§ Mr. Spring Rice,
in rising to make the motion of which he had given notice, disclaimed the intention of occupying any considerable portion of the time of the House, and declared that he would endeavour to avoid every thing calculated to excite irritation. If he departed from that rule, it would be unwillingly, and he entreated the House to interfere and correct him, if he should be found in any manner deviating from that calmness of discussion which such a subject as the present ought to meet. It was absolutely necessary, however, that he should advert to what had taken place elsewhere, on the subject with which his motion was connected, in order to lay a parliamentary ground for the motion itself. He admitted, that if nothing had occurred on that subject since the commencement of the session, or that if they were at the commencement of a session, it would be exceedingly improper on his part to make the proposition which he was about to submit to the House, and exceedingly unwise on the part of the House to accede to that proposition. But, with reference to what had taken place on the subject, he trusted he should he able to show, not only that it would be wise, but that it was necessary, that the House should take some such step as that he was about to call upon them to take.
He believed that there was no man who, looking back on recent occurrences, would not allow, that if there was one subject which more than any other had 842 occupied the attention, not only of both sides of that House, but of the people out of doors, it was the condition of Ireland, and the steps which it was probable parliament would take to ameliorate that condition. It was a consideration which came in some degree recommended by the Speech from the Throne, and the expediency of which was established by every inquiry that had been instituted. He would now, however, ask, after all the anxiety that had been so generally evinced, what had been done by the legislature for Ireland? The Statute-book might be searched in vain for a single remedial measure for the evils, the existence of which in that country was on all hands acknowledged. One act, indeed, had received the sanction of the legislature. He meant that which had put an end to the Catholic Association. It had been declared in the Speech from the Throne, that the existence of that association was inconsistent with the peace of Ireland; and, although it was supported by the whole body of Catholics of Ireland, parliament proceeded utterly to extinguish it. He, for one, had never dissembled his opinion, that there was some danger connected with the existence of that association. He had always wished to sec it put down; although he should have preferred seeing it put down by the removal of the causes which led to its establishment. Put down, however, it was. But, although they thus legislated against the Catholics in that very point to which they were most attached; although from the peer to the peasant, from the earl Fingal to the humblest contributor to the rent, there was but one feeling throughout Ireland in favour of the Catholic Association, yet he called on the House to recollect the conduct of the Catholics when an act was passed against this their cherished body. They silently acquiesced in the decision of parliament. Nay, they did more. They not only obeyed the law, but they gave it an enlarged construction. They not only obeyed it in its literal meaning; but they obeyed it with a liberal understanding, as if, instead of being a penal measure, it had been one of grace and favour. It would appear from this that the Catholics at least deserved well of the legislature.
But, he should be guilty of a mis-statement of the fact, if he were to conceal his belief that the entire acquiescence of the Catholics in the decision of the legisla- 843 ture was principally produced by the hopes of which they were at that period full. They knew that inquiries into the state of Ireland were going on in that and in the other House of parliament; and they calculated on the most favourable results to their cause. They thought that by humbly offering themselves as witnesses; by giving every possible information, by contributing to the production of the whole truth, by laying the case of Ireland before the country, they should receive from the justice of parliament relief from the evils under which they were labouring. Their witnesses were not only examined by the friends of Catholic emancipation, but were subjected to the operation of that powerful engine, the cross-examination of the opponents of the measure. From Mr. O'Connell, parliament learnt the political views of the Catholics; from Dr. Doyle, the principles of their religion. When those inquiries had terminated, the Catholics received, as far as that House was concerned, the reward of their conduct. They looked forward with strong anticipation of success. They found that their cause was gaining ground in the Commons House. They found that in Ireland it was gaining ground. They felt too, that notwithstanding what might be said of petitions to the contrary, that amongst the best-educated and higher classes in England, the cause of emancipation was gaining ground. The bill for the relief of the Catholics was introduced into that House, and for the second time carried triumphantly through it. The expectations of the Catholics were thus highly excited. There was not an individual connected with the Catholic party—there was not a Protestant who wished well to Ireland—that did not entertain what appeared to be a reasonable expectation, that the condition of the Catholics would be better at the close of the session than it had been at its commencement. Nor were those hopes diminished by the tone which had been taken by the opponents of the bill in that House. For although they contended warmly against the measure on principle, yet their tone was so mild and conciliatory, as to disarm the Catholics of resentment, and to excite in their breasts afeeling of regret, that talents were not exerted on their side of the question, which, had they been successful in defeating the bill, would not have accompanied that defeat with insult, but would have given 844 a grace and dignity even to the refusal of justice [hear, hear!]. But, what followed? For the second time, the Catholic Relief bill was sent up to the House of Lords. For the second time it was placed by his right hon. friend, in the hands of the lord high chancellor of England. This bill, recommended as no former measure of the kind had been recommended; this bill, recommended by the concurrence of many honourable members of that House, who had formerly been hostile to it; this bill, supported by a greater number of Protestants than had ever before expressed their approbation of it; this bill was rejected by the House of Lords. "Sir," continued the hon. gentleman, "I will abstain from making such comments on that proceeding as would justly call for your interference. If I were to state that the House of Lords, by their conduct on that occasion, had placed us in a situation disgraceful to ourselves and to them, you would observe to me, that I was using strong language, and the House would, no doubt, concur in that opinion. If I were to say, that the proceeding of the House of Lords was all nonsense and trash in its commencement, and worse than nonsense in its close, you would very properly declare, that such language ought not to be applied by an individual member of either House of parliament to the conduct of the other House" [hear, hear, hear!].
He would abstain, therefore, from applying any harsh words to the rejection of the Catholic Relief bill by the upper House of parliament. It was sufficient for him to say, that it exhibited the two Houses at issue on a question of as great magnitude and importance, as ever occupied the attention of a legislature—a question involving the existence of Ireland, and the stability of the empire. Were they to pause here? Were they to acquiesce in the decision of the House of Lords, and abandon the Catholic cause? Or were they not rather to adopt the wiser course of endeavouring to strengthen and fortify their case by bringing forward evidence of its justice in a shape so unquestionable as to reconcile the House of Lords to their opinion, and at length to ensure the success of the measure, for the success of which they had so long been struggling? Let the House remember that this was not a consideration of minor importance. It was not like a difference of opinion from the House of Lords on a 845 Silk bill. It was not like a question whether satins and ribbons should be manufactured in Spitalfields or in Yorkshire. It was a difference of opinion on a question, the right determination of which was essential to the well-being, and even to the existence of the country. On what ground could the bill have been rejected by the House of Lords? It could have been so rejected only on the ground that its adoption would have been inconsistent with the maintenance of good order, and with the security of the established religion of the country. It was impossible that the House of Lords could have determined to continue such painful restrictions on six millions of his majesty's subjects, except under the influence of such a persuasion.
Well—the House of Commons declare, that they consider the passing of the Catholic Relief bill to be indispensable to the well-being, and to the very existence of the empire. The House of Lords declare, that they consider the adoption of that bill to be inconsistent with the well-being of the empire, and the safety of the Protestant establishment. If the Lords be right, we are undermining the very foundation of the state; if they be wrong they are arresting all natural improvement, and endangering all natural security; between these two opinions there can be no compromise. Under such circumstances what course ought that House to pursue? To strengthen their case; to prove from the best evidence and the highest authority, that they were right in the view which they had taken of the subject. If he were asked on what evidence, and on what authority, he thought he could most strongly rely as calculated to influence the opinions of the other House of parliament, he would answer, the evidence and the authority of that illustrious individual who had been sent over by the king's government to undertake the government of Ireland under circumstances of the most arduous and difficult nature. He thought that lord Wellesley, as an eyewitness, was better qualified than any other man to give an account of the civil animosities of Ireland, with their consequences. He thought, too, that the opinion of lord Wellesley must have very great weight with the parties with whom he had to deal. Must not his opinion have weight with the cabinet which had appointed hint, and with the House of parliament to which he had so long been an 846 ornament? Let it not be said that they had already heard lord Wellesley's opinions in parliament; and that even if such despatches as those for which he was about to move, really existed, they had already derived from those opinions all the benefit which could be gained by the production of the despatches. By no means. Those were the opinions of an individual, given immediately after a long residence in India, and a long dissociation from Ireland and her concerns. What he wanted was, not merely the opinion of lord Wellesley, but the opinion of lord Wellesley as the king's deputy, after four long and painful years of observation and experience; after four years passed in severe trial.—He wanted his opinion of that country after he had governed it for four years under circumstances of greater difficulty than any which had ever fallen to the lot of former governors, and after he had, by his government, conferred upon it greater good than all of them put together [hear]. The House had already, it was true, the weight of lord Wellesley's authority; that which he sought to give them by the production of the papers he called for was the benefit of lord Wellesley's experience in the recorded opinion of lord Wellesley, the viceroy of Ireland, in the shape of despatches transmitted to the ministry who employed him. Had he a right to assume the existence of such despatches? Of course he could know nothing on the subject. But he would allow, that if it was not demonstrable from the common sense of the thing, that such despatches must exist, that lord Wellesley must have expressed his opinion on the great question which had been so long agitating the empire, and that that opinion must be in the possession of his majesty's ministers, then the House ought to withhold their sanction from his proposition. Could the House imagine, that the lord-lieutenant had not communicated his opinions on this subject? The events that had taken place in Ireland: the legislation of the present session rendered such a supposition wholly absurd. That lord Wellesley should have declined all communication with the cabinet was more credible than that, writing to the king's ministers, he should omit all mention of the Catholic question. He had, therefore, a full right to assume the existence of such a despatch as that for which he had moved. He contended that every probability was in favour of its existence; 847 and he put it boldly to the House, that in such a despatch a distinct opinion must have been given one way or the other, as to the necessity of Catholic emancipation. It was impossible to touch upon any Irish question, without meeting upon it the Catholic question. It was impossible to go from the school of the child, to the burial-place of the old man, without being beset by it in some shape or other. How, then, was it possible to conceive that lord Wellesley, bound, as the chief governor of Ireland, to give an account of its state and condition—bound to describe the evils under which Ireland suffered, and to suggest the remedies by which those evils might be most effectually met—how was it possible to conceive that that noble lord could write to the government at home, without explicitly stating his opinion on the great question of Catholic emancipation? That was the very opinion which he wished to come at. That was the very opinion by which he wished to prove to the House of Lords that the decision of the House of Commons was a wise decision. He called on the majority of that House to support his motion; for by so doing they would support the principle of their own vote.
Perhaps it might be said, that no such despatches had been received from lord Wellesley; that no opinion on this important subject had been expressed to his majesty's government by lord Wellesley. If so, would gentlemen on the other side of the House consent to the personal examination of lord Wellesley, either by that or by the other House of parliament? Why not? The two Houses were at issue on a question of vital importance. On the merits of that question lord Wellesley could give the best testimony that could be given. Would the gentlemen opposite agree that lord Wellesley should be examined as a witness, and should state what had been the result of his four years' experience in the government of Ireland? A "dignus vindice nodus" had arrived, which required the appearance of that illustrious nobleman upon the scene. He would again ask the hon. gentlemen opposite, whether they would allow lord Wellesley to be examined? If he had followed the course most congenial to his own mind, he should have pressed such a motion upon the House; but be was told that if he did press it, he would be met by a declaration that the presence of lord Wellesley could not be spared from Ire- 848 land. Under the present aspect of affairs, he would not wish to pursue any course that could have the slightest tendency to create irritation or disturbance in Ireland, and he should therefore make a motion of a very mitigated nature.
He thought it behoved the House, both upon principle and upon policy, to have some consideration for the feelings of the Irish. The people of Ireland had, for many years, been suffering under defeated expectations, and of hope deferred; but the parliament had now avowed what not only amounted to a denial of the Catholic petitions and a refusal to pass the bill, or to grant them any concession whatever; but what, if carried to a fair and legitimate conclusion, would warrant the government in asking of parliament the re-enactment of the penal laws. If the government were consistent, and acted upon their own principles, he maintained that Ireland would be unsafe if they did not revert to the old system of laws [hear, hear!]. If what some members of the administration had asserted was true, that the Catholics were bad subjects, and gave but a divided allegiance, the government had already trusted them beyond the bounds of prudence; they had gone too far, and it was their duty to make them powerless, because they were not to be confided in. Lord Liverpool's declarations had produced this feeling and impression which existed in Ireland; they felt deep foreboding and anticipation, that the day of hope for the Catholics, if it had not disappeared, would shortly disappear; and it was with a view of giving them the solemn, recorded; official opinion of the lord-lieutenant to increase their confidence, that the law, as it existed, would be administered fairly towards them; it was with a view to calm and soothe irritation, that he called on the House to agree to the production of these documents.
When he told the House that he thought it of the highest importance to soothe the people of Ireland, he did not mean to say, that the Catholic disappointments were necessarily to lead to Catholic disturbances. Submission to the laws was the duty of every man, Catholic or Protestant, and the Catholics of Ireland were aware of this truth; but, nevertheless, so long as grievance was added to grievance—so long as government continued adding disappointment upon disappointment—so long was danger augmenting. If 849 the Catholics could be trusted as far as they had been trusted under disappointments and grievances—if government had thought it right to repose such confidence in their loyalty and obedience when in a state of irritation from existing evils—was it not a proof that they were worthy of having bestowed upon them those rights for which they had petitioned, but which were still withheld? The hon. baronet near him (sir T. Lethbridge) had admitted, that notwithstanding the rejection of their claims, he was persuaded the Catholics would still behave with loyalty and affection. If this was his persuasion, why, then, refuse them that confidence which they required and deserved? That hon. baronet admitted that, at this day, the Catholics might be fully relied upon—that their peaceableness, fidelity to the laws, tranquil demeanour, was what was to be relied upon as to the future tranquillity of Ireland. He did think that these recitals of Catholic merit, that this reliance upon Catholic allegiance, came very strangely from a quarter which had given its most strenuous opposition to the bill. If the Catholics were what they were represented—if, in disappointment and grievance, you could confide in them—if, under circumstances of irritation, the hon. member for Somersetshire loved the Catholics so well, that he believed, do what they would, they would still respect you—he (Mr. R.) could only say, upon this principle, that the House was not justified in withholding or refusing its approbation to any measure, the effect of which would be, to admit into the constitution those persons of whom it entertained so high an opinion. But he believed that the Catholics would confide as little in the praises bestowed upon them by the hon. baronet and those who opposed their just claims, as that hon. baronet and his agricultural friends did in the high tribute paid by the late lord Londonderry to their patience, endurance, and forbearance, when he (sir Thomas) and Mr. Webbe Hall were described as the O'Connell and O'Gorman of the agricultural complainants [hear]. The Catholics would, he feared, when praise was offered from such a quarter, remember the language of the poet—Fair Sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last; You spurned me such a day—another time You called me dog—But, for these courtesies.But," says the hon. member for Somerset, 850 I hold myself entitled to the best services of the Catholics."
If the Catholics, however, rejected the advice of their enemies, he still hoped they would take the recommendation of their friends; and as one of the latter, there were two principles which he would particularly urge for their adoption. One was, to preserve, at every risk, and under all vicissitudes, union among their own body—to maintain it from Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear, if they hoped either to meet or to deserve success. The next was, to obtain, by all means within their power, the Protestant co-operation, which was already so generally held out to them. A tide was already beginning to flow in their favour; let them embark upon the stream and they would arrive at a safe harbour. They were approaching the period when Ireland would become, morally speaking, unanimous upon this subject. As soon as Ireland became so, it would not be in the power of that House, nor of any government, to refuse their demands [hear, hear!]. One party declared that there could be no security without the passing of the Catholic bill, whilst another party protested, that were the bill to pass, the very existence of both church and state would be endangered, if not annihilated. This wide extreme of opposite views, urged a want of accurate information upon the subject. But it was not a matter which required any depth of research—the Irish people, on this question of emancipation, must, from the nature of things, be the best judges as to the expediency of granting it. He entreated the government to consider that this was, of all other questions, that on which the Irish members were entitled to particular attention from the people of England, on account of their local knowledge and peculiar opportunities of observation. Their lives, happiness, and property depended upon this subject, and they were consequently the best judges of its nature. Now, at least three out of four of the Irish members were favourable to the Catholic claims; and if they were to take the opinions of the Irish peerage, the majority in favour of those claims would be at least equal. The necessary effect of exclusion against this evidence was calculated to bring the people of Ireland ultimately to hate and curse the British constitution, and detest that union of the two countries, which, under more fortunate circumstances, would be pro- 851 ductive of so much good for both. It was under those circumstances that he was so anxious to have the despatches of lord Wellesley laid before them; first, to calm the agitated feeling of Ireland; and next, to enlighten the public feeling of Ireland upon a subject in which his opinion, as chief governor, must necessarily have great weight; or, to speak more justly, to guide public opinion in England in the course it had already taken.
For his part, he most thoroughly despised the base and despicable arts which had been taken to inflame the public mind upon the subject. With regard to the cry of "No Popery," and the base artifices by which it was raised, he should merely say, that the same hands which scrawled "No Popery," would also be the first to write "No King" in the same manner [hear, hear]. And having just mentioned this fact, he would relate another, and which he was sure was not promoted by the respectable part of the opponents of the Catholics. There was a person, he believed, of the name of Ben-bow, who was described as an obscure publisher of seditious pamphlets at former trials of notoriety, and who was at present engaged in disseminating a Speech, purporting to have been delivered by an illustrious personage elsewhere, and upon the sentiments in which, he meant not to say one word. To this publication was, however, subjoined a call of the people of England to rejoice, in terms sufficiently objectionable in this country, but which, when circulated in Ireland, whither he had heard it was sent by a personage high in rank and office, was in the utmost degree calculated to excite irritation and discontent. If either of the parties conceived that this conduct would recommend them to the illustrious person, he felt persuaded that they deceived themselves; as he could not believe that the duke of York would wish to produce discord and irritation in Ireland.
If there was any question on which he should mistrust public feeling, it was one which involved public prejudices. The moment religion was interfered with, the judgment was blinded. On a question like the present, he would mistrust mere popular feeling; so little was it to be depended upon in any question that involved the religious prejudices of the population. The clamour excited upon this subject was as unworthy of attention as those which had existed against measures of 852 trade, and which, upon another occasion, had been alluded to by a right hon. gentleman opposite. Such clamours had been often raised by merchants against measures, from which, immediately after they were carried into execution, they themselves derived the greatest benefit. To prove the truth of this opinion, the Irish Union duties, and other duties, had been very properly appealed to. Such facts might justify the House in disregarding clamours and popular feelings, so frequently excited out of doors.
He would further beg leave to refer to another apposite case. About the year 1720 or 1721, considerable alarm existed in the government of this country, with respect to the introduction into England of the plague, which then raged at Marseilles. The government of that day came forward with remedial measures, in the same way as the government now came forward with their Catholic measures. The plague was then raging with the utmost violence at Marseilles, and the greatest consternation prevailed throughout England, lest it should be introduced into this country. Nevertheless, certain partizans contrived to raise the most violent popular clamours against the measures which the government was then taking for the public safety. "No barrack hospitals," "No red-coat nurses," were the cries raised against the plans of government, the sole object of which was, to prevent the introduction of that malady; and the effects of such clamours had been very considerable. Lord Hardwicke stated, that "In the 7th year of Geo. 1st, an act was passed for preventing the spreading of the plague. Though the regulations were all very proper, though the people were then in the utmost consternation for fear of the plague at that time raging at Marseilles, yet means were found to raise a popular clamour; the cry was every where, 'No barrack hospitals,' 'No redcoat nurses," and the ferment among the people became general." The cry was then "The plague for ever," as it was at present "No popery."
But, for a case more completely in point, he would advise gentlemen to refer to the memorable debates which had taken place upon the introduction of the celebrated Jew bill, and they would be astonished to find, that all the arguments now used against the Catholic emancipation were the same as had been resorted to against the former measure; and yet there 853 was not to be found even an old woman throughout the country who would not hold in contempt the supposition that any danger could arise from passing such a Jew bill. He would refer to a petition presented to the House against the Jew bill, by the city of London, praying that the measure for naturalizing the Jews might not pass into a law. The petitioners set forth, "That should the said bill pass into a law, the same would tend greatly to the dishonour of the Christian religion, would endanger our happy constitution, and would be highly prejudicial to the interests and trade of the kingdom in general, and of the city of London in particular." Here the citizens of London thought that the bill would be greatly to the dishonour, not of the parliament, but of the Christian religion itself, and therefore so much worse was it than the present Catholic bill, which would only endanger the honour of parliament and the happy constitution in church and state [hear, heat!]. The petition further stated, that the said Jew bill would be "prejudicial to the interests of the trade of the city of London;" but, he might appeal even to the chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the Jews had not been since introduced, not only into the city of London, but even into Downing street itself, without any distressing consequences whatever—at least according to the notions of chancellors of the Exchequer [a laugh]. The debates upon the Jew bill were just as strong, just as impassioned, and just as prejudiced, as the present debates upon the Catholic claims. To give some idea of the truth of what he was saying, he would refer to the "Craftsman." After stating the numberless inconveniences, the innumerable disasters, which would arise from the measure, the author proceeds to state in these words—"I must beg leave to set forth the consequences of this bill. With God there is mercy, but with the Jews there is no mercy, and they have 1,700 years punishment to revenge. If this bill passes, we are all Jewish slaves, and without hope of relief from the goodness of God. The monarch would become a creature of the Jews, and the freeholders would be insignificant to him. He would disband our British soldiers, and raise a greater army of Jews, who might force us to abjure our royal family, and to be harmoniously naturalized under a king of the Jews. Awake, therefore, my brother 854 Christians and Protestants. It is not Hannibal at your gates, but the Jews, who are coming for the keys of your church doors" [loud and continued laughter].
But it was really curious to see the apposition existing between the two cases. Even in that day there was a mighty West-country member, who was a great champion of orthodoxy—a powerful defender of "the present order of things." This redoubtable champion of the rightful cause, a Mr. William Northey,* said, that "this bill will admit the Jews to a share in our government. A multitude of Jews may have votes for members of parliament, and we may soon have some of them in this House. They will divide our counties by lot amongst their tribes, and become the highest bidders for every estate." Another member of that day, a sir Edmund Isham, said, "whatever may seem to be intended, every gentleman must foresee that a general naturalization of the Hebrew nation will be the consequence. I am persuaded their number will increase so fast, that they will become possessed of a considerable part of our landed estates, and we shall soon have to contend for power as well as property." Another member, a worthy representative of London, took a more deep and theological view of the subject, very similar to a petition that had recently been presented from Leicester. This was a sir John Barnard, who pronounced, that "the Jews are the offspring of those who crucified our Saviour, and labour under the curse pronounced on that account;" and he, therefore, called on the House to throw out the bill: just as many at present say, "the Catholics are the descendants of those who burnt your ancestors at Smithfield! and, therefore, persecute them—refuse them all the rights of humanity." There was no more sense in one declaration than the other [hear, hear!].
He would now beg leave to read an extract from a publication of that day, called "the Hebrew Journal, published by authority." "Since our last, arrived one mail from Jerusalem. Last week twenty-five children were publicly circumcised at the Lying-in hospital, Brownlow-street.—Last night the bill for naturalising Christians was thrown out of the Sanhedrim by a very great majority.—
* See Parl. Hist. v. XIV. p. 1365.855 The report of the Christians rising in North Wales, is entirely without foundation.—Last Friday being the anniversary of the Crucifixion, it was observed throughout the kingdom with demonstrations of joy." In this way had a clamour been raised against a very useful and liberal measure in former times and that clamour was even greater than the outcry that is at present against the Catholic claims, Speaking of the new bill, the late lord Chatham had said, "I am fully convinced, I am persuaded most gentlemen who hear me are fully convinced, that religion has really nothing to do in the dispute; but the people without doors have been made to believe it has, and upon this the old high-church spirit of persecution has begun to lay hold of them" [hear, hear!]. It would be indecorous in him to speak of the high-church spirit of persecution; he would rather call it the high-church love of exclusion, of monopoly, and of possession. This high-church spirit of persecution had now been made use of to influence the people, who had been made to view the Catholic as a purely religious question; but those who had thus used the people as their tools, knew in their hearts that religion had no more to do with the question, than had the bill to regulate weights and measures, or than the bill to ascertain the length of the pendulum by the number of its vibrations. Apposite to this opinion, was a letter which would be found in the "Parliamentary History"* from doctor Birch to Mr. Phillip Yorke upon the Jew bill. Dr. Birch says:—"The clamour against the Jew bill is evidently designed to influence the election next year. The bishop of Norwich was insulted for having voted for it, in several parts of his diocese, whither he went to confirm; the boys at Ipswich in particular, calling out to him for circumcision, and a paper being fixed up to one of the churches, that on Saturday his lordship would confirm the Jews, and the day following the Christians."
Thus was the cry against liberal measures in all ages equally senseless and equally brutal [hear, hear!]. There was no power which the parliament could grant to the Catholics which could, under any circumstances, be so dangerous as that Which the parliament created in their favour by their system of exclusions. It* Parl. Hist. v. XIV, p. 1431856 was their grievances, and their grievances alone, which, in an age like the present, could make them powerful. It was the oppressions under which the Catholics laboured which gave such gentlemen as Mr. Shiel, Mr. O'Connell, and Mr. O'Gorman, their influence over that body. When he named these gentlemen, it was not to distrust them: on the contrary, they were entitled to his respect and esteem, and deserved well of their Country; but he preferred to have power vested in the laws, and not in the hands of individuals however respectable. He preferred the sway of legitimate to that of personal authority. No truth was more general, more important, or more in variable, than that individuals could never obtain a power over the people as demagogues, or as agitators, but by the errors or the vices of the government. Let gentlemen consider whether any thing could be more dangerous than to give an influence over great masses of the people to agitators, or to leaders (if the word agitator were obnoxious) of the Catholics. He meant no disrespect whatever to the Catholic leaders; but he must say, that all their influence over the Irish population arose completely from the errors of government. If a people could not look up to their rulers fur protection, if they were forced to view the constituted authorities as their oppressors, they would naturally be inclined to resort to able individuals for counsel and protection.
He felt convinced that the time was not distant, when the present proceedings of this and of another House, would be viewed by those who succeeded them with the greatest astonishment, if not with the utmost contempt [hear, hear!]. The religious wisdom of one age was often the object of contempt to every succeeding generation. The successors of that House would not believe that the present parliament of Great Britain had carried about with them an atmosphere of their, own, that deprived them of all the benefits of time, place, and general circumstances. Whilst all the educated classes of society were throwing off the trammels and prejudices of ages gone by, and were emerging from the grossness of ignorance, the parliament, as he had already shown, were acting in a manner precisely analogous to that in which the parliament had acted upon the subject of the Jew bill, nearly a century ago—a manner which Would excite nothing but the contempt 857 of the present times, if it were not for the evils which such proceedings entailed upon society. Some short time hence, foreign ministers would not believe that an assembly of five hundred educated men could refuse such a measure as the present Catholic bill, much less could they believe, that they had refused it upon any of the grounds, that had been urged in the speeches of the members. Perhaps the greatest satire that could be pronounced upon the human character, would be those last fading remnants of religious bigotry, which, in an age like this, would still uphold the principle of ecclesiastical monopoly, and retard, if they could not prevent, the practice of toleration in its most absolute sense. It would hardly be credited that they had, at variance with every principle of sound policy, left it in the power of any foreign minister to trouble the peace of the country, instead of following that wise, enlightened, and liberal policy which distinguished the other proceedings of the day, and which, in that case, would have tended so strongly to preserve the power and pre-eminence of the country. This country had established a continental society for the purpose of diffusing its principles amongst the people of the neighbouring nations. This society circulated their tracts in every direction. Suppose an insular society existed abroad, the object of which was, to establish French principles in Ireland. If such a society were to exist, would not the government accuse itself of having done every thing calculated to render the Irish susceptible of foreign influence and infection?
Respecting the subject in debate, the Irish government had as yet expressed no opinions whatever of the state of Ireland, in relation to the Catholic measure. If they had expressed any such opinion, it had been withheld from the public, and the House ought to be put in possession of their sentiments. He wished that the people of England should hear the opinion of the head of the Irish government on this vital question. If it had given no opinion, it ought to be rebuked: if it had given one, it ought to be known, in justice to both countries. On former occasions the despatches of lord Wellesley had been used in parliament to support legislative proceedings for Ireland. With what consistency, then, could they be now withheld? How could they be -re= fused, in justice. to their own votes, in 858 Justiee to their duty towards Ireland? Papers had been produced to justify the application of coercive proceedings against the Irish people; and, were they not likewise to be produced when the effect was likely to be productive of conciliation and tranquillity? Papers had been produced to the House of Lords, and he thought that precedent was sufficient to Justify the present motion He hoped the House of Commons would not refuse its consent to a proceeding, which would put it in possession of the evidence of the chief magistrate of Ireland, and thereby not only justify the vote they had given, but give the means of a renewed effort to do justice to the people of Ireland.—The hon. gentleman concluded by moving,—"That an humble address be presented to his majesty, that he will he graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, copies or Extracts of any Letters or despatches which have been received from the lord lieutenant of Ireland, respecting the origin, nature, and effects, of religious animosities, in that country, and the best means of allaying those animosities with a view to the tranquillization and good government of Ireland, and the strength and security of the empire."
Sir T. Lethbridge
assured the hon. member, that he was never more mistaken than when he imagined that opinions were held by him derogatory to the loyalty of the Roman Catholics, he never had entertained any such opinions. On the contrary, he had always felt the greatest respect for many members of that persuasion. The hon. member had gone a little out of his way in speaking of the clamour of the people of England against that measure. The opposition which they had manifested did not deserve the name of clamour. Instead of being so, it was a steady expression of feeling manifested from one end of the kingdom to another, in a stronger manner than on any former occasion. He knew nothing of this supposed clamour; but he believed he might say, that it would be difficult for the hon. member to bring in any measure which could or ought to pass that House, when it excited so strong a feeling of disapprobation among the people as that had done. That hon. member was deceiving himself, if he imagined that by renewing the question in any shape, a different feeling would be manifested by the country. It had been said, that great hopes had been 859 raised, and that those hopes had only been raised to be dashed. If that were true, by whom had those hopes been raised; and whose fault was it that they had been dashed? Certainly, no one could say with truth, that those who would have suffered the question to remain unnoticed, had been the cause of those delusive hopes; and, if the blame was to rest any where, it must rest on those who had brought the question forward. He begged leave to deny another statement that had been made; namely, that the people of Ireland had acquiesced in the putting down of the Catholic Association, in the hope of receiving something else as an equivalent. That was not so:, they had acquiesced in it, because the legislature had thought it necessary, and, in so doing, they had given another proof of their loyalty.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he should not think it necessary to repeat the opinions he had formerly expressed on this subject, nor to detain the House by a detail of the reasons which had induced him to give his vote against the measure which had been proposed. He must however say, that he thought the hon. mover had argued the question improperly, when he argued it only as a question relating to one part of the empire. For himself, he must always consider it as a great political question—as one involving the great constitutional principles upon which this government had existed for the last two hundred years, and which was of the utmost importance to the interests of both countries. He could not, therefore, suffer that the feeling of one part of the kingdom should be taken as a decisive argument in favour of the measure, when that of the other part of the kingdom was decidedly against it. It had been said, that it was a question on which the feelings of one portion of the people had been considerably excited. That might be true; but he should wish to add this observation, that the other portions might feel just as excited on the same subject, though in a different manner. The feeling which the people of England had manifested on this subject, was, he believed, very much like that which he himself entertained. It was founded on the fullest conviction of the inutility, and even of the impropriety, of the measure; but while it was fixed and positive, it had not been arrived at but by a painful effort. He felt, and he had no doubt the people of this country 860 felt, that the measure which had been proposed ought to be granted, if it could be granted with safety; but that, as it could not, it must be refused. The hon. member had made several references to the Jew bill, and had quoted sentences from the debates and petitions upon that bill. Now, with respect to them, he had only to say, that he had never heard a debate, or read a petition, from which extracts might not be made, that would answer the purpose of the speaker to answer them, or that would not excite a laugh when repeated. But though he was not disposed to treat those extracts as any very great authorities, still he should himself refer to the case of the Jew bill, which he thought was one that ought to serve as a caution to members who wished to press forward the Roman Catholic question. They should remember what had been done in the case of that bill, and they should look to the consequences of carrying a measure into effect which had not previously received the sanction of the people. If such a measure should be carried at the present moment, unless it was supported by the majority of the people, it would be repealed in six months afterwards. The Jew bill was not the only occasion on which popular outrage had been caused by the difference between the parliament and the people. The riots of 1780 had been created by a similar cause. He admitted, that on that occasion, when some concessions were made to the Catholics, those concessions were misrepresented to the body of the people, who were misled into their excesses.—The hon. member had called on the House to address the Crown for copies of all the despatches of the marquis Wellesley, relative to religious animosities in Ireland. From this motion he seemed to expect several advantages. First he stated, that he thought it would tend to allay the irritated feelings of Ireland. In dealing with that subject, he thought he could satisfy the house, from the nature of the despatches themselves, that it was impossible they could have any such tendency; while, on the contrary, he believed they were of a nature highly calculated to keep it alive. It had been said, that the correspondence of the marquis Wellesley was only brought down when the object was to justify the passing of any measures of severity against Ireland. He thought such a statement exceedingly unfair. When a temporary 861 evil existed in Ireland, the marquis's despatches were brought forward with a view to ascertain what was its nature, and what was the best temporary remedy, that the House might be enabled to form a better judgment on the subject. On the Orange Societies, and on the Catholic Association, parliament had legislated on the responsibility of government, and might safely do so on the present occasion. He thought that there was no measure so little likely to produce the effect of allaying the irritation of Ireland. The second object which the hon. member seemed to expect would be gained, was, to induce the House of Lords to alter the opinion they had formed on this subject. Now, on that, he must say, that he thought they were already as sufficiently informed as they could be by any of the lord lieutenant's despatches; for the marquis of Wellesley, exercising the privileges of a peer, had already expressed his opinion by his vote, and had thereby declared that his former opinion remained unaltered. If this motion was meant to have the effect of putting the noble lord under an examination, the hon. member should have come down to the House prepared to offer the motion in that form. He thought that there had been no sufficient ground for the present motion, and he should, therefore, oppose it.
§ Sir J. Newport
said, he could not refrain from speaking on a question, which intimately regarded the peace, happiness, comfort, and security of five or six millions of the king's subjects. The right hon. Secretary thought there was no ground for the motion. In that opinion he essentially differed from the right hon. gentleman, as he conceived that it was essential to the happiness of that country, that the legislature should be informed of the opinions of a man so highly gifted as the marquis Welesley, who had so long been acquainted with Ireland, and who had succeeded, with the assistance of the Roman Catholic body—(in spite of what had passed he would not relinquish that phrase)—in effecting so much towards the tranquillization of Ireland. It was the duty of the House to ascertain what measures that noble person held to be most eligible for permanently quieting that country. For his own part he disliked the easy slothful temper in which some of his majesty's ministers looked upon this subject. He disliked "things as they were" in Ireland. He was not easy 862 at beholding those heavings of dissatisfaction and disappointment, as they had been described by the Attorney-general for Ireland,—Ignes
Suppositos cineri doloso. He deeply deplored the illiberal zeal with which the heat of religious animosities had been fanned almost into a flame. What a spectacle it was for Europe, to behold one part of the people induced to set the bells ringing by way of demonstration of triumph over another portion of the people, as if there had been another victory of Waterloo. What could tend so speedily to bring down destruction upon the church establishment? The people had a right to complain of the practices which had been resorted to, to secure the defeat of the Catholic bill. In particular, he adverted to the conduct of a noble lord at the head of the government, who had made use of the opportunity of the committee to put many questions to the Catholic clergy who submitted themselves to examination. That noble lord should have given them plainly to understand, in the first instance, that which he only made known on the second reading of the bill; namely, that at no time, nor under any circumstance, did he deem it possible to admit the Catholics to the high privileges of the constitution. That would have been the conduct of a fair and honourable mind. Why the noble lord did not adopt it, was best known to himself. He complained, too, of the part taken by a right reverend prelate in attributing the opinions contained in a speech delivered by a Catholic clergyman to the Board of Catholics, though it must have been known that a whole day did not pass over before those opinions were disowned, and marked with reprobation by that board. He deplored the infatuation which existed in the councils of the Crown, which disposed them continually to lead the affairs of Ireland to the verge of peril, and leave them there. Lord Bacon had said truly, "that the wisdom of these latter times in princes' affairs is rather fine deliveries and shiftings of dangers and mischiefs when they are near, than solid and grounded courses to keep them aloof. But this is but to try masteries with fortune. And let men beware how they neglect and suffer matter of trouble to be prepared; for no man can forbid the spark, nor tell whence it may come." So said lord Bacon, and so 863 said he. He could not predict the time and all the separate circumstances; but he looked upon the first formidable and successful attempt to separate a considerable body of her subjects from her, as nothing less than ringing the death-bell of England. He reminded the House of the inward hatred in which this country was beheld by the Holy Allies; how jealous they were of her power, her grandeur, her opulence; how much they envied her those advantages; and how resolutely they would be leaguéd, per fas et nefas, to deprive her of them should an opportunity be given them. The disunion of Ireland was a formidable weapon in the hands of our most deadly enemies, which they would wield against us with terrible force. The noble marquis (Anglesey) who had displayed such a readiness to draw his sword, might find other persons to contend with than the unarmed Irish peasantry. There could be no greater delusion, than to suppose that Ireland would remain tranquil: he knew the country well, and certainly would not answer that, ere long its situation would not assume a fearful shape. If a state of things were revived, similar to that in 1798, the House should recollect, that now there were a million more people than at that time, It was to enable the House to judge what was really the state of Ireland, that he wished to have the despatches of the lord lieutenant produced. He had heard the opinion of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland; but, both from situation and age he thought the opinion of the lord lieutenant more entitled to his respect. He was old enough to remember the outrages of 1780 and of 1807; he knew what was their object, and how the people were gulled and deluded into the adoption of false opinions. It was to prevent them from again having recourse to such practices, to show that this was not at all a question of religion, but a question of monopoly, in which a few interested men strove to exclude the large mass of their fellow-subjects from a full participation in the benefits of the constitution, that he wished every sort of Information to be laid before the House. The people were, in those instances, made the tools of artful designing men, who strove, by acting on their passions and prejudices, to gain an ascendancy in the country, at the expense of the community, and to the injury of the constitution. Religion, it was now well known, had 864 nothing to do with the question. It was only a monopoly in power which was intended. He was anxious that the people should not again be made the tools of those who wished to get or maintain an ascendancy at the expense of the country at large, and therefore he would support the present motion.
§ Mr. Curteis
said, he was anxious to explain why he voted as he had done on this question. The general opinion in the county which he represented was against the Catholics. He had had a great many petitions to present against the measure, and not one for it; and it would have been treason against his constituents if he had voted for the measure of Catholic emancipation.
§ Mr. Brownlow
said, it seemed to be the opinion of some hon. members, that this motion placed the supporters of the Catholic question in an awkward dilemma. This might be the case; but he would extricate himself from it, by giving his decided support to the motion. He would vote in this way, because he was most anxious to procure all the information in his power respecting the state of Ireland. During two sessions they had been engaged in obtaining all possible information on the affairs of Ireland, from all classes and denominations of Irish subjects—from the judges on the bench to the meanest officer of their courts, from the highest dignitaries in the Roman Catholic church to its humblest minister—from grave ecclesiastics—from general officers—from all who were in the least likely to furnish any thing to the general stock. He thought it, then, neither wise to themselves nor courteous to the individual, to leave out the lord lieutenant of Ireland, whose high situation, eminent talents, and great influence, were likely to produce more of that information than could be derived from any other source. At all times must he have been anxious to know the opinion of the lord lieutenant of Ireland upon any question affecting the well-being of Ireland; but he was more particularly anxious for it at a time when inquiry had become the order of the day, and when the lord lieutenant was the marquis Wellesley. The right hon. Secretary had said, that the House knew the noble lord's opinions sufficiently, because he had voted by proxy for the bill. The consequence was not so plain as it would thus appear. Many noble lords—the custom prevailed among Irish lords— 865 spoke one way, and voted another. How could the House be sure, unless they were allowed to judge by their own eyes, that a lord lieutenant might not have voted one way, and written another? It was well known that there was a correspondence of that noble marquis, lying in the office of the right hon. the Home Secretary What sympathy could there be between the noble marquis and his right hon friend? Did the lord lieutenant partake in any way of the opinions of the right hon. gentleman, who was so far from thinking Catholic emancipation just as to Ireland generally, that neither then nor at any other time did he think that it could be conceded? This, he acknowledged, had been his own opinion up to a late period, He had held that opinion as long as he could conscientiously—as long as there was any tenable ground for supporting it; and he had been willing to hold that opinion as long as possible. But he now found no tenable ground. There was no shadow of argument urged, through all the long debates on this subject, which could justify the continued denial of the Catholic claims [cheers]. It was because he had felt the hollowness of his former opinions—had seen the total want of any arguments in their favour—that he had been compelled to change his opinion, and to take the course which he found prescribed by reason, policy, expediency, and justice. He therefore deeply regretted the opinions of the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, and of his noble colleague, the earl of Liverpool, who had not only said, that the time was not arrived, but that neither now, nor at any future time could the concession be made. Was this wise conduct in statesmen? Was it the language of wise ministers of state to say of a nation—"Be they loyal, peaceable, and submissive—be they patient as Job—let them shed their blood in their country's cause—let them contribute to the support of their country's burthens—be the justice of their claims ever so clear, ever so irresistible, they and the constitution must for ever continue to be aliens? This was a declaration full of disappointment and danger to unhappy Ireland. That distracted country was not only consigned to be the prey of almost every political misery, but even restrained from the consolation of hope—'Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace And rest can never dwell, hope never comes, 866 That comes to all; but torture without end Still urges.'"—
He gave credit to the opponents of concession in the cabinet for conscientiousness; but he complained that, though conscientious, they assigned reasons which were contradictory, which were not consistent, which were not intelligible; and he therefore considered it an unjustifiable liberty on the part of statesmen in the discharge of their duties, to act as if they made playthings of a great country and a mighty people.—A great deal had been said about danger to be apprehended by the established church from a union of the Catholics of Ireland with the Catholics of England. Mr. Blake had stated, however, that there was no probability that the measure would promote a union between the Catholics of both countries dangerous to the church. If he thought so, he would be against it. But were there no other causes of disunion? When the great majority of the Irish people were Catholics—when seventy-five of the Irish members had voted for their emancipation—when the sense of that country was not to be mistaken, and yet that sense was utterly neglected—when the voice of their representatives was regarded as nought, and the nobility and gentry of Ireland were treated with scorn—when the people, after being promised the legitimate enjoyment of the constitution were thrown back in despair—when all these things were considered, he would ask, whether more causes of disunion were not to be found in the rejection of the Catholic claims, than could be feared from their concession? But the Catholic question would ultimately be carried. In point of argument it had already been carried. In the mean time, however, much that pressed for instant adoption would be delayed with great peril to the country. Much that was refused might be immediately granted with great advantage. Deep and fearful traces had been left in the feelings of the Irish, by the harsh treatment of this country; and those traces could not be effaced but by Catholic emancipation. He had not intended to have said so much, but he could not remain silent on such a subject. The hon. member concluded by expressing his thanks to his hon. friend for the able, temperate, and convincing manner in which he had brought forward the motion; to which he gave his most cordial, support.
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, he entirely 867 agreed with the hon. mover, in deprecating every topic of exasperation, and every expression that could aggravate disappointment. So sensible was he of the force of this recommendation, that nothing which could be said, however provoking, should divert him from the course dictated by his sense of duty. If any thing could divert him from that course, it would be the observations of his hon. friend who had just sat down. His opinions upon the Catholic question, he had entertained ever since he had entered on public life; and in doing so he had had the good fortune to concur with his hon. friend until within the last six weeks. His hon. friend now seemed to expect an apology from him, for continuing of the same opinion. His hon. friend thought it necessary to call upon him to explain why he, too, was not converted by the evidence of Dr. Doyle, telling him that the cause was hollow, that the ground was utterly untenable. Now, he admitted that if his hon. friend felt the ground untenable, that was a sufficient reason for his abandoning it. He admired his hon. friend's sincerity, and if he himself had felt the same motives, he would have followed the example of his hon. friend, and defied all attacks for so doing. But, he would beg to be allowed still to occupy ground which he did not feel untenable. He would beg to be allowed with those who thought with him, to continue of the same mind, seeing that the same light had not broken in upon them which had broken in upon his hon. friend. About six weeks ago his hon. friend had presented a petition from certain Orangemen complaining of certain calumnies, and had expressed a determination to press the matter to inquiry. He had thereupon besought his hon. friend to forego his intentions, and not to provoke any unnecessary discussion. He had addressed his hon. friend as the chosen advocate of the Orange party in that House; and it was certainly too much for his hon. friend to turn round and accuse him of a want of uniformity and of having no system. Wrong in his opinions he might be, but surely they were uniform and consistent. Of all persons, his hon. friend was the last who ought to bring the charge.—With regard to the question of Catholic emancipation, he never approached it without reluctance. He could safely affirm, that [...] on no occasion stood forth to op[...] of the Catholics with- 868 out a feeling of deep regret at being obliged to resist the claims of so large a body of his fellow-subjects; for whom he entertained all those friendly sentiments he felt for all classes of his majesty's subjects, but whose applications he conceived it to be his bounden duty to the constitution decidedly to oppose. Nor could there justly be made a charge of want of cordiality amongst the different members of the administration; and for the truth of this he would confidently appeal to his right hon. friend near him, the most powerful and eloquent supporter of the Catholic cause in the government. The difference of opinion on this question had not impeded any of the duties of government. His most earnest desire had ever been that the law should be impartially and indifferently administered between Catholic and Protestant. Let it be proved to him that in any case the contrary had happened, and he would be the first to propose that the injustice should be remedied. He thought that every favour which might be extended to the Roman Catholics ought to be extended in proportion to the respectability, rank, and opulence of the candidates for them. Into the discussion of the Catholic question, on which he had before troubled the House on many occasions, he did not at present mean to enter. He would only add, on that point, that whatever differences might subsist between him and some of his hon. colleagues on this question, he would not hesitate in other cases where no such differences existed, to give them his most cordial support. His hon. friend had referred pretty largely but surely somewhat irregularly, to what had recently taken place in another House. It was hardly necessary for him, to insist that this reference was by no means strictly in order. But the right hon. baronet opposite had gone further; for he had referred to the proceedings in committees of the other House. The right hon. baronet had even gone to the extent of pointing out what questions ought and what ought not to have been put in those committees to the witnesses. But how was it possible for the right hon. baronet to form a judgment as to the propriety of questions that were to be put to witnesses not before him—not before this House? It was really a very bad, as well as an inconvenient, practice, to allude in this manner to the proceeding of the other House.—But, he would now come to the 869 dry parliamentary question on the motion submitted by the hon. member for Limerick; namely, whether or no certain despatches supposed to exist—for his hon. friend had admitted that of the positive existence of such despatches he had no knowledge—should be laid on the table of that House? But, he begged first to ask, before he alluded to any of those extensive questions which had that night been gone into, whether any parliamentary ground had been laid for the production of those papers? In the early part of the session a motion had been made for the suppression of the Catholic Association; and in a later period of it, a bill had been brought in for the relief of the Roman Catholics from their present disabilities. On the first of these occasions, notice of a motion was given by an hon. member for the production of communications which government might have received on the subject of the Catholic Association; but, so little importance was attached to it, that upon the night on which the motion was to have come on, no House at all was made. The second question had been carried through the House without the same sort of motion for papers being renewed. Yet now, when both those questions had been discussed, the hon. gentleman moved for the production of papers that could only have been called for, he should have thought, on one of those preceding occasions—and of papers which he supposed only, but did not know to exist. The hon. member called for their production—and, for what purpose, now that both those questions had been disposed of for the present? Why, in order to convert the House of Lords! But in the alternative of such supposed papers never having existed at all, then he meant to propose a vote of censure upon the lord lieutenant, for having failed to transmit despatches of this character. Such parliamentary grounds he had never till now heard assigned for the production of any public papers. But, what were the terms of the motion?—"that all despatches relating to the origin, nature, and effects of religious animosities in that country be produced." There was no limitation, therefore, as to time or place. He must really ask his hon. friend to leave those who had the responsibility on their shoulders to judges under such circumstances, whether the production of the papers intended by so extensive a motion would be productive of that good which he un- 870 questionably contemplated. Of course, those papers might include all that the lord lieutenant had written to the government, relative to Orange lodges and Associations that now, as he believed, existed no longer. He sincerely hoped they did not, and that he should never see the day when they were revived. If they were extinct, could any good follow from the production of papers that might tend to revive the unhappy feelings that had once been excited? Could not his hon. friend suppose that there might be very good reasons for the government's declining, at this juncture, to produce any communications that might so have passed between them and the lord lieutenant? Upon all these grounds, he doubted whether, if the House were in possession of all these despatches, his hon. friend could effect any good result by his motion. At the same time, he felt no sort of wish to conceal what the real opinions of the lord lieutenant were. Those opinions were already matters of record; and he should but deceive the House if he did not explicitly state, that the same sentiments which that noble lord had expressed in his speeches formerly, and latterly by proxy, were still warmly maintained and cherished by him. For the reasons he had already submitted, he found himself under the necessity of opposing the motion.
§ Mr. Brownlow
explained. He had not intended to accuse the right hon. gentleman of want of uniformity. On the contrary he was prepared to admit it. The want of uniformity of system, so manifest in the conduct of the government on this question, was what he complained of.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that the explanation which had just been offered by the hon. gentleman had done away with the necessity, for the greater part, of the observations he himself had intended to submit to the House. The right hon. gentleman had accused the hon, member of speaking as if he supposed himself to be infallible.
§ Lord John Russell —
At any rate the right hon. Secretary had said, that the hon. gentleman was reading the House a lecture, or something to that effect, intimating some dissatisfaction with the tone of his speech. Now, he must declare that he had never heard a speech which had been less characterized by any thing like a dic- 871 tatorial tone, than that of the hon. gentleman. As to the change of opinions which the right hon. gentleman had observed upon, there were occasions, undoubtedly, upon which it was not entitled to any respect. But, when he saw an individual possessing large property in Ireland, and extensive family connexions, like the hon. gentleman, exposing himself to great personal obloquy by conscientiously espousing a different opinion on a great public question from that which he had formerly entertained, then he must say, that change was a meritorious act of duty. As this was the last opportunity that might be afforded to members of delivering their sentiments on the affairs of Ireland, he was anxious to offer a few words on the subject. He had given his support to the two collateral measures, because they seemed likely to favour the accomplishment of the general question. His principal reason for supporting them was, that the golden opportunity which presented itself might not be lost for setting the Catholic question at rest; at the same time, he wished not to be considered as bound in future to support such measures if they should be brought forward. Without meaning to impute any unworthy motives to those members of the cabinet who were favourable to the Catholic claims, he was at a loss to know how they could reconcile it with their duty, to continue in office with persons who held that those claims ought never to be conceded. He thought it would be much better to have an administration strong in their united opposition to Catholic concessions: it would be worse for the Catholics, but better for the empire at large. He could understand times and circumstances when the resignation of ministers on such a ground might be uncalled for; such for instance, was the case of Mr. Pitt, who told lord Fingal (and he lord J. Russell, had it from lord Fingal) that his own opinions were quite in favour of Catholic emancipation, but the king would not hear of it, and he thought the war could not be carried on, if the government were dissolved, and it was of more importance to carry on the war than to carry the Catholic question. Now, this might have been very presumptuous conduct, on the part of Mr. Pitt; but it, at any rate, contained a plain and intelligible ground of opposition to the Catholic question. But, what was there in the situation of affairs at the present moment that 872 could be compared, either in point of existing danger as to our foreign relations, or of the great advantage to be gained by a perseverance in rejecting the claims of the Catholics, with the period at which Mr. Pitt made use of this argument to justify the line of conduct which he adopted? The situation or the country was now, in all respects, essentially different from what it then was. What question was more important than that which involved Catholic emancipation? What question, the refusal of which was so surrounded with perils? in his view of the question, the state in which Ireland was kept deprived the country of that strength, in the estimation, of Foreign powers, which it would otherwise possess. If we felt it right to threaten war, they would reply—"We know you cannot go to war; there is a wound which we will rip up if you attempt it, and that is—Ireland." If the vacillating conduct of the government brought on a convulsion in Ireland, how would the ministers be able to answer to the people and the throne? The king would naturally ask what had produced such convulsions? The ministers must reply—"Because we have denied your Roman Catholic subjects those rights and concessions which they required." The king must then complain, that those councillors whose oath bound them to advise him to the best of their cunning and ability, had not advised the adoption of a measure that would have averted so serious a calamity. This was his decided opinion; and as this might be the last opportunity afforded him in the present session, he felt it his duty to declare it to the House. It appeared to him that until the measure should be accomplished, not only was there no chance of tranquillity for Ireland, but of security for the empire at large.
§ Colonel Bagwell
said, he could not describe the feelings with which he should return to his native country, after the rejection of the Catholic claims. He thought that the prime minister, when he dismissed the question, should have pointed out some substitute for tranquillizing Ireland [cheers!]. One noble lord had, indeed, suggested a remedy, but to him he would apply the old proverb, "There's nothing like leather" [a laugh]. But it was incumbent on the noble lord at the head of the administration to state what remedy he would provide.
Lord L. Gower
said, he felt extreme 873 reluctance at feeling himself obliged to oppose the motion of the hon. member for Limerick. The course he should feel it his duty to pursue in parliament was now, and would, unquestionably, hereafter be, directed to the object of Catholic emancipation. If he thought the vote he was about to give would at all prejudice the interests of that great question, he should feel no hesitation in adopting a different course of proceeding. A time there was, when a certain degree of personal feeling and individual regard was mixed up with his convictions; but at present all his feelings were merged and forgotten in the overwhelming necessity of the measure, and to the accomplishment of that great and paramount question all the energies of his mind should henceforth be directed.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that if he thought the production of these papers would tend to the advancement of the general measure, he should not resist the motion; and he should be equally disposed to accede to it, if he thought it would allay the irritation which might naturally arise from the defeat of the Catholic claims. He considered that to be the main ground on which the motion was founded; for although it had been stated, that the absence of the supposed information in the documents would incur a censure against the marquis Wellesley, he was quite convinced that his hon. friend had no indirect view of that kind in bringing forward his motion. But, he really could not see how the effect of tranquillizing the country would be produced by consenting to the motion. As his right hon. friend had observed, it was quite improbable that there should not be mixed up in the correspondence referred to, details of various kinds connected with the condition of that unfortunate country (for so he must call her) which being published, would unavoidably produce effects and sensations the very opposite to those which the hon. member for Limerick contemplated. On that ground alone he should think it inexpedient to comply with the motion. But, the very line of argument which had been taken on this occasion by his hon. friend was much more likely to conciliate and assuage the angry feelings which he deprecated, than any papers would be that his motion could include. He was anxious to do justice to his hon. friend for the tone and manner with which, at a moment of peculiarly angry feel- 874 ing, he had opened this discussion. With respect to the last occasion upon which the bill that had been so much adverted to was before the House, he did not feel called upon to speak particularly, as he could only have weakened the effect which had been produced by the eloquent speeches of the most able of its advocates. But he had expressed his opinions on the subject pretty clearly, both by his speeches and his votes in former stages of that bill, and on the two other propositions that had been adverted to. Those votes he had given, but certainly not without great reluctance, hesitation, and difficulty. The noble lord (J. Russell) who had attacked the consistency of his majesty's ministers, had done them the justice to say, that he imputed to them no want of integrity; but still the noble lord had observed, that he could not understand how they could reconcile it to their consciences to remain in office. In the course of the last session, he had taken an opportunity to show, and he flattered himself that he had succeeded showing, why the government considered that it was not inconsistent either with their duty or their honour, for ministers, upon questions wherein they were agreed, to act cordially and unreservedly with those who differed from them on this question. He could hardly, as a minister, expect to be believed in the full extent to which he was about to speak; but he would say, that if he thought he could forward the great question of Catholic emancipation by going out of office, he would resign to-morrow. He could hardly expect, he repeated, to be believed in this assertion, sincere as it was, without some allowance; but he made it to relieve his own conscience. At the same time, he would readily acknowledge that he could not see how ministers could be called upon to retire from the government, at a time when the country was generally satisfied with them, and when he did not know how a government, if the present one were now broken up, could be formed who should be unanimous on this question! But he deprecated the impression which it might suit the purposes of some persons to diffuse, but which he scarcely supposed was entertained by his hon. friend—that the question of Catholic emancipation was so hopeless as it was made out to be. He, himself was struck with the remarkable circumstance, that, of the Irish members who were formerly the most violent against 875 it, a large number was added very lately to the supporters of this measure. Although it had been defeated in the other House of parliament, yet there were many peers who had thought it their duty to give a vote for the measure which they had formerly withheld. As the question had been narrowed to so small a compass, he conceived it unnecessary for him to enter further into it.
§ Lord Graves
thought it his duty to defend his noble relative, the marquis of Anglesey, from the insinuations which had been made against him, His gallant relative did not state that he wished to turn his sword against Ireland. He had merely stated, that although he had voted for the Catholics on a former occasion, and had every desire to remove the disabilities of his fellow subjects in Ireland, yet he thought they appeared in such a threatening attitude, that it was his duty to oppose them in that instance—that was to say, to oppose their admission into the House of Peers and the House of Commons. The expressions he had used were technical, and ought to have been taken in a civil sense. His gallant relative had disinterestedly, fought his country's battles, and would never draw his sword unless it was to repel foreign invasion.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that he should but partially imitate the example of those who seemed to make the immediate subject of the motion a question of secondary importance, and, after despatching the matters recently touched upon in a very short digression, proceed at once to state his views of the arguments by which the success of the motion was attempted to be marred. The grounds upon which the right hon. gentleman opposite had taken his stand, he understood to be these; first, he asked, why the House was to be called upon to go back to an indefinite period, at which the correspondence was supposed to exist, and why the hon. mover had left the House so much at sea upon the subject? To that he should say, that if the right hon. gentleman had been sincere in his objection, it was quite competent to his parliamentary skill to apply an effectual remedy to the defect, by limiting the motion to some precise period. He (Mr. B.) as a friend to the motion, was willing to tender his aid for that purpose, by proposing to insert certain words; and he was sure his hon. friend the mover would have no objection to adopt the words "twenty-four, eighteen, 876 twelve months," or any other probable period at which this correspondence might have taken place. The next objection was, that a great deal of information moved for, could not answer any good purpose, and that the call could not have been intended for any other purpose, than to revive unpleasant discussions which had gone by. His answer to that was,—limit the motion to any extent that you please, always taking care that it be "without detriment to the public service"—the ordinary parliamentary limitation. The next objection was, and a most extraordinary and nimble evolution it was on the right hon. gentleman's part. "How," said he, "do you know that such a paper as that you move for is in existence?" His answer to that was, that if he doubted its existence before, he was now persuaded that it was in existence. Amongst the twelve reasons alleged, in the story, for not saluting, was one more powerful than all the rest; namely, that there were no guns and no powder; and would not the right hon, gentleman's best answer to this motion be, that there was no paper? Let the right hon. gentleman only declare that there was no such paper, and he (Mr. B.) should concur with him in opposing this motion; nay, he was confident that he could prevail upon his hon. friend to withdraw it. The other portion of the argument as to the papers answering no good purpose, he took to be founded upon the presumption, that because the sentiments of the marquis Wellesley upon the Catholic question were already known by the proxy which he had given in the House of Lords, no document could be wanted to throw further light on that subject. Upon this part of the argument he joined issue with the right hon. gentleman. He was anxious to see the despatch of the noble marquis, if it was only to mark the language in which he gave his opinion. The simple statement of his dumb proxy, unconnected with the relations which that bore to other measures which he was known to have recommended, was wholly unsatisfactory. It was known that, at the opening of the session, a recommendation was made in the king's speech to adopt an armed law against the Catholic Association of Ireland, bottomed entirely on the reasoning of the king's viceroy, that such a measure was necessary to the peace of Ireland. This opinion of his was presented to the House as the result of the experience and observation of the noble mar- 877 quis. But, did not the proxy subsequently given by that noble person, prove that such a recommendation did not come unattended by some suggestions of conciliation, having reference more or less to the measure of which he avowed himself the supporter? If any country was ill used it was Ireland; if any country had a right to complain it was England. But, the noble marquis had also a just cause of complaint. Instead of giving him an opportunity of making the country happy under the sway of an undivided, uniform, and consistent government; he was condemned to witness its distraction by two parties pulling different ways, counteracting each other, producing discord, disappointing the hopes of the country, and defeating that result which parliament had a right to expect. The country had a right to complain of the system of misrule and mismanagement by which its affairs were administered, and the noble marquis had a right to complain at being made the victim of such a system. Had he not a right to complain that one part of his recommendations (assuming always that he had coupled the suggestion of conciliatory with strong measures, until it was disproved), namely, that of strong measures, had been acted upon; and that the other for conciliatory measures, had been rejected? He was at least entitled to justice at the hands of ministers; for the strong measure which he advocated was passed, whilst the measure of conciliation, to which he had given, by his proxy, the most decisive support, was lost in the other House of parliament.—He (Mr B.) had heard much of the irregularity of alluding to what had occurred in another place upon that subject. According to strict parliamentary etiquette it was out of order so to do; but, what was the effect of such a rule? The members of this House were the only persons in the world who could not make the proceedings of the other House matter for discussion In every private society, every debating society, every tavern, in the smoking room of every alehouse, all persons in England, Ireland, and Scotland, could safely and securely, without apprehending the consequences of a breach of privilege, discus the conduct and opinions of every individual member of the House of Lords. It was, however, the lot of the House of Commons so to be tied up. Well, it was a case of necessity, and he must submit. He had no right to make any allusion to what was said in the House 878 of Lords. But, there was nothing to prevent him—there he was on an equal footing with a stranger out of doors—from alluding to a liable which had been published, and which he expected to see prosecuted, both in England and Ireland—he meant a Speech purporting to be a speech of a most considerable person—of high military commanders the highest—of one near the Throne, the nearest—which had been circulated, as his hon. and learned friend made known, to his astonished ears, and he had no doubt the House partook of his astonishment, in Ireland, and which was printed in fair characters by Benbow, the greatest libeller both of religion and of government, and of persons, male and female, which modern times had produced, as the records of the court of King's-bench court testify. That libel had been circulated in Ireland—a speech which never was spoken, which never could have been spoken by the illustrious person whose sentiments it purported to express—by a noble peer. Of course his learned friend the Attorney-general would move to-morrow week, the first day of term, in the King's-bench, against Benbow; for nothing more scandalous, nothing more outrageous, nothing more monstrously injurious to the illustrious person in question, mortal fancy could devise, than to make him say—as was done in the pretended Speech—that when he came to the throne of these realms he would not govern according to the principles of the constitution, but according to a model and scale of his own—a scale which even James 2nd never dreamed of governing by, or if he did so dream, never whispered it to the world, when his conduct originated the bill of exclusion, or when it caused him to be actually excluded. James 2nd had never said any thing one-millionth part so scandalous as that which was attributed to the duke of York in this libel. He trusted that an example would be made of the printer here, and the circulator in Ireland, of this atrocious paper. He should be extremely happy to find that the Attorney-general had resolved not to follow his usual practice of filing an ex-officio information. To move the court of King's-bench would be more satisfactory; as it would afford the royal duke an opportunity of denying on oath, which he was sure he was very anxious to do, that he had spoken the speech which was falsely attributed to him.—But the royal duke was not the 879 only person who had Suffered in public estimation from the misrepresentations which had gone abroad. With respect to a noble marquis, who had been alluded to, he must say he thought he had been misunderstood. All that he had intended so say was, that if this country was to enter into a struggle respecting the Catholic question, it was better that we should do so now than at a period when we had a foreign enemy to contend with; and there he agreed with the noble lord. The noble lord had, perhaps, not being used to public speaking, expressed himself rather awkwardly; just as he (Mr. B.) might get into a scrape, if he were to come in contract with any of the noble lord's military operations. He now came to two right reverend prelates, who were represented to have maintained most extraordinary doctrines indeed. One reverend prelate, who had supported the Catholics before he became a bishop, but was now opposed to them, had—(would it be believed?)—being of sound mind, in order to prove that he and his right reverend brethren had no sinister motive in opposing the Catholic claims, but were actuated by nothing but what was most pure, referred to the case of the Seven Bishops! But, good lord bishop, very different were the two cases. The Seven Bishops opposed the king and the heir apparent to the throne: they resisted the encroachments of arbitrary power; for this they went to trial; and for this they were prepared to go to the scaffold. The good lord bishop should remember, too, that by his opposition to the Catholics, instead of exposing himself, as the Seven Bishops did by their opposition, to the liability of going to the Tower by water, to be there shut up, and afterwards brought to Westminster-hall for trial, exposed himself only to the danger of further promotion [a laugh]. The most eminent danger which he would run was that of being removed from his own see to another—it might be worse, but in the common course of things it would be better. Another great risk which the reverend bishop ran, was that of getting the extreme favour of the ruling party at court. The only jeopardy which he ran was that of going along with the high court party and the heir-apparent; and his extreme devotion towards the rising sun would not, as sometimes happened, operate injuriously to the right reverend father in God in the present reign; for, in the course he was 880 pursuing, he would just do himself good in the present reign as well as in the next. Surely the persons who had put forth such libels on the right reverend prelate to whom he alluded, would be subjected to prosecution! What could be more scandalous than to make a right reverend father, in God talk such unaccountable nonsense! That it was a libel, any body who ran, mightsee—aye, if he ran as a bishop would, from Chester to Durham [a laugh]; or as a curate ran, which was, it was said, as the crow flew. He hoped all these matters, which greatly alarmed himself and others, would be set right at the earliest opportunity, by bringing the offending parties to trial. The House of Lords, however, were not, it seemed, placed under such restraint with regard to speaking of other assemblies as the House of Commons was. Now, what would be said, if he were to talk of a noble and learned lord in the other House, as that learned individual had, most conscientiously—for he was always talking, of his conscience,—and must be taken to be more conscientious than any other man, because he said as much—had chosen to speak of two members of that Houses, whom he alluded to as lawyers "eminent in their own estimation?" He had taken the liberty on a former evening to say— he hoped it was no breach of privilege to allude to what he had himself said—that if lord Eldon did not think Mr. Plunkett an eminent lawyer, he was the basest of mankind to allow him to continue in his office of Attorney-general for Ireland for half an hour. But with respect to much of the trash which had been uttered in another place about the manner in which the Catholic bill was framed, he could relate an anecdote of a noble and learned lord, which might teach some persons the propriety of being more modest on such a topic. He was a kind of foster-father to the bill, and he therefore naturally felt some of that regard which parents were accustomed to feel towards their offspring! and he was not pleased, therefore, with the treatment which the child of his adoption had received in the other House. He remembered on one occasion, the noble and learned lord talked for about half an-hour about the provisions of a bill which had gone up to the other House. "Was ever" said the learned lord, "such stuff to be seen on the Statute-book?" There, by-the-by, the learned lord showed but a moderate acquaintance with the Statute-book; for there was no absurdity 881 which might not be found on it. "What lawyer," continued the learned lord, "could have written this?" Thus, most conscientiously, advertising him—for the bill was his—to his clients, as a person who was no lawyer. It turned out, however, that the very parts of the bill to which the learned lord objected had been written by himself six months before, and he had forgotten it. He had pulled out of his pocket, in the presence of a near relative of the noble lord, the manuscript with all the absurdities in the learned lord's hand-writing to which he objected in the printed bill, and which he (Mr. B.) had introduced only in compliance with the learned lord's wish; having in the first instance objected to them himself. Remembering all these things, the rejection of the Catholic bill had not at all diminished the respect which he had, previously to that event, entertained for that august Assembly. It gave him satisfaction, however, to know, that though that assembly believed they had set the Catholic question at rest by mustering their large majorities, it never would be set at rest, until that was done which alone could tranquillize Ireland; namely, giving her equal justice, and making equal law for the million as well as for the few. The opponents of the Catholics might send forth their military commanders, they might array against them their reverend prelates and their subtle lawyers, for the first time animated by the new light which appeared to have broken in upon them from the declaration of war, falsely ascribed to a royal duke. And here he must say, that this document appeared to have deceived even the premier, and to have warmed him into a degree of ardour, obstinacy, and pertinacity in adhering to a policy now exploded in the eyes of all reasonable men, which he had never before expressed so determinately or so dogmatically. They might, by the assistance of their proxies, and their forces from the west and the north, obtain a triumph—not over the House of Commons, for of themselves they should not think for an instant—but over Ireland, over England, over right, and over justice. That triumph, however, would be but momentary. They might now exult, but their tone of exultation would soon be turned into another strain. Of one thing let them be well assured—that they had not done with the Irish question by the vote to which they had 882 come. It was not easy to stifle the cry of six millions of their countrymen, even if that cry were wrong, much less when it was the cry of right, of reason, and of justice, against mere brute power and unreasonable obstinacy, which set all justice at defiance. To the people of Ireland he would recommend submission to the law—bad, bad as it was; but he agreed with his hon. friend in counselling, union—above all things union. Let no little personal piques or local differences divide them. Let not even considerable differences of opinion for one moment split those who should unite as one man, and who, if united, must conquer. The lords—the bishops—the heir presumptive to the throne—the king upon the throne—all could not defeat them; nothing could do that but their own disunion and violence. He had now to say a few words respecting the disunion in the cabinet on the subject of the Catholic question. It did appear strange that the country should be governed by ministers who could agree upon the question of joint-stock companies, but could not agree upon a question which distracted a great part of the empire. In Mr. Pitt's time, that minister was accustomed to say, that he could not attend to the Catholic question whilst he had to watch the emperor Napoleon; but now Napoleon was dead, and the Catholic question was the only important question which could arrest the attention of government. Mr. Pitt, too, used to say, that the late king would not hear of the Catholic question. His late majesty was an elderly man, of formed habits, and his scruples were conscientious, and therefore entitled to some respect. His present majesty, however, was not in the same situation as his father. He was, to be sure, a man well stricken in years, though not of a very venerable age, and had no conscientious scruples that he had ever heard of with respect to the Catholic question. On the contrary, his majesty had always stated that he was in favour of Catholic emancipation. He had repeatedly given his pledge in private to support the question; and he appealed to the members of the cabinet, to say whether his majesty's opinions were not still unchanged.
Mr. Secretary Canning
rose to order, and observed, that as no answer could be given to the question of the hon. and learned member, he must perceive the 883 impropriety of persisting in a course of argument from which no result could be obtained.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, he would pursue the matter no further. His object had been to show, that the scruples of the sovereign, which rendered the question a difficult one in the late reign, did not apply to the present. He could not help feeling regret that those members of the cabinet who were favourable to the measure should compromise with their colleagues who were opposed to it. He hoped to see the day, however, when a stand would be made for the question of Catholic emancipation. Let the friends of that question make that stand when they might—and he feared that they would not make it until later than they ought to do—it was an act which must cover them with glory in the eyes of the House and of the country. If it so happened that they left office, they would, indeed, be quitting the smile of the court, but they would quit it for the gratitude of the nation, and for the still more delightful and imperishable reward, the applause of their own hearts and self-approving consciences. To address himself, however, to those—if any there were—who might treat recompenses like these as visionary things—who might consider the applause of a country, and the feelings of self-approbation, as topics pleasant to declaim about, but not in practice, very profitable or desirable—to those gentlemen he would suggest, that there would not be much risk in making the stand which he adverted to; for he did not think that the sacrifice of places would be demanded. He should not be suspected of overrating either the weight or the value of the persons now in office; but it was not taking too sanguine a view of their strength to tell them, that they might carry the Catholic question, if they put that strength to a proper and determined use. It would not be found desirable, whatever their demerits were, to have them in opposition—and in an opposition, too, backed by the opposition already existing, countenanced by friends in the cabinet, and supported by the whole country. He did not much expect—although he had in his time seen strange things—to see an administration formed out of the hon. member from the West of England, and the hon. member for Somersetshire, to co-operate with the right hon. Home Secretary. He could 884 not deny that such a ministry might be formed; nor even that it might possibly last some time. But it would not last long. Those persons who, on a late occasion, had prevented the right hon. Secretary for Foreign affairs from quitting his native country, would interfere again, if they found him resolute; and would rather acquiesce in his opinions than suffer him to quit his place. He might enjoy one of the highest triumphs which it was possible for ambition to conceive; for he again gave it as his decided opinion, that it was impossible to try the step which he advised, without the certainty of a glorious victory. These were the feelings which he entertained on the present question. He had stated them hastily, as they arose in his mind, though more lengthily, perhaps, than had been agreeable to the House. His hope still was, and his prayer, that the friends of Catholic concession would enter into some compromise and save Ireland; but if they did not, still he would not despair of Ireland; nor would he ever despair of a cause which had the strength of right, as well as the strength of numbers to back it. The Catholic cause had principle to build itself on, and popular favour to support it. Let Ireland be but true to herself—let unanimity prevail among her children—let violence give place to opposition, directed steadily, systematically, and constitutionally, against a government in which they could not for a moment reasonably trust: let Ireland only adopt this course, and he had no doubt, that, by herself—if left by those who called themselves her friends—by herself, she would work out her ow salvation.
§ Mr. R. Martin
said, he rose to supplicate his hon. friend not to let the question go to a division, as if a large majority was obtained against it, it would appear as if the Catholic cause was receding in that House. He would, however, vote for the motion in case his hon. friend should insist upon having it put.
said, that as the object of his hon. friend, in making the present motion, was to advert to the Catholic question, under the circumstances in which it was now placed, and as he had succeeded in that object, he agreed with his hon. friend who had just sat down, that it would be much better not to press the motion to a division. As far as he could understand his hon. friend's motion, the despatches were not required with reference 885 to any measure that was before the House, or to any measure that it was intended to bring before the House; it was merely, therefore, for the purpose of abstract discussion that the papers were required, or for some motion that was to take place at some other time, and under other circumstance. It was a measure introduced under the supposition that there were some such despatches in existence; or, if it was found that there were not, that there might be a charge of inculpation raised against the noble lord who represented his majesty in Ireland. He trusted that the House would not sanction the measure in either case, and he would there take leave of the question. An assertion had been hazarded by an hon. gentleman, that when any measure of hardship or restriction was recommended to the government by that noble lord, the recommendation was immediately acted upon; but that when he started any idea of grace or favour, or kindness towards the Catholics, the recommendation passed unnoticed. He did not know that he could personally speak to the despatches of the noble marquis, but he believed that he was pretty well acquainted with his sentiments; and, as far as he could judge, there had been no measure, either of inquiry, grace, or favour, recommended by him, which the English government had not in the fullest extent attended to. Having said thus much, and just taking leave to add, that, upon the Catholic question generally, he believed the sentiments of the noble marquis to be entirely unchanged; that his opinion as to the paramount necessity of the measure was as strong as it had ever been at any period of his life; having said this, he should pass by that part of the question, and trouble the House with a few observations, in reply to those which had fallen from the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea. With respect, then, to the subject of Catholic claims generally, he thought it impossible there could be more than one opinion; namely, that the country was left, by the recent decision, in a situation deeply to be lamented by those who desired its prosperity and its happiness. The difficulty was not merely that the question of Catholic emancipation had failed to be carried, but that there stood avowed a positive opposition of opinion upon it between the two Houses of parliament. He had, in the early part of the session, stated, that he found 886 the members of his majesty's government not agreed on that subject, and he had given at that time his reasons for his opinion, that a government might be so divided upon that point, and yet that he himself might consistently act with it. He did not mean to follow his hon. and learned friend through the entire of his speech, with reference to that point, but should confine himself to giving the same answer to those arguments which he had done on the former occasion, and apply himself solely to the question of a divided government. There was another question not of much less vital importance in the eyes of hon. gentlemen opposite; and yet, if he was not much mistaken, lie had heard one of the hon. members opposite, who declaimed most loudly against a divided government, say that he should feel no hesitation in forming part of an administration which might be divided in opinion upon the subject of parliamentary reform. He did not mean to say, that the measure of parliamentary reform ought to be a sine qua non with those hon. gentlemen; but merely to claim from them the same indulgence from government on the Catholic question, which he would extend to them on the question of parliamentary reform. He had, early in the session expressed his conviction of the necessity for carrying the Catholic question. It was subsequently brought forward by his hon. friend the member for Westminster, without his advice having been taken. Had his opinion been asked at the time of its introduction, he should certainly have said, that the period chosen was unfortunate; but he had not thought fit to volunteer that declaration after the bill was before the House, and he trusted that he should have credit, as far as his humble powers went, for having constantly supported it. In that which had happened, all circumstances taken into view, he found nothing peculiarly to excite surprise; but still less did he see any reason for despondency as to the eventual accomplishment, and the speedy accomplishment, of the great measure; for he agreed entirely upon this point with the hon. and learned member opposite, that the success of Catholic emancipation could not be prevented unless by the egregious folly of the Catholics themselves. If they would only be tranquil and firm, and resort to no other arms than those with which the constitution supplied them—if they would 887 only be content to do this, the success of their cause was as certain as its justice. In fact, no opposition could continue to be effective for any length of time. The measure was one which, of necessity must make its way. For the charge that the Roman Catholics themselves were careless, as to its accomplishment he cared nothing. If it could be shewn that they had all abandoned it, his opinion as to its policy would remain unchanged. If the Catholics were to come forward to-morrow, and state that they cared nothing as to the event of the measure, he should say that they were hypocrites, and did not deserve to be believed. He would prefer believing that they were false, to admitting that they were degraded. For it was his conviction, that there was no security for any country, in which five millions of its inhabitants were supine, with regard to the possession of those rights which properly belonged to them. They must be, indeed, the basest of the human race—they must be predestinated slaves—to feel nothing but indifference for such incalculable blessings. That this question must be decided soon, and that by its accomplishment, he entertained no doubt whatever. When, then, he was asked, why, entertaining such opinions, he consented to continue a member of a divided government, he should ask in return, would the retirement of those who were friendly to the question assist or retard its progress? He unequivocally said, it would be an injury. It would postpone the accomplishment of the measure to an indefinite time. It would be the signal for a flame in Ireland, which those who raised it might fruitlessly attempt to allay. A right hon. gentleman had said, on a former night, that rather than not to obtain the success of that measure, he ought to retire from office, He trusted he had, throughout his whole life, proved, that office, and that office only, was not his object.— He had once retired from office from a conviction, that he did right. He had never regretted that retirement. It was the pride of his life that he had done so; and having retired on a former occasion, from principle, he would do so again. His hon. and learned friend, in describing what had occurred in another place, had repeated some expressions said to have been used by a very high, a very dignified, a very learned person, who, in speaking of him as Attorney-general for Ireland, was 888 reported to done been so not in very flattering terms. Those observations had, when he first heard of them, given him great pain; for he should have felt much mortified if a person so high in his majesty's government should have said any thing of him calculated to wound his feelings. He had the satisfaction to state, however, that he had had a personal conversation with that learned lord, who had unreservedly declared that he had never entertained even the most remote intention of giving him offence. [A murmur here was heard from the Opposition benches, which was followed by cries of "Order order."] He believed he was not out of order. Surely it was not unnatural, looking to the high quarter from which the words in question were said to have come, that he should feel some anxiety as to the intent of them. The result, however, was, on his part, the most perfect conviction, that nothing like offence or want of kindness, had ever been contemplated. Under these circumstances, taking it for granted that the motion of the hon. member for Limerick had only been made for the sake of discussing the general question, he should sit down by declaring that his zeal on behalf of that question remained unabated, and that he thought he should best promote the interests of it by retaining his office.
Mr. Secretary Canning
rose, evidently labouring under severe indisposition, and spoke, for some time, in a tone so low as to be scarcely audible. He began, by expressing a hope, that a very little persuasion was necessary, to induce the hon. member for Limerick not to press the motion which he had introduced to the House. There were, however, he said, some topics which had been alluded to in the course of the debate, with regard to the subject in which that motion had originated, which the House would, perhaps, excuse him, if he briefly referred to, in his turn.
Two views of the question had been taken by the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea, in neither of which could he at all agree. No man, he would venture to say, could attach more importance to the claims of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland than himself; but, at the same time, he could not admit to the hon. and learned gentleman, that the Roman Catholic question was every thing—that it was the only question interesting 889 to the country; at least, that it was of such a nature as to overwhelm and absorb all other questions. Secondly; with regard to the reference that had been made by the hon. and learned gentleman, to the divided opinions of the members of the government, upon this question:—he (Mr. Canning) had never meant to say, that if a new government were about to be formed, It would not be desirable to have a uniformity of opinion in the Cabinet on that, as on every other important question. But, there was a very wide difference—and such a difference as no wise—he would even say no good—man, could fail to perceive, between the question of forming a new government upon a principle of unanimity, and of breaking up an existing one, because it happened to be divided upon one great subject.
He was perfectly ready to concur with his right hon. friend, the chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said, that if he could be persuaded that the sacrifice of his office would insure the settlement of the question of the claims of the Roman Catholics, he was willing and ready to resign. He (Mr. Canning) also, on his part, would say, with the most perfect sincerity of heart, that if he could believe, that his relinquishment of office would conduce to the settlement of the Catholic question, he would not hesitate a moment to make the sacrifice. Not that, when he made this declaration, he did not see—without meaning to overrate any public advantage contingent upon his continuance in office—that his withdrawing himself from the government would be attended with some public disadvantage; but, if such a step, on his part, would decide the settlement of the Catholic claims, and thus set at rest a question so perplexing to parliament and to the country—the good to be thereby obtained would more than counterbalance the disadvantage. His opinion, however—and he would frankly state it—formed upon recent and most anxious deliberation, was, that, so far from conducing to the success of the measure, his relinquishment of office, at the present moment, would only tend to throw the prospect of the success of the object which it was intended to serve to a greater distance than ever; at the same time bringing upon the country other evils of a most tremendous character. The opinion which he entertained. was—as he had already said—formed upon recent and most anxious 890 deliberation; in short, it was an opinion on which, acting conscientiously, he felt that he should be acting for the best [hear, hear!].
The hon. and learned member for Winchelsea had observed, that he could not fully understand the reasons which had been urged by his right hon. friend, the chancellor of the Exchequer: neither, perhaps, could he (Mr. Canning) himself expect, standing where he did, that he should be able to make himself quite intelligible to the hon. and learned gentleman. It was quite obvious, that the materials of the opinion which he was stating, were of too delicate a nature to be produced and handled in debate. But, he spoke in the presence of persons who perfectly understood him (though the hon. and learned gentleman was not one of that number), and before whom, therefore, it was not likely that he should speak at random: and, under those circumstances, and with this effectual though silent proof of the sincerity of what he was saying, he did not hesitate positively to affirm, that the course recommended by the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea would be fraught with calamity to the country.
This only he would add—that he (Mr. Canning) held himself now, and for all time to come, as perfectly at liberty to propound for discussion in the Cabinet, the Roman Catholic question, as any other question of national interest. But, he must, at the same time, reserve to himself the discretion of using that liberty, at such time only, and in such manner, as he might in his judgment and conscience think most expedient.
With respect to the Catholic question itself, in its present extraordinary position, he felt something like a difficulty in stating his opinion; because, whatever he might say, he was liable to one of two accusations. If he avowed, that he thought the question was not so forward in the minds of the people of this country as he could wish it to be, then he was liable to be charged with wishing—no! he would not say with wishing—but of risking the creation of the very evil which he deprecated. If, on the other hand, he stated confidently, that he thought it had made great progress, then he should be blamed for raising hopes which would not afterwards be realised.
Between these conflicting difficulties, he knew but of one course to follow—and that was, to speak the direct truth, ac- 891 cording to the best of his judgment, let the consequences be what they may.
At the commencement of the present session of parliament, he had ventured to state it to be his belief, that the mind of the people of England was not sufficiently matured for the reception of the measure: for which expression he had been accused of throwing cold water on the measure, and of a wish to retard the progress of the bill. Different minds, no doubt, were in the habit of drawing different conclusions; but, from all that had happened during the present session, the conviction of his mind remained unchanged. At the same time, however, when he said this, he did believe, that, amongst the higher and more enlightened classes of society, progress had been made towards a more liberal view of the question; and that the resistance that was made to it generally, was, perhaps, rather of a passive than of an active nature. He thought further, that where the feeling of the country had been goaded into a more determined resistance, they had to thank the meddling interference of some of the intemperate or ill-judging friends of the measure.
But, whatever might be the fact as to England, the difference which manifested itself in Ireland was most striking. That measure, which had appeared originally almost in the shape of an appeal by one part of the population against another part, came now forward almost without dissent from any, and bid fair shortly to be recommended by all.
Such, then, being his view of the state of the question, he did think the probability was, that it would ultimately make its way. If any thing could retard its progress, it would be an expression of violence, or any interruption of tranquillity, on the part of the Irish Catholics; and, still more, any thing so violent and absurd as to change the question from one between Catholic and Protestant into one between the two countries—one which should array England, in its present temper, against Ireland.
He (Mr. Canning) had always urged the settlement of the Catholic question, as a measure which was to serve the interests, and knit together the affections, of the two countries, and to place the safety and prosperity of the empire on a solid foundation. But, it was impossible not to see, that in its direct and immediate consequences, the question touched England but partially and superficially; while, to 892 Ireland, it was a vital question. One great fault of the argument of the opponents of the Catholic question was, that they inverted this obvious distinction. They treated the question as something superfluous and incidental, as relating to Ireland, while they argued its probable effects upon England, with the most extravagant exaggeration. The truth was, that if England alone were to be considered, the decision either way was of comparatively small importance; while, to Ireland it was the alternative of joy or wretchedness, of peace or discord—in short, it was every thing; it was all in all.
Although he was not at liberty to notice the discussions which had taken place in another House, yet he might allude to them through the impression which they had made on the public mind: and, he had no hesitation in saying, that the ground on which the Catholic Relief bill had been resisted was, in his opinion, quite untenable. The argument, as it was applied to the late measure, if it proved any thing, proved too much. If it were true, that the Catholic could not be a good subject of a Protestant prince, on the ground of divided allegiance, he could not be a good subject at all. Besides, he did not understand this argument of divided allegiance, this measuring a man's allegiance by a scale, as it were, of moral geometry. If we had but half the allegiance of the Roman Catholics, why was it that we had only half? Why had we not the whole Irishman in one allegiance? Homer, who was a better judge of human nature than Euclid, had answered the question. "A man," he said, "is but half a man, who has not the rights of a freeman."
In thus glancing at what had passed in another place, he was desirous of saying a few words in vindication of a noble friend of his (the earl of Liverpool), from the charges which had been brought against him by the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea. He was anxious to do this, not from any particular knowledge of the fact, but from a general knowledge of the character of his noble friend, which enabled him to reject the insinuation which had been made by the hon. and learned member as impassible. The hon. and learned member seemed to think—and the insinuation had given him (Mr. Canning) much pain—that the speech of his noble friend to which he had alluded, had been framed upon another speech, 893 which the hon. and learned member had qualified with no very courteous terms, but to which he (Mr. Canning) would not even allude. His noble friend—he would tell the hon. and learned member and the House—was incapable of the conduct that had been thus imputed to him. If there lived a man in England who disdained to shape his opinion to the smile or the frown of any human creature, that man was his noble friend. Whatever his noble friend had spoken was, let the House be assured, his noble friend's sincere opinion—an opinion from which he (Mr. Canning) differed, but to the sincerity and disinterestedness of which he paid the most implicit homage. Indeed, if the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea had only looked to the whole context of his noble friend's speech, he would have seen the most marked, the most glaring, discrepancy between it and the other speech to which he had endeavoured to assimilate it. Who, among all the persons who had spoken on the subject—who had disposed so summarily, so conclusively, so satisfactorily, of the idle objection, that the Coronation Oath was an impediment to the removal of civil disabilities, as the very person whom the hon. and learned gentleman had represented as having framed his speech wholly in conformity to that doctrine? When the hon. and learned gentleman considered, with how much more weight his noble friend's denial of this doctrine of the coronation oath came from his noble friend, than it could possibly have come from any individual entertaining a favourable view of the Catholic question, surely he ought not to have condemned so unequivocally a speech, which, in this respect at least, had done a signal service.
He would not trespass further on the patience of the House. He had risen with no purpose of arguing over again the general question. He would add no more, except his earnest recommendation to the hon. member for Limerick, not to press his motion to a division. The relative numbers on such a division would but tend to give the Catholics of Ireland a fallacious impression of the opinion of the House. It could not be supposed that, either personally or officially, he (Mr. Canning) undervalued the opinions of lord Wellesley. As the personal friend of lord Wellesley, he was perfectly satisfied that his opinions had been fairly and duly considered by the 894 government: and, as a member of that government, he would say, that if the hon. member entertained suspicions of another kind, he could assure him, that the production of the despatches for which he had called would utterly falsify his conclusions. Under these circumstances, he trusted the hon. gentleman would not press his motion to a division [hear, hear!].
Sir F. Burdett
said, he must confess, that the speech of the noble lord, which. had been so often alluded to in the course of that night's debate, had struck him as a most extraordinary effusion. He believed that a speech had never yet been made by any public man which produced an effect on the country more unexpected, and more painful to those who supported the great question of Catholic emancipation. They had been encouraged to hope that there was at least some mitigation of the hostility with which that noble lord had hitherto met the Catholic claims; and, at the very moment when the country expected, if not his support of the question, at least a very mitigated opposition, he had adopted, for the first time, a tone of uncompromising violence, to which he had never, upon any previous occasion, resorted. He (sir F. B .) however, agreed with the right hon. and learned gentleman opposite, the Attorney-general for Ireland, in the view which he took as to the ultimate success of the question, while he felt great satisfaction in the belief that it had been more advanced by the discussion during the present session than at any former period. He could not agree with the right hon. Secretary, that there was any thing like a strong feeling against the Catholic claims, in any class of the community. He knew not whether it arose from a more sanguine temperament, or from his anxiety for the advancement of the cause; but he certainly did think that he perceived a very different feeling with regard to this question among the public at large; not only among the enlightened, liberal, and informed classes, but even among that uninformed portion of the public, in which an indolent and bigoted prejudice prevailed for a long period in this country. The strongest proof of this was, that whenever the question had been brought before large bodies of the public, they had uniformly supported religious freedom, and opposed that bigoted and intolerant spirit which resisted the admission of the Catholics to a participation in 895 the benefits of the constitution. As a specimen of the feeling which prevailed, he would not say among the uninformed, but among the working classes of the community, he begged to refer the right hon. gentleman opposite to a meeting which had taken place at Manchester, and to remind him of an excellent speech made on this subject by a common working man—a speech full of wisdom, sound sense, and good feeling, and in which the sentiments uttered by the speaker would have become a man in any rank or station. To him it was a subject of great pride, that such a specimen of the common working people of England could be exhibited to the world. These, and similar considerations, afforded to his mind a strong conviction that ere long the question must be carried. The right hon. Secretary had, in his opinion, given much more credit than it deserved to his noble friend's concession with regard to the coronation oath. It was no very violent proof of the noble lord's independence of spirit to express a difference of opinion as to the single point of the coronation oath, when the main purport of his speech was in such perfect conformity with the model from which the right hon. Secretary now attempted to persuade the House that he had, in that instance, magnanimously swerved. He (sir F.) took it, that the illustrious person who had been alluded to—or rather who must not be alluded to—however scrupulous he might be about the coronation oath, was not very scrupulous about the reasons of those who were willing to come to the main point of supporting that side of the question, which he seemed to have taken so much to heart, and with respect to which, he had, in so extraordinary a manner, pledged himself to all eternity that he would never have any difference of opinion. He must confess, that the solitary instance of candid concession in the the noble earl's speech, on which the right hon. Secretary had been induced to place such reliance, was not a sufficient answer to those who imputed to the noble earl an undue compromise of opinion. There was another part of the noble earl's conduct to which he thought the public had a right to complain. Why, he would ask, on a question of such vital importance, had that noble person kept his feelings and opinions in a state of such mystery? Or why, rather, had he held out hopes to persons most likely to be informed, with which hopes they had inspired 896 the country; thus raising expectations which were not only not to be realized, but for which it afterwards appeared, from the noble lord's violent and unstatesman-like speech, there was less foundation than ever? He did think it a little hard upon these persons who had stood forward in support of the Catholic claims, that they should have been allowed to remain in that state of misapprehension and delusion, which led them to excite hopes, the disappointment of which might expose them to serious inconveniences, while the prime minister of the country kept aloof in that equivocal state, in which he appeared at one moment to encourage expectation, which he had determined not to realise. This was unjust to the Catholic deputies; it was unjust towards Catholic bishops and clergy; it was hard, for instance, upon a man like Dr. Doyle, who had been induced, by the ambiguous conduct of the prime minister, to express his concurrence in measures to which, but for the prospect held out, he might not have given his assent. Was this conduct on the part of the noble lord generous? Was it even just? In his opinion, it was ungenerous, unwise, unstatesmanlike, and that the public had a fair right to arraign it. The conduct of the noble lord was the more to be regretted, when it was considered that this question, at all times one of great importance, had become, since a recent declaration, still more important, and more pressing than at any former period. No one could tell what might be the consequences of delay. He should be sorry to hint at what might, by possibility, be the consequences, and he was willing to indulge a hope, that the Roman Catholics of Ireland would continue the same system of prudence and forbearance which they had hitherto found so advantageous to their cause. At the same time, it was impossible not to feel some apprehensions as to the consequences which might result among a people of such quick sensibility as the Irish, from hopes so strongly excited, and now so bitterly disappointed. That they would be able to stifle their feelings altogether, was more than any one had a right to expect from nature. The people of Ireland could not but feel acutely the injuries which had been so long continued, and which the prime minister of the country had declared that he would never redress. He trusted they would look forward, as he did, to the enlightened liberality of 897 England, and that they would continue to conciliate their Protestant brethren of Ireland—a point of the first and most essential importance. He did think that, when they came forward again in another session, backed by the greater portion of the Protestants in Ireland, and by the increasing information and liberality of this country, that this House and the public would decide on the justice of their claims in a voice which it would be impossible for a few persons in another place to resist. Some observations had been made about a divided cabinet on the subject. It might, perhaps, be difficult to procure a cabinet united on it, circumstanced as the government was; but this he would assert, that it would be impossible for that part of the government opposed to the Catholics to form a cabinet without those who were favourable to it; and therefore he might fairly conclude that those who were favourable might carry it if they pleased. It had been attempted, in the course of the debate, to draw a parallel between the Catholic question and the question of parliamentary reform; but those two questions, though both of the greatest importance, stood on different grounds in point of urgency. It could not be said, that reform was a matter of immediate policy and necessity; though, for his part, he could wish that the people of this country had somewhat of the same feeling as the Catholics of Ireland, with respect to their particular grievances, and that the doors of that House were besieged by petitions for parliamentary reform. It was not, however, a question of the same immediate urgency as the Catholic question, for who could tall what might happen, if justice to the Catholics of Ireland was much longer delayed? He did not see how it was possible to carry on the government without settling this question; for the country must be kept in a state of continual agitation until it was finally put at rest. He did not, indeed, like some hot-headed persons in another place, contemplate the possibility of a civil war. The coolness with which such an event had been contemplated was to him most marvellous; for, whether it were possible or not for Ireland to maintain a warfare against this country with the prospect of a final separation, which would be alike destructive to both countries; he would ask whether any rational man could imagine any thing more disastrous than the possibility of a civil war, with whatever 898 prospect, or for however short a duration? Happily, the question did not stand on such grounds. It was agreed, on all hands, where it was considered without passion, and without prejudice, that it could only be settled in one way. They could not retrace their steps. If the violation of the coronation oath went for any thing, it was violated the very first time it was ever taken, and it had been especially violated during the whole course of the last reign. They had conceded so much to the Catholics, that it would be the height of folly and insanity to refuse to them the small instalment of justice which remained. There was but one just and rational way of dealing with the Catholic question. They could not exterminate six millions of people, and there was no choice between exterminating and satisfying them—the latter was an easy course; for they would be satisfied with bare justice. Until that course should be adopted, the country would be kept in a state of constant agitation. All its great interests, both foreign and domestic, would be affected by it. It became, therefore, the imperative duty of every public man in the country to use every exertion, to induce or compel the government to adopt that course without delay. He still hoped that this great question would be carried in the next session of parliament.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that the main object which had induced him to bring forward this question; namely, that of drawing the attention of parliament to the situation of Ireland, had been answered by the present debate, and he should not therefore press his motion to a division. The Catholics of Ireland, and of England too, were united and strong; and he hoped they would show that strength, by temperance and moderation. He trusted that the Catholic bill would be carried next session by a still larger majority; and in that hope he would withdraw his motion.
The motion was then withdrawn.