§ Sir Robert Inglis
said, that he had the honour of having intrusted to him for presentation to that House, a Petition from a very influential and numerous body of the inhabitants of Birmingham and its vicinity, in reference to a notice of a Motion which had been given on a former occasion by the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary; and in reference to the Oath which that hon. Member and the other Catholic Members of that House had taken, and which Oath was, in the judgment of the Petitioners, inconsistent with any such Motion. He need hardly 980 observe, that he had been selected to present this petition, not from any feeling that the Members locally connected with Birmingham would not discharge such a duty for the petitioners, their constituents, but solely because at the time that the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary gave the notice in question, he (Sir R. Inglis) immediately followed it up by giving notice by the way of an amendment, that whenever that hon. and learned Member should bring forward such a Motion, he would move that the Oath taken by the hon. and learned Member should be read. The Petition, in the first instance, recited the notice which had been given by the hon. Member. It was as follows:—"That no person who shall be appointed to any Ecclesiastical benefice or dignity in Ireland, shall be deemed to have any such vested interest as to entitle such person to compensation, in the event of such benefice or dignity being suppressed.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
then read the notice as follows from the Votes:—On the first day of going into a Committee of Supply, to move a Resolution, that no person who shall be thenceforth appointed to any Ecclesiastical benefice or dignity in Ireland, shall be deemed to have any such vested interest as to entitle such person to compensation, in the event of such benefice or dignity being suppressed." He was quite ready to give the hon. and learned Member the full benefit of the word "thenceforth." In his (Sir R. Inglis's) apprehension of the case, it made very little difference with regard to that evil against which he and the petitioners protested. The petitioners proceeded to state, that this notice was evidently conceived in a spirit of hostility to the Established Church of Ireland. Now certainly people should be very chary in attributing motives to others, but when they came to the construction of acts, it was a different thing, and he was 981 sure that the hon. and learned Member would not defend the tendency of such a Motion, if it should, when carried, place the Church of Ireland in a worse position as regarded the property belonging to her, than she was in at the time when the hon. and learned Member took an oath not to "disturb or weaken the Protestant Religion in the United Kingdom." The petitioners went on to state, that they could not conceive how such notice of a motion could have been given by any one who had solemnly sworn in the following words:—"I do swear, that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm, as established by the laws: and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure, any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm: and I do solemnly swear, that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant Religion or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom: and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever. So help me God." The Petition then proceeded to call the attention of the House to the Catholic Relief Bill, and to the circumstances under which it was passed. Now he (Sir R. Inglis) was sure that there would be found an almost unanimous concurrence both on the part of the Protestant supporters, and on the part of the Protestant opponents of that Bill, on this point—that that measure would not for a moment have passed that House if it had been then suspected that the power of dealing with the rights and property of the Church had been conceded by it to the Roman Catholics. The petitioners, with this conviction on their minds, stated, that they regarded this notice of motion as a violation of honour, and of the solemn obligation of an oath which had been voluntarily taken by the Catholic Members of that House. They added, that they felt that it was a mockery to tell them that the Protestant religion in Ireland would be neither "weakened" nor "disturbed," by lessening to a great extent the number of its ministers there, and by virtually turning the Church Establishment of Ireland over to the dominion of men who regarded 982 its doctrines with horror. The petitioners, in conclusion, prayed the House to adopt such measures as should prevent this oath—the only security that the Church possessed against the attacks of its inveterate enemies—from either being treated with scorn, or broken with impunity. They further prayed the House to exclude by express enactment Roman Catholic Members from any share in Ecclesiastical legislation. He did not concur in the prayer of the petition, and his reason was this—not that the petition prayed for too much, but that it prayed for too little. He would go much further. According to the view which he had uniformly entertained, he had always thought that the introduction of Members of the Church of Rome into that Assembly had been the greatest calamity that had ever occurred to this country. He could not indeed expect that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin would concur in that opinion. He would venture, however, to say this—that it was a feeling that was rapidly increasing throughout the country—it was a feeling which prevailed very generally some time ago—he believed that it was now gaining strength every day throughout England, and he was sure that the events of the last four months had tended much to increase such a feeling amongst the intelligent and rational part of the population of this country. He had undertaken the discharge of this duty with no small pain. It was not a pleasant thing for any man to rise up in a society of Englishmen, and tell those who sat opposite to him, that they had violated their oaths. He trusted that he might say, that nothing but a strong sense of duty had induced him to take such a course. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin might smile at that statement, but it was the honest fact. He regretted he was obliged to take this course, but taking it as he did from the most conscientious sense of duty, he thought that it should not give offence to the Roman Catholic Members of that House. This he would say, that if he had taken such an oath as that taken by the Members of the Church of Rome, that if he had taken an oath, mutatis mutandis, of the same nature with regard to a Catholic Established Church, and if, after taking such an oath, he had given notice of a motion analogous to that of the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary, or had been a party to an appropriation clause similar to that of the 983 noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, but respecting this Catholic Church which he had sworn to maintain,—if he had done all this, he for one would not complain of the hon. and learned Member if he should accuse him of being guilty of something approaching to perjury. One of the principal motives which had induced him to call the attention of the House to the subject was to give a warning to the Catholic Members who had taken this oath, and to show that there was one Protestant Member in that House who would give them a warning that they were in danger. That surely was not saying too much. It was at least possible that they might run the risk of committing sin. If any one would tell him that he was so near the brink of perdition, he would look at the question with scrupulous anxiety. If he (Sir R. Inglis) took such an oath in Belgium or any Catholic country, not to endanger the security of the Catholic Church established there, he would consider he incurred a great and fearful responsibility by violating it. It was a solemn engagement he would religiously keep; and if he were a party to such a measure as received the support of the hon. Members opposite, he would not blame them if they had charged him with the offence of perjury. He was aware that that hon. and learned Member, in a letter which he addressed to the editor of the Morning Chronicle, had challenged him in terms, certainly of great personal courtesy, to bring forward some distinct and substantive motion on that subject. Now, he had several reasons for not complying with such a proposition. In the first place, the notice which the hon. and learned Member had given was absolute—the motion which he (Sir R. Inglis) had given, was conditional. The hon. Member wished him to reverse their position. The hon. Member, he believed, had withdrawn his notice.—[Mr. Sheil: No.]—He had supposed so, from not seeing it stand in the list of notices printed after the Whitsun holidays. If the hon. Member had not withdrawn his motion, his (Sir R. Inglis's) first ground for not assenting to his proposition was strengthened. Then, in the next place, he was not to be taught the tactics of his campaign from a general of the opposite army. He was not to be taught by the hon. and learned Member the way in which he (Sir R. Inglis) was to support and sustain the Protestant Church of Ireland. As the hon. and learned Mem- 984 ber for Dublin might object to the word "followers," as applied to his party, he would only say of them, that that hon. and learned Member, and the party with which he acted, were the leaders of that House. If he should bring forward such a proposition as that alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary, he was quite sure of this—that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, and the thirty-five Members that generally concurred with him, and who were in fact at present the leaders of that House, would have easily negatived it, in the same triumphant and victorious manner that they had carried the Irish Church Bill. There was another reason for his not complying with the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposition. He was told by him to bring forward some proposition declaratory of the construction of the Catholic Oath. If he did so, he should be beaten, precisely in the way he had already stated, by the Irish Members. Then he was told to bring in a Bill on the subject. Now, in the first place, he could have no reason to expect to be able to carry any such Bill if the thirty-five Irish Members should not abstain from voting. Of course, too, he should have no reason to suppose, should the Irish Members withdraw, that his Majesty's Government would give him their support? He had indeed no reason to suppose that if he brought forward any substantive measure on the subject he should be able to carry it. He, therefore, took this way to give a warning to the hon. and learned Member, and those who acted with him, Catholic Members of that House, that they were incurring a great risk of perjury in what they did. So far for the reasons which had induced him not to bring forward any substantive motion on this subject. The hon. and learned Member for Tipperary was the first Roman Catholic Member who had ever originated a proposition in that House that tended to "weaken or disturb the Protestant religion or Government." There was an essential distinction between his case and that of any other individual. When he gave his notice, he rose from the very spot which he now occupied on the Treasury bench, on that bench where sat the Members of a Government which he and his party had been the principal means of placing in power, and without whose support that Government could not exist for a single day,—a Govern- 985 ment, in fact, that would be floundering in the dirt, if the honorable and learned Member for Dublin should withdraw his support. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin, he could assure him, miscalculated the value of his support. His influence and power, numerically at least, were not to be despised by any Government. Therefore, he would say that if that hon. and learned Member should withdraw his support from the present Government, it would be left floundering in the dirt. It was on that account that he felt the importance of the Motion of which notice was given by the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary, proceeding as it did from such a party. He was anxious also to prevent the Irish Roman Catholic Members from sheltering themselves under the belief that they were, in supporting such a motion as that of Lord John Russell, supporting the Protestant Church. He had not heard the hon. Member, or any of his party, say that their object in supporting that measure was to strengthen the Protestant Church. Therefore, that slender film which had been thrown over the case by the English Protestant Members would scarcely cover their eyes. There was another distinction, besides, to which he would call the attention of the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary, and those who, with him, had taken the Catholic Oath, namely, that the Protestant Members of the Legislature had not taken an oath to support the Church. When, then, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin asked of what use was the Catholic Emancipation Bill if the Roman Catholic Members should not be at liberty to vote upon that and all other subjects, he would say, in reply, that it was not for him and those who had always resisted Catholic Emancipation to tell the House what was the use of that concession. It was for those who had supported that measure to state what good it had produced either for Ireland or England. He had never seen reason to change his opinion on the subject. That concession had been productive of unmixed evil to the Protestant Church and the Protestant community in both countries. This notice, which had been given by the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary, changed the character of the discussion on the Irish Church, and justified him in the course he was now taking. He might certainly have been justified in taking that 986 course at an earlier period, in consequence of the speeches made by some Catholic Members in the discussion on the Irish Church Appropriation Clause, but then they might shelter themselves under the plea that that was a measure proposed by Protestant Members, and one therefore that could not injure the Protestant Church. But they could not do so in the present instance. After all, the whole question must terminate in the construction of the oath itself. Now, how were they to get at the construction of it, or of any oath? First of all, they must refer to its grammatical interpretation; secondly, they were to look to the intention of the person who imposed it, to the animum imponentis. How was that to be collected? By the speeches made at the time by the proposers of the oath. How were the intentions of those who took the oath to be collected? Certainly from the speeches and declarations made by them at the time of the framing of the oath. Did any one deny that the primâ facie interpretation of the Catholic oath was that which he (Sir R. Inglis) put upon it. What was the oath—"I do swear, that I will defend to the utmost of my power the settlement of property within this realm, as established by the laws; and I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention, to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm." In the debates on this oath in the Committee on the Catholic Relief Bill, he and his hon. Colleague each proposed amendments to render this part of the oath more stringent, and Mr. Harrison Batsley proposed a third amendment still more stringent, and including all cases that could possibly be affected by the voting of Roman Catholic Members. All these amendments were negatived, not on the ground that the original oath was not intended to comprehend the objects they had in view, but that it was sufficient without them. Would any man say that that was not the construction put upon the oath at the time by the persons who framed and sanctioned it? His (Sir R. Inglis's) amendment at the time was negatived on the ground that it was mere surplusage—that it was not necessary, and that the oath as it stood would secure all the objects it had in view. Such was the language of Sir R. Peel and of Dr. Lushington in opposing his amendment, which was negatived. There could be no doubt, 987 then, of the meaning originally attached to the oath by those who framed it, or by those who had consented, most reluctantly indeed, to take it. The oath proceeded thus:—"And I do solemnly swear, that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion, or Protestant Government in the United Kingdom: and I do solemnly, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, that I do make this declaration, and every part thereof, in the plain and ordinary sense of the words of this oath, without any evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatsoever. So help me God." Could any man say that that oath was not intended to secure the settlement of the Protestant religion and Protestant Government as established by law in this country? He saw, at the commencement of the Session, one of the Catholic Members, in taking the oath, lay particular stress upon the words "as established by the law." He knew very well that the hon. Member meant to intimate by that, that he was at liberty, in his legislative character, to do what he would to alter the law. That was the doctrine referred to by Mr. Eneas M'Donnell in his very able pamphlet on this subject. Did the hon. and learned Member deny that the pamphlet was an able one? ["Yes," from Mr. O'Connell.] If the hon. Member denied that Mr. M'Donnell was a man of ability, he (Sir R. Inglis) must only pity the Catholic body who for six years had intrusted the management of all their concerns in this country to that Gentleman. That Gentleman had received the highest testimonials to his character and to the value of his services. If the hon. Member would deny the value of Mr. M'Donnell's testimony, he would not deny the value of the distinction which he drew in this instance. The correctness of that distinction he denied. If he had taken an oath not to enter a given field as long as it existed enclosed, would he be justified by open force in destroying the fence or unhinging the gate? He had solemnly sworn not to enter this enclosure, and supposing that he did not employ his own skill for the purpose, would he be justified in taking advantage of the skill or arm of another to make his entry there? Would not his oath be equally violated whether he entered by his own means or by the 988 aid of others? Now, the Catholic Oath was intended to protect an enclosure, and that enclosure was the Protestant church. The Roman Catholic Members had sworn not to enter that enclosure, and they should abstain from doing so, whether by their own hand or that of others. He had never heard that an oath was to be construed according to the mind of the man who took it, but according to the animum imponentis. Previous to the Emancipation Bill, Mr. W. Horton published a pamphlet, in which he enumerated all the possible cases from which Roman Catholic Members might be excluded from voting. But it proceeded on an original error, for if Catholic Members were at all to enter that House, they were fit to legislate on this Question in the abstract. They had, however, taken an oath not to legislate on it and other subjects, which were reserved for the Protestant Members. It was subject to that restriction that the Catholic Members came there. Would the hon. Member for Tipperary deny the fact? Would he deny that he stated at the time, that should emancipation be passed, there was not another question that agitated the public mind in Ireland, such as tithes, and the union would have an end? The true construction of the oath was apparent therefore even from the declarations made at the time by those who took it. He could quote many such instances that occurred at the time. At that period a petition was presented to the House from a Catholic Gentleman, which excited much attention. He referred to the sense in which the Roman Catholics understood the oath. He stated that they (the Roman Catholics) would be the only people in the empire who would be bound by an oath to protect the Church, and he asked why should they introduce such a distinction into the Legislature. Through a too easy faith in the strength of such a declaration, the Legislature admitted the Roman Catholics to that House. With respect to the construction of an oath, they were to regard its grammatical construction, the animus imponentis, and the animus of those who took it. They had in construing it, and those who took it had in construing it, nothing to do with the consequences that might be said to arise from its observance. With that question they had nothing to do. He had to apologise to the House for the time he had occupied its attention. The subject was one of the 989 greatest importance, and in speaking on it, though he had not compromised a principle or shrunk from avowing his opinions, he had endeavoured to say nothing offensive to the feelings of any hon. Member from whom he might have the misfortune to differ on this Question.
§ On the question being put, that the petition be laid upon the Table,
§ Mr. Sheil
said the petition, although signed by respectable names, commenced with a misrepresentation of his notice, and concluded with a calumny upon the entire body of the Catholic Members; but names, no matter how respectable, could not give validity to falsehood, while on men of great ostensible piety, and exceedingly ostentatious religion, the deliberate and malignant dissemination of calumny reflected the deepest discredit. The hon. Baronet, who, with so much poisoned suavity, had given utterance to such gross imputations, had stated at the outset that the petition was not intrusted to the Members for Birmingham or for Warwickshire, but to himself. The petitioners, indeed, had selected an appropriate medium in order to give vent to their rancorous devotion. But the hon. Baronet had omitted to state that there was a counter petition, signed by a vast body of the people of Birmingham, passed at a public meeting, with the High Bailiff of that important town in the chair, in which the abuses of the Irish Church were vehemently denounced. The petition from the charitable religionists, who imputed perjury to all those who dared to dissent from them in the construction of words susceptible of a variety of interpretations, commenced their statement with a gross misrepresentation of his notice. They had suppressed the fact that the notice referred only to persons to be hereafter appointed. He (Mr. Sheil) had been misstated in the same way by a part of the Conservative press. He thought it necessary to defend himself; and The Times, a journal which certainly did not take the same view of the Irish Church as he did, did him the justice to admit that he had cleared himself of the charge adduced against him. He (Mr. Sheil) had no desire to deprive the actual incumbents of their livelihood; his notice adverted to the persons to be hereafter appointed to sinecure benefices without congregations, and of which, even by Lord Stanley's Church Temporalities' Bill, the suppression 990 was contemplated. Let the working clergy of the Protestant Church be paid liberally and amply; let their incomes be even augmented where not commensurate with their labours; but where there were no parishioners, let there be no parson. To show the justice of his notice, he would advert to the case of the Bishop of Ferns, whose income had been reduced 4,000l. a-year, because he had notice—to the case of the Dean of Down, against whom unfounded allegations had been preferred because he consented to relinquish a part of his income in consequence of previous notice, or what was equivalent to it—to civil cases in which the same principle had been acted on—to the case of the late Mr. James Brougham, who was held to be disentitled to compensation by the Commissioners of Bankrupts, who, having been appointed after notice of the intended suppression of their offices, were dismissed without compensation—and to the Irish Chancery Act, by which compensation was given to officers who had had no notice; and it was enacted that any persons to be afterwards named to office in that Court should not be deemed entitled to compensation if their offices should be abolished. There could be no sound reason for not applying the same principle to the sinecures of the Irish Church to be hereafter suppressed, taking care to protect the rights of existing incumbents without notice; and at all events, it was a monstrous proceeding to charge those with perjury who should sustain such a project. The hon. Baronet had expatiated on the Catholic Oath, had taken on himself to attach a particular construction to it, and then proceeded to brand the character of every Roman Catholic who dared to dissent from his arbitrary interpretation. By what right had the hon. Baronet done this? Who had invested him with this authority? What was there in his character, his conduct, his active, political life, which should induce Roman Catholics to regulate their consciences by his adjudications? The hon. Baronet had Said, that Roman Catholics ought to be slow in exposing themselves to a charge of perjury. The hon. Baronet ought to be slow in preferring such a charge, especially as his motives were liable to imputation. He had himself, in the course of his speech, betrayed the feelings by which he was actuated. His great object was to get 991 up that vile, No Popery cry, which had been raised, in 1807, by the very men who afterwards, in 1829, passed the very measure which they had made the groundwork of their accusations. The same project was now resorted to; the fanatical passions were appealed to; the basest calumnies, the foulest falsehoods, were disseminated in order to overthrow the Administration, which the hon. Baronet declares to be sustained by the Catholic Members, and exhibits his genuine feelings in the phraseology which he employs, when he says that the Ministry, without such aid, would be laid in the dirt. Of the elegance of the expression it was unnecessary to say anything; its only value consisted in the development of the hon. Gentleman's emotions, which it affords. Such then was the state of his mind. Entertaining towards the Ministers a deep, and in him a very natural animosity—a hater of all Reform—an opponent of every measure of amelioration that ever was introduced—the enemy of the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, of Catholic Emancipation, of Parliamentary Reform—the worshipper of every abuse, the idolator of corruption in all its forms, the only man in this House who had had the effrontery to stand up in defence of those sinks of municipal depravity the Corporations; the hon. Member, influenced at once by his prejudices, his interests, and his expectations, knowing that the existing Government would be apt to disturb sinecurism in all its recesses, and to set aside all corrupt and flagitious commissions, felt a deep animosity to the Government, and fretted and fumed at the support which they derived from the Irish Members. The hon. Member's motives were as impeachable as those of the individuals whom he assailed, and he ought to have hesitated before he exposed himself to the charge to which he has rendered himself liable in preferring so unqualified, and, if it be unfounded, an accusation so ignominious, not to those against whom it was urged, but by whom it was advanced. How easy it would be to retort upon the hon. Gentleman—how easy it would be to represent him as a trafficker upon the public delusion, all whose importance was derived from his lending himself as a utensil to fanaticism, as an instrument of rancorous and detestable bigotry! But that course he would not adopt. He was willing to make allowance 992 for the hon. Gentleman, and to attribute his conduct to his want of due consideration of the matter in which he had been engaged. The hon. Baronet had not had leisure sufficient to make himself fully acquainted with the subject. He was, as a conscientious man, who had taken his oath to perform his official duties with fidelity, bound to give up his entire mind, and dedicate all his faculties to the several commissions connected with the East Indies in which he had been engaged. For the last twenty-five years he had been employed in an enviable way. Safe from all vicissitudes of Government, secure from all changes of Administration, he had been receiving his 1,800l. a-year for services, of which few people knew anything; and as he was a moral and conscientious person, it was to be presumed that he had been engrossed by his lucrative functions, and determined to give value for the thirty-one thousand pounds which he had received. The hon. Baronet was at that moment still in reception of his large annual salary, and still engaged in his arduous duties, and it was strange that for sinecurism in any form, whether ecclesiastical or civil, he should feel a sympathy. He should exercise towards the hon. Baronet more charity than he had experienced at his hands, and attribute to his complicated occupations the delusion under which he laboured, and to which he referred those accusations which originated rather in ignorance than in any disreputable animosity to his political opponents. As to the Catholic Oath, how could it be regarded as more binding than the Coronation Oath? It was true that the hon. Baronet had insisted that the King would be perjured by passing Catholic Emancipation but who to the hon. Baronet gave heed? After all, when the hon. Baronet had commenced by charging the Duke of Wellington with subornation of perjury in advising the King to pass Emancipation, and when he considered the Melbourne Government as guilty of subornation of perjury in recommending the King to carry the Resolution of Lord John Russell into effect, the extension of his charge of perjury to the Catholic Members ought to be regarded, if not as contemptible, at least as extravagant. The Ministers had declared, that in passing the surplus Resolution, they did not mean to subvert the Church, or weaken the Protestant religion. Did they speak a 993 falsehood in so declaring? It would be answered in the negative: then, if the Ministers did not state a falsehood, how could it be fairly urged that the Roman Catholic Members were forsworn? As to the oath itself, why did the hon. Member suppress the important fact, that Sir C. Wetherell had remonstrated against its vagueness, and had declared that it could not restrain any conscientious man from voting in favour of a diminution of the Church revenues? Why were not stronger words introduced into the oath? Why were not Catholics compelled to swear that they would not, by their votes in Parliament, reduce the revenues of the Establishment? Why did not the hon. Gentleman bring in a Bill for the introduction of words to that effect? Why did not he move a declaration of the House as to the meaning of the oath? The hon. Baronet did not dare to do it. He contented himself with his virulent innuendos and his poisoned insinuations. He did not venture to meet the Catholics in fair, open, and honourable warfare; but under the cloak of piety carried the stiletto with which their characters were to be stabbed, and he was to assassinate their reputations. He (Mr. Sheil) defied the hon. Baronet to bring the Question forward in such a way as to obtain the opinion of the House. He challenged him to put his construction to the vote. The hon. Baronet would not accept this tender. It was more convenient to him to give vent to his religious animosities and his political detestations through the medium which was afforded by the presentation of a contumelious petition. The hon. Member concluded by declaring, that it was not his intention to subvert the Church, but to effect the reduction of the wealth of the Church, and its adaptation to the real spiritual wants of the Irish Protestants.
Mr. O' Connell
was never more unwilling to trespass on the time of the House than on this occasion, but his duty required him to take some part in this discussion. The hon. Baronet had made the grossest charge—with avowed pain, indeed—but this was poor consolation to those upon whom the injury was inflicted: the language of persecutors was always compassionate. The familiar of the Spanish Inquisition who had burnt the first Protestant, had, no doubt, talked of the suffering he himself endured to inflict suffering: when Calvin roasted Servetus, 994 he lamented over his own cruelty; and Cranmer, before he burnt off his own hand, had grieved at the agonies of his victims. It was easy to turn up the whites of the eyes, but it was no consolation to the sufferer. Cruelty consisted as much in calumny as it did in corporeal pain. What right had the hon. Baronet to arraign the Roman Catholic Members for breaking their oaths? How had he suffered in person or in property by it, or what inconvenience had it occasioned to him? By what had the Roman Catholics been excluded for ages from Parliament—by what? By the scrupulous observance of an oath. The hon. Baronet was fat, sleek, and contented, and why was he to come forward with charges of perjury in his hum-drum manner, drawling on for half an hour together, professing the utmost regret, and making his hum-drum as tedious as his charge was offensive? Did he think the Roman Catholic Members entered the House without having seriously deliberated on the nature and terms of the oath? The hon. Baronet stood forward as the champion of the Church, but did he not know that the Church to which he belonged had been one of the most intolerant, until of late years it had done what it could to wipe off the stain? As to the terms of the oath, he would tell the House what interpretation he (Mr. O'Connell) put upon it: if he were wrong, let his error be explained; but he challenged the hon. Baronet to meet him foot to foot. It consisted of three Clauses: first, the Roman Catholic Member swore to "defend to the utmost of his power the settlement of properly within this realm, as established by law." The hon. Baronet contended that this included Ecclesiastical property. He (Mr. O'Connell) admitted it; but it also included civil property; and it was not contended that he had committed perjury when he voted on the Bill regarding fines and recoveries—for taking away title by dower and remodelling title by courtesy—when he voted upon the Statute of Limitations, and gave a right to persons who had it not, and took it from those who had. No man was absurd enough to carry his prejudices so far as to say, that he had violated his oath on these occasions. The next clause was—"I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment as settled by law within this realm," That at once 995 raised the question of the King's Coronation Oath. The Church Establishment in Ireland was not now the same as when he first took the oath—it had then twenty-two Bishops, and now it had only twelve. The hon. Baronet would admit that the Bishops were a very essential part of the Church Establishment, yet Parliament had sheered off nearly half the number. Was he (Mr. O'Connell) bound to insist that the twenty-two Bishops should be restored? The oath was, in fact, a declaration of obedience to the law, and precluded the use of force, fraud, or violence; but it was not meant to prevent him from legislating on the subject. There was a third branch of the oath that had been mixed up with the other two: it was—"And I do solemnly swear that I never will exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or Protestant Government in this kingdom," He had always felt reluctant that the words "Protestant Government" should be introduced, because they were not precise and intelligible. The Belgic Government, to which the hon. Baronet had referred, was not a Catholic Government, although the people were Catholic and the Church was Catholic, for the King was Protestant, and in this country every man in the Government, excepting the King and the two Chancellors might be Catholic, and he thought the hon. Baronet would agree with him, that to call this a "Protestant Government" was rather a forced expression. But he had taken the words in the meaning of those who offered the oath, and applied them to the existing Government. He had also sworn that he would not use any privilege to which he was entitled to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion. The Protestant Dissenters were made to swear this and a great deal more, for they undertook not to use any "power, authority, or influence," to injure or weaken the Protestant Church. Yet the Protestant Dissenter's oath was framed prior to that of the Roman Catholic Members. Then came the question whether privilege meant power or authority? If it did, why were not those words employed? Privilege had been defined privata lex, and privilege and franchise were distinguished from rights and duties. As a Member of Parliament he had both rights and duties; it was his right to legislate, and his duty to legislate properly. He 996 came then to the next clause, which related to the weakening and disturbing the Protestant religion. And here he would say, that he watched the hon. Baronet even when he did not think that he was watching him, to ascertain whether he would have the resolution to assert that money was the Protestant religion. He heard the hon. Baronet say, that money and religion were different things—that religion was everything awful and solid, and belonged to a kingdom not of this world—that money was the mammon of this world. Supposing privileges to mean his duty as a Member of Parliament; then came the second question, and they differed as to the meaning of the word religion. It had been observed by some men at Birmingham, whose taunts he treated with the contempt they deserved—taunts which originated in party feeling, which were the more bitter, because the individuals had been defeated in an election—those persons had the impudence to taunt the Irish Catholic Members with perjury. He was, however, prepared to defend the vote he had given in favour of Lord John Russell's Resolution, which recommended, after providing for the spiritual wants of the people in Ireland, that the surplus should be applied to the purposes of moral and religious education. He was not embarrassed by this Motion at all; he did vote for it, and he intended to vote for it again. With respect to the spiritual wants, he provided for them in the Resolution, and it was the surplus only with which he would deal, and that he would apply to the people's moral and religious education. Such was the nature of the distinction he drew between religion and property. Let them look to the census for Ireland, and they would find that there were 800,000 Protestants, and 6,400,000 Catholics. Were there no Protestant Dissenters in this House? Would the hon. Baronet say the Protestant Dissenters had no religion? The hon. Baronet who had before been not very complimentary to that class of persons, had on the present occasion said something very like this. This was certain, they had no revenues; and if money and religion were the same, they ought to have no religion. Such was his interpretation of this oath; if the House interpreted it differently, let them say so. He was excluded before by an oath, and he was ready to be so again. He laughed to scorn the meetings, the 997 town fooleries, of certain learned theologians out of this House; but he submitted to the House—and he put it again and again to the conscience of every man who heard him—let his interpretation be condemned by the House, and he would go out, and remain out, till the question was settled. But it was said, that Catholics, having taken the oath, felt at liberty to infringe it. Any man who took an unjust oath was bound not to keep it; but the perjury consisted in the taking of such an oath. The doctrine of his Church was, not to take the oath and then break it, but not to take it at all. It was time, surely, for Christians to give up calumny. The Protestant party in Ireland had already been deprived of the ascendancy of political power—let them give up the ascendancy of calumny; let them not console themselves in their defeated bigotry by throwing out false accusations. In the absence of the remnant of that bigotry, let them not indulge in a calumny too horrid to be endured, and too atrocious for any Christian to utter against another.
§ The debate was accordingly adjourned to the next day.