§ The order of the day being read, for resuming the adjourned debate on sir Francis Burdett's motion,
§ "That this House do resolve itself into a committee, to consider the state of the Laws affecting his Majesty's Roman Catholic Subjects in Great Britain and Ire- 471 land, with a view to such a final and conciliatory adjustment, as may be conducive to the peace and strength of the United Kingdom, to the stability of the Protestant establishment, and to the general satisfaction and concord of all classes of his majesty's subjects,"
§ Mr. Speaker
when, at one o'clock this morning, I proposed that the further discussion of this question should be postponed to the present time, I should, if I had consulted my own inclination only, have greatly preferred to solicit the attention of the House to the observations which at the time I was desirous of addressing to you. But, though I have always experienced the indulgence of the House, I felt, that, at such an hour, and after such a debate, I could not hope to receive, and certainly had no right to ask, their patience.
I did indeed desire, Sir, if I could have caught your notice, to rise immediately in answer to the hon. baronet, the member for Westminster: not from any presumptuous confidence in myself, but from a perfect conviction of the strength and justice of the cause which I support, a strength and justice which would sustain the weakest advocate.
It is no disparagement to that hon. baronet to say, that on such a subject, even his ingenuity and talent could produce little new in fact or in illustration, nothing new in argument. His statement, indeed, on the present occasion, is founded on the same grounds as those on which he himself, as well as others, in former discussions, have rested the merits and the claims of their clients. After a slight and passing allusion to the natural rights and general demands of the Roman Catholics, the hon. baronet proceeded to argue in favour of the claims, on nearer and surer authorities; namely, on the specific conventions of the Treaty of Limerick, and the pledge assumed to have been given at the time of the Union with Ireland. He added an argument ad verecundiam on the different treatment which Roman Catholics receive from all the other Protestant states of Europe.
Sir, before entering into the question of the Treaty of Limerick, or the pledge* From the original edition, printed for Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly.472 at the Union, I will stop for one minute to notice the preliminary argument of the hon. baronet, not so much from any intrinsic value in it, not so much from any great value which it seemed to possess even in his own eyes, as from the importance which the Roman Catholic petitioners are fond of attaching to it. That preliminary argument implies, that all men have an equal right to be called, according to their personal merits, to civil office; that no man ought to be in a worse condition than his neighbour, in respect to such eligibility; and that all disabilities, therefore, which fetter it, are an injury to the state, and a tyranny to the people. Sir, what may be the facts in other countries I will not stop to inquire, nor will I here discuss the general reasoning. The principle, as applied to England, I deny on the authority of all the analogies of our constitution. Until there shall be no distinction of civil rights between the copyholder and the freeholder: until there shall be no inequality in political power, as electors, or as candidates, between the freeholder of 39s. a-year, and the freeholder of 40s.; between the freeholder of 290l. per annum and the freeholder of 300l.: [I say nothing of the anomalies of Scotland—I say nothing of the caste of the clergy, who are proscribed, very properly—but still proscribed—as candidates for the House of Commons]—until there shall be no difference between the legal infancy of twenty years, and the legal manhood of twenty-one (a distinction as artificial as any of the others): until there shall be no inferiority in the alien-born and the native inhabitant of these countries, both paying the same taxes and liable to the same personal burthens: until, in the progress of universal suffrage, there shall be no difference between the political rights of rich and poor, of boyhood and age, of male and female, I shall not cease to maintain that the constitution has never vested in any of the inhabitants of England, as inhabitants, any political power whatever, or even, in the abstract, any eligibility to power: and consequently that no men, and no class of men, are entitled to demand here, as natural rights, any political power over their fellow-men; or indeed, even the capacity of such power in this country. The whole is a question not of right but of expediency; and as such, may be decided, either way, without injustice.** I compare not the degree of privation by473 Dismissing with this sentence the argument of the rights of man, on which the hon. baronet, to do him justice, rested little of his case, and which I should scarcely have noticed at all, if it were not urged at great length by the petitioners themselves, in most of their addresses to this House; I proceed to the examination of those positions, on which the hon. baronet has chiefly relied for maintaining his cause; and which, I trust to shew, are equally and absolutely untenable.
His first stand is on the Treaty of; Limerick. "I look upon that treaty," says the hon. baronet, "as the charter of those rights and privileges, of which the Roman Catholics have been since unjustly, not to say unlawfully, deprived."—"I again assert," he repeated, "that the whole people of Ireland are, by the Treaty of Limerick, entitled to the fullest participation in all the rights and privileges, civil and political, of the British constitution." Sir, I have paid to the construction of this treaty a most unprejudiced, though most anxious, attention. It deserves such attention from the House, not merely from the immense importance attached to it by the hon. baronet on this occasion, as indeed on two other occasions at least, when in this House he has urged it as a main foundation of the claims of the Roman Catholics, but from its having furnished, in later years, the most frequent and the most popular arguments to the Roman Catholics in their own association, and, above all, in their petitions to the House; the petitions of thousands, or, if you please, millions of our fellow-subjects. Still more it is entitled to attention, because, whether urged by few or by many, it involves the dearest of all national interests, the public faith.
Sir, I do not forget the immortal words of Roscoe on another occasion. "No advantage can justify the sacrifice of awhich the duke of Norfolk, the premier duke and earl of England, is withheld from his seat in parliament, with the privation by which a freeholder of 39s. a year is withheld from voting at a county election: but I contend that the principle, however different the degree, is the same. The State has arbitrarily and artificially allotted its powers to age, to sex, to class, to fortune, and to opinions: and the question is in every case one of mere expediency, whether more or less public safety, or public danger, will be ensured by retaining, or removing, any one of those distinctions.474 principle; nor was a crime ever necessary in the conduct of human affairs." I am sure, that if it be true in our local law, that "nullum tempus occurrit regi;" it is equally and immutably true in respect to general law, that "nullum tempus occurrit fidei publicæ." I will not here inquire, with my honourable and learned friend, the Solicitor-general, referring to the wars between the two Roses, how far by an entire change of circumstances, any treaty, or any law, may become obsolete. I hold the principle, that where the parties are in existence, capable of giving and receiving the objects intended, the public faith cannot die: "time alone destroyeth not an act of parliament," says a great legal authority; and it is for those who resist a claim founded on the national faith, to shew that the circumstances of the parties have honestly so changed, as to render it impossible to act upon it. I have made these observations to satisfy the hon. baronet, that I resist not the principle which he assumes: on the contrary, I admit it strongly; while, at the same time, I deny as strongly the application of it to the facts of the present case. I will never allow an argument from expediency to overturn a claim of right; and if the Roman Catholics could fairly derive their present demands from the terms of the Treaty of Limerick, I would concede them, without reference to the consequences to any establishment, and to any other interests.
The hon. baronet, on a former occasion, answered an argument, of which, I am happy to say, I never, except in that answer, heard*; namely, that the Irish in Limerick were rebels, and therefore had no claims under the treaty. The hon. baronet's own answer was most satisfactory: if the Irish were rebels, it was a very good reason for not making a treaty with them; but no reason for breaking it, after you had made it.
The position, then, Sir, which I am* I had forgotten the Sermon of Antony Dopping, bishop of Meath, who is said to have disgraced the pulpit by preaching this doctrine; and to have been himself struck out of the council for it, by king William. [Harris's Wars, p. 214]. I had also forgotten, that "to obviate this doctrine, the bishop of Kildare mounted the pulpit the following Sunday, and shewed the obligation of keeping the public faith." See a good deal more in Plowden's Ireland, ii. 9,10.475 prepared to sustain, and which has been defended on a former occasion by my right hon. friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, is this, that no advantage now withheld from the Roman Catholics, can be claimed under the terms of the Treaty of Limerick. Whatever rights secured by that treaty, may, subsequently to its date, have been withdrawn, they have all in succession been long since restored; and nothing now remains to be claimed, which that treaty professed to guarantee. I may here incidentally remark, in reference to the prominent place which this treaty now occupies in the front of the Roman Catholics, that it was never, I think, brought forward at all, till the year 1793, in any petition seeking the present objects: it was not so brought forward by sir Theobald Butler, if I rightly recollect his argument. I know, indeed, that it was quoted in an address to lord Halifax, I think in 1761. It was quoted also by lord Taaffe, in 1766, but there, apparently, without the least allusion to the construction now put upon it; and, in short, though quoted, I believe, on another and much earlier occasion, I think in 1723*; it was never used as an argument of right in respect to the matters now at issue, till more than one hundred years after the date of it. I cannot, however, omit noticing here, that though desuetude does not in itself abrogate the sanctions of any public treaty, the hundred years' silence of the Irish Roman Catholics, as to the support which the Treaty of Limerick gives to their present demands, is a strong presumption that the parties most interested in those demands did not at that time regard that treaty as securing them.
I am unable to say how any treaty can be better explained than by the parties at the time: the interpretation to be given by third persons, at any time, least of all by third persons in another age, and in another country, can never be binding, while there is any mode whatever of determining the intentions of the contracting parties on the spot, and at the time in question. Burnet, therefore, whose words the hon. baronet quotes, "they were also admitted to all the privileges of subjects, upon their taking the Oaths of Allegiance to their majesties, without being bound to take the Oath of Supremacy," cannot be* See also Wogan's letter to Swift. Plowden, ii. 14.476 considered as an authority whose evidence ought to have much weight as to the construction of this treaty, since his history was not written till, I think, thirty years after the transactions in question; and, certainly, was not published till forty-three years after them, i. e. till 1734. I should say this, even if he had recited all the articles, and had reasoned upon them one by one: but when I find him condensing the substance into seven lines, I cannot but see, that though in life he was contemporary with the transaction, yet as an author, he wrote from memory of a distant event, in which he had no personal interest to secure the accuracy of his recollections.
Before I enter into detail upon the treaty itself, the hon. baronet, the member for Westminster, will not deny, in respect to the campaign which preceded it, that the army of king James was, in the summer of 1691, in no very favourable position. The language of king James himself, writing, of course, from the reports made to him by his generals, presents a deplorable picture of the condition of his people.* I am, however, as little entitled, or inclined, to deny, that, on the other hand, the army of king William was much required abroad; and that the close of the war in Ireland was, on every account, peculiarly desirable to the English cabinet: but, as it is sometimes said that the Irish were in the highest condition, and that the English were desperate, I beg to recall to the recollection of the House one fact, as preliminary to my general statement, viz. that Tyrconnel, the lord lieutenant of James, whose almost only merit was, that his devotion to that master was never suspected, is represented to have recommended to his countrymen to make the best terms they could, when, on the 14th of August, of the same year, he was dying in the very city of Limerick.†* See his Memoirs, Life of James 2nd. vol. ii.† The last words of Tyrconnel were, "not to let things go to extremities, but to accept of such terms as could be got;" "and his words," says Burnet, "seemed to weigh more after his death than in his life-time, for the Irish began generally to say, that they must take care of themselves, and not be made sacrifices to serve the ends of the French." [Burnet, ii. p. 80.] This is further evident from king James's own Memoirs. On the surrender of Galway in the preceding month, 20th July, 1691, Tyrconnel, after making all preparations for the defence477 I now proceed to the more close analysis of the treaty. Now, how can this treaty be explained, how can the intentions of the contracting parties be discovered, except by such considerations as these? What was the general proclamation addressed by the lords justices, as a rule to themselves, to the army, to the enemy, and to the people, in respect to the pacification of Ireland, when the last campaign was opening? What were the terms granted to other cities in the progress of that campaign? what the terms refused to this? What the grammatical meaning of the terms actually granted? What the meaning, compared with the stale of things in Charles the 2nd's reign, to which by those terms reference is specifically made? What the understanding at the time of the parliament of England, and of the parliament of Ireland, on the one hand? What the understanding of king James himself?
In the summer of 1691, the English army in Ireland swept the kingdom, and approached Limerick. As they advanced, they took every fortress, and every city which resisted; so that, at last, Limerick alone remained in the cause of James 2nd. Now, in endeavouring to explain the sense in which the disputed articles of the Treaty of Limerick are to be understood, I ask, in the first place, what were the general terms intended to be granted by the government in Ireland to those who in the progress of the war might voluntarilyof Limerick, "dispatched an express to St. Germain's, to beg either a speedy succour, or leave to make conditions for themselves."—[King James's Memoirs, ii. 459]. He goes on, "but the enemie pressed too hard to give any great hopes they (the Irish) could wait the relief which was to come from a country so remote: they made my lord Tyrconnel aprehend the army would capitulate in spite of his teeth; and many persons of distinction were so much inclined that way, as had like to have brought it about even before the enemie apeared in sight of the town."—ii. 460. Again, in p, 462. The Irish officers were so impatient to make terms with the English army before Limerick, (1691), that Tyrconnel had great difficulty in managing them: "but he pressed them only to have patience twenty days, there being no likelyhood of their being forced so soon, and that in so much time an answer might be had from the king:"—but, whilst he was thus struggling, he was seized with apoplexy, on St. Lawrence's day, and died two or three days after, 14th August, 1691.—See Story's Wars in Ireland, ii. p. 187.478 submit? Those terms are to be found in the Declaration of the lords justices, dated 7th July, 1691: quoted on a former occasion by the hon. member for the city of Dublin (Mr. G. Moore); and that Declaration is, within two years after its date recited at full length by Story, himself a party in the war, as "being that, upon which the Articles of Galway and Limerick, and all the Irish capitulations were afterwards founded."* After promising to restore the forfeited estates to those who shall come in peaceably, they state, "and lest those who are to take benefit by this proclamation may be apprehensive of being prosecuted for exercising their religion, though their Majesties have sufficiently manifested to the world by the rest and quiet not only Roman Catholics of this kingdom, but those of England have enjoyed under their government, may be sufficient to remove any such apprehensions, we are commanded further to publish and declare, and we do hereby publish and declare, that, as soon as their Majesties' affairs will permit them to summon a parliament in this kingdom, they will endeavour to procure them such further security in these particulars as may preserve them from any disturbance on account of their religion." This, then, was the general boon held out to the Roman Catholics as the inducement to them to submit to William and Mary: that is to say, their majesties would not invoke the penal laws against them; would, so far as they had the means, give to them rest and quiet in the exercise of their religion: and (as neither a dispensing nor a legislating power existed in the Crown singly) would endeavour to procure from the supreme authority of parliament such further security in these particulars as might preserve the Roman Catholics from any disturbance on account of their religion. Slight as, according to this construction, the advantage appears to us, its value must be measured by a comparison not with our own situation to-day, but with that of the Roman Catholics of Ireland, at that time, generally, before this Declaration, and with that of those Roman Catholics in particular who did not submit to it, and who were accordingly left to make, as they could, their own terms afterwards.* Story's Wars in Ireland, 4to. 1693, vol. i. p. 117–120.479 Let us see, then, what was the condition of those who declined to accept these terms, and continued accordingly to resist the government.
No man continuing to resist the government had under this proclamation any right to any terms whatever. It will be remembered, that, in the preceding year, when the army of William approached Waterford, then perhaps the fourth city in the kingdom, and the garrison demanded as a condition of their surrender the freedom of a private exercise of their religion, that article was distinctly refused.* The same took place in the Fort of Duncannon, and both surrendered without any security whatever even for this humble privilege; a sufficient proof, first, of the value which both parties attached to what we should now call so moderate a claim; and, secondly, of the strength of the English party, and of the weakness of those who had resisted them. And yet we are told by the Orators of the Roman Catholic Association, that the "privileges in the exercise of their religion," granted soon after to Limerick, and, through Limerick to all the Roman Catholics of the kingdom, meant something far more than merely the rights of worship; that it would have been an insult to them to proclaim as an indulgence that they might without molestation say their prayers in their own mass houses†—a right which* Story's account is in vol. i. p. 109. Leland's account is as follows: "William was now doubly solicitous to gain a secure station for his transports, and, for this purpose, to reduce Waterford and Duncannon. He hastened his march; Wexford had already declared for him, and now received his garrison; Clonmel was abandoned by the Irish; Waterford was summoned; the garrison, after some hesitation, demanded the enjoyment of their estates, the freedom of their religion, and liberty to march out with arms and baggage. This last article only was admitted. They accepted it, and surrendered. The fort of Duncannon threatened a more obstinate resistance; the governor demanded time to consult Tyrconnel; and, when refused, boldly declared that he would take it; but, on the approach of the army, and the appearance of sir Cloudesley Shovel with sixteen frigates, he accepted the same conditions with Waterford."—Leland, vol. iii. p. 575.† Mr. O'Connell is reported to have said [Speeches, 12mo. Dublin, 1828. p. 53], "Yet Mr. Peel pretends to have discovered that all the immunities guaranteed by the Treaty of limerick are included in a power merely to pray. What impudent nonsense! How could that480 could not have been denied to any one—(they forget how it was denied to Waterford); and that the privileges in the exercise of their religion which were secured by the treaty, meant, rather and inclusively, all privileges in the exercise of civil and military functions!
The army approached Galway, then the second city in the kingdom. As it threatened a long defence, the besiegers consented to grant terms* superior to those which had been obtained by Waterford. Similar terms were granted to the fort of Buffin's Island in the mouth of the Shannon.† By the Articles of Galway, the private exercise of their religion was secured to the Roman Catholics in the garrison and in the city: the Roman Catholic lawyers were admitted to such liberty of practice as they had in Charles the 2nd's time, and the estated gentlemen (a phrase explained in a proclamation of the lords justices a few months afterwards! to mean gentlemen of 100l. per annum) were permitted to carry a gun and a brace of pistols.
The north and east of Ireland had now submitted to the English; Sligo, at least, alone in the north-west held out; and Sligo, I think, was taken while the army was before Limerick. The authority of James had a partial and divided influence in the six counties, Limerick, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Sligo, and Mayo; but the real and almost the entire strength of his cause was centered in the city of Limerick itself. I am willing to admit that De Ginckel was empowered to bring the war to a conclu-be granted or taken away? * * what shameless nonsense!" It is fair to add, in reference to some figures of speech used here, that the editor of the "Speeches" states, that Mr. O'Connell has not revised this Speech, or any in the collection, except that on Church rates already quoted, p. 50.* Art. X. That the names of the Roman Catholic clergy of the town of Galway be given to the general on or before Tuesday next, and that they, as well as the laity of the town, shal have the private exercise of their religion without being prosecuted on any penal laws for the same, and that the said clergy shall be protected in their persons and goods.—Story, vol. ii. p. 168. See postea, p. 93.† Story, vol. ii. p. 200.‡ By the proclamation of the lords justices, dated Jan. 1692, this phrase is explained to mean "housekeepers with estates of freehold of one hundred pounds a year"—Story, vol. ii. p. 298.481 sion on almost any terms; but it will be conceded, on the other hand, to me, that king James describes his own garrison to have been at least equally anxious to capitulate.
The terms eventually granted by De Ginckel will be best understood by the terms refused by him.
The House will observe, that on the 23rd September, 1691, the garrison of Limerick, after an unsuccessful sally, asked for a cessation of hostilities; and on the 27th September sent out their proposals,* which were these:—"1. An act of Indemnity for all offences whatsoever, without reference to their date or quality. 2. Restoration of all Irish Catholics to the estates possessed before the Revolution. 3. A free liberty of worship, and one priest to each parish. 4. Irish Catholics to be capable of bearing employment, military and civil, and to exercise professions, trades and callings of what nature soever. 5. Irish army to be kept on foot by their majesties. 6. The Irish Catholics to be allowed to live in towns corporate and cities, to be members of corporations, to exercise all sorts and manners of trades, and to be equal with their fellow Protestant subjects in all privileges, advantages, and immunities accruing in or by the said corporations. 7. An act of parliament to be passed for ratifying and confirming the said conditions."
Now whatever be the extent and meaning of some of these articles, it is clear that the 6th article, if it were found singly, includes every thing which the present Roman Catholics profess to require. It would have placed the Roman Catholics of the kingdom on the same footing as the Protestants. By this article, they would have been rendered eligible to places in corporations, to the bench, and to seats in parliament: in fact (and I admit it freely, for it strengthens my case), every thing which has been since granted, every thing which is now withheld, would have been secured to them. Such would have been the consequences of De Ginckel's acceptance of this article. Did he accept it? His answer was decisive and instant:* Story, ii. 230. There are various accounts of the origin of these proposals. Burnet says, "the Irish insisted on very high terms, which was set on by the French, who hoped they would be rejected." ii. 81. Story says, "the Irish were instigated by Mack Guire and the Priests."—ii. 231.482 "Though he was in a manner a stranger to the laws of England" (I quote his words from Story's Journal)* "yet he understood, that those things they insisted upon, were so far contradictory to them, and dishonourable to himself, that he would, not grant any such terms, and so returned them; and ordered a new battery to be immediately raised to the left of Mackay's fort, for mortars and guns. Then the Irish sent again to know what terms his excellency would please to propose to them;" and then he sent in the twelve articles which formed the basis of the Treaty of Limerick.
Can there linger a belief in the mind of any man, that De Ginckel, having indignantly rejected terms, which directly and specifically secured to the Roman Catholics of Ireland all the privileges which their descendants now require, could have intended by the counter terms which he sent in, on the very same day, to grant to them by implication, the very same advantages?
Sir, I feel reluctant to occupy the time of the House on a proposition so obvious; but, recollecting the use which the Roman Catholic petitioners perpetually make of the Treaty of Limerick, as the strongest argument of right which they can urge in support of their present claims—recollecting the triumphant cheers of some honourable members, when, on the motion for the production of this treaty, the terms of it were claimed by the hon. mover and his friends, as conclusive of the whole matter at issue, I do think, that it is important to discuss fully, and I hope finally, the question.
The subject involves a new, though not a higher interest, when the hon. baronet tells us, that it was to the surrender of Limerick that Great Britain owed the Revolution. Of course, he could have meant only the permanence of the Irish settlement, for the Revolution had been for nearly three years consolidated in England before the date of this treaty. The same exaggerated importance is attached to the surrender of Limerick, whenever it is mentioned in the Roman Catholic Association. In one of his late speeches, ‡ Mr. O'Connell appears to have said, that, "Were it not for the Treaty of Limerick,* Story, vol. ii. p. 231.‡ Speeches of Daniel O'Connell, esq. and, Richard Shiel, esq,—Dublin, 1828. p. 48.483 his majesty king George the 4th would not at this day be on the throne of England. Instead of being the sovereign of the first empire in the world, he would be a petty elector in the north of Germany; or, probably, through the bounty of that good-natured man, Napoleon, he might be a king; for we should recollect, that his sister was indebted to the emperor Napoleon for the title of Queen,"* When such claims are founded upon this treaty, when such consequences are drawn from it, it becomes important to shew the fallacy of the one: it is scarcely necessary to expose the absurdity of the other.
By reciting the terms allowed to Waterford in the preceding year, and to Galway during this same campaign, and the terms refused to Limerick, I have, I trust, prepared the House to follow me in the fair and inevitable construction of the terms actually granted by De Ginckel in this memorable treaty.
The articles, then, on which the principal stress is laid by the advocates of the Roman Catholics, as sustaining their specific rights, are the first, second, and ninth. I will proceed to examine them in detail; but the whole treaty should be examined to see how utterly impossible it is that any one part of it, or the whole together, can bear the weight how attached to it. Is it to be believed, for instance, that any one article of the treaty can have been intended to convey to the Roman Catholics an equality of civil rights with the Protestants, when another article gives to the noblemen and gentlemen comprised therein, "liberty to ride with a sword and case of pistols if they think fit, and keep a gun in their houses for the defence of the same, or for fowling." Can any other inference, on the contrary, be drawn from this very article, than that it was the intention of the victor, (an intention admitted by the vanquished) to disarm all who were not specifically excepted? Can it be contended, that all which is now asked, was guaranteed by any general terms in the treaty, if it were necessary to frame a special provision, as was done in the seventh article, without which no Roman Catholic gentleman, not even the earl of Lucan himself, could le-* In another passage, he says, "all the blessings 'of her glorious Revolution,' as she calls it—England owes to the honour and trust-worthiness of the Irish. I arraign her not only of perfidy, but of ingratitude."—Speeches, p. 52.484 gally have kept a fowling-piece in his house?
To proceed:* the first article provides as follows. "The Roman Catholics of this kingdom shall enjoy such privileges in the exercise of their religion, as they did enjoy in the reign of king Charles the 2nd; and their majesties, as soon as their affairs will permit them to summon a parliament in this kingdom, will endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such further security in that particular as may preserve them from any disturbance upon the account of their said religion."
The hon. baronet, the member for Westminster, last night, distinguished between what he denominated the first and the second clause, or division, of this article; the first clause guaranteeing the privileges of the Roman Catholic religion as they existed in the time of Charles 2nd; the second promising such further security as might preserve the parties accepting these terms, "from any disturbance," in other words, any civil disabilities, "on account of their said religion."
Now admitting, what I will scarcely, even for the sake of argument admit, that there is an ambiguity in the latter member* The treaty to which the Roman Catholics appeal, is called "the Civil Articles of Limerick:" but there proceeded, pari passu, between the same parties, another convention, called "the Military Articles," referring more immediately to the transport of the army to France. The first article, however, is quite general. It certainly shews no intention, on the part of the contracting parties, that the Irish were to be favoured, or even placed on any equality with the other subjects of the king. Whether this were just or unjust, prudent or imprudent, is not the question: we have now only to decide the fact. "Art. I. That all persons, without any exception, of what quality or condition soever, that are willing to leave the kingdom of Ireland, shall have free liberty to go to any country beyond the seas (England and Scotland excepted), where they think fit, with their families, household stuff, plate, and jewels." Art. II. relates to the officers and soldiers; and also to the Rapparees. [Story, ii. 329; Leland, 627]. It appears, by this article, that the Irish were scarcely considered subjects of the same king; at any rate, not in pace domini regis, but rather as outlaws, permitted to transport themselves. It is curious that Charles 1st, "in his humiliation" (says Leland, iii. 75), should have granted this, among other demands of his Irish parliament, viz. "to allow all Irish subjects to repair to any part of his dominions without restraint.485 of the sentence, which, taken singly, might be open to the interpretation of the hon. baronet and the petitioners, I contend that, though he may thus collect totidem literis, the sentence which he desires to find in the treaty,* the context of the first member of the sentence will disprove his inference, even if I had not already shewn how utterly incredible it is, that De Ginckel would have granted, by implication, in the evening, when he was dictating the terms, what in the morning he had indignantly refused, when the terms were proposed to him, and when this particular provision was asked in direct words. The truth is, that the very words in the second clause, "in that particular" obviously connect it with the words of the first clause, viz. "in the exercise of their religion;" and both together confine, accordingly, the meaning of the first article of the Treaty of Limerick to the free exercise of the Roman Catholic Religion.
The second article provides more specifically for certain civil rights. But, before I proceed to the examination of it, I will stop to inquire into the limitation of the* My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peel), brought forward, in a subsequent part of the debate, an argument of great force, which had not occurred to me, from the analogy of the treaty with Ormonde. There, where both had distinctly in their contemplation civil rights, they used legal words unequivocally conveying them. See particularly Arts. I. III. VIII. IX. The treaty was not ratified; but that point does not bear upon the argument. It is enough to shew—in fact, the terms brought forward by the Irish in Limerick have shewn—that the Irish knew sufficiently the value of direct and specific words, when legal privileges were to be secured: they used them in the treaty with Ormonde: they tried to use them in the treaty with De Ginckel: and those terms being distinctly rejected by De Ginckel, cannot be held to have been re-instated by him on the same day, by any vague and circuitous inference. The treaty with Ormonde is curious, as illustrating the manners of the people at the time. One of the first measures of Strafford's government was to propose a bill, prohibiting the ploughing by the tails of horses. The Irish Parliament passed the act, [10 and 11 Car. I. c. 15.]; and the Irish, in treating with Ormonde, distinctly required, by Art. XXII., the repeal of this very statute [See Milton's observations on it, Milton's Prose Works, ii. 362]. It may be added, that even so late as the year 1780, Arthur Young found the practice lingering, I think, in the centre of Ireland,486 first article, even as to religion, by the words, "as they did enjoy in the reign of king Charles the 2nd." It was well observed, on a former occasion, by the hon. and learned member for Dublin (Mr. G. Moore) that the construction would have been very different, if the period referred to had been the reign of James 2nd, instead of Charles 2nd. The reign of James was the more obvious point of reference, if the article had intended to grant to the Roman Catholics of Ireland many privileges, even in the exercise of their religion: in that day they were legally equal, and practically more than equal, to the Protestants. But the victor deliberately fixed on the reign of Charles 2nd, as the period, the privileges of which he was willing to concede to the Irish. Now, what was the state of the Roman Catholics in Ireland at that period?* I will not enter into details: they ate well given in the work of Dr. Browne, † to which the hon. baronet, the member for the Queen's County (sir H. Parnell) referred us, in the course of his temperate and candid speech, on a former debate. I will quote no more than four points:—1. Every person in office had, by early statutes, been long previously required to take the Oath of Supremacy:—by the 17th and 18th of Charles 2nd, ‡ that oath was further required to be taken even by Schoolmasters. 2. At that period the Roman Catholics might not, it is true, have been formally and legally excluded from parliament, but it is quite clear that, by resolutions of the two* Father O'Leary, in denying any obligations of the Roman Catholics to the House of Stuart, speaks thus of Charles 2nd. "He confirms Cromwell's grants to the adventurers, who followed the banners of that regicide tinctured with the blood of the royal martyr, obliges his enemies by the sacrifice of his defenders, consents to the special exemption of Irish Catholics from the general act of indemnity, refuses the least assistance to lord R—,who sold his estate to support him during his exile, and gives his sanction to a ridiculous law, declaring it high treason to call the king a papist. * * * * However, the Irish Catholics can never sufficiently thank him for not punishing with halter, gibbet, and exenteration, a requiescat in pace."—O'Leary's Tracts, 1782. p. 93–4.† Brief Review of the Question, whether the Articles of Limerick have been violated, by Arthur Browne, esq. representative in parliament for the University of Dublin.—Dublin, 8vo. 1783.‡ 17 and 18 Car. 2nd, c. 6. § 6. See Browne, p. 33.487 Houses (1661), requiring their own members to receive the communion according to the rites of the Established Church, the peers from the hands of the lord primate, the Commons from the same, or from any whom he might appoint,* the intention of each House was to exclude Roman Catholics. 3. The English parliament petitioned the king, that no papists should be admitted justices of the peace: that all licences to papists for inhabiting within corporations should be recalled. The king complied, as we read in Leland.† It will be recollected, that the Act of Settlement and Explanation, prohibited them from inhabiting within corporations, unless by special licence from the lord lieutenant and council.‡ 4. Roman Catholic priests were liable to banishment: and the duke of Ormond, when lord lieutenant, exercised the power of the law, and banished all their bishops except three.§ Sir, I state these facts historically, to shew, if one word of comment be necessary, that even the condition to which—in matters of religion—the treaty restored the Roman Catholics, was not Utopian. I describe the previously existing state of the Roman Catholics, not to defend it. My argument does not require, my inclination would not lead me, to uphold it. It is enough for me to describe, simply, the facts as they stand in history.
But it may be asked, what, then, did the Roman Catholics gain by this first article? They gained for themselves, and for all the people of Ireland, so far as De Ginckcl could grant it, so far as their majesties could confirm the grant (the limitations I will presently state), the right of the private exercise of their religion—a right, as I have already shewn, denied to Waterford, and in the case of Galway scarcely║ granted; and when it is recollected, that the benefits of the terms so granted to Galway were confined to its inhabitants and garrison; when it is recollected, that Cromwell, in his Irish wars, had directed his generals never to admit any fortress to stipulate for any parties,* Commons Journal (Ireland), I. 395, 21st May, 1661: for the Lords, see Browne.† Leland, iii. 466.‡ Browne, p. 33.§ Curry, p. 93. in Browne, p. 23.║It appears by Story, ii. 165, that major general Talmash was believed to be inclined o lay aside the treaty, i. e. not to grant even such terms to the garrison and town.488 except those within its walls; and when it is seen, that the defenders of Limerick stipulated for the whole kingdom, as well as for themselves—the distinction is sufficiently marked between this, and any other treaty made in Ireland.
I proceed to the consideration of the second Article; that on which the hon. baronet chiefly relied, in his address to the House last night.
The first Article having, then, relation to religion, the second, I contend, has relation to property only. The terms of the first Article, whatever they were, extended to all the Roman Catholics of the kingdom: the terms of the second Article were limited to the parties therein described:—1. The inhabitants of Limerick, and of any other garrison in the possession of the Irish. 2. The officers and soldiers then in arms. 3. The officers detained in their majesties' quarters, "that are treated with, and who are not prisoners of war, or have taken protection, and shall return and submit to their majesties' obedience"—the House will notice the expression. "These several parties, and all their heirs, shall hold their estates of freehold and inheritance, and all their rights, titles, and interests, privileges, and immunities, which they and every or any of them held, enjoyed, or were rightfully and lawfully entitled to in the reign of king Charles the Second, or at any time since, by the laws I and statutes that were in force in the said reign of king Charles the Second."—The hon. baronet, with great skill as an advocate, here closed the book from which he; read this passage last night, and said, Can there be a doubt as to this treaty? is it not clear, that it restored and secured the unrestrained exercise both of political and private immunities by the Roman Catholics, as they enjoyed them in the I reign of Charles 2nd? Could any jury draw any other conclusion? "For my part," says the hon. baronet, "I do not see how it is possible for words more expressly or directly to stipulate for the enjoyment of all rights, public as well as private, by the parties to the treaty and their heirs." I was almost induced to interrupt the hon. baronet at the moment, so far at any rate as to request him to read on: and if the whole construction of the Article be not completely changed by the next two lines, I will own myself utterly incompetent to draw any conclusion of law, or of common sense, from any 489 writing whatever. The words which follow, define the rights restored to be rights annexed to estates:* they provide, that the parties described "shall be put in possession, by order of government, of such of them as are in the king's hands, or the hands of his tenants, without being put to any suit or trouble therein; and all such estates shall be freed and discharged from all arrears of crown-rents, quit-rents, and other public charges incurred and become due since Michaelmas, 1688." I ask, can there be a doubt that the rights here referred to are manorial rights, seignorial rights, and other franchises connected with property, and not with persons, and which as such might be seized or again restored by the Crown? Upon the construction of this Article, I would appeal fearlessly to the judgment of any jury in England, if my whole property depended on the issue.
The remainder of the Article provides that the parties therein described shall and may exercise their professions, trades, and callings, as freely as in the reign of Charles 2nd, provided that they, and all parties seeking the benefit of this Article, shall take the Oath of Allegiance.
The third Article extends the benefits of the first and second, to parties absent beyond the seas, if within eight months they shall return to the kingdom.
The ninth Article, one of those on which I the hon. baronet has chiefly relied, one, on the alleged breach of which the orators of the Association most clamorously insist, provides as follows: "The oath to be administered to such Roman Catholics as submit to their Majesties' government, shall be the oath above said and no other." Can there be a doubt, that the words "submit to their Majesties' government," in this Article, and the words "submit to their Majesties' obedience" in the second Article, mean the same thing? Can there be a doubt, that the meaning of* So in the Articles of Galway: "IX. That they shall enjoy their estates, real and personal, and all other liberties and immunities as they held, or ought to have held, under the acts of Settlement and Explanation, or otherways; by the laws of this kingdom," (the phrase, "other liberties and immunities," might imply something of political power, if it were not for the words immediately following), "freely discharged from all crown-rents, quit-rents, and all other charges to the date hereof,"—Story, ii. 165–171.490 the whole is this: that those whose estates are restored or confirmed to them; those who, laying down their arms, live peaceably in future; those, who exercise their professions, trades, and callings, quietly, shall not be required to take any other oath than the Oath of Allegiance to the government? Again I say, can it be supposed that such an article gave to the Roman Catholics of the whole kingdom a. right by implication to eligibility to all civil functions and privileges, of corporations, of the bench, and of parliament, an eligibility which had been asked distinctly, by the same parties, and had been refused decisively, the very same day, by the same victorious general?
Limited as this Article is by all analogy, by all fair rules of construction, and by much contemporary evidence, as I am prepared to shew, it still conveyed so much more to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, than the Protestants of the empire thought them entitled to receive, that it gave great dissatisfaction. Dalrymple* has recorded some specimens of this feeling; but I will not quote any private authority, while I can quote an address of the House of Commons to the Throne‡.—"We, your Majesties most dutiful and loyal subjects "* * (this is the address of this House to king William, 4th of March, 1692) "crave leave to represent to your Majesty, that the addition made to the Articles of Lymerick,"(I will call the attention of the House to this point presently), "after the same were finally agreed to, signed, and the town thereupon surrendered, hath been a very great incouragement to the Irish Papists, and a weakening to the English interest there * * *. And as to the additional article" (the words above referred to) "which opens so wide a passage to the Irish Papists to come in and repossess themselves of the estates which they had forfeited by their rebellion, we most humbly beseech that the Articles of Lymerick, with the said addition, may be laid before your Commons in parliament, that the manner of obtaining the same may be inquired into, to the end it may appear by what means the said Articles were so enlarged; and to what value the estates thereby claimed do amount."** Dalrymple, iii. 166.‡ Journals, 4th of March, 1692, Vol. x. p. 842–3.‡ The King's Answer is dated 10th of March 1692, Journals, x. p. 848.491 There is not one word said here about the grievance of power being granted to the Roman Catholics; there is not an allusion to any thing but property restored: that is to say, within a few months after the date of the treaty, the House of Commons of England present an address to the Crown, recording their deliberate condemnation of that treaty:—here, therefore, if any where, would have been exposed that aggravation of the evil of the treaty, as it would have been felt, if, by any article of it, any Roman Catholic could have claimed political power in Ireland.
This, Sir, was the opinion of the House of Commons of England, almost at the very time when the treaty received its ratification from the Crown. A few years afterwards, in 1697, the whole parliament of Ireland concurred in the same conclusion; and, by the act passed for the confirmation of the Articles of Limerick, distinctly proved, that, in their judgment, political power was not, and could not be, conveyed by any one, or by all of its articles, to the Roman Catholics of Ireland.
The other great party interested in the surrender of Limerick, king James 2nd, speaks with considerable satisfaction of the favourable terms which his garrison had obtained: but, in the specification of them, he does not seem, even for one moment, to have assumed, that those terms included any concession of political privileges. He appears, indeed, to think that the recognition of the freedom of the religious worship of the Roman Catholics was itself a sufficient advantage, secured as it was, not for the garrison only, but for the whole kingdom. His words, after describing the siege, are these:—"Notwithstanding the ill situation they were in, their forts taken, a breach made, and their condition in short desperate, yet they had the courage to insist upon, and the dexterity to obtain, articles not only for their own security, but which had a respect to the whole kingdom, consulting in the first place the king's honour and advantage, in getting permission to go," &c. [then follows a passage about the numbers so going, thirty thousand men] "in the next place, they articled for as free an exercise of the Catholic religion as in king Charles the Second's time, and a promise to procure a further security from any disturbance on that account: that all the inhabitants of Limerick, all officers, soldiers, &c. in the army garrisons, or counties of Limerick, 492 Clare, Kerry, Cork, and Mayo, should, upon submission, be restored to the estates they were in possession of in king Charles the Second's time; all persons to exercise their trades, and follow their professions, possess their goods, catties, &c. as before the war."
It is sometimes said, it may be said again, that, even if the Treaty of Limerick did not, necessarily, bear the full construction now put upon it, the benefit of a doubt ought to be given to those who surrendered an impregnable city to a despairing besieger;* and, by so doing, fixed the succession of the Crown in a Protestant line: and that the Roman Catholics of this day are entitled to claim, if not from our justice, yet at least from our generosity, a large and liberal interpretation of articles so gained by their predecessors. Bishop Burnet appears to assume† that such a clause, giving the benefit of a doubt to the Irish, really existed; and Mr. O'Connell argues upon it as if he had read it. ‡ No such clause exists: nor did the Irish entitle themselves to any thing but the letter of their bond. I have shewn their distresses: let me add, that, when in a dispute with De Ginckel pending the negotiation, Sarsfield said "we are in your power," intimating that De Ginckel was taking advantage of him, he was answered, "Not so: but you shall go in (again) and then do the best you can."§ But Mr. O'Connell says, that "before the treaty was actually signed, the French fleet appeared off the coast. 'Here,' it was said, 'is the succour. Drive these invaders back to Dublin. The deed has not yet received seal or signature. Let none of its stipulations be fulfilled.' 'No,' said the Irish chieftains, 'the bond is certainly not executed, but Irish honour is plighted for the performance of its conditions—that honour has hitherto been untarnished; it shall remain so."║ Now, what are the facts? In the first place, let me ask what is the merit of any man, or any body of men, not breaking their ho-* "They treated," says Mr. O'Connell, of the English generals, "with soldiers having arms in their hands, and being the masters of an impregnable fortress."—Speeches, 1828, p. 54.† Burnet, ii. 81.‡ Speeches, 1828, p. 54.§ See Story, ii. 257. See also Continuation of Rapin, xiii. 474.║ Speeches, 1828, p. 55.493 nour? but, in the next place, let me remind the House, first, that the fleet did not arrive till after one half of the city was in the hands of the English; and secondly, that the Irish, so far from not taking advantage of it, did forthwith "in consequence," says Story, "of the presence of the French fleet in the Shannon,"* urge the English general to introduce into the treaty those words—so few but so comprehensive—those words, of which the House of Commons of England complained, as I have already shewn;—those words, which restored the forfeited estates to all such as were under the protection of the Irish army in five of the six counties, as well as to that army and to the inhabitants of Limerick. De Ginckel had withdrawn his principal forces towards Dublin; and his instructions being to close the war on almost any terms, he admitted the insertion of these words, on the plea that they had been accidentally omitted by the copyist: (a supposition sufficiently improbable, when it is considered that they were the most comprehensive and important in the whole article); and king William ratified the act of his general: but the parliament of Ireland, on a full knowledge of these facts, expunged the words, and confirmed the article without them. † This is enough to prove that the Irish of this day are not entitled to claim any benefit from the chivalrous honour of their ancestors. So* Story, ii. 272. In another passage Story says, that the Irish officers behaving "very high" in consequence of the presence of their allies, the General wrote two letters to sir Ralph Delaval, the admiral, directing him to proceed forthwith to the Shannon.—This, it may be added, he did not do; though he fought at La Hogue. He was one of the Tory admirals; by whom the naval service had been scandalously neglected; [Coxe's Shrewsbury, p. 19.] and whom the king in consequence dismissed, 1693.† The protest in the Irish House of Lords against this bill was signed by fourteen peers, of whom seven were bishops; and seems to have been founded in some measure upon the injury which would arise to property by expunging, at such an interval, words introduced into the treaty at its ratification. "Because we apprehend many Protestants may, and will, suffer by this bill, in their just rights and pretensions, by reason of their having purchased and lent money upon the credit of the said articles, and as we conceive in several other respects." Lords' Journals (Ireland), 23 Sept. 1697, vol. i. p. 635.494 far as their claims are founded upon this Treaty, they must stand or fall by the strictest construction of it.
It is true that king James complains that some of the articles of the Treaty were subsequently violated; but this charge, be it true or be it false, is of no effect in respect to the demands of the present Roman Catholics, unless it can be proved that any thing now withheld from them had ever been guaranteed to them by any of those articles. It is alleged, that all the penal laws of the reign of William, of Anne, and of George 1st, were successive violations of this treaty. Sir, I think it unnecessary to enter into that question: those laws are now all repealed. I am not the defender of them; but while I do not feel myself called upon to support the penal code, or even to explain the general history of its enactment, I suppose that none will uphold, few can forget, the tyrannies of king James which preceded and almost caused them. The last parliament of James 2nd in Ireland repealed the acts of settlement and explanation; and passed a bill of attainder against all Irish Protestants of rank and property to the number of more than two thousand.* As, therefore, the parliament of James had the precedency in time, it has the precedency in guilt also; but enough of these recriminations: the acts of James 2nd are no more: the penal code is no more.
Sir, in reference to these charges of the infraction by parliament of the Treaty of Limerick, it is necessary to recollect, what both the parties to that treaty well knew, that, admitting for the sake of argument, that the articles as signed by De Ginckel and by Sarsfield secured to the Roman Catholics of that day, and to their descendants, all the rights which those descendants now claim, it was still subject to two conditions, viz. the ratification by the sovereign, and the confirmation by the parliament. Three times† in the course of the treaty are words introduced imply-* See Archbishop King's State of the Protestants. App. p. 1–40. So indiscriminate was their vengeance, that the surname only is sometimes put; thus, there is one Graham, of Co. Letrim; another, Weagh, of Co. Londonderry; by no other description, convicted and attainted of High Treason !† See Art. 1st, 5th, 12th, besides their majesty's own reference to it in their words of confirmation.495 ing the necessity of parliamentary sanction in order to give validity to particular provisions of that treaty; their majesties' generals and lords justices engaging for them that they would endeavour to procure such sanction. Is it contended by any one that king William wanted the will honestly to endeavour to procure from his parliament the confirmation which parliament only could give? Sir, it was not so contended by lord Taaffe, himself an Irish Roman Catholic, who thus speaks of king William's government: "It was an engagement which king William could never be persuaded to depart from, and it soon produced its natural consequences. The security he granted to religious Dissenters of all denominations, restored industry, and plenty of all things; useful arts were introduced; the land was cultivated, and a fine island, reduced to a desert by the late war, soon assumed a new face. In fact, Ireland was never happier than under that monarch. He saw, though others could not, or would not, see, that the Irish Catholics might, by kind treatment, be rendered as good subjects as the Catholics in Holland, who served him faithfully, and fought under him against king James.
"Neither the vicinity of king James, who still had friends in the kingdoms he abdicated, nor the power of Louis 14th, who maintained an army of Irish, who followed the fortune of that prince, could influence king William to alter his conduct towards the Catholics, who submitted to his government. He trusted to their engagements with him, and to the security he gave them; and their steady adherence to those engagements brought him daily proofs that his confidence was well placed."*
So much for the personal character of king William, his will, his intentions, and his success, where he had the means. Sir, it will not be contended that king William had the power to control his parliament, when it is recollected, that a House of Commons of England, even before he could ratify the treaty, remonstrated against it; and when it is further recollected, that it was a House of Commons which deprived him even of his own Dutch guards. No man at the time denied the* Observations on Affairs in Ireland from the Settlement in 1691, by Nicholas, viscount Taaffe, p. 6. Second Edition, 1766.496 personal sincerity of king William; and it was therefore with considerable surprise that I heard from the honourable baronet last night the expression the "shuffling policy of king William;" an expression which I might rather have expected from, the old Tories or the Jacobites than from him.
The utmost which could be required from king William was, that he should heartily try to give effect to the pledge made in his name; but the ultimate appeal was, as all knew, to the deliberative wisdom of parliament; and rested not with the single person of the sovereign. It is true, that some treaties require not such intervention; but all treaties connected with domestic interests necessarily involve it: and William 3rd could no more, by his single authority, in confirming the articles of Limerick, virtually repeal any statutes then existing against Popery, than the king of Hanover could, by a proclamation, naturalise in England all his German subjects. Yet even what king William did, in his own name, and under his own prerogative, attempt to do in the matter of this treaty, appeared to king James to be any thing but a proof of want of sincerity.
The king says—"it was an additional mortification to him in this conjuncture to see his people so willing to overlook such stretches of power and pretended prerogative in an usurper, they had so vehemently resisted in their lawful prince, for the prince of Orange's granting, on this occasion, by his sole authority, such privileges in respect to the exercise of religion, preserving arms, excusing from oaths, and such like concessions in the Treaty of Limerick, was taking much larger steps towards a dispensing power, than what he himself was now so grievously persecuted for, and which it seems could never be forgotten or atoned for."*
But it will be said that the treaty was violated, inasmuch as it was not ratified by parliament. It will not surely be contended by any Whig, that the two Houses were only appointed to register the king's ordinances, or treaties. It will not be contended, that it is not the perpetual right and duty of parliament to watch over them: it will as little be denied, that, in this very matter of religion, the au-* Treaty of Limerick. Life of James 2nd vol. ii. p. 467.497 thority of the sovereign has, even in later times, been scrupulously restrained. My right hon. and learned friend over the way (sir James Mackintosh) than whom no man is better acquainted with all history, and particularly with the history of this country and that period, and from whom we look impatiently for the result of his labours on it, must be fully aware, that a case somewhat analogous occurred no longer ago than in 1763. I will read to the House a passage from a table on their table: it is an extract of a letter from the Earl of Egremont to Governor Murray, dated Whitehall, 13th August, 1763.*
"Though the king has, in the fourth article of the Definitive Treaty, agreed to grant the 'liberty of the Catholic religion to the inhabitants of Canada,' and though his majesty is far from entertaining the most distant thoughts of restraining 'his new Roman Catholic subjects from professing the worship of their religion according to the rites of the Romish church,' yet the condition expressed in the same article must always be remembered, viz. 'as far as the laws of Great Britain permit;' which laws prohibit absolutely any popish hierarchy in any of the dominions belonging to the Crown of Great Britain, and can only admit of a toleration of the exercise of that religion. This matter was clearly understood in the negotiation of the Definitive Treaty. The French ministers proposed to insert the words comme ci-devant, in order that the Romish religion should continue to be exercised in the same manner as under their government; and they did not give up the point until they were plainly told, that it would he deceiving them to admit those words, for the king had not the power to tolerate that religion in any other manner than 'as far as the laws of Great Britain permit.'"
I think, Sir, I have proved sufficiently that the Treaty of Limerick was never intended to bear the weight which has been hung upon it: with that weight it has broke down; and it now overwhelms the hon. baronet, and the cause which he designed to shelter under it. There the ruin may remain: the materials are not worth picking up again: nor should I linger upon the spot for another minute, if it* Papers on the Roman Catholic Religion, No. 181, of Session 1814, p. 20. See the Art. of the treaty, p. 24, and the king's instructions, p. 25.498 were not to remind the House of the pomp and circumstance with which the fabric had been erected, the importance attached to it, and the character of solidity and value given to it in the speeches of those who so lately supported it.
The next position which the hon. baronet takes up in defence of the claims of the petitioners, is the pledge given to them at the Treaty of Union. I do not mean that the hon. baronet quotes such a pledge from any article of the act of Union, or from any speech either of the king or the lord lieutenant. The words which he read from the late king's speech on the prorogation of the first parliament after the Union, could convey no such specific security, even if the king's personal opinions had been less known both to his ministers at that time and to the world. There is one passage, indeed, in a speech from the throne in Ireland, in 1799, which, if read now, with a view to this question, the hon. baronet might have quoted as an authority in his favour. It is this:*—"And his majesty, as the common father of his people, must look forward with earnest anxiety to the moment, when, in conformity to the sentiments, wishes, and real interests, of his subjects in Great Britain and Ireland, they may all be inseparably united in the full enjoyment of the blessings of a free constitution." But no notice was taken of this at the time; because at the time all parties knew that it referred to an union of the two nations, and not to any equalization of the two religions.
Sir, there was not only no official pledge given publicly by the government at the Union, in respect to this matter: there was scarcely any semi-official declaration by which the public mind in Ireland could be led in any direction at that time. The pamphlet which the hon. baronet seemed to regard as the manifesto of the government on the occasion of the Union was, though no name appears to it, written by the late Mr. Cooke, then private secretary to the chief secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland.† The pamphlet to which, as I think, far more attention is due, as representing the mind of the English govern-* Lord Cornwallis's speech, 1st June, 1799. See Sylvester Douglas's (late lord Glenbervie) speech on the Union, p. 184.† Arguments for and against an Union between Great Britain and Ireland, considered Dublin and London, Dec. 1798.499 ment, is the celebrated speech of Mr. Pitt on the Union.* Mr. Foster, at least, the Speaker of the Irish House, regarded it as the authoritative exposition of the principles of the administration in respect to that measure. He complains, that the influence and purse of government had been employed in circulating it, and that ten thousand copies had been printed by the king's printer.† Does Mr. Foster find in this speech, so printed, so circulated, any pledge, or even much encouragement to the Roman Catholics?
His words are these: "I will only observe upon it, that Mr. Pitt's language is of such a nature, that one would imagine he had the two religions on either side of him, and one was not to hear what he said to the other. He tells the Catholic in his speech, that it is not easy to say what should be the Church establishment in this kingdom; and his fifth resolution states that the present Church establishment is to be preserved. He tells them, that the time for discussing their situation must depend on two points, 'when their conduct shall make it safe, and when the temper of the times shall be favourable;' and Mr. Dundas adds, 'if ever such a time shall come.'" This was Mr. Foster's construction of Mr. Pitt's speech. He, at least, did not conceive that Mr. Pitt was circulating any distinct and positive pledge to the Roman Catholics: he, answering Mr. Pitt at the time, did not collect from that speech any assurance on the part of Mr. Pitt to that body, that if they would support him in his object, he would support them in theirs. Let the House judge from Mr. Pitt's own words:‡
"By many I know it will be contended, that the religion professed by a majority of the people should at least be entitled to an equality of privileges. I* Speech of the right hon. William Pitt, 31st Jan. 1799. Wright. London. 1799.† "In discussing the subject, I must often allude to a speech published as Mr. Pitt's, and as various editions of it have been circulated, I shall select that to which the government has given the sanction of it's authority, the one printed by the king's printer, under their direction, of which ten thousand copies have been circulated gratis by them, and all of which have been paid for at the public expense." Speech of the right hon. John Foster, 11th April, 1799, p. 1. London, 1799.‡ Speech of the right hon. W. Pitt, on the Union, 31st Jan. 1799, pp. 39, 40. Wright. London. 1799.500 have heard such an argument urged in this House; but those who apply it without qualification to the case of Ireland, forget surely the principles on which English interest and English connexion have been established in that country, and on which its present legislature is formed. No man can say that, in the present state of things, and while Ireland remains a separate kingdom, full concession could be made to the Catholics without endangering the state, and shaking the constitution of Ireland to its centre.
"On the other hand, without anticipating the discussion, or the propriety of agitating the question, or saying how soon, or how late, it may be fit to discuss it, two propositions are indisputable: First, when the conduct of the Catholics shall be such as to make it safe for the government to admit them to the participation of the privileges granted to those of the Established religion, and when the temper of the times shall be favourable to such a measure: when these events take place, it is obvious that such a question may be agitated in an united Imperial parliament with much greater safety than it could be in a separate legislature. In the second place, I think it certain that even for whatever period it may be thought necessary after the Union to withhold from the Catholics the enjoyment of those advantages, many of the objections which at present arise out of their situation would be removed, if the Protestant legislature were no longer separate and local, but general and imperial."
I might quote much more from other members of the government, and other supporters of the measure; but, as they are only the public speeches of private men, and not clothed with the authority of a speech from the Throne to the two Houses, they could not, even if they contained distinct pledges to the Roman Catholics, do more than bind the individuals who delivered them.
The right hon. gentleman, the knight of Kerry, states, that there were private pledges given by the Irish government, to the Roman Catholics, in order to secure their support of the Union; that he himself was a member of that government at that time; and was not merely cognisant of the fact, but a party to it. No one who has the advantage of knowing that right hon. gentleman, will hesitate for a moment to receive any fact on his state- 501 ment of his personal knowledge of it, much more one connected with himself: but admitting, as I admit, all his facts, I ask again, what do they prove, except the obligation which such pledges imposed upon those who gave them? They left no obligation on others; they could attach no obligation upon the king, or upon parliament.
Sir, in the first place, there was no official body to whom pledges of a public nature could be given; there was no recognized organ of the Roman Catholics, with whom the government could communicate: all the intercourse was from individuals to individuals. The nearest approach to an assembly supposed to act for the Roman Catholics, was the meeting of the prelates of that communion then sitting in Dublin; and, though they deliberated on the question of a state-provision for the Roman Catholic clergy,* it does not appear that the larger subject ever came before them. In the next place, the Roman Catholics could do little in the matter, if, in return for any pledges made to them, they had been disposed to exert themselves in support of the Union. They had not then sitting a rival parliament, or association, the resolutions of which might have been accepted by their brethren throughout the island.
In the last place, Sir, Mr. Plowden,‡ one of their own church, and no mean authority on the subject, says distinctly, that though they "generally gave all the weight they could command to Mr. Pitt's proposition for the Union," * * * "though the predominant interests of the Catholics was certainly in favour of the Union, no public act of the body ever passed upon it: many Catholics in Dublin entered into very spirited and judicious resolutions against that fatal measure, and several of the most independent and best-informed Catholics individually opposed it. Of all the king's subjects, the Irish Catholics had eminently the most reason to oppose the Union, by which they lost their own consequence." If, therefore, any pledge had been given, it does not fully appear, that the condition on which only, by the argument, it is assumed to be binding, was, on their part, fulfilled.* Papers before parliament, No. 298, of Session 1815, p. 59.‡ Plowden's "Ireland since the Union," vol. ii., p. 120.502 But, Sir, no pledge was or could be given, except by individuals; and no pledge was given, even individually, by many whose names are quoted on these occasions. The late lord Auckland,* referring, in his speech on the Roman Catholic question in 1805, to the Union, in the arrangement of which measure he states himself to have been much engaged, distinctly declares that he never heard of any such pledge; nay, more, that if the concessions were in the contemplation of the government, they were industriously concealed from him and others of their associates. Above all, in 1805 Mr. Pitt as distinctly denied that any pledge was given by him.†
The utmost which can be made out is briefly this, that Mr. Pitt was not directly and in words, and to the Roman Catholics, but by conviction, and to his own conscience, pledged to bring forward his measure for their relief. That measure he found that he could not bring forward with the authority of government; and therefore he resigned his office, and thus redeemed his "pledge." Let no man accuse Mr. Pitt of breach of faith to the Roman Catholics: every expectation which they were entitled to form, as raised by him, he realized at a cost to himself greater almost than any mind except his own could measure. What greater object could there have been to a mind like Mr. Pitt's than to have closed the war which he had commenced? What greater object could any man at any time have resigned, than power was, to a mind like that of Mr. Pitt? Yet his favourite projects of foreign policy, and his own unrivalled station, he resigned, when he found himself unable to carry into execution his wishes in favour of the Irish Roman Catholics.
And, on another branch of this subject, let it always be recollected, that, in taking office again, without stipulating for any measure in favour of the Roman Catholics, he violated no pledge to them. The paper in which lord Cornwallis used the word pledge, as applied to the members of government retiring in 1801, was an "unsigned, undated, paper, hastily given by me," says lord Cornwallis, to Dr. Troy, "to be circulated amongst his friends, with the view of preventing any immediate dis-* Parl. Debates, 13th May, 1805, vol. iv. p. 826.* Ibid. 14th May, 1805, p. 1015.503 turbances, or other bad effects, that might be apprehended from the accounts that had just arrived from England; and if I used the word pledged,* I could only mean that, in my opinion, the ministers, by resigning their offices, gave a pledge of their being friends to the measure of Catholic Emancipation; for I can assure you that I never received authority, directly or indirectly, from any member of administration who resigned his office at that time, to give a pledge that he would not embark again in the service of government, except on the terms of the Catholic privileges being obtained."
Admitting, however, that there was a pledge, all that can be said is, though the illustration is familiar, that the government of 1801 finding themselves unable to carry on their engagements, threw every thing up, and took the benefit of the Insolvent act: but when they returned to the world, they were at liberty,—assuming again that there had been a pledge,—to consider that pledge redeemed, and a new account opened.
After all, Sir, I am surprised at the doctrine, and still more at the quarter from which it comes, as if the opinions, or even the pledges, of a minister, were to be binding not only upon himself and his colleagues, but upon his sovereign and upon parliament. Sir, admitting to the utmost, for the sake of argument, the positiveness and solemnity of every pledge assumed to have been given by Mr. Pitt to the Irish Roman Catholics, the pledges were for his best exertions, and could not have been for the success of them.
While, then, the Roman Catholics of the present day cannot, on the grounds of natural right, or on those of specific convention, claim the concession of the political privileges still withheld from them; while they cannot, on the faith of any honourable understanding at the time of the Union, urge the legislature of the United Kingdom to surrender any further advantages to them, there may be, on the other hand, a preliminary and a fatal objection, in point of principle, on the part of one of the three branches of the legislature, to the adoption of any such measure. To that objection I am old-fashioned enough to attach some weight.
I will not enter into the animus impon-* The word is used. Plowden's Ireland since the Union, vol. i. p. 46.504 entis, in respect to the Coronation Oath, further than to say, that if the sovereign for the time being were told in Westminster Abbey, by the voice of the two Houses on the day of his coronation, that the oath which he was about to take had respect to the preservation, for instance, of the existing tythe-system, the sovereign so receiving the oath, and so taking it, could not be released from its sanctions by the unanimous declaration of the two Houses of Parliament, ten years afterwards, in favour of the suppression of tythes. No bill which they might present to him for such a purpose could he pass into a law, without violating his oath; and without thereby destroying the sanctity of the principle by which he himself could claim the allegiance of his people. But there may be cases in which (no distinct explanation of the meaning and intent of the Coronation Oath, being given to the sovereign by parliament), the individual sovereign may himself, as an independent branch of the legislature (as independent as either House of Parliament,) refuse his consent to any bill, on any ground. I trust that this House will never forget the right of the sovereign to exercise his judgment equally with either House on every measure before parliament. And there are other and mixed cases, perhaps the Roman Catholic question is one, in which the sovereign, for the time being, might feel that, if the legislature shall not have prescribed an authoritative exposition of his intended oath, he is bound, seeking the aid of history and of the general context of the constitution, to give his own conscientious interpretation to the oath, and to act upon it accordingly. This was clearly the case with our late illustrious monarch. If the sovereign, for the time being, shall judge himself to be bound by the oath to a particular line of conduct, it is a question altogether between him and his maker: but even if the king's conscience be not necessarily bound, his judgment, which is constitutionally free, may equally lead him to the same result; and though the doctrine is unpopular in this House, I will repeat, that the king of England is not, as some half republicans call him, merely the first magistrate, but an original integral, essential part of the legislature, and as much entitled to a deliberative voice in any measure, as either House of Parliament; though by the indulgence of the House of Hanover, the right has never, I 505 think, been exercised since their accession. I refer to the question only lest I should appear to overlook the subject altogether. I mean not to enter in detail upon it; it is sufficient for my purpose to state, that though future parliaments might suggest to future sovereigns a different interpretation of the oath, there might now be legal and constitutional objections to the measure, fatal, and justly and constitutionally fatal to its success, even if it should be recommended by the unanimous voice of the two Houses. But I waive the point; and will consider the whole question as one open freely to the consideration of parliament, on the general grounds of political expediency.
I mean not to degrade the question when I so regard it; I wish not to speak slightingly of the interests of so many of our fellow-subjects; but if their claims be not of right, they must be of expediency; and if of expediency, though the extent may vary, the principle is the same, whether its objects be ten men or ten millions. I have hitherto put wholly out of the question the number of the applicants: if a claim be founded in right, I should be ashamed to withhold it from one poor and silent man; if it be not founded in right, I should be ashamed of a government which could be bullied by six clamorous and sturdy millions into a weak and inconsistent concession. The whole question, then, is, whether the concession be weak and inconsistent, or wise and prudent.
I say, then, that the question of Roman Catholic Emancipation is like the merest and meanest question of domestic policy for which a bill is introduced into this House, to be canvassed and decided on the grounds of more or less public convenience following the rejection or the concession of it. "Right," as Mr. Pitt stated, "is independent of circumstances and paramount to them; whilst Expediency is the creature of circumstances, and, in a great measure, dependent upon them:"* and I am very willing to admit, that in this point of view, it is a very different question whether the number of the petitioners be ten or ten millions: but I will not stop here; but say at once, that the argument cuts two ways; and, if it be more* Parliamentary Debates, May 14, 1805, vol, iv. p. 1014.506 important to conciliate millions than hundreds, assuming that the measure asked would conciliate them, it is on the other hand, more important and a more imperative duty to resist all concession, and to disregard all threats, when there is a moral certainty that we are only arming discontent with power, that we are leaguing physical strength with political importance, and putting new weapons of assault in the hands of those who have already shewn us that they want not the spirit and the will to use them.
My hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor-general for Ireland (Mr. Doherty) in a speech of great force which he delivered last night, told us, that there were three different lines of conduct open to us to pursue; and he urged us to strike into that which he called the new and untrod line of concession and conciliation. I should like to know in what path the imperial parliament, or the separate legislatures, have been treading for the last forty years, if not in the path of concession? Has it led to conciliation, or to any thing like conciliation? If it have not, why should we advance further upon it? And why should we entertain greater hopes of succeeding now, than we entertained forty years ago? Have we, after all our efforts, yet come in sight of conciliation? And if we have not, when do we expect to reach it?
I proceed, then, to compare the language of the Roman Catholics of former times, before their existing measure of political power was conceded to them, with their later language. It will thence be seen whether concession be conciliation, and whether peace and harmony have or have not been promoted by granting political power to the Roman Catholics of Ireland. Let me not be misunderstood: I make now, as I have always made, the widest distinction between political power and religious toleration: I ask not in foreign countries for any thing more than a toleration of Protestants: I think that the measure of policy, in a government so mixed as our own, with a limited monarchy, a church united with the state, and a representative body so open to popular influences, should be to confine power to those who will give their undivided allegiance to a state so constituted; or at least to exclude from power, the power of legislating for Protestant interests, a body consistently and conscientiously opposed 507 to Protestantism, and bound to promote the advancement of their own church.*
The question is, whether the Roman Catholics, when all penalties on their religion, as such, were removed, were not better subjects than they are now, when political power has been given to them, and they are seeking more? I might go back even to a date within the period of the penal laws, and show instances of such kind and right feelings, on both sides, as would prove that, practically, there was and must have been a great relaxation of those laws, long before the formal repeal of them. I refer, among other instances, to bishop Berkley's address† to the Roman Catholics, and to their answer also, included in his works: and I refer to the conduct of the Roman Catholics in the year 1745. I will not, however, rely on such precedents. I will take only declarations made by the Roman Catholics subsequent to the period when the freedom, of their religion was restored in 1782. And first, Sir, I will quote the language of Dr. James Butler, a Roman Catholic ecclesiastic of the highest rank in Ireland, titular archbishop of Cashel:‡ and here; Sir, let me remark by the way, not merely the modesty of his title, for, in the first page, he calls himself simply Dr. James Butler, but the studied apology for* Upon the general principle, Burke admits that "there are considerations which may render it advisable for a wise government to keep the leading parts of every branch of civil and military administration in hands of the best trust; but a total exclusion from the commonwealth is a very different thing." He is speaking of the condition of the Roman Catholics under the constitution of Ireland in 1782, before the relaxation of the penal laws by the act of that year. [Letter to a Peer of Ireland. Works, vi. p. 275.] Bolinbroke said long before; "The good of society may require, that no person should be deprived of the protection of government on account of his opinions in religious matters; but it does not follow from hence, that men ought to be trusted in any degree with the preservation of the establishment, who must, to be consistent with their principles, endeavour the subversion of what is established."—Letter to sir William Windham. Works, ix. 23.† Berkley's Miscellanies, p. 108–9.‡ He was of the House of Ormonde [see evidence before the Commons, 1825]. His work is entitled "Justification of the Tenets of the Roman Catholic Religion, and a Refutation of the Charges brought against its Clergy, by the Right Rev. Lord Bishop of Cloyne. By Dr. James Butler." 1787.508 afterwards introducing himself under any other designation, though it is still only titular archbishop:* in the greater part of the book, it is "superiors of the Roman Catholic communion in Ireland:" now, Sir, words are things, if any where, certainly in the Church of Rome; and the resumption of the old titles of their sees, by the present Roman Catholic prelates, marks pretty conclusively their own reliance on the advance of their cause, and their confidence, I trust their vain confidence, in its ultimate success.
The work which I quote is an answer to the celebrated pamphlet of Dr. Woodward, bishop of Cloyne: and speaks of the state of the Roman Catholics before they were permitted to enter on the career of political power. In this work, which is of a controversial nature, and in which, as such, he might be supposed rather to have magnified the evils, than exaggerated the blessings, of their condition, Dr. James Butler speaks thus justly and gratefully of the then existing situation of the Roman Catholics. He speaks of the duty of the Roman Catholics, as "a grateful body of people towards the sovereign and the legislature, under whom we have derived so many and great immunities:"† he says, "We had heard the trumpet of persecution * * blow its last. * * * The storms and clouds of an inauspicious century had been dispersed by the mild sunshine of peace, and the harmless Catholic reposed under his vine and fig-tree, safe and unenvied.‡ This was written, let it be remembered, in the interval between the period in which the Roman Catholics first obtained security for the exercise of their religion, and that, in which their appetite was first whetted by a taste for political power. I will continue to quote Dr. Butler: he is speaking of the insurrection in the south, the Whiteboy system, &c, and he says that "when the first troubles broke out in the south, the most active exertions in their power were used by the Roman Catholic clergy to bring back their deluded flock to a sense of duty, order, and obedience. We* "The reader will therefore pardon me, if he sometimes hears of such men as titular bishops and their clergy, and if I am sometimes obliged to speak of my own titular Suffragans." Butler, p. 7.† Butler, p. 10.‡ Butler, p. 14. See a similar passage by the late Dr, Milner, in the Appendix p. 168.509 exhorted them in the name of our religion: we threatened with the fear of punishment from that Almighty whom their wickedness might provoke. We argued upon the impolicy—and pointed out the ingratitude—of irritating a legislature, whose power to depress us had been so manifestly evinced in the very privileges it had opened to us."* Compare this with the language of Dr. Doyle in 1825, not writing under the initials J. K. L. but in his own avowed character: the passage has been often quoted, once already by myself on a former occasion; but I again entreat the attention of the House to it. "If a rebellion were raging from Cape Clear to Carrickfergus, not a priest would denounce it from the altar." † There is a strange and wonderful difference between the language of the Roman Catholic bishop, who forty years ago considered that the secure exercise of his religion, the freedom of his property, and the personal privileges restored to him, were inestimable advantages, and the language of the Roman Catholic bishop of the present day, who wishes to raise his creed to political power.
So much for the declarations of the Roman Catholic prelates: I will not, however, confine myself to such evidence. I will place before you the declarations of the laity; and I call upon you to mark the difference between the language of the addresses of the Roman Catholics thirty years ago, and the language of the petitions presented at present. I have endeavoured to find some place which sent addresses at both periods, in order to contrast the difference in their language, but I have not been able to find exactly any such; but I will compare an address from two places in the county of Wexford, in 1797, with the general address of that county in 1827.
The people of Moyacomb and Barragh, one thousand five hundred and sixty-one in number, assembled at Clonegal chapel, in the county of Wexford, declare as follows:—"We, the Roman Catholic inhabitants of the parishes of Moyacomb and Barragh, think it incumbent upon us at this crisis of internal disturbance publicly to declare our unalterable attachment to his sacred majesty king George 3rd,* Butler, p. 29.† Dr. Doyle's letter to Mr. Robertson, in Letters on the Re-union of the Churches, p. 4.510 and that most excellent constitution which his mild and paternal reign has restored to us. * * * Loyalty has ever been the distinguished trait of the Catholic body; superadded to this we have now a common interest to defend: his majesty, in admitting us to the constitution, has bestowed On us an invaluable heritage:* and we solemnly promise at this altar, in the presence of Almighty God, that we will cling to him, and defend him and that heritage which he has conferred on us, if need be with our blood."
Now the language of the last petition† which I can find "of the body of the same county," is that the parties are "excluded from the free constitution of these realms;" they, the Roman Catholics, who thirty years ago declared that they had a common interest in it with ourselves, and professed their gratitude to their sovereign for bestowing on them so invaluable an heritage.‡ "They have learnt by experience," said some other petitioners last year from two parishes close to Clonegal, that "the exclusion of seven millions from their rights and privileges has been the source of perpetual discord and discontent."§
I have now placed before you singular contrast between the Roman Catholic as he was before you gave him a* On the subject of the condition of the Roman Catholics at that period, I add a few lines from the work of a friend, whose name I do hot think it fair to quote, as, since writing them, he has changed the opinions which they express:—" Is there a single burthen which either is or can be imposed upon them, without equally affecting all the members of the community? Where then is the insufferable grievance? Why, merely this; one in twenty thousand of them cannot have the full gratification of his ambition." Since that day, the army and navy, to their highest ranks, besides other advantages, have been opened to the Roman Catholics.† Journals, 1824, p. 446.‡ "Gratitude soon wears out," as Wolfe Tone says, speaking of the feelings of his Roman Catholic clients in respect to the concessions of 1793, while he was pointing out to them other and higher objects, i. 187—"When Mr. Secretary Hobart pressed the Roman Catholics of that day to say that they were satisfied, those who were willing to say so argued that the minister did not say the Catholics were to acquiesce for ever under the measures intended, but only that the public mind should not be irritated; that every accession of strength enabled them the better to secure the remainder," &c.—Wolfe Tone, i. 93,§ Votes, 1827, p. 632,511 draught of political power, and as he was in the first hour of enjoying it; and, on the other hand, the Roman Catholic as he is, now that, having obtained what then appeared his object, he asks, dissatisfied, for more. I ask you to tell me what you have gained in the loyalty, and good order, and affectionate submission, of your Roman Catholic subjects, by all your concessions? Are you authorised by your experience of the past, to expect that your future concessions, if you yield more to their claims, will be attended by more favourable results? My hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor-general for Ireland, described in very forcible language the difficulty—and no one can overrate the difficulty—of our present position: but I contend that the difficulty will be increased, not ten-fold but a hundred-fold, by any further concessions. The claims of the Roman Catholics in the beginning were humble and obscure; they are now shrouded in clouds and darkness; and it is hardly possible to say to what extent they aspire:
Parva metu primo: mox sese attollit in auras Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubila condit. I correct myself: this is not strictly the case; they have looked down from their cloud, and have shown their fronts openly, and told us at once what it is which they demand. They demand open, absolute, unqualified, Emancipation. They have well followed the hint of Wolfe Tone, "my advice has been for the Catholics to rise at every refusal in their demands like the ancient Sybil, which they seem determined to do."* I might quote many daring declarations from the volume which I hold in my hand, entitled the Speeches of D. O'Connell, esq. and Richard Shiel, esq., just published; and which, on first looking at it, I thought must have been compiled by a Protestant, for I could not conceive that any Roman Catholic would have formed an armoury, from which so many weapons could be drawn against himself. In this, I find, I was mistaken; and the volume may be received as a genuine Roman Catholic work.
So much for the progress of demand among the Roman Catholics, whether priests or laity, individuals or in bodies. I will now consider the language of their supporters in parliament. I will not go back to the days of the Revolution to re-*Vol i. p. 205.512 mind the House of the opinions of their great predecessors. Lord Somers and king William may be dim lights in a dark age: and I will therefore go no further than the memory of many still living. The House will recollect that, from the commencement to the close of the reign of our late excellent king, measures were continually in progress to meliorate the civil condition of all his subjects. The Roman Catholics shared largely in these benefits. One by one, as has been well said, each link of the penal chain was loosened, every manacle unfastened, and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland went forth without fetters among the people. I will not detail the history of the acts of 1772 and 1778. I will go on at once to the proceedings in 1782. Then was brought into the Irish House of Commons the first great bill for the relief of the Roman Catholics. It was moved by Mr. Gardener:* he said, that he limited his claims on their behalf to five points, the object of his wishes and his hopes, but not of his expectations or plan; since he thought that he perceived a spirit so hostile to the concession of the fifth, that he excluded it from the bill which he subsequently brought into the Irish parliament. The five were as follow: the first related to their right of property; the second to the exercise of their religion; the third to the education of their children; the fourth to their marriages; and the fifth and last, to their right to carry arms; the last, the right of self-defence, was the one which Mr. Gardener thought it imprudent to press. Not a whisper was then heard about the elective franchise, not one word about eligibility to parliament; not one word about the army, the navy, corporations, the cabinet, or the Crown. Even on the first point, that of property, what was the language of Mr. Grattan? He said, "three years ago, when this question was debated in this House * * * I do declare I was somewhat prejudiced against granting to the Roman Catholics estates in fee; but their conduct since that period has fully convinced me of their true attachment to this country. * * * I give my consent to the clause in its principle, extent, and boldness."†
If Mr. Grattan, in 1782, thought him-* Irish Debates, vol. i. p. 248, 15th Feb. 1782.† Irish Debates, vol. i. p. 257–259.513 self a bold man in granting to the Roman Catholics the measure of 1782,* what must he have thought of his own boldness—I ask what opinion we ought to form of it—on finding himself, within ten years afterwards, urging their claims to an almost unqualified emancipation?
In the same debate, Mr. Grattan said† on the first clause about property: "it is a clause of union and incorporation; it says, 'Countrymen, that have been so long separated from us, we hold out our hands to you; we are willing to become one people; we are willing to grant you every privilege compatible with the Protestant ascendant'"—that very technical and peculiar phrase, which is sufficiently understood every where, but which at that time and in that place,—within the hearing of lord Charlemont,—was peculiarly intelligible. Sir, I quote Mr. Grattan's words, not from his works collected after his death,‡ but from the second edition of the Dublin Hansard's Debates, which second edition was itself published so* On another occasion, 25th Jan. 1782, sir Hercules Langrishe stated—"If they were not to be satisfied with any concession, while any thing remained to be conceded, in that case common sense must suggest to us that we should not, by any new concession, unite more power with their discontent.† Feb. 15, 1782. Irish Debates, vol. i. p. 243.‡ In the collected works, vol. i. p. 100, the phrase is vague, and dilated "into every privilege compatible with the constitution." If the phrase were altered by Mr. Grattan on the ground of any growing disinclination to "the Protestant ascendancy," it is a fresh proof of the hazard of taking the opinions of any advocate of the Roman Catholic claims as a given standard at any one time: if the phrase were altered not by him, but by others, it loses all the authority due to his name. I give a definition of Protestant ascendancy by a high constitutional Irish whig in 1792. "By Protestant ascendancy" (said Mr. Sheridan, cousin of R. B. Sheridan), "he meant a Protestant king, to whom only, being Protestant, we owed allegiance; a Protestant House of Peers, composed of Protestant lords spiritual in Protestant succession, of Protestant lords temporal with Protestant inheritance; a Protestant House of Commons elected and deputed by Protestant constituents; in short, a Protestant legislative, a Protestant judicial, and a Protestant executive, in all and each of their varieties, degrees, and gradations." Irish Debates, vol. xii. p. 135, 18th Febr. 1792. Of Sheridan, then member for Charlemont, see Hardy's Life of Lord Charlemont, vol. ii. p. 316–320.514 early as 1784: if, therefore, there had been any error in the phrase in the first edition, it could in the second have been corrected. But, I repeat it, that at that time Mr. Grattan was not ashamed of the words, or of the things signified by the words "Protestant ascendancy;" on the preservation of which, I believe in my conscience, that the union of the two countries mainly depends. Such was the limitation, without which Mr. Grattan was not at that time prepared to think of granting any boon to the Roman Catholics. But what said Mr. Grattan in 1793? "He must be a visionary politician who imagined that after what had been granted to the Catholics, they could long be kept out of the state: for (added he) the barrier which you have now erected cannot stand—it is in vain keeping out of the offices of the state the men whom you have admitted into the constitution."* Do I blame Mr. Grattan for this extraordinary change in his language in the course of ten years? Do I wish to bind Mr. Grattan, or any other statesman, to the constant advocacy of the same set of opinions at all times and under all circumstances? Is it said that I allow no change or modification from enlarged experience or deeper reasoning? Sir, I deny the charge. I contend that it is the right, and, yet more, that it is the duty, of every man to change his opinions, when circumstances change around him; but I say, that in elementary questions of civil government, the principles are permanent, and ought not to be hastily embraced, or as hastily exchanged; and I ask, if there be no security in the language used by the advocates of the Roman Catholic claims in 1782, against a change of opinion, not merely in their successors, but even in themselves in 1793—what security have we against any change of opinion in the hon. member for Westminster, or in his successor, or even in himself, only ten years hence, on this most important of all political questions? Having granted in 1793 what was then considered so much, and is now considered so little, what security have we, that, if we shall grant still more in 1828, the same parties may not again turn round upon us and say, "you have done nothing, you have given nothing, you have left the Roman Catholic as an insulated and degraded being; he* March 4, 1793. Irish Debates, p. 363.515 still cannot be lord chancellor;* he still cannot be king. The heir apparent is the only person in the kingdom who must sacrifice his conscience or his inheritance!" What security have we, that we shall not be called upon to release the "suffering millions" from the payment of tythes to a Protestant priest; or, perhaps, to make Protestants pay for a Roman Catholic church there, and then to surrender the whole island to "the religion of the people?" Sir, I see before me an hon. friend of mine who is prepared, I know, to give up the Protestant church in Ireland: I will not quote him farther, as he has not yet openly declared his opinions in the House, and is not therefore here responsible for them: but my hon. friend argues, that as the established religion of England is the Protestant episcopal church, and the established religion of Scotland is the Presbyterian, because the majority of the inhabitants of each are respectively Protestant episcopalians and Presbyterians, so ought the established religion of Ireland to be the Roman Catholic church, because the majority of the people there are Roman Catholics.‡
Such demands we must be prepared to hear and to meet. Let us not suppose, that by granting the present claims on the scale urged by the advocates of the pe-* "When the question for going into the committee on the Roman Catholic Claims was carried in the House of Commons, I remember (said a friend of mine in a letter to me from Ireland) congratulating a highly respectable and intelligent Roman Catholic priest, on the prospect now before him. His reply I never can forget: 'I see no cause for congratulation. What will they give us,—a few seats in parliament, &c.? But will they make a Roman Catholic lord Chancellor? or a Roman Catholic lord Lieutenant? can we expect to see a Roman Catholic premier? No, Sir, while they hold back such things from us, it is not emancipation, and we ought not to accept it from them.'† If every state ought to establish the religious sect which is the most numerous, the establishment, so elected by the state, may vary every year, or with every parliament. The true principle appears to me to be this, viz. that the governing powers of a state, being responsible to God for the well-being of the people committed by Him to their charge, should give to that people such facilities of education and of worship as they, the governors, think to be most consistent with truth and wisdom; leaving to the people to choose, as they will, any other modes either of instruction or of religion.516 titioners in this House, we shall satisfy them:—Sir, that scale will not satisfy the Roman Catholics of Ireland; at least it will not satisfy their leaders: and if our object be the pacification of Ireland, in that object we shall be as much disappointed when we have granted the present demands, as if we did nothing. If conciliation be "nine-tenths of the divine value of the measure," according to a speech which I heard from an hon. and learned gentleman three years ago, you will never attain more than the odd tenth of such value, whatever that may be. By the system now proposed, you will do nothing but arm discontent with power. Grant not, then, the present claims, unless you are prepared to grant more; grant not the political power now demanded, unless you are ready to grant in the following year that which will remain. Consider what is the expediency of granting power to those, who tell us at once—if their language did not tell us, their conduct is loud-tongued—that they will not be satisfied with that power. If then you are still to leave the Roman Catholics dissatisfied and discontented, for what purpose have you made the Protestants also dissatisfied and discontented? Mr. O'Connell states, that he, as an individual, would never be satisfied with emancipation alone:* and Dr. Doyle told us four years ago, "that the excess of the Establishment in Ireland must be corrected:"—"this mammon of iniquity in the hands of Churchmen."† And he says, significantly, that "emancipation will not remedy the evils of the tythe system." ‡ Mr. O'Connell, indeed, in a speech revised by himself, speaks of the legislature of England as "a foreign parliament." § These harangues have done more harm to the cause of the Roman Catholics than any opposition elsewhere: they are not the speeches of individuals* Dublin Evening Post, Dec. 6, 1826.† Letters of J. K. L. p. 35.‡ Letter to Mr. Robertson, in Letters on the Re-union of the Churches, p. 47.§ Speech on Church Rates, 1827, p. 12. It is no more "foreign" to Dublin, than it is to Cornwall or to Cumberland. The whole passage is this: he is speaking of the Church-rate Bill—"In fact, this Act was stolen upon us by the means of that ignorance of what is going on in a foreign parliament, which that most mischievous measure, the Union, necessarily produced.517 only, but they have been stamped with delegated authority by the resolutions of different aggregate bodies of their countrymen. Thus, at the general meeting of Catholics in the county of Clare, it is said that Mr. Shiel (the House will recollect enough of his speeches last year, to spare me the trouble of quoting them), "Mr. Shiel deserves the confidence of the Irish people."* At the meeting at Drogheda, the Roman Catholic Archbishop and Primate, Curtis, in the Chair, it was "resolved, that Daniel O'Connell, esq. and Richard Shiel, esq. are entitled to our grateful thanks, which are hereby given to them." † Nor is this sanction given to Mr. O'Connell by Irish Roman Catholics only: I grieve to say, that the British Roman Catholics, who, up to a late period, have conducted themselves with temper and discretion, departed, July 26th, 1826, from their former prudent course, and at a meeting, Charles Butler, esq. in the Chair, passed a resolution of "thanks to Daniel O'Connell, esq. for his zealous and efficient services to the Catholic cause." In this way, Sir, the Roman Catholics of the empire have unhappily adopted the violent sentiments of those whom they thus hold forth as entitled to their public gratitude; and have to blame themselves and their advocates only for the hostility of public opinion against their cause. I cannot but see symptoms of the deep, growing, and enlightened, hostility of the people of this country to this question; of its literary men, largely; of its gentry in a considerable proportion; and generally of the middle orders, ‡ in whom pre-eminently in* Dublin Evening Post, 22nd March, 1828.†Dr. Phillpotts has quoted the unanimous thanks of the Meeting at Ballinasloe, (present "His Grace the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam in the Chair,") to Mr. Shiel, "the pride and bulwark of his suffering fellow-countrymen."—Phillpots' Letter on the Coronation Oath, 1828, p. 201.‡ Edinburgh Review, vol. xlvi. p. 253. "The friends of the Catholics have, indeed, too long kept out of sight the real difficulty which impedes the progress of all measures for their relief. There has been a nervous reluctance—perhaps a natural unwillingness, to approach this subject. Yet it is of the utmost importance that it should at last be fully understood. The difficulty, we believe, is neither with the King nor with the Cabinet—neither with the Commons, nor with the Lords. It is with the people of England; and not with the corrupt nor with the servile, not with the rude518 England reside the strength and the principle of our institutions. One of the weapons with which we are assailed is the use of "great names," not one of whom, perhaps, would have agreed with the other, in the point of concession to which they would go, or in the securities which they would require. Another weapon, is "the advance of the cause in society:" and we are taunted with the holes and corners to which bigots and bats are driven: but so long as a large majority of the House of Lords, and a nearly equal division of the House of Commons, shall resist the concession of these claims, so long am I entitled to state that the higher orders are against them; so long as I see the opinions of the great bodies of the Church, and of the country gentlemen of England, opposed to these innovations—so long am I entitled to say, that the most influential classes are against them.
The hon. member for Westminster addressed to us, in passing, an argument ad verecundiam, when he alluded to the policy of foreign States, in employing their subjects of every religious sect, without distinction, in the public service. The House has indulged me with a patient hearing so long, upon this great question, that I hardly know how to trespass further upon its attention; but this point is one of so much importance, that I venture to advert to it before I sit down.
The argument adverecundiam, by which, looking at the liberality of "all other Protestant States," as the case is described, we are to be shamed into a concession of the demands of our Roman Catholic countrymen, as if it were equallyand uneducated, not with the dissolute and turbulent—but with the great body of the middling orders; of those who live in comfort, and have received some instruction. Of the higher classes the decided majority is beyond all dispute, with the Catholics. The lower classes care nothing at all about the question. It is among those whose influence is generally asserted for the most salutary purposes—among those, from whom liberal statesmen have, in general, received the strongest support—among those who feel the deepest detestation of oppression and corruption, that erroneous opinions on this subject are most frequent.They think as the most enlightened men in England thought seventy or eighty years ago. Pulteney and Pelham would no more have given political power to Papists than to Ourang-outangs.519 unjust in all ages, and unfashionable* in the present, to keep up any political distinctions on the ground of religion, is founded on the assumption, not merely that the fact is so, namely, that all other Protestant States do admit Roman Catholics to equal civil privileges, but, above all, that the situation of the British empire is, interiorly, the same with that of the several States brought forward as examples; and therefore, that it is as wise and safe for her to pull down all those barriers, which all men admit were once necessary for her, as it is for the other States in question, not to erect them.
The newest authority to which, on this subject, the hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) referred, is the pamphlet of a friend of mine, Mr. Gally Knight.† When I say that this work was published immediately before this discussion, and therefore I presume with a view to influence it, I mean not by such a statement, either to deny the merit of the execution, or to impeach the fairness of the principle. Any clever man may write a clever book, at any time, on either side, without blame. I refer to the fact now, only because the hon. baronet, not content with quoting Mr. Gally Knight's work so published, insinuates it as a charge against a writer on the opposite side (Dr. Phillpotts), perhaps the first controversialist of the day on these subjects, that, under similar circumstances, he has published this year, as well as last year about the same period, a work on the same question, and equally intended to enlighten our judgments upon it.‡
Mr. Gally Knight assumes in his* To prove that our conduct in endeavouring to check the power of the Roman Catholic Church is not condemned universally on the continent, I might quote more than one opinion, even of enlightened members of that Church, who are jealous, and justly jealous, of the court of Rome. I will quote one only from a Frenchman who held office under Napoleon, and was, when he wrote, in office tinder the Bourbons. He writes thus to a friend who holds the opinions which I do—"vousn'y avez pas émis une seule opinion sur l'esprit de la cour de Rome, quo je ne partage entièrement, tous les faits récens prouvent que non seulement cet esprit est le même qu'avant 1789, mais qu'encore il se fortifie, et cherche très activement à. étendre son influence.† Foreign and Domestic View of the Catholic Question, by H. Gally Knight, Esq. 1828.‡ Letter to a Layman on the Coronation Oath, 1828.520 pamphlet that "England is the most illiberal of all civilized countries;" and, to the same effect, a noble lord states, I think in his letters to the late sir George Lee, that the only exceptions in Europe to universal toleration are Spain, Turkey, and England; and that, therefore, it is with Ferdinand the 7th, and the Grand Seignior, that Great Britain must be content to run the race, and divide the prize, of bigotry: that, in short, no other States profess to found on the religious distinctions of their subjects any claim on the one hand, or any impediment on the other, to the attainment of civil honours.
Sir, I deny the fact: though even if I admitted it, I could easily shew that it is of no use in the argument, unless the circumstances of the several countries shall be precisely the same with those of the United Kingdom.
It is true, that at the Congress of 1815 the old laws in the several States composing the Germanic body were altered, as stated in papers before this House, and as repeated by Mr. Gally Knight: but to this day the religion of Sweden is Lutheran:* and the laws in Sweden, against persons of a "foreign religion" appear, by the papers on the table of this House,† to be very severe. In respect to one provision, there seemed in 1809 to be some relaxation; but it is immediately followed by this rule, "such only as profess the true Evangelical Creed" (I read from the Supplementary Papers of 1817) "can be appointed to be Ministers of State, Counsellors of State, Counsellors of Justice, Secretaries of State, Men in all Civil Offices, and Judges within the Kingdom." And in the following year, there appeared another regulation from the Diet, established by the king and States-general, "Persons professing any other doctrine than the Reformed one, cannot be adopted as Members of the Diet; but the right of Election cannot be refused to those who are Christians."‡
Now, Sir, as to Denmark. From a paper drawn up by the celebrated Schlegel, and transmitted to lord Castlereagh by* Charles John the present king, was compelled to conform to the Lutheran Church on entering the country.† Supplementary Papers, 1817, p. 41–43.‡ Eighteenth Section of the Regulation dated Stockholm, February 10th. 1810. Supplementary Papers, 1817, p. 43.521 Mr. Foster, then the king's minister at the court of Copenhagen, that gentleman draws this conclusion, which I will read from his despatch: "From this paper it appears, that the laws of Denmark prohibit the Roman Catholics generally from exercising their religion within the kingdom, and that, whatever liberty of worship particular communions of men may enjoy, exists in virtue of special favours conferred upon them; in Holstein, by the ancient Sovereigns of that country, which were afterwards confirmed by the kings of Denmark; or in Denmark itself by the Danish Crown, out of regard to the French and Austrian Missions."*
Denmark, it is true, is an almost absolute monarchy; and perhaps the sovereign who to day prohibits the Roman Catholic worship, may to-morrow call a Roman Catholic to his councils, having always the uncontrolled power of dismissing him the next day: but in a small and free state adjoining Denmark, the state of Hamburg, there appears, when the returns which I quote were made to this government, to have been in 1816 the same system of exclusion, which our new authorities tell us, is confined to Turkey and to Spain.
"The right of public exercise of religion, as also the rights of the dominant Church, remain solely reserved to those who profess the Evangelical Lutheran religion; also especially in civilibus, and namely for the faculty of places of honour in this place, burghers, collegiis, officiis, services of the town, and whatever else may be in this way."‡
"The subjects of the Crown of Portugal," says Mr. Chamberlain in his dispatch, "must be Catholics, at least outwardly: they are not permitted to be otherwise.
"Foreigners of different persuasions are not molested on that account; but with the exception of British subjects who, by the treaty of 1810, are permitted to have chapels and churches, under certain restrictions, they have no right, nor* Report (1816) p. 429. There is an apparent discrepancy between this and the statement given by the bishop of Zealand to Mr. Foster, and printed in Supplementary Papers (1817) p. 40: but the papers furnished by the Danish minister of justice as well as by Schlegel, are strong and distinct, as to the laws against the Roman Catholics.‡ Appendix to Report (1816) p. 464.522 would they be permitted, publicly to celebrate divine service."*
Now to revert to freer states: let us look to Switzerland. In the Roman Catholic Cantons of Switzerland, with the exception of Soleure, and a late addition to Fribourg, the Roman Catholic religion is the exclusive religion of the State. Even in the democratic Cantons, the cradle of Swiss liberty, "the Catholic faith is the exclusive religion of these Cantons, none other is tolerated "†
I will not state to the House the condition of Protestants, as such, in Italy. I have already proved, I trust satisfactorily to the House, that the assertions lately hazarded in respect to the conduct of "all the civilized powers," ought to be abundantly qualified. Admitting, however, for the sake of argument, that there are no exceptions to the correctness of this general proposition, and conceding what I never will concede, that the authority of other states ought to be brought forward to influence us in a matter of domestic policy; I contend that the distinction between the cases is sufficiently great, to render that measure very dangerous in Great Britain, which may be safe if not salutary in Prussia.
Though I will confine myself chiefly to Prussia, on which most stress has been laid, I will ask, in passing, whether the* Despach from H. Chamberlain, esq., Chargé d'Affaires at the Court of the Prince Regent of Portugal. Rio de Janeiro, October 30,1816. Suppl. Papers (1817) p. 15.† Suppl. Papers, (1817) p. 21. In all the cantons in which Protestantism is dominant, the Roman Catholics are free: except, indeed, I think that in Basle they would not be allowed to have monastic institutions, "more particularly," says the authority transmitted by the British minister to his government, "since the Pope, forgetting what he owes to Protestant princes, has re-established the Jesuits, and the Inquisition, and laughs at the liberties opposed to his own ultra-montane principles." I may add indeed that in Appenzel the established religion of each half is exclusive: "no Catholics are admitted into the Protestant division of the canton," p. 32. I remember, two years ago, asking a most respectable man' in Zurich, within a day's journey of these "most free of the free states," whether, by the general international law of the Confederacy, the natives of one canton might not settle in any oilier? He replied, certainly, in law; but, in fact, no Protestant could buy the least land in any of them; and when I urged again the law, he said, the Protestant cantons will not go to war with them to enforce it.
523 king of the Netherlands did not banish the bishop of Ghent, the prince de Broglie, for some part of his ecclesiastical conduct; and whether the king of France did not prohibit another bishop from circulating one of his mandemens;* and whether if the king of England were, however wisely, advised to attempt any such remedial process upon Dr. Doyle, or Dr. Mac Hale, as a mere prohibition of a mandement, there would not be such a clamour, about rights of Englishmen, and right of conscience, as is now raised about emancipation?
I ask, then, is there no difference between the power enjoyed in Ireland by the Roman Catholics, of bearding the legislature, if not the law, by their association meetings; and the power enjoyed by the Roman Catholic in Prussia, where no public meeting whatever would be allowed?—Is there no difference between a country where every product of the press is free, where all the proceedings of all the incendiaries of Ireland are circulated with impunity; and a country where, if technically there be no licenser, it is sufficiently known and felt, that no work obnoxious to the government can be published with safety?—Is there no difference between a population of six millions, concentrated in one island, with an O'Connell and a Shiel at their head, brandishing their physical force against us, while they urge us to add to it political power; and a population of two-thirds of the number, scattered over an immense area, without any political leader, or bond of union, and without any whisper of an expression of hostile design?—Is there no difference between a country where nineteen twentieths of the property is in the hands of one class, perhaps not the fifth in number; and a country, where the population and the property are nearly equally divided, and where, therefore, it is not necessary to keep political power in one scale, in order to maintain the balance of the other?* It was said, I remember, that when M. D'Astros, since bishop of Bayonne, who had held intercourse with the Pope after his excommunication of Buonaparte, made his appearance at the Tuilleries, Buonaparte said to him—"I should do well to have you tried and shot within twenty-four hours." I ask not whether the king of England could do or even say this, but whether he could have any redress at all without great delay, some uncertainly, and much popular excitement?524 Is there no difference between a country, where offices of trust and power in corporations are elective; and a country where all magistrates are nominated by the Crown; and where, as Ellys said long ago, "the government need not fear having more persons than they desire, in public posts, of a religion different from the established one:" being themselves quoad hoc absolute, "they want no standing laws to keep them out?"*—Is there no difference between a country, the government of which is itself largely vested in an elective body [which body, if the power were granted to the Roman Catholics to morrow, would, in ten years, receive from the popular elections in Ireland, an immense and most influential accession of Roman Catholic members; the Protestants, whether friends or foes, being weeded out one by one]; and a country, where there is no elective body, and no power therefore, except in the king and the law?—Is there no difference between a country, where the king cannot deprive the meanest subject of his liberty, and cannot check the speeches of an O'Connell, or the letters of a J. K. L., except by tedious and perhaps uncertain processes; and a country where, if a demagogue were to rise up, whether layman or ecclesiastic, he would be sent at once to Spandau or to Magdeburg? Is there no difference between a country, the bishops and the people of which, so far as they are Roman Catholics, resist all interference on the part of the Crown with their ecclesiastical appointments, and say that a veto would be death to their faith; and a country, all order and degrees in which, the Roman Catholic and Protestant hierarchies, are equally and willingly subject to the control of the sovereign?
I have now stated the reasons on which I resist the present motion. Let us consider well and deeply to what we are advancing. If I know any thing of the history of the Roman Catholics in Ireland, of their progressive, and still increasing demands; if I know any thing of the history of the Roman Catholic Church, its unaltered and unalterable character; if I know any thing of human nature itself, I am too well satisfied that the Roman Catholics are not likely to be quiet under the present system of civil disabilities.* Ellys' Tracts, p. 120.525 Am I then asked why I would continue them? I would reply, that in this, as in every thing else of human growth, or affecting human interests, there is a compromise: there is no pure good, no unmixed evil; there is a compensation; and I believe that more good and less evil will be produced by the continuance, than would be produced by the removal, of the restrictions. If, indeed, I admitted that there was positive justice on the one side, and positive injustice on the other, I would allow no compromise; but convinced as I am, that the Roman Catholics are not urging a demand of justice, that they are asking only that which I may in conscience either give or withhold, I call upon the House to stop here, and to say to the Roman Catholic body, "Thus far shalt thou go and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed." It may not be in our power to replace the Roman Catholic in the same relative position as that which he occupied before 1793, a position, let it never be forgotten, which secured to him the free exercise of his religion, the free enjoyment of his property, and the possession of every civil right not connected with political power: it may not be in our power to bid the wave retire to its former level: it may not be in our power to still the tempest of the people, which is now gathering round us in cold and cheerless howlings: it may not be in our power to preserve the sea-banks, which have hitherto resisted the inroads of these waters: another age may overthrow these glorious ramparts; but let us at least, be true to ourselves; let us at least, never break down the barrier, and open a passage for the deluge to overwhelm that fair domain, in which we have so long enjoyed the blessings and the repose of security and strength.
Let me not be misunderstood: I would not resist the present demands of the Roman Catholics one hour longer, if I could be persuaded either that the concession of those demands would satisfy Ireland; and, while it pacified the Roman Catholics, would not irritate and alienate the Protestants; or that, sooner or later, whether with or without this blessed result, such concession must, in the course of human things, take place. If any prophetic wisdom told me of either of these results, I would, as I have said over and over again, yield at once: anomalous as I believe the constitution would thenceforth become, I 526 would with my right hon. friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, incur a change which, by the very terms of the first proposition, would be without a risk: or, by the terms of the second, would be inevitable. In the one case, I would cheerfully, and even gratefully, open the gates to those who now stand without: in the other case, I would only consider the best terms which I could make in the surrender. In either case, I would, when once the barrier was removed, do all which might ever be in my power, to unite the hearts and the interests of all men. But without such authority for the change, and compelled to look to experience and analogy as guides, I resist the claims, because I do not see that to grant them would be to produce a certain, a probable, or almost even a possible good; while, on the other hand, I cannot but fear that I see demands rising upon demands; irritation transferred, rather than relieved; the Protestants of Ireland, weakened and exasperated; the Roman Catholics strengthened, but not satisfied.
The present objects, if granted at any time, would never, I think, have satisfied the Roman Catholics: I am too sure that they will not satisfy them now. No, Sir, the parties are formed: and believing, as with deep sorrow I believe, that the Roman Catholic Association will never cease to agitate Ireland, till, in the great struggle, Protestantism shall be extinguished, and the countries separated; or, till on the other hand, by the awakened energy of the parliament and the people, and their just though tardy sense of their own interests and duties—Popery shall be again humbled, and taught to bear in peace the supremacy of a power, the very existence of which, it would not itself, if triumphant, tolerate, I await the onset where I am: at least I will concede no more power to my assailants: I will put no more weapons in the hands of those who are already collecting all their forces against us. If a. foreign war should break out to-morrow, I would not grant to-morrow to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, what I refuse to them in peace to-day. I know the risk of the alternative: but I know and calculate also the risks of the concession: I know that every concession has been met by larger demands in bolder tones: I know that for every step which we have receded, the Roman Catholics of Ireland have advanced with louder outcries: I see that our only human safety 527 is in our own unshrinking firmness:* one step more, and we are prostrate. Believing, then, that in our defeat, the interests of a Protestant Union, the rights of Protestant property, the integrity of a Protestant Church would be sacrificed, I will not yield: relying on the strength, and justice, and sacredness of our cause, I will not despair. On these principles, and with these feelings, I oppose the motion which has in view any further concessions of political power to the Roman Catholics.
§ Sir John Newport
said, he could assure the House that he would only trespass on its attention for a few moments. Indeed, he should be guilty of great presumption were he, after all the indulgence which he had received at its hands, to venture upon occupying their time on so important a question at all unnecessarily. He would refrain from entering into the numerous questions which hon. gentlemen had raised upon the construction of the Treaty of Limerick; for he was content to leave it on the argumentative explanation of his hon. friend, the member for Westminster, on the one side, and on the bare and naked statement of the hon. baronet who had just sat down, on the other. He made this declaration with one exception only; and that was, that he was happy to find that the hon. baronet who spoke last was not inclined to follow the precedent of bishop Doppin, who, shortly after the signature of the Treaty of Limerick, had preached a sermon against the faithful observance of it, and had publicly defended the doctrine, that no doctrine should be kept with recreants. The hon. baronet had disclaimed that maxim, and had marked his reprobation of that abominable sermon in the most pointed terms. He would not refer to times so distant as those in which the Treaty of Limerick was passed; but would come at once to the period of* The language held by some of the Associations for Parliamentary Reform, in 1781, is now almost forgotten. It is worth remembering, to shew that firmness in the government will do every thing necessary to repress political grievances of that class. Even the quiet little county of Huntingdon resolved, "That it be recommended to every housekeeper to have proper arms, such as musket and bayonet, and to be ready and expert in the use of them; to be prepared against all emergencies that may arise from any attack of our many surrounding enemies, or any invasion of our rights and liberties." Ann. Reg. 1781, p. 141.528 the legislative union of the two islands. He rose for the purpose of stating to the House a circumstance, which some who were present would recollect to have occurred many years ago in a former parliament. "I request," said the right hon. baronet, "the attention of the House to what I am going to relate, as I conceive it to be quite conclusive upon this subject. In a debate which took place soon after the Union, on a bill founded upon principles similar to those on which the present motion rests—the House, by-the-by, was then in a committee—I charged the late lord Castlereagh with having broken faith with the Catholics of Ireland, and with having violated the pledges he had solemnly given them, to induce them to assent to the Union. On hearing that charge, lord Castlereagh rose with that indignation which it is natural a noble mind should feel at hearing itself accused of violating pledges which it had solemnly given. I particularly call the attention of the House to the words which I then used: they were, that the noble lord had violated the pledges which he had solemnly given to the Catholics of Ireland. The noble lord disclaimed the imputation I had made against him, and added 'I appeal to my right hon. friend opposite (Mr. Elliot) in confirmation of my assertion, that no pledges were given by me to the Catholics of Ireland.' My right hon. friend, Mr. Elliot, than whom a man of more spotless integrity, never existed, rose and said, 'My noble friend opposite is perfectly correct in what he has just asserted: no pledges were given by him to the Roman Catholics of Ireland.' Lord Castlereagh, as soon as this declaration had passed the lips of my right hon. friend, called out, 'Hear, hear;' on which my right hon. friend addressed himself more particularly to lord Castlereagh, and said, 'My noble friend should hear me out before he cheers; because, if my noble friend means to say, that no inducements were held out to the Catholics, that no expectations were excited in their minds, that no suggestions were conveyed to them either directly or indirectly, that the consequences of the Union, if it were effected, should be concession to the claims of the Catholics, and if my noble friend means to say, that without those inducements, expectations, and suggestions, the Union could have been carried, I am sorry to be under the necessity of differing with him 529 entirely. But I am sure my noble friend does not mean to assert any such thing; for he knows that I was privy to all the negotiations which preceded the Union, and he likewise knows, that it could not have been carried otherwise.' The noble lord uttered not a syllable in answer to my right hon. friend, and thus admitted the truth of my right hon. friend's observations. Let this matter, however, pass, and let us take the Union on its own merits. The hon. baronet opposite says, that supposing lord Castlereagh to have made any such pledges to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, they were pledges given without any consideration. I deny this entirely; I say that consideration was given for those pledges, and I have the authority of the negociator of them for saying so. Every one who knows any thing of the character of Mr. Elliot, knows well that a man of higher honour never existed, and that no one would have been more reluctant to give weight, by a cursory observation, to an unjust accusation. I again say, that a consideration was given; and if you persist in asserting that pledges were given to the people of Ireland, for which no consideration was paid, I persist in telling you that it was not so; for you have the united and imperial parliament of these realms as the consideration. For my own part, I believe, in my conscience, that if a Union between the two countries had not been effected at the precise moment at which it was effected, and if each had had a separate parliament after the treaty of Amiens, Ireland would have ceased to form part of the possessions of the British empire."
The Hon. William Duncombe
said, that entertaining, as he did, a strong and decided opinion upon this subject, and representing, as he did, those who entertained opinions equally strong and decided with himself, he could not reconcile it to his sense of public duty to give a silent vote upon this occasion. It had been stated, during- the debate of last night, by an hon. gentleman below him, who had addressed the House with great effect, that although the Roman Catholic religion was still unchanged and unaltered in its principles, he considered it to be greatly modified, mitigated, and controlled by the spirit of the age in its practice. Now, although he was ready to subscribe to the first part of the hon. member's proposition, he could not see any reason for sub- 530 scribing to the latter. Undoubtedly, the Roman Catholic religion might appear to be mitigated and partly subdued; but, as was well stated by the Solicitor-general, in his unanswered and unanswerable speech, it was only the spirit that was dormant; and whenever a fit opportunity occurred, that spirit would rise from its slumbers with ten-fold energy. And here he could not avoid alluding to a paragraph contained in the petition he had presented against the Catholic claims from the corporation of Leeds, declaring that the Roman Catholic religion had undergone no salutary alteration, either from the effect of surrounding improvement, or of dispassionate inquiry. If any alteration had taken place in the doctrines of that religion, it behoved the professors of it to make that alteration known in a declaration, authorized by the great bulk of the Catholic body. He was afraid, however, that semper eadem was more the maxim of their religion than it was of our jurisprudence. He had heard it said, that you could pluck more easily a beam from the sun, than a particle from the system of the Roman Catholic religion. If such was the assertion of the Catholics themselves, the House had no reason to believe that any change had yet occurred in the system which they dignified by the name of religion, but to which he should rather apply the title of superstition. He would frankly confess, that the speech of the hon. baronet, the member for Westminster, did not appear to him to contain much novelty, in point of argument or of facts. The hon. baronet had entered at great length into the merits of the Treaty of Limerick. Pie should not follow the hon. baronet into that discussion, because the question had been considered not only last year, but in the course of the present session; and it appeared to him, that all the arguments which the hon. baronet had raised upon the treaty had been most satisfactorily answered. It was idle to say, that those who framed that treaty intended to give to the Roman Catholics a participation in all the civil privileges of the state. They must have been most singularly deficient in the knowledge of language, if they intended, by the words which they used, to admit Roman Catholics to the participation of political power. There was another topic on which the hon. baronet had delivered his sentiments at great length; and that was, the means 531 by which the union with Ireland was effected, and the opinion which Mr. Pitt had expressed as to its results on the Roman Catholic question. Now, if they were bound to consider Mr. Pitt's conduct at the time of the Union, and also of his resigning office, to be favourable to the claims of the Catholics, surely they had a right to infer from his resumption of office, that he had not entirely made up his mind as to the way in which it was to be granted. He left us in a state of considerable uncertainty as to his ultimate intentions: but on one point he left us in no uncertainty- He never argued the question in the way in which it was now argued. He said he would never grant Catholic Emancipation, without receiving the fullest securities for the Protestant establishment; whereas the hon. baronet said, it appeared idle to him to talk of any securities.—He would now advert, for one moment, to the coronation oath. He must say, that notwithstanding the eulogy passed by the hon. member for Westminster on the earl of Liverpool, for avowing that that oath could not stand in the way of emancipation, it appeared to him to be highly improper in any one to make light of an oath, and to put upon it a meaning so very different to that put upon it by those who were placed in the highest situations. The construction which George 3rd put upon it was well known. "I am ready," said that magnanimous sovereign, "to lay my head on the block, if need be, for the benefit of my people, but I never can consent to violate the solemn oath which I took at my coronation, by making these concession's." He trusted the House would reject this motion, and show by their vote that they were the representatives of the feelings and opinions of the large majority of the people.
§ Mr. Villiers Stuart
said, he was ready to take up the mode of discussing this subject which had been suggested by the hon. gentleman opposite, and was accordingly prepared to do so without reference to the principle of abstract right, and merely upon the point of expediency. Agreeing, therefore, on this basis for the argument, he desired no more remote reference than the act of Union furnished in support of the view which he was prepared to take of this question. Among the great variety of feelings and opinions which prevailed in Ireland, with reference to her moral 532 and political condition, there were none upon which it was more desirable to fix the attention of this country, than those that were connected with the undoubted anxiety so generally known to prevail in the sister kingdom for the repeal of the act of Union. If, therefore, it was the wish of the government to cherish and nourish such a feeling, they could not take a more certain course to promote that purpose, than by showing the people of Ireland how little they had to expect from the imperial legislature; for such a purpose they could adopt no better means than to show forth the act of Union as an instrument, by which England had been, and still was, enabled to resist the clearly expressed wishes of the Irish nation, and to blight the hopes which had once been so sedulously cultivated, of a very different consummation of the international alliance. If this remained to be done by a vote of that House, as constituted since the Union, what had the Irish people to expect from the connexion to which they had been so long and so confidently referred? But as it was notorious that the wishes of the Irish people, as expressed by a large majority of their own representatives, were prevented from being successfully realized by a majority of the English members, who could only so interpose, by the opportunity which the act of Union alone furnished them, he was bound to denounce, in behalf of Ireland, the manner in which that solemn act of the imperial legislature had been, in its practical operation, made subservient to the views of those who were prepared to defeat the Catholic question, when it was notorious that one of the great and influential means resorted to for carrying that act of Union, was a pledge, express or implied (he believed expressed, though he cared not which) that that question should be set at rest by speedy concession. Was it since the solemn enactment of the Union that the legislature could question its wisdom, alter its principle, and limit the extension of its operation? If, as he believed, it had been the object of the framers of the Union to promote a community of rights throughout the kingdom, to diffuse common privileges and common benefits, there were no words adequate to express the blessings and advantages which must have flowed to both countries from the realization of so beneficent a principle. Upon the fact of that being the intention of the framers 533 of the act of Union, it was impossible for him to entertain a doubt; but how had that intention been acted upon? Looking at the result, judging of the effect of the measure, was it not obvious that the original view was soon lost sight of, and the wise and expressive words of the preamble of the act permitted to remain a dead letter. What was the preamble of the act of Union? It was this—"Whereas, in pursuance of his Majesty's most gracious recommendation to the two Houses of Parliament in Great Britain and Ireland respectively, to consider of such measures as might best tend to strengthen and consolidate the connexion between the two kingdoms, the two Houses of the Parliament of Great Britain and the two Houses of the Parliament of Ireland, have severally agreed and resolved, that, in order to promote and secure the essential interests of Great Britain and Ireland, and to consolidate the strength, power and resources of the British empire, it will be advisable to concur in such measures as may best tend to unite the two kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland into one kingdom, in such manner, and on such terms and conditions, as may be established by the acts of the respective Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland." What had been done "to strengthen and consolidate the connexion between the two kingdoms," to promote the "strength, power, and resources of the British empire?" He would fearlessly appeal to the House itself, and ask, whether they could at that moment say, that the representatives of the two countries were now concurring in the best way of giving effect to the recital of this preamble? Was it by dividing against and opposing each other upon points of national principle and fooling, they were strengthening and consolidating the connexion between the two kingdoms? Did any man think that this happy consummation was merely to consist in transporting a hundred Irish voters from College-green, in Dublin, to an English House of Commons? Did anyone imagine that Mr. Pitt, in 1801, thought this removal was alone sufficient for realizing his just intentions, or that a statesman of his mind could imagine, that the best mode of uniting and knitting together the two countries was by putting their respective representatives into direct collision upon important questions in the imperial parliament? If that were to be called Union, it was one at least in which 534 harmony formed no ingredient; and Ireland had the bitter regret of knowing, that had she withheld her generous confidence from the British government, her own voice might still be raised in her own legislature, where the voice of England could not be heard to drown her cries for relief, and deny the boon for which she so ardently supplicated. Was there in the history of the Irish parliament a single instance in which (though sometimes with equivocations and delays) the appeals of the people for relief were eventually and permanently refused and disregarded? Was there even an instance where England, in despite of her pretensions and asserted rights, was enabled finally to counteract the movement of the Irish parliament to redress the wrongs of the people? Not one could be found in the page of history, beginning with the contests in the early part of last century upon manufacturing prohibitions, going down to the debates of 1753, upon appropriating the surplus of the Irish revenue, and ending with the memorable declaration of Irish independence in the year 1780. He would repeat, that at no period had Ireland asked relief when she had her own parliament, without ultimately having had her claims allowed. Concession invariably followed discussion; and so far back as the reign of queen Anne, Primate Boulter had declared, during the tumult about Wood's half-pence, that unless concession were speedily given, Ireland would be estranged from England. So long as Ireland possessed an independent legislature, concession however tardy, however reluctantly yielded, would be always found to have followed in the wake of national demand. Such a state of things, however, only applied to the period before the Union. Since that time the appearance of her fate assumed a very different aspect. If, unfortunately, this lamentable alteration was attributable to the Union, which had promised so different a result, what must be the feelings of the people who found themselves the victims of such misplaced confidence? Was it the interest of England that Ireland should be so placed—that when the Union was held out to them as the means of feeding their industry with British capital, as an inducement for obtaining their confidence—they should in the end find nothing but as series of the most mortifying disappointments? And these, too, to arise out of the delay of 535 settling one great national question, which, while kept in abeyance, rent and divided the two countries, and withheld all hopes of diffusing peace and concord throughout the Irish community. Upon no other question had there been such an intensity of feeling excited; and there could be no doubt that, were the Irish parliament still in being, this bond of peace would have been long since cemented, and the subject not left, as it unfortunately had been for twenty-five years, a source of disquiet for the community. The time must come, when these unhappy differences would cease, and when all opposition to this question must be withdrawn. But with what grace would this cessation be accomplished? The time was, when the concession would have been hailed with gratitude, but he feared the opportunity for that desirable consummation had passed away for ever, and given place to different feelings—when the question must be surrendered ungraciously—when the Catholics would take what they felt to belong to them, without regard to the slow surrender of the act, and at the same instant tauntingly complain of the injustice of their adversaries, at so long withholding the implied, if not expressed, condition of the bond of Union. Was it expedient to force these reflections upon a sensitive and indignant people? Was it expedient, when emancipation was known to have been promised by Mr. Pitt, when, with the mind of a great statesman, he sought to heal national discord and erect a temple of peace, that those who professed to be his followers should employ themselves in crumbling away his superstructure; and, with a strange inconsistency, in attempting to persuade others, that they alone were the genuine admirers of the departed minister, while they were marring his promises and defacing his work? Far different was the aim of Mr. Pitt in negociating the Irish Union. He felt that by liberal treatment the amalgamation of the two kingdoms might be rendered complete. As a philosopher and statesman, he knew that as it was the property of water to seek the level of its fellow elements, so it was in the nature of the subjects of the same free State, to seek the level of their fellow people, and it was a principle of both to struggle until they had attained the level of perfect equality. He knew that the bubbling, and boiling, and gurgling, of the popular torrent ceased, 536 as did the natural one, the moment that fair level was attained; and that the popular element, then commingling in the calm security of the same serene unruffled surface, became settled and subsided: so was it in the moral world, so it was between the two countries, and so must it remain, as long as the one enforced a superiority of privilege over the other, and arrayed Protestant England against Catholic Ireland. So long as these excitements were unjustly upheld, jealousy, strife, and distrust, must prevail, through a people, who were denied their civil rights; and this, because they had too implicitly confided in English honour, English justice, and English policy. What peace could be hoped for in Ireland, as long as England withheld the promised advantages of her connexion? An advantage, indeed, had been acquired by England; but it was an advantage unfairly obtained by one party exercising power over the other. To every contract there were two parties. Was not the fair meaning of the contract of the act of Union this—"If you will co-operate with me, I will, on the other hand, undertake to emancipate you?" Otherwise what interest had Ireland in the arrangement? The Irish were a people shrewd to a proverb. Was it probable they could be brought to make a bargain, by which they were to lose all they had, and obtain nothing in return? What was the general foundation of the act, but the reciprocal advantages which it held out to both parties? What advantage could Ireland derive from it, but Catholic Emancipation, and the admission into British rights and privileges? The non-fulfilment of the British share of the contract left Ireland in an infinitely worse situation than she was in before the Union. The language used at the time, and the inducements held out, were the harbingers of concession. Were not the people of Ireland told that they would grow rich and prosper, by British connexion—that their poor would find employment—that they would obtain new scope for commercial enterprise? Was not the contrary of all this the fact? What capital had been sunk among them—what employment had been provided for their suffering poor—what confidence had been inspired by British connexion? And why had not England embarked her capital in Ireland? Security was the only condition on which 537 that capital could be obtained, and security was incompatible with discontent; and discontent was the companion of civil strife, which could be only got rid of by conceding this motion. How different was the present condition of Ireland from that which she enjoyed when she had a resident nobility, when her capital was expended on her own internal improvement—when her agriculture and manufactures were nourished and diffused—when her moral and political condition was superintended by her resident gentry. When she lost these, see of what she was deprived; and could there be a shadow of doubt that, were the option now given her, she would say, "Give us Ireland as she was before the Union, or grant us the fulfilment of the conditions upon which alone you had our consent to that measure?" Ireland well might say, call this Union if you will, it is the Union which Petruchio gave Catherine, when he exclaimed—Thus have I politicly begun my reign,And 'tis my hope to end successfully:My faulcon now is sharp, and passing empty;And till she stoop, she must not be full gorg'd.Exactly in this spirit had Ireland been treated by this country, and in this spirit, and with this policy, alter dashing to the ground the hopes we had raised, did we turn round and say—"Nay, good sweet love, be merry." And yet the people who wedded Ireland in this happy disposition for connubial bliss, turned round and declared that they would not be overawed by Catholic demagogues, that they scorned the intimidation of factious menaces, while they in reality encouraged the one, and gave force to the other, by the unwise provocative of their own absurd and impolitic distinctions. He knew that some intemperance had prevailed in Ireland; but how ought that to be met? Why, as Mr. Burke had truly said, "if, while a man is dutifully employed in soliciting a favour from parliament, any other person should improperly choose to support his cause, and that that impropriety should necessarily destroy the object of the petitioner, then not only is the reasonable applicant but the legislature itself in the hands of any weak enemy, or insidious opponent." But he trusted, that this great question would be decided, not by the merits or demerits of its advocates, but by its own intrinsic claims to acquiescence. If it was decided in the affirmative, no long time, 538 he was confident, would elapse, before, as one man, the nation would find reason to condemn the present system of policy. That system might afford matter of complacency and congratulation to the venal and unprincipled monopolist, the furious bigot, the mischievous enthusiast, the designing rebel; but every man who knew the true interests of the two countries, the real benefits of an honest and substantial Union, and the mode in which Ireland might be best conciliated and most rapidly improved—every man who had watched the progress of past events, and saw the present prospect of affairs—who could draw present conclusions from past history—who remembered what, for years, had been the watch-word of rebellion, would join with him in reprobating the existing system. A truce then to these needless and odious distinctions in the same free state. Let us place Protestants and Catholics on the same footing. Let us communicate to them equality of rights, equality of privileges, and we should see the whole Irish people cherishing an equality of affection for that constitution, the welfare of which they felt an equality of interest. Then would the division between the two countries be marked as a mere geographical distinction; then would the hearts, minds, and affections, of both nations, be united in an infrangible bond of moral union; and then, but not till then, we might safely throw down a bold defiance to surrounding nations, and exclaim in the concise but energetic language of the motto of the Order of St. Patrick, "Quis separabat nos?"
§ Mr. Leslie Foster
began by asserting, that he was no Orangeman, belonged to no party, and had never been at a public meeting where this question had been discussed. He saw a specific danger in. the proposition of the hon. baronet; and he had not yet seen, nor been able to understand, what preservative was intended. It was now nearly twenty years since he had first resisted the claims of the Catholics, who required political power and to become agents in the constitution of the country. The statements he had then made were, by many, considered visionary, and especially the anticipation in which he had indulged, that the time would come when the Catholic clergy would be seen exerting their influence at elections. His fears had been verified, and at an earlier 539 period than he had ventured to predict; for at the last election, the priesthood was actually in collision in order to loosen the tie subsisting between landlord and tenant. It was said, that this condition of things was merely temporary; but perhaps he might be allowed to suggest, that formerly it was asserted to be impossible. The possibility had been proved, and whether it would be temporary remained to be seen. The hon. gentleman who last spoke, had said, that in the moral, as well as the physical, world, these floods would find their level, and the agitated elements would settle in peace. Now, if he could persuade himself that the consequence of emancipation would be tranquillity, he would vote in its favour. But because he was convinced that no such consequences would follow; because he was satisfied that concession would only lead to fresh irritation, he was bound to persevere in the resistance he had always given to it. It was said, that if emancipation were granted, the property of the Roman Catholic aristocracy would find its legitimate influence, and that they would become the representatives, and the only representatives of the Catholic Church.—If he thought so, he would be the last to object to the introduction into parliament of a moderate number of such individuals. But he would state what he conceived would be the result. If emancipation were conceded, no doubt, what was now called the Catholic Association would be dissolved; but, as surely it would soon be revived under some other name: it might 'be called "a society for the Improvement of Ireland," or "a society for the Dissolution of the Union," or, perhaps, "a committee for regulating Education." But in all essentials it would continue the identical Catholic Association, furnishing a sort of lay executive for the direction of ecclesiastical affairs. The Catholic clergy and the Catholic Association well understood their mutual importance, and upon this point he might quote the undisputed authority of the hon. member for Kerry: they would act with one soul, and cooperate for general Catholic interests in Ireland, to the exclusion of all others, and wanting nothing but one central and directing mind. So long as it continued the natural desire of the Catholics of Ireland to endeavour to make what they considered the most sacred of all causes triumphant, there never would cease to be a 540 repetition of these associations. What was the practical consequence of this state of things? At every election, there would be candidates standing on that principle. There would, again, be the same inducements held out to the electors, the same influence exercised over them, and the same spirit of interference and denunciation on the part of the priests, that had taken place before. The Catholics would again be told, that the interest of their Church was at stake, and they would be asked "Will you vote against your religion?" It was said, that the natural leaders of the Catholics were the gentlemen of property among them; but he did not believe there were enough of these to fill up the ranks of the phalanx who would be arrayed in support of the Catholic Church. The present members would, perhaps, be returned at first; but if they ventured to express their disapprobation of the conduct of the priests, or opposed themselves in any shape to the peculiar interests of those who sent them to parliament, they would become more obnoxious than even the best friends of the Protestant Church; because, as had been well said by the Solicitor-general for Ireland, they would be required to be the unreasoning and obedient instruments of the Association, to whose factious influence they owed their return. He was aware that a great difference of opinion existed as to the power which such a body, thus sent, would possess in this House. It was said—"Suppose there were a hundred Catholic members returned, do you think they would have sufficient power over the House of Commons to vote away the existence of the Church Establishment?" Certainly not, if they proposed to do so in direct terms; but the citadel might be taken by stratagem, thought not by storm. They could go on, step by step, until they had by indirect and covert means accomplished that which could not be effected by direct and open force. The right hon. member for Newcastle (Mr. Wilmot Horton) had lately suggested a plan, which he was surprised had not been more noticed. He had proposed to prevent that part of the phalanx which might be in parliament from giving their votes on any question relative to the Established Church. He believed, however, that his right hon. friend would shrink from pursuing his own principle to those legitimate consequences, which, if his right hon. friend was content to go so far, would 541 afford some species of security. He presumed his right hon. friend would not prevent the Catholic members from speaking on any question, nor from presenting petitions against Vestry bills and Tithe bills, and other bills relating to the Established Church. He would ask his right hon. friend, then, if the Catholic members were left free to do these things, and were afterwards ordered out of the House, when a division took place, whether every argument as to the degradation of the Catholics under the existing laws, now used in the Irish Association, would not be applied with tenfold force to persons in so unfortunate a situation as these Catholic members would be? But the security would be inefficient. These members would propose measures which would not go directly to weaken the Protestant Church in Ireland, but to confer power and authority, wealth, revenues, and influence on the Roman Catholic Church—by far the most likely way to accomplish their ultimate object, the overthrow of the Protestant establishment. If all the precautions were taken which the wit of man could devise, the Protestant Church would still be in danger; but there was one most important consideration, to which he could not shut his eyes, and that was the influence that would belong to a large party, and which might be more effectually exercised out of the House than in it. Times might arise when, upon great and important questions, parties in that House might be nicely balanced. Suppose, that at such a critical conjuncture, this Catholic party should wait upon the minister, and represent to him, that the Catholics expected to be relieved from the payment of church rates, suggesting at the same time, that they had not made tip their minds as to how they should vote in reference to the Corn-bill, or whatever other particular measure happened then to be before the House of Commons; would not their representations and their influence weigh much with a minister thus situated? Might not this party select the Canadian or the West Indian question, and thus make it subservient to their particular views and purposes? He would suggest to the hon. gentlemen opposite, who were now occupied with a certain great and wonderful proposition, whether such a party might not say, that though they had a great objection to the paying of tithes, they had 542 none at all to a lieutenant-general of the Ordnance? [Hear, hear.] The truth was, that the result would be the existence of two established churches in Ireland, one possessing all the authority, all the revenues, and the influence belonging to a real establishment, while the other would only continue in possession of the name of an establishment, and the appearance of its authority. Such a collision, which would thus inevitably follow between the Catholic and Protestant churches in Ireland, would excite increased turmoil and dissension, and instead of those prospects of peace held out by the advocates of this measure, the state of Ireland, on the contrary, would become infinitely more disturbed and distracted than it was at present. He was aware of the pains taken by some hon. gentlemen to establish the proposition, that the state should be totally indifferent as to the religion of its subjects. But that was not the law of England It might be a good principle for adoption; but, as yet, no lawyer had been found to assert that it was in accordance with the constitution of England. Ever since this country had been a Christian state, the constitution had been decided with regard to the importance of religious opinions; and he trusted we should continue to have it so, as long as we aspired to the character of a Christian nation. If any individual pretended to hold two systems of religious belief, essentially opposed to each other, we should all know what opinion to form of such absurd and inconsistent conduct. The same principle applied to the constitution of the country. If the law was to recognise two religions essentially opposite to each other; if it established and supported them both, a shock would be given to the religious feelings of the country, and a degree of excitement produced, which that House could not anticipate. He cautioned them, therefore, against sacrificing solid principles at the shrine of expediency. He did not ask them to shut their eyes wholly to considerations of expediency in political affairs; but he could not help declaring, that he believed it was the specific vice of our time to make expediency everything, and principle nothing—Sed teNos facimus, Fortuna, Deam, cæloque locamus.It was asked, whether we had not an established religion in Scotland, different from that of the Church of England? He 543 had heard it insisted upon in argument, that there was a greater difference between us and our Protestant dissenting brethren than between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. Though he was averse to enter upon a theological question, he thought it extremely useful that the House should understand how small was the distinction that separated us from the sister Protestant Church of Scotland. It had happened to him, in the execution of his duty as a commissioner of inquiry concerning Education, that he had asked an eminent minister of the Church of Scotland, his opinion of the articles of the Church of England. The answer of the reverend gentleman was, that as to three or four of the articles relative to the nature of the church government, he totally dissented from them; but as to all the rest, excepting one, he embraced them, as containing the essence of religious truth. "They exactly express my own feelings," he said; "and as to the one to which I object, it is, I am aware, suceptible of two meanings, one of which expresses mine also." That was a pretty fair degree of religious agreement. With regard to the two great denominations of Dissenters, the Independents and Baptists, he had put the same question to their ministers, and had obtained a similar answer. Therefore, he contended, there was nothing anomalous in our upholding the established religion of Scotland, as well as our own church in England. There was no difference, except as to the respective forms of church government; which were in each country such as were best suited to the feelings and habits of the people. But the case, was widely different with respect to the Church of Rome. He felt that he should not discharge his duty if, when he heard it asserted, that there was no difference between that church and our own, he did not protest against the doctrine. Nothing appeared to him so totally irreconcileable as the two systems of the Church of Rome and the Church of England. The difference amounted to this, that one or the other was an awful perversion of all that was vital in the hopes of a Christian. Nobody in that House could doubt to which side the balance of right inclined; but he would contend, that it was contrary to all principle and all law, and would be a shock to all ideas of religious truth, if the legislature were to treat as indifferent the establishment 544 of two such systems in one and the same country. One argument against the present proposition was, that it would necessarily lead to this result—he would not say that the Protestant Church would be abrogated, or abolished in Ireland; he had no such apprehension; but he was afraid that all that substantiated our establishment—its wealth, power, and influence—would attach to the other Church, which would gradually possess itself of political power, nor cease to exercise it, as long as any thing remained for it to gain, or for its rival any thing to lose. His learned friend, the Solicitor-general for Ireland, had suggested, and he was sure with no unkind feeling, that by the avowal of these opinions, he was laying in no small store of aversion among his constituents, which might probably exclude him from the high honour of representing them in that House. Though he could not shut his eyes to the extent of this disadvantage, he should despise himself if, with his strong conviction of the importance of the question, and his deep sense of the importance of the principles he defended, he allowed any views of personal interest to interfere with the discharge of his duty. His learned friend was right so far as this, that if he could consent to change the vote he had constantly given on this subject, no member in the House, he believed, was more certain of an easy and unexpensive return. But, with all the consequences open to his view, he could not take the advice of his learned friend. Still entertaining the opinions which he had avowed in that House for nearly twenty years, with the blessing of God, come what might, he would not change them.
§ Mr. Doherty
in explanation, said, that his observations had been applied, not to an individual, but to a class of members, whose opinions might, possibly, be the means of dispossessing them of their seats. For should they persevere in the maintenance of such opinions, the Catholics would make the votes of members on this question (most unwisely as he thought) the sole criterion of their merits as representatives in Parliament.
Mr. Wilmot Horton
said, he hoped for the indulgence of the House, as the present was the first occasion that he had taken to express his sentiments upon this subject. His hon. friend who had just addressed the House, appeared to him to 545 have entered upon a train of arguments and reasonings, which, if followed up, were alarming to the utmost possible extent. His hon. friend had admitted the existence of all the unhappy characteristics which at present distinguished the unfortunate government of Ireland. He had admitted the great power possessed by the Catholic priesthood in Ireland, and that at the last general election they had exercised a practical interference in the election of the members of that House. His hon. friend had admitted that that power, instead of declining, would be every day upon the increase; and he had further admitted the statement made by the right hon. member for Kerry, that the opposition to the claims of the Catholics would aggravate the dissentions which prevailed amongst parties in Ireland. Now, if all this were true, and as no man said that things could be maintained as they were in Ireland, what other inference could be drawn from what had fallen from his hon. friend, than that he wished to have a state of things restored, to which he did not, certainly, allude, but which could be the only mode, according to his view of the case, of preserving the connection between the two countries? His hon. friend had adverted to certain opinions which he (Mr. W. Horton) had expressed elsewhere on this subject, but which he had never presented to that House. Now, it seemed to him, to say the least of it, extremely inconvenient to allude to matters which were not before the House. Good God! did his hon. friend suppose that he had ever imagined that his hon. friend would be satisfied with any securities, however ample and comprehensive? Why, his hon. friend would not be satisfied with tons of securities. It was not to those who had steeled their minds against this great question, that he had addressed himself, but to those out of doors who were animated with a different spirit; to that largo proportion of the Protestant population of this country, who feel that this state of things cannot go on, and who are anxious to yield every thing to the Catholics, consistent with the interests of that establishment which it was their duty, as well as their desire, to maintain. His hon. friend appeared to be convinced that the introduction of fifty Catholic members into that House would be the means of destroying the church establishment and 546 the constitution of the country. How his hon. friend had arrived at this conclusion, he could not possibly divine, and it would be therefore quite out of his power to suggest securities against those ideal apprehensions which supplied the sole grounds for the arguments of his hon. friend. But those arguments did not meet with a responsive feeling on the part of the people of England. His hon. friend had objected to the principle of expediency, as the sole ground for the support of this measure. He also would object to that principle, if the measure were not equally supported-by the principles of justice and equity. If the question were not bottomed upon, far higher considerations than those of mere expediency, he would not be found amongst its advocates. His hon. friend, in condemning the principle of expediency, had said—Sed te,Nos facimus, Fortuna, Deam, cæloque locamus:but his hon. friend seemed to forget the line which immediately preceded that—Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia.He would suggest to his hon. friend, that it would be prudence, sound policy, and wisdom, not to prevent this question from going to a committee of that House, and the attention of parliament being thus called to the evils which at present so grievously afflicted unfortunate Ireland. The Solicitor-general for Ireland had divided the parties in regard to this question into three classes; those who were for leaving things as they were—those who were for granting concessions to the Catholics—and those who were for reviving the state of things past. Now, he would rather classify them into those who were prepared to grant concessions with or without securities, and those who were prepared, under no conceivable circumstances, to grant concessions to the Catholics. He had never disguised his opinion, that the true security, if concession were made, consisted in the cessation of religious distinctions; but, on the other hand, he could not disguise from himself the fact, that a great proportion of the people of this country were not prepared to take the same view of the matter; that they looked with anxiety for such security as would reconcile them to the removal of the disabilities of their fellow-countrymen, without hazarding those interests which it was their duty to defend. Now, he did not see why such a class of persons were 547 not entitled to such security as did not interfere with the conscientious opinions and belief of their Roman Catholic fellow subjects. He did not share the opinion of the hon. baronet who had so eloquently opened this debate, that it was disrespectful to the Catholics to call upon them to afford such securities. He found, upon referring to the opinions of those men who had distinguished themselves in supporting this question, that there was no period at which securities, to satisfy Protestant alarm, and which should not trench upon Catholic conscience, were not suggested. When he instanced Mr. Ponsonby, he named one who had greatly interested himself in the support of this question. Mr. Ponsonby emphatically stated, that as to himself he was of opinion that the Catholics ought to concede every thing, to satisfy the Protestants, which would not be obviously inconsistent with their conscience. If the Catholics, he continued, asked that which could only be granted by the parliament, they should give an equivalent to that parliament for the concession: but he added, that the Protestant would have no right to ask what it would be inconsistent with the conscience of the Roman Catholics to give. Those hon. members, then, who would be inclined to grant the required concessions upon being supplied with satisfactory security, should vote for the motion or the hon. baronet. In a committee, the nature and amount of these securities could be discussed and determined. Some hon. gentleman had said that this measure, even were it passed, would not be received with gratitude by the Catholics. He was persuaded that if it were passed now, it would be gratefully received by the Catholic body; but if it were delayed much longer, then indeed the question of gratitude might be postponed, as one of a secondary nature. He never felt greater pleasure than in giving his vote for the hon. baronet's motion, as he trusted that in a committee the measure would be framed so as to be perfectly consistent with the security of the Established Church, and that thus at length this great question would be settled; for in no other way could it be settled. He could not believe that six millions of Catholics could expect to obtain certain concessions from ten millions of Protestants, without giving to them that security which they had a right to demand, as long as they deemed it neces- 548 sary. For his own satisfaction, he would not ask for any security whatever. Abundant security, he conceived, would be afforded in the cessation of religious distinctions, and in the healing effects of concession and conciliation. He knew, however, that there were many in this country who looked for securities, and with a view to satisfy the Protestant mind on that head, he should vote for going into the committee.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, it was once more his pleasing duty to support this question, which had been advocated by all the wise, all the great, and all the good men, who had adorned that House and done honour to their country, since the termination of the last century. It had been well remarked by an hon. gentleman who was himself opposed to the measure, that such a combination of intellectual superiority had never before been united for the attainment of any single object. Now, he did not think so highly of his own judgment as not to feel great relief when he found it strengthened and corroborated by the judgments and opinions of such an illustrious body of men. He did not think so ill of the moral and intellectual character of England and of Ireland, as to believe it possible that this whole class of persons, comprising her first statesmen and most celebrated men, had acted contrary to their substantial interests for the period of eight-and-twenty years. If he could really believe that such a conspiracy had been formed, and by such men, what idea should he then entertain of the character of the English intellect? What was this question, upon which, during this long period, all these great men had uniformly agreed? It was not a matter of speculation, but of civil policy and national redress. The whole first class of statesmen in this kingdom, who differed, perhaps, upon all other questions, combined upon this. This was not an appeal to authority against reason. The concurrence of the judgments of so many great men respecting this question, was a proof in itself that it was founded upon reason, and based upon the immutable principles of justice. Otherwise they must suppose that the splendid array of the greatest characters that adorned this country in modern days had combined to maintain a delusion upon this question; and the absurdity of such a supposition was too evident to require any comment. 549 Such an extraordinary combination could be ascribed to nothing else but the power of truth. There was no other mode of explaining the coincidence in opinion on the question between those who differed most widely on every other subject—between the advocates of what was called innovation, and the most zealous supporters of the establishment—between the friends of reform and the most determined opponents of that measure—in fact, between men who in every other particular were diametrically opposed to each other. Seeing this measure effect such a Union between such discordant characters, he felt bound to ascribe the phenomenon—for such it was—to the power of truth alone. He did not regret that last evening he had given way to two hon. members, one of whom had made one of the most effective, and the other one of the most convincing, speeches that had ever been delivered within those walls. He had no reason to regret that he had given way to his hon. friend, for he should be proud to call him his friend, the hon. member opposite (Mr. Perceval) who had exhibited such a beautiful union of private affection with public principle, and who, yielding to the power of truth, had afforded in his person an instance of a true Protestant and real Christian. Neither had he any reason to regret that he had given way to the right hon. member for the county of Kerry, who had given to the House such a satisfactory history of the engagements which had been entered into, and the pledges which had been made to the Catholics of Ireland by the government of Great Britain, in order to induce them to acquiesce in the measure of the Union; upon the faith of which pledges and engagements, as the right hon. member had abundantly proved, the Catholics gave that acquiescence, which had it been withheld, the measure of the Legislative Union would never have been carried: and the government of Great Britain at that day confirmed the truth of the statement, by the best proof which they could possibly give of its correctness; namely, by resigning their different offices. Yet, now at the end of twenty-seven years, the Roman Catholics were still soliciting that boon, which the government of England, at the time of the Union, had given them hopes to expect would be speedily granted to them.
These were the impressions made on his 550 mind by speeches he had heard in the course of this debate; and the conviction must have sunk so deep into the heart of every one who had listened to them, that he by no means regretted that he had given way to those by whom they had been delivered. At the same time, he should have liked to have followed his hon. and learned friend the Solicitor-general. For that learned gentleman he felt the greatest esteem and respect personally; he admired him for his legal ability, as well as for the calm and dispassion ate manner in which he had brought forward his arguments, and the judicial candour and correctness with which he generally investigated even political questions. But he felt it to be necessary to go back to the consideration of certain principles, which otherwise might be taken for granted. His hon. and learned friend had asked, "What has a seat in parliament to do with the full and free exercise of religion?" A philological definition of such a complex point as that which his learned friend had introduced, might be difficult; but it was easy enough to lay down a rule by which the approximation to, or the deviation from, the great standard of religious freedom could be ascertained, he would say, then, that religious liberty was that which prevailed where the law fixed no penalty—where it imposed no disabilities—where it placed no mark of inferiority of any sort on a man for avowing his opinion with respect to religion; or, to use shorter words, where no individual was rendered the worse on account of the mode of worship which he followed—where every man declared his sentiments on the subject of religion, without encountering that mark of public displeasure which, where such freedom did not exist, was imposed by the law. For he would contend, that every man excluded from certain situations on the ground of his religion, and not on civil grounds, had the mark of public displeasure affixed on him by the law; and he was borne out in that argument by the hon. member for Louth; for what was the statement of that hon. gentleman? It was, in effect, that the State viewed with natural distrust, any man who professed such or such a religion, that religion not being established by law. Now, he would say, that every portion of penalty—that every particle of disability of any sort—which may be imposed on an individual on account of his 551 religion, beyond that which was not strictly necessary for the preservation of the State and its institutions, was persecution and intolerance. It might differ from the auto da fe in point of humanity, but not in point of principle. A man might be restrained by particular feelings—he might be prevented by the dictates of a certain policy—from proceeding to extremities, with reference to those whose religious opinions differed from his own; but it was clear, if he were consistent with himself, that the same argument, which, in his opinion, justified him in interfering at all with those whose creed differed from his own might be advanced if he wished to proceed further. The only question was, as to the prudence and policy of the severity that might be employed to protect the State from any danger to be apprehended from those who dissented from the established religion.
Such, however, was not his doctrine. Much had been said in that House, relative to lord Somers, whose name had been a good deal abused. What said lord Somers? And here it ought to be observed, that the circumstances of the times in which lord Somers lived were very different from those of the present day. Lord Somers quoted the principles which had been alluded to with reference to the Protestant Dissenters, and he (sir J. M.) would quote them with pleasure on this auspicious day, when his majesty had given his royal assent to the most just, the most wise, and the most paternal, measure that had been passed in this country since the era of the Revolution. By that measure the Dissenters were restored to their long-lost, but never justly-forfeited, birth-right. Lord Somers was quoted as speaking of Dissenters; but he (sir J. M.) would apply the principle laid down by lord Somers to the Roman Catholics and to all mankind. What was that principle? It was, that the punishment of incapacity which was inflicted under the bill for the Prevention of Occasional Conformity was, next to loss of life, the heaviest that could be inflicted: for an Englishman could not be placed in a more wretched condition, than by being deprived of an opportunity to serve his prince, and to defend his country; and therefore nothing but a crime of the most detestable nature ought to debar him from proceeding in that honourable 552 path. Such was the opinion of lord Somers, who was at the head of the conference relative to the bill, and who was supposed to be the writer of the reasons against the measure which appeared on the Lords' Journals. But his learned friend, the Solicitor-general, had thought it sufficient to say, that the laws established in the time of Charles 2nd, and afterwards by king William, proved the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors. His learned friend had contented himself with a very short course of reasoning on this point. He said, "it was the wisdom of their ancestors that placed these bars against the Roman Catholics, and that religion had, in no respect, changed since those measures were deemed necessary." Now, in his opinion, a mind so logically constructed as that of his learned friend, had never before argued so illogically. He (sir J. M.) felt grateful for what had been done by the wisdom of their ancestors, he felt a deep respect for their wisdom, and he would do much to place it in the most favourable point of view; but no praise was less called for, than that which was lavished on the wisdom of their ancestors, when they enacted laws which, on account of religion, inflicted civil incapacity on a numerous body of individuals. Speaking of that system they could not say "Hœc sapientia quondam." Their ancestors might have gone on with this system of exclusion, till one feeling of jealousy, of distrust, of hatred, prevailed through the country—they might have excited the most furious passions of various sects, till they engaged in bella internecine—they might have adopted measures of this rovolting nature, until neither peace nor safety could be found in the country—but surely such a system would not speak much for the wisdom of their ancestors. That species of the wisdom of their ancestors was only to be removed by the progress of intelligence and reason.
He should not speak further of that wisdom; but would call the attention of the House to the change which had taken place in the sentiments of mankind, on this subject of exclusion on account of religion. Only two hundred and fifty years had elapsed since the reign of that queen who was considered to be the head of the Protestant religion. At that day every state in Europe punished the professors of that Protestant religion with death, when- 553 ever they were discovered. Scarcely had two hundred years elapsed since two Arians were, on account of their religious tenets, put to a cruel death in this country; and, in the time of Edward 6th, the cradle of the Protestant Church was covered with blood. These scenes had taken place under the eyes of a man who, in some respects, was very amiable, and for whom, considering the age in which he lived, he was ready to make an ample allowance. A lapse of two hundred and fifty years had since taken place, and they had arrived at a time, when every state professed toleration, and almost all of them practised what they professed. They had arrived at a time, in which religious liberty, in the sense in which he had described it, when no man was the worse, when no man suffered any exclusion from civil privileges, on account of his religious opinions, generally prevailed. If they looked from the Pyrenees to the Alps, from Archangel to the confines of Kamtschatka, they would find that this feeling was predominant, and was every hour becoming stronger. They would find it prevalent in Russia; they would find it triumphant in all the states which composed the Germanic body. The ruling power in Saxony acted on this pinciple: the Roman Catholic king of Bavaria governed with an equal hand his Protestant subjects, while the Protestant monarch of Prussia extended the same paternal and protecting hand to his subjects of the Roman Catholic faith. England and Prussia had long been at the head of those powers which considered the protection of religious liberty as the proud badge of civilization; and they looked on other nations as coarse and uncultivated, when they countenanced a system of exclusion on account of religious opinion. Holland still retained her high situation, under a prince of the House of Nassau, as the protectress of liberal principles. That was, perhaps, the best governed and most prosperous state on the continent. He rejoiced in the illustrious name of Nassau, which was dear to every friend of freedom; and he only regretted that England, under a prince of the House of Hanover, should have retrograded from her proper place in the van of tolerant and liberal nations, and fallen into the rear. By the late change in Sweden, a Catholic king had been placed on the throne. Whether she still persisted in excluding Roman Catholics from power, he could not tell; but he be- 554 lieved that there were few or none of that persuasion in the Swedish territories. He knew, however, that the system of exclusion did not hold with respect to Denmark; because he had been acquainted with a Roman Catholic gentleman, of Irish descent, though born in one of the Danish West-India islands—he meant the late Mr. Morton—who had filled the situation of representative of Denmark in this country. He knew another Roman Catholic gentleman, a native of Northumberland, who was a resident at the court of the king of the Netherlands. Where, then, he asked, did the system of exclusion prevail. In the states of the south of Europe, where there were many infidels, but no Protestants? Yes: the system existed in England, and it existed in Spain? It existed in the country of Locke, and also in the country of Loyola; in the dominions of the House of Brunswick, and under the government (if I may dignify it with the title) of Ferdinand 7th. It was in this base society that the wisdom of their ancestors was cherished and kept up. There they might see every attempt made to perpetuate a few fragments of that ancient tyranny and intolerance which had created so much misery—which was even now endangering the tranquillity and integrity of the empire—which was breaking the link that joined us to the most precious member of the British State—which was keeping shut that door which effectually precluded the commencement of improvement, and would continue to do so until it was thrown open, which continued to inflict on the great body of the people of Ireland that unworthy treatment under which they had so long suffered. It is now seven hundred and fifty years since the first landing of the Anglo Romans on the Irish soil, and from that time downwards, the chieftains and the people of Ireland had been stretching out their hands towards England, praying to be admitted to an equal share of those rights which all ought alike to possess. For seven hundred and fifty years had England been refusing the concession of those rights, which so far from denying, she ought to have been the first to implore them to accept. By that means Ireland would have been made the strength and bulwark of Great Britain, instead of being a point of weakness and insecurity. But, by a just dispensation of Providence, England was inflicting on herself all the 555 miseries which the great body of the people of Ireland had been made to suffer. England felt it in a tottering government, in the distrust of public men, in the differences which existed to such an extent amongst them, and in the difficulty that presented itself against the formation of a hearty and effectual coalition for the service of the country. By and by, she would feel the ruinous consequences in a still more vital part. She would feel it in the utter beggary and ruin of the labouring classes in this country; who would be ruined by the influx of myriads of starving wretches from Ireland, whom misery and misgovernment would assuredly drive upon the shores of England. She would feel it by starvation being brought upon her by the presence of thousands whom she would be unable to support, and who would find themselves under the dire necessity of venturing hither with the knowledge that they could not do worse, and in the hope that they might drag on a wretched existence, at a point just above that of starvation. To this state would things most certainly arrive. It then became the question, whether it was worth while to make a stand for the continuance of a system which must render the government weak and tottering, and reduce the people to the lowest scale of degradation compatible with the bare preservation of human life. He felt more strongly than he could convey to others the debt which they owed to the people of Ireland, for such a long period of misrule. Considering the character of both nations—considering the time this system had continued—considering the one people as the bravest and the most free on earth—considering the other as the most gallant, und possessing as much genius as any people in Europe—he could not avoid thinking, that the course of misrule and misgovernment which had been followed was without a parallel in the history of the world. If gentlemen chose to look to the sort of rule which barbarians exercised over their fellows, or to mark the contests of savages and canibals, it was possible that the scenes displayed might be matched by others equally atrocious; but, considering the two countries as nearly allied to each other—considering the character of the people of England and Ireland—he must again declare, that the case was without a parallel.
He felt himself called on to say, that if 556 the question of the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts had been carried, as a matter of triumph over any party in England, and more especially over the Established Church, he should have abstained from any notice of it, in considering the present subject. It was not, however, carried in a spirit of triumph, but in a spirit of conciliation. He hated the word triumph, when applied to the success of any measure that was fairly argued between citizen and citizen. To him, "Bella nullos habitura triumphos." It was not, he repeated, a triumph over the Church, but a triumph of liberality, which they owed to the improvement of the age The most enlightened prelates had given the measure their support—men equal to the most profound consideration of subjects of that nature—and not more estimable for their great learning, than for the possession of all those Christian qualities that became their sacred character. They possessed a proper zeal for the interest of religion, and at the same time were not unmindful to protect that establishment of which they were the guardians. They had, on the late occasion, treated with cool indifference every taunt and slander that had been thrown out against them. They considered wisely and well, their own rights; they took care of those interests that were intrusted to their superintendance; and they proved, that calmness and temper were much better qualities than the most hot-headed zealotry. We owed to those reverend prelates the distinction which had been so well drawn between "a church," and an "established church," and a distinction might also be drawn between a religion and a church. Religion consisted in the love and reverence which were due from man to perfect wisdom and unmingled goodness. The seat of religion was in the soul; no human power could reach it; no human eye could scrutinize it. It was the strong chain of relationship between man and his Creator. It was too sacred to be made the subject of any legislative enactment; it was too pure and reverential to be treated with that levity which was incidental to all discussions in a deliberative assembly. A church, as they had been well taught by those reverend prelates, was a different thing from an established church. A church was a society of men agreeing in opinion on religious points, and meeting together for mutual instruction and exhortation. Such a church was the 557 Christian church before any establishment was made for it. That church was as pure and dignified under Domitian at it was under Theodosius; the light of that church shone as brightly when Cyprian was led to the flames at Carthage as when Chrysostom ruled over it in Constantinople. The episcopal church of North America, possessing all the simplicity of the primeval church, flourished under equal laws, but had no establishment. The rev. gentleman, who was at the head of that church, paid a visit to this country some years ago, and was received by all classes of the clergy with an unfeigned welcome. He returned to his country, and soon after preached a sermon in his cathedral church. In the course of that sermon, he said, that notwithstanding the gratitude he felt towards the clergy of this country, for their kindness to him, and the admiration with which they had inspired him, still "he would rather have his church persecuted than established." He did not mean to applaud this sentiment, to praise the discretion of the gentleman who had uttered it, or to approve of the language in which it was couched; but merely to show the distinction which was felt between the establishment of a church, instituted by the civil power, to disseminate religion and morality throughout the community, and that which had no connexion with the civil power. The former was the creature of the law, and over religion the law had no power. An established church was, however, one of the most venerable institutions of every community, and deserved to be protected and secured.
The only question, then, in this case was, "What are the best means of securing and supporting the church?" Now from the course of discussion on the repeal of the Corporation and Test acts, they had learned something important. One of the most learned prelates, Dr. Marsh, bishop of Peterborough, published a charge last year entirely on the subject of the Roman Catholic claims, and decidedly directed against them. Now, what was the first evil which that learned prelate apprehended as likely to arise from granting concessions to the Roman Catholics? The learned prelate said "such a measure would be so pregnant with evil, it would be so destructive to the interests of the country, that it was impossible to say where the mischief would end—it might even bring about the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts.'" 558 [A laugh.] It followed, then, that, in the opinion of that learned prelate, the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts would be a greater evil than concession to the Catholics; for otherwise he would not have considered the former evil as a grievous aggravation of the latter. He had never heard stated, by the opponents of the Catholic claims, what mischief was likely to arise to the church by conceding those claims. But, with respect to the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts, it was feared by those who opposed that repeal that it would open the door to every sort of sectarianism in the Church of England. Therefore they were hostile to any interference with that which Blackstone had foolishly enough called the bulwarks against Jews, Turks, and Infidels—those bulwarks had been removed, and the event had left no unpleasant impression on the mind of any person, and the secure slumbers of the church were not at all likely to be disturbed by the machinations of Jews, Turks, or Infidels. The repeal of the Test and Corporation acts ought to show the possibility of individuals at length agreeing on a point of principle, even in cases where prejudices had been strong and inveterate. It showed that by prudence, by conciliation, and by weighing a subject calmly, many difficulties might be overcome. It was now admitted that a test of belief was a most useless expedient for supporting an established church, and he hoped that the right rev. prelates, who had shown such enlightened wisdom on the subject of the Test and Corporation acts, would bring their minds to consider, with the same charitable feelings, the case of the Roman Catholics, and the cruelty of keeping men from civil privileges on account of their religion. It was telling them that society distrusted them on account of that which they most revered—it was pointing out that as their shame, which they looked upon as their chief praise and glory. It was a dart that struck the finest feelings of man: it was not a wound on his body, but it was an attack on his conscience, and that too through that worship which he most venerated and loved.
The right hon. and learned gentleman proceeded to say, that he did not understand the policy of those who acted on a system of delay and hesitation, with respect to the claims of the Roman Catholics. He could understand the two extremes of those on the one hand who would 559 have the courage to revive the whole of the penal code, and of those on the other who were willing to grant the concessions which the Catholics claimed: but he could not understand the policy of that party who admitted that the Roman Catholics ought to be put in possession of their rights, but who always objected to the time. Their conduct was the most monstrous, absurd, and extravagant, that could be conceived. He called on them to consider if, by these reserves and hesitations, they would reveal to the world that most fatal of secrets; that they would not do it until it was extorted from them. They would lose all the merit of concession, and deprive conciliation of all its healing power. As in the case of America, so in the case of Ireland, they were heaping up humiliation for their country. The Crown of England had been made to sue for peace, at the hands of those who, but a few months before, she had denounced as rebels. The people of America were called vagrants, and branded by every opprobrious epithet, while their speeches in their assembled Parliament were treated by the zealots of the day as the speeches of the Catholics were treated now. Let them beware. The symptoms of the disease had appeared: for the language complained of, though it might provoke a foolish government, instructed a wise one. Would this government continue, by calling for coercion or by opposing conciliation, to draw the House into a silent acquiescence in the system which now reigned in Ireland? They had succeeded so far, to so great an extent had the delusion gone, that a gentleman whose character he knew to be one of the mildest, he meant the hon. member for Ripon, (Sir R. Inglis) had concluded his speech by saying, "I will not yield these points; and if they are to be obtained, let them be got from us by force." He did not pretend to have caught the exact words, but that was their import. Now, when he heard such language from a man like his hon. friend, whose intelligence, benevolence, and kindly feeling, were so universally acknowledged, he could not but call upon the House to consider of what intensity must be the mischievous principle, which glowed under the ashes of such a political profession. There were too many, who, like his respected and hon. friend, were prone to talk of the "vigour and determination" necessary to be manifested by government towards Ireland. 560 For his own part, he never heard those words, without remembering how eloquently and how powerfully he had heard them dilated upon in that assembly, by a voice which never was heard within those walls without delighting him, at least; and which, not more unfortunately for him than for the country, had now ceased to be heard, for ever. What, however, must he think of the principles of this opposition to the Catholic Claims, when he found that it could induce a member, of a deportment so mild, of manners so gentlemanly, and of temper so usually unruffled, as those which were peculiar to the hon. member for Ripon—to declare in his place that he would rather the Irish Catholics should extort by force the objects of their petitions, than yield them to their entreaties. He asked what probability there was of the people of Ireland abating in their ardour for the attainment of those rights? What was there in the conduct or condition of England to induce them to do so? Let them look at the retribution which England was suffering on account of her injustice and oppression towards Ireland. This very question had overthrown no less than three administrations, and prevented the formation of a great many more. Let them look at the elections too, and they would see that this question had kept up a perpetual state of division in England. From 1812 to the present moment, no man had been hardy enough to propose an administration which should be purely anti-Catholic. From that period that was to say for sixteen years, no administration had dared to avow themselves friends to the permanency of the present system. Could gentlemen be serious in thinking the permanency of such a state of things desirable? Could it be expected that the people of Ireland, witnessing what they had witnessed, would desist from their importunities, when they heard the right hon. gentleman, who last year had rested the condition of his services to the State upon the higher or lower shade of Protestantism in the cabinet, and who had complained of the painful and difficult situation in which he was placed, he being nearly the only one amongst his colleagues opposed to the Catholic claims—when they saw that right hon. gentleman, shortly after his return to office, declare that the majority of only four showed the impossibility of forming an administration upon extreme or exclusive principles,— 561 could they doubt of ultimate success? The present administration had happily disappointed the hopes of the exclusives and the zealots. It had been truly said by an hon. gentleman, who had spoken so ably and so beautifully on the preceding night, that the only palpable mark of distinction now remaining was that between the favourers and the opposers of the Catholics. It was clear, therefore, that sooner or later the balance must be struck, and that victory or concession must determine this dispute. If it continued, the government could never be so constituted as to ensure that confidence at home, and that respect abroad, which were absolutely necessary to the effective application of the resources of the state. They told them that they were agreed on every other point. They might whisper this to their hearts: ambition, and a desire to believe that it was really so, might persuade them of the truth of it; but he did not believe it would support them through the difficulties in which they might find themselves placed. He believed that when they saw the prospect of a dissolution of a ministry, each would begin to make provision for the hour in which they might be opposed to each other. If there was any truth in these views, and if it were clear that under certain circumstances the government must be essentially weakened, from a difference of opinion in the cabinet on this subject, then the situation of this country ought and must teach Ireland not to despair, and that they must succeed at last. The people of Ireland would note the signs of the times; and, among those signs, they would note the inclination of the rising generation, especially among men of talent. And what was that inclination? Let any man look around that House, and tell him why it was that the right hon. gentleman opposite was the only exception, a splendid exception, he admitted—that he was the only great parliamentary character, who, within the last twelve years had embraced that party, which, in court favour as well as Parliamentary influence, was considered to surpass all others. The reason of this want of concurrence with the principles of that party among the rising youth of the day, might be found in the conviction that their talents ought not to be exerted against the principles of religious freedom, and that they could not lend their aid to the views of that party without placing themselves in 562 opposition to their principles, and to the general feelings of mankind. One more observation. Youth was not the age of fear. The apprehension of doubtful or remote evils were peculiar to the more advanced stages of life; and he rejoiced, therefore, that it was among the youth of the country that the disposition to support this measure more particularly manifested itself. He rejoiced, too, that while there was the less to apprehend from the influence of fear, there was the less likelihood that, under the cover of fear, the base vice of personal fear would be confounded with fear for the public good. On which side, too, had the conversions on this subject been? On the one side there was the whole influence of Government; for whatever might be said to the contrary, it was well known that promotions in the church and the law were greatly influenced by the circumstance of men being friends or enemies to the Catholics. With all this influence what conversions had there been on that side? He knew of none. On the other side, however, they had instances of men, possessed not only of talents, but of ambition too, who, in die face of place, power, and promotion, had clung to generous principles, and resisted the temptations which were held out to those who would support a cold and narrow policy. The people of Ireland would see that they had youth and virtue on their side, and that men espoused their cause who had prevailed against the temptations of place and power. And therefore neither he nor they could feel any doubt that, if those fatal measures of coercion, which had been obscurely hinted at, were ever attempted to be put in practice, they would see more conversions, more members of a gallant and generous nation listen to the voice of their country: but he did wish that House to hear the voice of generosity and justice before that took place; he did not wish that they should be last in the race. Let it be recollected, that in times of foreign confederacy the minister of the state might be suddenly converted to Catholic Emancipation, and occupying himself no longer with quibbles upon the justice or the expediency of granting the claims of the Catholics, think only of the preservation of his country. Let those who wish these concessions to be still withheld consider, that the time may not be far distant, when the government may find that to be a matter of necessity which was now prayed at their hands.
563 As for the Treaty of Limerick, he was willing to omit all considerations respecting it. He was ready to admit that the interpretation of that treaty which was now contended for was not originally considered by the Catholics to be the real interpretation of it. He had thought it right to investigate the merits of this part of the question; and, though he was open to conviction, yet, as at present advised, he did think that any number of equitable arbitrators,—though they must allow that there was great laxity in the terms, and consequently that there might be difference of opinion in the interpretation of the treaty,—would agree in the opinion of Burnet, that the fair interpretation of the treaty was, that things in Ireland should be restored to the state in which they were in the time of Charles 2nd. And to show that, independently of the consideration of the treaty itself, he had grounds for the opinion which he held, he would remind the House that Dr. Brown, the member in the Irish parliament for the University of Dublin, had expressly declared, in his pamphlet upon the subject, published in 1782, not a hundred years after the treaty, that it was the general impression throughout Ireland that the Treaty of Limerick had been violated. This was a strong evidence upon the subject, of the feeling of one of the contracting parties. He said this because his right hon. friend the member for Kerry, and his hon. friend the member for Westminster, had strongly insisted upon the tact of a breach of covenant under this treaty.
But his honourable and learned friend, the Solicitor-general, had used a very singular argument in the course of his speech. His hon. and learned friend had cited, as a proof of the danger which would result from Catholic Emancipation, the statutes of prœmunire which were passed in the reign of Richard 2nd. How stood the logic of his hon. and learned friend? Why, that as the Catholics were at one time so jealous that they actually passed laws restricting the papal authority,—therefore he would not trust Catholics now, lest they should pass laws to extend the papal authority. Now, not only did he not see the force of his hon. and learned friend's reasoning, but he really thought that it would have been more fair to have inverted the argument, and to have said, that they ought not to be afraid of trusting the more civilized and enlightened Catholics 564 of the nineteenth century, since the less civilized and the less enlightened Catholics of the fourteenth century passed very severe laws against the papal authority. If it were meant—and that was all it could mean—that there would be a clashing between the temporal and the spiritual courts, this could be a matter of little moment. The power vested in spiritual courts, of whatever kind, was merely a branch of the civil power, delegated by princes or a people to spiritual judges, and might be withdrawn by those who had delegated it whenever it should seem fit to them so to do. Had the Christian bishops any power or jurisdiction of this nature before the time of Constantine? Certainly not; and it had been shown, as clearly by the Abbé Fleury as by Warburton and Jeremy Taylor, that this jurisdiction was not inherent in the church, but a delegation from princes and the people. If it were contended, that the interference of the pope would be inconvenient, he would use the argument of his hon. friend, the member for Westminster, which had not yet, and which never would be, answered; namely, that it was the same in Catholic countries, and that the civil power was never obstructed in its operations in those countries by the interference of the church of Rome. Besides this—and let it not be lost sight of—the Catholic religion had, since the reformation, completely changed its character. As the manners and opinions of society changed, so had the opinions and conduct of adherents to the church of Rome, altered. They had done that which he now prayed the House to do,—not to adapt things to the reign of Elizabeth, or to the reign of Charles 2nd. or to the reign of Anne; but to the reign of George 4th. The main objection which was so constantly put forward was, that they wore bound to protect the Established Church. Now, every established church must rest on one of two grounds—on power, or on the attachment of its adherents. The Church of England was growing stronger and stronger every day, from no other cause than the attachment of its adherents. The Church of Ireland never could and never would become stronger; because it relied wholly on the power of this country for its support. It followed, therefore, beyond all controversy, that no men were so much interested in acceding to the measure of Catholic Emancipation, by which that permanency of connection would be en- 565 sured, as the members of that Established Church, whose influence and power must crumble to atoms, at the very moment of the separation from England. That Church might fall in the lapse of time, or by the revolution of opinions, but it must fall, if any accident should separate Ireland from England. It was for the members of the Established Church of Ireland, therefore, to consider well whether its security was more endangered by the hostile acts of perhaps fifty Catholic members in that House, with their hostility instigated and controlled by the majority, than by the enmity of the whole Irish people. This consideration resolved the question into a mere matter of policy, independent of all religious feelings. The simple question then is, whether the state of things in which that country was placed at present might be regarded as operating for or against the security of the connection with this country, and the consequent security of the Protestant Church?
He now came to a subject of a very grave and important nature, and one which he should not have ventured to touch upon in that House, if it had not been argued with so much force and energy by his hon. and learned friend, as one of the obstacles to the concession of the objects of the hon. baronet's motion. Under the circumstances in which it had been mentioned, he could not, notwithstanding the delicate nature of the question, avoid making upon it a very few observations. The constitution of this country had wisely exempted the king from the exposure of being present at any of the stormy debates which take place in parliament; and rendered his person inviolable, and his conduct unimpeachable, so long as his advisers continued responsible for his actions, done by their advice. This was one of the great expedients by which our ancestors contrived to reconcile the doctrines of a monarchy with the principles of liberty. The advantages of such a provision were numerous to the monarch, as well as to the subject; but the misfortune was, that the least invasion or infraction of the law exposed the king of such a country to greater reverses of affairs, than the rulers of other countries, apparently less happily situated. The king was the fountain of mercy, the redresser of the wrongs and grievances of his subjects, until a perverse and iniquitous system of law deprived him of his most 566 valuable privilege, and robbed him of the brightest jewel of his Crown. The privilege of advising his majesty rested with his ministers, under the control of the Houses of parliament; but such was the jealousy that parliament entertained upon this subject, that all attempts to influence its decisions by any statement of the inclination of the king, was looked upon as a high misdemeanor. There could, indeed, be no doubt, that any attempt to state the opinion of the Crown to that House, was against the principles of the constitution; nor was it less doubtful, that any individual was guilty of the highest presumption, who ventured to influence the decision of the House by any reference to the opinions, or the situation, or the duty, of the Crown. He did not mean to say that his majesty was fettered as some had dared to say that he was fettered. He would not enter into the discussion of the delicate subject of the principle of an oath; but would merely refer, on that occasion, to what lord Kenyon had said in his correspondence with his late majesty, in 1795. Lord Kenyon said, "It is a general maxim, that the supreme power of a state cannot limit itself." Perhaps, it would have been more correct to have said, that the supreme power of a state was always the same. For if this were not so, then the supreme power of one and the same state would at one time be less than it was at another. It was a principle of law and justice, that what could not be done directly, could not be done indirectly; and, therefore, it was clear, that by no means whatever could the king bind his successor; for, if such a proceeding was tolerated, the course of legislation would be impeded by measures producing endless confusion, and every party who wished to bind the legislature to a perpetual adherence to some private plan, would endeavour to have an oath tacked to the bill, in order to secure it against violation and perpetuate its enactments. Circumstances of state which never could be foreseen might suddenly arise; emergencies, beyond the power of calculation, might occur. If the supreme power could bind the successor, the monstrous doctrine must be maintained, that a king might be bound by an oath not to perform a duty which might eventually; save his country. The distinction, in his opinion, was perfectly clear. The king in; Parliament, exercised the supreme power, and with the authority of that parliament 567 he might bind himself by oath to abide by such acts as to his conscience and judgment might seem right. The power, however, which gave might take away; and the same parliament and legislature which, in its supreme power, bound the king to one course, might determine upon another. The Coronation Oath was relied upon; but, besides other satisfactory arguments which had been adduced, to show that this could be no impediment to Catholic concession, he would say that this was a matter of political reasoning; that it was a question of degree; and that the king, if advised by his councillors, and supported by the two Houses of Parliament, would not resist a measure of concession to the Roman Catholics.
He would trouble the House only with one word more. If it was to be the fortune of parliament that night to see the relief which had been recently granted to the Protestant Dissenters, followed by an equal measure of justice towards the Catholics,—if that one wise decision should be followed by another, which should relieve the long-protracted sufferings of Ireland, and open to that unhappy country something like the prospect of a better scene—something like the commencement of reform,—then he should look upon any discussion of the question of oaths as a work of mere supererogation. In such a case, he should ever be disposed to say with the noble Roman, who held all forms or tests as mean and trivial compared with the common advantage—"Maximum illud pulchcrrimumque jusjurandum, se conservasse rempublicam."
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that the right hon. gentleman who had last spoken held out little encouragement to discussion, on the part of those opposed to him. According to his view, those who happened to think the laws which he desired to get rid of connected with the security of the Protestant Church, stood opposed to such a mass of authority, as well as such a force of general opinion, as ought to induce them at once to defer, almost without taking the trouble to exercise their judgments. But though he admitted the combination of talent by which those who resisted the question before the House were opposed, and the truth and the sincerity of the conversions which had recently taken place upon it, still those in whose minds no disposition to change existed, but who rather found their original belief strengthened by consi- 568 deration, were entitled to state to the House the grounds upon which that original belief was fixed. Let the real merits of the question be what they might, it was the bounden duty of persons so situated, both to the Crown and to the country, to come forward and declare temperately, but manfully and firmly, how it was that the arguments which had wrought conviction on others, had failed to produce any effect on them. There was another reason beyond those stated by the right hon. member, which would have inclined him to remain silent, if it had been possible for him to do so; and that was, the slight hope which he felt of being able to say any thing new upon the subject. He should be compelled to repeat, he feared, to a reluctant audience topics and arguments which had been already urged almost to satiety, and upon which the most promising expectation he could hold out was, that he would detain the House not one moment longer than was absolutely necessary. The case, however, as it stood, left him no alternative but to take this course: he had no desire to obtrude his sentiments; but the repeated and personal allusions of the hon. baronet who opened the debate, made it incumbent upon him.
The hon. baronet who introduced the question, had made a particular appeal to him upon one part of the subject, which it was impossible not to perceive was peculiarly distasteful to the House. He alluded to the Treaty of Limerick. The hon. baronet founded his claim, not upon any ground of abstract right or justice, but upon the plea, that on a certain occasion a solemn compact had been entered into by those who might be considered as the representatives of the Irish nation at the time being, for which a valuable consideration had been given by that people, and which had never been perfected, up to the present, hour; and he had reminded him of a former declaration which he had made,—that in he could be satisfied, that any of the privileges which the Roman Catholics now demanded could be claimed under the provision of that treaty, it would materially alter his view of the question. Now, he did not mean to escape from this pledge by any denial or qualification of the terms in which it had been given. There were some persons who thought that the length of time which had elapsed since the execution of the treaty would be an answer to the contents of it; but he was not of that 569 opinion. He had stated distinctly—and it was a principle from which he felt no desire to depart—that it would be a case of a very different nature to justify the withholding of privileges stipulated for by treaty, and to refuse granting those same privileges as a question of abstract policy; but, after having again and again referred to the Treaty of Limerick itself, and to every contemporary document which could go to explain it, if he were placed in the situation of arbitrement proposed to him by the hon. member for Westminster, he should conscientiously say, that of all the points ever presented to his mind, the reading of that treaty was the plainest. He was at a loss, indeed, to understand how any man who read the Treaty of Limerick, taking it in connexion with the laws and institutions of the time in which it was executed, could find a shadow of reason for supposing that it had ever contemplated the unrestricted admission of the Catholics to political offices and to seats in parliament. He had never denied, or doubted, that the first article of that treaty had reference to the whole of the Roman Catholic body. No doubt it had been meant to include the Catholics of Ireland generally, and had not been confined to the population of Limerick. But the difference between him and the hon. baronet was upon the nature of the privilege which the treaty convoyed; and it was impossible for him not to be of opinion, that its effect, in the hon. baronet's argument, was entirely overrated. He addressed himself to this subject, not merely to vindicate his own views upon the question, but to protect the names of king William himself, of lord Somers, and of the whole body of the Whig ministers of that clay, as well as of Mr. Pitt, lord Cornwallis, and lord Castlereagh, from the infamy which must attach to them, if the arguments of the hon. baronet were capable of being sustained. If it were possible that William 3rd had intended, by the Treaty of Limerick, to grant the Catholics any of the privileges which the hon. baronet contended for, merely upon their taking the Oath of Allegiance, he would deserve, instead of being quoted as of "glorious memory," to be held infamous for a violation of good faith, which no circumstances could justify. He believed, however, that he should be able to show that the illustrious persons of whom he had spoken were none of them obnoxious to the charges which the hon. baronet 570 had made against them. Neither the representatives of king William, nor the Catholics themselves at Limerick, had ever contemplated that any of the privileges now talked of were to be granted. He regretted, indeed, for the sake of the Catholics themselves at the present day, that the hon. baronet, and those who thought with him, should have carried their case back to so remote a period. There were circumstances in the conduct of the Catholics of Ireland at the time to which the hon. baronet had referred, which it would have been wiser, on all accounts, to have left in that oblivion to which Catholic writers themselves had felt the advantage of condemning them. He was not disposed to revive animosities by adverting to topics which it was impossible to touch, except in terms of reprobation; but when a misapplied ingenuity attempted to make a case for the Catholics out of these very acts and occurrences, such a course was calculated only to throw suspicion upon the cause which was believed to be supported by it. His present business, however, was with the provisions of the Treaty of Limerick: and this was the last time—he might promise the House so much—that on any occasion, he would refer to it. He would not have dwelt upon it now, if he had not been challenged by the hon. member for Westminster to support the motion before the House, on the ground of a former declaration with respect to it, and if he had not feared that his silence on the subject might be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
The hon. baronet argued, that the first article of the Treaty of Limerick gave an exemption to the Catholics from all disturbance on account of their religious opinions. The answer to this assertion would be short; and he trusted that the House would arm themselves with patience to attend to it. The first article of the Treaty of Limerick stipulated, that the Roman Catholics of Ireland should enjoy such privileges, in the exercise of their religion, as were consistent with the laws of Ireland, or as they did enjoy in the reign of king Charles 2nd; and their majesties, as soon as their affairs would permit them to summon a parliament in the kingdom, would endeavour to procure the said Roman Catholics such further security in that particular as should preserve them from any disturbance on account of their religion." Now for the view which the Catholics might be supposed to have entertained of the ef- 571 fect of this article. Was it to be believed that the Catholics of Limerick, assisted as they would be by the best legal advisers of their own body, would have rested their claim to entire freedom from all disabilities, upon words so vague and unsatisfactory as these? The right hon. member who spoke last had alluded to the opinion of lord Somers, and had denied the position of his right hon. friend near him, that there was a wide difference between the freeing the Catholics from all disturbance on account of their religious belief, and allowing them to hold seats in parliament: and the right hon. gentleman had relied upon those words of lord Somers, in which he said, that "the heaviest penalty short of death which could be imposed upon any man, was the rendering him incapable of tilling any public office." But he entreated the House to hoar, from the very same document from which that quotation was extracted, the real opinion of lord Somers upon the question of the disabilities of the Catholics of Ireland. The question, in the case to which lord Somers immediately referred, was one of exclusion wholly different from that under which the Catholics laboured. It was not an exclusion from office arising through or out of the administration of a particular oath. The law against which lord Somers complained was a law which inflicted penalties and disabilities upon Dissenters for non-appearance at the places of worship of the established church. It was the well-known Occasional Schism bill, by which perpetual disqualification for office was inflicted upon Dissenters, under particular circumstances. But when the right hon. member used the authority of lord Somers, against the severity of an exclusion which arose out of a qualification by oath, he was surprised that the right hon. gentleman could lay himself open by a statement which admitted of such ready answer. For lord Somers, in the very same document to which the right hon. gentleman had referred, used these very words:—"The lords look upon the fixing a qualification for places of trust to be a duty so entirely lodged in the legislature, that, without going so far even as to assign any reason, a government may put such rules, restraints, and conditions, on those who serve in any place of trust as it sees cause for: but penalty or punishment is of another nature." Then here, it appeared, lord Somers himself distinctly laid down the difference between the penalty imposed in 572 the case which he first alluded to upon the Dissenters, and that to which the Catholics were liable, which arose out of their inability to take an oath. But he went on to speak of the Catholics by name; for he said—"Popery has ever been looked upon as that which we ought most to fear and guard against, being our most restless and formidable enemy; and therefore there has always been held to be a wide difference between the case of the Papists, and the Protestant Dissenters."
To quit, however, the question as to lord Somers, which went only to the declaration of an individual, however highly gifted, he was anxious to say a few words more, to show the House how impossible it was that the Catholics themselves could have contemplated an entire freedom from all disabilities, by the terms of the Treaty of Limerick. He had already commented upon the vague and unsatisfactory terms in which that treaty was couched, for the purposes for which it was now desired to use it. Would it be believed, that the Catholics would have trusted to such terms—that they were not capable of having clearly explained and stated, all that they expected to be permitted to enjoy? Let the House look to the treaties signed about the same period—at the treaty with the marquis of Ormond, for instance, which was made in 1648. And it must be recollected, that all these treaties must be construed, where any thing as to which a question could be raised appeared upon them, with reference, not to the state of the law and of general affairs at the present day, but to the condition of things at the time when they were executed. Where "toleration," for instance, was promised, it became necessary to look back to what would be considered as toleration in that day. The first article, therefore, of the Treaty of Limerick, which undertook to preserve the Roman Catholics from any molestation on account of their religious faith, must be taken with reference to the laws of queen Elizabeth, which made it penal to deny the queen's supremacy, and enforced the uniformity of Common Prayer. By those laws, every subject was compelled, on pain of penalties, to attend the worship of the Established Church: the maintenance of the authority of the pope subjected a Catholic to punishment. It was with reference to this state of things that the promise of full toleration to the 573 Catholics must be considered. They said, "Give us toleration: give us the full privilege of exercising our religion—relief from penalties, in case we do not choose to attend the Church of England, and freedom from fine, if we assert the supremacy of the Church of Rome." This was asked, and this was granted; but it was widely different from the grant of free admission to political power. But, in the year 1648, a treaty was concluded with the marquis of Ormond. A short glance at this document would show, that the Catholics knew how to explain their meaning, and to obtain competent guarantees for what they wanted. By the first article of this treaty, it was stipulated—"That all and every the professors of the Roman Catholic religion within the said kingdom, shall be free and exempt from all mulcts, penalties, restraints, and inhibitions that, are or may be imposed upon them by any law, statute, usage, or custom whatsoever, for or concerning the free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion; and that it shall be likewise enacted, that the said Roman Catholics, or any of them, shall not be questioned or molested in their persons, goods, or estates, for any matter or cause whatsoever, for, concerning, or by reason of, the free exercise of their religion, by virtue of any power, authority, statute, law, or usage, whatsoever." Why, these words were at least far more full and comprehensive than the words of the Treaty of Limerick. But, were the Catholics satisfied with these words? Did they feel them a sufficient security? No: they made a further article to the treaty—the fifth—which declared, that—"It is likewise concluded, accorded, and agreed, and his Majesty is graciously pleased, that as soon as possible may be, all impediments which may hinder the said Roman Catholics to sit or vote in the next intended Parliament, or to choose or to be chosen knights and burgesses to sit and vote there, shall be removed, and that before the said Parliament." Then forty years earlier than the Treaty of Limerick, when the Catholics meant to treat for political privileges, did they trust to a vague and uncertain description of their rights? They did not. They declared distinctly what it was that they desired to have granted to them; and in the body of the treaty those rights, in plain direct words, and not accruing by any inference, appeared.
574 But, to add one word more upon the Treaty of Limerick—to take it upon its own merits since it had been relied on: as it seemed to him (Mr. Peel), the argument of the hon. member for Dublin, as to the proclamation which had preceded that treaty, was decisive upon it. This proclamation, which was published on the 7th of July, 1691, the Treaty of Limerick being signed on the 3rd of October, warranted those, who accepted the offer of conditional submission which is held out to them that they should have nothing to fear on account of their religious opinions; and pointed out to them, the extent of toleration enjoyed by Catholics in England. Now, had the Catholics of England at that time access to political offices? The whole House would be aware that they had not. But, to go even further than this, if, upon a proposition so plain, any thing further could be necessary:—one of the conditions proposed by the Catholics in Limerick (by sir Toby Butler) for capitulation, was, "That the Irish Papists should be capable of holding military and civil offices." That proposition the besieging general Ginckel, rejected, because it was contrary to the law of England; he erected a fresh battery on the same day, and pressed the town; and the consequence was, that twelve other articles of capitulation were constructed by himself, and accepted by the Catholics. Why, then, after absolutely refusing the Catholics the right of holding military offices in one capitulation, was it possible to say, on the authority of at most a vague and indefinite expression, that he gave them that right, and ten times more, directly after by another? The question did not pass sub silentio: it was discussed in the English House of Peers. Here, then, was parliament on the 22nd of October, before the ratification of the treaty, discussing the subject of the introduction into Ireland of the Oaths of Abjuration and Supremacy. It was unnecessary for him to enter into a grave consideration of this question: but he would ask whether, whatever might be the circumstances of the English parliament, it could be supposed that any set of men of eminent character would, two weeks after a treaty which gave up Limerick, consent to violate the conditions of that treaty, and that the subject should not be even questioned? There was a conference, too, and lord Rochester reported from the 575 committee of the Lords the reasons of dissent, with regard to the proviso in the treaty brought down to the Lords by the earl of Nottingham. The question of the treaty was, therefore, under consideration. The Tory party did insist, that the proviso ought to be allowed: but there was no exception as to any party's admission into parliament. He made these observations to show that the question did not pass sub silentio. Whether the Catholics had or had not seats in parliament in the time of Charles 2nd—a point which, he admitted, would weigh in their favour if the fact were so—was a question which never entered into discussion; the question related to the free exercise of their religion without molestation. Having stated the grounds upon which he had come to the deliberate conclusion, that neither party considered the question of admitting the Catholics into parliament as the point in dispute, he should now close this part of the subject, and should never hereafter mention the Treaty of Limerick.
Now, one word as to a more recent period of our history. The hon. baronet who introduced the subject had contended, that at the Union although there was no express engagement entered into by the legislature, still government did induce the Roman Catholics of Ireland to entertain a firm persuasion, that after the Union they would be admitted to all the privileges of British subjects, and that thereby they were prevailed upon to support the measure. It was impossible to deny, that, after the Union, an attempt was made to introduce a condition for the admission of the Roman Catholics into parliament, which was left to Mr. Pitt. The Roman Catholics, no doubt, did entertain a persuasion, which certainly influenced them, that the Union would facilitate the question; and Sir. Pitt thought that there would be less difficulty in discussing such a question in the United parliament. But he must deny that Mr. Pitt, lord Cornwallis, or lord Castlereagh, gave any engagement, express or implied, or did any act binding on honourable men which implied a pledge for the admission of the Irish Catholics to parliament. It was right, for the sake of the credit of distinguished men, that this blot of bad faith should not rest upon their characters, or be suffered to influence the present deliberations of parliament; and therefore it was that he thought it 576 incumbent upon him to rescue their names from obloquy. It had been said, that Mr. Pitt sent in his resignation, and that lord Cornwallis and lord Castlereagh resigned, because the pledges they had given had not been redeemed. The right hon. member for Kerry might, if he pleased, answer for those personages, but he (Mr. Peel) thought it would be more satisfactory that they should be brought forward to answer for themselves. They denied that any pledge was, given. He was satisfied that if the member for Kerry who spoke last night, had thought that there was an obligation to resign office on this ground, he would have resigned himself. He, however, continued in office after that event; and therefore he was entitled to assume that he thought there was no obligation to resign. Lord Castlereagh and lord Cornwallis proved that they conceived there was no obligation to resign, for they distinctly denied that such was the cause of their resignation. They admitted that they attached great importance to the question; and they also admitted that the rejection of the advice they had given rendered it necessary that they should resign their places as ministers; but there was a manifest difference between resigning because their sovereign did not receive their advice, and resigning because they had given a pledge which they found it impossible to redeem. Whatever inference the right hon. gentleman had derived from the resignation of Mr. Pitt's ministry, he (Mr. Peel) must place greater confidence in the declarations of Mr. Pitt himself and his coadjutors. In the year 1801, immediately after his resignation, Mr. Pitt stated that he had entertained a belief that the Union would facilitate the question, but he denied that any pledge whatsoever had been given to the Roman Catholics. In 1805, when Mr. Pitt was in office again, and when the subject of the Catholics of Ireland was brought forward by Mr. Fox, he well recollected, (for he had heard the debate under the gallery) Mr. Pitt again repeated, that no pledge or engagement whatever had been given by him; and he then expressly used these words:—"I therefore approach the discussion of this question perfectly free and unfettered." If this, then, was the fact, it was impossible to argue that we were prevented, by a regard for justice and good faith, from treating this as a question of policy, but were concluded by a pledge given at the Union. The strongest evi- 577 dence on the subject was certainly the declarations of the parties to that arrangement, from whom the engagement must, have proceeded, and in whose asseverations he did not hesitate to place unbounded confidence. Lord Castlereagh, in 1810, when challenged upon the subject in this House, had said, that lord Cornwallis had never considered any pledge or assurance to have been given, he had the means of proving it beyond the possibility of doubt, from a communication received from that noble lord in 1801, in reply to inquiries made by himself, relative to two papers which were circulated in Ireland at that time, and which he had never seen till they appeared in print. The principle upon which lord Cornwallis acted was, that the measure, to be either conciliatory, or dignified, ought to be the spontaneous and gratuitous act of the legislature. Two papers had, in fact, been issued; but neither lord Cornwallis nor lord Castlereagh had been a party to those papers. Lord Castlereagh applied to lord Cornwallis on the subject, and received a communication to this effect:—"When it was notified to the lord lieutenant that Mr. Pitt, lord Grenville, lord Spencer, lord Camden, Mr. Dundas, and Mr. Windham, had requested permission to retire from His Majesty's councils, upon their not being sanctioned in bringing forward such measures as they thought essential to secure to the empire the full benefit of the Union, the most important of which measures was a concession of further privileges to the Roman Catholics, his excellency conceived that it was expedient that the Catholic body should have an authentic communication upon a subject so deeply affecting their interests, and so calculated to influence their future conduct." The House should listen to this communication from lord Cornwallis to lord Castlereagh:—"Lord Cornwallis had long held it as his private opinion that the measure intended by those of His Majesty's ministers who were retiring from office was necessary for securing the connexion of Ireland with Great Britain. He had, however, been cautious in his language on the subject, and had studiously avoided any declaration to the Catholics, on which they could raise an expectation that their wishes were to be conceded." Here was a positive denial from a gentleman, not only that no pledge was given, but that no expectation was held out, in consequence of their 578 compliance with the views of government. Lord Cornwallis added—"Through the whole measure of the Union, which was in discussion for two years, and during which period every effort was made to procure a resistance to the measure on the part of the whole body of the Catholics, no favourable assurance or promise was made to them." Now, was it possible that lord Cornwallis could have made that statement, if any expectation had been held out to the Catholics with a view of procuring their support to the Union? With regard to lord Castlereagh, he would appeal to any one in that House, whether there could be a man who entertained a nicer sense of honour, and whether it could be believed that he was a party to holding out such false expectations. Would any man believe that lord Castlereagh would have read this statement if he had been a party? In 1810 lord Castlereagh said,—"So anxiously solicitous was the Irish government not to mislead the Catholics with false hopes, that they never gave them, during the two years the Union was in agitation, any reason to know what line Mr. Pitt was likely ultimately to take upon this measure." In consequence of this studious reserve on the part of the government, much of the influence of the Roman Catholic body was exerted against the Union; and so little did the Roman Catholics, who had been in communication with the Irish government, feel themselves entitled, from any previous explanations they had received, to expect Mr. Pitt to take the decisive line he did in favour of their claims, that he believed his doing so was a matter of considerable surprise to them. Now, he must really beg leave to place the testimony of Mr. Pitt, lord Cornwallis, and lord Castlereagh, with respect to the measures they brought forward, against any counter-declarations, or any inferences from conversations. He placed confidence in their statements, and he therefore did not think that there would be any violation of faith, if the House did not adopt the measure submitted by the hon. baronet.
As to the expressions in the king's speech to parliament, it should be recollected what was the state of Ireland in 1800, a country torn by discord, and in which martial law was at that very period in force. There was nothing more natural than for a king of England to express a strong hope that such country 579 would, by the measure in question, "enjoy the blessings of the British constitution." But would it be contended, that this phrase signified, "I mean to remove all the disabilities under which its inhabitants labour?" He felt confident it could never be supposed that Mr. Pitt would have suggested equivocal language on this occasion, or that His Majesty would have condescended to use it. He agreed that national faith overruled all questions of policy; and if he could admit that a contract was in existence at the period of the Union, he should be a willing party to the fulfilment of it.
With respect to the general question, he had on so many occasions stated his deliberate opinion upon it, that he felt it to be scarcely necessary to do more than refer to what he had repeatedly stated, and to declare his firm adherence thereto. He considered it an important question in point of policy (dismissing the questions of justice and good faith) as it affected the general constitution of the country, and with reference to its bearing on the prosperity of the empire. With respect to the first, he must say, that he thought the removal of all civil disabilities, and the laying down of this principle, that there should be no distinction in respect to religious opinions, and no barrier between a professor of the Roman Catholic faith and that of the Protestant Established Church, was a material change in the constitution of the country. There were limitations, it was true, in this as well as every other proposition, as to the degree of change. If the constitution was considered to be the king, lords, and commons, it would be subverting that constitution to admit Roman Catholics to the privileges they sought; it would be an important change in the state of the consitution as established at the Revolution. It was most undoubtedly intended, at that time, permanently to settle the constitution of this country, so far as to connect it inseparably with the Protestant Established Church", and to exclude the professors of the Roman Catholic religion from those offices which constituted the secular government of the country. With reference to the act which had received the royal assent that day, he meant the act for removing the Sacramental Test, he thought it rather unfair that the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, should call upon those who supported that measure to give their vote on the ground of consis- 580 tency, to this. He distinctly recollected that, when the noble lord submitted that proposition to the House, he expressly stated, that his object was to give relief to Protestant Dissenters, and that no member who supported that proposition was in the slightest degree concluded, with respect to the Catholic question. He should take his part without reference to this point, but he thought it unfair of the right hon. gentleman, to endeavour to take advantage of this concession. The Protestant Dissenters stood in a very different situation, with regard to our constitution, from the Catholics. In 1688, although the government had then the experience of recent events, and might well recollect what had happened under Charles the 1st, yet king William and his ministers were anxious to give relief to the Protestant Dissenters. After the accession of the House of Hanover, it was several times proposed to parliament, and all the princes of that House, but particularly George 2nd, took considerable pains to procure the abolition of the disabilities which applied to the Protestant Dissenters. He was also prepared to state, that they were bound with us, as dissenting from the Church of Rome, and though unfortunately, they were not in communion with the Established Church, they, like us, protested against the corruptions of the Catholic faith. He was therefore prepared to contend, that the question was very different, as to the Protestant Dissenters and as to the Roman Catholics. It appeared that we were to remove these disabilities, and then to open the constitution to the Catholics. He wished to argue this question with that forbearance and moderation which had been shewn in introducing it, but he was, at the same time, bound to state his opinions conscientiously, firmly, and honestly. If we admitted Catholics into parliament, we should remove every link but one which now bound the Protestant faith with the constitution in Church and State; every link but one, that which required the person who wore the crown to be a member of the Established Church. There were, indeed, the bishops in the House of Lords; but besides that, the only link between the Protestant faith and the constitution of the country would be His Majesty being a Protestant. What, then, he asked, would there be to protect the Protestant Church. He made a clear distinction between the laws of mere exclusion 581 and those penal statutes passed on subsequent occasions. The policy of excluding Catholics from being members of a Protestant legislature was emphatically expressed in the words of the law to make the English Protestant Church a part of the State, and give the persons composing that church an over-ruling influence in the state. This was the object of those disabilities, and our Protestant State would be changed in its most important character, if those disabilities were repealed.
We were told, indeed, that the religion against which those laws were passed no longer existed, that the tenets formerly avowed were now disavowed, and that the Catholic Church was entirely changed, and its character altered. His hon. friend, who spoke last night, with language more forcible than was generally used in that House, had described it as a tiger, which the rising sun of knowledge had not killed, indeed, but driven to his den. But how did he know, that the knowledge which had driven this tiger to his den, had not been cherished by those disabilities, which we were now required to remove? How did he know that priestly ascendancy would not again take possession of the land, if we gave to the Catholics political power? How did he know that if they removed the guards that had hitherto protected the civil and religious liberties of this country, that they would not fall under the power of the Catholic Church? And what proof have they that the bitter and usurping spirit of that church had not been curbed and mitigated by the very laws we were now called on to remove? We were told, indeed, by the hon. member for Dublin, of the tendency of that religion to adapt itself to changes of circumstances; and how did he know, if he now removed the disabilities imposed on its professors, that he might not have to meet it under a new form? We were told also, that England was the only country which still retained these exclusive laws; that there was no country on the continent where they were not abolished; and we were called on to imitate those countries, and to remove all the disabilities which now prevented people of any religion from holding office. But were we prepared to imitate those countries in all things? Should we, or could we, follow the example of the other states of Europe? We were taunted, indeed, with our refusal, but if the example was good for any thing it must be good through- 582 out. We ought to follow it without limit. But the hon. baronet, who recommended this, had not told us of the difference between those countries and this, nor of the precautions and securities they had taken against the members of the Roman Catholic Church. Was he prepared to recommend similar precautions and similar securities? Was the country prepared to adopt them? Would he counsel us to impose them on the Catholics? He thought not; for he seemed to attach no importance to them, and spoke of them last night as things of less moment than the amulet which was sometimes hung around a child's neck, or even the horse-shoe which was sometimes nailed up at a door. He could not agree with the hon. baronet in those opinions He could not consent to open wide the door of political power to the Roman Catholics; he could not consent to give them civil rights and privileges equal to those possessed by their Protestant countrymen; because, after taking the most deliberate view he was able to take of the relation which the Roman Catholics bore to the rest of the community, he was persuaded that the removal of their disabilities would be attended by a danger to the Protestant religion, against which it would be impossible to find any security equal to that of our present Protestant constitution. This country would be exposed to greater dangers in that respect, than any other country in the world. Take the case of Prussia. In Prussia, where undoubtedly the civil disabilities of the Catholics were removed, the Catholic benefices were endowed by the State, the appointments to them were not under the control of the pope; the nominations were by the king. In Ireland, however, it was evident that the greatest discontent would follow any attempt on the part of the government to assume a similar power. Under those circumstances, it appeared to him, that in the relation which the Roman Catholics bore to the State, there would be a perpetual struggle for ascendancy between them and the Protestants; and that even if the Protestants were to be successful in that struggle, the evils attendant on the contest would be manifold and serious. In the Netherlands again; although the positive nomination was not in the Crown, the Crown enjoyed a veto, to a much greater extent than that which was proposed with reference to the Roman Catholics in this country, and declined. The 583 king of the Netherlands had the power to reject any name in the list presented to him, provided he left enough for the constitution of a chapter. In Hanover, also, the same power existed on the part of the government. He said, therefore, that there was no country in which the Roman Catholics had been admitted to a participation of political power with the Protestants, which was in the situation in which this country would be placed by the proposition which the hon. baronet wished the House to adopt.
It was true that we had now no Pretender to fear. It was true that the power of the pope was not so extensive as it was in former times. But were we entirely to forget the lessons of experience, and to leave out of our consideration the pernicious influence which the tenets of the Roman Catholic religion had been so repeatedly found to exercise on civil society? The alteration proposed by the hon. baronet would tend to the destruction of that which we had obtained by the Revolution, and which it was incumbent on us to preserve; namely, the Protestant character of the constitution of the state. Let the painful situation in which the Protestant monarch of this country would be placed, by the destruction of all the existing barriers between the Roman Catholics and unlimited political power, be for a moment considered. And here he begged to observe that the question had been argued by persons who differed in opinion from him, and those who thought with him on the subject, as if they were anxious to secure to themselves all the temporalities of religion. For them and for himself, he totally disclaimed any such low and vulgar objects. What they wanted was, to preserve inviolate the Protestant character of the constitution. Feeling that in the present relations of the Roman Catholic and the Protestant religion, the one or the other must have the ascendancy; they were desirous that that ascendancy—a qualified and moderate ascendancy—should belong to the Protestant Church. By the word "ascendancy," he would not be understood to mean any thing obnoxious or invidious; but merely that the great offices of the state should be in the hands of Protestants; because that he considered necessary to prevent the struggles for political power which must otherwise ensue.
When he heard it said, that there was little difference between the tenets of the 584 Roman Catholic faith and the pure religion which we professed, he confessed that he listened to the assertion with some surprise. He did not mean to say that, on the score of religious opinions alone, any man ought to be excluded from civil offices; but he felt alarm and distrust when he was told, "their religion is nearly as good as your own: their doctrine of absolution does not differ much from that in your Church: you have your creed of St. Athanasius, if they have their opinions on exclusive salvation; and therefore you ought to admit them." All the apprehensions he had entertained were confirmed—all his fears increased—when he heard it asserted, that there was no tangible difference between that pure faith which he professed, and the Roman Catholic religion [Cries of "No, no"]. He had heard this argument used, and he would not be prevented from replying to it. He had heard the hon. baronet last night attempt to show, that there was no such difference between the two systems of religion as warranted the exclusion of the Catholics. He had said, that such difference as did exist was not sufficient to warrant any hesitation in granting the concession which they claimed. Now, he would say, that there was. The Protestants by their very name protested against the false doctrines of the Romish Church, and the distinction between them was open, palpable, and of great importance. So much for the general argument as it bore upon the constitution. As it bore upon Ireland, he confessed that it was a subject of the deepest interest, at the same time that it was one of the most painful nature. He wished he could see a prospect of tranquillizing Ireland, by the removal of the disabilities complained of. If he could, he was ready to repeat the expressions he had used on a former occasion, and which had been recently alluded to in the House. He would do all in his power, if he could once sec that prospect, to effect the removal of those disabilities. But it was because he doubted,—because he in no degree believed that that measure would have the effect of restoring peace and harmony to Ireland, that he gave it his strenuous opposition. He had heard every gentleman who had spoken on this subject say he wished to maintain inviolate the established Church and the Protestant constitution. Confiding in the sincerity of this profession, he said in reply, then it would not be safe to admit to equal eligibility for 585 power that large majority of the population of Ireland who professed a faith and doctrines hostile to the Established Church and constitution. He did not deny that to reject the claims of those persons was an evil; but the alternative was so pregnant with still greater evil, that he could not accept it. It was said that the Catholic population of Ireland consisted of five or six millions, and that the Protestants amounted to five or six hundred thousands. No doubt the numbers were greatly mis-stated; but it could not be questioned that the disproportion was immense. It was proposed, then, that the established religion, which was that of the minority, should be continued, but that the possession of power should be opened to all. It was impossible, when this proposition was made, for him not to ask himself, how the power which was possessed by this great majority was now exercised. What were the declarations, both of the laity and the priesthood. What, he asked, was to be hoped for from such declarations? Did they furnish any ground for believing, that if this question were carried there would be a permanent settlement of the cause of disquiet, and that the maintenance of that establishment, for the welfare of which every one professed himself to be anxious, would be effected? They had been told by the right hon. member for Kerry, that there was a combination of civil and spiritual influence: and what security was there that the same combination would not exist? They must give credit to the statement, for it came from unquestionable authority; they could not doubt the intentions of the Catholics; for never had fairer notice been given of those intentions. The House were told that they were the cause of this. But were they not justified in the caution they had persisted in using? Had they not cause for the apprehensions they entertained, when they saw the manner in which the Catholics used their present power? Let the House look at all the attempts which had of late been made to improve the condition of the people of Ireland, and the manner in which they had been received. The sub-letting act was one remarkable example. That measure had been devised upon a principle which was solely for their benefit; and yet the motives of the persons who had brought it forward had been grossly misrepresented. The law relating to vestries was another similar instance, and that for settling the 586 disputes respecting burials, which was brought in by lord Plunkett in the pure spirit of peace and conciliation, had been equally ungraciously received. When every one of those measures had been so treated, and when each of them had given occasion to an attempt to poison the public mind, he could not persuade himself that, if the result of this debate should be to carry the proposed measure, it would be more efficacious in restoring harmony and tranquillity than those which had gone before it. The removal of the disabilities which at present existed would, if it should be resolved upon, effect a most important change in the circumstances of Ireland. The power which the Roman Catholics of that country sought, was of two different descriptions. First, they required to be eligible for political offices; and that would of course leave it in the discretion of the Crown whether to appoint them to those offices or not. The Crown could not be required to confer them, but if it refused to do so, the exclusion would be felt to be, and in fact would be, much more galling and injurious than in its present shape. The other species of power, and over which the government could have no control, was that derived from the people themselves. Seats in parliament were of this description, and of these, whatever modification might be adopted, the great majority would always be Roman Catholics. At present they were represented by Protestant agents. He did not think that those agents were, as his hon. friend (Mr. Doherty) had characterized them, blind and unreasoning: but it was impossible to contend that the Catholics would be less earnestly represented by themselves than by their agents. Corporate offices were also of this latter description. There were one hundred and fifteen corporations in Ireland, and he had seen a calculation, by which it appeared that there were two thousand five hundred offices connected with them. These would all be open to Catholics. There could be no doubt that to obtain them would be an object of ambition to Catholics. Looking to their number, it was not more questionable, that they would be able to attain their object, and to get into their hands the greatest part of the corporations and corporate offices. The consequence must be, a transfer of the power from Protestants to Catholics, and it was in vain to deny that the effect must be mischievous to that establishment 587 and constitution which it was the duty of every Protestant to preserve. If the result were to be harmony and peace, well and good, the argument would be conclusive; but if this were not to be the case—and he was not prepared to say that it would—there was enough in the circumstances of Ireland (without taking into the account, any thing that related to the differences in religious opinions), to induce every man to fear, considering the quantity of power which would then be in the hands of the Catholics, and the manner in which the power they now possessed was exercised, that such an increase of power would produce disastrous results. He did not believe that such a measure could conduce to the maintenance of the Protestant establishment in Ireland. Fresh causes of discontent would be daily arising. Look at the conduct of the Catholic clergy now that they did not possess power, and upon subjects which bore immediate reference to religion; for example, on education and marriage. The Roman Catholic bishops had declared, that they would do all in their power to discourage marriages between Catholics and Protestants—not because of any dislike to the Protestants for private and personal reasons, but because they insisted as a condition, that all the children of such marriages should be educated in the Catholic faith—a condition which altogether prevented that intermixture between the two classes, which was so well calculated to mitigate their animosities. It was in vain to say, looking at these circumstances—looking at the conduct of the Catholic priesthood, and at the demonstrations of physical strength which had lately been made, that there was no reason for distrust. What did the calling together the people of Ireland on one day mean? For what purpose was such a measure resorted to, if it was not for the purpose of intimidation? Astute-lawyers might excuse such a practice under the strict letter of the Statutes; but he was convinced that it formed an insuperable bar in the minds of Protestants, to that conciliation which was attempted to be effected. It might be possible, he thought, to take an intermediate line between granting any further political privileges to the Catholics, and the re-enactment of those penal laws which they were told would be the only alternative, if entire emancipation should now be rejected. He saw no implied stigma in withholding from the Ca- 588 tholics that power which there was reason to fear would be injuriously exercised against the Protestant Establishment. He could discover in this nothing of unjust or stigmatizing persecution, although if the balance of real persecution were to be struck, the Roman Catholics would not be the persons who would have to complain.
He had now gone through the various topics connected with this question, and had stated the grounds upon which he had acted, and upon which he avowed his intention of still acting. He had never resorted to any unfair opposition of the claims of the Catholics. The statement of his opinion he had reserved for this place; he had never attempted to rouse any religious feeling against them, because he thought it would have been wrong to do so, and because he thought the House was the only proper place in which this question could be decided on its true grounds. He had treated with constant respect the petitions which had been presented on the subject, and had brought them before the House whenever he had been requested to do so. He had always been the steady and consistent opponent of the measure, but not without deeply considering it. Retaining his opinions, he should sit down as he had begun, with stating, notwithstanding the high authorities which were cited in opposition to him, that, in the present balanced state of the government and of the parliament, it was not just nor expedient that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants of Ireland should stand, in respect of civil offices, on precisely the same footing.
§ Lord W. Paget
said, he should vote for the motion of the hon. baronet, and felt convinced that, if the Catholics were admitted to equal rights, they would prove as loyal and as grateful subjects as any in the realm. He was anxious to vote in favour of a cause, the success of which he conscientiously felt to be intimately connected with the peace and prosperity of Ireland, and the well-being of the empire.
Mr. M. Fitzgerald
rose to explain. The right hon. gentleman, he said, appeared to think that he had stated his belief of the existence of a combination among the Catholic population of Ireland, excited by the influence of the priesthood. Now, what he said was, that the spiritual influence of the Catholic priests was under the political dominion of the Catholic leaders, and that the entire population 589 was organized to a man in a spirit of disaffection to this country. The right hon. Secretary had also stated his disbelief, that he (Mr. M. Fitzgerald) would have consented to retain office, if he considered that the ground on which Mr. Pitt resigned was connected with the objection of the Catholic question. Now, he had tendered his resignation, and was only induced to retain office by the assurance that the object of Mr. Pitt and his friends was, that the friends of the Catholics should continue to hold the situations which they occupied at the period of his resignation; because by this means it was more likely that their end might be attained, than by withdrawing from the public service.
§ Mr. Brownlow
said, that when he considered the manner in which the question had been introduced to the notice of the House by the hon. baronet, and reflected on the way in which it had been conducted up to the present moment, he could not but entertain a hope of its ultimate success. He should not say one word in relation to the Treaty of Limerick. The right hon. gentleman, after what had been adduced by the hon. baronet on the subject, was, no doubt, justified in discussing it in the copious manner he had that night done. At all events, he could readily conceive how much easier and more agreeable it was to do so, than, as a British minister, to deal with the necessities of the present case and period. With respect to the Union it was not his intention to add any thing to what had been already said. It might be desirable to know what were the views of Mr. Pitt and the cabinet of the day in regard to the connection between that measure and Catholic Emancipation; but it was still more important to learn what the right hon. gentleman opposite and the present cabinet were disposed to do with respect to the latter question. The proposition of the hon. baronet affected the interests of seven millions of people, who came before the House, praying to be admitted to equal rights with the rest of their fellow-subjects. He never could admit that there was any thing unconstitutional in the case which the petitioners brought before the House. It was certainly the duty of a government to protect itself from those holding opinions hostile to its interests. No one, for instance, would give the office of chancellor of the Exchequer to an Anabaptist, who held that all things should be in com- 590 mon. But he denied that such reasoning had application to the present question. The Solicitor-general had dealt abundantly in mysterious hints, although he had not stated any broad reason why the Catholic claims should be rejected. It had been formerly said, that this body held a divided allegiance. Nothing of that nature, he was happy to find, had been imputed this evening. Had the charge been brought forward, it would only have sent abroad the information, that Ireland was the vulnerable part of the empire, the place where British power was the weakest, and most open to the attacks of our enemies. Lord Liverpool had said, two years ago, that Ireland was a place where the liberties and the glory of England could be overthrown. It had been said, that the king gave a divided protection to Ireland, and that Ireland gave but half its allegiance to the king; that in Ireland every subject was a traitor, and the king a tyrant. He had heard nothing of the sort this night; but if this were not the case, the present was a system of religious persecution. It was impossible for any person who came from Ireland to explain the state of that country. If the House thought the present to be the cause of a few orators and politicians they were much mistaken, and by their mistake they would only make the danger greater. Catholic Emancipation was the popular hope of Ireland; and like all other popular hopes, it was impatient of delay and contradiction. They clung to it the more tenaciously in the midst of their misfortunes, and had not been disheartened by disappointment and rejection. He would remind the House of the case of Spain and her American colonies, in 1809, when lord Wellesley was at Madrid in the capacity of a mediator. The South Americans complained of unmerited disqualifications. They solicited redress, as the Irish Catholics petitioned England. "Remove those restrictions, and we will fill your coffers with our wealth—we will nerve your arm against the enemy." So said the Irish Catholics. But "the deaf adders would not hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely." Spain rejected the claims, and thereby lost one of the fairest realms annexed to a European Crown. Were this question carried in favour of the Irish nation, how different would be the aspect of affairs in that miserable country ! 591 With security must flow in capital; with capital employment; and with employment wealth. The body were daily increasing in numbers, knowledge, and importance. Those men whose name, in the words of lord Plunkett, had a power to bear them ever buoyant down the stream of time, were their advocates. There had been repeated decisions of the House in their favour, and there was no reason why it should now reverse its former judgments. It was impossible to settle the question except by the concession, and by identifying the views of Great Britain with the interests of the Irish people. He would say, that the British constitution did not exist in Ireland; for the Irish lived under the Catholic Association and the Catholic priesthood of Ireland, and the British constitution was there tumbling to pieces. He had the honour of representing a county which was called the most Protestant county in Ireland, and he would assure the House that he was not speaking for the Catholics alone, but also for the Protestants; who, in the present state of things, were hemmed in on all sides by enemies. The Catholics complained, that they were treated with unkindness, while their Protestant neighbours were treated with too much kindness; hence dissentions arose, which placed the latter in a state of the greatest danger; and nothing, he was convinced, could remove that danger, but the placing of Catholics and Protestants on terms of equality. Let the House make it the interest of the Catholics to obey the laws, and he pledged himself they would as cheerfully submit to them as any other class of the community. Let the measure be conceded whilst there was yet time, and it would be received by the people of Ireland with all the gratitude that it deserved. It had been urged that it would be attended with danger to the Established Church. This he did not believe. If the Catholics, when this measure had passed, should violate the laws, let them be punished. If they attempted to compass that which they had no right to do, then the laws would reach them. With such opinions as these he should go into the committee. If the House would repeal the remnant of those intolerant laws which remained on the Statute-book respecting the Roman Catholics, the country would be secure. No security could be calculated upon, so long as they were permitted to remain. The whole 592 must be repealed, if peace were expected. Not a single fibre of the cancer ought to remain. The fetters which still bound the Irish Roman Catholics must be torn asunder, otherwise no permanent satisfaction could be hoped for. The remnant of those laws must be repealed. Justice demanded, and safety required, such a course to be adopted. Then would the Roman Catholics of Ireland, who were deeply attached to the constitution, and as disposed as any of his majesty's subjects to obedience, be satisfied. Their claims were placed on a foundation which could not be shaken—they were founded in justice.
The Hon. William Lamb
said, that the situation which he had the honour to hold in the government of Ireland, imposed upon him the necessity of trespassing, for a short period, upon the attention of hon. members; and he could not avoid feeling that the repeated discussions of this question—argued, as it had been, over and over, and considered in every possible point of view—justified him in the determination to be brief in his observations; and, considering this question, as he should do, with reference to the times in which we lived, and the circumstances under which we were now called upon to consider it, he felt himself bound to exclude many of those topics which had been, on former occasions, introduced. He should leave out of his arguments all those laws passed at the Reformation and the Revolution; not because he had no respect for those laws, but because, if parliament should think that they were irreconcileable with present times, and that it would be wise to change them, parliament had unquestionably the power so to do. Those laws were not irrevocable, and might be changed. He should also omit from his arguments all comments on the spirit manifested by the Roman Catholic laity and clergy; because if he admitted it was hostile and to be condemned, his opinion was, that it was aggravated by exclusion, and might be softened by conciliation. The only means of meeting, the certain method of averting, all danger was by some such measure as that proposed by the hon. baronet. If the removal of disqualifications was to be considered as not consistent with a Protestant government, he should deeply regret it; because it would not augur well for the future peace and tranquillity of the country. He would say to the British House of com- 593 mons, "do not let us raise the flag of discord in our own territory; do not let us create divisions and dissentions among our own people; do not let us light the torch of religious animosity, which may be converted into a consuming fire. It is your duty to do all you can to amalgamate, and nothing to divide. By amalgamating alone you can expect to prosper. There will be difficulties enough to arise without your adding to the number:—there will be dangers enough to encounter without your inviting their increase." He was sure he had never said, he was sure he had never felt, that there were no difficulties in the way of this great and important question. He knew that there were difficulties. If it had been an easy and a simple question it would have been settled long ago. His right hon. friend had pointed out some of those difficulties, the existence of which he did not deny; all he denied was, that right hon. gentleman's conclusion. He had pointed out many anomalies; but upon a question of such paramount importance, involving so many interests, and enlisting on its side, or creating against it, so many prejudices, was it possible that there should not be some anomalies, was it possible that there should not be some risk. Nor did he deny that some difficulties arose in consequence of the intemperance of the Catholics themselves, and the still greater intemperance of those who professed to be their leaders. Upon this topic he would not express himself in stronger language; not because he did not hold a strong opinion, but because he was not desirous of introducing such a matter into the observations he meant to address to the House. It had been always said, and it was a main argument of the right hon. gentleman, that though you incur much danger, you obtain no result,—that you run much risk in Ireland, yet that you give no satisfaction there. Now, the real danger, and certainly the most plausible danger, was that which had been stated by the hon. member for Louth, (Mr. L. Foster,) and adopted by another hon. gentleman—the danger to be apprehended through parliament. No power that could be given to corporations could produce any ill effect, except so far as it gave a power of introducing Catholic members into parliament. An hon. member had stated the number of members elected by the influence of the Roman Catholics. With respect to that num- 594 ber, it must depend on the growing means of the Roman Catholics, and on the fitness of individuals to fill such high stations as representatives of the people; for it was not to be supposed, that to unfit persons would be delegated so important a duty. The same hon. member had drawn a picture of the danger that might arise from a union of Roman Catholic members in the House of Commons. Now, the extent of that number, it was not worth his while to state; but one thing he must deny—their union. He denied that they were at all likely to act in concert. They would be divided by circumstances, by peculiarity of temperament, and by the thousand other circumstances by which mankind were invariably divided. In this opinion he was borne out by the fact, that there was in that House a body, bound together by a religious union, but who had never been found to act together except upon questions with which their religion was concerned. With respect to Scotland, also, it would be remembered, that we had to encounter those whose views were more opposed to the Established Church than those of the Roman Catholics, and that the legislature had been once asked, whether it would encounter the danger to be apprehended from the admission of sixteen peers and forty-five commoners to the united parliament of Great Britain. This danger vanished with the carrying of the measure; and they had been never heard of, as combining together for the purpose of injuring the Established Church. He did not say that the granting this measure would heal all the wounds, or remedy all the evils of Ireland. Many other causes existed to which those wounds and those evils might be attributed, but this he did say, that it would give rise to a general feeling, that justice had been done, and this would be a ray of light which would illume the darkest cabin of that country. We had been told, that we should do no good to the Catholics, and give no satisfaction to the Protestants, by granting this measure. He thought very differently. He was ready to admit that prejudices did exist, on the part of the Protestants of Ireland, and in those prejudices he was disposed to sympathise; but, as they were founded in error, they would rapidly pass away; but the satisfaction that would arise, as it had its root in the best, the noblest, and the proudest, feelings of man, so it I would be, like the foundation on which it 595 was fixed, permanent and eternal. With respect to those gentlemen whose minds had been made up upon this question, who thought that making these concessions would be injurious to the religion, and to the policy of this country; and who considered it possible that we could remain as we were, it would be great presumption in him to imagine that he could change their minds, but if there were any gentlemen present, and doubtless there were many, so many as to reduce the former to great insignificance, who thought that this question must, some time or other, be granted, to those he addressed himself, and intreated them not to incur danger by procrastination. If it were now granted, the gift would be one of grace: if it were longer delayed, it might be attributed to apprehension. He knew not whether he should be in a majority or a minority; but this he knew, that if the votes of all those who felt that, sooner or later, the question must be granted, were now given in favour of it, it would be carried by the largest majority that ever passed through the doors of the House.
Mr. C. Grant
rose to address the House, but the cries of "question," "with draw," and "adjourn," became so loud and general, as to prevent the right hon. gentleman from being heard. After several ineffectual attempts to gain attention, he resumed his seat. Lord Sandon then moved the adjournment of the debate to Monday; which was agreed to.