HC Deb 24 August 1848 vol 101 cc487-96

On the Motion that the Speaker leave the chair for the House to resolve itself into Committee on this Bill,


rose to oppose its further progress. The true object of the Bill had not been laid before the House. He had, on a former occasion, urged the serious objections which were entertained by the vast majority of the Roman Catholics to this measure, but to none of which had the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, in the course of his speech on this question, made any reply; nor was any reply made by any Member who had spoken in defence of the Bill. This measure professed to have a double object—to declare the law, which it was said was in a doubtful state; and also to take away existing disabilities. It was, therefore, at once a declaratory and an enabling Act, which he need not tell any legal Gentleman in that House was an inconsistency. Was it right for the Government, after the many measures of universally admitted excellence which they had recently withdrawn in consequence of the advanced period of the Session, to persist in bringing forward this Bill, which was objected to by Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, and that too at a time when several hon. Gentlemen who entertained the strongest objections to it had left town under the impression that it would certainly be withdrawn for the present? Ought such a measure, under such circumstances, to be thus precipitately and indecently hastened forward? In the debate on the second reading of the Bill, the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis) had expressed a doubt as to a statement which he had made on that occasion, to the effect that there had been open and avowed diplomatic relations between the Court of Rome and the Court of St. James's since the time of Queen Mary. He would support the statement by two quotations from the Annual Register. The first was to be found in vol. 1., p. 65, of the Chronicle, under the date of June 27th, 1808. [Mr. ANSTEY read the passage, giving an account of the Nuncio's audience of leave]. The second quotation was from vol. lvii. p. 120, of the General History. [The hon. and learned Member read the passage, containing an extract from the Papal Allocution of the 4th September, 1815, which gave an account of Cardinal Consalvis's reception at the Court of the Prince Regent as a Cardinal Legate, wearing the decorations of that office, and in which the Prince Regent was thanked for "the marks of kindness and attachment to our person," with which he had received that Legate.] Surely, then, these merely diplomatic relations could still be continued without the necessity of a new law. There was nothing, he reiterated, in the statute law, and certainly nothing in the common law of these realms, which interdicted political relations with the Sovereign of the Roman States. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), indeed, had himself stated, that he thought there was nothing in the laws of this country to prohibit such relations. It was, therefore, evidently the intention of the noble Lord, in pressing forward this obnoxious measure, after four months of an interval, to induce the Pope, by promises of temporal succour in his present difficulties, to accept the measure for purposes which it was well known he objected to when it was passing through the other House of Parliament; and having obtained the Pope's assent to it, the Government would then carry out the intention with which they had been charged, and which they had by no means disavowed, of "governing Ireland through Rome. "It was to British diplomacy that the Government were teaching the Pope to look for the restoration of his temporal influence. The Government intended to negotiate in the affairs of Italy, not as the noble Lord had said, in the character of arbitrator, but that of mediator. He (Mr. Anstey) accepted the distinction; but that was the very reason why he would not entrust the mediator with such power when the party most interested in the success of the mediation was to be called upon to decide whether he would approve or condemn a favourite policy of that mediator in another quarter. The Government would address the Pope in such terms as these:—"Unless you accept this measure, you shall not have any benefit from our diplomacy at the approaching Italian Congress." He honoured the present Pontiff—he knew him to be a man of transcendent vigour, wisdom, and disinterestedness; but he (Mr. Anstey) would not be a party to leading even him into such temptation. There was something more dependent on this measure than the pacification of Italy; the peace of these realms was involved in the settlement of this question. If they adopted this measure under the pretext of pacifying Italy, they would fail in that; but they would go far to produce and perpetuate civil war in these islands. This measure, if it became a law, would raise against the governing powers the jealousy, distrust, and hostility of the majority of the Protestants and Roman Catholics in these realms. The Protestants would say, that the Government had not attempted to deny that the' object of this measure was to bribe the Pope—to make a large concession to him at their expense; and the Roman Catholics would say that the Government had not denied that their design was to bribe the Pope at their expense. The bribe was to be the maintenance of the Pope in the possession of his temporal dominions. Whilst the Ministers, by this Bill, would have the privilege of using openly the influence of the Pope for their political purposes, the Roman Catholic subjects of the Queen in England and Ireland would be deprived of the power which they had hitherto exercised of communicating with the Pope, at least in secret. So that if this Bill passed, the Roman Catholics would be delivered up, bound hand and foot, to any British Minister of State who was willing to bribe or threaten; and the statesmen of this country were capable of doing both. The noble Lord the Member for Arundel (the Earl of Arundel and Surrey) had said, that his vote on the third reading would be guided by the manner in which the House should receive his Amendment on that part of the Bill which was insulting to the Pope, by refusing to style him "Sovereign Pontiff," a title by which he was known throughout the whole of Christendom. But how could the noble Lord expect to succeed in his Amendment when he had the Government and their supporters arrayed against him? He therefore claimed the noble Lord's support against this Bill in every one of the stages through which it would have to pass. He would oppose it in Committee; and if the Bill did pass through Committee, he should move that the third reading be postponed for six months. If he failed in that, almost his only hope would be in the effect to be produced at Rome by the insolent phraseology employed. If an ambassador went from this country to Rome, he would not be received by the Pope unless he addressed him in the usual style. And, if so, what was the use of inserting in the Bill the insulting title of "Sovereign of the Roman States?" Why not, at all events, call him what every sane man must admit him to be, "Sovereign Pontiff of the Church of Rome?" He felt inclined even to hope, that at the moment this Bill received the Royal Assent, the Pope would have ceased to be "Sovereign of the Roman States," in order that the object of this Bill might be defeated. He was sorry to be obliged to detain the House so long on this question, and the rather, because it would be again and again his duty to do the same. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government had it in his power at once to render his opposition unnecessary, and bring the Session to a close, by consenting to withdraw the Bill. If the noble Lord did not do so, he deserved no pity if he should be "sitting in his place" in that House long after the 31st of September. He would oppose the Bill in every stage, and divide the House on every point which in any way touched the great principles to which he had adverted. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the House go into Committee on the Bill that day three months.


was unwilling to prolong or interrupt the proceedings of the House; but he held in his hand a letter to which—as this might perhaps be the only opportunity afforded him of doing so—he begged to call their attention. He was of opinion, and he believed it was a popular notion, that the continued protraction of the Session was attributable to the lengthened speeches of the hon. Member for Youghal, who, from his entering the House, had appeared to consider that he was called upon to take a very conspicuous part in its proceedings, and who had brought forward some measures which had not been received by the House in a manner that could be very satisfactory to him. There was also a popular opinion very prevalent with regard to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who was not considered to feel any strong objections to the length of the Session. The fact was, that the noble Lord now resided in an agreeable villa at Richmond, and he found it much more convenient to go down there than to his constituents in the City. He (Sir J. Tyrell) wished Her Majesty would find the noble Lord a villa at some greater distance from town, for then there might be some better chance of the Session being shortened. He had not the advantage of being present during the former discussion on this Bill; but he believed there was some little difference between the noble Lords opposite (Lord J. Russell and Viscount Palmerston) with respect to the grounds on which they supported the measure. He understood that the noble Lord at the head of the Government supported it with a view of governing Ireland through the instrumentality of the Bishop of Rome; while the noble Foreign Secretary gave it a sugar-plum character, and degraded it to a commercial question. He always listened to the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) with great satisfaction; and he was amused at the case with which he fobbed off Gentlemen who put inconvenient questions; but still he thought the Government would do well to consider and propose some remedial measures for Ireland. The letter to which he wished to call the attention of the House was dated "Kenmare River, West Coast of Ireland, August 6," and was written by a friend of his. on board his yacht. The hon. Baronet proceeded to read the letter, the writer of which, referring to the system of terrorism which prevailed in the country, and stating that he had been protecting a gentleman's family, said— The vagabond priests ought to be exterminated, as there is not a doubt but that in many cases they urge the people on, and, now they are frightened, pretend to try to quiet them. From what I saw last Sunday, I am quite convinced they are an awful set. Two policemen came over from Kenmare, to post up the proclamation on the chapel gate. The priest met them, and, with a volley of abuse, told them if they put it up, it would be immediately torn down. No sooner were the backs of the policemen turned, than the proclamation was torn to bits, and thrown into the road. The policemen put up another, and it as soon shared the same fate. These are the scoundrels Lord Lansdowne praises in the House of Lords, and the very fellow who thus defied the Queen's proclamation is constantly with Lord Lansdowne when he comes here to see his property, so his information cannot be very good respecting them; but it seems to be his main object, when here, to have no one but priests about him. The writer added, that the name of the priest was Hampston, in the parish of Templemore, in Kenmare. [Mr. J. O'CONNELL rose to order. He did not see what a letter written by some anonymous slanderer in a drunken moment had to do with diplomatic relations with Rome.] This was not the letter of an anonymous slanderer; it was written by a gentleman whom he would be ready to produce at the bar, if necessary. The letter was not anonymous; the writer's name was Major Peton. He had also with him a letter of the 12th of August, published in the Tipperary Vindicator, and which would throw some light upon the subject. [The hon. Baronet here read a letter of the Rev. J. Molony, which had appeared in the Times of August the 23rd.] Let hon. Members consider these things, and say, whether the legislation required was not some vigorous measure with regard to such priests.


Difficult as it is to understand the motives of the hon. Member for Youghal (Mr. Anstey), who, after a discussion on the second reading, thought it necessary, in a speech of an hour long, to repeat the arguments he before used, the motives of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down are still more unintelligible. The hon. Gentleman, it appears, not having a villa at Richmond, has not found it convenient to attend the second reading of this Bill; but, having read in the newspapers some report of the speeches, which were either very inaccurately reported, or which he has not understood, he comes down and asks what the object of the Bill is, and, not choosing to have the benefit of listening to the discussion, expects that we shall again go through the arguments upon which the Bill is supported. And then, with a view of explaining something of his own opinion, he reads what is evidently a private letter; and which is only excusable on the ground of its being entirely a private letter, written with the familiarity and the carelessness with which people write private letters—a letter in which the writer, being provoked with the priests, calls them vagabonds, and very coolly says that they ought to be exterminated. Why, probably, if he was asked to justify his letter, he would say, "I mean nothing but kindness; I wrote this in a hurry, and in the freedom of familiar intercourse; and I never could imagine that anybody would he so imprudent or so blundering as to take it otherwise, or have the indiscretion to produce it in the face of the whole House of Common." I dare say, he is a very respectable gentleman. I observe, however, he gives a very bad account of his friend, of his having deserted his wife and daughters, and run away—an account which I should think he would be sorry to have brought before the House. Every one knows that in Ireland there has been actual outbreak in one or two places, and a great part of the country has been on the eve of insurrection, and there are persons, favourers of that insurrection, whose conduct has been most reprehensible; if the gentleman of whom we have heard, proposed and incited others to tear down the Queen's proclamation, that was very reprehensible conduct; and I think that that letter which the hon. Member read, and which I saw, was a letter favouring treason and rebellion. Those are specimens of the conduct of individuals; if we are to enter into the conduct of individuals we know that many priests of the Roman Catholic communion have exerted all their efforts and risked their influence with their flocks in order to prevent them from being led into the dangerous course to which they were incited by the rebels who were endeavouring to seduce them from their allegiance. What Lord Lansdowne may have done, and whom he lives with when he goes to Ireland, is hardly to the purpose; but Lord Lansdowne is a man who, when he finds good conduct, whether it be in Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Roman Catholic, has that sense of justice and toleration that he would not allow a peculiar faith to separate him from such a person. The hon. Member who has made this Motion, has put forward two reasons for inviting us to discuss again the second reading of this Bill. The one is, that my noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) made a speech which was remarkable for its brevity. Why, I think, in these times, a Member who makes a speech which is remarkable for its brevity ought to be held up as a model. Members who have entered the House in this Parliament for the first time, should be told—"Look at that gentleman; endeavour to do something of the same kind." At all events, such a speech should not be made an occasion for debating over again measures already discussed. I think that was a remarkably bad reason for reviving the discussion of the second reading. His other reason I think was equally unfounded; he said—"I spoke at great length on the second reading," which he certainly did: "but not many persons chose to be present to attend to my arguments; nobody seemed to mind them—nobody answered them, and therefore I think it necessary to repeat them over again. "It is true we have heard, Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed sæpe cadendo; and the hon. Member, having made a speech which was not listened to and not answered, thinks, perhaps, that it may have some effect if he repeats his speech, and takes the chance of an audience somewhat more numerous, and the still further chance that some one may answer him. But I think that is a course very inconvenient to the House, and I will not assist in it; every Gentleman who imagines his arguments have not been sufficiently attended to or answered, may think he has only to repeat them on some other day in order to get a discussion again upon the subject, and thus the House would have constant repetitions of former discussions. With regard to my not having answered his statements, I believe it really was from the want of that brevity with which he reproaches my noble Friend. When the hon. Gentleman made a speech the other day, I listened to it for some time; but though undoubtedly there were arguments, yet I was not in possession of the chymical test which would detect the solid matter in such a quantity of fluid. I was not able to find exactly where the solid argument was; and, therefore, although I heard a considerable part of his speech, and although I took part in the discussion afterwards, and replied to the arguments of the hon. Member for Oxford and others, I felt myself incapable of replying to the argument of the hon. Gentleman. And I do not propose to reply to it now, because I find myself in the same situation. The hon. Member has vaunted himself very much upon his own legal opinions. I have gone upon those of Lord Campbell and Lord Cottenham; they are sufficient for me, according to my understanding, and possibly the House may be more disposed to attend to them. [Mr. ANSTEY: What are they?] With regard to the several questions which are proper for Committee, they will be raised there, and I hope we shall now go into Committee accordingly.


would shortly state the reasons why he should give a vote in opposition to this question. It might be unusual to discuss a measure again on going into Committee; but if unusual circumstances attended a particular measure, it was not a factious opposition to oppose it in every stage, and by every legitimate means. The Bill, in the first instance, would have conferred a power on the Crown in contravention of the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights; but when this was ascertained, the promoters of the Bill in its original form did not dare to go that length, but attempted to turn the whole matter into one of a mere Bill to resolve certain doubts. The Bill had now changed its original character; and the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) told the House that the Act was only intended to establish com- mercial relations with Rome, and to assist in making railroads in the Roman States. Why, then, if this Bill was not intended to establish unconstitutional relations with the Court of Rome, where was the necessity for this indecent haste in pressing it forward? He was certain some purpose was to be effected. There was a packed majority in that House. He knew the opponents of the measure were in a minority, because the Government had chosen to take them by surprise; and as he was satisfied that the attempt was made to force this measure on the country in an unconstitutional manner, he would raise all the opposition in his power to it. He put the noble Lord to the test of his political integrity on this question, namely, to make a call of the House. If the noble Lord would do that, and if he (Mr. Spooner) were still in a minority, he would offer no further opposition. He called on all hon. Members who valued the Protestant constitution, and who respected their pledges at the hustings, to join him in opposing a measure which it was understood was not to he carried this Session. He asked the noble Lord either to withdraw the measure, or to consent to a call of the House.


, after condemning the attack made by the hon. Member for Essex on the Catholic clergymen of Kenmare, whose conduct during the season of distress had been exemplary, proceeded to say, that there was no reason to think that the opposition opposed to this Bill was of a factious character; on the contrary, the manner in which the measure was pushed forward by the Government was a factious proceeding. The opposition to the Bill was based on principle; and he, and Catholics generally, objected to it on principle. The policy of the Government, in connexion with this measure, was paltry, unworthy, and unwise. The main object of the Bill was to give the Government an illegitimate influence over the Catholic clergy in Ireland. The empire owed a debt of gratitude to the Catholic clergy for their exertions to preserve the peace of Ireland, more particularly on a recent occasion. The Government and Parliament might obtain a legitimate influence over the Catholic clergy by doing justice to the people of that country. The Government, however, preferred attempting to bribe the ruling power at Rome, in the hope that by his means they might corrupt the Irish clergy; but the Sovereign Pontiff would throw back their Bill with contempt.


moved that the debate he adjourned to Six o'clock the same evening.


moved asan amendment that it be adjourned to Wednesday next.

The House divided on the question that the debate be adjourned to the evening:—Ayes 73: Noes 28; Majority 45.

List of the NOES.
Anstey, T. C. Lacy, H. C.
Blackstone, W. S. Mandeville, Vise.
Broadley, H. Napier, J.
Bruen, Col. Newdegate, C. N.
Burrell, Sir C. M. O'Connell, J.
Chichester, Lord J. L. Pearson, C.
Dick, Q. Reid, Col.
Duncombe, hon. O. Renton, J. C.
Fagan, J. Robinson, G. R.
Forbes, W. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Frewen, C. H. Urquhart, D.
Grogan, E. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Hamilton, G. A.
Hildyard, T. B. T. TELLERS.
Hood, Sir A. Inglis, Sir R. H.
Knox, Col. Spooner, R.

called upon the Government to make inquiry into the case which he had brought under the notice of the House, and on the accuracy of which he would stand. If the noble Lord did not give a satisfactory assurance upon the subject, he would move that the House should adjourn.


replied, that if the hon. Baronet would furnish the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland with information which would show that, an offence at law had been committed, the Lord Lieutenant would take the opinion of the legal advisers of the Government on the subject. If, however, it should appear that there was not evidence on which a conviction could be calculated on, he would not advise the Lord Lieutenant to direct a prosecution.


was satisfied with the noble Lord's statement.

Debate adjourned.

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