§ The House then resolved itself into Committee; Mr. BERNAL in the chair.
Motion made, and question proposed—
That it is expedient to alter the Oaths required to be taken by the subjects of Her Majesty not professing the Roman Catholic Religion, as qualifications for sitting and voting in Parliament, and to make provision in respect of the said Oaths for the relief of Her Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish Religion.
MR. VERNON SMITH
rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice. He would not, in so doing, detain the House longer than merely whilst he stated his general opinion that there ought to be no difference made between Gentlemen who came to the table to be sworn, on account of difference of religious persuasion. He had no scruple whatsoever in voting for the admission of Jews to Parliament. Whether the question was one which attracted public attention or not, did not signify in the least degree. But he thought that when they were not confining themselves merely to the admission of Jews to Parliament, but were taking the opportunity of that question to alter and amend the oaths to be taken by Members generally, they should endeavour to make the improvement as complete as possible. He asked the House, therefore, whether it would not he better that they should set aside altogether oaths that were unnecessary? He had a strong objection to the multiplication of oaths; and he thought that by simplifying those taken by Members of Parliament, they would be doing good service to the public at large. He did not wish to cast any slur upon that House; but he should say when hon. Gentlemen talked about the solemnity of the act of hon. Members coming to take the oaths at that table amidst the buzz and conversation of the House, that he did not think any observer could consider it either a solemn or a decorous proceeding. The proposal of his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) certainly simplified the oaths to a certain extent, but it still left what he considered a most unnecessary portion, and made a most unnecessary distinction; for it still provided different oaths for persons of different religious persuasions coming into that House. His noble Friend retained the Roman Catholic oath, because he said it had been established in 1829, and had remained unchanged for twenty years. That, he (Mr. Vernon Smith) thought, was no reason why it should be 1189 allowed to remain any longer. Not having conversed with any Members of the Roman Catholic persuasion upon the subject, he was unaware of their sentiments regarding it; but he himself thought the oath very objectionable, of very doubtful interpretation, and an insult to the Gentlemen of the Roman Catholic persuasion. And did any man, he would ask, consider that it gave any security to the Protestant Church? If, then, it were in every way objectionable, and productive in itself of no security, surely that oath ought to be done away with. Next, with regard to the Protestant oaths. The oath of supremacy, as described by the noble Lord, was only an explanation of the oath of allegiance. And the oath of adjuration his noble Friend proposed to deal with very summarily, it being absurd for any one to be called upon to abjure the pretensions of a Pretender who had no existence. It was to the oath of allegiance, then, that he wished the direct attention of the House, because it was intelligible to every one; and then he should remark upon the curious discrepancy between the oaths taken by Protestants and Roman Catholics. Protestants were called upon to swear by the true faith of a Christian, whilst Roman Catholics were obliged to swear that they would do no injury to the Church as established by law. The Protestant was not called upon to swear that he would do no hurt to the Church as established, nor was the Roman Catholic asked to swear upon the true faith of a Christian. Yet the Protestant Dissenter was, in his (Mr. Vernon Smith's) opinion, just as likely to do injury to the Established Church as the Roman Catholic. He should express his disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) in the stress which he had laid upon the retention in the oath of the words, "upon the true faith of a Christian;" for, when members of the different sects of Christianity met at the same table in that House, and swore upon the true faith of a Christian, he was at a loss to know what was meant by the term "faith"—some of those Christian sects differing as widely in matters of faith from one another as Christians generally did from Jews. His noble Friend proposed still to retain three different forms of oath—one to be taken by Protestants of all denominations; one by Roman Catholics; and another by Jews. He thought that no man ought to be called upon at that table to declare what his religious 1190 opinions were. The more the oaths were simplified, the more decorous and solemn would their proceedings be.
To leave out from the word 'expedient' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'to abolish all Oaths except the Oaths of Fidelity and Allegiance,' instead thereof.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, he had only to repeat the explanation which he had given upon a previous occasion, namely, that he did not think it expedient to alter the Roman Catholic oath, which was settled in 1829, when the great question of Roman Catholic disabilities was disposed of. Many hon. Gentlemen thought that that oath did give security to the Protestant Church, and he therefore did not think there was sufficient cause to induce him to propose an alteration, of it. He did not see the expediency of raising a great question when there was no necessity for doing so.
§ MR. HUME
agreed with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Vernon Smith) in the necessity that existed for reducing as much as possible unnecessary oaths. The Duke of Richmond, it was calculated, by the measure he introduced respecting oaths taken at the Customs and other places, had abolished by his Bill twenty millions of oaths. That is, that number of unnecessary oaths had been avoided. Since then, he believed they had abolished as many more, and he was not aware that the slightest dishonesty had ever occurred in consequence. He should vote for his right hon. Friend's Amendment.
§ Question put—" That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." The Committee divided:—Ayes 140; Noes 68: Majority 72.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abdy, T. N.||Bruce, C. L. C.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Campbell, hon. W. F.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Carew, W. H. P.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Carter, J. B.|
|Ashley, Lord||Chichester, Lord J. L.|
|Bailey, J.||Christy, S.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Clive, hon. R. H.|
|Baines, M. T.||Cocks, T. S.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Cole, hon. H. A.|
|Bankes, G.||Cubitt, W.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Davies, D. A. S.|
|Bonnet, P.||Disraeli, B.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Dod, J. W.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Drumlanrig, Visct.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Blair, S.||Duncuft, J.|
|Bourke, R. S.||Dundas, G.|
|Broadley, H.||Farrer, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Ffolliott, J.|
|Brown, H.||Floyer, J.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|Forbes, W.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Napier, J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Neeld, J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Packe, C. W.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Packington, Sir J.|
|Greenall, G.||Patten, J. W.|
|Grenfell, C. P.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Peel, F.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Gwyn, H.||Plumptre, J. H. P.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Power, N.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Prime, R.|
|Harris, R.||Pugh, D.|
|Hawes, B.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.||Ricardo, O.|
|Heald, J.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Simeon, J.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Slaney, R. A.|
|Hogg, Sir J. W.||Smith, J. A.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Smith, M. T.|
|Hope, A.||Smyth, J. G.|
|Hornby, J.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Hotham, Lord||Spooner, R.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Stanley, E.|
|Johnstone, Sir S.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Keppel, hon. G. T.||Staunton, Sir G. T.|
|Labouehere, rt. hon. H.||Taylor, T. E.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Tollemache, J.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir T. F.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Verner, Sir H.|
|Macnaghten, Sir E.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Macnamara, Maj.||Walpole, S. H.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Maitland, T.||Wilson, M.|
|Mandeville, Visct.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Mangles, R. D.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|Masterman, J.||Young, Sir J.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||TELLERS.|
|Morgan, H. K. G.||Tufnell, H.|
|Morris, D.||Grey, R. W.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anderson, A.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Bass, M. T.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Hastie, A.|
|Brown, W.||Hastie, A.|
|Caulfeild, J. M.||Headlam, T. E.|
|Cobden, R.||Henry, A.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Heyworth, L.|
|Divett, E.||Hindley, C.|
|Duff, G. S.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Duncan, G.||Humphery, Ald.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||Jackson, W.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Langsten, J. H|
|Ellis, J.||Lushington, C.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Mahon, The O'Gorman|
|Evans, W.||Martin, J.|
|Ewart, W.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Moffatt, G.|
|Forster, M.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Fox, W. J.||Mowatt, F.|
|Muntz, G. F.||Talbot, J. H.|
|O'Connell, J.||Tenison, E. K.|
|O'Flaherty, A.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Ogle, S. C H.||Thompson, Col.|
|Ord, W.||Thompson, G.|
|Osborne, R.||Thornely, T.|
|Pechell, Capt.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Pilkington, J.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Rawdon, Col.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Ricardo, J. L.||Williams, S.|
|Salwey, Col.||Wood, W. P.|
|Scholefield, W.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Smith, J. B.||TELLERS.|
|Stansfield, W. R. C.||Smith, R. N.|
|Stuart, Lord D.||Hume, J.|
§ MR. BANKES
said, he had given notice of an Amendment, but he believed it would be more properly brought forward in Committee on the Bill. He should have been disposed at the present moment to move the omission of the words "and to make provision in respect of the said oaths for the relief of Her Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion;" but he understood from the Chairman that after the division which had just taken place, he was precluded from so doing, the Committee having decided that these words should stand part of the question, and consequently he could only take a division on the whole of the resolution. Now, he did not object to the whole of the resolution, because he did not object to an alteration in the words of the oath, provided the alteration was for the better; but he entirely dissented from any arrangement for the admission of the Jewish subjects of the realm into Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman who had just divided the Committee had answered his own proposition, because if he felt there was any use in the oath, binding the conscience and honour of persons to the Sovereign, he (Mr. Bankes) had an equal right, on the part of the Established Church, to require a similar security. The words which he wished to introduce into the oath now under consideration were contained in the Roman Catholic oath, and he did not see why they should not be introduced for the purpose of binding the honour and conscience of those persons who were not adherents of the Established Church. These words were introduced to bind the honour and conscience of Roman Catholics, and he intended to propose that they should also be binding upon those persons of the Jewish persuasion who might obtain seats in Parliament; and he could not understand why an obligation should 1193 be imposed on Roman Catholics which was not intended to be fixed on the Jews. He was ready for the sake of argument to put them both on the same footing, and if they consented to take the oath, he should feel quite satisfied that they would be bound by it. This was the nature of the proposition which he should submit to the House at the proper time; but as he could not' move the Amendment now, he would not trouble the House by dividing upon the resolution. He trusted the noble Lord would turn his attention to the subject before the next stage of the measure.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
was glad the hon. Gentleman proposed to defer putting his Amendment until the Committee on the Bill. The hon. Gentleman supposed that inasmuch as the words he proposed were included in the Roman Catholic oath, they might properly be admitted into the oath which was about to be framed. Now with respect to the Roman Catholic oath, the words were introduced at the period of the settlement of the question of Catholic emancipation, and formed a part of the terms on which Roman Catholics were thenceforth to be admitted to sit in Parliament, the object being to protect the Established Church. But they could not suppose there was any danger of the Jews subverting or overturning the Church Establishment, whatever apprehensions might have been entertained with regard to the Roman Catholics. As he understood the hon. Gentleman, he wished to introduce the words into the oath taken by all Members: that was a different question, such an Amendment being a relaxation in favour of one class of persons, enabling them to sit in the House, would be at the same time a restriction upon Protestant Dissenters. The opinion he (Lord J. Russell) entertained before the Roman Catholic oath was proposed he entertained still, and what was now proposed would in fact operate not as terms of admission but of prescription. On these considerations, and not being of opinion that the words themselves were very fit to be introduced as a qualification for Members to sit in Parliament, and having only agreed to them in the case of the Roman Catholic oath as part of the settlement then effected, he should, when the Amendment was moved, object to their introduction as affecting the Jews or any other class except the Roman Catholics.
§ MR. GOULBURN
only rose to express a hope, that acquiescence in the present 1194 proposal would not prejudice hon. Members who wished to oppose the Bill in future stages. He did not wish to express any opinion on the Roman Catholic oath; but the noble Lord objected to the words proposed to be introduced, on grounds which he thought were untenable. The noble Lord stated that the introduction of these words into a general oath would impose a hardship upon Dissenters. Now he (Mr. Goulburn) was not one of those who wished to impose restrictions upon Protestant Dissenters; but he could not help remembering that admission into corporate bodies was thought to be of great benefit to Dissenters, and that the test for such admission involved the taking of an oath not to exercise any power or authority the party was about to come into possession of, for the injury of the Established Protestant Church. He could not conceive that a declaration of a similar nature could operate injuriously towards Dissenting Members of the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
conceived that there was a very wide distinction between the test which might be fairly applied to persons admitted by the laws of the State to certain offices, and the test which was to be exacted before a person could enter into Parliament for the purposes of legislating. The two questions were totally distinct.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
thought it should be decided in what position a Roman Catholic stood in that House. Were they in the same free position as Protestant Members or not? It appeared to be the opinion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bankes) that the restrictions in the Catholic oath, implying that they were not in a position to deal with the revenues of the Protestant Church, should be imposed on Protestant Dissenters. He did not think the conduct of the Government quite clear in this matter. Why did they not show the same regard for Catholics as others? There were Catholics here and elsewhere, men of conscience and honour, who felt that they came into Parliament with one hand tied up; others, on the contrary, did not believe that the words involved any restriction upon Members of Parliament to deal with the money of the people. He thought the time had come when the question should be decided one way or the other. No one would bow more readily than be, should a majority, or even a large minority, of that House decide that Catholics had no right to deal in any way with the revenues of the Protestant Church. The noble Lord said he would not impose a restriction 1195 on Dissenters, implying that he considered there was a restriction on Catholics. If so, let the noble Lord or let the right hon. Baronet who brought in the Emancipation Bill declare it; and let the Catholics no longer be taunted with perjury for acting as their consciences dictated. For his own part, he believed that money, so far from strengthening, injured religion; and with regard to Catholics generally, they repudiated any State provision for their Church.
MR. H. DRUMMOND
said, it was certainly somewhat new to those who had some small smattering of historical knowledge, to be told that it was a prevailing doctrine in the Catholic Church that all alliance with money and wealth was detrimental to the cause of true religion. He reminded the hon. Gentleman and the House, that if it were true that Roman Catholics had no right to vote upon subjects connected with the Protestant Church, that Protestants claimed no right to vote on matters connected with the Catholic Church. Why did not hon. Gentlemen remember and act up to the old adage, that "what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander?" He considered the present Motion to be an attempt to pass an ex post facto law against the Dissenters, and an effort by a side wind to deprive them of their privileges.
The EARL of ARUNDEL and SURREY
wished to state the reason why he felt that he could not vote either for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton, or for that which the hon. Member for Dorsetshire was to bring forward. But, first, he would reply to the hon. Member for Surrey, that the difference between Protestants voting on the Catholic church, and Catholics voting on the Protestant Church, was founded simply upon the oath which Roman Catholic Members took. As to that oath, its terms were such that many Roman Catholic gentlemen of equal honour and equal scrupulosity took different views of the obligation which it imposed. There was no compulsion on a Catholic to enter the House; but when he did so, there was a compulsion on him to take a certain oath, as a condition of his admission. Now, doubtless, the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman near him would go to relieve Roman Catholics from the oath which they took, and the inconveniences which it entailed. But then he held that if Roman catholics negotiated and agreed to enter 1196 the House upon certain conditions, that they ought not to take advantage of their admission to abrogate those conditions. Let them take a familiar illustration. Suppose a club were to admit foreigners as members, giving them all the privileges of the institution, upon condition of their refraining from interfering, in certain respects, with the management of the club-then, supposing a number of foreigners had been thus admitted, it surely would not become them to take advantage of their membership to abolish the conditions upon promising to observe which, they had been originally admitted. He, for one, would therefore refrain from interfering in this subject at all. He should take it as a boon, if Government were to alter an oath which was differently interpreted by different honest and conscientious men; but he would neither vote for nor against such a proposition.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
could not feel otherwise than highly gratified at the speech of the noble Earl who had just sat down. Would that all Roman Catholics were like him! Firm in upholding the interests of his Church—ready to promote its advancement even when it might be felt to be an invasion of the Established Church; yet he had shown that he was not disposed to avail himself of that doctrine which some Catholics believed, in that they were free from the obligations of the oath. [Cries of "No, no!"] He was glad to find that that was not the fact. If the oath were to be altered, he thought his hon. Friend (Mr. Bankes) had reason on his side; but he was glad his proposal was deferred.
§ MR. G. ANSTEY
concurred with the noble Earl the Member for Arundel in his view of the Roman Catholic oath, and the duty of Roman Catholic Members as to any proposition to alter that oath. It would be the more fair and honest course in the hon. Member for Dorsetshire to propose the introduction of words into the oath absolutely and in terms prohibiting all those who did not belong to the Church of Eng-land from in any way interfering with the temporalities of the Church of England. That was, no doubt, the real intention, as regarded Roman Catholics, of the original framers of the oath. He felt it to be his duty to give effect to that intention; his only regret being that it was conveyed in such an ambiguous manner as to leave Roman Catholic Members in doubt as to which way they ought to take it.
§ MR. NAPIER
observed, that the object for which the Emancipation Act was passed, as explained by the right hon. Baronet on introducing it, was to extend to the Catholics civil and religious privileges, and at the same time to secure the rights of the Established Church; and he was glad to find that the interpretation put on that Act by Dr. Doyle, and other high Roman Catholic authorities, was that it was a compact entered into by the Legislature on the one hand, and the Catholics on the other, one condition of which was that the influence thus acquired by that body should not be used to the prejudice of the Protestant Church, and that nothing could exonerate the Catholics from the conditions thus imposed. He was glad to find that the interpretation which was put upon the compact by Protestants was shared in not only by those authorities, but by the noble Earl and other Catholic Members of Parliament, and that it was in no way opposed to the tenets of the Catholic faith.
§ MR. SHEIL
thought it incumbent on him, as a Catholic Member, to state that his view of the obligation imposed by the Roman Catholic oath did not coincide with the interpretation put upon it by the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. J. O'Connell), nor with that of his noble Friend (the Earl of Arundel and Surrey) behind him. If the interpretation of his noble Friend—which had obtained for him the panegyric of the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Napier)—if that were correct, no Roman Catholic could have voted for the Church Temporalities Bill. No Roman Catholic could have voted for the diminution of the number of bishops in Ireland, nor for the abolition of church cess, the effect of which had been to diminish the revenues of the Established Church indirectly to the extent of 60,000l. a year. There was a great distinction between the total subversion of the Church, and a modification or even a diminution of its revenues, if they left an adequate sum not only for the maintenance of the spiritual establishment, but for its temporal sustainment as one of the institutions of the country. He did not think it proper on this occasion to enter into an examination of the exact words of the oath; but would content himself with referring the hon. and learned Member to the observation made by Sir C. Wetherell at the time the terms of that oath were settled. Sir C. Wetherell said, using a forensic expression, that the terms were wide enough to drive a coach and 1198 four through them. What more easy than to make a Roman Catholic swear that he would not employ his civil privileges to diminish the temporal possessions of the Established Church? If that were the interpretation of the oath, why was there not a declaratory Act? He could not agree with the hon. Member for Limerick, that if a particular vote were passed by a majority, or even a large minority of the House, putting a different interpretation upon the oath, he would consider himself bound by it. He (Mr. Sheil) preferred the well-known legal maxim, that the oath was to be taken and construed secundum sensum impositum. Still the difficulty arose, what was the intention of the Legislature? His interpretation was, that he was bound both in conscience and honour not to attempt the subversion or overthrow of the Established Church; still that he was at full liberty to make such alterations in its temporalities and revenues as should be consistent with its general advantage, and its due and permanent maintenance.
The EARL of ARUNDEL and SURREY
The speech of the right hon. Member only proves what I have said as to the different interpretations put by men of the highest honour upon the oath.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
thought the House ought to consider whether the present uncertainty respecting the oath taken by Roman Catholic Members should any longer exist. He was willing to see such a declaratory Act as that referred to by the right hon. the Master of the Mint introduced, in order that the terms of the oath might be explained, because at present he was placed in a somewhat painful position. He had a notice of Motion for Monday, by which a new modification of the revenue's of the Church of England was proposed; but of course he would not submit it if he found that, in interfering in Church matters, he was acting contrary to the oath he had taken. The question, however, resolved itself into this—were the Catholics emancipated or were they not? Irish Catholics had won emancipation for themselves and the English Catholics; and, although two of the latter had spoken their views that evening, yet they must recollect that whatever understanding other, had come into Parliament upon, the Irish Catholics had not entered the House with their hands tied. The case alluded to by the noble Earl (the Earl of Arundel and Surrey), was inapplicable, because the Irish Catholics would have rejected emancipation 1199 were it clogged with any objectionable conditions. The question, however, which had now arisen was in every respect a most important one, for it resolved itself into this—whether the people of Ireland, who paid their money to the support of the Church of the minority, were to have no voice in any matter pertaining to the temporalities of that establishment. He called upon the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth to answer this interrogatory, and to explain the views he entertained in proposing the Roman Catholic oath.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Even if the hon. Gentleman's impression were correct, that the oath to which he refers was first introduced on my recommendation, it appears to me that I should be acting improperly if I were to declare what in my opinion is the proper construction to be put upon that oath. The adoption of that oath by whomsoever proposed was the act of the House of Commons and of the Legislature. Since the period of its imposition, many votes have been given by Roman Catholic Members in this House. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen will do me the justice to admit that, since the year 1829, I have never insinuated against any Roman Catholic Member of Parliament that he has given a vote on any particular subject from other than conscientious motives. If the Legislature be dissatisfied with the course which hon. Gentlemen may have taken in this House, it is the duty of the Legislature to establish some new rule for the guidance of those Members, and to declare by a new enactment what is its intention with respect to Roman Catholic Members of this House. But it is not the duty of any Member to declare his own individual opinion on the proper construction of an oath, in order that that opinion may be a rule for the guidance of others in the discharge of their public duty. The hon. Gentleman is, however, in error in supposing that this oath was introduced by me. Before I notice the oath, I will briefly advert to a proposal made, I believe, by my right hon. and lamented Friend, Sir R. Wilmot Horton, expressly providing that Roman Catholic Members should not be permitted to vote on questions affecting the interests, spiritual or temporal, of the Established Church. I stated my objections to the introduction of any such proposal, and said—My right hon. Friend has proposed, with a view to calm the suspicions and fear" of those who 1200 object to the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament, that the Roman Catholic Member should be disqualified by law from voting on matters relating, directly or indirectly, to the interests of the Established Church. There appear to me numerous and cogent objections to this proposal. In the first place, it is dangerous to establish the precedent of limiting by law the discretion by which the duties and functions of a Member of Parliament are to be exercised. In the second, it is difficult to define, beforehand, what are the questions which affect the interests of the Church. A question which has no immediate apparent connexion with the Church, might have a practical bearing upon its welfare ten times more important than another question which might appear directly to concern it. Thirdly, by excluding the Roman Catholic from giving his individual vote, you do little to diminish his real influence, if you leave him the power of speaking of biasing the judgments of others—on the question on which he is not himself to vote, and if, by a jealous and distrusting but ineffectual precaution, you tempt him to exercise to your prejudice the remaining power of which you cannot, or do not, propose to deprive him. I believe there is more of real security in confidence than in avowed mistrust and suspicion, unaccompanied by effectual guards. For these reasons, I am unwilling to deprive the Roman Catholic Members of either House of Parliament of any privilege of free discussion and free exercise of judgment which belongs to other Members of the Legislature.The Act of 1829, did, however, require an oath to be taken by Roman Catholic Members on taking their seat. That oath, however, was in substance not then proposed for the first time, but adopted from the Act of the Irish Parliament, which in the year 1793 removed the greater part of the disabilities affecting the Roman Catholics. The oath in question was required to be taken as the condition of relief from those disabilities. The oath had been previously imposed in the year 1774 by the Act which removed the restrictions on the tenure of landed property by Roman Catholics. The oath in question had the full assent of the Roman Catholic body when it was originally imposed, and no objection had been subsequently offered to its requirements. This oath being an existing security-a security taken at previous periods with the consent of the Roman Catholic body—was adopted in substance in 1829, and was required from Roman Catholics as the condition of the exercise of legislative functions. The oath imposed by the Act of 1793 was to this effect:—I do solemnly swear that I will defend, to the utmost of my power, the settlement and arrangement of property in this country as established by the laws. I do hereby disclaim, disavow, and solemnly abjure any intention to subvert the present Church Establishment, or substitute 1201 a Catholic establishment in its stead; and I do solemnly swear that I will not exercise any privilege to which I am or may become entitled, to disturb or weaken the Protestant religion or the Protestant Government in this kingdom. So help me, God!Every Roman Catholic appointed to office under the Act of 1793, every freeholder exercising the elective franchise, had this oath put to him, and had the same obligation which the Roman Catholic Member now has, to consider the true meaning and purport of the oath. I am content to leave that question to be determined by each Roman Catholic Member of Parliament after mature reflexion on the terms of the oath. I believe that his decision, whatever it may be, will be a conscientious one. Until some new rule be established, the conscientious convictions of each Member must be his guide—at any rate, I cannot undertake to declare what is the proper construction to be placed upon the oath in question.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, it now appeared, from the course the discussion had taken, that this question must now be settled animo recipientis. He wished to see a short declaratory Bill introduced which would settle the matter at once; and to its provisions, if adopted, he promised to yield a ready acquiescence. He admitted that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had never accused the Catholic Members of perjury; but, then, his silence, when the charge was advanced, had operated prejudicially, so far as their characters were concerned. He reminded the right hon. Baronet that there was a considerable difference between the emancipation oath and the oath of 1793; and he had always been of opinion that, according to the words in which the former was couched, He was not precluded from speaking and voting on the temporalities of the Irish Church. He was perfectly willing to adopt the language used by the right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Mint on this subject, and to withdraw what he had himself previously said when adverting to the oath.
§ Main Question agreed to:—Resolution to be reported.
§ The Chairman reported progress, and the House resumed.