HC Deb 08 February 1849 vol 102 cc439-48

could hardly hope that the House would recollect, that in the course of the last Session of Parliament he had called their attention to the subject which stood in his name on the Mo- tion Paper for to-night. Early in the Session, indeed, he had moved for the production of a copy of a circular despatch by the Earl Grey, which was dated the 20th of November, 1847; and was addressed to the Governors of all the British colonies: and as that despatch referred to another communication from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to Earl Grey, he gave notice at the close of the Session that he should take an early opportunity in the present Session of asking the attention of the House to the general subject involved in his notice. The Motion with which he proposed to conclude his observations on the present occasion was— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to lay upon the table of the House a Copy of any Communication from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to the Earl Grey, on the subject of the rank of persons described as Prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, to which communication the Earl Grey adverted in his Circular Despatch of the 20th day of November, 1847. Now, in justice to both parties—to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, and to his correspondent the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he ought to state, not in substance, but in words, the first sentence of this despatch. He was now quoting the circular letter dated "Downing-street, Nov. 20, 1847," and it was as follows:— My attention has lately been called by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to the fact that the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in the British colonies have not hitherto, in their official correspondence with the Governor and authorities, been usually addressed by the title to which their rank in their own church would appear to give them a just claim. Whether the matter were deserving of regret or not, he would not stop to inquire; but with the greatest personal respect for the Earl of Clarendon himself—a respect which that noble Earl had well earned by his conduct during a season of peculiar trouble and agitation in Ireland—with all respect for that high functionary, he desired to know what constituted him the authority which was to regulate the intercourse between the Colonial Secretary of State and the officers subjected to his immediate control and responsibility—what justified the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in taking upon himself to be the advocate of the claims, whether just or not, of Roman Catholic bishops, not in his own jurisdiction—not under his own authority—but wherever they might be placed in any part of the world? He should say, that this was a fair question to be asked, even if the grounds upon which the communication between the Earl of Clarendon and Earl Grey rested, were correctly stated in fact or in law. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, or rather the Earl Grey acting upon the suggestion of the Lord Lieutenant, proceeded to state that— As Parliament has, by a recent Act, the Charitable Bequests Act, formally recognised the rank of the Irish Roman Catholic prelates, by giving thorn precedence immediately after the prelates of the Established Church of the same degree—the Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops taking rank immediately after the Protestant archbishops and bishops respectively—it has appeared"— To whom? Not to Her Majesty's Secretary for the Colonies, but— to Her Majesty's Government, that it is their duty to conform to the rule thus laid down by the Legislature; and I have accordingly to instruct you hereafter officially to address the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in your Government by the title of 'your Grace,' or 'your Lordship,' as the case may be. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) meant to say that there never had been a grosser misstatement of a plain fact than the statement contained in the paragraph which he had just cited, that the Act of Parliament to which the noble Earl (Earl Grey) referred in the paper laid upon the table of the House, contained one single word upon the subject in respect of which it had been so quoted. He defied the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, or even the humblest layman in the House, to find in the Charitable Bequests Act one single expression referring to the subject-matter of Earl Grey's despatch. That Act provided that it should be lawful for Her Majesty to nominate ten persons, of whom five, and not more, should be members of the Church of Rome; but whether they were to be priests, deacons, bishops, or laymen, was nowhere stated. Either the noble Earl the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, had never read the Act, or they had altogether forgotten it; and had confounded it with the Gazette. But an announcement in the Gazette did not imply or enact that certain persons should take civil rank in the order in which their names were mentioned. Every one who had ever read a commission appointing Lords of the Treasury, or Lords of the Admiralty, knew that the precedence there given was one of official seniority, and not of personal dignity. These mat- ters, he was aware, might be looked upon by many as subjects which a wise man would not much care about; but he confessed that he regarded them with a jealous eye when they followed the will of a foreign potentate. His objection was not to the persons recognised as archbishops and bishops of the Church of Rome having such rank as the members of their own communion were willing to concede to them inter se; but his complaint was that the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had suggested, and that the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department had adopted, a principle which took from the Queen the fountain of honour, which belonged to Her jure coronœ, and placed it at the disposal of the Earl Grey. The power of creating intermediate ranks in the nobility of the empire had no existence whatever in the patent of a Secretary of State. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) believed that Her Majesty had not been consulted at all upon the subject; and he observed that Her Majesty's name was not made use of in the despatch, although it undoubtedly would have been had Her sanction been previously obtained. Precedence in Her Majesty's dominions rested partly upon immemorial custom, and partly upon the Statute of Henry VIII; and he (Sir R. H. Inglis) doubted, in fact, whether the Queen herself could have given the precedence now claimed under that despatch of Earl Grey, which gave the Roman Catholic bishops rank after viscounts. What induced him most especially to call attention to this subject was the recognition thus given to an authority which this country for three centuries had invariably repudiated and disowned—the recognition of the authority of Rome to place in Her Majesty's dominions, without Her sanction or authority, a class of individuals, who, when so placed, were given precedence over the Queen's own subjects. What was the meaning of an Established Church in this country, if it did not follow the rights of the Crown of England wherever that Crown ruled? He asked the Attorney General—having given him notice of the question—in what part of the world where the Queen of England had dominion, was not her Church—the Church of England—established? Treaties might, here and there, recognise other communions: local authorities might unhappily neglect the claims of the Church of the Crown of England; but, as an abstract proposition, he contended, that the Church followed the Crown. If the new power claimed by the Secretary of State were applicable to the colonies, it would be equally applicable to any part of Her Majesty's dominions; and the Pope might just as well, and with equal authority, send an archbishop to Westminster, and a bishop to London, as an archbishop to Sydney. The Imperial Crown of England, being necessarily held by a member and a communicant of the Protestant Episcopal Church of England, it followed that wherever her Crown was acknowledged, her Church should be established. Wherever an Englishman carried with him the law of trial by jury, the Habeas Corpus, and the law of primogeniture, there he had an equal right to find established the Church of this country. The Scotch colony in Darien having been founded before the union of Scotland with England, he admitted that if that colony still existed, the Presbyterian Church ought to have been established there; and a Scotchman would have been entitled to expect that his own national Church at home would have precedency in the dependencies of his ancient kingdom. By parity of reasoning, an Englishman had an equal right to find the Church of England established in whatever dominions of the Crown he went to. Every English colony should be a miniature of England, not only in civil, but also in religious rights. He had often stated, what was said recently by the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. E. B. Roche), that he wished far less for emigration than for colonisation. But no system deserved that name, and none was entitled to the support of Parliament, which did not provide for the colonists sent forth, all those aids of education and religion, as well as of law, in the security of person and of property, which the parties enjoyed in England, and had a right to find everywhere under the Imperial Crown. To revert to the letter which formed the immediate subject of his Motion. The Government adopted this letter of the Earl Grey, or they did not. If they did, it was not the act of Earl Grey, as an individual, but the act of the Cabinet; and he wanted to know if they had obtained Her Majesty's authority for that course. He apprehended they had never asked nor obtained Her Majesty's sanction; for if they had, it would have been more decorous if the Secretary of State had declared that he had had it-by command from Her Majesty to give those directions. If, on the other hand, they told him there was no such despatch from the Lord Lieutenant to Earl Grey, and that the whole was the act of the Earl Grey only, the charge came with double force against Earl Grey. It was no small aggravation of the matter complained of, that this precedence was given at the expense of one of the most eminent and excellent of the colonial prelates, Bishop Broughton, whom he named to his honour, venerable for his age, his virtues, and his services; and admirable, at the very moment, when this despatch deprived him of his rank, for the self-denying sacrifice, with which he had made over a large portion of his income for the purpose of endowing another bishopric for his Church. He then moved the Address of which he had given notice.


seconded the Motion.


Sir, I will say at once that there is no official communication from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to Earl Grey upon the subject of the rank of persons described as prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in Earl Grey's circular; and it does not appear to me to be a fit matter with regard to which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should correspond officially with the Colonial Secretary. But what the Earl of Clarendon did was this—in the Charitable Bequests Act there is so far an acknowledgment of the rank of certain ecclesiastics belonging to the Church of Rome, that they are in several of the clauses in that Act called archbishops and bishops of the Church of Rome. Now, being archbishops and bishops, the usual titles by which we describe such dignitaries is "the most reverend," and "the right reverend;" and, in addressing them in conversation, or by letter, they are usually termed, "your grace," and "your lordship." Now, the Earl of Clarendon was of opinion, that when he saw certain prelates of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, it would be fit, lest they might feel themselves in any respect not placed in the rank which they ought to hold, not only to call them archbishops and bishops, in the place of "doctor," as they were formerly called—Dr. Troy, and the like—but to address them as "your grace," and "your lordship." Having done that, I believe that he communicated privately to Earl Grey, some time afterwards, that he found there were Roman Catholic bishops in the colonies, one of whom was then, I believe, residing in Ireland, and that he thought what had been done in Ireland might very well be clone in the colonies, as he believed it would be gratifying to the Roman Catholic Church to have their rank thus acknowledged. The Charitable Bequests Act certainly does not give any particular title to archbishops and bishops, any more than calling them archbishops and bishops, neither does that Act in any way confer a right by which a Roman Catholic archbishop may call himself the Archbishop of Dublin, or of any see where there is a Protestant bishop by law existing. In the same way, Earl Grey states, though it may be proper to call an archbishop an archbishop with his name, yet that it would not be proper to call him by the name of any sec where there was an archbishop or bishop of the Protestant Church by law established. But, I own, I do not think that this is a matter of very great importance. It was very agreeable to the feelings of the Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops that they should be called by the titles by which they are usually designated. They have received those titles; but that does not imply any legal claim to authority; and I cannot conceive, therefore, that it is necessary for this House to take any proceeding in the matter. If the hon. Baronet (Sir R. H. Inglis) were to press for this official communication, the only return would be, that there was no letter of the kind to be found in the Colonial Office. The hon. Baronet says the Church of England is carried into all the colonies, and that, therefore, every colony ought to be a miniature Church of England. I do not think, however, that it would be very convenient to adopt that plan. I do not think, for example, that it would be convenient to adopt it in Trinidad, where there are a greater number of Roman Catholics than Protestants, and where, if adopted, every Roman Catholic would be looked upon as a Dissenter. I have now stated the brief facts of this case, and do not think it necessary to occupy the time of the House with more lengthened observation upon it.


said, there was a public impression, which it was certainly inconvenient should remain, that in the colony of Sydney, to which his hon. Friend (Sir R. Inglis) had referred, in consequence of the Roman Catholic Church having placed an archbishop there, while the Church of England had only a bishop; the effect of the letter of Earl Grey was to give precedence to the former, be (Mr. Goulburn) wished to know if it was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that they had allowed any superiority to the Roman Catholic Church in that colony. He knew they might be told that it was easy to get rid of the difficulty by appointing a prelate of equal rank there; but he was of opinion that it was better not to run a race with the Church of Rome in such matters. In the Charitable Bequests Act the Legislature had laid down no rule whatever as to the precedence of the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church.


said, he thought that one of the most obvious deductions to be drawn from the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. Inglis) was, that the Catholic Church ought to be the established church of Ireland. He had confessed that it would be quite right for the Scottish bishops to retain possession of their sees, and that England was entitled to her own Church; and the natural inference was, that the people of Ireland ought to have their religion also established by law. He (Mr. J. O'Connell) did not say that this was his opinion, because he would much regret any connexion between his Church and the State. He would remind hon. Gentlemen that those very sees which they now had in England had been originally established by the Pope. As to the titles conferred under the Charitable Bequests Act on the Catholic prelates of Ireland, he did not attach any importance to them. He did not, for instance, think there was much honour in being degraded down from Archbishop of Dublin to Archbishop Murray, or Archbishop Murray of Dublin. The Catholics of Ireland believed their own bishops to be alone entitled to assume the names of their sees. He should protest against the wording of the Motion, in which the prelates of his own Church were called "persons described as prelates of the Roman Catholic Church;" and he also protested against the noble Lord's (Lord. J. Russell) supposition of Roman Catholics being called Dissenters. The Roman Catholics were not dissenters from the Established Church, but they regarded Protestants as being dissenters from their Church.


explained that what he had stated was, that it would be very offensive if the Roman Catholics of Trinidad were to be told that they were Dissenters from the Established Church of the colony.


wished to know whether, in point of fact, the Roman Catholic archbishop in Sydney was allowed to take precedence of the bishop of the Church of England?


said, he did not believe that any precedence had been given to the Roman Catholic prelate in Sydney by what had been done, or that the letter of his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) had at all altered the forms of precedence there. At the same time, he was well aware that some unpleasant feeling might exist in the colony on this subject, because he recollected that some years ago the Protestant bishop complained of the Roman Catholic prelate having waited on the Governor wearing the episcopal ring and other insignia of his order. The matter had been referred to him (Lord J. Russell), and his reply was, that he thought it unfair to object to a man wearing any dress he pleased. The proceeding had, he believed, annoyed the Roman Catholic prelate a good deal, as he had complained at being interfered with in wearing the dress that distinguished his order in every part of the world.


replied: He had hoped that his noble Friend would have informed the House that the despatch of which he complained, had, so far as Bishop Broughton was concerned, been practically withdrawn; because he had reason to believe—but the statement would have come more graciously from his noble Friend—that the Protestant Bishop of Sydney was no longer placed below the Roman Catholic, whom the Pope had sent there as archbishop; it having been ascertained that Bishop Broughton, as metropolitan, still held the pre-eminence. The general question, however, remained, had the Pope, a foreign Sovereign, a right to create ranks in the States of Her Majesty? In the Sydney Chronicle, the supposed organ of the Church of Rome, is the following paragraph:— As the bull of his Holiness, Pope Pius IX., appointing Dr. Goold to the episcopal bench, bears date prior to the letters patent under which Dr. Perry hold office as the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, Dr. Goold will be entitled to precedence. Here was a claim which would be admitted in the dominions of no other Protestant potentate—a claim, too, which every hon. Member in that House had sworn to resist. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) denied the validity of the course adopted by Earl Grey in this instance; but if his noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury consented to a return of nil to the Address, he should be perfectly satisfied.

The Motion was then agreed to.