Mr. O' Connell,
in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to place the Charitable Bequests and Donations of Roman Catholics in Great Britain on the same footing with those of Protestant Dissenters, observed, that the necessity of the measure was obvious, and the propriety of remedying the evil which existed equally obvious. In Ireland, the Bequests or Donations of Roman Catholics, for charitable or benevolent purposes were fully protected, and with the exception of some expense for the renewal of the names of Trustees, when the former ones died or retired, they enjoyed the same privileges as the Protestants or Dissenters. In England the case was very different. Here the Legislature, in the repeal of various penal laws which affected the Catholics, as well as in the great Relief Bill itself, had proceeded on the principle, not of repealing the Acts, but of repealing the oaths imposed by these Acts, and substituting other oaths to be taken in their place. The consequence was, that in various Statutes, and particularly in those which related to Charities, and what were in former times called superstitious uses, the penalties remained, and the grievances under which the Catholics laboured did not come under the provisions of the Relief Bill. The result was, that although 395 even the Jews were protected in the disposal of their property for benevolent purposes, the Catholic trustee could not be called to account in a Court of Equity for a violation of his trust. There might be some doubt whether the Crown was at liberty to claim the money as a forfeiture; but there was none that the trustee could not be rendered accountable. Having thus briefly explained the law as it existed on this subject, and the grievances to which the Catholic was subjected, he thought it not too much to ask leave to bring in a Bill to place the Catholic on the same footing as the Dissenter. He disclaimed all intention of attempting to touch the Statute of Mortmain, or in any way affect the rights of Protestants.
§ Sir C. Wetherell
did not intend to oppose the learned Gentleman's Motion; but he could have wished to know what description of charitable bequests he desired to have protected—whether they were for the purpose of building chapels, or increasing monastic institutions? The hon. Member had not, in fact, told them whether he did not propose to support donations for superstitious uses, nor had he explained what those superstitious uses meant. He was willing to allow the Bill to be brought in, but he reserved any opinion on its merits until he had a fuller explanation of the details.
The Solicitor General
understood the Relief Bill to be intended to place the Catholics on the same footing as other Dissenters, but. not as Protestant Dissenters. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wished by this Bill to go further, and confer on them new rights, then the question was one of great importance, and required due consideration.
The Attorney General
also guarded himself against any assent to the principle of the Bill by suffering it to be brought in, and declared his ignorance of the precise meaning which the learned Gentleman attached to the words superstitious uses.
§ Mr. O'Connell
in reply, said, he merely wished to protect the donations of the benevolent for charitable purposes, and he could assure the House it had no reference to monastic institutions, for the Relief Bill forbade it. His intention was, to have the Bill printed, and if it were then opposed, he should not press it for the present Session, but take the sense of the House on it in the ensuing Session.
§ Leave given to bring in the Bill.