HC Deb 07 August 1844 vol 76 cc1884-7

Order of the Day for bringing up the Report on the Roman Catholic Penal Acts Repeal Bill read.

On the question that it be brought up,

Colonel Verner

said, he had to complain of the precipitancy which this measure had been hurried through the House. A measure of such importance ought not to have been brought forward only three or four days before the termination of the Session, and in the absence of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford.

Mr. Macaulay

thought, no Gentleman would get up and say, that there was a single enactment repealed by this Bill which was not a disgrace to the Statute Book of a civilized and Christian country. He was quite satisfied from his personal knowledge of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford, however much they might differ on many questions in that House, that he would not have opposed this Bill.

Mr. Spooner

wished to say a word, because in consequence of what had fallen from him upon the second reading of this Bill he had been misrepresented, and had been supposed to have treated the Petition he then presented with something like contempt. Referring to the grounds on which the Petitioners had expressed suspicion, he had stated that the petitioners objected to the time and manner in which the measure was introduced, it not being a Government measure, or brought in upon Government responsibility at the end of a Session, when there was no time for due consideration of its provisions. He had stated that that was quite sufficient to excite the suspicions of the petitioners, in connection with the manner in which former concessions had been received, and their total failure to heal those religious animosities which all deplored. Nothing fell from him to justify the supposition that he had treated the petition with levity.

Sir R. Peel

could bear testimony to the fact, that the hon. Member had not treated the petition with levity, though he had the manliness to say, after learning the object of the Bill, he felt bound not to oppose it. The object of the Bill was to remove what was an incumbrance to the Statute Book. It was no doubt to be regretted that at this period there was not an opportunity of introducing a more comprehensive measure; but about the Repeal of the Statutes to which this Bill applied, barbarous and obsolete as they were, there could be no hesitation; and at his request, his right hon. Friend, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had already given notice of a Motion to extend the Repeal to the Irish Statutes. They were sometimes more influenced by feeling than by calmer considerations; and this Bill coming down from the House of Lords, he could not advise the House to reject it. He repeated what he had stated before, that the apprehensions of those who had signed the petition presented by his hon. Friend were totally erroneous. The petitioners prayed for delay till inquiry was made into the real tenets of the Roman Catholic Church, and said that if Roman Catholics were true to their own faith, they could not be true to a Protestant Government. Supposing that to be true, would it be any satisfaction that they should have the power of confiscating the horse of any Roman Catholic which should be worth more than 5l., or of arresting any Roman Catholic Member of that House in his place, and telling him that he was within ten miles of the City of London? There could be no danger in passing the Bill, because the laws repealed were not, and could not be put in force.

Mr. Hawes

hoped, that the Government would, in the next Session, proceed still further in this course. He observed that the 1st Elizabeth, one of the Acts to which the statement of the right hon. Baronet applied, extended to the English Protestants, requiring their attendance at Church, and if they refused, making them liable to the penalties of recusants.

Mr. Monckton Milnes

hoped the word concession would no longer be abused by being applied to measures like the present, which were strictly demanded by justice. He was sure the right hon. Baronet would find full co-operation in that House in any measure of that kind which he might introduce. Every day there was growing up in the country, amongst men who thought on these matters, a strong feeling that the Church of England could not receive legitimate, fair, or just support from measures of a similar character to those which were now being abolished.

Mr. Hardy

trusted his Protestant feelings were as strong as those of any hon. Member of that House, but he did most sincerely rejoice to see the introduction of this Bill. All that he objected to was, that there should be any imperium in imperio in this country, forbidding the use of the Scriptures by the people.

Mr. Wyse

denied that the Roman Catholic clergy objected to the use of the Scriptures, and said that there could be no greater mistake. He hoped never to hear such an assertion again made in that House. On this point Roman Catholics only differed from other denominations of Christians by entertaining, if possible, a still more profound veneration for the Sacred Volume. At the same time, they deemed it unmeet that it should be placed in the hands of the uninformed without due commentary for the instruction of the flock.

Report agreed to. Bill to be read a third time.