HC Deb 25 June 1852 vol 122 cc1326-8

asked, pursuant to notice, the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department whether any reply had been or would be sent to the despatch of the Governor of New South Wales, forwarding the Lord Bishop of Sydney's remonstrance, dated 22nd of May, 1850, against the rank and precedence which, as it appeared from the despatch of Earl Grey of the 9th of January, 1849, explanatory of his circular despatch of the 20th of November, 1847, the Queen's representatives were still constructively enjoined to concede to any titular archbishop or bishop appointed by the Pope of Rome in any British Colony, before the Lords Bishops lawfully nominated by Her Majesty to suffragan sees duly constituted by the Crown therein.


Mr. Speaker, I was not aware till I entered the House to-day of the exact shape in which my hon. Friend proposed to put this question to me. But, now that I have heard him explain the nature of the general notice which he put upon the paper, I will, if the House will permit me, with the view of showing them in what position this question at this moment stands, shortly advert to the despatches to which my hon. Friend refers. The first despatch is a circular despatch issued by Lord Grey on the 20th of November, 1847, in which these words occur:— As Parliament has, by a recent Act (namely, the Charitable Bequests Act), formally recognised the Irish Roman Catholic Prelates by giving them precedence immediately after the Prelates of the Established Church in the same degree, that is to say, as Roman Catholic archbishop and bishops will, by that Act, take rank immediately after Protestant archbishop and bishops respectively, it appears to Her Majesty's Government fitting that the intentions of that Act, so far as the recognition of Roman Catholic dignitaries is concerned, should be extended to the Colonies, and I have accordingly to instruct you officially to recognise Roman Catholic archbishops and bishops in the Colonies, by addressing them respectively as 'your Grace' and 'your Lordship,' as the case may be. It would be observed that—accidentally, no doubt—there was some inconsistency in the language of this circular, and that the premises stated did not lead to the conclusion drawn; and from this peculiarity of the wording some doubt had arisen in the Colonies as to the exact position in which the Roman Catholic Prelates were to be regarded; and accordingly the Bishop of Sydney wrote to the Governor of New South Wales desiring to be informed whether he considered it to be the intention of Her Majesty's Government that the Most Rev. Archbishop Polding should have precedence over the Bishops of the Church of England in that Colony. In consequence of that inquiry having been forwarded by the Governor of New South Wales to Lord Grey, that noble Lord on the 9th of January, 1849, sent another despatch to the Governor, the substance of which was this—that he regarded the Bishop of Sydney in the light of a Metropolitan; and, as metropolitan, he would be entitled to precedence over the Roman Catholic Archbishop. In consequence of this despatch, the remonstrance to which my hon. Friend has alluded, dated the 22nd of May, 1850, was forwarded to the Governor by the Bishop of Sydney. In that remonstrance, the Bishop of Sydney made some exception to the term in which he himself was referred to; but, especially, he made it a matter of complaint that, although he individually, as Metropolitan, was to take precedence above the Roman Catholic bishops, yet that precedence would not apply to the suffragan bishops of Australia. The despatch from the Governor of New South Wales, containing that remonstrance, was received at the Colonial Office on the 4th of January, 1851. From the 4th of January, 1851, to the time of the recent change of Government in February last, no answer had been given to this remonstrance by my predecessor in the Colonial Department. When I came into office last March, I found this despatch containing the remonstrance still unanswered. This brings me to the question put to me by my hon. Friend, in reference to which I can merely say that the pressure of business has been so very great and so continuous since I first came into the office which I now fill, that, up to this time, no answer has been sent to that despatch; but it is my intention very shortly to answer the despatch of the Governor of New South Wales, containing the remonstrance of the Bishop of Sydney, and in that despatch to communicate the views which Her Majesty's Government entertain upon this subject.


I wish to add a very few words in the shape of another question. I trust that my right hon. Friend will be able to state to me and to this House that he does not intend to recognise in such answer such a construction as had been given to Earl Grey's circular. ["Order!"] I am very sorry to trouble the House, but I have put this question more than once, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell me that, in the despatch which he intends to send to the Governor of New South Wales, he will not recognise the instructions given by Lord Grey.


I think, Sir, that after the answer I have already given, my hon. Friend can hardly expect me to give any further answer.


I shall certainly bring the subject before the House again if I have a seat in the next Parliament.

The House adjourned at Seven o'clock till Tuesday next.