HC Deb 13 June 1839 vol 48 cc196-204
Mr. Dillon Browne

presented a petition from the Catholic archbishop and clergy of the diocese of Tuam, from which, as it was of very great length, he said, that he would content himself with reading the following passages:— That your petitioners beg to approach your honourable House with the unfeigned assurance of their devotion to the Throne and person of our most gracious Sovereign. That while 'they give unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's,' they cannot be unmindful of the other precept that issued from the same divine source, of giving to "God the things that are God's." That the religious education of their respective flocks is a duty exclusively belonging to the spiritual authority of the pastors of the Church, and which they cannot resign into any other hands without a renunciation of those obligations which they owe to its divine founder. The petitioners beg to impress upon your honourable House, that religion, to be effective, must be definite in its creed; and that any plan that would attempt to combine the discordant tenets of different sects of Christianity in a vague belief, would be utterly subversive of its foundation, and equally at variance with that solicitude which Protestants feel for the articles of the Established Church, as well as with the zeal with which Catholics have clung to their faith under the most adverse fortunes. The petitioners further beg to observe, that in the diocese of Tuam alone, there is a Catholic population of four hundred and seventy thousand persons, and there is not more than one to fifty of all other religious creeds; that the petitioners conceive it to be utterly unreasonable, that for one in fifty they should submit to a system of education fashioned for a mixed population of all Christian sects, and regulated by a manifest preponderance of Protestant principles and influence. The petitioners, therefore, seeing no hope of accommodation with a body whose pretensions are so arbitrary, that they cannot be submitted to without the most imminent peril to the Catholic faith, since it undisguisedly supersedes the authority by which that faith is protested, take this solemn opportunity of assuring your honourable House, that henceforward they hold no connection whatever, pecuniary or otherwise, with that board, and they will use all the spiritual influence of their sacred office to withdraw the children of their respective parishes from so dangerous a connexion.

Mr. C. Law

begged to observe, that by the Roman Catholic Relief Act, any Roman Catholic clergyman who assumed the title of a dignitary of the Protestant Church subjected himself to a penalty. He begged to ask the hon. Member who presented the petition, whether he was correct in supposing, that it purported to be the petition of a person calling himself the Archbishop of Tuam? If such were the case, he should feel it his duty to move, that the petition be rejected.

Mr. Dillon Browne

The petition is signed "John M'Hale." It is described in the heading as the petition of the archbishop and clergy of the diocese of Tuam, but it is not so signed. The signature "John M'Hale" has no such title or character attached to it.

Mr. Law

then moved, that the petition emanating from a person falsely assuming the title of Archbishop of Tuam be rejected.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge had himself stated, that which was false.

Sir R. Inglis

called upon the Speaker to protect the Members of that House from the attacks of the hon. Member for Dublin. That hon. and learned Member was not amenable to what he might think fit to say out of that House, but on this occasion in applying the term "false" to the statement of the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, the hon. Member for Dublin had been disorderly; and he called on the Speaker to enforce order, and to compel the hon. Gentleman to withdraw that expression, to apologise to his hon. and learned Friend, and to the House.

The Speaker

certainly considered, that the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for the city of Dublin, in making use of the term "false" had been most disorderly, and he called upon him to apologise for having made use of that expression.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that as such was the opinion of the Chair he at once withdrew the expression, and yielded to the opinion so pronounced in the fullest manner.

The Speaker

The question is, that the petition be now brought up.

Mr. O'Connell

thought the question would more strictly arise, when the question was, that the petition be laid on the Table.

Mr. Dillon

Browne brought up the petition, and the heading was read by the clerk at the Table, which was stated to be the humble petition of the Archbishop of Tuam.

Sir R. Inglis

having then examined the petition, said it was signed John M'Hale, with a cross affixed, and there appeared to be an erasure after that signature. He begged to ask the hon. Member for Mayo, whether he was cognizant of any erasure? To his eye the erasure was quite apparent.

Mr. Dillon Browne

would explain how the erasure had been made. The petition had been forwarded to him by the Archbishop of Tuam—he believed the only Archbishop of Tuam now existing—and attached to that name were the words "Archbishop of Tuam." In forwarding the petition to him, Dr. M'Hale stated, that if the presentation of the petition with that term attached to it should be considered irregular, he might erase it if he pleased. Deeming that addition to the name to be irregular—wishing to avoid any unnecessary discussion—and not supposing, that any objection would be stated against the receiving of the petition on such an account, he had erased the words "Archbishop of Tuam." It might be irregular for Dr. M'Hale to describe himself as Archbishop of Tuam; but there was no law to prevent him from so describing Dr. M'Hale if he thought tit. He never could suppose, that the House would evince such an intolerant disposition as to reject the petition, simply because it proceeded from Roman Catholic clergymen.

Mr. Law

trusted, that the House would not allow the petition to be received. The hon. Member had fairly stated, that it originally bore the style and title of Archbishop of Tuam, in addition to the signature of John M'Hale, which title so affixed to the name the hon. Member had, on authority, removed, to avoid discussion. But still the petition in its heading purported to be the petition of the Archbishop of Tuam, although no such dignitary by law existed. The hon. Member had stated truly, that the Archbishop of the Protestant church ceased to exist, and that the person assuming the title of Archbishop of Tuam might not have brought himself within the meaning of the statute by being merely so designated by another; but when Dr. M'Hale himself assumed the title belonging to the Protestant church, he assumed a character denied to him by law. He, therefore, submitted to the House, that it would be highly improper to receive the petition, the best defence for which was, that it purported to emanate from a person who legally did not exist at all. It would be trifling with the House, when an Act of Parliament had decided that no man should assume a title belonging to the Protestant clergy of Ireland, if any one were now acknowledged by the House in such a capacity. He trusted the House would reject the petition, vindicate its dignity, and support the law of the land.

Mr. Warburton

contended, that according to all precedent and practice the petition should be received. If this were a petition from an individual describing himself to be the Archbishop of Tuam, and if the House thought fit to act with strictness, they might in such a case have rejected the petition; but this was not the petition of an individual. It came from the clergy, also, of a particular quarter, professing the Roman Catholic religion. Therefore, in so far as it was the petition of the Roman Catholic clergy, it ought unquestionably to be received. What was more common than for the chairman of meetings to sign petitions to that House in the name and behalf of such meetings? The House could not and did not receive such petitions as the petitions of such meeting, but they always received them as the petition of the individual whose name was attached. On the same principle, this petition should be received as the petition of the Roman Catholic clergyman who signed it.

Mr. Williams Wynn

regretted, that a petition so headed should have been presented to the House. It was unpleasant to decide on such questions, and he wished much it could have been avoided on this occasion. But as the attention of the House had been drawn to the subject, it certainly appeared that the petition was described as emanating from a person assuming a title to which he had no right, and, therefore, they were bound to reject it. It would be a neglect of their duty to receive it. If it had been merely described as the petition of John M'Hale, archbishop, and other Roman Catholic clergy, he should not have objected to receive the petition, because the Protestant church recognized that clerical rank in the Roman Catholic faith. But here a title was assumed claiming jurisdiction as such within a particular province in Ireland. That was directly con- trary to the statute which expressly prohibited any Roman Catholic archbishop or bishop in Ireland, from assuming the style or title of dignitaries belonging to the Protestant church. The hon. Member for Mayo had, therefore, judged right; and in stating, that he had made the erasure of the words originally attached to the signature by the authority of Dr. M'Hale, he only regretted that he had not also been authorised by that gentleman to take away from the heading the descriptive title of the Archbishop of the province of Tuam.

Mr. O'Connell

said, the hon. Member who had just sat down was totally mistaken in saying, that there was any law prohibiting a Roman Catholic archbishop from taking the title of Archbishop of Tuam. There was now no such province in the Established Church, and, therefore, there was no contravention of the Emancipation Act. And it could not be alleged that there was any offence committed by him in so doing against the common law, for in point of fact at common law he was the only person now existing who could assume the title. The hon. and learned Member for the University of Cambridge had himself admitted that no action would lie against Dr. M'Hale for assuming it. Let them try the question on the petition. Lord Stanley's act had destroyed the title in the Protestant church, and therefore there was no assumption of the style or titles of the dignitaries of the Protestant Church. There was, therefore, no breach of the statute, and Dr. M'Hale was, therefore, perfectly entitled to describe himself as Archbishop of Tuam.

Sir R. Inglis

was not prepared to support the rejection of the petition. The view he took of the case was this. The party by himself or his agent, had erased the words "Archbishop of Tuam," and thus had withdrawn his illegal claim to that title, and virtually admitted, therefore, his knowledge and conviction to the House, that the title which he was at first disposed to assume was not tenable. He had thus in a public document formally and publicly renounced his claim to the title of Archbishop of Tuam. It was on that ground, that he did not feel himself warranted in voting against the receiving of this petition. Although the petition was headed as that of the Roman Catholic Bishop and clergy of Tuam, non constat, that those signing it claimed those titles. It was important, however, as the title of Archbishop of Tuam had been once assumed to know, that it had been formally withdrawn.

Mr. D. Browne

said, the hon. Baronet had completely misunderstood him. He begged to say that Dr. M'Hale had not the most distant intention of renouncing the title. Dr. M'Hale had written to him authorising him to erase the designation, if contrary to the privileges of the House, and thus cause the petition to be rejected; but he still maintained his claim to the title, believing that he was the only existing Archbishop of Tuam.

Mr. Freshfield

said, the House ought to reject the petition. It had been argued that the whole difficulty was removed, because the hon. Member who offered it to the House had erased the words "Archbishop of Tuam," originally attached to the signature. That, in his opinion, did not at all alter the case. It was still the petition of the same persons, and their character was not altered by that subsequent erasure. It had been drawn up and signed by Dr. M'Hale, in the assumed style and title of Archbishop of Tuam, and if he had merely put his mark to it, that would have been an adherence on his part to the description given of him and the other petitioners in the heading of the document. That was the main point, the adoption of the title. It had been argued, that the petition might be received as coming from the Roman Catholic clergy, but if the petition were received it would be entered on their records according to the description in its heading. He should vote for the rejection of the petition, therefore, because the petition was offered by Dr. M'Hale, as Archbishop of Tuam—because the hon. Member for Mayo had distinctly stated, that Dr. M'Hale would not withdraw or compromise his claim to the title—and because he believed it was essential to take that course for the maintenance of true Protestant feeling, and for the vindication of the character and dignity of the House.

Dr. Lushington

had been pondering in his mind what probably would be the effect of this debate on the minds of the people of Ireland. He begged to remind the House that it was a matter of the greatest importance to retain the confidence, and, if possible, the esteem and affection of seven millions of their fellow- subjects, although they happened to profess a faith different from the Established Church. When this debate went forth to the public, and when the people or Ireland saw a petition emanating not only from the chief Prelate of their Church, but from other clergymen of that Church—when they saw such a petition rejected on such ground of informality, he must say that it would carry conviction to the minds of the people of Ireland that the House was anxious and astute to avail themselves of every technical difficulty which the law allowed to shut their ears to their petitions, and to prevent an inquiry into the grievances of which they complained. He felt that if the House resolved to reject this petition from being influenced by the high Protestant feeling expressed by hon. Members opposite, they would give rise to much cause for offence on the part of the Roman Catholic people of Ireland. Now that the union had taken place, and the Emancipation Bill was passed, the House ought to consider petitions, come from what quarter they might, whether from Roman Catholics, Churchmen, or Dissenters, all in the same light, and on a footing of equality. Let the House consider the objection itself. He would suppose for a moment that it was a misdescription of one individual in the petition. It might be possible, perhaps, to point out one instance; but he defied any one to show him generally a petition, signed by persons giving themselves certain descriptions, unless in the case of corporations, where the House had examined strictly into the legal rights of the parties to the titles or characters which they assumed. It was said that a character was assumed by a person signing this petition not allowed by law. That was the charge. It was not asserted to be a violation of the Act of Parliament. If Dr. M'Hale had assumed a title belonging to any existing Protestant body, and if the House had evidence of that fact, then they might have grounds for deciding to reject the petition. But there was no one who claimed to be the Protestant Archbishop of Tuam. The case was, therefore, limited to that; and, under these circumstances, there was no provision in law to prevent a Roman Catholic bishop from assuming the title of Archbishop of Tuam. There was no person who could say that there was an Archbishop of Tuam in law. Was it worth while, then—nay, was it wise, was it prudent, or even decent, upon an objection of this kind, to reject a petition containing a statement of the feelings and opinions of a large portion of the clergy and people of Ireland?

Sir G. Clerk

was surprised at the warmth evinced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman on a question of mere form in their proceedings. He agreed with that right hon. and learned Gentleman that to object to the reception of a petition coming from the Catholic clergy of Ireland upon a subject on which they appeared to take a deep interest, upon a mere point of form, was a step which ought not to be taken He thought it was very easy for the hon. Member for Mayo to escape from the difficulty. That hon. Member had stated, that he was authorised by Dr. M'Hale to strike off the adjunct of Archbishop of Tuam to his signature in the petition why not also strike out the same designation at the head of the petition, and then the petition would appear to be from the Roman Catholic clergy in certain parts of Ireland. The noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on a former occasion stated, that he had refused to present an address to her Majesty to which a Catholic Archbishop had signed his name as Archbishop. This being so, he hoped the hon. Member for Mayo would not object to withdraw the petition for the purpose of making the alteration suggested.

Mr. Dillon Browne

said, that although he had been authorised by Dr. M'Hale to strike off the adjunct to his signature, yet he had no authority to make any other alteration in the petition, inasmuch as it was not merely the petition of Dr. M'Hale, but of a large portion of the Catholic clergy.

Mr. Goulburn

suggested, that by striking out the word "Tuam" at the head of the petition, the difficulty might be obviated.

Lord John Russell

confessed that he was unable to give any very competent opinion upon this subject, because a great part of the discussion had taken place before he entered the House. He wished, however, that the House should be relieved from the difficulty of deciding upon the question. There was an obvious objection to the hon. Member for Mayo making any alteration in the petition; on the other hand, the statement that it was the petition (among others) of the Archbishop of Tuam, placed he House in a situation of very great difficulty; because, if they rejected the petition on that ground, it might be conceived to be a captious objection; and yet, at the same time, it was obvious, that to receive such a petition would be contrary to the spirit of the Act of Parliament—the description evidently militating against the spirit of the Act, although it might not against the letter. As the hon. Gentleman had stated, that he had no authority to withdraw the petition or to alter the wording of it, he should certainly feel compelled, if the question were pressed, to vote against its being received.

Mr. M. J. O'Connell

admitted, it might be true, as the noble Lord said, that this was a violation of an Act of Parliament, but that Act was in its nature a penal one against the people of Ireland, and therefore he was not inclined to extend its operation one jot beyond what was in strictness the letter of the Act. It was admitted, that there was no violation of the letter of the law; it would, therefore, produce a strange effect in Ireland, to hear it said that the House of Commons was inclined to do what no court of law ever did, namely, extend a penal Act beyond the letter.

The House divided on the question, that the petition do lie on the table: Ayes 82; Noes 165: Majority 83.

List of the AYES.
Anson, Sir G. Evans, W.
Attwood, T. Fielden, J.
Barnard, E. G. Ferguson, Sir R. A.
Barron, H. W. Ferguson, R.
Bewes, T. Finch, F.
Blake, W. J. Hawes, B.
Brotherton, J. Hawkins, J. H.
Bryan, G. Hector, C. J.
Buller, C. James, W.
Busfield, W. Lambton, H.
Butler, hon. Colonel Langdale, hon. C
Callaghan, D. Langton, W. G.
Chapman, Sir L.M.C. Leader, J.T.
Chester, H. Lister, E. C.
Childers, J.W. Lushington, C.
Codrington, Admiral Lushington, rt. hon. S.
Collins, W. Macnamara, Major
Donkin, Sir R. S. Molesworth, Sir W.
Duff, J. Murray, A.
Duncombe, T. Nicholl, J.
Dundas, F. O'Connell, D.
Eliot, Lord O'Connell, J.
Ellice, rt. hon. E. O'Connell, M.
Ellice, E. Ord, W.
Ellis, W. Parrott, J.
Evans, Sir De L. Pattison, J.
Evans, G. Philips, M.
Phillpotts, J. Wallace, R.
Pigot, D. R. Warburton, H.
Power, J. Ward, H. G.
Pryme, G. White, A.
Rich, H. White, S.
Rundle, J. Williams, R.
Salwey, Colonel Williams, W.
Scholefield, J. Winnington, T. E.
Seale, Sir J. H. Wood, G.W.
Sharpe, General Worsley, Lord
Somers, J. P. Wyse, T.
Somerville, Sir W. M. Yates, J. A.
Stansfield, W. R. C.
Stuart, V. TELLERS.
Strutt, E. Browne, R. D.
Thornely, T. O'Connell, M. J.
List of the NOES.
Alsager, Captain Fazakerly, J. N.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Feilden, W.
Ashley, Lord Fellowes, E.
Bailey, J. Filmer, Sir E.
Bailey, J. jun. Fitzroy, Lord C.
Baker, E. Fleming, J.
Baring, hon. W. B. Follett, Sir W.
Barneby, J. Freshfield, J. W.
Barrington, Visct. Gladstone, W. E.
Bentinck, Lord G. Goddard, A.
Bethell, R. Gordon, hon. Capt.
Boldero, H. G. Goulburn, rt. hon. H.
Broadley, H. Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.
Brownrigg, S. Grant, F. W.
Buck, L. W. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Burr, H. Grimsditch, T.
Burrell, Sir C. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Burroughes, H. N. Hale, R. B.
Campbell, Sir J. Harcourt, G. G.
Canning, rt. hon. Sir S. Heathcote, Sir W.
Cartwright, W. R. Heneage, E.
Christopher, R. A. Hepburn, Sir T. B.
Clerk, Sir G. Herbert, hon. S.
Clive, hon. R. H. Herries, rt. hon. J. C.
Codrington, C. W. Hill, Sir R.
Cole, Viscount Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.
Colquhoun, J. C. Hodges, T. L.
Compton, H. C. Hodgson, F.
Copeland, Alderman Hodgson, R.
Corry, hon. H. Hogg, J. W.
Courtenay, P. Holmes, hon. W.A 'C
Crawford, W. Holmes, W.
Cresswell, C. Hope, hon. C.
Darby, G. Hope, G. W.
Darlington, Earl of Howick, Visct.
Dennistoun, W. J. Hughes, W.B.
De Horsey, S. H. Ingestrie, Lord
D'Israeli, B. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Duffield, T. Irton, S.
Dugdale, W. S. Irving, J.
Dunbar, G. Jackson, Mr. Sergeant
Duncombe, hon. W. Jones, Capt.
Du Pre, G. Kemble, H.
Eastnor, Visc. Kelburne, Viscount
Eaton, R. J. Knight, H. G.
Egerton, W. T. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Egerton, Sir P. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Erle, W. Lefroy, rt. hon. T.
Farrand, R. Lennox, Lord A.
Liddell, hon. H. T. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Lincoln, Earl of Russell, Lord J.
Lockhart, A. M. Russell, Lord C.
Long, W. Sandon, Viscount
Lowther, J. H. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Lygon, hon. General Sheppard, T.
Mackenzie, T. Shirley, E. J.
Macleod, R. Sinclair, Sir G.
Mahon, Lord Visc. Smith, A.
Manners, Lord C. S. Somerset, Lord G.
Maunsell, T. P. Speirs, A.
Miles, W. Stanley, E.
Mordaunt, Sir J. Stanley, E. J.
Muskett, G. A. Stanley, Lord
Norreys, Lord Stanley, W. O.
Packe, C. W. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Paget, F. Sleuart, R.
Pakington, J. S. Stuart, W.V.
Palmer, R. Sturt, H. C.
Palmer, G. Teignmouth, Lord
Parker, J. Tennant, J. E.
Patten, J. W. Turner, W.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Perceval, Colonel Waddington, H. S.
Perceval, hon. G. J. Wall, C. B.
Planta, rt. hon. J. Whitmore, T. C.
Plumptre, J. P. Wilde, Sergeant
Pollen, Sir J. W. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Powerscourt, Visct. Winnington, H. J.
Praed, W. T. Wood, T.
Price, R. Wynn, rt. hon. C.
Pusey, P. Young, J.
Rae, rt. hon. Sir W.
Richards, R. TELLERS.
Rolleston, L. Fremantle, Sir T.
Round, C. G. Law, hon. C. E.

Petition rejected.

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