic gentleman, had no incitement to give employment to the people; and he felt that this measure was calculated to remove that evil, as well as to promote the tranquillity of Ireland, and the prosperity of the empire. "Noscitur a sociis" was a proverb often used against Catholics; but he would employ it in their defence; and when he saw the Catholic soldier and Catholic sailor fighting bravely and fearlessly beside their Protestant comrades in defence of their common country, he would call in another proverb to their aid, and say, "Amicus certus in re incerta cernitur." He should therefore give the measure his most hearty concurrence; because he felt that its accomplishment would confer glory on parliament, and infuse new vigour into the constitution.
said, that he had to avow himself another amongst the many converts that had been made in support of this question; and he felt proud of the triumph which his reason had enabled him to achieve over the strong and early prejudices which he had unjustly entertained. He felt persuaded, if others would act with equal sincerity, that there would be many more deserters from the opponents of the bill; and he entertained a perfect conviction that, although the measure might be delayed for a season, it would ultimately succeed.
Mr. Secretary Canning
rose, amidst general cries from all sides of the House, and spoke to the following effect:— 85 Often as it has fallen to my lot to address the House on this important question, I cannot approach the consideration of it on this occasion without feelings of the deepest anxiety. And yet it must be confessed, that the subject now presents itself under appearances unusually cheering. Whether the opinion of this country be not, in fact, as strongly opposed to concession to the Roman Catholics, as I believed it to be at the beginning of the session—or that the abatement of the causes which at that particular period existed (I refer of course to the proceedings of the Catholic Association) have proportionably diminished that opposition, I gladly admit that the number of petitions presented to this House, is not such as to indicate that vehement and stirring hostility with which the Catholic question has been heretofore assailed. This circumstance is of itself highly, and to me, I confess, unexpectedly, satisfactory.
It is an additional satisfaction, that among the petitions which have been presented to the House, there is, in many of them, amidst all the sincerity and zeal with which they are laudably distinguished, a manifest ignorance, both of the state of the existing laws respecting the Catholics, and of the precise objects to which the present bill is directed. This ignorance—this want of accurate knowledge as to matters of law—is no disparagement to any man, nor is it stated by me in that intent. I state it merely as a cheering circumstance, because prejudices founded on error and misapprehension will, in honest and ingenuous minds, give way when that error is removed. I feel, Sir, as strongly as any man, the duty of throwing open the doors of parliament to the petitions of the people. The opinions of the country, whatever they may be, are entitled to the most respectful and attentive consideration. But, after such consideration, it is the duty of the House to proceed firmly upon its own judgment. With respect, therefore, to all British subjects—but especially to that class of them who conceive themselves more particularly interested on the present occasion—who are placed in advance, as it were, as guardians of the religious institutions of the country—with respect to the Clergy of England, I not only admit their right to make known their opinions to parliament—but I should think them wanting in their duty 86 if they did not come forward with the fair and candid expression of those opinions. Even in the petitions, however, from that most respectable body, I have found some erroneous apprehensions, as to the real state of the law as it stands at present, with respect to Roman Catholics [hear, hear]. I repeat, that I impute no blame to the individuals who have acted under these erroneous apprehensions. They share those apprehensions with many other persons—with some of the members of this House—who have not the like excuse of constant professional avocations to justify their want of accurate information upon topics not within their daily occupation. But, the fact is as I have described it: and the description applies peculiarly to one petition (to which I will call the attention of the House without mentioning the place from whence it comes), which grounds its whole opposition to the bill now pending, upon an entire mistake as to the purpose which is meant to be effected by it. These petitioners pray, that this House, "will not extend to the Roman Catholics, those privileges and immunities which are withholden from other classes of dissenters." Now, if I were called upon to declare what my object is in supporting this bill, I would say, that it is, to place the Catholic dissenters precisely on the same footing as the other dissenters; and I contend, therefore, that, so far as that object is concerned, this petition, and the other petitions of which it is a specimen, do not militate against the bill before the House. Protestant dissenters have voices in the legislature. They have facilities of access to seats in this House, of which Roman Catholics are altogether deprived; and I know of no privileges not enjoyed by any description of dissenters which would be enjoyed by Roman Catholics, if this bill were to pass into a law.
It is a gross and palpable mistake, therefore, in these petitioners, to suppose that any privileges and immunities are intended to be communicated by this bill to the Roman Catholic dissenters, which are withholden from dissenters of other denominations. And the prayer of their petitions, therefore, being preferred in error, is to be met with explanation, not with compliance.
Sir, this bill does not tend, as is imagined by the petitioners, to equalize all religions in the state; but to equalize all the dissenting sects of religion. I am, 87 and this bill is, for a predominant Established Church; and I would not, even in appearance, meddle with the laws which secure that predominance to the church of England—I would not sanction any measure which, even by inference, could be shewn to be hostile to that establishment. But I am for the removal of practical grievance. And in this view of the subject, what is the fact with respect to the Protestant dissenters? It is this—that they labour under no practical grievance on account of their religious differences from us; that they sit with us in this House, and share our councils—that they are admissible to the offices of the state, and have, in fact, in very numerous instances been admitted to them—but they hold these privileges subject to an annual renewal by the annual act of indemnity;—so with the Roman Catholics, if this bill should pass, They will be admitted only to the same privileges, and they will hold them liable to the same condition.
I hope, Sir, that I shall have satisfied the respectable class of petitioners to whom I refer, that their particular fears are unfounded. I must add, with reference to some of the petitions from dissenters, that I am astonished at the hostile language which those petitions speak, coming, as it does, from men who themselves differ so widely from the established church; and who, nevertheless, enjoy a community of civil and political advantages with churchmen. This language, and the more than usually theological turn of the present debate, make it necessary for me to say a word or two, though very reluctantly, on that view of the question. It surprises me, I own, that the church of England looks upon the doctrines of the Catholic dissenters as so much more adverse and dangerous to their own, than those of other classes of dissenters, to whom it appears to avow much less antipathy. What is it that prevents the Roman Catholics from taking their seats in this House? The oath against transubstantiation.—God forbid that, within these walls, and before this assembly, I should irreverently presume to enter into any discussion upon the articles of the Christian faith; but, when we select the belief in transubstantiation, as a ground for exclusion from parliament, is it not extraordinary that the man who believes in consubstantiation should be invited to sit by our side in this House, and to enjoy all 88 the privileges of the constitution? I do not presume to define the nice distinctions by which the two doctrines are separated from each other; but is that difference of a nature to justify so wide a political distinction? The man who can distinguish so accurately between them as to pronounce the holders of the one doctrine to be loyal subjects, and the holders of the other to be of necessity traitors, may be envied for an understanding fitted rather for subtle disputation than for the purposes of common life.
If it is said, however, that the doctrine of transubstantiation is selected as a test of political faith, not on account of any intrinsic vice in the doctrine, but because the holders of it were once Jacobites: I answer, that it is then, indeed, most monstrous to retain, as a substantive ground of exclusion, that which (by the very argument) was originally selected, not because it was a corruption of faith, but because it was a symbol of disloyalty, now that that disloyalty is confessedly and notoriously extinct.
But the Catholics hold the doctrine of exclusive salvation. Why, Sir, are not many other, I will not say almost all, churches exclusive upon some articles of faith? Has not the church of England her Athanasian Creed—of which, without irreverence, I may say, that it is, at best, only a human exposition of the great mysteries of Christianity. And yet it is expressly declared in that creed, that they who believe not the truth of that human exposition, cannot be saved. With this fact before and with the still more striking fact, that we have constantly, that we have at this very moment, sitting among us in this House, men who do not bold this belief, and against whom, therefore, we pronounce the sentence that they are excluded from salvation, can we exclude Catholics from the enjoyment of their civil rights, on the ground that they also preach the doctrine of exclusion?
The doctrine of absolution is the next ground on which the opponents of the bill rest. Sir, I am not about to defend that doctrine; but we trust in fairness allow the Catholics to qualify it with their own explanation. We require the like privilege in our own case. It appears, from the evidence before the committee of the House of Lords, that the efficacy of the assumed power of absolution depends on the disposition of the party 89 receiving it, and not on the abstract power of the person who gives it. It depends on the sincere repentance of the party who receives it, on his resolution to amend, and to repair, so far as he is able, the evils he has done. If this be so, is this opinion confined to the Roman Catholic? I will ask any man to read one sentence in our own Prayer Book, in the office for the Visitation of the Sick. I will not profane the words by quotation in debate; but I think any candid man who reads them will admit, that taken nakedly, by themselves, they appear to mean much more than they really mean; and that they require to be qualified, as in fact they are qualified, in our Common-prayer, with explanation.
Do not let it be imputed to me, Sir, that I mean to say that there are no important distinctions between the Protestant and Catholic Creeds; differences wide enough to make me rejoice that we have separated from the church of Rome; and have purified the doctrine and the discipline of our church from its glosses and corruptions. But the question that we are discussing is a practical political question. It is, whether the differences of faith, such as they are, justify us in denouncing the creed of the Roman Catholics as incompatible with the discharge of their duties as good subjects and useful members of the state? Sir, I do not mean to draw the comparison invidiously; but I own that if theological tenets are to have the weight which is assigned to them in the discussion of this question, I am surprised that some honourable members, while they turn up their eyes in astonishment at the thought of admitting to the privileges of the constitution, those who, like the Catholics, differ from them in such points as I have described, yet do not scruple to sit and to vote, as they do daily—as they will this night—with those who deny the Divinity of our Saviour [hear, hear].
The next objection which has been insisted upon—and it is one which I certainly did not expect to have heard—is, that the Roman Catholics ascribe an overweening merit and efficacy to human actions. Be it so. But we, who are considering these several tenets only as they affect the state, may, perhaps, be permitted to ask, are those who lay so much stress on works, likely to be worse or better subjects than those who believe that good works are of no value, but that 90 faith alone is all in all? I presume not to decide which is the more orthodox opinion; but for a good subject of a state, whose safety I am to provide for, I, for my part, would unquestionably prefer the man who insists on the necessity of good works as part of his religious creed, to him who considers himself controlled in all his actions by a pre-ordained and inexorable necessity; and who, provided he believes implicitly, thinks himself irresponsible for his actions.
But, from theory let us come to facts. Refer to the history of this country, and see what it teaches on this subject. By what political differences has the country been most violently agitated; and out of what species of sectarianism has that agitation arisen? A Papist, it is said, cannot bear due allegiance to a sovereign of this country. But, what was the religion which brought Protestant monarchy to the block? The Papists?—Which were the sects that stripped Protestant episcopacy of its mitre and its peerage—of its spiritual authority and its temporal rank?—The Papists?
The next argument is drawn from the acknowledgment, by the Roman Catholics, of the spiritual supremacy of the pope.—It cannot be denied that such spiritual supremacy is acknowledged; and the question for parliament is, whether that doctrine is liable to be acted upon in such a way as to threaten danger to the state?
I do not, on this subject, rest alone on the evidence of Dr. Doyle taken before the committees: although (setting aside the obligation of an oath, which is assumed by those who oppose this question to be little obligatory upon Roman Catholics), I cannot think it probable that a gentleman of Dr. Doyle's character and station—knowing that every word which he uttered would be read by all of his creed, by his own flock, and by the pope himself—nay, that many of his brethren in the ministry were, at that very moment, waiting in the next room ready to be examined themselves, and likely, if he stated what was not true, to be called in to contradict him;—I cannot, I say, think it probable that such a man, so circumstanced, could utter a deliberate falsehood, with detection and exposure staring him in the face. Without giving to Dr. Doyle, therefore, more credit than I would to any other moral, educated, and intelligent man, I am bound to conclude, upon 91 every calculation of probability, that he spoke nothing before the committee, but what he conscientiously believed to be true.—It may, then, be taken to be true, that the opinion stated by Dr. Doyle to be the opinion of the Roman Catholics, is their opinion; and Dr. Doyle solemnly denies, that the spiritual obedience which Roman Catholics render to the pope does or can interfere with their allegiance to their temporal sovereign. His own words are, after a distinct disavowal of the contrary inference,—" There was an objection taken, that the promise of obedience, though canonically made to the pope, interfered with our allegiance to a lawful sovereign; and therefore there was a clause inserted in the oath which removed that objection."
But, is this a new construction of Dr. Doyle's, and on that account to be received with jealousy and suspicion? Or, is it an opinion which has in all times been held by honest and intelligent Roman Catholics? Nothing contributes more to the establishment of truth, than an unexpected and fortuitous discovery of circumstances tending to confirm it. I happened, only a day or two ago, to fall upon an illustration of Dr. Doyle's argument on this subject, in the correspondence between Pope and bishop Atterbury, which struck me as singularly apposite. Pope, as every one knows, was a Roman Catholic. His friend the bishop of Rochester, with a very laudable zeal, was anxious to convert him to the Protestant faith: for which purpose he appears to have pointed out to the poet, the errors of his creed, and then urged the renunciation of them. Pope's reply to the bishop's exhortation was as follows: "I hope all churches and all governments are so far of God as they are rightly understood and rightly administered; and where they are or may be wrong, I leave it to God alone to mend or reform them; which, whenever he does, it must be by greater instruments than I am. I am not a papist, for I renounce the temporal invasions of the papal power, and detest their arrogated authority over princes and states; but I am a Catholic in the strictest sense of the word."
Here, then, I say, is a complete coincidence with what Dr. Doyle has declared before the committees; and I cannot help thinking this accidental testimony of a hundred years ago, written in the strictness of private correspond- 92 ence, elicited by no controversy, and never intended for publication, as one of the strongest and happiest confirmations that could be brought in aid of the professions of a Roman Catholic of the present day. It is true, that this distinction between spiritual and temporal allegiance has, in the course of these debates, been held up to ridicule as an absurdity: but an absurdity which governed the decision of Pope, and which satisfied the judgment of Atterbury, may be received by less-gifted men with something short of derision [hear, hear]. It must be admitted, indeed, that one of these two illustrious correspondents intrigued against the Protestant succession. But it happens whimsically enough—as if to confute the assumption, that Roman Catholic faith and disloyal propensities are inseparably allied—that the popish poet was the loyal subject, and the Protestant bishop the jacobite traitor.
It is brought forward, as another objection to the concession of any political power to the Catholics, that they are—in Ireland especially—under the absolute guidance of their priests and of their political leaders—men whom they regard with a veneration bordering on idolatry. Sir, I admit the fact; but I lay the blame on another quarter. If the Roman Catholics are idolaters in religion (as we swear at this Table that they are), we cannot help it. But if they are (as is now alleged) idolaters in polities; it is we who have to answer for their error. If we withdraw from them the more legitimate objects of political reverence; if we deny to them, as it were, the political sacraments of the constitution, what wonder tout they make to themselves false gods of the champions of their cause—of their spiritual and political leaders? But, Fortunately, the cure of this crime (if it be one) is in our hands. Let us open to them the sanctuary of the law—let us lift up the veil which shuts them out from the British constitution, and shew them the spirit of freedom which dwells within—the object of our own veneration. Let us call them to partake in the same rites, with which our purer worship is celebrated. Let us do this, and depend upon it, we shall speedily wean them from their present political idolatry; and leave deserted the spurious shrines at which they now bow down before their Doyles and their O'Connells. [hear, hear].
Sir, I am sure it cannot be necessary 93 for me to say, that I am not, by taste nor in principle, addicted to political innovation; that I am not easily reconciled to any propositions which recommend it. But I am not, on the other hand, blind to the expediency which may sometimes prescribe it; less, I hope, would I resist it merely because it is innovation, when founded in justice. In the measure now recommended to the House—I mean in the principle of that measure (this is not the stage for canvassing its details) expediency and justice appear to me to Conspire.
Opinion in favour of a settlement of this so long litigated question, gains ground. I do not say that it has yet overcome all prejudices; but it wins upon them every day. Is there no danger that, if you do not anticipate change, change may over-master you? [hear, hear.] If a change must be made; it is surely better that it should be effected while it may be brought about temperately and amicably. Sir, it is absurd to deny, that in the case of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, especially, there is great grievance. Is it not primâ facie a grievance, that people should suffer, in their civil and political capacities, on account of their religious persuasion? Is it not a grievance, that the choice of the Crown should be restricted in the selection of its servants, and in the distribution of its favours? Is it not a grievance that a people should wear a badge, marking them out from the rest of their fellow-subjects as objects of suspicion and distrust;—a degrading, disheartening stigma, which necessarily damps their industry, blasts their hopes of honour, and subjects them to a perpetuity of exclusion from which ether sects have been long relieved? No man, Sir, can deny that in all this there is great grievance. I do not say that it is an unjustifiable, an inexcusable, state of things; but I say it is a primâ facie case of hardship, which requires to be justified and excused by those who approve and uphold it. The burthen of the proof lies with them.
It is said, that the removal of these grievances, the nature of which is hardly denied, will be attended with danger to the constitution.
First, Sir, what is that danger? I ask this question, and I listen for the answer to it, on every stage of this bill; but, to this hour, I have not heard one specific and intelligible attempt to answer it. It is shewn indeed—and I dispute it not— 94 that with a Roman Catholic monarch on the throne,—with a Roman Catholic Pretender contending for it—or with a Roman Catholic rebellion, either plotting, or in activity, there has been, and would be danger in relaxing all the laws against Roman Catholics. But, that none of those contingencies exist now, is surely a proposition not admitting of denial. That the relaxation of the laws would tend to create any of these dangers, is one which I must hear stated and argued (a task which no man has yet been hardy enough to undertake), before I am called upon to assent to it, or to act as if I believed it.
The hon. member for Derry (Mr. Dawson) has said, that we are in a situation which leaves us only a choice of difficulties; and that no conclusion to which we can come will be satisfactory. I admit that our situation is one of great difficulty; but it is a consolation under our misfortune, and an alleviation of it, that our difficulties would be still greater if we had made them for ourselves. We have not created our difficulties; we inherited them: but it is our good fortune to have the means, of curing them in our own hands. When gentlemen deduce an example for our conduct from that of our ancestors who framed the penal laws, at, or immediately after, the Revolution—I beg them to look a little lower down in the page of history, to the conduct of our more immediate predecessors, who relaxed the rigour of the code which remoter generations had framed. With which of these two generations have we the nearer sympathy? which of them was in a situation more nearly resembling our own? and wherefore are we, in our retrospect of history, to skip over the age which commenced a system of mildness, in order to get back to one in which severity was justified upon, reasons which have long passed away?
For, Sir, though we have no responsibility for the enactment of the penal laws, let us not charge our ancestors with having passed them without excuse. At the time when the greater part of these laws were enacted, the country was convulsed with the disorders of a disputed succession; and the religion of the party hostile to the existing government was looked upon as the mark of their politics. It was proscribed not so much with the view of pulling down a particular form of worship, as of crushing the political party who professed it. The Catholics were attacked by those who had felt their, power when 95 they possessed the political ascendancy; or who dreaded it, if they should again become successful. It is, therefore, unjust to our ancestors to impute to hatred of their fellow-subjects professing the Catholic religion, the precautionary severities which they exercised towards the Catholic Jacobites of their day.
But there is another claim which our ancestors have on our justice. They saw that reconcilement was impracticable;— that the enmity between them and the Jacobites must be permanent and lasting. They sought, therefore, to weaken and break down the power of those whom scruples of humanity alone prevented them from altogether exterminating. They chose, indeed, a mode of effecting this object in cruelty little short of extermination; but the mode which they adopted has at least this praise, that it answered the purpose for which it was devised.
The rack, Sir, is a horrible engine, but it is a beautiful piece of mechanism: so, the penal code was dreadful, but it was admirably adapted to its use. It set children against their parents—wives against their husbands—brother against brother—servants against their masters—and the hand of every man against his kindred and his kind. It entered into and dissevered all the relations of domestic and social life. It, in the result, impoverished degraded, brutified, and paralysed the whole Catholic population of Ireland; and plunged them into the most abject state of moral as well as political debasement. Such, and so effective for its purpose, was the penal code against the Catholics. But, just when this barbarous code had nearly exhausted its powers,—when the last turn, as it were, might have been given to the machinery of the rack, the English legislature grew ashamed of its own work, and shrunk back from the consummation which it had taken so much pains in preparing.
Sir, in the auspicious reign of George 3rd, the first relaxation of the penal code took place. It would be folly to deny that, from that moment, the policy of this country was changed. What the legislature did in 1778, was the first step in this merciful innovation: what has been done from time to time since that period, is in consequence of that first step, and in pursuance of the benignant system then substituted for rigour and proscription. The task which we are now invited to perform is, to persist in the policy adopted in 1778, and to follow it to its legitimate conclusion. 96 I have often, I confess, turned away with disgust from the consideration of those cruel enactments, which were multiplied year after year, with a perverse ingenuity, each successively appearing to be aimed at some privilege or comfort of social life which had escaped the notice of former enactments, and, to be pointed at some new and tender spot on which a more acute pain might be inflicted. I have, I say, contemplated with disgust those ingenious devices of moral and political torture; but I now look back upon them almost with pleasure,—a pleasure caused not only by the hope, that I am looking at them for the last time, and that justice, though tardy, is at length about to effect their entire and eternal removal, but because it is delightful to compare the slow and painful degrees by which so monstrous a system as the penal code was enacted; and to consider that one vote of benevolence—aye, and of a wise and prudent benevolence, may sweep all remains of it away.—Who but felt of late, With what compulsion and laborious flight We sunk thus low? The ascent is easy, then.
Why am I compelled to addTh' event is feared!
What is there to make us fear it?—I again press this question upon my opponents, and implore that they will condescend to answer it.—What it there to deter us from this final effort or mercy?—Is it the fear that after we have taken the Catholics into the constitution, they may turn their newly acquired political capacities against us? Is that probable? Is it practicable?—How? Where? Why? And even supposing it possible to be made, could such an attempt be successful?
But, let us look at the other part of the difficulties which the hon. member for Derry represents as besetting us. Can we go back to the policy of king William and queen Anne, and re-enact the penal code? Can we stand where we are? Is not the opinion which enabled us to make that stand failing us? Since the commencement of this debate we have witnessed a splendid illustration of the manner in which prejudices of long standing have yielded to the force of circumstances and to the voice of reason. It was impossible to listen to the manly and candid avowal of the hon. member for Armagh (Mr. Brownlow) admitting the prejudices and apprehensions which birth, education, 97 connexion, habit, had created and confirmed in him end unequivocally renouncing them all,—it was impossible, I say, to hear that ingenuous declaration and to consider the space which that honourable gentleman fills in the eyes of his own country, without acknowledging, that his speech was a fact of the most important nature, and that as great a change was wrought by it in the practical state of the question, as it evinced to have taken place in the feelings of his own mind.
The impressions produced by that speech, have been deepened and strengthened by the successive avowal of a similar kind from an hon. and gallant officer (col. Pakenham) whose plain, strait-forward narrative of the opinions and feelings in which he had been nurtured, and of the change which those opinions and feelings had undergone, composed one of the most powerful arguments that I ever heard delivered on this subject,—and from another hon. gentleman, the member for the county a Down (colonel Ford), whose brief but emphatic declaration of opinion was at once a proof and a model of honest and honourable conviction.
If these are indications of the state of opinion in Ireland, can any one have heard the speech of the hon. member for Dorsetshire ( Mr. Portman), and of the noble lord behind me (lord Valletort) without being satisfied, that the settlement of this great question is an object of intense anxiety to Englishmen—whose judgments are as free from bias, as their motives are from the possibility of suspicion?
Such manifestations of Protestant feeling, I trust, will be met with corresponding feelings on the part of the Roman Catholics themselves. Our business, however, is not to negociate with the Catholics, but to legislate for them—to legislate, I hope, in accordance with the mitigated spirit of the times in which we live, and with the improved condition of the Catholic population of Ireland. How greatly has that population increased in wealth, in intelligence, in activity, in industry, as well as in numbers! With these advantages must have increased in a corresponding degree, the desire of acquiring that political rank, which naturally belongs to wealth and station in society? In raising them from the state of degradation in which our ancestors had placed them, you have given them too much if you have not given it for a noble purpose—if you have only 98 lifted them up to a nearer view of the blessings which you would yet persist in withholding from them. Far better, perhaps, would it have been to have allowed them to remain in the debased and degraded situation to which they were reduced, than to raise them partially, and then to interdict their further elevation,— to stimulate and excite every generous principle, and then to deny to those principles the opportunity of being called into action.
My right hon. friend the Secretary for Ireland, is panic struck at the prospect of taking one step in advance. He foresees the overthrow of the constitution from the admission of a few Catholic gentlemen into Parliament; but there must be, as it appears to me, a long chain of deduction between his premises and his inference—the links of which chain, I must confess, I have not the perspicacity to discern. What can that force be, of which my right hon. friend is so afraid? Is it physical force?—Why, physical force is more likely to be applied to a door that is shut, than against a door that is open [cheers, and a laugh]. The mass which would be broken and dissipated by gradual admission, presses with accumulated strength against the bar of an inexorable exclusion. For it should always be remembered, that it is not political power which is proposed to be given by this bill, but eligibility—not fruition, but the capacity to enjoy. The Protestant Crown will still be master of its own choice; and the Protestant population of this country will have prejudices enough—honourable prejudices—to oppose to any symptom of abuse, to any, the most distant alarm of mischief, from an undue infusion of Catholics into office or into Parliament.
My right hon. friend says, the Roman Catholics will never be satisfied—that they will go on insisting upon more and more until his prophecy respecting the overthrow of the Constitution is fulfilled. But, can you suppose that the Roman Catholic gentlemen, or the Roman Catholic labourers, or the whole Roman Catholic population combined, in all their gradations, can ever hope to seize the powers of the state? Is this a probable—is it even a possible event? Suppose that, in the first session after this bill passes, five or six Catholic gentlemen are admitted into parliament. The new corners would be, at first, I dare say, objects of curiosity, of 99 distant observation, of cautious and circumspect avoidance. They would have some inquisitive glances to encounter; and some doubts would be excited, and, perhaps, some wagers laid, as to their capacity to use the organs of ratiocination like less superstitious men. We should naturally suspect crucifixes in their walking-sticks, and relics in their snuffboxes. But all this strangeness would wear off. In the course of a session or two we should venture upon a nearer approach; first, in little knots of two or three—taking care always to preserve a majority,—at last, perhaps, when we grew bolder, alone. Nay, the time would come, when we should actually manage to sit beside them, with as much ease as we now manage to sit beside Unitarians—of whom we think more favourably only because they believe less than we do, whereas the Roman Catholics believe more; as if, to use an expression of Mr. Burke's, "he is the best Protestant who protests against the greatest number of doctrines." But, as to what is put forward as the greatest object of apprehension—the intemperance with which Roman Catholic members would advocate the Catholic claims, very sure I am that no Catholic gentleman will be found to say such things upon that subject as we heard a Protestant representative of a Catholic county say the other night,— threatening, and almost inviting resistance if this bill should not pass into law. A Roman Catholic would not be obliged to launch into such extravagance of argument, in order to satisfy his Roman Catholic constituents of his sincerity.
One of the objections to the bill is, as to time. But, let me ask, Sir, is there any man that hears me who conscientiously believes that in ten or twenty years from this time, the relief sought for by the Catholics will not be granted? And if there be not among the violent of the opponents of this measure, one person who holds this belief, what is the real question for our consideration? Is it not simply whether the boon to be bestowed shall now be given, and we have the grace of giving it while it may yet be received as an act of grace? Unless it is believed that the present state of Ireland can continue,—surely the time is come. Again and again I beg our opponents to descend from generalities to specification. What are the injuries that they foresee as likely to accrue to 100 the constitution,—to that constitution which is held up to the Irish as something for which they are bound to shed their blood,—but the beauties of which consist not in the liberties it imparts—not in the equality of rights which it bestows on all the people living under it,—but in the scrupulous exclusion from its benefits of those Catholics, whom you call upon to venerate and uphold it. To reason in this manner with the Roman Catholic, is not to treat him as an intelligent being. Show him a good reason for his exclusion, and exclude him—and tell him so—for ever. But, if that exclusion was originally enacted on temporary grounds,—if those grounds have ceased to exist—it cannot, it is not in the nature of things, that it should continue for ever. And if it is not to continue for ever, the time for removing it is now come. In proportion as the prosperity of the country is great—in proportion as the country is rich and powerful,—in proportion as it is free from external danger, as it is spreading and widening the basis of its strength, and unfolding its immense capabilities of improvement,—just in that proportion are we in a condition to give the boon asked by the Catholics, without being liable to the misconstruction of its having been forced from us by necessity, or extorted by intimidation.
I hope, Sir, that I should feel the disgrace of yielding to menace: and I think, moreover, that I have proved to my right hon. friend during the present session, that I am prepared to vindicate the honour of this House, and to uphold the supremacy of the law under whatever pretext, or with whatever object the violation of it may be attempted. I could understand the feelings of those who refused to go into this question at times when to grant it might be imputed to the difficulties of the country, or the consequent weakness and apprehensions of parliament. But, Sir, a time is now come, suitable beyond our hopes and our expectations. Who can look on the high and palmy prosperity of the country, and not wish to mark this auspicious state of things by a signal act of beneficence to a portion of our fellow-subjects, who have toiled at our side in the day of our distresses and difficulties;—transmitting the record of this act to our posterity as a testimony of our just and grateful sense of the favours which Providence is now heaping upon our heads, and thus consecrating the present æra 101 for all time to come in the annals of British legislation? Let us do this— and come a change of fortune when it will, we may meet it with regret, indeed, but without repentance. We shall have made this glorious moment irrevocably our own.—"Non tamen irritum
Effingit infectum que reddet
Quod fugiens semel hora vexit.
Although this, Sir, is not the time for entering into a discussion on the particular provisions of the bill; I will nevertheless avail myself of the opportunity to offer one or two remarks upon them: the rather, as I fear I may not have another opportunity of addressing the House during the progress of the bill.*
My right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland, has divided the bill into three distinct parts,—the preamble,—the oath,—and the commission for the security of the Protestant church.—As to the preamble, which consists of a declaration of the stability of the Protestant established church and constitution, my right hon. friend states, that it is nothing but words. Why, Sir, so are all laws nothing but words. But, what are the oaths on which you now rely for safety—what are your abjurations and declarations at this table, but words? Harsh and ill-sounding words many of them, and angry words, to be sure! but, why cling so fondly to negative legislation, to phrases of contempt and expressions of abhorrence,—and reject, as idle and inoperative, vows of attachment and professions of allegiance? Why think that a legislature is to be prone to denounce what it hates, and never ready to commend what it approves?
Again, it has been objected to the oath in the bill, that it is too long, that it is more like a bill of indictment in which every possible crime is enumerated, than a protestation against imputed doctrines. Sir, I entirely agree with my right hon. friend, that it is so. But, my right hon. friend forgets that the bill has to pass another House, in which there exists a very nice sensibility on all these matters. In the last bill which was sent up from this House, that oath had been curtailed: but then it was made an objection to the measure, by the lovers of ample adjura-* Mr. Canning was labouring at this moment under a severe attack of the gout; which afterwards confined him to his chamber for some weeks.102 tions, that the good old oath was not at all too long, but that the new one was too short by the bead and tail. Its shortness begot many surmises of evil intentions. In drawing up the present bill, therefore, the old long oath, with all its sinuosities and superfluities, had been restored (for my right hon. friend must know that it is only restored, not now for the first time established). But, no sooner is this done, than my right hon. friend turns himself rapidly round again, and now finds the present oath too long, forgetting that it has been let out at the special suggestion of those with whom he acts on this question in the other House of Parliament.
The oath, such as it is, was framed in 1793. It is, therefore, unfair in my right hon. friend to come forward with these objections at the eleventh hour; and to attack the supporters of this measure for that which is no invention of theirs,—which they would have omitted, if it had been left to their own discretion.
Next, Sir, as to the commission for superintending the correspondence with the see of Rome. My right hon. friend has argued the matter as if the framers of the bill were first instituting that correspondence with the see of Rome, and then endeavouring to guard against the danger which they themselves created. But, Sir, the very reverse of this is the fact. The correspondence exists; it is notoriously going on every day, and we are only endeavouring to regulate and restrain it. The question is not so much whether this security is sufficient, as whether you will have any security or none: at present you have none.
I repeat, Sir, that every day a correspondence is openly and notoriously carried on between the Roman Catholic, bishops in Ireland—aye, and the Roman Catholic bishops or vicars apostolic in England too,—and the court of Rome. Every thing that relates to the affairs of the priesthood, and much that relates to the most important concerns of private life—to marriages and baptisms—forms the subject of regular communication with the see of Rome. All this my right hon. friend appears to view with the utmost complacency. He has no thought of checking it, so far as I can make out from his speech: and yet all this is in contravention of the existing laws.
It is true that the penalties imposed by those laws are so enormous that neither my right hon. friend nor any man of com- 103 mon humanity would wish to see them enforced. Therefore it is, that the framers of this bill endeavoured to cure the evils of this system by a precautionary supervision. It was no peculiar duty of theirs to do this. The evil does not grow out of any thing that they propose. They find it existing in full force: but so finding it, and finding that no one of the anti-papists has any thought of mending the matter, they gallantly and generously, and as a work of supererogation attempt to deal with it. And what is their reward? Why, that they are not only reviled for the ineffectualness of their remedy, but are held responsible for the existence of the evil.
Sir, for my part, I say, if the opponents of this measure believe the correspondence with the court of Rome to be so full of danger, I call upon them to propose a remedy for that evil which is now in full existence,—a remedy which they can venture to carry into execution. The present laws are so severe that they cannot be executed. I call upon the opponents of the bill, therefore, to say how they propose to deal with the evil which the throwing out of this bill, will only tend to confirm. Than the state of the law as it now stands nothing can be more monstrous. I had recently occasion to know this. Soon after I entered upon my present office as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a letter was addressed to his majesty by the pope. It was, of course, transmitted to my office; but I could not venture to advise the king to open, much less to answer it, until I had consulted high law authorities as to the legality of such a proceeding. I accordingly did consult them, and I found, as I had previously expected, that by tendering such advice to his majesty, I should render myself liable to the penalties of præmunire. Accordingly the pope's letter remains unanswered to this day. Such is the operation of the present system. Can any thing be more stupid? But, thus it is to remain; because the opponents of this question prefer those laws with the known, constant, daily, unchecked evasion of them, by persons less scrupulous than I was, to some regulation of the correspondence with the court of Rome.
So much for the main objections to the frame of the bill upon your table.
And now, Sir, a few words with respect to the other measures which, it is said, 104 are to be associated with it. I begin by saying, that I am perfectly contented to take the present bill as it stands, without the proposed auxiliary measures. I must, in fairness, declare, that upon those measures I have by no means made up my mind. With regard to one of them, I have much to learn before I can make up my mind to support it. I cannot look at it abstractedly with favour. But if by raising the elective franchise in Ireland, to a higher qualification than that which the present law requires, I could not only get rid of the opposition of those who have long been the avowed and most efficient enemies of the simple measure of Catholic relief, but convert them into active and zealous friends, I own the temptation might perhaps overcome my scruples,—and induce me, though I fear with a somewhat questionable morality to consent to support this doubtful change, and in order "to do a great right," be ready to do "a little wrong." On general principles, I should undoubtedly oppose disqualification. The very word is odious. I expressly limit my willingness to take this proposition into consideration, with the declaration that I do so under the persuasion that a freehold qualification of forty shillings in Ireland, is a very different thing from a freehold qualification of the same nominal value in England, and that in striking at this symbol of free election in Ireland, I am not, in fact, violating the essence of freedom. This is what I expect to have shewn to me by persons well informed upon the subject.
With respect to the principle of the second proposed measure, that of making some provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, it is one which was in contemplation long ago—in the time of Mr. Pitt—and for the execution of which I believe some practical steps were taken during lord Cornwallis's administration in Ireland. The principle of this measure (for of the details I have no knowledge) has therefore authority which I highly respect in its favour; and nothing which I have heard in the course of this debate, has altered that favourable impression. The objection that the Protestant part of the community would thus be taxed, in order to raise the funds out of which the Roman Catholic clergy are to be paid, may be met by asking whether the Catholics do not contribute to the taxes out of which the Regium Donum to a portion of the dissenting Protestant church in Ire- 105 land is yearly paid? Observe, I am not saying that the payment of tithes by Roman Catholics to the Protestant established church forms any precedent for this argument: no such thing. That payment is necessarily incident to the fact, that the Protestant church is the legal establishment. To every thing which can ameliorate the system of collecting tithes—to every thing which can tend to shift the burthen of it from those who could not, to those who could hear it, I am willing to give, (and this and the other House of parliament have given) the most anxious and favourable consideration. Any measure which should go to invade the establishment of the Irish Protestant church, and to alienate the property assigned for its support, I am firmly prepared to resist.
But the Regium Donum to the Presbyterian church appears to be in point of principle, the very measure which it is now proposed to extend to the Catholic, and seems to afford a precedent on which it might safely be modelled, when the time shall come for settling the details of such an arrangement.
Sir, I have thought it fair to state the present impression on my mind, with regard to the forty-shilling freeholders, and to the provision for the Catholic clergy, (subject as that impression is, to be modified hereafter, by more perfect information than I now possess)—because many gentlemen;have stated the carrying of those measures to be a condition of their support to the bill now on the table. For the sake of their support, I shall be anxious to vote, if I can, in favour of those measures; but in case they should not be carried, or in case I should myself, on further explanation and discussion, see reason to disapprove of them, I will not, therefore, withdraw my support from the present bill.
Those measures may be auxiliary to the bill for the relief of the Roman Catholics from civil and political disabilities; but I do not intend to wed myself to them or to either of them. I am wedded only to the great question itself—that question which involves the future tranquillity of Ireland, and therein the general welfare of the British government and nation.
Sir, this declaration recalls to my mind the only other point on which I wish to say a few words, and with which I shall conclude. In proportion as we become great and powerful—as our resources con- 106 tinue to out-grow the resources of other nations; it is in human nature that something of an invidious feeling towards us, should grow up in the world. It is a fact which implies no sentiment of enmity—no hostile spirit towards us. It is, as have said, in the nature of men, that rivalry should generate, not hatred—but perhaps envy—and a desire to seek for consolation in some weaker point of the character of a too successful competitor. Never was there a moment of which the continuance of peace through out the world was more probable. But even in peace, the wary politician will calculate the means, and forecast the chances of war.
I say, then, that whatever rival nation looks jealously into the state of England to find a compensation for ail her advantages, and a symptom of weakness amidst all her power, will fix—does fix—as if by instinct, its eyes on the state in which we keep the Catholic population of Ireland. "There," they say, "is the weakness, there is the vulnerable point of England." How sad that they should say this with so great a semblance of truth!
Shall we then continue still to cherish a wound that is seated near the vital parts of our greatness? shall we not rather disappoint those who wish us ill (if such there be) and give comfort and confidence to those who wish us well—by closing the wound which has so long remained open and rankling, and by taking care that before we are ever again called upon to display the national resources, or to vindicate the national honour, it shall be so far healed, as that not even a cicatrice is left behind.
Such a state of things, Sir, is, in my conscience, I believe, as practicable as it is desirable, My earnest prayer is, that the House may adopt such measures as will tend to accelerate so blessed a consummation. And, as it is my hope, that the bill now before us, if it should pass, will tend to that result, I give my cordial support to the motion that it be now read a second time [loud and long-continued cheers].
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that the House would, he was sure, believe him, when he stated that nothing would have been more gratifying to himself individually, than to have been spared the painful duty of addressing it upon this occasion. The subject, though important in itself, was one on which he had so often obtained an indulgent hearing from the House, that he 107 felt considerable reluctance in claiming once more, and that reluctance was rather increased than diminished, when he recollected that he had not only to follow his right hon. friend, but also to state the grounds on which he differed from him in opinion. His right hon. friend knew with what cordiality he agreed with him upon all other occasions; and would therefore readily give him credit for sincerity, when he declared it gave him the utmost concern to differ from him on the present. But, if he saw greater danger and less benefit arising from this bill than his right hon. friend did—if he thought that less evil would accrue to the country by adhering to the existing system, than by departing from it—he was sure that he should not lose the esteem of his right hon. friend for publicly stating the grounds on which he came to so different a conclusion.
Before he noticed the various topics to which his right hon. friend had alluded, he would beg to leave to advert to that which appeared to form the chief feature in the present debate—he meant the conversion of several members who had formerly taken the same view of this question that he was now going to take, into supporters of the measure. He had heard, and with the most perfect conviction of his sincerity, the avowal of the hon. member for Armagh, that he had changed his opinion upon it. If he (Mr. Peel) had changed his own opinion, he should have been most ready to avow it; but as he had not changed it, he trusted that his honourable friends would give him the same credit for purity of motive in retaining it, that he gave to the hon. member for Armagh in abandoning it. On this question he had always pursued a course which he considered a course of moderate opposition to the claims of the Catholics. His opposition to them was decided, but unmixed, he trusted, with any feelings of ill-will or animosity. He had never said, that the number of petitions presented against them was an insuperable bar to conceding them; nor had he ever encouraged the presentation of any petitions. If not a single petition had been presented on the subject, he should have acted upon his own judgment, and should have opposed the claims, as he now intended to oppose them, just as he should have admitted that, had the petitions been ten times as numerous as they now were, they formed no insuperable bar to the 108 granting of the claims, Supposing the House felt, that the alarm which had given rise to them had no justifiable foundation. He therefore agreed with his right hon. friend, that though the number of petitions which had recently been presented was an indication that this measure, if carried into a law, would not give universal satisfaction, still it left the House at perfect liberty to grant the claims of the Catholics, if it should be of opinion that, in point of equity and expediency, they ought to be granted.
To return, however, to the point from which he had unintentionally digressed. He had been noticing the conversion of his hon. friend, the member for Armagh, and had been proceeding to offer a few remarks on the nature of it. His hon. friend had said, that, in consequence of the attention he had given to the evidence which had been tendered before a recent committee, the ground on which he had formerly opposed Catholic emancipation had been entirely cut away from under him. If that were the case, he could only say that it convinced him that the grounds upon which his hon. friend had opposed it, had always been very different from those upon which he opposed it. His hon. friend declared, that his opposition to the claims of the Catholics had relaxed, because he had heard Dr. Doyle deny that it was a tenet of the Catholic church that the pope had power to excommunicate princes and to depose them from their sovereignty—that faith should not be kept with heretics, and that the temporal power of the pope was not admitted in Ireland. Now, this was not the first time that all these tenets had been solemnly disclaimed by the Catholic church. Had his hon. friend been so long in the habit of opposing the Catholic claims, without hearing of the answers of the foreign universities to the queries propounded to them by Mr. pitt? If his hon. friend had at all examined into the point, he would have found, that all the answers received by Mr. Pitt contained an express denial of the three tenets he had just mentioned: he would have found the same denial avouched in the oath which the Catholics now took: he would have found that they had long abandoned, in word at least, the temporal authority of the pope: and, therefore, if he was now satisfied for the first time upon these topics, he had not attended with sufficient care to the evidence which had already 109 been collected and submitted to the notice of parliament. But, said his hon. friend, "matters cannot long stand as they now are: and therefore, in order to bring them to some better arrangement, I will vote for the second reading of this bill." His hon. friend, however, went to add, that unless some other measures were attached to it in the committee, his assent would be recalled, and he should oppose the bill on the third reading. For his own part, he must confess, that he was somewhat surprised by the conduct of his hon. friend. His hon. friend said, that he voted for the bill because he wished to have a better settlement of matters than now existed; and yet, if the measures to which he alluded were not carried, he was going to pursue that line of conduct which would leave matters just in the same state that they were at present. Now, as he (Mr. Peel) did not attach any very great importance to the two measures to which his hon. friend attached so much—he meant the alteration in the elective franchise, and the qualified establishment of the Catholic priesthood—he thought he was taking a more consistent course than his hon. friend was, in giving his decided opposition to the second reading of this bill.
His right hon, friend (Mr. Canning) had opened his speech by referring to the petitions which had been presented against the bill, and had said, that they were founded in erroneous notions, that they exhibited absurd apprehensions of danger, and that they evinced the most extraordinary ignorance of its nature and its provisions. In proof of his assertion, his right hon. friend had alluded particularly to one petition, which certainly did make out the charge which he had advanced against them. The persons who signed that petition approached the House with all humility, and prayed it not to place the Roman Catholics, as it was going to do, in a better situation than that in which it had placed the Protestant Dissenters. His right hon. friend had said, and said truly, that the object of this bill was only to place the Roman Catholics on the same footing with the Protestant Dissenters; and had then proceeded, with his usual talent for raillery, to ridicule the error into which the petitioners had fallen. Undoubtedly, the petitioners, if they looked at the bill, would see that they had Committed a mistake; but, their mistake was pardonable, if they had had 110 access to a recent speech of his right hon. and learned friend the Attorney-general for Ireland, who had demanded in that House for the Catholics, an equality of civil privileges as their abstract natural right, and had said, that a refusal of their claims would be as unjustifiable, in point of moral justice, as a downright invasion of their property. After such a declaration, the petitioners had almost a right to say, that the effect of this bill was, to give the Roman Catholics privileges superior to those enjoyed by the Dissenters, since the Dissenters were protected by annual indemnity bills, and yet no such protection was deemed necessary for the Catholics.—His right hon. friend had likewise noticed the petitions of the clergy against this bill, and had thought it strange that so much theological discussion should have been introduced into them. Now, he could not participate at all in that surprise. The second clause in the preamble to the bill referred to "the doctrine, discipline, and government of the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland," and stated, that it was essential to preserve it "permanently and inviolably." And yet, such alterations were now contemplated in the bill, that the clause was quite unnecessary. For the question was not any longer, whether the House would admit Catholics to a share of political privileges, but whether it would consent to a qualified establishment of a Roman Catholic church. Now, if the doctrine, discipline, and government of the church of England were to be permanently and inviolably maintained, it became necessary to consider, what that doctrine, discipline, and government was, and where it was to be found explained. The doctrine of the church of England was to be found in what were called the Thirty-nine Articles. Amongst those articles he found one containing a protest against the establishment of the church of Rome. When, therefore, a clergyman of the church of England heard that measures were proposed in parliament, for paying professors of that very religion against which he was bound, in the discharge of its functions, to protest, what was there in his religious creed to prevent him from petitioning firmly but respectfully against such a measure? In the Articles of the church of England it was stated, that the administration of the sacrament in a language which the vulgar could not under- 111 stand, was contrary to the word of God—that the adoration of saints, the worshipping of images, and the sacrifice of the mass, were not sanctioned by the Bible; and that the pope had no jurisdiction, either temporal or spiritual, within this realm. Now, when the clergyman of the church of England was told that the doctrine, discipline, and government of his church was "established permanently and inviolably," and yet saw that it was intended to erect a modified establishment for another church which held as articles of implicit faith those articles which it condemned as contrary to the Bible, and as unsanctioned by the word of God, had he not reason for thinking, that the time was at length come in which his duty compelled him to introduce into his petition, matter which trenched closely upon theological discussion?
He must confess, that he was himself somewhat surprised at the two first clauses in the preamble of the present bill. They were as follow:—"Whereas the Protestant succession to the imperial Crown of this united kingdom and its dependencies, is, by the act for the further limitation of the Crown and the better securing the liberties of the subject, established permanently and inviolably: and whereas the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and Ireland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government thereof, and likewise the Protestant Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and the doctrine, discipline, and government thereof, are, by the respective acts of union between England and Scotland, and between Great Britain and Ireland, therein severally established permanently and inviolably." Now, why were these two clauses introduced into the preamble? There was no clause in the bill which provided for the permanent and inviolable security of the Protestant establishment. These clauses had some connexion with the first bill that was introduced by the late Mr. Grattan; for they were there followed by a third clause to this effect—" And whereas it would tend to promote the interest of the same, and strengthen our free constitution, of which they are an essential part, if the civil and military disqualifications under which his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects now laboured were removed." That clause was omitted in the present bill; for to say that the privileges which it conferred upon the Catholics were intended to promote the interest of the Church of 112 England, and to strengthen our free constitution, would be an absurdity too great for any man at this time of day to think of believing. He had, therefore, some apprehension, from these two clauses being still inserted in the preamble, that there was, in the enactments of the bill, something pregnant with hidden danger to the constitution. The House would recollect, that, in the feast in Macbeth, that tyrant, before he went round the table to pay his respects to his guests, expressed an anxiety for the presence of Banquo, whom he had doomed to die. One of the commentators had remarked, that this single touch of nature showed a greater consciousness of guilt in Macbeth's mind, and excited a stronger suspicion that he intended mischief to Banquo, than a thousand laboured speeches could have done. He, too, thought, that the anxiety for the welfare of the church of England exhibited in the preamble, and not followed up in any of the enactments of the bill, was one of those touches of nature which showed a consciousness of danger in the bosoms of the framers of the bill; and which ought to excite a lurking suspicion that all was not so correct in it as at first sight it appeared to be. The constitution, he contended, was virtually altered by this bill. The bill of rights was repealed by it. That bill provided, by an enactment as solemn as an enactment could be, that the oath taken by every person, on his admission to office, should be the oath of supremacy, which asserts, "that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, preeminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm." This oath—he said nothing at present about the declaration against transubstantiation, which stood on different grounds—this oath was now to be repealed. He did not deny the right of the House of Commons to alter this oath, if it thought good; but, he must say, that, when they told him that they wished to secure to the church of England permanency and inviolability, and when they altered that act which provided for it most effectually, he had a right to ask what security they had to give him for the fulfilment of their promises? He was not going to deny, that the maintenance of the succession to the Crown in the Protestant line, together with the necessity of two or three of its principal officers still remaining Protes- 113 tants, was an important security. Still it was worth while to examine what it amounted to. It amounted only to this—that the individual who came to the throne should make the declaration against transubstantiation, and should be in communion with the church of England. All the security of surrounding him with Protestant counsellors was altered. This made it necessary to consider how it was that James 2nd endeavoured to effect his purposes? "By the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges, and ministers employed by him"—he used the language of the bill of Rights—"did he endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion, and the laws and liberties of this kingdom." The House would therefore see, that, though the king was obliged to be in communion with the church of England at his accession to the throne, he was left at liberty, by this bill, to make his selection of counsellors amongst his Roman Catholic subjects. What might be the consequence of such an event? He would suppose that the individual who filled the throne, after he had taken the oath against transubstantiation, found the grounds of his creed to be erroneous, and considered the ancient religion of the country to be the wisest and the best. He would suppose that he took advantage of the liberal doctrine which had been that night advanced, that a man's religious opinions were not matter of his own choice, and that it would be the height of intolerance to subject him to any disqualification on that account. Now, he would say, that if a king or queen of this country, with a mind liable to the influence of designing persons, after his accession, were to become a convert to the Catholic faith, and were to declare his or her adherence to it, the peace and tranquillity of the country would rest on the will of a single mind. An attempt to dismiss that individual from the throne, because he had, upon conscientious principles, changed his religious faith, might be productive of very serious convulsions in the country. In the reign of James 2nd it had produced them; and in that of Charles 2nd, the suspicion of such an event had given rise to the precautions which it was the object of the present bill to get rid of for ever. He knew that such an event might occur under the present system; but, if the ancient barriers of the constitution were broken down, and the sovereign was enabled to surround 114 himself with Catholic advisers, facilities for it would be created which at present had no existence. He allowed that the danger he was now describing was merely speculative; but, when the fundamental laws of the country were going to be repealed, it was right to look even at speculative danger. The hon. and learned member for Plympton had told them that they were not to look at the clouds with a telescope, and disregard the immediate danger at their feet. Agreed; but still they were bound to be cautious; and, if they saw a cloud in the sky, which at present was not larger than a man's hand, they ought to recollect that it might, ere long, overcast the firmament, and involve the whole face of nature in gloom and desolation. Against this they were bound to provide. Let us act towards those who were to succeed us, with the same caution and prospective regard with which our ancestors acted towards us, and let us not, for any temporary convenience, diminish the strength and security of our institutions. Let it be recollected, that we were not now deciding on the formation of new institutions. The question was not, whether our form of government was to be republican, where all religions were admitted equally to the participation of political power, but whether, being a monarchy, with the Protestant religion established by law, and interwoven with that monarchy, we were now prepared to abandon those securities by which that government was preserved and supported? It was to be recollected, also, that the temporalities of the church of Rome had been transferred to the Protestant church; and that, upon the principles of human nature, those who professed the tenets of the former, must view with jealousy, and consider as an usurping body, the latter. Without imputing to the Roman Catholics any immoral feeling, under the circumstances in which that religion stood in relation to our establishment, he undoubtedly considered it unsafe to legislate for it. In that view, he could find no security in the assurances which the proposed oath demanded. What, he would ask, was the practice of the constitution under circumstances analogous? When the legislature disqualified revenue officers from voting for members of parliament—when it denied to the clergy the capacity of sitting in that House—it at once founded its disqualifications on the undue influence by which it presumed, on the general 115 principles of human nature, those classes would be actuated. It legislated on that ground, and wholly disregarded all securities which declarations, under such circumstances, afforded. The recollections of history teemed with illustrations of the same principle. When he found, for instance, such a man as Mr. Charles Butler, a most able and highly-respected individual, entertaining the conviction, that the reformation had not led to the temporal prosperity of this kingdom; that it had not accelerated the revival of learning—opinions which, as conscientiously entertained by that gentleman, he would not quarrel with—but, he would say, that with such opinions it was impossible that the individual who entertained them should not consider the dispossession of his church of its temporalities by the church of England, as a great act of injustice; and that therefore, with such impressions, he was not qualified to legislate for a state essentially Protestant. He felt the same conviction when he was told to refer to the statements of Dr. Doyle, as given in evidence before the parliamentary committees; and on that point he must declare his total inability to reconcile the former acknowledged publications of that very able and reverend gentleman, with the testimony given by him in those committees.
The right hon. gentleman here proceeded to read extracts from the publications of Dr. Doyle, addressed to the Roman Catholics of Ireland under the signature of J. K. L., and which in eloquent language described the state of the Protestant church in Ireland, and the extent of the sacrifices, which, at the expense of food and raiment, the Irish peasant was called upon to make for its support. When such were the acknowledged opinions of one of the most acute and learned prelates of the Irish church, he must be excused for entertaining doubts of the expected efficacy of the measure of conciliation, as it was called, now in progress, with persons professing to hold such sentiments. So that, with whatever qualifications this bill was accompanied, he hoped he should be also excused by his hon. friend, the member for Armagh, for confessing himself not to be converted by the new lights which had been shed upon the question. As to the incorporation of the Roman Catholic clergy with the state, he would fairly own that he objected to it, not because they believed in the doc- 116 trine of transubstantiation, but because he could not reconcile himself to the operation of that civil influence which he believed to attach to their religious system, and which held a sway over the temporal conduct of mankind. It was not of the religious, but of the civil tendency of the doctrines that he complained; and while he was ready to treat with charity and tenderness the private scruples of any man's conscience, he could not behold with complaisance such a branch of faith as that of Confession, which (and he avowed it with sorrow) tolerated one man's communication to another of his intention to commit a murder, but restrained that other from divulging the information to the intended victim.—A good deal had been very adroitly said by his right hon. friend, of the distinction between transubstantiation and consubstantiation, and of the manner in which the doctrine of absolution was maintained in other countries; but, there was a wide difference in this respect with what was taught the Catholics, and I he impression made in consequence upon the minds of an ignorant and credulous peasantry, who were disallowed the privilege of reading the Scriptures, and forming a just judgment for themselves upon these doctrinal points. He could himself understand the distinction attempted to be drawn between the extent of the power of absolution supposed to be enjoyed by bishops, as distinguished from that held by the priesthood; but did the ignorant peasant make all these nice calculations, and weigh them justly in a moral scale? Then, as to the doctrine of indulgences, and their natural influence upon the temporal conduct of the people, it afforded no satisfaction to him to hear Dr. Doyle describe the scale upon which such indulgences were estimated, their extension to seven years, beyond which they could not prevail, or their shorter quarantine of forty days; enough was it for him to know what must be their effect on the popular notion of the remission of the temporal punishment of sin. And these were the difficulties which met his view whenever he looked at the question.
But, he was asked whether he thought the law could remain upon its present footing? That was a question which he was not at the moment prepared to determine; at the same time that he begged always to be understood as ready to remedy every just ground of complaint which the 117 Catholics might have against the administration of justice, and to remove every irritable came of party excitement. It was this feeling which led him last year to express his difference of opinion from his hon. friend (Mr. Brownlow), who had then gloried in being an Orangeman, and with whom he was also under the necessity of differing as strongly now. He was most anxious to allay these differences, and to reform and relax the penal code, so far as was consistent with the stability of the Protestant establishment. He would make all reasonable concession to the Catholic, while he would maintain the Protestant character of the throne, the parliament, the church, and the judicial bench. Short of all these he was ready to concede; but more he could not relax. He strongly condemned that line of argument which went to impress the minds of the people with a persuasion, that the present policy of the law could not be supported, and which was calculated, in its result, to induce them to swell into demands, requests which were originally couched in terms of deference and respect. He could not approve of exciting the hopes oft the people, as they had been excited with regard to this question, by appeals to abstract principles of civil right, and by attacks on the government; for it was always painful to have to retard the accomplishment of what many might think to be a general wish. If he were told that this was bigotry—if he were told that it was impossible to abstain from giving the Catholic religion the perfect toleration now sought—his answer was, that he was sorry for it; and that if such concessions as those now required were granted, he was apprehensive the time would not be very far distant, when other concessions of a very different nature would be demanded. That the great body of the Catholics would experience considerable dissatisfaction, should parliament reject their claims, he by no means doubted. But, to whom would that dissatisfaction be attributable? Not to himself, or to those hon. gentlemen who thought with him, and who had never encouraged the expectations of the Catholics, but, on the contrary, had witnessed the growth of those expectations with deep regret. The dissatisfaction would be owing to those who had excited extravagant hopes in the Catholic mind. Undoubtedly, the occurrence of any disappointment, on the part of so large and important a body of 118 his majesty's 'subjects, must be to him a subject of painful contemplation; but he had the consolation to know, that he never concurred in the propriety of the doctrines maintained by the advocates of what was called Catholic Emancipation, and therefore could not be considered responsible for the consequences of those doctrines. His right hon. friend had always disclaimed any thing like negotiation with the Catholics, and had said, he would legislate for them, not treat with them. But, what had been the course pursued during the last ten years? What was the history of the securities that were to accompany the relief to the Catholics? Did it not prove, that whatever might be said of the disposition to legislate for the Catholics and not to treat with them, concession was constantly made to the Catholics, and no concession to the Protestants? The first security that was offered was the Veto. Such a security existed in every Protestant state in Europe. And, was it not enough to excite surprise, to find in this Protestant kingdom (for so it was designated in the bill of Rights) the Crown called upon to pay the professors of religion, in the appointment of whom it was denied any influence? But thus it was; and any attempt of the Protestants to legislate on the subject was termed bigotry. The Veto was abandoned; and, in 1821, his right hon. friend produced those securities which he, no doubt, thought adequate on the one hand and necessary on the other. On looking for those securities now, however, they were nowhere to be found. They had been entirely clone away with, and others substituted. The securities having thus grownSmall by degrees, and beautifully less,were now become so exceedingly minute, that they could not well be reduced any further in size. They had sunk below zero, and had been almost too minute for calculation. So insignificant were they at present, that he implored his right hon. friend to leave them out of the bill altogether. They were told, indeed, that the question of securities could be properly considered only in the committee. On this point he would say, that if the great measure were once conceded, he would infinitely rather place all its details upon a principle of generous confidence, than fetter them with a jealous and ineffectual system of restriction. To establish a permanent Catholic commission coming 119 in contact with the Crown, and for the purpose of advising the Crown; the Crown being notwithstanding compelled to make appointments which it might think liable to great objection, was to him no satisfactory provision. But then, there was to be a certificate of loyalty. Now, every body knew what loyalty meant in private conversation; but, what did it mean by act of parliament? He did not know what loyalty meant by law, except that the individual to whom the term was applied was never convicted of a crime in a court of justice. When Dr. Doyle was asked if; in his opinion, the proposed provision for the Catholic clergy should be inalienable, he answered yes, while they comported themselves loyally and peaceably as became subjects; and when he was asked, whether by not comporting themselves loyally and in obedience to the laws, he did not mean their being convicted by some legal court of such conduct, he replied in the affirmative. Now, really, he could not conceive a more painful duty, than for the commission to certify to the Crown the loyalty of those whom they recommended. It was a delusion also to suppose that such an arrangement would diminish the dangerous character of the correspondence of the Catholic prelates with the see of Rome. His right hon. friend had observed, that that correspondence existed at present. True; but how different would be its character when it became sanctioned by act of parliament, instead of being carried on under the terror of severe laws which might be executed.
He would beg leave to say a single word with respect to one of the measures which were to accompany this Catholic Relief bill, and which by many were considered as complete securities against the danger of that bill. He meant the measure for raising the qualification of the freeholders. On the first view of it, this certainly appeared an extraordinary project. He hoped it would not be acceded to without great consideration. He could assure the friends of Catholic concession, that he had no sinister intention of attacking one measure through the sides of another. On the contrary, he was desirous to consider each on its own grounds. But, while he willingly admitted the right of parliament to regulate any abuse that existed in the exercise of the elective franchise, he could not but look with considerable alarm at a proposition for 120 disfranchising a large portion of his majesty's subjects. Whatever might be the moral effect of such a step, when he considered that the immense majority of the population of Ireland was Catholic, he felt some doubt whether, if the result of the proposed bill should be, as its advocates predicted it would be, greatly to increase the prosperity of Ireland, and therefore especially to enrich the Catholic body, the raising the qualification might not, in the course of twenty years, give a very undue preponderance to the Catholic interest. Mr. O'Connell, whose opinion on such a subject was deserving of great weight, thought that raising the qualification would add to Catholic influence. There were other important considerations connected with this proposed measure. He would not then pronounce decisively respecting it; but he could not deny that he had serious doubts whether it would be productive of the effects anticipated from it; and above all, whether it would afford any security to the Protestant interest.
With respect to the other measure for paying the Catholic clergy, there were also grounds, and those not of a financial nature, which would render him indisposed to agree to it. He was not prepared, therefore, to admit the alleged securities which these two supplementary measures contained. The securities in the bill under consideration he must entirely reject. If he once admitted the claims of the Catholic, on the ground that his religious opinions ought to form no disqualification, he would not insult him by making him take an oath, abjuring the belief that faith might not be kept with heretics. On these grounds he should steadily adhere to the course lie had hitherto pursued on this subject; namely, that of deeming all securities insufficient by which Catholic influence was not excluded from the councils of the state, and from the legislature. When he compared the conduct now pursuing by this Protestant parliament, in taking into consideration the expediency of further concessions to the Catholics, with the conduct of the Catholic parliament of a neighbouring country, by which a law had been passed for punishing with the penalty of death those who committed whet was called sacrilege, he must say, that he saw in that comparison an additional reason for proceeding no further. He could never consent to any measure which diminished 121 the security of our Protestant establishment, and thereby threatened the foundations of civil and religious liberty.
§ Mr. Brougham
rose, amidst loud cries for the question. He said, that after the unanswerable speech of the right hon. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—a speech which replied, as by anticipation, to all the arguments of the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down—the House must consider it wholly unnecessary to listen to a single further sentence on the question; and he could assure them, that it would be as irksome to him to address them upon it as it would be to them to hear him. He rose merely to make two or three observations, for his own sake and for the sake of other hon. members, on a very important feature of the subject which had been mixed up, and especially by the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, in the latter part of his speech, with the proper discussion of that night. In the first place, then, he declared, that in voting for the bill now before the House, he voted for a known and definite measure—a measure for granting relief to his majesty's Roman Catholic subjects. As to any ulterior measures, to operate as securities, or as alleged securities, they might be very fit subjects for consideration in the committee, but they had nothing to do with the principle of the bill, which was the question to be then determined. With regard to the two bills, one of which was to be introduced to the House to-morrow, and the other next week, having never yet formed any part of the Catholic bill, and being in their essence perfectly novel, it would be the unfairest thing in the world to suppose that any hon. member, by his vote of that night, either directly or indirectly expressed his sentiments, or insinuated what would be his opinion upon them. That those measures were of great importance—of importance hardly inferior to the bill before the House—he most readily admitted. But, novel as they were, and difficult as they were in themselves, they were rendered still more difficult, by the various opinions that were entertained respecting them. He could not find that those persons who were best fitted, by their local knowledge, to form an opinion as to the expediency of those bills, were able to give him any of that light, as to their nature and probable effect, of which he stood so much in need. Those who were connected with the ecclesiastical in- 122 terests of the country, while they entertained no doubt of the expediency of the civil measure, entertained the greatest doubt as to the expediency of the ecclesiastical measure; and, on the other hand, those who were connected with the civil interests of the country, while they entertained no doubt of the expediency of the ecclesiastical measure, entertained the greatest doubt of the expediency of the civil measure. He should certainly come to the discussion of both measures, with all the deliberation which their importance demanded; and he trusted with that willingness to be convinced of their expediency, which must be produced by the temptation held out by the declaration of some of the supporters of the Catholic claims, that they were induced to vote for the Catholic bill in consequence of the security which those ulterior measures promised. But, he should also come to that discussion with the spirit of deliberation and impartiality, with his mind ready for conviction from any arguments which could reconcile the seeming incongruities, but remembering always his general constitutional principles. In one case, any thing which but seemed to approach to the idea of disfranchisement must powerfully affect his mind. In the other, a large increase of the influence of the Crown, implied in the assignment of a provision for an extensive and powerful hierarchy, to be paid by the Crown out of money to be levied upon the public at large, must equally affect him with jealousy. These were reflections of an astounding kind, which he had to encounter upon the mere threshold of this subject. Did the House mark the tenour of that expression which had fallen from a right hon. gentleman opposite, in advising the adoption of the plan? "Pay the Irish clergy," said that right hon. gentleman, "and the government will have an officer in every parish." He repeated, that he should come to the consideration of both these ulterior measures, prepared to hear every thing that could be urged in their favour. Greatly disappointed should he be if he found that he could not agree to them; but, before he did agree to them he must be convinced that they would leave the constitution untouched; and the rights of all parties—of the Protestant freeholder, who was to get no boon, as well as the Catholic freeholder, who was to get a boon—undiminished. He must be convinced, that these measures would not 123 render Catholic Emancipation pregnant with matter hostile to the conciliation of all classes of the community; the object which, next to emancipation itself, was the principal aim he had in view. He had thought it right to express the doubts which he entertained on these subjects. All he now did, however, with respect to them was to say, that he must pause before he consented to their adoption. He might be wrong in entertaining any doubt on the subject; and, if the success of the Catholic bill rested on the success of those other measures, he most sincerely hoped that he should be proved so. On the Catholic question itself he was quite clear. He considered now, as he had always considered, that considerations of expediency, no less than considerations of right and justice, demanded the adoption of the bill before the House. It stood, as it stood before it was mixed up with any other measure, on the ground of right, of expediency, almost of necessity. The safety of the empire depended on the conciliation of the people; and parliament should avail themselves of, perhaps, the last opportunity that would be offered them of granting that as a favour which might otherwise be extorted from them as a right. He rejoiced heartily that he could anticipate with confidence, that the result of that night's debate would be a majority in favour of the bill so triumphant, as to afford the best chance of its success in that other House of parliament, in which alone it had hitherto been for many years rejected.
The question being put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the question." The House divided: Ayes 268. Noes 241. Majority for the second reading 27. The bill was accordingly read a second time.