§ Order read, for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [22nd June], "That the words it be referred to a Select Committee to consider whether any and what regulations are necessary for the better protection of the Inmates of Establishments of a conventual nature, and for the prevention of the exercise of undue influence in procuring the alienation of their property,' be added to the word 'That' in the original Question."
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. BOWYER
wished to ask time opinion of the Speaker with regard to the form 485 of the Motion as it stood on the paper. He wished to know what Motion they were about to discuss. He understood that on a former occasion the Motion, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," had been negatived, and therefore he understood that the second reading of the Bill was thereby negatived. Nothing remained of the original Motion but the word "that;" the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Phinn) did not appear on the paper at all; but an Amendment of his (Mr. Bowyer's), and one of the hon. Member for Meath, remained there.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Order of the Day on the 22nd June was, that the Bill be read a second time; to which an Amendment was moved to leave out all the words after the word "that," for the purpose of inserting the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Bath. The House divided on the Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question, and they came to the decision that the words do not stand part of the Question; then the word "that" stood by itself, and the question left to be decided was, whether the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Bath should be added; and that was the question now before the House.
§ MR. BOWYER
Then my Motion, "That the Bill be read a second time that day six months," falls to the ground.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, he was glad to find that the discussion was not to turn on the second reading of a Bill which had been rejected and renounced by those who had formerly supported it. [An Hon. MEMBER: No, no!] He believed that the hon. Member who cried "no" was one of those who had voted against the second reading. It was difficult to find a Bill based on more false pretences. The hon. Member (Mr. T. Chambers) who had introduced it, called himself a Liberal, and yet he was doing the work of hon. Gentlemen opposite—the old friends of intolerance. He would admit that the Roman Catholics had nothing to complain of in the remarks made by the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Phinn); but he hoped the House would permit him to make a few observations in opposition to the Amendment proposed by that hon. and learned Gentleman. He objected to the 486 Motion, because he believed it unnecessary, unprecedented, and dangerous to all classes in the country. He firmly believed that this was only the foremost of a series of movements, the object of which was to-engage the Legislature in a conflict with all those institutions most dear to the highest hopes and deepest convictions of a large class of Her Majesty's subjects. There was a production called the Nunnery Question, which professed to give the facts on which the House was asked to enter upon this conventual crusade, and among them was something relating to mesmerism in convents—a statement of what he must call rather a cock-and-a-bull story of the treatment of a boy—and a reference to some frightful anathema which was pronounced against all who attempted to force nuns to go out of convents. Now this anathema happened to be the formula used in dark ages when spiritual power was the only restraint on lawless violence. The true mode in which statesmen should view the question, was whether, upon the whole, these institutions—if not deserving the support of the State—were not entitled to be left free from its interference. Voltaire says—Perhaps there is nothing grander on earth than the sacrifice which is made by the delicate sex of beauty, of youth, often of high birth, in order to relieve in the hospitals that collection of all human miseries which is so humiliating to our pride, and so revolting to our refinement.Without wishing to wound the susceptibilities of any hon. Member, I may continue the quotation. Voltaire says—The nations who are separated from the Roman communion have but imperfectly imitated so generous a charity.Dr. Forbes, speaking of the Sisters of Mercy, says—Every one who has been in Catholic countries, must have heard of and seen these Sisters at their various works of charity and mercy—educating the young, nursing the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, harbouring the homeless, imparting religion to improve the good and restore the bad; and all with that utter self abnegation, and self-devotion, and with that earnestness, tenderness and patience, which can only spring from the profoundest conviction, that, in so labouring, they are fulfilling God's win as revealed to man.The house was not to be asked to grant to these institutions sums of money or lands, but only that their inmates might have the same liberty which other persons enjoyed to devote themselves to acts of charity and benevolence. Probably the most flourishing of the so-called "religious" societies in the country at the 487 present time, were not those which were intended to promote the spread of religion or morality, or even to carry on proselytism by legitimate means, but those whose object was to revile Roman Catholics. Those societies were composed of men who disavowed anything in common except their animosity towards the faith to which he (Mr. Ball) belonged. Such bodies rejoiced in different names, but their object was the same. There was the Protestant Association, the Evangelical Alliance, the Protestant Alliance, and so forth. In the model petition prepared by the Protestant Association, after lamenting that no adequate provision was made in the Catholic Relief Bill for the entire suppression of conventual establishments, it goes on as follows:—And your Petitioners desire to state, that in their opinion the existence of monasteries and nunneries is utterly inconsistent with the constitutional principles of a free and Protestant country, and that facts prove them to be highly injurious in practice.And these are the persons who tell us is this House that their object is solely to protect the inmates of convents. There was one striking feature in the publications of all these institutions, namely, their sudden alternations between the most triumphant hope, and the most profound despair. On one page they boast of their splendid successes, and on the next the reader is called upon to deplore the for midable front that was shown by Popery, and the enormous sums that were being poured into the country for the purpose of purchasing the Protestant faith of the people of England. Thus, in one place they were told that no fewer than 100,000 addresses had been. circulated amongst the electors of Scotland, and that the result had been that no fewer than twenty-seven Scotch Members had voted for Mr. Spooner's Motion, while only eleven had voted against it. Again, it was stated that the enormous number of 137,600 tracts and pamphlets had been distributed in the city of Glasgow alone; and the total number circulate in Scotland must therefore have defied ordinary powers of computation. Of course the natural inquiry would be, what had been the character of these publications? They were of various prices, from the very moderate charge of a shilling per hundred to sixpence each, and they might judge of the nature of these publications by the titles of some of those issued by the Protestant Association:— 488Popery the Enemy of God and Man." "Popery like Paganism." "Popery unchanged." "Popish Bigotry." "Fifth of November" "No Popery." "Awful Perjury." "The Popish Creed." "Awful Guilt of the Roman Bishops." "Idolatry of the late Pope, Gregory XVI.Then follow a few murders, such as the "Murder of the Rev. Irvine Whitty"—all of course attributed to Popery. It was by the circulation of such documents as these that the "religious societies" to which he had alluded, attempted to carry out their aims; and there was no doubt that the ignorance of the people of England, and still more of the people of Scotland, had been practised upon to a fearful extent, by the wholesale dissemination of these atrocious libels. I have here a few numbers of a periodical which bears at the head of its title page, the following testimonial from a noble Lord who takes an active part in the proceedings of these societies (the Earl of Shaftesbury): "Extremely cheap, well adapted to the necessities of the times, and singularly suited to the intelligence of the people." The report of the Protestant Alliance—that society which is graced by the co-operation of the hon. Member for Hertford—congratulates its readers on the increasing circulation of the periodical called the Bulwark. Well, I venture to assert that this publication so vouched, contains more offensive and abominable calumnies than ever disgraced the press of this country.
I will not sully my lips by reading some of the passages referring to convents. The House may judge of their tone by such expressions as these: "Nothing is more difficult than to establish judicially the crimes of a convent." "Proofs are multiplying of its revolting wickedness;" and some vile doggrel lines conclude, by calling upon Englishmen to "rase to their foundation stones these homes of infamy." Such is the language applied to ladies whose virtues and whose services have extorted. the reluctant admiration of the greatest enemies of the Catholic Church and of Christianity itself. Will any Member of this House rise in his place and say that such language is not disgraceful? Yet it is by such publications so suited to the "intelligence of the people" that this movement has been set going and is maintained. These works attribute to the Catholics every crime that can disgrace human nature. They represent them as without truth or honour, and as men on whom the slightest reliance cannot be placed. I have here a print representing 489 the "burning of Bishops Latimer and Ridley, in the days of Bloody Mary." Those were days when bishops of every sect, as well as men of other classes, sometimes came to cruel and untimely ends; and to those days I cannot imagine that men of any religious persuasion can look back with complacency. The writer, how, ever, says that they are "days to which all Papists look back with enthusiastic admiration;" and he goes on, "inasmuch as murder, as in the case of the Thugs, is part of the Popish religion." And he adds, that "Rome is eagerly thirsting for a renewal of similar tragedies." Remember that these are the tracts which so-called religious societies circulate in vast numbers; not among the educated, but among the poorest and most ignorant members of society. Others besides Catholics, however, come in for their share; even the members of the Peace Society don't escape. After explaining that the present ruler of France is under the complete control of the Pope, and that his object is to invade England, and by fire and sword utterly to destroy Protestantism; the writer shows that the Peace Society must be in a secret league with the Pope; and he sagely remarks, "It is rather suspicious that Messrs. Cobden and Bright, who profess to despise these threatenings, are at the same time strong abettors of our Popish home conspiracy." Now I entreat that the House will seriously consider what must be the natural consequences of an agitation, conducted through such machinery as this. What becomes of the chief safeguard which the constitution has provided for the life and liberty of citizens? Do not recent events entitle me to ask whether trial by jury is safe, if this agitation is to receive encouragement from the Legislature? I lately received information, that in a county in Ireland where considerable property is held by Catholic gentlemen of the highest position and respectability, the sheriff has twice summoned a grand jury, on which there was not one single Catholic. If the charges against Catholics are true, that high sheriff was quite right, for Catholics cannot be fit to be members of a jury, or to be members of civil society at all. If the hon. Members who bring forward this question, believe the assertions which they circulate, we ought not to be now discussing the trumpery Bill of the hon. Member for Hertford; we should not even be discussing the repeal of the Emacipation Act; we should be consider- 490 ing whether we should not be completely cut off from your society. For my part, I should like to know the worst at once. Do they propose that we should be driven forth to some remote colony, or settled upon some barren spots in the wilds of Scotland? It is quite clear that if we are to be regarded in such a light as we are depicted, we cannot remain together in peace as members of the same community.
Before I conclude, I wish to point out one peculiarity in the way in which this agitation is carried on. I quite believe that many of those who are concerned in the movement are genuine fanatics; but I do not believe that it would have ever attained its present proportions if there were not a great many who have a direct personal pecuniary interest in its progress. Accordingly there is nothing which is so vehemently urged on their readers as the duty of subscribing liberally to their funds. Some of these appeals are really quite touching. They say—A great drawback has hitherto frustrated all our efforts, and if it still continues, will be fatal to our plans. We refer to the state of the funds of Protestant Associations. With a few exceptions, the sums contributed have been so small that Protestants have been prevented from embarking in many hopeful undertakings, simply by the dread of pecuniary embarrassment.Again—Although the Anti-Popish struggle embraces every other, and must decide the fate of all churches and missions, as well as of every private interest, it is painful to think how little has hitherto been contributed towards its support, and how many of its publications and enterprises have gone down or languished, simply, from a total want of the necessary funds.Let us not have our prayers for the downfall of Babylon turned into mockery, by being placed in contrast with paltry and. inadequate contributions.Here is another appeal:— "Fellow Christians! an awful responsibility rests now on you. Join our associations; distribute our tracts; circulate our periodicals; contribute of your means: and let there be no delay.Sometimes more encouraging accounts are given with a view to stimulate by good example. Here is an account of a meeting of ladies, who pass resolutionsTo circulate monthly information by means of tracts, and especially of the Bulwark, as a monthly vehicle of intelligence and link of connexion among the Protestants of the empire.You have heard what sort of information is circulated in the Bulwark. NextTo form libraries for the especial instruction of females in the Popish controversy and struggle. Lastly, to raise funds for all these objects.491 The consequence is, that since railway shares have gone down, the best speculation left for a man of small capital and no character is to take to writing or publishing "No-Popery" tracts, or to become the officer of a "No-Popery" society. The grand chorus which all these concerns sung, was "Subscribe liberally. Empty your pockets." Atrocious as were the libels which were showered upon Catholics, he did not ask the House for any mean of redress. He felt confident that in the long run truth would prevail; but he did implore the House, not by any act of theirs to give these persons the least shadow of encouragement.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, that throughout his life he had been endeavouring to understand something of religion; and, if he knew anything at all upon the subject, he should say that its chief feature was charity, and he felt that he should best carry out the religious feelings and principles which he entertained by extending that charity to those who differed from him in faith. When he came forward as a candidate for the representation of Cambridgeshire, it was very natural that his religious opinions should be made the subject of considerable discussion. For those opinions he had Suffered through life; and he thought it better and more straightforward to state in his Address that he was a Dissenter although he was at the same time strongly attached to the principle of the Established Church, and that he would never, in his place in Parliament, consent to give a vote by which the maintenance of the Established Church in this country should be perilled or its rights infringed upon. He still retained the principles which he then enunciated, and his intention was to cam those principles most rigidly into practice. That being the case, he felt bound to ask himself with reference to the question before the House, whether, in the course which he was about to take with respect to it, those principles were involved. The religious liberty which he claimed for himself, he believed he ought to extend to others; and when he was asked to do that which must be offensive to a large body of his fellow Christians, he felt called upon to inquire whether any facts had been laid before the House which would justify such a proceeding. He had heard hon. Gentlemen allege upon previous occasions that there were many instances upon record which tended to demonstrate that consequences the most deplorable arose from 492 the existence of monastic establishments in the country, and from the mode in which those institutions were conducted; and he had heard those allegations upon the part of the Roman Catholic Members earnestly denied; they had demanded over and over again to have one fact substantiated—but that fact had never been forthcoming. Now, in his opinion, the House ought to be in possession of such information as would tend to prove that inquiry into the state of conventual establishments was necessary before they proceeded to assent to the Amendment which was then under their consideration. Such information, he believed was not, in their possession; and he confessed that its absence was a circumstance which was calculated to have no inconsiderable influence upon his mind. There was not a single Member in that House more opposed to the tenets of the Roman Catholic religion than he was; but he felt perfectly satisfied that no change in their religious sentiments could ever be produced by measures of persecution. On the contrary, he firmly believed that it was by acts of kindness and toleration that such a change could most effectually be wrought. Entertaining these sentiments, he could not bring himself to vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bath. Now it had been stated that women were treated with great harshness and great cruelty in conventual establishments; and that, in many instances, they were unable to recover their liberty, although they might desire to be set free from the rigour and restraints imposed by a monastic life. If that were really the case, how, he would ask, was their condition to be ameliorated by the Amendment before the House? What was it that retained them in those establishments after the desire to quit them had once taken possession of their breasts? No bolts or dungeons, he believed, but the vows which at their entrance into those institutions they had taken, and the impressions strongly stamped upon their minds, that in violating those vows they would be guilty of a heinous crime. If be were to bring forward a Motion in that House for the purpose of rescuing out of the power of their husbands those unhappy women who so frequently suffered treatment so scandalous at the hands of those who ought to be their protectors, the argument which would be urged against such a Motion would be, that those women were bound to their hus- 493 bands. They were obligations which would operate with a similar force to bind the nun to a residence within the walls of her convent; and it would be impossible to break through those obligations by any legislative enactment. He should beg to call the attention of the House, next, to the fact that most Roman Catholic ladies received their education within the walls of a convent; and they had had petitions presented to them against interference by themselves, or their mothers, sisters, or daughters, who had been or were inmates of nunneries:—was it possible, then, he would ask, that human nature could anywhere be so degraded, so lost, so completely abandoned to every fine and noble feeling, as that the mother would send her daughter, the guardian her ward, to be instructed in a place where, from her own experience, if the allegations of certain parties were true, her principles would be contaminated and her morals corrupted? The nature and position of conventual establishments embraced a subject which, from what he had heard with respect to it, he had desired to become acquainted with. He had accordingly asked a Catholic gentleman, a friend of his, to give him some information upon the point. His friend had immediately replied, "Go and see those institutions yourself, and you can then form your own opinions with respect to them." Now another gentleman, a friend of his also, had called upon him one day, and he (Mr. Ball), desiring to form his own judgment with reference to the character of the monastic institutions in this country, had expressed a wish to his friend to be driven to one of those establishments. His friend had immediately assented to the proposal, and they both accordingly proceeded to a convent in Blandford Square. Having obtained admission, the lady abbess came forward to receive them, and his friend said to her, "This is a Protestant gentleman desirous of looking over your establishment, if you should have no objection." The lady abbess expressed her readiness to comply with his wishes, and he had accordingly accompanied her over the entire convent, not even omitting to visit the coal cellars; he had seen in that establishment upwards of 1,000 poor children, who had been taken out of the streets, rescued from vice and poverty, and educated as well as such children should be, without any expense whatever upon their parts. Having witnessed those things, he could not help exclaiming as a Christian man—"Are those 494 the proceedings which I have so often heard mentioned as taking place in connexion with convents?" The lady abbess had also taken him to another portion of the establishment in which were located a number of servants out of place— some amongst them being members of the Protestant religion— and had informed him that the nuns endeavoured to procure situations for those poor women, and had thus been, under God, instrumental in saving many of them from ruin. He had conversed much with the superioress upon the occasion to which he referred. Of course he expected a great degree of refinement in one who belonged to the highest aristocracy; but he found her so well informed, so thoroughly educated, so well grounded in Christianity, and so imbued with a real Christian feeling, that he went away from the presence of that lady with feelings of the greatest admiration and respect. Next they proceeded to the convent of the Good Shepherd at Hammersmith. The work of that establishment was the reformation of women who had fallen victims to the evil passions of man; there were not less than eighty-five of these unfortunates sheltered within its walls, and he could not but feel the force of the lady abbess's appeal to him: "If it is not charity which induces us to undertake a task which brings us into contact with the worst of our sex, what else can be our motive? And yet you represent us in your House of Commons as the most abandoned of human beings." He left that convent with the same impression as that produced on his mind by that in Blandford Square. Lastly, he went to Roehampton: that was an educational establishment where about one hundred ladies, the daughters of the Roman Catholic nobility and gentry, received their education; and the whole of the surplus accruing from very high rates of charge for tuition went to the maintenance of the poor. Now, he would ask, having witnessed these things, was he not bound, at whatever cost, to state frankly and fairly what he had seen? He felt that he was; and he must confess the impression left on his own mind by these convents was, that they were most useful establishments, and that the inmates were influenced by the very highest motives that could move human hearts. He believed that it was only the fear of God, and a desire to benefit their fellow creatures, that prompted them to enter such institutions; and was he then to give his vote in favour of a Motion that would 495 revolt their feelings? Did he fear for the interests of Protestantism? Surely not. His fear rather was, that whatever might be accomplished by all classes of Christians, it would be insufficient to defeat the wiles of Satan, and that the great adversary would triumphs over all their efforts. One thing was clear, namely, that in no way would those efforts be foiled so much as by Christians indulging in divisions. For his own part he confessed that he had a prejudice in favour of all those who showed themselves zealous for the service of that Great Master in whose ways it had been the study of his life to walk.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that neither the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. J. Ball) nor the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had, in his opinion, addressed themselves at all to that which was the real question before the House. The hon. Member for Carlow had pronounced a glowing panegyric upon the conventual establishments of Europe. But the merits of those establishments was not the question they had met to consider; and if it were, he (Mr. Whiteside) should claim his right to express the opinion which he entertained with respect to them. He believed that in proportion to their number, their wealth, and their influence in any country, in precisely the same proportion was human liberty crushed, the progress of knowledge resisted, and the march of human improvement impeded. But that was not the question which they were then called upon to discuss. The real question was, according to his idea, to consider whether any and what measures are necessary for the prevention of the exercise of undue influence in procuring the alienation of property of persons in conventual establishments; and he should, therefore, abstain from making any further observations upon a topic which must be deemed irrelevant to the subject-matter of debate. He had no intention whatever to raise upon that occasion a No-Popery cry; and he perfectly agreed with those hon. Members who said that interference in the regulation of monastic establishments, for the mere sake of interference, would be unjustifiable, and ought to be resisted. Facts, however, tended to justify that interference; and the House was bound to exercise that control with respect to convents which it maintained and put into execution in other cases. Was it not true that the laws of England gave security to a married woman when called upon to execute a deed conveying her property to an- 496 other, and guarded her even under such circumstances against the influence, the just influence, of her husband? Why was that security extended to her? Because she might, at the time of the execution of such a deed, be under control, and might thus be compelled to part with her fortune against her will, and not in accordance with her own free wishes. When a prisoner was confined in gaol—he spoke of a person who might be confined for debt, and not a convict—if that prisoner chose to execute a warrant of attorney while in that position, though his understanding might be perfectly clear, still the law stepped in to protect him, and rendered it necessary to the execution of the instrument in question, that witnesses should be present while it was being drawn up. Around the inmates of a lunatic asylum, the law of England threw protection, and it did so solely because that protection was required. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire asked where were the facts which could be adduced to demonstrate that interference with the regulations of conventual institutions was either necessary or desirable. Such proofs were not wanting. He (Mr. Whiteside) could cite cases to the hon. Member to prove that undue influence—to prove that an undue degree of influence—had been exercised over young women in those establishments for the purpose of procuring the alienation of property, and that that influence had been exercised, not only in one, two, or three cases, but in several instances. It had over and over again been proved, to the satisfaction of the Judges in the highest courts of law in this kingdom, that the execution of deeds and conveyances and of wills had been obtained from ladies in convents by means, the justice or the fairness of which the law did not recognise, He should briefly call the attention of the House to a case which had lately occupied the time of the Lord Chancellor in Ireland for a period of no less than three or four days, to the exclusion of other important business which called for his consideration. There had been a Roman Catholic gentleman at the bar in Ireland, whose friendship he (Mr. Whiteside) had had the happiness to enjoy. That gentleman's name was Mr. J. H. Blake, a man of the highest talent, and of unspotted honour. After Mr. Blake's death, to his (Mr. Whiteside's) great surprise, that gentleman's wife and child were involved in a Chancery suit with the lady superioress of Loretto House, which was an immense establishment, of the conventual character in 497 Ireland, and which was affiliated with several establishments of a similar order throughout the Empire. The lady in question had filed a bill to recover the share of one of the inmates of that establishment of her brother's estate. The question raised upon the trial had been whether she could be considered as otherwise than dead in the eye of the law. The lawyers maintained that as she was a professed nun, and was thus deprived of all judgment, all reason, and the free exercise of her own will, she must, according to the ancient, charitable common law of England, be considered as if she were really dead. The Lord Chancellor, in pronouncing his judgment upon the case, said that it had been distinctly proved that the petition which had been presented to the Court upon behalf of the lady in question was presented for the purpose of procuring the property in dispute for the benefit of the body of which she was a member, and that she, in fact, could not be considered as having acted upon her own unbiassed inclinations. The Lord Chancellor proceeded to say that he should hold that the lady was not dead in law. ["Hear, hear!"] Let hon. Gentlemen who cheered observe that the practical result of that decision was that the lady was alive, so that she might recover for the community of Loretto House some 10,000l. or 20,000l. through the medium of the Court of Chancery. She was alive in law, but she was dead for the purpose of the enjoyment of that property, and for the purpose of exercising in respect to it any of the rights of the other subjects of Her Majesty. The Lord Chancellor concluded by saying that he hoped there would be an appeal to the House of Lords upon that point, and that it would by that means be finally settled whether or not those ladies, alive in point of fact, were dead it law. It was said that there was no compulsion exercised over the inmates of those conventual establishments. Now, upon that point he would quote the words of a Lord Chancellor in another case, in which the property had been restored to the family of a nun. The Lord Chancellor said he would put the case of a prisoner in a dungeon, and a gaoler extorting a deed from him, and coming into court and saying, "I have that person still in my dungeon, but I want the property from him, and for myself." And then his Lordship added, "Shall I give it to him? I will do no such thing." There was another cast of a will which had lately been pending in 498 the Prerogative Court. The members of a Roman Catholic family had disputed the validity of the will on the ground that it had been obtained by coercion—by undue influence. The lady superioress had put in her answer; that answer had been excepted to as not sufficient, or as evasive. But ultimately, as he had been given to understand, the matter had been compromised—the interest of the money having been given to the claimants for their lifetime on condition that it was to go to the institution after their deaths. Again, in the case of the Ranelagh Convent, Baron Pennefather, after having adverted to the fact that the brother-in-law of the nun had been denied access to her, and that her sister had not been allowed to see her except in the presence of a member of the community, concluded by saying, that "no one could doubt that the will had been procured by the influence of those ladies over a young person secluded from every friend, her nearest relations having been excluded from the convent;" and under these circumstances that deed likewise had been held to be invalid. He confessed that he had been surprised to find how unanimously the Roman Catholic gentlemen with whom he had conversed upon the subject had expressed themselves in favour of a measure which would throw some protection in reference to the execution of deeds around the inmates of conventual establishments. The hon. Member for Carlow had not offered any real answer to the arguments which had been adduced in favour of such a measure, by the encomiums he had passed on the inmates of those establishments, and by his enumeration of the blessings which they bestowed on the human race. It was a wise saying of Lord Bacon, that "constant, repetition breedeth conviction;" and the hon. Member had repeated these things until he probably believed them himself. If the friends of those institutions were sure that an inquiry would redound to the honour of their inmates, and of the system on which they were based, why should those Gentlemen oppose a Motion for such an inquiry? But Parliament was asked to abstain from any interference in the matter before it had in any way investigated its details. It was true, no doubt, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball) had made inquiries on his own account; but from the speech of the hon. Gentleman, which was so very creditable to his heart, and which proved so conclu- 499 sively the innocence of his nature, he (Mr. Whiteside) should not be surprised if the hon. Gentleman himself became a monk. He had been charmed by everything he had seen; and although he had not touched upon the question of property at all, he had ventured to condemn every man who differed from him upon the subject. The real point was whether more care was not required over the disposition of property by these persons. Before he sat down, he would say a few words upon the more general question which had been introduced by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlow, The hon. Gentleman had said that this measure was part of a systematic attack directed against the rights of Roman Catholics. Now he (Mr. Whiteside) denied the accuracy of that statement. He said that if the proposal for which he was contending were carried, its effect would be to preserve the property of Roman Catholics, and not to destroy any one of their rights. If the hon. Gentleman meant to insinuate that nothing had occurred of late years in Ireland or in England to justify a little more care and inquiry with respect to the control of Roman Catholic ecclesiastics over lay institutions, he (Mr. Whiteside) entirely disagreed with him. He had before asserted, and he then repeated, that he believed that among a portion of those ecclesiastics, known as the Ultramontane party, there was a principle in operation hostile to the progress of knowledge. He would give a proof of what he meant. There was a document which had been presented to that house, in which a distinguished gentleman, Mr. Berwick, the President of the College of Galway, painfully and reluctantly confessed that it was impossible for that institution to extend the sphere of its usefulness in opposition to the machinations of that Ultramontane party. Mr. Berwick went on to refer to the well-known fact, that a Roman Catholic clergyman of high character and attainments, who had filled the very responsible office of Vice-President of that College, had been compelled by the See of Rome to renounce that office, and that the same authority had been brought to bear with equal effect on the Professor of History. These were facts, and not mere words. That institution had been founded for the purpose of promoting science—of strengthening and refining the intellect; but it had been obstructed—it had been nearly destroyed—by a mandate sent from Rome. In the face of such facts, was it possible to maintain that the leaders 500 of the Roman Catholic Church were animated by any sincere desire to promote education, and to elevate the intellectual condition of the great mass of the Roman Catholic body? The provincial College in Cork had also been torn and distracted by those divisions; and a few weeks ago the Board of National Education in Ireland had been shaken to its foundations by a resolution which left every child at liberty to forbid the reading in a school of any book to which he might object by the direction of his priest. [A cry of "No!"] He only stated a fact which had been communicated to him on the best authority. There had been a moderate amendment proposed at the Board by Mr. Baron Greene, under which the rule would be restricted to the particular child who might make the objection, and who alone would not be asked to read the book; but that amendment had been rejected. That was part of the question which had been raised by the hon. Member for Carlow. That hon. Gentleman had raised a large question—a general question; and he (Mr. Whiteside) answered by facts the observations of the hon. Gentleman. He had no desire to persecute Roman Catholics. He had never said a word in that House calculated to insult them. He had not treated the question then under consideration as a religious question; he had treated it as a question of property; and he should conclude by expressing his belief, that whatever might be the fate of that Motion, they should, sooner or later, have an inquiry into the subject; and that all those who did not fear such an inquiry, ought to support the modified proposal thou before the House.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he could assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball) that when he smiled at some of his observations, he did not do so because he was not as well inclined as the hon. Gentleman himself to be serious upon a serious subject, but he did so in consequence of the naïveté and simplicity with which the hon. Member had gone through his first accidence in the study of conventual establishments. The hon. Gentleman had, in fact, strongly recalled to his recollection the lines—Ah! the good saint little knew, What the wily sex can do.It had been his (Mr. Drummond's) fortune and happiness to Dave many private friends and nearest and dearest relations members 501 of the Roman Catholic Church, and he had therefore every sympathy in favour of the Roman Catholic body; he would go further and say that, seeing how all ecclesiastical principles had been daily abandoned by bishops and clergymen of the Church of England—how all recognition of sacraments, orders, and everything else, essential to the existence of a Church, had been given up by them—he should have beheld, with unfeigned delight, the strengthening of a Church which at least would bear faithful witness for all these things. He should have rejoiced, after Lord Derby and other Conservatives had knocked off ten bishops with a blow, to find that there were more bishops established in this city and all over England. But that was a very immaterial part of the question at issue. It was the secular power which had been assumed—which had never been abandoned, never mitigated, never mollified by the Church of Rome and its clergy, even in the lowest depths of their seeming depression, and which they had plainly told the people of England that they were determined to again establish in this country—it was that that made him resolved to expose everywhere—in that House and out of it—the object which those men aimed at, and the means by which they proposed to carry that object into effect. He would not make use of any abusive expressions. He would never quote nor acknowledge the authority of any Protestant writer upon the subject. He would take his opinion of the Roman Catholic priests from the acts and the writings of those priests themselves. Nobody could find fault with him if he endeavoured to understand plain English and bad Latin as well as they. He confessed that that Motion appeared to him to be a very injudicious one for the attainment of the object for which it had been framed. He entirely agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire with respect to the immense charitable labours of Roman Catholics. He had stated before in that House, and he had stated, he believed, in print, that the religious works of Roman Catholics put those of Protestants to shame. On no account, therefore, could he wish to weaken either directly or indirectly the effect of the speech of the hon. Gentleman, even though it went to strengthen the side of the question opposed to that which he was disposed to espouse. He would take no unfair advantage in that argument. He would grapple fairly with 502 the question as put forward by the Pope's nuncio and the priests themselves. He did not mean to impute any other feelings to Roman Catholics than those which were common to all mankind, when he asked whether it did not come within the experience of every one of them that there often existed a temptation for parents to be cruel to their children? What was the object of their Factory Act and of the Ten Hours Bill at present before the other House, for the improvement of the condition of the most helpless class in the community? Was it not to protect children from the cruelty and neglect of their parents? But the neglect of good and proper feeling took different forms in different classes of society. Was it not notorious that in private lunatic asylums the care of relatives over the unhappy inmates was not what it ought to be? In some cases—he would not say in many cases—their families seemed ashamed of them, and appeared to be desirous of keeping them for ever in those establishments. There could be no doubt that great cruelty had been practised in conventual institutions. He did not, however, allude to cases in this country. But he should add, that he did not admit that what had been done in Great Britain afforded a fair sample of the effects of priestly domination. There were Bible distributors and tract writers here. He went to countries where none of those wicked people were to be found, and where the whole population were exclusively under the control of the priests. Did not the state of Europe at present justify every word that had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just addressed the House? Where did they hear in France of a beloved and revered hierarchy? Where, but for the standing army, would those priests be at the present moment? Would hon. Gentleman of the Roman Catholic Church vote for the withdrawal of the 10,000 French troops from Rome? He recommended them not to do so, if they had any mercy for the Pope. But if abuses took place in convents, he did not think that they had devised the proper remedy for such an evil. As for calling in abbesses to give evidence, he felt that they might as well let that alone. They had better read the history of the Council of Trent, and there they would find it stated that the bishops had been obliged to give up all control over nuns and monks. who, they said, always beat them. [Mr. BOWYER: Did the 503 Council of Trent say that?] It was stated in the history of the discussions at the Council of Trent. There had always been raised upon that question a great cant of liberty. Liberty! Why, he had produced in that House a work of Cardinal Wiseman, in which it was stated that the very perfection of Christianity was to believe that black was white, and that white was black whenever Holy Church stated it. Liberty! It had been perfectly right on the part of the heads of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to have discarded that book on the Evidences of Christianity. What business had laymen with evidences? Those men were perfectly right in their own way. What did Montesquieu say of them? He said that they always put him in mind of the people of whom Herodotus spoke, who put out the eyes of their Scythian slaves, that nothing might divert those slaves from churning butter. He could state instances in his own family in which young women had been stolen into convents, But he did not care for instances. He looked at the doctrines taught, and he found that Roman Catholic writers laid clown the doctrine that a child sinned if it confessed to its parent that it had any inclination to go into a convent, for fear the parent should set that inclination asid. [Mr. BOWYER: Where is that taught?] In Liguori. You do not know him by half as yet. He had received a great many letters upon that subject. He had received, a short time ago, a letter from a lady in Guernsey, stating that her niece had been positively stolen from her; and it appeared that she had been so stolen because she was entitled to some property, just as had happened some time since in the case of the daughter of the editor of a newspaper in Ireland. How could a parent or a guardian find a remedy for such an abuse? Was it by an appeal to Cardinal Wiseman? Why, before the answer to any application upon the subject could be received, the name of the young woman was changed—she became Sister Theresa, or sister something else, and any further inquiries became useless. He believed that if the Motion then before the House were carried, its object would certainly be defeated. The electric telegraph would be put in motion, and any lady into whose case it might be thought proper to institute an inquiry, would cease to be known as Mrs. Conolly, or whatever else her name might be, and it would become 504 impossible to catch her. He did not wish to say one word against the schools conducted by nuns. It was a gross libel on him to state that he had ever said one word against the morality of the inmates of English convents; and upon that point he had then to offer a few words of explanation. While that clamour had been going on, he had not condescended to answer it; but he would take that opportunity of stating that what he had said on a former occasion was, that those establishments had either been made throughout Europe prisons, or had been turned to infamous purposes, not by the inmates themselves, but by priests. The same thing was asserted in the writings of popes, bishops, and other ecclesiastics of the Church of Rome during a period of ten centuries. He would not state the last cases of the kind which he had met with, for they were too gross for recital; but he would quote a passage from the journal of General Dumouriez during his travels in Portugal, just before the French revolution. General Dumouriez said that out of 2,000,000 of inhabitants in that country, there were 400,000 persons in conventual establishments, which he justly considered to be a monstrously greater number than the wealth of the country could bear. He then named one of those convents, which he said was a seraglio of the king, and he went on to describe those establishments generally in Portugal as being of the most infamous character. General Dumouriez was not writing against Roman Catholic institutions of any kind, but stated that simply as a fact which had come under his observation in the course of his travels. But why did the heads of time Roman Catholic Church want those institutions? They wanted them on two grounds. They wanted them first, he readily admitted, because the inmates practised great benevolence, and because they formed extremely good schools for young ladies. But they wanted them, also, because they afforded the best possible machinery for collecting money, and for becoming the pioneers of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope's Nuncio in Paris had very clearly acknowledged that one great object of his party was to deliver this country from that slavery into which Protestantism had ground the souls of Englishmen. He (Mr. Drummond) was not quarrelling with the Pope, nor with his Nuncio, nor with Cardinal Wiseman, nor with anybody else; but he was as de- 505 termined to fight out to the death the great principle at issue as they could be. He was determined to expose the doctrines of the priests, because he knew them to be subversive of morals, and because it was impossible for a priest to be loyal to a Protestant Sovereign. He had petitioned that House over and over again against the Roman Catholic Relief Bill. He had been called a bigot for having done so; but he had lived to see the truth of his Assertions proved by the event. He had lived to find that which had been said by the Duke of Wellington was a prediction of which the fulfilment had only been deferred; for from the acts of the Roman Catholics themselves, and not merely from the charges of their enemies, it was apparent that it was utterly impossible for the slaves of a priesthood to be sharers with Protestant freemen in conducting a constitutional government.
§ MR. C. O'BRIEN
considered that the promoters and supporters of the measure were actuated by different motives from those which they had avowed, and had been pushed on by parties out of doors in a spirit of vindictiveness, inspired by the violent schism which was raging within the Protestant Church. The hon. Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) said that the cases brought forward only proved that the law of the land as it existed had been found sufficient to meet anything like duresse in regard to the execution of deeds. The measure before the House was insulting to Roman Catholic gentlemen, assuming as it did that they would not protect their own relatives. They ought not to legislate for a state of society which existed four or five hundred years ago, or such as might now exist in Spain or Portugal; their legislation ought to be of a more practical character. If the hon. Gentleman wished to conciliate Roman Catholics, and convince them of the error of their ways, this was not the way to do it, but rather to set a good example. He regarded, in fact, the measure not so much an attack upon Popery as upon the Puseyism of the English Church. Now, he was not there to defend the conduct of any one receiving the revenues of a Church, the doctrines of which they did not honestly profess; but he thought that, instead of venting their spleen upon inoffensive ladies of another communion, it would be more consistent if hon. Gentlemen would call a council or convocation, and ascertain what were really the doctrines of their Church, 506 and who were the proper persons to administer its ordinances, and, having ascertained that, to change what was wrong. He begged to say, also, as a Roman Catholic, that after all that the Irish people had done to promote the political and social amelioration of the English people, he regretted to find a large section of Members, calling themselves English Liberals, so far forgetful of past obligations, and oblivious of the principles of true liberty, as to countenance a measure hostile to the feelings of the Catholic laity—hurtful to the delicacy of the ladies whose seclusion it was proposed to interfere with—as well as repugnant to the feelings of ninny English gentlemen. He did not think it necessary to enter into the defence of the Continental clergy, who had been attacked by the hon. Member for West Surrey; but he could not help remarking that the hon. Member had been somewhat unlucky in his reference to France, for it would be in the recollection of the House that Archbishop Affré, of Paris, met his death in 1848 on the barricades, assisting the assertion of public liberty.
§ MR. ROCHE
said, that the somewhat eccentric reasoning of the hon. Member for West Surrey, and the embittered declamation of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen, had neither of them detracted from the extreme pleasure with which he had listened to the liberal and Christian speech of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball). If Ireland had always been legislated for in the spirit of that speech, he was sure that country would at this moment have been more tranquil, more loyal, and less disaffected, than it was, and that this country would have raised its name for strict justice and impartiality in its legislation. The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen had cited cases for the purpose of showing that great abuses took place in convents; but these very cases proved that the present state of the law was sufficient for meeting these abuses, for successive Lord Chancellors had quashed deeds which appeared to have been made by persons under undue restraints in convents. The hon. and learned Gentleman also, by way of tranquillising his Catholic fellow-countrymen, had declared generally that the Catholic Church was hostile to liberty all over the world; but when he came to particulars, what did he lay hold of? He laid hold of the college question; and, because certain Roman Catholic ecclesiastics were opposed to the new colleges 507 in Ireland, the hon. and learned Gentleman concluded that the whole Catholic Church was hostile to public liberty; but the fact was, that for one Catholic ecclesiastic that was opposed to these colleges, there were five Protestant clergymen; and in the case of national education, where there were five priests opposed to it, there were fifty parsons; so that if upon these grounds it could be said that the Roman Catholic Church was hostile to popular liberty, it followed that the Protestant Church was at least twice as hostile. The hon. Member for West Surrey had said that upon this question he should not regard Great Britain at all, but would take them to the Continent for examples; and, because certain things had happened in other countries, he called upon the House to pass a measure which would only have an effect upon this country. The hon. Member had failed to show a single instance in which the law which he asked them to pass would be required in this country. The hon. Member had also declared his belief that Catholic priests could not be loyal to a Protestant Sovereign. Had the hon. Gentleman forgotten that the very last attempt which was made to disturb the peace of Ireland was put down by the Catholic priests? Did he mean to say that the late Most Rev. Dr. Murray, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, was disloyal? There never had been a more monstrous assertion made than that which the hon. Gentleman had given utterance to. It was well known that there was no body of men more pre-eminently loyal to their Protestant Sovereign than the Roman Catholic priests of Ireland; and he assured the House that their loyalty was not mere lip loyalty, but was founded upon principle. The House had been asked to appoint a Committee of Inquiry. If they did, he warned them that the result would be that their Committee would be turned into a perfect theological beargarden, and that their labours would lead to no result, except that of irritating the people of Ireland. It had been said that this measure had been proposed in a friendly spirit; but would it be received in a friendly spirit by people out of doors? Would it not rather tend to set the people of Ireland against the people of England?
§ SIR JOHN TYRELL
said, the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, no doubt, deemed himself an authority on this question, having lately made a tour of inspection of nunneries. But it was desirable that this question should be decided on 508 facts; and, consequently, he thought every hon. Member was bound to contribute as many facts as were in his possession for the information of the House. Now he (Sir J. Tyrell) was aware of some facts which he begged to mention. The convent of Newhall, in Essex, was visited, somewhere about last Christmas, by Sir Harry Smith, his lady, and some friends. They expressed a desire—merely through curiosity—to be shown over the establishment. But, after some time, the mother abbess declined permission to admit them, unless they procured some letter of personal reference. Lady Smith, who had been through many of the convents on the Continent, declared she had never before been treated as she was at the Newhall convent. Sir Edward and Lady Butler had been refused admission at another convent. But he was aware that, of late, the rule had been relaxed, and that admission was more readily granted than heretofore. However, he could not help observing that, in this Protestant country, so many valuable Wednesdays should not be frittered away on a subject of this kind. He hoped the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) would favour the House with his views on the question, as he (Sir J. Tyrell) would be greatly influenced in his vote by the statement of the noble Lord.
MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
observed, that according to the view of this question taken by the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Tyrell), all seminaries in which young ladies of the Roman Catholic religion were educated, ought to be open to unintroduced visitors. Now, he (Mr. Fitzgerald) would ask whether it would be tolerated that the officers attached to the camp at Chobham should visit, without introduction, the ladies' schools in that neighbourhood—for ho thought the one proposition was quite as reasonable as the other. The hon. Member for West Surrey had referred to the case of Mr. Conolly; but it must be remembered that Mr. Conolly, after embracing the Roman Catholic religion, induced his wife to become a nun, and when he again professed Protestantism he endeavoured to force his wife to leave the convent, which she refused to do. With regard to the allusion of the hon. Member for West Surrey to the Portuguese nunneries, he (Mr. Fitzgerald) might inform the House that in Portugal conventual vows could be taken for only one year. The hon. and learned Member for Ennis- 509 Killen (Mr. Whiteside), in the course of his speech, reminded the House that, they should confine themselves to the question before them. Notwithstanding that, he hon. and learned Gentleman introduce the question of the Galway College, as if it could have anything whatever to say to the question of convent inspection. The whole amount of the President's address in that college was, that the Roman Catholic priests, not approving of the system of education, withheld their co-operation. Now it should be remembered that the Protestant clergy in Ireland, to a very great extent, not only withheld their cooperation from the National system of education, but offered it very active opposition The hon. and learned Gentleman next referred to the Cork College; but he (Mt Fitzgerald) could assure the House that the school of anatomy formed the subject matter of the misunderstanding in the cork College, and that religion had nothing whatever to do with it. Reference had been made to the setting aside of a will, on the ground that it was drawn under the influence of spiritual terror exercised by a priest over a dying Catholic. He (Mr. Fitzgerald) had been counsel in that case. It was true that this man sent for the priest when dying, and told him he wished to make his will. The priest declined having anything to say to his will, and told him he came there for a spiritual purpose only. After receiving the rites of the Church the dying man again spoke of his will; but the priest recommended him to send for the Catholic gentleman who had been his patron for many years, and to arrange the matter with him. That gentleman was sent for; the will was made leaving 4,000l. to Catholic charities. The gentleman remonstrated against such a proceeding, reminding the dying man that he had poor relatives to whom he was bound to leave something. The will was Altered, 600l. being left amongst the relatives, the remainder amongst Catholic charities. The will was subsequently impeached, and the Court decided against it. The Judges were four Protestants, who did not understand the case, though he believed they acted in the most conscientious manner; but if there had been one Catholic Judge on the bench, then his (Mr. Fitzgerald's) arguments would not have gone for nothing. But all these matters, referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen, had nothing whatever to do with the question before the House. He (Mr. Fitzgerald) was prepared to con- 510 tend that the existing law afforded ample Protection to the inmates of conventual establishments. He need scarcely inform the House that for one case of coercion in monastic life, 50 cases of coercion in private life, exercised by fathers over their children, by mothers over their daughters, or even by children over their aged parents, might be adduced. The existence of Roman Catholic convents in Ireland had always been open and notorious; and they had continued to exist in spite of the persecution to which the Roman Catholics had been subjected from the time of Cromwell to the reign of George III. The convents in Ireland were, in fact, educational establishments for young ladies of the Roman catholic religion; and he would venture to say there was not a Roman Catholic Member of that House the female members of whose family had not, almost without exception, been educated in such institutions. He might state that there were only four cases in the Irish law reports in which coercion, with regard of the disposal of property, had been alleged by nuns or by their relatives; and the decisions which had been given in favour of the persons alleging such coercion had been merely in consequence of circumstances which led to the legal assumption that the disposition of the Property was not made with the free will of the owner. He would ask, when the House was called upon to declare that it was necessary and advisable that a Committee should be appointed to inquire what safeguards should be adopted to protect the property of the inmates of nunneries, whether any case had been made out to justify such a proceeding? He considered that no instance had been brought forward which had not been clearly and satisfactorily answered. It was evident that the law of the land was strong enough to prevent the exercise of coercion; and he thought, therefore, that any inquiry on the subject was wholly unnecessary. With regard to the question, whether any additional protection was necessary to secure the personal liberty of the inmates of conventual establishments, he thought he need only refer to the facility with which a writ of Habeas Corpus might be obtained. The hon. and learned Member for Hertford (Mr. T. Chambers), in bringing in his Bill, had alluded to cases which had occurred before the Habeas Corpus Act was in existence; but now, in the case of an attempt to restrain personal liberty, any person might go to the Court of Queen's Bench, and on merely swearing that ac- 511 cording to his or her belief the personal liberty of A or B was restrained, a writ of Habeas Corpus would at once be issued as a matter of course. He wished all hon. Members would copy the example of the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. E. Ball). True Christianity could not exist without charity, and charity could not exist if this demon of sectarian controversy were once admitted among them. During the discussion reference had been made to the exclusion of certain books from the schools under the superintendence of the National Board of Education in Ireland. From the accounts he had read of what had occurred in another place, he believed that that exclusion had been sanctioned by the Commissioners, the majority of whom were Protestants. The resolution of the Commissioners was, in fact, only a restoration of the practice which was established when the Irish educational system was founded by Lord Derby. The book which Roman Catholic children were not to be obliged to use was a work on the Evidences of the Truth of Christianity. [An Hon. MEMBER: The book is excluded.] Well, the effect of the resolution might be the exclusion of the book, because about five-sixths of the children in the schools conducted under the National system were Roman Catholics. In the south of Ireland the scholars were almost exclusively Roman Catholics. Now this book, which he believed was written by Archbishop Whately, on the Evidences of Christianity, might be procured for 3d.; and he wished to ask whether a single instance could be adduced in which the work was adopted in the 1,500 exclusively Protestant schools in Ireland, conducted by Protestant clergymen, and entirely unconnected with the National Board? If that book was not adopted, even in Protestant schools, he thought the Roman Catholic clergy must have some very good reasons for objecting to its use; and if they entertained such objections, they were bound, as honest men, to endeavour, as far as they could, to prevent Roman Catholic children from being compelled to study it.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
observed, that as there was some other business upon the paper, he thought, considering the short time that remained for its transaction, the best course would be to adjourn the debate. He, therefore, begged to move that the debate be adjourned.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
hoped, that as this was a subject which excited great interest, the Government would allow the debate to be proceeded with on an early day.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that the debate would remain in precisely the same position as if it had gone on until six o'clock, when the House must, necessarily, have adjourned.
§ Debate further adjourned, at the suggestion of Mr. NEWDEGATE, till Wednesday, the 10th of August.
§ The House adjourned at five minutes before six o'clock.